The second time I listened to the opening track on Nolan’s super-hot release for the likewise Soul Clap imprint was just to make sure it sounded as brilliant on repeat. It did. I love music that’s feels this special, which sounds as if it’s located in its own dimension, which doesn’t seek to sound like everything else out there. Go, which features the deliriously, smouldering vocals of Forrest does all those things as uncomplicated drums, hits of guitar and emotive, swirling pads fill out the spaces in-between. It is a song too and one which doesn’t regurgitate Disco (relief). Which leads me onto Standing On My Own Tower that for some reason reminds me of Eno’s outstanding vocals from the 1970’s and is accompanied by the sort of heart-tearing music that doesn’t come cheap. Tell Me, washes over you in a breath of harmonious voices, while Would Be completes via chiming rhythms along with yet more words of meaning from Forrest.
Dedicated to the memory of Derren Smart whose voice you hear first as this mix from Soul Clap not so gently unfolds. And of course it’s all rather wonderful. Full of spiritual awakenings, funky life-affirming grooves alongside some glorious celebratory vocals. Not only featuring their own labels sounds along with its extended family of artists the selections also highlight the depth and resolution of both influences plus experiences which feed their music. As I said it’s life-affirming. What works for me here as an aside is that while the music is rich in the past it never feels like just a direct copy of history, or indeed that the past has simply been re-edited and altered. It feels true and intensely purposeful. And at no point will your hips stop moving! Also rarely these days do you get such a wide range of styles under the one banner as you will hear soulfully charged House sounds segueing neatly into hot Disco flavours and even some grittier, electric moments. In one word then: Excellent.
Firstly, sorry to hear that Sergio is under doctor’s orders. How is he getting with his recovery?
Sergio’s back is doing better, slowly recovering. We hope to be back on the road and fully operational in December.
Your new release ‘Old Streets’ on Soul Clap once again highlights your musical skills as well as your song writing abilities. How do you compare the importance of your timely melodies and sassy grooves with the more minimal, functional sounds that have been dominating many dancefloors?
I think essentially it comes down to a slightly lesser focus on sound “for the sound”. We love to explore sounds and try to find innovative textures but ultimately we search for a sound that inspires us to play. We likely have a more “old school” approach when it comes to melodies than modern days tracks. Some tracks today literally have the same note repeated but the sound itself varies in such ways that it creates a convincing and catchy hook, almost sounding melodically complex sometimes. I think this is as commendable as a more melodic approach. We’re just more on one side than the other.
Can you talk us through the process of how you produced/wrote the track?
‘Old Streets’ was produced in Washington DC. The “recipe” there has been the same pretty much every time: jamming on synths sync’d up with drum machines and recording as much as we can… occasionally going to the computer to start picking up the right loops and elements. Finally, we recorded the vocals that Sergio had written. The final sequencing is usually what takes us the most time. Sometimes it is obscenely long. It’s almost as if the infinity of combinations of sequencing freezes us. You can completely change the vibe and almost the style of a track with sequencing… Letting the tracks develop slowly and repeating some elements for a while can make a track real deep, whereas changing things fast will make it more pop. These decisions are also part of the process.
Your current release for Matt Tolfrey’s Leftroom Limited ‘House With 500 Rooms’ showcases a tougher more robust side to your productions. What’s the story behind the title, and how did you first hook up with Leftroom?
“House With 500 Rooms” is a play on an amazing old song from the 80s by a band from New Zealand called The Chills. Their song is really pretty and gentle classic 80s, lofi indie pop. And it was called “House With A Hundred Rooms.” Since our track is all about a macho braggadocio, it just seemed sort of funny to try and be that way even in the title of our track by topping another title that uses “House” even though that song has nothing to do with the genre. It is indeed a tougher, darker and more dancefloor side of us that’s showcased in this case. This diversity is probably because we enjoy a lot of different genres and never really limited ourselves to any subgenre.
Leftroom makes sense for this EP as it represents a label with a classic sense of House music. We are really happy Matt wanted to release it. We met him through friends at parties and always had connected with him. He’s a great person.
Having already released music on the likes of Culprit and Visionquest what plans do you have for moving into 2016?
We have few more tracks/EPs we hope to release in the near future. One is more on the House side and the other more rock. A bit like the “Old Streets”/”House With 500 Rooms” combo.
And finally, how would you say that your main influences play into your music?
A lot, essentially. I would say they play 70% of the part. Then there is probably a good 20% of “direct” influence from playing in the club and experiencing a track there. This is a different kind of influence in a way kind of like the difference between studying a textbook vs practice. The last 10% comes from being in our “bubble”. We tend to be also relatively isolated when it comes to production and this 10% accounts for that.
This has to be one of Soul Claps finest releases with Nick Monaco’s sure-fire funky arrangement sounding every bit as compelling and edgy as the title suggests. But while there are a number of great remixes on offer its all down to the original version’s hypnotic charm to seduce you in total. Subject wise it’s about stalking, so no surprise there then, and the vocal is certainly suitably smoky cool, but it’s also very much about the guitar plucked groove that captures your imagination too. Soul Clap supply their own excellent and heavier Tribal version, with Tanner Ross getting deeper on his, leaving Navid Izadi to break up the beats with an atmospheric backdrop to the voice over. Remaining tracks, Boy Meets World explores jazzy moodiness and Boy Meets World references classic eighties Electro beats complimented by smouldering chords.
No prizes for guessing what this is all about. Four fierce House cuts for your dancefloor pleasure once again sees the Belfast producer, and co-label head, get it spot on. Opening with the blistering Rock The Bells and its uplifting combination of excitable vocals, thumping bass, infectious stabs and, of course, some seriously funky cowbells. Can’t Slow Down, replays the formula minus the cowbell while again hitting you with an array of voices and captivating stabs. It Is What It Is, is the EP’s more thoughtful production feeling deeper with crisp drums offsetting tense string lines and rolling bass. JC Williams remix then finishes on a high with piano complimenting the bouncy, jazzy b-lines on what is another very fine release from the label.
In My World EP
Arms & Legs Records
Daniel Steinberg follows neatly on from where his excellent album, Treptow left off earlier in the year with this fresh set of diverse sounds and rhythms. But not one to rely on cliques his music always makes for rewarding listening. Gardezia begins with up-tempo beats and warm, jazzy electric piano inflections setting the tone perfectly. The excellent low-slung, In My World follows with soulful vocals and irresistible funky-horn punctuated grooves put through their paces via the producers’ willful imagination. Leiser Minelli completes with uneasy beats accompanied by a further sprinkling of keys and picturesque atmosphere’s again highlighting the Berlin producers’ musical prowess.
Come Into Our World: Expanded Edition
Big Break Records
Having already recorded one of my favourite soulful records, Flowers in 1976 The Emotions went on to release this album three years later. Produced by Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White and featuring all of those distinctive harmonies alongside feel-good grooves the opening ‘What’s The Name Of Your Love?’ very much typifies the sound. The mid-paced numbers do their own thing too such as the following, Cause I Love You which smooches along suitably. You can clearly hear all the E,W & F references occurring from their Boogie Wonderland period resulting in this sounding like sunshine on a rainy day. Another fine re-issue from bbr.
Your excellent new album On My Way for BBE Records features both songs and instrumentals. How do you feel about the state of song writing in 2013?
I think it really depends on the genre and market of music. Top 40 is really cheesy these days, and hip hop seems to be stuck at the club. Everyone is afraid of being vulnerable, not much love in those songs at the moment.
On the flip side, underground dance music is a bit freeing, lots of emo vibes happening. Though nothing will compare to the 70s singer songwriter era.
The album begins with ‘All Night (Everybody) featuring Amy Douglas on vocals. Can you talk us through the process of producing that track?
Amy lives in Boston and is from NYC, She is an incredibly gifted singer songwriter. I had the track, gave it to her and she wrote to it rather quickly. She nailed the vibe right on for where I wanted to take this, vision wise and I arranged her vocals after she cut them at her house.
On My Way plays with different moods and tempo’s. I was wondering about which artists/ records have influenced you most when making the album?
It’s such a broad spectrum. Everything from Salsoul, Prelude, West End to underground disco labels… Chaka Khan, Phyllis Hyman, to House production.
How would you describe yourself as a DJ. What can people expect to hear from you when you play?
I’m extremely versatile, I can jump genres pretty easily and have it all make sense…. so for me there’s only 2 kinds of music, good and bad. I may play a Diana Ross record into a record by mcde, into a rock song…who knows. I feel sets that are based on 1 kind of music and 1 tempo all night are really boring and mechanical.
How did you learn to mix and who first inspired you as a DJ?
I taught myself to mix after seeing Grandmaster Flash in the kitchen scene from style wars. Prior to that I had just been playing records, segueing if you will. Making mixtapes as a boy with my father’s records and my own.
Where did your love of vinyl come originally come from? Do you think it will ever become a redundant medium?
My parents. They had tons of vinyl, my father was in a band and played drums. I grew up around musicians and music lovers. Vinyl is the best and coolest medium to store music. I buy it all the time, but its not the format I play when traveling. It just isn’t practical and most venues aren’t set up to play vinyl properly. I don’t think it’ll ever be redundant. I do think people have it all wrong when they think just because they play vinyl some magical thing is happening…. if its not analog to begin with, all you are doing is playing a wav. Pressed on a piece of plastic. Big deal.
Your new single, All About Youx has just been released on Soul Clap. How did your relationship with the label come about? And can you tell us about what the tracks mean to you?
I’ve known Charlie and Eli for over a decade now, they used to open up for me and we always got along well. The songs are about my ex girlfriend, so they are very personal.
Deniz Kurtel’s second album defies time and space with a collection smouldering electronics that fuse technology together with provocative vocals and emotive synthesisers. The Way We Live goes a long way in proving just how excellent music is at the moment, from the opening I Knew This Would Happen, which is one of the most atmospheric pieces of music so far this year, through to the exquisitely rapped Right On featuring Michael Franti. While this is more about horizontal listening there is an occasional nod towards he dancefloor such as on the Soul Clap collaboration, Safe Word – the album being enriched throughout with an amalgamation of impressive guest artists. By and large the album feels like sharing someone else’s introspection – which is what I think art is supposed to be about after all, isn’t it?
Various Moon Harbour InHouse Vol. 4 Mixed by Dan Drastic
Matthias Tanzmann’s Leipzig based label again delivers another selection of captivating productions, which in this case have been provocatively mixed together by Dan Drastic and whose own percussion fuelled Freaks and Geeks makes its timely appearance too. Despite being three years since the last one standards haven’t slipped either, with the likes of Guido Scheinder’s excellent Luna sitting alongside music from Marinez and of course Tanzmann himself. Watch out for Reboot’s devastating Bucaboca if you like your bass twisted and Luna City Express, Ultimo if you’re more into seductive atmosphere!
The mystery unfolds as Cocoon’s yearly compilation now explores the lovely letter L. Standing for the love of… the music here builds from Tale Of Us & Visionquest’s ambient foundations of Equilibrio and then twists and turns through a first rate selection of electronic music. The sounds get progressively heavier, though all contain that funky intensity associated with Sven Vath’s label, and while it would be easier to simply say that all the tracks are good/great it has to be said that there are some particular standouts: Tim Green’s shuffling Curious Green, Sian’s buzzing East Of Eden and Daniel Stefanik’s expansive Everything Goes Green which also goes to finish off this highly recommended compilation.
Five tracks go to make up this debut release for the label and there’s something almost restrained, yet deeply intense, about the way the opening production Runner plays out. Its imaginative use of vocal snippets and old school – sounding very new school – stabs work with the shuffling rhythms to become purely addictive. Some of the same principles apply to Things with its warmer, funkier bassline and this again hits the spot. Amore then explores more in the way of spacious tones, while the more apt Attitude goes tougher with yet more vocal cut-ups and moody keys, leaving the equally impressive Standing to end on a – not feeling too blue in the process -Jazz note.
Sassafras comprises of label bosses’ Mirus (Norway) Paul Loraine (U.K) and Dominic Plaza (Sweden) who along with seriously hot sounding vocalist Nikol Kollars (Hawaii) have combined to deliver one of the more curious highlights this week. Deep, stripped back grooves set the scene while haunting spoken vocals sizzle suggestively on top, accompanied by the occasional burst of organ and spaced out fx. The Hatikvah remix then treats the voice and adds in even moodier sounds, while Paul Loraine flavours it heavily with percussion, and Vlad Malinovskiy’s remix pumps it up still further for the dancefloor. Though for me the original is best.
Matt Tolfrey and Lazaro Casanova feat. Nikko Gibler LAX EP Culprit
Three heads are clearly better than one as this new ep goes to prove from Culprit. LAX begins with deep beats and ends up with a punchy tech bassline competing for your attention along with striking tribal snares, edgy keys and voices which all feel tastefully irresistible. Globe, then provides another thoughtful collection of ideas which this time play intriguing keyboards over quick fire eighties percussion, leaving Metronomy to get deeper with gorgeous lush bass and mood enhancing synths to round off.
Nigel Hayes Northern Lights Part 2 EP Intelligent Audio
The multi- talented Nigel Hayes shows what all the fuss is about with this new selection of carefully crafted grooves that lean heavily on the Jazz/ Funk side of life – good. Whether it’s the squelchy funk of the opening Santos or indeed the ‘Expansion’s’ flavoured Jazz Funk this unquestionably plays like a touch of class. Moody Cha Cha’s excellently titled number finishes off with jazzed-up percussion and sassy vocals combined neatly with expressive horns, though not before the Northern Lights has the chance to shine in your direction with gorgeous piano, double bass and cool muted trumpet.
Next in bbr’s superlative series of reissues sees the legendary Odyssey’s 1980 album get a fresh make over, and as is the custom with the label it’s accompanied by invaluable sleeve notes. No matter what you may, or may not, think of Use It Up And wear It Out (which is also on here) the group wrote many bone fide classics such as Going Back To My Roots and Native New Yorker in their time. But back to Hang Together and its opening title track displays the musical and vocal process which made them famous and this you can also witness on supremely funky Don’t Tell Me Tell Her. But as was the want at that time some bands filled out their albums with ballads and even flirted with other styles of music, although not always successfully. Never the less this is excellently produced by Sandy Linzer at NYC’s Hit Factory…