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Steven Julien Bloodline Apron

Since shedding the FunkinEven moniker with the release of his concept LP Fallen in 2016, Steven Julien’s work has taken on a more introspective direction. Landing on his own imprint Apron Records – which has released soulful dance music from the likes of Seven Davis Jr. and Shanti Celeste – Bloodline sees the London-based producer and DJ dig deeper still. The mini-LP explores Julien’s personal and musical heritage, from being inspired by elder family members involved with dancing, MCing and soundsystem culture, to echoing the rhythms of African tribes and natives in the Caribbean. “Rhythm in the drum programming I produce ain’t coming from just me,” Julien recently told FACT, “it comes from a long line of ancestors.”

Where Fallen more loosely shape-shifted into every expanse of his production style – from fluid jazz basslines to ragged breakbeat – Bloodline is driven by compact drum programming. In dedication to the Roland founder and engineer Ikutaro Kakehashi who passed away last year, the command of machines like the iconic 808 coursing through the veins of every track create a wild, almost three-dimensional array of pattern, texture and timbre. They drive the record with a propulsive energy – at times jaw-clenching and claustrophobic in maxed-out cuts like Apache, at others more scattered and fluttery in synth-house jam Queen of Ungilsan.

There’s an inherent playfulness to this approach, which seeps into even the most hard-hitting beats. Yet Julien’s production flair shows not only in the nuances of raw analogue drums but in the sounds crafted around this rhythmic framework: scribbling acid distortions, thick twanging basslines, glowing organ-like Roland Juno keys. Against the brazen kick drum in album closer IDK, the gushing synths and soft pads breathe a sigh of relief after the intensity of the album’s first half.

His boldest release yet, Julien packs as much into six short tracks as he did with his full-length debut. Bloodline isn’t an easy record to pin down; the sounds of his upbringing rich in bass-heavy, rhythmic and soulful electronics aren’t obviously signposted, but they form the backbone of his own idiosyncratic and captivating sound.