Initially streamed online a week before its release date, on a stormy and rain-drenched screen with each capitalised title aggressively flickering, the mood is set before even pressing play: this release is serious. The new EP from enigmatic producer Evian Christ, aka Joshua Leary, is yet another display of killer production from the ‘Yeezus’ collaborator, and displays more boundary pushing from this fearless artist. Gone is the blissful, often introspective, ambience of his earlier mixtape ‘Kings and Them’, ‘Waterfall’ is a muscular blow to the stomach.
Opening with ‘Salt Carousel’, Leary spends the first few bars teasing us with an ethereal soundscape of open space, reminiscent of earlier cuts such as ‘Drip’ and ‘Thrown Like Jacks’. But this is, of course, short lived. When the menacing bass hits are deployed thirty seconds in, the explosive aggression of this EP is all consuming. This is a side to Evian Christ that we have seen glimpses of before, and it is exhilarating (if not a little overwhelming) to see it unleashed at such a great intensity.
The following track ‘Fuck Idols’, however, is perhaps the closest Leary gets to over-indulging in this desire for adrenaline. Lacking somewhat in the pulse-raising ability of its counterparts, the synth build is mechanical and slightly static, dropping into a sinister, distorted bass that just leaves something more to be desired. Although this track undeniably showcases the technical skills this producer is brimming with, its deficit of progression makes it ‘Waterfall’s weakest track. Nevertheless, the dark horse ‘Propeller’ picks the pace back up to where ‘Salt Carousel’ left off. With a sultry and alluring bassline less hostile than the other cuts, the acidic synths, scratches and glitches are what makes it bite - hard.
As the EP draws to its close, fourth and final track ‘Waterfall’ stands out strong. Laced with dubstep, dancehall and drum and bass, every element of it gets right under your skin. The melodic piano interlude injects a flicker of warmth amongst such industrial, moody beats, and is a melancholic moment of clarity before suddenly being plummeted back into the storm.
Despite many of Leary’s hip hop influences being embossed into the very fabric of this EP, the complexity of each track makes it hard to imagine that any verse could be tied in to such sonically-forceful beats. Yet raw human voice is simply not needed; the wealth of samples and textures packs enough punch as it is. This being said, with more punch comes less subtlety, and with each track fighting to assert its dominance over the other, it lacks the same wholeness and flow that made ‘Kings and Them’ such a gem of a mixtape.
‘Waterfall’ is indeed a step in an impressive direction, and although the confidence that this EP oozes creates an intensity not accessible to everyone, it is his creative restlessness that continues to make his music almost completely impossible to categorise. This is Leary at his most abrasive, most unyielding, and most exciting. Whilst it is difficult to grasp the sheer size of this new release at a desk through headphones, when unleashed on the dancefloor ‘Waterfall’ will, without a shadow of a doubt, be fucking colossal.
Words: Josie 'JR' Roberts