The collision of light and shade on Mind Is In A Daze which opens the EP is all at once soulful yet brutal. Exploding in a tantalising array of colours this fierce combination of tough, rolling rhythms alongside heavenly keys welcomes the inclusion of breathy voices like it all means something. The intense percussion informing The Kiss feels equally fiery, while the treated drums of Let Me See You Jack takes you back to an imagined 1980’s somewhere lost in the wealth of the underground. Optical Illusions completes with deeper tones exploring fresh conclusions to musical existence, contrasting the need for dancefloor crunch plus a satisfying emotional resonance.
There’s something uniquely magical about the way Rhodes can translate human emotion into a celebration of the conflict between happiness and sadness. The opening bars of Soul Spectral testify to that very point as depths are reached by the pressing of keys. Followed by the shuffle of Laroye’s soulful percussion and the punctuation of organ stabs, accompanied by Greg Paulus’ haunting trumpet, this is a masterclass in realisation. The dancefloor flavour of Sanguine then greets you via funky drums which are quickly offset by a much deeper, probing set of synthesisers, perhaps making the music more about thought than dance (which is just as important in my book). The elegant keys which again infuse the closing number, Think Of You Always play out in evocative ways as the serene sense of Jazz compounds the sounds in all sorts of imaginary ways. After all, music doesn’t get much better…
Members of the nervous deposition should tune immediately into Simon Hinter’s exhilarating release of life-assuring energy. Who doesn’t love the touch of classic camp as delivered on the title tracks fiercely demanding vocal which simmers across a defining punch of House, Jazz and funk in three equal measures. The taste continues with the gorgeously introspective Heaven & Hell as deeper chords alongside the tease of smoky moods sense late-night escapades, brisk percussion then informs the breezier Lifestreams coming complete with vital touches of Loleatta in the mix. Looking Back, ends by sequencing the historic thread from then to now via a whir of musical keys, plus accompanying filtered elements, suggesting there’s still some hope left.
This very much feels like a lot of classic Acid moments all rolled into one. You can hear it in the Chicago/ Detroit inspired bassline as much as you can in the keys adding soul and melody to the equation. Those jazzy American influences shine through too and all the while Vogue is simply a very fine piece of music. The Bonus Butch Edit adds a slice of drumming intensity into an alternative arrangement, while Jimpster’s remix sequences tribal flair to the beats alongside a psychedelic wash of vocals and heady rush of punchy arpeggios. The playful percussion, warm brushes of organ plus harmonious synth lines of Windeck then complete this standout, celebratory release from the label.
A sense of mystery unfolds while the opening keys infect the airwaves with a sense of curious trepidation via the life-fuelling Nostrand Ave ft DJ Heure. Then the bassline hits. Feeling resolute and perfect. A brilliant production in anyone’s book this engages you in ways lacking in some electronic/ dance music because it illuminates the imagination, causing thought as well as monument. In ways it reminds me of something from Nu Groove years ago but then that is simply a compliment and a half. Next, and I love this fact, is Portland Headlights which refers to the historic lighthouse which has been signalling to ships in Casco Bay since 1791. Dreamy rushes of keys drift under a wealth of breathy, emotive voices and once again the word sublime applies to this concoction of spiritually rich music. The Garrett David Remix adds shuffling percussion and a more ‘danceable’ flair to his arrangement, but either way an outstanding piece of music and release from M. Vaughan and likewise Freerange.
The third retrospective set of remixes by Freerange co-head Jamie Odell (aka Jimpster) further completes the outstanding breadth of his output covering the years 2008 to 2017. There is a timeless quality to the music here which only goes to reinforce its strength and consequently the innate power of House Music, although there are certain keynote signatures which the artist employs setting both his own standards and distinctive flavours. While obviously taking cues from America there are determined UK and European hints to it all via the keys, beats and playfulness. And it is this distinction which enables the music stand out from the rest. Fair to say that there’s not a shallow moment contained across the entire selection from the techier movements of Kasper Bjørke – Alcatraz, through to the tougher version of Josh Wink’s excellent – Jus Right, and certainly not forgetting his outstanding rework of Andre Lodemann – Where Are You Now, to highlight but just a few. Proving that music does not exist in decimals in-between numbers and robustly works, or not, as decibels on its own merits this latest compilation arrives primed and ready for the seasons determined heat. The package also contains a continuous mix by the artist himself, so there is really no excuse not to…
If music is all about sharing emotion, from whatever source, then James Teej’s latest for Freerange is a clear-cut case of tens across the board. Obviously referencing House Music’s past via the infectious use of samples which are cut-up and reprogrammed into something else altogether, it is so worth the wait as the eventual rush of soulful feelings are released in a cherished chorus of harmony on Hypochondriac. Next, Ghosted picks up the tempo with sizzling drums augmenting the atmospheric keys, while Existential takes it deeper featuring Jeremy Glenn’s soaring vocals. Finally, the Jazz-Funk strains of Movement complete the occasion with breezy grooves firing out across tough beats.
Catching up and quality is rest assured as Jimpster’s latest long player ignites ideas, sights and sounds across this tempting duration of sometimes smoky, sometimes breezy but always engaging set of tracks. Silent Stars sounds blissful, magnificent with stirring, soulful voices amid tastefully shuffling percussion. While, The Sun Comes Up featuring Jinadu feels equally rewarding care of captivating, emotive keys alongside its life affirming vocals. And so the story continues on with tempos lifting and falling, along with moods and atmospheres, from the taught House movements of Power Of The Doof right down to the cinematic explorations of Spend The Night this album covers more than most when it comes to size, scale and ambition. A beautiful listen to retreat inside – in or outside of the sunshine.
This latest and most excellent set of tracks from Joel Alter are my favourites from the producer to date. No Way captures a melancholy yet uplifting mood which not only pulls on the heartstrings but also hits you hard with a heavy-duty bottom end that is all but nasty. Opposites attract. The Drum again attacks the senses with rough bass, atmospheric voices and an almost jazzy attitude. Ed Davenport then tackles No Way by turning it upside down with harder stabs and fiery snares talking centre stage. Jitterbug finishes with a swing in the tail and striking chords again playing your emotions without words.
It’s almost as if you just need to hear the bassline on its own and you would be satisfied, although when the kick and claps hit it all makes perfect sense. Love the way this is so effortlessly funky, uncomplicated yet imaginatively musical as the chords evolve and the Acid gets slightly twisted. The original version of One Four Green was released on Andy Blake’s World Unknown imprint in 2011 but makes a very welcome return today proving that the past can also sound very much like the future. Remixes come from Deep Space Orchestra giving it more Techno feel, to Perseus Traxx who playfully rework the original elements, leaving Jonny Aux to break it all down to the bare essentials. Essential.
Stefan Braatz Pres. Crack Jack
Unreleased Traxx EP
SoulDeep Inc. Records
Stefan Braatz’s EP for SoulDeep comprises of four equally impressive tracks that will reignite that classic sound of Chicago to you all over again. Yes it’s a homage but one that feels fresh with two tracks: Jacks Nation and especially Acid Music each offering their own blistering take on the Acid sound of the late eighties. Chicago Skyline meanwhile delves into a deeper landscape with moody keys and tastefully spoken words telling a story as does the next production T.R.A.X.X which also probes similar territory.
Having inevitably reached the colour Black the series now enters its tenth year with the same impact with which they began. The music is still first-rate, soulful yet provocative and as you play through the numbers you’ve got to say there is no sign of filler here. Opening with the Nebraska remix of Salvatore Freda’s Luv Can’t Hurt you get the sense of history compacted by a contemporary flair that defines the label so easily. And, as you ease into the proceeding Set Me Free by Willie Graff & Tuccillo you know you’re in good company. Moving between deeper moments, Tech and Disco and most points in between the selection features the labels releases over the past year, along with some new exclusives that notably finish with Mark Hand’s sublime bass-warming Don’t Take It All Away. A second CD then sees everything blended neatly together for your extended listening pleasure.
The third album for review this week is by far the most diverse. And number 3 in the Parisien series continues its dedication to exposing fresh French talent. Put it this way if you know of a nightclub that plays such an exciting and wildly imaginative set of music then please let us know? From Toys low-slung and emotive ‘Noise’ straight through to the cosmopolitan Disco of Cinema and Le Crayon, and on to the chiming guitars of You, the compilation breathes fresh life into jaded eyes. Just to highlight the variation FAUVE ‘Kane’ pushes the envelope still further with haunting sentiments and retro guitars feeling cinematic and tastefully mysterious, while the finale from Saint Michel ‘Don’t Bother’ does likewise except with synthesizers accompanied by a more melancholy twist. Next please.
bbr/ Philadelphia International Records
The really don’t make them like this anymore which is why it’s such a joy to listen to Big Break Records Expanded Anniversary Edition all over again. Forty years after its original release and the power of the music and sheer exaltation of the vocals still remain very much intact. There probably couldn’t be a more apt opener that the energetic ‘Put Your Hands Together’ but that’s not to forget the album’s title is about Slavery – the title track being particularly poignant and you only need to look closely at the cover art too. That said you’d be a fool to ignore powerhouse grooves such as the timely message of For The Love Of Money or the original version of Now That We Found Love that sees the ballad sound very different to the later Third World version. Now digitally remastered you can soak up all those soulful strings and horns in their full glory via the original sublime Gamble & Huff production, and hear where dance music was pointing to next. For the full picture and story sleeve notes by PopMatters Christian John Wikane are invaluable.
Dance Like Nobody’s Watching EP
Rodriguez returns to the label after his previous 2008 outing with two new tracks that define 2013 as much as they do speak about the flux between old and new. Dance Like Nobody’s Watching is nostalgic for sure, but then that will either delight or bore you in equal measure – depending on your outlook on the current retrospection of the American House Music sound which evolved out of 1991. Perhaps, not surprisingly, I love this and Roberto gets it right down to the bone with punchy organ and piano chords adding neat definition to the ‘feel alright’ vocal snippets. Oxymoron then flips the coin with the trackier style that came out of the same era as dark stabs and sizzling hi-hats take center stage. Lusciously intense this keeps you waiting with a tension building arrangement which peaks at the breakdown, while proceeding to push forward with the addition of trademark funky cowbell. The Black Madonna ‘We Still Believe’ version of Dance… finishes by proudly reaffirming the sentiment with heavy-duty kick drums and pure House bass spread out across a sparser selection of piano.
What I love about Mike Wall’s debut long player for Hidden is the fact that the German producer doesn’t dwell too much on subtleties. Its fast, pounding and very insistent music that is little short of compelling despite its brutal, sometimes beautiful intensity. The title track does what the excellent Mr G does only from a different angle with driving rhythms offset by moody stabs coupled with that breathless quality which you can’t quite seem to escape from. The fierce syncopation continues with All I Ever Wanted getting freaky with its twisted combination of stabs and (almost) Jazzy Sax. And so the story continues until you reach the titles: Suicide, Choose Life, Ketamine, then ending at Suggestion and I guess a climax is reached. Having said that the drum programming is always invigorating while the mood Mike Wall creates throughout is never less than spectacular.
The brilliantly titled Weirdo is the relatively new label from Juan Kidd who also supplies this release, and why not as this is very excellent. I Want You combines fierce old-school piano chords along with punctuating hits of organ which squeeze every atom of energy out of the snare infused groove. Matters then continue to intensify with the introduction of blasting horns and sprinkles of smooth Fender Rhodes. You need this in your life…
Nice Up Your Dance
Two reasons why I suspect this is an outstanding piece of music. First is that almost despite the straight up shuffling 909 drums everything else feels quite unique; from the shivering bassline to the array of wildly atmospheric synths. Second, is the darkly inspired ‘heavenly father’ voices that pepper the arrangement. Jaymo and Andy George’s Refix ’96 version then turns it upside down with a seriously heavyweight bassline, hints of Sylvester and an altogether deeper reworking of the atmosphere that feels equally sublime and enticing. Second track from Stefano Ritteri is the EP’s title and is a much looser, funkier affair complete with 60’s organ, 70’s guitar licks and Train line sound effects that give it Balearic sense of cheekiness that is too exciting to ignore.
Bubba & T-Bone Feat. Abe Duque
Extended Play start the new year on the high that they ended 2012 on. This forward pointing arrangement of machine-funk from Bubba & T-Bone employs tempting Electro beats from the past while also engaging with the current House sensibilities so beloved by the label. New York’s Abe Duque supplies the spoken word and receives a heavy sci-fi treatment on the stunning Original version. A series of five remixes then proceed to deconstruct its meaning starting with Lee Webster who impressively reinterprets Bloodline with low-slung reggae styled bass and techno chords. JC Williams visits Detroit for further inspiration with classic trademark drums and taught rhythms reigniting the vocal, with the Ten Story version getting deeper, and Sean Roman & Dick Diamonds Re-Salt mix doing likewise with a sprinkling a cutting stabs. Denney rounds off with more hot bassline action and stripped back beats which develop the mood notably as the breakdown arrives.
Mr Nice Guy/ Classic Masters
Soul Music Records
I guess when you think of Ronnie Laws you probably think of his timeless classic Always There from 1975. But as with most artists it’s good to dig a little deeper to see what else there is . For the record Always… (also covered by Side Effect & Incognito) is undoubtedly a gem and is featured here from his 1985 Classic Masters album, which also collates his finest work from the 70’s to early 80’s. The following Love Is Here moves along similar lines, although with a slower funkier groove that again displays his undoubted prowess as a player/ composer. Indeed apart from the very occasional dated 80’s sounding moment there are plenty of Jazzy movements to savour here as the finale of Saturday Evening plays out with some seriously tasty piano. The first half of this double set re-release is his 1983 album Mr Nice Guy whose opening Can’t Save Tomorrow holds a curious appeal, as does the darker Rolling with its taped voices and haunting Saxophone proving to be most alluring.