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Lee Gamble - Exhaust (2019)

Emerging from Britain's jungle scene at last decade's turn, Lee Gamble has proven himself an artist in constant transition. Early explorations on Berlin's avant-electronic label PAN showed rare aesthetic confidence as Lee moulded lost jungle and techno into atmospheric collage, preserving genre roots within a sound all his own. 
Now on Hyperdub, Gamble's mid-way through a sonic trilogy entitled Flush Real Pharynx, attempting to explore the pervasive nature of capitalism within culture.

Things kicked off earlier this year with In a Paraventral Scale, pairing samples of luxury cars with airbrushed synths to set the tone. The EP was a leap forward for Gamble's world-building talents, bringing the scattered vision of 2017's Mnestic Pressure into glossy focus. I was lucky enough to see Lee perform Flush Real Pharynx in its entirety, and at the time it struck me as his most complete work yet. Paraventral Scale set the stage, but Exhaust sees Lee's high-minded concept take flight.

Chimes of broken glass meet explosive sirens on opener CREAM, Blade Runner-esque vocal samples forming a surreal haze. The swathes of sounds make for an impressively consistent palette as Gamble pulls disparate styles into his orbit. Post-modern blends of influence are nothing new in the 'deconstructed club' movement, but it's Lee's aesthetic expertise that elevates Pharynx above its contemporaries. Envenom capitalises on lush tension by darting, parkour style, through sculpted rhythms of jungle, broken beat, and malfunctioning techno. Smoothing Lee's stylistic detours are recurring synthesiser patterns, their timbre fine-tuned to be distinctive no matter the context.

I found Paraventral Scale a somewhat underwhelming start to the trilogy that seemed overly obsessed with honing a specific sound. Only now does its purpose become clear, as Exhaust operates within this foundation to craft an airtight set of futuristic bangers ripe for 2030's dystopic club scene. Stripped back cut Naja revels in distorting the tempo of thumping hip-hop rhythms as echoing keys take hi-hat's place. Later on, Gamble tries his hand at classic dubstep with Switches. It's clear Digital Mystikz worship in the best way possible; haunted melodies juxtapose punchy kick patterns as barking dogs and subterranean shots of noise embellish the rhythm.

Not a single track here feels out of place, an impressive feat considering the musical ground covered. I'll draw comparisons to Miles Whittaker's Demdike Stare, who've transitioned from heavily textured dark ambient and dub techno to making some of this decade's best genre-mashing club. Both artists' initial focus was on atmosphere and sound design, crafting an identity to set their dance tracks apart.

It's these talents, along with his fascinating array of influences, that position Lee Gamble as a producer to watch. Even among this set of dancefloor slappers, his approach never feels restricted by genre confines. Closing track Saccades brings a heady comedown, matching shards of
breakcore with warped vocals and patches of harmonic bliss. It's a fitting end to Exhaust's adrenaline-fuelled rush that recalls 90s jungle and free improvisation in almost equal parts. Flush Real Pharynx mightn't be complete just yet, but Exhaust sends me reeling with possibilities for what the triptych's finale might hold.



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