Robin Lohrey, ‘Robin Lohrey EP’

Posted by on July 19, 2017


Vanity Press Records, 1.30.17

Patience is a virtue in dance music — it’s as much a part of the craft as knowing when to let a groove run, a pattern unfurling in the dancer’s head, rather than just tweaking the jam ad infinitum. Intricacy and insight can be fun, but sometimes it takes a record about clarity to really bring it home. Cue Robin Lohrey’s debut EP with Vanity Press, which serves as a friendly reminder of just how tempered and meditative a dance record can feel. Vanity Press, David Marroquin’s Detroit-based house imprint has only two previous records to its name, but what it lacks in depth of catalog it makes up for in depth of vision, charting a taut, deconstructed take on electro and synth funk with Julian Kendall, and an equally hypnotic, dystopian house EP from Val G (with a closing track that pitches up NIN’s “Closer” for club use). In that framework, Lohrey’s EP provides ample opportunity to stake out broader ground for the label.

Lohrey’s tracks are even-handed in the best sense of the term. Not only in their willingness to embrace the long, unfolding formats that he plays on and works himself in-and-out of, but also in terms of just how much he’s willing to tip his hand in any one direction at a time, often allowing dusty, swung-out grooves to wind their way through multiple repetitions before locking into a stable passage. Opener “Ambergris,” for instance, never settles on any one motif, instead layering varied melodic inflections to create a shifting bed of chords that recall some of the best Dinosaur L cuts as much as classic house grooves. The A2, Diatom, similarly takes its time, emerging out of an ocean of samples and hazed out synth lines, lifted up by a 303 line that draws on a gradual increase in resonance to bring the hammer down on the track’s main groove.

By contrast, the B-side of the record sees a pair of more functional tracks, with Lohrey embracing a more direct line on development — though one that still feels no less attentive to space and flow. “Trieste” in particular, with a pitched-down vocal sample imploring the listener to “take control… lose control,” pulls tropicalia-inflected rhythms that call to mind some of the best Those Guys versions, while drawing on a nuanced reverb and synth pads to push it away from mere revivalism. Closer “Oriole” dials down on the intensity, but keeps the dancefloor fully in sight, locking into groove early, and using that initial motif to stretch the tune out for nearly two minutes before reaching a satisfying resolution when the main kick comes in.

If tension is another hallmark associated with building a ~proper dance track, Lohrey’s work here is notable for its interest in detuning that tension, letting anticipation feel as sweet as the payoff. The framework takes precedence throughout and the subtle adjustments in hat patterns works to accent those few moments, offering ample license for DJ’s to really make these grooves their own on the decks. Like the often watery metaphors his tracks draw on, Lohrey’s rising and receding grooves seem to emerge from the sum of their parts in a manner capable of filling whatever container they’re placed in.