2016's Caramel was something of a breakthrough for Scottish producer and visual artist Tom Scholefield (aka Konx-om-Pax), making good on the potential shown on his 2012 Planet Mu debut, Regional Surrealism. Although it retained that album's murky, dream-like aesthetic and evocation/deconstruction of '90s IDM and rave sounds, the melodies were brighter, the arrangements more focused. The aptly named Refresher EP provides a quick reminder of that album's achievements, as well as another bump in fidelity — not to mention a new interest in beats.
Indeed, the two new tracks that kick off the EP (there are also two remixes from Caramel, including one from u-Ziq), are easily the most consistently beat-oriented pieces Scholefield has released. A thumping, warehouse-spawned kick keeps time on "Cascada," while a breezy, Mediterranean rhythm courses through the otherwise sinister "Species With Amnesia." These front-and-centre beats are a welcome development overall, although something of a double-edged sword in that they highlight the repetitive nature of some of Scholefield's work. "Cascada" has a brief digression towards its end, for instance, but mostly consists of the same variously modulated melody for five minutes.
The u-Ziq remix of Caramel's title track is perhaps the highlight here, playing more by that album's rulebook and relegating its beat mostly to the background. Mike Paradinas adroitly chooses sounds and textures that recall his '90s output for his treatment of the track, explicitly referencing the era Scholefield is so intent on evoking; it's a neat trick. Finally, there's an 11-minute remix of "Beatrice's Visit" from American producer Huerco S. on hand. It's a pleasant enough piece of new-age ambience, but it seems out of place here, and its wild length unbalances things. Most listeners will favour the preceding tracks. (Planet Mu)