Navar – Moments in Life EP (microCastle)

After an astonishing rise in 2013, culminating with his wonderful ‘Found001’ EP, Navar has been rather more quiet this year. But having helped to celebrate microCastle’s fifth birthday in July, Navar is back with his first full release for the label, backed by remixes from 16 Bit Lolitas and Chaim.

‘Moments in Life’ opens with breathy samples looped over warm bass tones and chattering percussion. It only takes a minute for the bass to give the first taste of the track’s melodic themes, and it’s soon joined by the track’s shimmering motifs, airy vocal pads, and subtle but insistent pianos. Clocking in at nine minutes and with two lengthy breakdowns, the track manages to remain engaging and uplifting throughout, with the second half being lifted by some urgent sequenced melodies.

16 Bit Lolitas are hardly strangers to microCastle, having been an integral part of the label’s output throughout the past five years, most recently delivering a fantastic remix of Andre Sobota’s ‘Lights’ last year. Their remix of Navar’s ‘Moments in Life’ is even better. Like Guy J’s recent remix for the label, they serve up some cosmic-disco-funk, this time driven by cool rhythm guitar licks and bass maneuvers, and laden with soaring strings, Navar’s great vocal samples, and catchy wooden chimes and other interlocking melodies, while the two short breakdowns add touches of immense beauty to complete the effect. And the effect, unsurprisingly, is spectacular.

Navar’s second original is ‘Jereko’, which sees him in a funkier mode than we’ve witnessed before, with flailing, rich percussion, and a shuddering bassline, all set against a simple but hypnotic buzzing hook. The instrumentation is quite different from what you might expect from Navar, with subtle flutes and other sounds adding texture and mystery throughout. I didn’t like this quite as much as ‘Moments in Life’, but it’s a compelling genre-smasher with lots of strong ideas and a bit more floor-shaking power.

The remix of ‘Jereko’ comes from legendary techno and house producer Chaim, who offers a more subtle and delicate version of the track, with fluttering chimes ringing out over a techy groove. Sadly, there just isn’t enough going on here for my taste, and the remix starts to feel a bit repetitive about halfway through.

It’s clear from this release that Navar has decided to reinvent himself a little, infusing the slow-burning, melodic progressive sound that most of us associate with him with heavy doses of other, diverse music influences. The result retains a lot of what made Navar’s previous work so appealing, while being perhaps a bit more distinctive. The jewel in the crown here, though, is 16 Bit Lolita’s fantastic remix, which is just a masterclass in house music. 8.5/10

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