reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Will Saul is a seasoned dance music producer, but in the last decade or so his preference has been to operate behind the scenes. That still makes for a busy life of music, with the highly regarded Aus Music to run, an excellent contribution to the DJ Kicks! series and a good deal of DJ work.
Open Too Close sees him return to the album format for the first time in 13 years, and employs his structural thinking of a DJ, condensing ‘what I play in a club if an eight hour set was condensed into ten tracks’.
What’s the music like?
Saul’s approach is a good one on several levels, for it allows him to show off his musical versatility while giving the listener value for money in the variety stakes.
It proves easy to relocate Open Too Close to the club, for in Freya’s Theme we have the perfect warm-up, a shuffling beat supporting cool keyboards that is reminiscent of earlier Matthew Herbert. It successfully captures that moment in a club where you know it’s where you want to be for the rest of the night, and a few hours’ dancing at the very least lie ahead.
Capitalizing on that, Room 9 and Visions up the tempo successively, the latter given a brilliant vocal hook as its beat harks back to 1980s funk. Openings and Moorings are bouncy numbers, Saul hinting at urban garage with the offbeat vocals, before Pingalatu breaks cover, driving forward with a sound that is pleasingly rough round the edges, a bit of pure club music.
Through the album Saul puts his music in the context of stuff he really likes and the artists and DJs he works with and around, meaning the style is never restricted beyond something you would definitely dance to. My Left Sock shows this off brilliantly, an energetic piece of break beat, countered by the warm weather specials Submerge and One For Rex, with its clattering beat. Get Back Up signs off with a nod in the direction of Detroit, spacious chords complementing the robotic vocals.
Does it all work?
Yes. Saul appears to have deliberately given himself the maximum time of an hour to fulfil his brief, and the ten tracks described above form part of a longer-reaching structure like a DJ set, just as he wanted them to.
It means the music always feels like it’s heading somewhere, and with a good number of earworms there is no chance of Saul outstaying his welcome.
Is it recommended?
Yes. Great to have him back as a creator of music as well as a DJ. He’s too good not to do both!