For a seventh time, Perth-based scalpel fiddler Dr Packer opens his surgery doors and invites us inside. As usual, his cheery, floor-friendly reworks strike the right balance between contemporary dancefloor chops (beefed-up bottom end, well-placed filters, and so on), and treating the source material with due reverence. Happily, there's not a duffer in sight, and even his reworks of stone cold classics (see Oliver Cheetham tweak "Friday's Enemy", First Choice revision "Love Doctor" and housed-up Evelyn 'Champagne' King stomper "Shame (VIP)") are different enough to be worthwhile additions to your collection. Highlights are plentiful, but check - in particular - the string-laden disco chug of "Ecstasy" and "Nightlife", a thickset '80s boogie rub full of sparkling synthesizers and heavy bass.
Five years have passed since AI's debut album Stand Alone. Five years worth waiting: After a string of universally received samplers, Glen and Zula finally unleash the whole set. Clearly in journey mode, the LP works really well as a listening experience as much as it does in the dance. From the gentle wafts and breezes of "Aroma" to the much darker DRS-drenched designs of "Pass The Buck" and the gritty, Metalheadz homage "The Source" back the majestic touches of two Dawn Wall collaborations, this is Artificial Intelligence at their most comprehensive and clear. Attention to detail has been paid to the finish of each track, ensuring a sheen and consistency that you really don't hear in drum & bass albums that often. Timeless.
Founding fathers of jump-up skank-wise drum & bass, Vital Elements and Tera return with the official mix album we've been waiting for since their Top Cat throw down five years ago. Blazing through 50 tracks, the mix is devilishly close to their legendary clubs sets. But that's just the start as many tracks and their own special remixes are being made available for the first time; the premium positivity of 2Nice's "Uprising" the gruelling drum switches of Krome & Time's "The Licence", Ras Demo's spitfire mic-wrenching on "Fire" and the straight-up nasty of SK's "Kill Tune Time" are the tip of the highlight iceberg. Complete with a selection of DJ FX tools, Jungle Cakes and Serial Killaz have created a next level junglist package right here.
UK purveyours of funky breaks, Bombstrikes Records, may have a controversial name but there's everything to love about their sound. The fun loving and dancefloor bothering label run by Mooqee & Beatvandals was founded in 2004 and they claim that if you have been to a club since then you will most likely have heard their releases. Well then! Starting off with the low slug funk of A Skillz's "Mooger Fooger (dub mix)", Mooqee & Beatvandals themselves appear with "Back Up" and the legendary Cut La Roc is still at it; "Sunday Morning People" (Herbgrinder remix)" proves that he's still got his finger on the pulse. Other highlights include Pimpsoul's ever soulful "Is This Love (feat Pat Fulgoni - Pimpsoul funk remix)" the street attitude of A Skillz & Beatvandals "Simply Playing (feat Real Elements)" and the legendary Martin Solveig (remixed by the equally legendary Mousse T) who appears with the James Brown sampling "I'm A Good Man".
It seems that for his 19th installment of edits, label boss Valique has thrown caution to the wind, boldly going where no re-editor has dared venture before. The six scalpel jobs on this collection include many tracks considered either sacred or just too wrong to ever tackle, but it bothers him not a jot. Standouts include Mick Hucknall's unapologetic expression of sexual arousal, Something Got Me Started, being turned into a the Balearic house bouncer "I'd Give It All For You", the proggy electro-house Pink Floyd rework "Brick Wall" and the groovy Prince edit "The Future".
What a year it's been for Shogun Audio: albums from Spectrasoul and Rockwell, new signing Karma, the epic Point Of Origin collection and killer singles from every artist on the roster. Here they wrap up the year with 34 bangers, blissers and blunderbusses. If you've been following the label you'll know just how heavy this weights in bass gold. If not, it's the best possible place to play catch up. From the Jenna G-fronted Submorphics chiller "The Divine" and the gospel-level heaven of Spectrasoul's "Shelter" to the much darker, thunderous slammers such as Friction and Icicle's "Crucifix", Fourward's "Exile" and Calyx & TeeBee's gamechanging remix of Spor's "Aztec", this is a spotless sonic calling card for the label and its many multifaceted talents.
There seems to be a real love of classic house around at the moment and Alkalino has dived straight in. "Easy" kicks things off with Alkalino's more organic retake on Rare Pleasure's Let Me Down Easy which was made famous by David Morales. Elsewhere we get infectious, elasticated funk on "Get Up", slinky, low-slung late night grooves on "Kingston Town" and meandering and moody Afro-house on "Drums Of Kenya".
This mysterious group have caused a stir thanks to their ability of mixing vocals with throbbing acid tracks. In particular, "Paris Dub", which features Paris Brightledge on vocals, has seen them break through to dance music's mainstream. That track features twice here - the steely drums of the lat-est edit are worth checking - but what's most interesting are the other tracks. "Light Tunnel", with Mutado Pintado on vocals, is a sleazy workout all about wearing black; "Headtrack" shows that Paranoid London are capable of other sounds and is a tough ghetto workout, while "Lovin U", fea-turing DJ Genesis, sees them apply a frazzled bass to new wave vocals. Paranoid London proves that they excel at knocking out 303-heavy club tracks, but it also suggests that this mystery act is capable of making other, less obvious sounds.
Hit makers Rodgers and Edwards' mammothly influential Chic songs enjoy one of the finest curatorial salutes from UK disco's most discerning torch-bearer/creator Dave Lee. Digging deep into his vaults and unearthing some of the best homages, references and blatant covers, Negro join the dots and delivers some rarities you may have never heard before. Get lost in the music of She's shiny guitar strumming "Easy Money", freak out to Charanga 76's "Good Times" and get lucky with Van Jones's "Not About That"... Everyone knows about the hits and influence, most of us know how important a role Chic played in sample culture but Negro has gone the extra mile to celebrate some of the lesser known references Chic have had over the years. Freaking great.
dBridge, Skeptical, Loxy, Resound and Kid Drama: The Binary Collective was a stupidly strong supergroup in itself, but Module Eight just takes the piddle in the heavyweight stakes - both sonically and personally. Combining all player's strengths and signatures into one beautifully moody long player each cut teeters over the precipice of both timelessness and futurism. Highlights include the guttural 60-a-day bass croaks of "Ghost", the eerie twisted dancehall bangs of "Rudeboy", the mid 90s echoes and rumbles of "Legacy" and the genius processed vocal rhythm hits on "Lost Eden". These are just a small handful of highlights in an album that commands full attention both on the decks and headphones. Eighters gonna eight.
When it comes to re-editing, French crate digger Charles Maurice is something of a purist. His re-edits are little more than brilliantly judged re-arrangements, shorn of 21st century production trickery, but with the best bits of each original track pushed to the fore. This EP features a quartet of these pleasingly purist scalpel jobs. There's much to admire, from the humid hustle of tropical disco jam "Trini-Vibes", to the laidback disco-funk swing of "Sneaker 54" and low-slung post-disco sweetness of "Bio Rhythms". He also doffs a cap to Harvey and Theo Parrish by delivering his own punchy rework of Made In USA's "I'll Never Let You Go", a track that both have previously reworked with brilliant results.
Oh gosh... Just when you thought James Brown couldn't be repurposed, recontextualised or re-contemporised any more, along come longstanding partners in grime Wickaman and Mavrik with two insane twists: the Roll Out mix zaps and tickles with pure party jump-up electricity of "Feel Good" while the Tear Out Mix does exactly as you'd expect with more emphasis on the bassline. The reversions continue with "Plug It In", a grizzly take on Groove Armada's classic "Superstylin". Instant murderation.
Rumours have been rife on this for well over two years now. Refusing to hurry as much as he refuses to compromise, Rockwell has taken his time and crafted one of the most distinctive, unique bass music albums: Obsolete Medium. Referencing ghetto-tech, classic hardcore (rave and punk) and formative jungle, every track, even the skits, justifies its place: from the torch-raising Banks-style leftfield ballad "Faces" through to the toxic waste bass and paranoia of "Guts/Bloods/Sex/Drugs" by way of the unadulterated rave mischief of "Please Please Please (Play This On The Radio)" and cosmiche bass of "Technoir", the whole album is detailed, precision articulated and full of surprises. Far from obsolete.
Longstanding Russian roustabout Command Strange returns to V with two more contrasting soul slicers. "Black & White" is a hundred shades of foggy misty grey as the drama is all in the ominous bassline that never gets above its savage station and rolls into the never-ending mist. "Desire" flips the jazz switch with big horns, keys and a demonstrative dulcet delivery from the best MC in the game: The singing Fats. Desirable.
Few names command respect on a Mampi level. Even when he promises his new album for over two years, he still retains his crown. Listen to tracks like these and it's easy to understand why; "Back To 92" is a pastiche of the best detuned synths and ugliest breaks of the era, all brought together with today's production muscle. "The Spirits", meanwhile, is plain tear-out banshee business (think Ram Trilogy) The rest of the EP sees Swift remastering three Charge classics for the modern day: his Fresh collaboration "Play Me" still ruffles the finest hairs on your spine while the sci-fi tones and twangs of Friction's "3rd Planet" still sound futuristic. Finally we hit Blame's "Stay Forever". A straight-up string-drenched anthem from one of drum & bass's most interesting creative chapters, it still has total relevance to this day.
French reggae producer Mato has made a name for himself by giving Kingston-style makeovers to many hip-hop pop hits. Here Stix have rounded up the latest batch of reworks featuring, amongst others, "Suit & Tie" by Justin Timberlake, "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea, "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse and, clearly not getting the memo, "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke.
Alien Disco Sugar's last outing was a formidably disco-centric affair, so it's nice to see him switching attention to more Balearic matters - in part, at least - on this latest offering. He begins with the sumptuous sunset grooves of "I Want U (Aegean Sunset Mix)", where tactile nu-disco grooves are smothered in hazy trumpet solos, sensual strings and twinkling pianos. "Why Did You Do It" offers a tightened-up, dancefloor-friendly take of a well-known AOR disco classic, while closer "Set It Off" offers a tweaked, electro-disco revision of Midway's 1984 proto-house classic of the same name. It's something of a sweaty, floor-friendly smasher.
Stuart Leath flexes his contacts book with an all-star cast of producers and respected scalpel artists called on to rework cuts from the recent Never Seen The Dunes EP by Khidja. Any 12" featuring the collective talents of Discodromo, In Flagranti, Red Axes and Selvy on mixing desk duties should get you excited and this crew bring the disco heat. "Never Seen The Dunes" is given the Discodromo treatment, adding pulsating bass, driving arpeggio, all while allowing the bump of the original to keeping pushing things on. This is followed by In Flagranti's inspired 'Autobahn' retake of the deeper vibes of "Aura" which is apparently a huge favourite of the label. A matured cruiser that keeps the swing, it all leads to those strings and Eastern flavours gliding over for the perfect finale. Things head darker on the reverse, with Tel Aviv's shinning stars Red Axes, manning the controls for the scatter bounce of "Indecis" for the stand out remix. Twisted vocals, brooding FX and reversed guitar all atop a mesmeric kick, things just keeps going higher and higher. Finally "The Quiet Before The Red Stop" is tweaked by Selvy of The Very Polish Cut Outs and Transatlantyk fame, adding some club bump to Khidja's Balearic original.
Swedish sound controller Seba has dented 2015 with continuous and consistent releases, re-issues and remixes. This could quite easily be his best yet, though; "Jungle Music" is an ode to the era he first made his name. Dark, twisted and dangerous; there are many jungle tributes around right now but this is definitely one of the most authentic. "Cloudless" flips the switch with rolling soul style. Comprising warm humming subs, floaty trumpets and star-gazing synths, it plays the consummate counter to the devilish lead banger. Classic Seba.
Formerly one half of Need For Mirrors, HLZ (known formally as Emilio) unleashes his debut solo EP and it's every bit as stark and dark as you'd expect it to be. "Theia" is all about the 1.21 gigawatts bassline that pings us back the headiest days of jungle before hurling us back into the future. "Rem World" takes a subtler approach as hurricane pads wrap around the two-steps while "Roads" juggles several fine-tuned basses around a similarly slim-line dynamic. Finally we hit "Nebulosa" wherein a cloudy clutch of star dust elements sprinkle the most industrial strength rhythm section of the EP. A brand new chapter for HLZ begins...