REVIEW S3A ‘« Pages » Epilogue EP’ [803 Crystal Grooves Collective Cuts]

French producer S3A returns to Cinthie’s 803 Crystal Grooves Collective Cuts with his fresh four track «Pages» Epilogue EP. Also known as ‘Sampling As An Art’, the Parisian DJ debuted as a resident in Paris’s Rex Club alongside the legendary Laurent Garnier in 2014, following a clutch of releases on labels such as 4lux Black and Dirt Crew Recordings. He returned to Cinthie’s Crystal Grooves imprint following his debut LP Pages and the 92’ Anthem track on the label’s inaugural release last year, alongside tracks from Asquith, KETTAMA and 9th House. As his name suggests, S3A’s production is sample heavy, boasting a loyal catalogue of soul infused house-heavy tracks.

His «Pages» Epilogue EP is a paradox of electronic and acoustic: a dynamic soundtrack to the climax of a rave versus its tranquil come down. S3A’s soulful tendencies penetrate this juxtaposition, allowing the EP to function collectively while humanising the more nostalgic dancefloor cuts.

Kick-starting the EP is Ill ‘heritage’: opening with an isolated vocal sampling of the Peech Boy’s 1982 soul infused hit, Don’t Make Me Wait. The vocals are fuelled by a steadily building drum groove before giving way to a contrast of longer strung out vocal samples. Climbing sax warbles overlay the feel-good vocals and melodic synths before the lot is worked into acid tinged distortion. In the end, there’s a lot going on: the layers ambitiously build and fragment to disrupt the otherwise formulaic classic house composition. At moments, it risks sounding muddy, but the reintroduction of catchy melody samples ensures that it maintains its dancefloor momentum to the end.

Yellow follows next: a textural, crunchy patchwork of modulating drums carried by warm acid undertones and climbing resonant synth chimes. This is considerably more subtle than the previous track, but feels more effective. Driven by its climaxing chimes and overlay of acid bass, it retains a contemporary edge, referring to those contemplative, euphoric dancefloor moments when the drums drop and the smoke is thick.

Opening the B-side is Second Hit: the perfect recipe of synths, bass, drums and MC vocals, giving way to an adrenaline building rhythm which exudes the nostalgia of old-skool Chicago house. Leaning on high octane piano samples and breaks, this cut is proof that carefully selected samples following the traditional house formula need little alteration. At times this schoolbook imitation verges into obnoxious territory and it certainly doesn’t sound modern – but it’s an effective dancefloor filler all the same.

Following next is Joint 6: a space to breathe and follow dusty, bluesy drum patterns in soulful contemplation. Joint 6 is pleasantly steady, fuelled by the natural buzz of warm strings and the teasing funk of the Rhodes.

Final track ‘DX1 Joint’ follows the cool mood of ‘Joint 6’. Funk-infused riffs take centre stage, balanced with gentle keys and soft easing of percussion. It’s a stark contrast to the first three tracks: it’s easy-going and cleverly understated, modestly infused with S3A’s staple soulful imprint.

S3A’s «Pages» Epilogue EP is multifaceted and textured. At times it’s quietly contemplative, allowing you to trace wandering grooves; other times it’s a contrast of jabbing dancefloor nostalgia, unwillingly loyal to the house sampling formula. It’s a juxtaposition which demonstrates a balance of varied influences, tied together with a reliance on funk-charged rhythms to ensure fool-proof dance-ability.

S3A’s Epilogue EP on 803 Crystal Grooves Collective Cuts was released on June 26th, 2020.

Review by Chiara Wilkinson