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.
If you’d have asked twenty years ago where House Music would end up? I might not have imagined such an exquisite progression but here we are with Maceo Plex, who for good reason is all over the place at the moment. It can sometimes be hard to put into words precisely how music makes you feel. However, this combination of epic ambience, technological stabs and with yet another unfeasibly funky bassline in place, Frisky does things that are perhaps better left to the imagination. Sex Appeal continues the theme with heavily treated vocals feeling heavenly alongside rapid-fire acid bass and perfectly toned beats. The word Artist is aptly applied. 9
Released by La Fleur’s own label she undoubtedly has the courage of conviction and I have to say that this is excellent/ beautiful in equal measure. The title track eases you into a deep sense of security with gently shuffling rhythms contrasted with a heavy bass and sprinkling of emotive chords. The vocals add even more effortless charm to the production which should gain the labels third release the attention I would suggest it merits. Tjuvlyssnerskan follows by twisting the Swedish noun for feminine around a beautiful, melancholy keyboard loop and more infectious bottom-end. 8
Back with their second release for the label the Polish duo deliver more in the way of contemporary electro-funk that sits very neatly upon Freerange. Open Your Arms plays off-kilter voices against an imaginative arrangement of beats and basslines, which while they throw back to the past also veer cleverly towards the future. The Fred P Reshape then dispenses with that entire notion and delves headlong into subwoofer oblivion, which quite frankly is somewhere you’ll also want to be when you hear this. Love the uncomplicated but deeply intense combination of moody pads and drums which say it all here. Dreamin’ About You finishes you off by the harsh reality of distorted kicks complimented by jazzy stabs, and feels sort of early nineties but then f**ks with that idea completely – cool. 8
More sizzling hot Bass action for you, which in this case emanates from Hot Waves and Favourite Robot recording artist Sean Roman. Bocuse, kicks things off with acid tinged deepness and feels very much of the moment, as its centered around the Bass, while the remainder of production is adorned with all sorts of intriguing electronic sound: some funky – some weird. Moan, follows via the same approach although this feels just that bit funkier. Remixes come from the excellent MANIK, who take the fuzzy tones one step further, plus Waifs and Strays who factor in a 90’s sensibility into their equally fiery interpretation. 7
There’s nothing like the sound of a real bass guitar (or even its digital approximation) to get the juices flowing and Jozif’s latest for Culprit is set to do just that. It would be hard not to love this and the way it pulls all sorts of reference points together: from 80’s synths and Disco styled Strings, to that Funk bass line and 2012 arrangement. Tea, is a spoonful of excellence. The Cure inspired version of Lullaby will appeal to those of a Balearic persuasion and makes ‘just for old time’s sake’ feel like a very good proposition indeed. Which leaves the tasteful, swirling atmospheres of Serenade and the bold electronic textures of down-tempo, Boesen to complete the picture. 8
Jesse Siminski, or better known as, Heartthrob crosses the lines between Techno and electronic House music to feel uniquely spaced-aged. Odyssey’s journey begins with tense beats, supplemented by scratchy keys, and proceeds into darker territory generated by an array of odd-ball electricity that’s nothing but tempting. You would be surprised to hear that, The Liar follows in a lighter note but it doesn’t. It does however offer you funkier cow-bell driven percussion, although even this turns out to be deliciously sinister with the introduction of sleazy sythns and suspect voices. 7
Cielo Sunrise (mixed by Nicolas Matar) Nervous Records
NYC’s Cielo co-owner and resident DJ Nicolas Matar delivers what’s best described a beautiful journey through the sights and sounds of AM:PM. Titled, Sunrise for good reason this perfect blend of soulfully infused rhythms gives you the very best in sassy songs to more vigorous workouts. As you continue listening, Matar proves to be a classic DJ in every sense of the word with the mix tripping through light and shade while touching upon a selection of styles, Cielo is destined to always get the better of your curiosity. Beginning with Guy Gerber’s excellent remix of Deniz Kurtel’s ‘The L Word’ you pass through DJ T’s ‘City Life’ and end up at Jimpster’s beautiful Summer Of Love Remix of ‘1988’ – which is almost right back we all started from. 8
“To celebrate Baker Street Recordings 5th birthday we are giving away an hour long mix featuring some of the labels best tracks from the last 5 years and new remixes of some of the classic Baker Street releases. Mixed by our very own Paul Hardy & McKai. All the tracks in this mix and more are available on the 5th anniversary release out on the 23rd of April at all digital retailers.”
Album review to follow plus interview with Paul Hardy….
Cheryl Lynn In The Night bbr (Big Break Records)
Some three years after the release of her perennial party favourite Got To Be Real, Cheryl Lynn teamed up with producer Ray Parker Jr to produce her third album, In The night in 1981. Opening with her second classic single Shake It Up Tonight the song sees the songstress deliver a pantheon to the cult of Nightlife, encapsulating both its joy and energy and feeling every bit as exciting as …To Be Real, but just that bit more sophisticated. The vocal does that distinctly American thing of sounding soulful, while reaching the extremities of emotion which only singers of a certain calibre can truly do. Also worth noting – if you do such things – are the Gene Page arranged Strings which soar, then hover, with pure Disco class. The album devolps with a selection of hit and miss ballads, mid-tempo popish grooves, and then reaches the rather tasty What’s On Your Mind. 8
Human Mystery kicks off this excellent release from Leftroom by combining ultra-funky breaks with an uber squelchy bassline that does little else bar rock. There are subtleties in the production too as the arrangement ultimately develops into a shuffling electro groove with atmospheric synth lines lending this a distinctly unique quality. Pezzner provides the remix by way of an alternative b-line that feels tastefully dark alongside the f***ked up voices and sizzling hi-hats. Next, Pick Em Up engages in self-fulfilling prophecy with twisted vocals and pounding rhythms feeling funky and industrial, and this again develops the theme into some creative surprises. The title track proceeds to get marginally deeper with classic House bass and energetic percussion firing it all up, as Pezzner’s second remix relies on chopped up keys and moody pads to provide another oblique angle. 9
Willie Graff & Tuccillo Phonomontage EP Freerange Records
Time for the third EP from Willie Graff & Tuccillo for Freerange and it will come as no surprise that this again pushes all the right buttons. Set Me Free kicks off as they mean to go on by replaying a classic Disco loop, this time it’s pitched to mid-tempo, which is then excitedly filtered leaving the vocal to repeat into ecstasy against a notably rasping bass. Get It On speeds up for dancefloor action with another familiar sample reworked over sassy percussion and punctuated snares. Lunar Feelings completes with, as the title would suggest, the most intriguing cut from the EP blending pulsating organ chords together with funky rhythms and sumptuous atmospheres, which it has to be said conjure up a treat. 8
Manchester-based producer Angus Jefford once again strikes the thoughtful balance between classic and contemporary sounds that artistically reference the past without boring you to death by it. Which is a roundabout way of saying his latest production for MK/ Scottie Deep’s Say Ahh is a killer. I love all the influences and the way they are shaping music right now, but also how the sounds are progressed and twisted into today. Both versions of Bumpin’ lay testament to that with pulsating organ bass notes and deep beats feeling very addictive peaking at an incendiary breakdown. Fever Fever follows sounding fresh with invigorating electronics, leaving The Culture to finish by playing splashing hats against heavy-duty basslines and simmering keys, all of which is best described as explosive. More please. 9
Darabi & Tim Paris Various Items 2 Items And Things
Berlin based Items And Things forge ahead with another striking release which sees both Darabi and Tim Paris deliver tracks on the labels thirteenth release. The former has, Player setting sinister voices against a hypnotic backdrop of robotic beats and dark bass. The later gives you, Too Close with Sex Judas. Which feels delightfully sleazy over Chicago inspired sounds that reward all that European influence by joining the dots between the 80’s and now. You’ve got to love it. 9
The Headhunters Survival Of The Fittest/ Straight From The Gate R2 Records
Don’t you just love re-issues. Leaving the vinyl vs. digital debate aside this series from R2 Records is something to get very excited about as past classics are re-mastered and repackaged for 2012, and beyond. But most importantly of course is the music and what finer way to start than with two gems from The Headhunters. Their first without Herbie Hancock (whose seminal debut is still seminal, although produced by him) opens with God Make Me Funky and continues the journey that began to explore the possibilities of Jazz/ Funk fusion. The follow-up, Straight From The Gate proceeds as the series releases two albums from each artist and if anything gets all the more cosmic in scope by reaching for the edges that bands like Steely Dan also gravitated towards. Dexterity is always assured whatever your preference may be and both these albums could no doubt be described as essential in any language. 9
Thelma Jones Thelma Jones Big Break Records/ Sony Music
Released just over ten years after her first single, The House That Jack Built (also sung by Aretha Franklin) Thelma Jones’ debut album features a few well known covers such as I Second That Emotion and Now That We’ve Found Love. While undoubtedly possessing a beautiful voice the music feels a touch too middle of the road at times – though I guess that may depend on how adult you feel. Although, on How Long the sheer emotion of the vocal delivery and accompanying mid-tempo groove combine to perfection, and the album is worth buying for this experience alone. In a similar vein is the Brad Shapiro produced You’re A Song (That I Can’t Stop Singing) with its timely soulful melodies and generated sense of longing that couldn’t feel more personal. 9
Azari & III
‘Azari & III’
Loose Lips Records
If anyone tries to tell you that ‘Things aren’t as good as they used to be’ they obviously haven’t had the positive pleasure of experiencing Azari & III. As an attitude to dullness the album plays like a dream touching on all points from the more Soulful to the blatantly Techno inspired, this selection of music relishes the extremes. While current single, Restless (With Your Love) and with previous ones are included the air of familiarity is offset by the albums now U.K release. Tracks such as the acid infused Tunnel Vision and the mechanically charged Indigo simmer with tension as the production values are never less than dazzling throughout – although not always pretty such as on the deliciously sinister, Manhooker. Sweet dreams are made of this. 10
Tony Lionni returns the serve with this typically striking production which sees him trace the lines between Techno and House and then blur them. Higher Ground loops a vocal snippet, works it to death over splashing hats and insistent organ with sumptuously deep synth acting as the pay-off – an inspired touch of Jazz. Moomin provides an excellent remix with funky rhythms blending together with a selection of treated instruments. And, if that isn’t enough then the final the e.p’s finale certainly will be. Forever Is A Long Time… begins with Disco drums and ends up reliving a series of classic Deep House moments with exquisite piano and swirling pads: Spine-tingling. 9
Murray Richardson ‘Memory Loss’ Baker Street Recordings
The story of House continues with this excellent bass driven production from Murray Richardson. Many of you will be overtly familiar with Baker Street by now but if not then title track Memory Loss is the reason to get acquainted. Bass lines like this are hard to beat and coupled with rattling hats and Detroit stabs this invigorating groove pushes all the right buttons at Magazine Sixty. The curious Sometime Sweet Susan continues by adding up various old-school elements and sounding vital. Remixes of Memory, are from the first-rate Paul Hardy & McKai who not surprisingly retain the B line but spice up the drums and top end to compliment the original, and a hypnotic Gareth Whitehead whose sub is suitably s**t hot! 8
Memoria Recordings’ own Lilith plays with numbers on this hard-hitting and deeply involving E.P. Opening track 22, produced along with Timothy Watt, sets hissing 909 hats against moody stabs, weird voices and funky tech rhythms and does nothing if not leave an indelible impression on your mind. Freak You does as the title suggests with menacing sounds and techno attitude. 44 follows the progression with deeper tones and stylish snares, while Circoloco’s Andrew Grant explores yet more tense atmospheres and drum textures on his excellent remix. The Filsonik remix of Freak You rounds off in jackin’ Chicago mode teasing you with its bassline and shuffling percussion. 8
If you like music that challenges your imagination then Mexico City’s Signal Deluxe are most definitely for you. The led track is somewhat epic clocking in at nearly eleven and a half minutes, but don’t let that bother you at this develops a sequence of completely intriguing sounds and vocal treatments all at its own pace – feeling almost ambient at times but with a deadly serious undercurrent too. Or to put that into other words, it’s a stunning piece of electronic music. But then so is the Derek Marin Remix who twists nasty stabs together with trippy vocals and slower beats. The Craft Remix lifts the tempo techno time for its unrelenting version, while the Deepak Sharma & Dieter Krause Remix stretches everything out into sonic extremes and might be something you would like to experience in a dark room (though perhaps not alone!) Again you could use the word exceptional. 9
Sandy Barber ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ BBE Records
Sandra Barber was the lead vocalist on Rare Pleasure’s classic ‘Let me Down Easy’ after which she branched out with producer Clyde Otis as a solo artist to release her debut album in 1977. It’s all too easy to review The Best Is Yet To come because you are immediately enveloped in soaring emotive melodies the way only Soul music seems to truly do. The album contains its fair share of down tempo ballads such as the gorgeous I’ll Belong To You/ Yea Baby but also mid-tempo Disco shuffles and even hot boogie action too. Try, I Think I Think I’ll Do Some Stepping (On My Own) which comes with excellent reworkings from John Morales and Al Kent as well as the somewhat suggestive I’ve Got something Good (Come And Get It) for size. You won’t be dissatisfied. 8
The second in this series highlighting the labels’ prowess sees Glaswegian Dominic Martin select fourteen tracks to mix. You’d be surprised if I didn’t reassure you the music contains the key word, Deep although rarely do the energy levels dip below that required to party. The album contains a handful of new productions along with a couple of notable remixes from Giom, Milton Jackson and Johnny Fiasco who all deliver typically punchy selections. What the tracks do have in likeness is a common bond in the use of funky stabs, warm pads and always crisp beats. Also well worth noting are the smoky down-tempo numbers: New Context and the tastefully Jazzy ‘Last Exit’ which serve to break up the beats and the mix in an extra layer of intrigue. 8