25-year-old English producer and DJ Jack Ritchie, aka Bearcubs, first attracted the attention of the BBC's new music arm, BBC Introducing, after uploading some of his tracks to their website. This piqued the interest of the BBC Introducing team, and saw Ritchie's experimental electronica get praise from the likes of Annie Mac and Huw Stephens. This was followed by the release of the infectiously catchy single "Touch" and his 2016 EP Chroma. Each release was laced with the lithe synth-based music that makes up his latest EP Underwaterfall.
The EP packs a lot into its 20 minutes, with a focus on sensation ("Burning Up", "Underwaterfall") and perception ("False Mirrors") that's driven by woozy, enveloping synths. Bearcubs channels the minimalist production values of Jamie xx and blends it with understated vocals that are evocative of James Blake. The EP's title track is a sinewy offering that snaps and bends like an elastic band, with glowing synths that create the soundtrack for the night bus - when you're bleary-eyed and halfway between euphoria and disorientation. Inspired by what it would be like to actually be underwater, "Underwaterfull" creates a sublime and immersive atmosphere.
"False Mirrors" is a cascading wave of synths infused with a pulsating electronic drum beat, that takes the best part of British '90s synth pop and repackages it with an artful modern sound, while closer "SL001" sees steel drums add a punchy flair to the mellow electronic sound. The song's drum-driven beat pins this meandering and experimental track together, and it exudes a comforting warmth which is particularly useful if you're nursing the hangover that's been brewing since you were on the night bus listening to "Underwaterfall". The tracks on this EP are sweet and inviting, and they easily create a gelatinous dreamscape for the listener to sink into.
7.5 / 10
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