WPGM Recommends: Courage – Icarus (EP Review)

courage icarus
Hailing from Lincoln, House producer Joe ‘Courage’ Carson dropped his debut EP on the Black Butter imprint entitled Icarus, we take a closer look at the newest voice joining the Black Butter roster and the ideas behind this latest release.

The title track opens with the kind of mix and blend melody that embodies some of the best elements of UK Garage, the celebratory party vibe also just happens to be perfect timing for the upcoming festive party season. Was that the main inspiration for the music? “I really love the pureness of UK Garage – Strong beats, simple melodies, I guess I want to reflect that in the music I make”, Courage confirms.

Unapologetic basslines and xylophonic riffs make this a sure fire party banger – more than just a bubbling groove, it dares you on to the dancefloor. So what’s the thinking behind arranging a track like this and how did he ensure its impact isn’t diluted? “Icarus started with the melody and the beat naturally formed around that, it was a very quick track, written in about a day. I think that energy and rawness is captured in it”, Courage replies.

Upon its first listen, Icarus manages to pay homage to those old school garage flavours without becoming a backward looking tribute. It encapsulates the energies of the early days of the scene with its multi layered melody and barely contained raw edges, a voice that is cutting through the ever more saturated UK Dance music soundscape with great effect.

One of his earlier releases “For Tonight” is another playful assembly of sound, its opening flute-like siren call reminiscent of a sun-drenched festival montage from Skins, all uplifting good times and freedom. Joe, it seems, is not a producer afraid of sonic experimentation or adventure, as the lion head logo would suggest, there is an element of fearless expression in his music making.

While his remix of Janet Jackson’s “No Sleep” plays with vocal sample placement as much as you would expect of a remix track, once again it’s the experimentation with layers of sound that stand out as intro’s give way to melody, beat and riff –  it becomes a tessellation of sorts – a twist and turn of raw elements combined with a keen ear for arrangement.

“Icarus” plays to the celebratory elements of UK Garage recreating its carnival vibe, while Joe says “The Sultan on the other hand started with the beat, taking inspiration from early Blawan and Tessela tracks – it’s producers like them [that] constantly have me saying ‘How the hell did they do that?’”.

With a feel that remains consistent with his experimental nature, “The Sultan” lands with a throbbing bassy intro and a major emphasis on percussion that drives this beat in its entirety. Joe continues, “The Sultan’s beat is actually made up from sounds I recorded outside or in my Kitchen; there’s a sound of me slamming my car bonnet in there somewhere. Unlike Icarus, The Sultan’s melody line was the last thing in that track. The beat was so huge I needed an even bigger melody”.

The nods to Blawan and Tessela become more apparent with each listen; the arrangement of licks and riffs combining to create a daring echo chamber. The EP so far has had support from the likes of Annie Mac and DJ Target so it’s safe to say this is a producer turning heads for the right reasons, so where in the Dance music arena does Courage the producer fall? House? Tech-House? Techno? something altogether more experimental?

I never write with a genre in mind – I listen to so much music it usually ends up some chimeric mess of styles. While I think it’s great when music embraces cross genres; I still think that music and identity are very closely linked, whether that’s a scene, a sub genre or a club night; I think the sense of belonging is so important”. Courage’s Icarus EP is out now via Black Butter Records, purchase it on iTunes here.

Words by Akua Ofei

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