Artist: Derek Howell
Title: Cheeky Activity EP
Label: Groovecollection Records Originals
By: Carleton Neil | 7 November 2007
  • 1. Illegal Sexual Activity
  • 2. Cheeky Toy

Derek Howell "Cheeky Activity EP"

Out Now on Groovecollection Records Originals

You might not expect the son of a country music singer who grows up listening to Elvis Presley and Def Leppard to be a purveyor of the Texas electronic music scene. Enter Derek Howell, a veritable Swiss army knife of dance music. If the last Derek Howell track you heard was 'Gasoline Fight', then you have a lot of catching up to do. His releases now span multiple labels among aliased collaborations, ranging from progressive breaks to trance and even chillout. 'Cheeky Activity', his extended play for Groovecollection Originals, highlights his creative versatility.

'Illegal Sexual Activity' is prevalent with the juxtaposition that is often a common theme in Howell's tracks; if not in his track names ('Found and Lost', 'Happy To Be Sad'), then perhaps in his production. A sadomasochistic snare dominates the beginning of the track, slapping and grinding the rest of the percussion into silky sheets on a bed of airy pads, but it's the snare that submits to scrubby chord progressions that climb on top of the track. This is the kind of contrast, the shifting of focus you find in many of Howell's tracks. Soft, raspy, panting synths establish musical phrasing amidst the chord progression, and the track breaks down to catch its breath before returning full-on with a wailing, blissful top line, all parts culminating in an orgasmic finish that fades out softly amidst the percussion that returns to the focus of the piece.

'Cheeky Toy' begins like a child surrounding by his favorite playthings, creating a world from all the toys. The track clinks along like the wooden dowels in a set of Lincoln Logs, the bassline bubbling out like drool on a youngsters chin. The hats and subtle synths are stacked on like musical blocks, and the squeaky main melody stretches it's way into the track like a neon-colored Slinky. The track becomes alive as the top coos excitedly, and this imaginary world becomes real in the child's eyes. The true appeal of the track comes from the peak of happy innocent chords, and the type of excitement would make anyone of any age smile.

Add another notch to Derek Howell's repertoire. This EP illustrates the flexibility in Howell's work: 'Illegal Sexual Activity' is primed for peaktime and almost works as a reprise, and 'Cheeky Toy' shows that his productions can branch in any direction, from the cold isolation of his earlier work to this youthful elation.

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