Song debut: Cop Circles feat. Drip McGyver, “Highway”

Electronic producer Luke Leavitt pairs up with Madison’s Ethan Jackson on a new single.


Cop Circles. Photo courtesy of Luke Leavitt.

Cop Circles. Photo courtesy of Luke Leavitt.

Luke Leavitt, who makes electronic music under the name Cop Circles, moved to Madison from Denver in 2016 to pursue graduate work in geography at UW-Madison. He quickly found a kindred spirit in Madison native Ethan Jackson, best known for his production and vocal work in the synth-funk solo project Mr. Jackson. The new single “Highway,” to which Jackson contributed vocals under the name Drip McGyver, is their first release together. Along with another single, “Penultimate Conclusions,” It’s also the first new music Cop Circles has put out since Leavitt moved here. Both Leavitt and Jackson will be celebrating the release with a May 9 show at Art In.

Leavitt approaches house music and other areas of dance music in much the same way that Jackson approaches R&B: with a full embrace of all that’s catchy and lush and approachable about it, but also with a personal stamp that feels naturally playful and skewed. Mr. Jackson’s “Ms. L!” pairs urgent hooks with steamy atmosphere; Cop Circles’ “Nihilistic Freakazoid” feels like a smart-assed but sincere dancefloor anthem. The two met at a house show they both played in town shortly after Leavitt moved here.

“My car had broken down or something, so I was fishing for a ride and Ethan, who’s also playing, ends up picking me up,” Leavitt recalls. “Ethan rolls in, his car is impeccably clean and fancy, like an Uber, and when I get in he’s blasting Loose Ends’ ‘Hanging On A String.’ ‘Hmm, who is this?’ I think. And when we get to the show and I hear him play, I’m like wow: this is putting the drip to the groove. A fabulous night. And when Ethan drives me back I get all gushy about music and its healing powers, cause I’m a little tipsy. We vow to collaborate.”

The two have been gradually working on “Highway” for a good while, and the result is an arrangement of bright synth pads, echoing flute, and sparse but propulsive percussion, all topped off with Jackson’s raspy falsetto. The arrangement goes through gentle shifts, as Leavitt punctuates Jackson’s circular, seductive melodies with a plaintive piano hook and the occasional punchy drum fill. (Full disclosure: Tone Madison‘s Joel Shanahan mastered the two new tracks.)

Leavitt will be spending the summer back in Denver, working with an advocacy group for homeless people, but plans to return after that and keep on creating new music, including future collaborations with Jackson. Give “Highway” a listen here.

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