The Elephant and Castle district of south London hasn’t carried much cultural currency in recent years, beyond its once innovative, now famously garish shopping centre (Wikipedia conveniently overlooks Jim Davidson’s terminally dated sitcom). So it’s rather sweet that the area made enough of an impression on David Reep during his time in the UK that he’s adopted it as an alias for his San Francisco Bay beat-making activities.
Reep’s debut, 2010’s Analogue EP, was a bric-a-brac assemblage of busy, woozy beats and drab council flat artwork – the sound of the dirty city. Transitions, the full-length follow up, arrives within a vivid, oceanic pearl planet sleeve, pointing to the all-directions blossoming of Reep’s music within.
Everything about Transitions is expansive, billowing with clouds of untethered samples and liquid rhythms. Fragments of flute trills and harp swirls float through the album, chased by schools of disconnected voices. It’s like spinning the pirate radio dial while every tower block broadcasts summer’s day jazz.
tUnE-yArDs’ appearance on En Memoria is the one moment that almost manages to pin Elephant & Castle’s music down, Merrill Garbus’s vocals swimming occasionally into focus on a dreamy Carpenters-esque ballad. It’s a beautifully simple entry point to the album, and seduces the listener more easily than fellow guest singer Rachel Fannan (ex-Sleepy Sun), whose contributions are snipped apart and stretched over Formatting….
As Transitions flows gently by, it’s easy to get absorbed in the drift, and as such it doesn’t really matter that some tracks are casually indistinguishable, with no huge variation over the album’s course. Exploring its oceanic depths makes up for the lack of forward momentum. For the after-image left by Reep’s aqueous electronica is ultimately that of the drowned city, submerged by the rising waters of the Bay or the burst banks of the Thames.
Citizens of Southwark, Elephant & Castle has done you proud.