Toronto-based producer and DJ Ciel is renowned for a style of dancefloor material that’s as heady as it is visceral. The Xi’an-born artist’s ascendant profile has seen her cutting-edge and club-ready EPs released on UK labels Peach Discs and Coastal Haze, as well as Stateside imprints Spectral Sound and Mister Saturday Night. As a member of the renowned collective Discwoman and the creator of femme-forward party Work in Progress Ciel’s thoughtful narratives are clear, running in parallel to the perception-altering sounds that are consistently woven deeply into her wide-ranging sets, beloved mixes and inventive collaborations. Now the Parallel Minds label co-founder is crystallising her imaginative and omnivorous sound with her !K7 Records debut, ORLANDO.
Written during her emergence from an uncharacteristic bout of writers’ block, the three original tracks of Orlando chart a return to the musical self, spurred along by a cinephile’s embrace of film, a love of classic literature, and a curiosity for the oddest corners of popular culture. “SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE” might share a name with the episodic series, but is rather a nuanced critique of the modern rite of union, moving through structured chapters, and mirroring the un-static nature of longtime love. Harnessing both vintage and modern elements by interspersing sleek sound design and iridescent accents with tongue-in-cheek dialogue, the track allows space for both heads-down techno maximalism and airy pauses with deep reverb and syncopated offbeats.
Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s radical novel, and its superphysical protagonist, “ORLANDO” considers the cult literary figure who lived from the renaissance to the modern age, and embodies both sides of the sex binary. The chugging midtempo track offers a prismatic examination of gendered experiences through sound, with a thematic discord between an ominous minor key bassline and euphoric stabs in a major key. As prominent claps and cascading liquid sounds push the track’s momentum forward, subtle shifts of the tempo grid leave “Orlando” in a different, yet related, place from where it started.
The thrown sounds and aural illusions of “EL CALIFA” create the effect of a beckoning, beguiling psychedelic experience. Its mid-tempo broken beat is paired with a deep bassline loop that repeatedly melts on contact, with occasional accents of delicate, celestial chimes. Marching drum loops, whispers and moans spiral together and whirl, as the entire song granulates and disappears into a knowing nothingness at its midpoint, before a slow and gradual return to its extra-conscious state. To complete the EP, Ali Berger, Ciel’s recent collaborator on the Jacktone Records’ release Damn Skippy! repurposes the mind-bending flourishes of “El Califa” into a noodly and spacious deep house production, replete with pillowy, gauzy pads.
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