The Upshot: Primitive World manages to be riveting without offering much entertainment. It feels hard, visceral and necessary. No frills but lots of excitement.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Primitive World’s hard, beat-driven music is monochromatic but urgent, using the sparest, most austere sounds to construct driving, pulse-racing rhythms. This brief but mesmerizing EP sounds best turned up loud and accompanied by intense physical action. Run with it and you’ll run faster. Dance to it and you might hurt someone.
Sam Willis, who composes as Primitive World, used to be in a duo called WALLS with Alessio Natalizia. His work here is far less melodic and synth-driven, relying on adrenalized big beats to carry his ideas forward. You can hear the difference in the two “Purple Caps” tracks. This first, with Willis flying solo, twitches with dry, syncopated rhythms, an eighth-note scratchy foundation punctuated with brief glitchy eruptions of sound. The barest hint of non-percussive sound comes in at about three minutes, brief watery washes of sound lapping over the cadences, but they soon fade. There are very few concessions to melody or even tonal variation. The Not Waving Remix which closes the EP was recorded by Willis’ sometime partner Natalizia. It is immediately thumpier and more hedonistic, with huge reverberating upbeats punching out visceral space. Yet though the beat is still primary, more is happening around it. Synths burble and swagger, hinting at melody, even a kind of funk. The sound grows denser as it goes on, with Space Invaders bleeps arcing out over robotic strut, thick ribbons of synth winding in and through percussion. It is fatter, solider and more welcoming than the original track, but it loses a bit of the urgency.
“Purple Caps” and its remix suggest the direction that Willis has taken, but the best tracks are the ones where he fully realizes his beat-centric vision. I like “Q Tip” the best for its hypnotic (but still blood-pumping) use of repetition. This is a track that sound very much the same at the beginning as in the middle or the end or anywhere in between, but resists stasis. It feels like it is always moving hard, even if it never goes anywhere. Cymbal-swishing “Tides of Lust” is more varied and lush, but still disciplined. It sounds like a disco beat stripped naked.
Some listener might like more to hear in their music – more notes, more themes, more change and fluctuation – but Primitive World manages to be riveting without offering much entertainment. It feels hard, visceral and necessary. No frills but lots of excitement.
DOWNLOAD: “Q Tip” “Tides of Lust”