The underground music scene is full of unheralded talent - people and labels whose significant contribution to a sound or style often goes overlooked. Amsterdam-based Marco Sterk could well be one of those people. A graphic designer by trade, he is responsible for the distinctive look and feel of Rush Hour's many releases. But that's not all. He's also the man behind the stop-start Hand Of God label, an imprint whose sporadic releases gainfully attempt to join the dots between classic and contemporary house, leftfield disco and, on occasions, Italo. Here, he joins forces with the similarly overlooked ESP Institute label. Like Sterk's own Hand of God imprint, ESP Institute operates at the margins, delivering music that doesn't quite fit into neat categories. The two tracks showcased here are typical of both Sterk and ESP Institute's approach. Lead cut "Nonono" seems to exist somewhere in the margins; some elements sound like Stereolab, others Larry Heard after a fistful of downers. "Darwin", on the other hand, could definitely be described as "Balearic". Featuring relentless, hypnotic melodies and marimba-ish riffs alongside nagging, stripped-back percussion, it sounds like a skewed take on the classic works of Steve Reich. With darting, soft focus synths and an undulating groove, it's both mesmeric and enchanting. To these ears, it almost sounds like a contemporary answer to Chris Carter's beguiling "Moonlight", itself re-released last year by Optimo Music. Given the quality of these two tracks, it's likely we'll hear more from Young Marco over the next few years.
We've prattled on before about the immense talents of Amsterdam-based producer Marco Sterck, describing his previous missive for ESP Institute as being like "Larry Heard on a fistful of downers". "Video Days", on the other hand, is like an immense MDMA rush in the company of Lindstrom, Yellow Magic Orchestra and LB Bad - all twinkling, Japanese-inspired melodies, darting electronics and gently lapping chords. It goes without saying that it's superb. "Later Than You Think" is impressive, too, layering bold, "Coma Cat"-ish melodies atop a woozy base of frisky, jazz-flecked drums, bittersweet chords and vintage electronics. If anything, it provides even more of an intense rush than its predecessor. Bliss.
Amsterdam-based graphic designer turned producer Young Marco has previously shown hints of greatness, most notably with a pair of superb 12" singles on ESP Institute that layered picturesque melodies atop huggable analogue grooves. Here, he delivers his debut album, Biology, and it's every bit as warm, imaginative and luscious as his previous work. Each of the album's seven tracks is something of a gem, from the crystalline, new age house of "Sea World" and Vangelis Katsoulis-inspired ambience of "Out of Wind", to the Italo-influenced dancefloor pulse of "Suzaku" and rush-inducing, synth-heavy brightness of "Can You Really Feel It". It's one of those albums that will brighten up even the dreariest of days, and those sets are arguably few and far between.
Originally released in 2015, Young Marco's "The Best I Could Do" shows that he is as adept in the studio as he is behind the decks. The renowned crate digger draws on his knowledge of underground house and techno for this understated, melancholic affair. Sad synths swirl up over a raw, resonating bass and the end result has a decidedly wintry feeling. House veteran Tom Trago drops a similar sounding track, "Brutal Romance (TT's Love Fix)". However, on this occasion, the groove is upbeat and the riffs are more insistent, but the same frazzled approach to production prevails. Keeping it atmospheric, Fatima Yamaha delivers the slow tempo, synth-heavy "The Creature From Culture Creation", which also featured on the original 2015 release.
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