Revived after a 14-year hiatus, the Warp sub-label Arcola managed to stand out in 2018 thanks to some canny A&Ring. Curveball releases sat comfortably alongside the label'sbread and butter. The best EPs, especially Nkisi's mind-blowing The Dark Orchestra, showcased artists with a unique personality. Unlike many producers on Arcola, Anastasia Kristensen is a popular club DJ, so it's understandable that her debut EP would be closer to the label's more functional side. But while Ascetic is Arcola's most playable EP, it also shows Kristensen developing a recognisable sound.
True to its title, "Ascetic" has a notably blunted high-end and develops slowly. This helps to create a dusky, wide-open feel that's heightened as the glint of FM-like bells contrast with the rolled-off fizz of the hi-hats. After the first drop, you might wonder where things are going, but the delayed gratification makes sense once a subtly ravey, drooping synth enters. The overall feeling is one of calm restraint.
We hear the opposite on "Ascetic"'s "In Breaks" version, the EP's standout. Rolling with a pitched-up but otherwise untouched Apache break, it nails that smokey, reverberated feel that screams early '90s warehouse, an effect amplified by bass that gestures to the hardcore sounds of the era. "LXR Jam" is the other highlight, named after a drum machine that excels at complex modulation and alien FM tones. Dryer and quieter than the other tracks, "LXR Jam" is initially unassuming. But the sound design is the EP's most interesting, particularly the grainy, stretched-out tones that lurk in the background and leap forward in the breaks. Given that Ascetic is Kristensen's first EP, the signs are promising. Expect her music to evolve.