It was a wonderful feeling to recently uncover the 2013 release Sun Ark EP by Jerome Syndenham. This record has seen countless parties partly because it’s versatile but more so because the phenomenal overall production really sounds marvelous over a good sound system.
For anyone who has spent time crate digging in New York City, that name Ibadan should be well familiar. Started by Syndenham himself at the height of the New York City house era in 1995, the label has consistently pushed out solid New York house, but also has taken chances on darker or tribal influenced tracks on many releases.
A1 belongs to Jerome’s Special Edit of Carl Craig’s “Angel” and is probably the reason for the record’s quick rise. “Jerome’s Vocal Dub” of the track was released on Planet E about four years earlier and had seen much public praise and heavy club rotation. This special edit is something else; raw drum cuts are layered with minimal reverb or delay and one extremely off-beat closed hi-hat loop. The track is characterized by a single bass note that climbs four notes in the scale repeatedly. The creepy dark vocal is not lost either, but rather further distorted and cut. This tune is actually frightening if I’m being honest; there is a certain tangible discomfort that comes across, and yet it’s still difficult to turn it off.
The second cut on the A-side is my personal favorite. “Sun Ark” is the only original mix from Jerome on the release, and it certainly holds its own against some of his best productions. If A1 was made for transcendental out of body dark basement experiences, A2 was crafted strictly for sweat. There is no real bassline, just one massive kick that barrels through subs. The genius of this track is the drum arrangements. About eight or nine different drum loops come in and out of play with one another, often away from the down beat. Most low-end percussion cuts out for a few bars periodically to let a rushing atonal sort of air synth oscillate before descending back in heavy stomping club beat. It definitely has a heavier vibe that needs the right time and crowd, but at its core it’s simply an excellent conception
Flipping to the back end, B1 is titled “Route 303” by Japanese duo Lo Hype. As you could imagine, the track makes extensive use of the legendary Roland 303. The vibes are so different on the B-side – it’s incredible. The front two are sort of grand productions; they make statements and stand out in the mix. However, “Route 303” is understated, hypnotic, and refined. Various 16-bar phrases from the drum machine exist in different forms throughout the eight minute track, with the only real musical elements coming from ethereal synthetic pads. It’s a delightful ride that tricks you into its peculiar song and is perfect for those 5 a.m. excursions.
B2 finishes up with a nod to the ’90s house culture of New York. Though not “Bonus Beats” in the traditional sense of that idea, the nod tickles me and the association is apropos. It is a full track in its own right – just over five minutes long. There are minor changes made, with the same foundation there, but instead of the eerie pads there is a focus on only drum machine and 303 workouts. It truly does change the sound from dark and looming to up front and energetic. This track would do well in any minimal techno set at peak hour.
This record is relatively scarce, and finding a new copy would be quite the feat. With a heavy have:want ratio on Discogs, good copies tend to get snapped up. There do tend to always be at least a few if you’re willing to pay, though.
And even if you can’t track down this particular gem, keep an eye out for that iconic Ibadan center label that has not changed in 22 years. All the releases come recommended, and all of them trade at a fairly decent price as well. Good luck!
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Nick States, of Boston, bought his first vinyl record in 2010 and has been hooked ever since. The record shop tends to be his first stop in an any city he visits.