Betonkust & Palmbomen II Center Parcs [EP]

[1080p; 2016]

Styles: tropicalia, VHS, new age house
Others: 100% Silk, Opal Tapes, L.I.E.S., L.A. Club Resource

Let me be the first to say that as much as I’m a sucker for the wealth of exciting, abstract house music being produced today, the market is a bit oversaturated. Those seeking a distorted club mentality need look no further than the four labels I listed above to find several hundred cassettes/Bandcamps/etc. worth mining through, thousands of tracks all offering their own wondrous interpretations of that restless thump. Part of the genre’s appeal is the seriousness with which the culture treats the idea of dance, elevating it from something messy and forgotten to a sacred ritual, both endless and incredibly in-the-moment. But by the same token, I am an incredibly goofy dancer. This isn’t to say that I don’t love dancing with all my heart; I’m just not exactly the picture of humanity’s sensual beauty itself when I get on the floor.

All of this is to say that, I appreciate what Kai Hugo’s been spinning since his recent reincarnation as Palmbomen II. His self-titled release on Beats In Space/RVNG Intl. was one of my favorite albums of last year, a refreshingly wacko send-up of the new outsider house movement that delighted in and transcended the 90s VHS aesthetic revival. It sounded like a Richard Simmons workout tape going down on the saddest beach in existence: both melancholy and a little bit magical. Now Hugo’s back with the Center Parcs EP, this time a collaboration with fellow Dutch strange-o Betonkust, and the release more or less builds on Hugo’s established palette, adding bells and whistles but never distracting from the duo’s carefree sense of rhythm.

Part of the appeal of Center Parcs has to do with the loosey goosey attitude Betonkust & Palmbomen II take with what kind of music they’re even making here. So much of the microhouse that has cropped up in recent years bears a seemingly agreed-upon shape and moodiness to it, yet a full third of Center Parcs is dedicated to straight-up sauna material. “Aqua Mundo” and “Eindeleader Videonet” are zen respites from the harebrained mania of tracks like “24x33” and “Verminkte Toekan,” whose drums don’t so much ride the groove as much as attack them with spastic electricity. “Leo/ Mirjam” kicks things off right with an outrageous onslaught of kuweeca howls, and the steel drums that power “Verminkte Toekan” would feel at home in any maritime level of the Mario Party franchise. The humor that courses through Center Parcs is palpable, going down like a fresh pack of Capri Sun when viewed against the desolate hues of today’s electronic landscape. There’s still that fetishistic, neo-house love of design at play here, but Betonkust & Palmbomen II take this fascination to new extremes, crafting tracks that hit hard but drop the top-buttoned self-importance of it all.

It is by all means a slight EP, but Center Parcs continues the exciting work Hugo is doing in breaking down the walls between obscure collector’s musics and all-are-welcome pop tactics. Although on the surface level it might feel like nostalgia, there’s an undercurrent of giddy wistfulness to these sounds, the sense that perhaps our collective misremembering of the past isn’t just something to get bummed about, but something to actually dance to. Betonkust & Hugo recorded the EP during a weekend stay at a deserted tropical resort, and in a way that image perfectly captures what the two have accomplished on a larger scale: creating beautiful music within the confines of a desolate paradise.

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