Review: Trip Advisor - SDS MAX (Erbium Records)
Updated: Jan 4
SDS Max's 'Trip Advisor' marks Birmingham and London based label Erbium Record's third release. Founded by Kristian Birch-Hurst (Trieste), Josie Carder (Jay Carder) and Oliver Green (Olive Quarter) in July this year, the label has already seen two killer releases from the likes of EIF, Guevarism and Zobol. Each release on the label is accompanied by a unique visual expression, marrying design, sound and colour through a series of conceptual abstract designs.
"One of the main reasons I believe (personally anyway) that these visual elements and other mediums are so important to include is to counteract the disposable nature of the digital format. A lone mp3 or WAV (or god forbid streaming) can quickly be lost among a torrent of data, it's now so easy to consume and replicate this kind of format online that its artistic value can be quickly be lost to the void of cyberspace forever. As we attach more to these tracks though, their stories become more detailed, tangible, and significant. They mean something more, not to just those that listen/watch them, but to us and the artists too" one of the co-founders Kristian told me.
And indeed, I really felt that the EP was an experience that did transcend just listening to the tracks. Firstly, the name 'Trip Advisor' perfectly fits into the narrative of SDS Max's life - a producer who has landed on the likes of Lobster Theremin and Chequered Wax - mirroring his physical movements across the world, as well as his mental experiences. The title track, inspired by being utterly locked down in London during the corona outbreak, feels as if its clawing to find an escape, as it tantalising builds and drops with trancey euphoria, clean breaks and a haunting vocal.
Picking up the energy 'Midday in Brixton' is the stand out track for me and really feels like an experience which resonates with the ethos of the label with a focus on the creative process and visual aesthetic as much as the sound. The cover art designed by Oliver Green accompanies the track perfectly "[nodding] to the to the early UK rave era through the choice of incorporating the acid house yellow and a hint at the famous acid house smiley in the centre with black keyline smile graphic".
Something that immediately caught my attention was how the sound revolves around you, truly transporting you to a densely packed crowd in a club, with SDS Max dexterously moving the sound between the right and left channels. A mystical synth evolves in the left ear, drifting through the core of the head and settling in the right ear. A delicious, bubbling acid line mimics and mirrors the synths movement, and induces memories of reading Fear and Loathing in Las-Vegas (yes I know this was set in the 60s pre electronic music but it would must certainly provide a perfect soundtrack if the novel had been written today). Indeed, the title of the EP plays on this trippy aesthetic with the tracks inspiration stemming from walking through Brixton in a haze after club nights. The only slight flaw is that I would love to have some more visuals, perhaps in the form of a video, to accompany the experience.
Finishing up, 'Afters At Gav's Gaff' transports us back to his life in Australia, as SDS Max notes that the track was written "about my good friend Gavin Barry from Celbridge who I met in Australia. He used to throw these mad after parties at his which could go on for 2 days straight and we would always put on classic emotional tracks at the afters. I was defiantly reminiscing about those parties and how more relaxed life was back then". Merging warped, slightly wonky, stabbing chords with an expansive bass groove and energetic percussion, this track feels like pure joy and makes me long for the days that we can be properly partying again.
'Trip Advisor' drops on the 18th September on Erbium Records and is available for pre-order HERE. You can check out the first two tracks from the EP below: