EP Walkthrough: Motez breaks down his dark, club-ready new EP, ReSet
After sharing a collection of more ambient-like tracks last year, the Iraqi-Australian musician sets his sights on late nights with his second EP in two years.
Header image by Mitch Lowe.
For those unaware, Motez is someone that's always strived for a sense of balance in his work.
His earliest work - which began to come out an entire decade ago - were littered with strobe-lit club music inspired by the post-bloghouse explosion of the genre, and house music's next steps. Since then, his work has flirted between bright and brooding; straddling in a balance of darker, club-destined tech-house and moments a little lighter and pop-inspired, with Motez's production prowess being the linking factor that defines everything he releases - his class and polish being the Motez factor, rather than a distinct sound or energy.
In the last few years, however, we've seen that better than anything. The Future was an Antony & Cleopatra-assisted burst of house-pop, slick in the same way as his Late Thoughts EP was a year later, despite carrying a much darker sound. The KWAYE-featuring Steady Motion in 2019 explored the fusion of his sound with R&B; the same year's Toggle and Where Have You Been were sweatier and dancier; last year's Soulitude EP went near-ambient, but still carried the distinct Motez charm. The point is that Motez can achieve any sound her undertakes - you get it.
With that in mind, the Iraqi-Australian producer's new EP, ReSet, feels like a 180-degree shift from last year's Soulitude. While the EP last year was inspired by the loneliness and unfamiliarity of pandemic-induced lockdowns, his ReSet EP views it from another lens, one that channels the rollercoastering highs and lows of Motez's last 18 months in quite aggressive club music, rich with brooding darkness and jagged rhythms shown through Motez's as-always brilliant production, and the storytelling he's able to package within it.
"This release encompasses a year’s worth of music exploration while I was going through a lot of change personally, emotionally and musically," he explains on the EP. " It’s a manifesto of a very turbulent year, almost like the dark sibling to last year’s Soulitude."
"While Soulitude was a journey into emotions through the lens of the pandemic and the way we as humans grappled with this newfound sense of loneliness and isolation in a more contemplative way, ReSet turns the dial the other way, it’s angry and rebellious, it taps into feelings of being bold and obnoxious," he continues. "Like Soulitude, it still tackles sadness but in a much louder, and more defiant way."
You can hear that defiance throughout ReSet, in how songs like Synthesize charge with their powerful rhythms right down to how the EP-opening title-track shutters with its rich experimentation, and the blooming, dark indulgence that underlays it. Even in what seems to be the EP's most conventionally pop-appearing song - The Kite String Tangle-featuring Give Me Space - has flickers of underlying heaviness, as Motez channels the frustrations of the year into club music that will outlast any catharticism needed from this time.
It's an expansive release that showcases yet another edge to Motez's discography, and as the producer continues to grow an entire decade into his career, it's clear that Motez is a flag-bearer for Australian house music, and the heights it can achieve.
Take a dive into the EP below, alongside a track by track walkthrough from Motez, breaking down the EP's production and themes one song at a time.
This song is the embodiment of the EP, it’s the old me and the new me, sounds of the past and present. More or less a song that I wanted to make as a manifestation of frustration. Like the rest of us, I’ve had a rough year and went through a lot of changes personally so I wanted to make a song to vent off but it’s also hopeful in a way because it has that sense of defiance. I call it an “anthem for antagonism."
I’ve made the brass sounding synth by layering a few instruments together including my Moog, then summing them and reversing that to add it to the previous layer. Not only did that gave it the “big horn section” quality, but also made it a bit more “grandiose” and slightly ominous. The vocal sound that you hear was literally added a week before I submitted the track to the label, I feel like it made it a bit more memorable. Was so happy to see it added to full rotation on Triple J but was also surprised as it’s not something you’d hear on the radio. I’m so happy that it’s getting a lot of love.
I spent a couple of weeks in Canberra last year and had the pleasure of hanging out with Joel from Hands Like Houses. Over a laksa dinner, I was talking to him about how I’ve been trying to make this sort of big-sounding techno that has elements of rock and metal, with lots of focus on “incoherent” vocals that just help to get you excited and dance your socks off. We worked on something that sounded big and rebellious, but literally a few days before I had to submit the final mixdown I told management that I want another week with it to change it entirely, and what you hear is the result of that last-minute change of heart. I might release the original mix at some point, it is a lot more synth-heavy and “electroclash” sounding, but I think the current mix is what is closest to my heart and my sound palette.
Sonically it’s my take on dark disco and indie-sounding techno, think producers like Rex The Dog, Adana Twins and Damon Jee. Vocally I was trying to channel the sound of Underworld and The Prodigy. The scream you hear throughout is Matt Santos from Young Monks, which is what remained from the original demo.
Gone (feat. Lauren L’aimant)
I’ve been a big fan of Lauren’s work especially with her collaboration with Icarus. We eventually connected online and were chatting about life and the curveballs it throws at us, mainly toxic relationships, how sometimes someone’s own demons manifest's in front of us through bad relationships, how it’s hard to let go even when it’s horrible for us. In a way, the song is not necessarily us talking to our counterpart in the relationship, but rather ourselves.
I’ve always loved playing with arpeggiated synths and big sounding “false bass”, like so many tracks in this EP it has the 80s fingerprint all over it: big-sounding snares and bell-like synths. Like Synthesize, it borrows a few tropes from dark disco.
Give Me Space (feat. The Kite String Tangle)
This was the first single off the EP. I wanted people to ease into the new world I created, it certainly has more of a sense of serenity and contemplation to it. Loved working with Danny (The Kite String Tangle) on this, it’s a more tranquil take on this feeling of frustration I’ve mentioned earlier - what do you do with all this space you’re given? How do you make the most of it and how do you reevaluate your life and goals?
The video for the song (done brilliantly by none other than Aymeric) was the first time I was able to drop Easter Eggs for the EP itself. If you watch the video back you’ll see all the hints as to what was to come, some people spotted them right away which was cool.
Like Gone, this has the 80s sound right through it and was the template to a few moments in the EP.
The EP needed to conclude on a positive note. I wanted it to be a poignant moment in the record that leaves you with a bit of hope and release. It’s my take on melodic techno, and links back to previous releases of mine like Give Your Heart Away and Patience, the vocals in there are also Lauren L’aimant that I repurposed from another session we worked on. I’ve enjoyed listening to a lot of Nathan Micay and Camelphat, I love how they always build up tension in their music with cascading arpeggios and this track is full of them, it’s a big sounding track but I also wanted to imbue it with emotion and a tinge of sadness albeit hopeful.
July 17th - Old Soul, Maroochydore
July 18th - Catalina, Noosa
July 30th - Geisha Bar, Perth
August 7th - Bloom, Geelong
August 8th - Glamorama, Melbourne
August 13th & 14th - VIVID, Sydney Opera House
August 28th - Elsewhere, Gold Coast