Offsuit Recordings (offsuit003), 2014
In a relaxed tropical place in the middle of the warm sea, somewhere between lounge, downtempo, and trip-hop, you’ll find deeB’s Evening Island. Danny van den Hoek has released several EPs as deeB (most notably his debut, Daydream), but this time he’s moved beyond the mellow sun-drenched city streets he normally treads, switching them out for a comfortable, isolated beach chair propped in the shade of a nodding palm, before a glorious panoramic sunset with waves lapping coolly at one’s bare feet. Though Evening Island clocks in at a scant twenty-five minutes in length, the production level and songwriting quality are high, and it loops wonderfully. It’s one of those short-but-oh-so-sweet experiences that ends too quickly, and goes down smoothly and easily, and most importantly, stays with you.
After a beatless introduction, “Arrival 404,” that bears all the hallmarks of a landing plane, the first stop on deeB’s tour is “Nightswim,” a shimmering number with all of the project’s trademark irresistible charm, warmth, and lazy minimal beats and drifting wordless vocal samples. What sets this track apart from past efforts are the sweetly lilting string and flute samples that appear near the track’s conclusion, elevating it beyond the already fine-tuned ambiance. “Trouble in Paradise” is anything but, with strumming guitar chords accompanied by a perfectly pitched shuffling beat, wind chimes, and distant sparkles. (I get the feeling the title is missing “No” at its beginning.) A looping sample of dolphin-song is the core of “Thru Waves,” but this isn’t new age territory; it’s a view of the ocean from our sandy beach lounge-spot, while minimal keyboards, sampled horns, and that quiet beat keeping perfect time….not that time actually matters here in paradise. The sing-song sample “I’ve got an island” that wanders through “About the Island” never fails to put a smile on my face – I do have an island, right here in my ears, among the buzzing insects, light bongos, plucking strings, and twinkling sequences. “Coastal Service” sees us off with just a tinge of regret, but not to worry – we’ll be back, as soon as we’re able….or when we hit replay.
Undeniably cool, perfectly paced, and deftly balanced, Evening Island is exceptional conceptual downtempo. DeeB is one of the best there is at creating easy beats that elevate as effectively as they transport, and this tropical gem of an EP sees van den Hoek at the peak of his craft.