After reverting to his birth name for the Sentielle Objectif Actualite LP, Mark Fell shrugs on the Sensate Focus alias once more for 2.5, the fourth in a series of releases. This time around production credits are shared with another Sheffield old hand, Winston Hazel of Forgemasters, and as with the DJ Sprinkles collaboration which first inspired the project, it's one of the straightest things Fell has put his name to. It's almost as if he's playing a subtle game of chicken with himself: how far into deep house's sensuous orbit will he allow himself to be pulled?
"X" eschews the project's usual mirage-like time signatures, loping along with a supine halftime across which rippling pads and snippets of bright vocal play like sunlight on water. It even has a bassline, a warm, clean, organ-like tone - surely Hazel's contribution, given Fell's self-proclaimed aversion to such things. Across its nine-and-a-half minutes details accrue with measured grace, swelling and receding along familiar house music contours. The only surprise is the sudden appearance of cheeky rave stabs and a sludgy bassline in the closing minute - a playful nod to Hazel's past triumphs, perhaps.
"Y" follows a similar template but is more lush, its pads dripping like fondue over the undulating form of the bassline. All is not as it seems, though: Fell waits until we're lulled into a meditative state before springing his trap, exploding the rhythmic pattern and wrenching the syrupy pads into a new key to send us freewheeling into synthetic space.
(Angus Finlayson for Resident Advisor)