Tom Trago returns to Rush Hour after 10 years with a wonderfully accomplished mini-album, tip!
During the years he spent living in Amsterdam, when his DJ career seemed to become an unstoppable juggernaut, Tom Trago was a regular visitor to Deco Sauna, a local institution that helped him “decompress” and de-toxify his body. Eventually, a more extended period of “decompression” was needed, with Trago moving to the coast to reassess his priorities and spend more time with his young family.
‘Deco’, his sixth album and first for Rush Hour in a decade, was recorded following an extended absence from club dancefloors, as Trago cut back on DJ commitments to prioritise family life. When he returned to the studio, often with his daughter by his side, Trago initially struggled to get back into the groove. The desire to make dancefloor-focused music had – temporarily, at least – deserted him; instead, he found himself drawn towards a desire to create “electronic lullabies” and music that reflected his more pastoral environment (his home backs on to a patch of woodland in which he would walk every day).
Returning to his most familiar synthesisers – and specifically the first synthesiser he bought, on credit, as a young DJ and wannabe producer – Trago set about navigating different musical routes without the straight-jacket of club-focused dancefloors. Occasionally, old friends from Amsterdam would join him in the studio – Tracey and Maxi Mill, both of whom are part of his Voyage Direct label roster, contributed to tracks on the album – but for the most part the production process was a solo endeavour: musical therapy for an artist determined to do things differently after years spent making club hits and sweat-soaked peak-time workouts.
The results are rarely less than spellbinding. Trago sets his stall out with opener ‘Dark Oak’, a gorgeous, colourful, sun-bright scene-setter co-produced by Tracey that layers tumbling lead lines, chiming melodic motifs and kaleidoscopic chords atop the gentlest of bubbly beat patterns. Maxi Mill lends a hand on ‘Central Park’, a deep and hypnotic excursion marked out by rhythmic bleeps, minimalistic beats and layered melodies, and the summer sun-down rush of ‘Never Peace a Puzzle’, where kaleidoscopic synth sounds, meandering solos and looped electronic stabs rush towards a dancefloor of the mind.
Trago’s desire to create “electronic lullabies” for his young daughter comes to the fore on ‘To Be Left Unlocked’, a hypnotising fusion of spacey electronic motifs, Steve Reich style (synth) marimba melodies and slowly building musical intensity, while the echoing Fender Rhodes riffs, squelchy synth-bass, glistening guitar notes and sparse, snappy post hip-hop beats of ‘When The Sky Is Watching Us’ doff a cap to the producer’s roots as a bedroom beat-maker.
Given the project’s genesis, it’s perhaps fitting that Trago chose to conclude proceedings with ‘It Might Be Forever’ and the digital only ‘Blue Dope’, the album’s most rejuvenating, immersive, and vibrant moments. Both feature sustained chords painted with vivid aural brush strokes and come blessed with the merest hint of a rhythmic pulse – a thread that subtly runs throughout Trago’s most mature and musically rich album to date.