Proton welcomes back one of my favourite producers, Estroe, following up her absolutely gorgeous ‘Living Apart Together’ EP on the label last year. ‘After I’m Gone’ sees Estroe in a decidedly darker and more paranoid mood, with both ‘After I’m Gone’ and ‘Before I Go’ replacing the warm, emotional ambience of ‘Living Apart Together’ with uncompromising punchy and techy soundscapes. Fellow Dutchman Jarno closes out the EP with a surprising deep house take on the title track.

‘After I’m Gone’ sees Estroe in glitchy techno mode, with squelchy percussion bouncing around under sparse, spiky metallic synths and clipped vocal samples. There’s definitely a sense of fun on show here, but sadly I have to say that the overall effect on me over seven minutes was more jarring than pleasurable.

Its companion, ‘Before I Go’ launches off with a heavy kickdrum, and rumbling bass, but it really gets going after only a minute, with urgent sonar pings riding over an industrial strength acidic groove and swaying hi-hats. There’s just a fantastic build on this record, as Estroe tweaks those acid lines into a deeply exciting head trip. However, about halfway through the track drops into an unnerving, gothic string section, and personally I’d have liked a sweeter melody here to lightened the mood before the acid reclaims the track; as it stands, it was a bit too bleak for me. But the first half of the track is really wicked, and the whole will perhaps appeal more to those less wimpy than me.

Jarno’s ‘Walking Backwards’ remix of ‘After I’m Gone’ takes the track into totally different waters, offering up a gentle and atmospheric interpretation. Actually, there’s little left of Estroe’s original at all, with the only real giveaway being the distinctive ‘After I’m Gone’ vocal sample that punctuates the track. A DJ-friendly but patience-testing intro section finally gives way to a subtle little bassline and lovely, warm dubby echoes. It’s a really appealing sound, but unfortunately Jarno doesn’t really take the track anywhere – it just kind of loops for several minutes, before winding down into a needlessly long outro. Actually, the outro introduces some nice wispy new melodies which might have really lifted proceedings if Jarno had played that hand sooner. As it stands, the remix mostly left me frustrated, since Jarno clearly knows how to craft a beautiful sound, but just doesn’t manage to deliever on that promise.

It’s probably fair to say that Estroe’s work appeals to me most when she’s at her most melodic, and both tracks here demonstrate the other side of her palate. ‘Before I Go’ definitely strikes me as the standout here, and both tracks are certainly very unique and stand as testament to Estroe’s continuing willingness to experiment and take risks. Even though this release didn’t really do it for me, I’m still keenly looking forward to hearing the upcoming second album from this wonderfully talented and inventive producer. 7/10  

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