The London producer’s weightless grime—which includes a collaboration with Fatima Al Qadiri—adds new depth to the dancefloor, says Daniel Jones.
The numbing tentacles of modern medicine have expanded upon the human nervous system to the degree that any sort of pain, once just a daily part of existence, can be snuffed out at whim. These poisoned gifts have brought more than nerve anesthesia, however; they’ve also produced cultural forgetfulness. Pain isn’t always a bad thing, something to deny and tuck away behind walls of man-made chemistry. We see things from a different perspective when we hurt. It was once thought that pain could bestow visionary and revolutionary powers upon a person, uncover prophecies and, sometimes, bring the sufferer redemption.
Not everyone is capable of having visions. It’s a rare and powerful thing to be able to see what is to come, rarer still to be able to transform these visions by your own hands and mind, to shape them into reality. London-born producer Louis Carnell has been transfiguring his own audio desires under the name Visionist for some years now, soulfully dipping into genres like grime, house, and whateverstep and emerging with beautiful liquid bass. As good as Carnell is, the aim of his work is more or less straightforward: making bodies sweat-slick and shredding leg muscles. This is modern pain: the masochistic pain of the flesh. His latest EP, however, delves deeper into the pain of the soul, exploring the intimacies of loss and what follows. I’m Fine is an oddly beautiful vision of the various mental and physical emotions the mind and soul experience when dealing with loss, and throughout it never stops being an album you can lose your shit to on the floor. Carnell’s ability to enhance his dance with such heavy inner reflection is what imbues the EP with much of its power. It’s also one of the reasons why it’s his finest work to date.
The synth textures of the title track opener drip down the here-shivering, there-stomping centipede legs of snare and bass as an asexual voice repeatedly stutters, “I can feel”. It’s hypnotic, encasing the mind in a haze of melancholic joy even as it forces your body to respond to its fluctuations. It’s cut short with a gasp, and the meaty thud of “Lost” gives way to a lacerating whip-snap beat, a flagellating BDSMotivator that caresses as much as it punishes. The looming drill-stabs of “Pain” pierce downward like the ache of reality, closing in around you in dizzying procession. The black hole in the soul, once rimmed semi-bright with faint hope threatens to implode before searching voices reach in a choral snippet of what may or may not be Goapele’s “Tears On My Pillow” spirals into oblivion.
The penitence completed, “Escape” provides ascension as a beckoning voice repeats, “come”. Further implications of eroticism aside, it’s a swift and sudden release that arrives like salvation. As vocals fall around shimmering synth stabs, the pain is pushed where it belongs: not out of sight but into a new context—one that allows you to see more clearly. The soul is allowed to transcend and to heal, though it may not be to a place of light. The shadowy flow of Fatima Al Qadiri’s contribution to the collaborative track “The Call” entwines itself around Carnell’s, promising seductions and temptations before the sullen skank of “I Don’t Care” shuffles up on rudebwoy bass. It’s here the listener is left alone to acknowledge the reality of loss, though not quite accept it. ~