Vancouver’s Pender Street Steppers first release, the Life in the Zone mixed cassette, was a bit of a revelation back in 2013. Comprised of 90 minutes of dusty, lo-fi originals (several later released as 12”), this tape was heavily inspired by Chicago house, but with a distinctly Vancouver twist. Jack J (aka Jack Jutson — one half of PSS) released probably the most well-known of the Mood Hut releases, with the classic sounding “Looking Forward To You.” But, aside from these releases, PSS have been relatively quiet since.
PSS’ new EP is inspired by a similar, hard to pin down mix of classic boogie, dub and house. The first track, “Raining Again” really encapsulates the PSS’ sound. There are the constant reminders of their rainy hometown (the title), the light ambient backing and a whispered vocal track topped off with some distinctively whimsical synth preset choices. All these elements, including a guitar solo, come together to create a laid-back lightly melancholic vibe.
Though previously heard on a few PSS mixes, “Molto Bene” (Italian for ‘very well’) is another highlight. Along with “Raining Again,” this track offers a more refined, dynamic approach to songwriting. Unlike their earlier material, less focus is places on repetition. The bass line holds the song together with a very subtle, low bpm rhythm that still manages to be danceable. The distinctive and catchy whistled melody that flows through the track marks the liveliest point of the release.
The remainder of Pender Street Steppers is a collection of similar directions (“No need”) and excursions into more a more dub influenced sound (“Mirror”). Although not a huge overall departure from the hazy, mellow jams of Life in the Zone, the five tracks here are a worthy fine-tuning of their sound.