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Essential Listening: Maceo Plex

Essential Listening: Maceo Plex

Eileen Pegg | Features & Interviews

With accomplishments including an Ibiza residency, multiple record labels and a hefty discography comprising numerous albums, remixes, collaborations and appearances on notable mix series, Eric Estornel, aka Maceo Plex comfortably ticks all boxes that qualify him as ‘man of the moment’; and deservedly so. For almost two decades, he’s been responsible for a steady stream of releases on respected labels such as Soma, Dirtybird, Crosstown Rebels, Cocoon, Audiomatique and his own Ellum, under a variety of aliases: techno-heavy Maetrik, electro fuelled Mariel Ito, or simply his namesake, Estornel.

Favouring productions over partying, his authentic love for creating music screams through in his varied yet distinctive discography – perfectly polished, but never failing to infuse a snippet of his, sometimes, tongue in cheek take on the industry in which he has made such an impact.

Choosing five tracks from this artist spans a number of genres, painting a picture of the signature style he’s honed and developed throughout his career and, of course, provokes some critical dance floor memories along the way.

Crush On Me (Maetrik)
Even those who weren’t aware of this track by name are sure to have heard the instantly recognisable stabs that define this record, forming the addictive melody and making it so special. Starting with a paired back drum beat that slowly builds, ‘Crush On Me’ teases the listener with miniature drops, giving a taste of the carnage that’s about to follow.

Part of the fun in this track lies in this build up, accented by futuristic loops and spaced out vocals that sigh, scream and stutter throughout before its vocal line kicks in, edging us closer to its sonic climax. This doesn’t appear until over halfway through the track, much like Pleasesurekraft’s iconic tune, ‘Tarantula’, but the satisfaction felt when it does is golden. It’s hard to explain how or why particular melodies capture the listener’s imagination more than others – but ‘Crush On Me’ is definitely one of the special ones.

Sleazy E
‘Sleazy E’ comes from Life Index, Erstonel’s first album under his Maceo Plex alias and quite simply, a must listen for music lovers. Here, the hard-edged Maetrik is smoothed down, softened, and injected with an insatiable groove. Still maintaining the futuristic outlook of his techno predecessor, if Maetrik sounds like spaceships going to war, then Maceo Plex represents the tractor beams sending down the funk-fuelled peacemaker.

For this particular song, a steady, syncopated drum beat shuffles slowly along, before distorted guitar licks welcome more energy to the track. Its defining factor comes from the spooky strings in discordant tones that create the hook, with the lazy beat never leaving. It’s a slow burner, but one that continues to give from start to finish, keeping you locked in a galactic groove.

Stay High For Me Baby
Many clubbers active in the world of house in 2011 - when Art Department were still a duo and Benoit and Sergio were breaking through - will have formed a special relationship with this track, with its cry of ‘stay high for me’ becoming somewhat of an anthem for a particular generation. Whether heard on the dance floor or at an after party, the driving guitar riff and infectious bassline on this suitably sleazy track provide an energy that echoes through the soul, ever present six years later.

Utilizame (Maetrik)
Anything written about the Maetrik moniker will describe it as dark, dirty, almost robotic and without a doubt, futuristic. “Ultizame” is an early release that epitomises this description perfectly. As glitchy as it is groovy, each sharp sound incorporated into the track cuts through, forming a sonic hailstorm of beats behind the robotic vocal lines.

Solitary Daze (produced wIth Gabriel Anada)
It’s collaborations with names like Anada that give Estornel his well earned status, joining forces with other like minded talents that many would dream of sharing a project file with. Here, we catch a glimpse of the more progressive direction the artist is heading in, with thicker, layered sounds filled with emotion, and taking us on a thoughtful journey from start to finish. While some may read its tones as menacing, others could interpret its organ chords as uplifting and joyful. Regardless of perception, it marks a new chapter of Maceo Plex’s output. 

Maceo Plex plays at Leeds’ MiNT Warehouse on Saturday 11th November, heading to Manchester a week later for The Warehouse Project with Paradise. After that he can be caught at Tobacco Dock on New Year’s Day, where he will perform Maetrik live.

Photo courtesy of Maceo Plex

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Essential Listening: Maceo Plex

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