There's a strain of rhythm evident in Stephen Gomberg's music as Fantastic Mr Fox that you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else. His drums are incredibly clean; consistently booming the bass frequencies on each kick drum whilst his woodblock percussion and thinly cut, offkey snare drums ripple in the upper echelons of his mixdown's audible dB range. Everything has its own space, and its that sort of spatial simplicity that benefits everything you do when your using fuzzed up synthesizers and resolute keys to drive your productions.
First appearing on Untold's Hemlock label - an imprint that at that point was firmly on the rise given the calibre of the releases by its owner - with a remix of 'Yukon,' Gomberg laid out a blueprint that amped up the bass pulses of the original, fitting them over a slumped beat that slapped and almost dribbled its path, maintaining a rhythm that only got better when more samples and tones was splurted over the top of it. A solo release followed – albeit in the form of a collaborative duo of productions from him and fellow Manchester producer Rich Reason – further highlighting his talent for cut up melodies and drum beats that just drive and propel a bassline right at you. ‘Plimsoul’’s erratic scything tones were a real revelation in the midst of a midrange war where LFOs were wielded with astonishing furiosity – plus the blissed out breakdown hinted at the level of compositional panache that a few bloggers were becoming besotted with and that Black Acre label were snapping up.
After offering Gomberg and Reason’s second collaborative single a home in 2009, the label worked with him on his first solo EP, Sketches. Housing three original productions and a SBTRKT remix of the eponymous (and standout) track, it really did manage to set the tone perfectly. Housed in conceptual artwork it drew a framework even more emphatically than his previous releases had. Cemented in his signature bump-and-snap drum work were some otherworldly riffs that rode atop the smoothly weighted, prerequisite heavy bass lines.
‘Bric-A-Brac’ fought against the cybermen, encasing itself in a binary powered prism of fluttering; ‘If I’ hinted at his more ethereal side with waves of static cloaking his rude boy bass excursions and manually triggered sample effects and yet, amongst such polished productions, it was ‘Sketches’ that gave him the anthem. Complete with it's punishing drum beat, iconic laser guided riff and ridiculously fluid breakdown it set him apart once again; propelling the young producer into a league of newfound friends and contemporaries, garnering radio support from BBC presenters Mary Anne Hobbs and Mistajam and an American tour supporting 2010’s Mercury Music Prize winners The XX.
With previews of his new EP - entitled ‘Evelyn’ its slated for release on the Black Acre label next month - lighting up the internet it’s really a very timely pleasure for us to welcome Fantastic Mr Fox to Farringdon. Performing in Room Three this Friday he’s in great company with sets from the Nottingham based, Werk Discs signed producer Lone and the Autonomic trio (dBridge & Instra:mental) sure to amplify the stranglehold Gomberg has on his craft.
Stream: Fantastic Mr Fox - Evelyn EP