2014 is a special year for Dom Angas. Not only is he turning 40, but it also marks 20 years since the release of his first single under the Dom & Roland alias. As part of the celebrations, he's handed over the parts to a string of classic productions to a veritable who's who of D&B talent. They provide a series of dark, pulverising, rolling and occasionally intense reworks, all designed to cement his reputation as one of the greatest exponents of the artform. Highlights are naturally plentiful, from the classic jungle breaks and rave-era rush of BTK and Optiv's rework of "Jungle Beast", to the exotic melodies, foreboding stabs and tech-tinged textures of Mindscape's mighty rub of "Mindfeeders".
Having previously plied his trade on Midnight Riot, Hot Digits and Hotbox Boogie, amongst others, Perth-based Casual Connections makes his debut for DiscoDat. Those familiar with his smooth, dubby and floor-friendly re-edits will feel right at home. Like fellow Aussie Rocco Raimiundo, Casual Connection is a master at looping and dubbing out forgotten '80s soul and electrofunk gems, giving them filter-heavy, house-friendly tweaks whilst retaining the essence of the original tracks. There's plenty to enjoy across the eight tracks featured here, from the re-imagined disco-funk shuffle of "Do Thangs" and horn-totin' throb of "Shake It", to the delay-laden boogie-dub antics of "Sugar" and string-drenched sweetness of "Do You Believe".
Greek DJ, producer and re-editor Alien Disco Sugar has been busy recently, averaging a new EP of disco reworks a month on his Digital Wax Productions imprint. This latest four-track salvo offers many more reasons to be cheerful, not least the spacey filters, sweeping strings and surprisingly Balearic bump of "Jungle Eyes". "So Good, So Right" offers a wonderfully tactile, piano-laden take on the Imagination record of the same name, updating the legendary Larry Levan dub for a new generation. Elsewhere, "Denise" is a synth heavy reggae-disco delight, while the pitched-down "Don't Let Go" throbs, rises and falls in all the right places.
Bristol-based beat minder Hiphoppapotamus jumps aboard the good ship Booty Fruit with his first full EP. The result is a five-track collection of total party hedonism. "Tropical Wiseguy" adds a slice of spicy bossa magic to the Wiseguys' classic, "Sunshine Riddim" is all about the sassy sun-kissed skanks and breezy organ blasts while "It's Carnivaaal" takes a Trojan standard and takes it to steel drum city. Elsewhere Desmond Dekker gets a rolling big beat makeover on "You Can Get It" while "Yeh Dig" closes the show with a splash of samba magic. Total party stimulation, expect plenty more vibe wallowing from Hiphoppapotamus very soon...
For some upbeat, vocal driven dub for the club OBF delivers the riddims to fill a dancefloor. Highlights include the smooth Beyonce-like flow of "Ladies Anthem", while for the men there's the ragga of "Style & Fashion". Taking a break from vocals there's "Who's Bad", a track which would fit neatly into a Crookers DJ set, while the title-track, "Wild", is whimsical stroll through futuristic dub rooted in old school values.
One of drum & bass' most unconventional producers, Icicle has repeatedly re-written his own rules when it comes to forging his own sound and this time around he's chosen to ditch the dubstep for cut-throat political verses in "Problem" from Salford's own master of the vocal dark arts, Skittles. Twisting back into contorted bass and synths for "The Edge", a dirty, electrified stomp and step through the Icicle mainframe. It's good to be challenged every once in a while.
Funk fantastic Dave Gerrard is back where he belongs - with Chopshop, the re-edit label run by the one and only DJ Butcher. Rip More Funk is all about the fun and contains four reworks of fairly familiar party funk favourites with the likes of James Brown appearing on "Like A Funk Mashine" alongside the more obscure disco chant-a-long "Do It (I like To) and the elastic boogie of "Keep Your Body Workin'".
Playaz get back on the grind for this sexy little number from new fella Dialogue. First up, the title track "For The Love" blends sweetheart vocals with the filthiest bassline in living memory. "Made up Words" quickly follows with a kung-fu flava given by sweet Eastern melodies. "Stink Bomb" is truly a scorcher, taking tension from cinematic references and lining it up with heavy bass and heavier breaks. Finally, dubiously-titled "War Thongs" adds a militant stance, stomping hard and coming on strong with seriously warped bass. Versatile jump-up is hard to come by - grab this with both hands
Reading's Jook 10 is getting better at this album thing - it took ages for his debut album Darkside to arrive, and now the follow up, Contraversial, is here just one year later. Skill-wise, his spelling may be controversial, but certainly not his production techniques and here we get 10 impressive examples of them. Highlights include the tropical-keyboard-falling-down-the-stairs eccentricity of "How Come", the apocalyptic voodoo garage of "Feelings" and the slammin' speed garage bounce of "Fuse".
Chesus seems to be in a happy place right now. Certainly, there's a confident and outgoing feel about his second outing for 4Lux under the Earl Jeffers alias. All four tracks feel like the product of enjoyable studio sessions, and almost bristle with celebratory release. "Jump", which recalls the disco-inspired bump of early '90s New York house whilst adding sturdier bottom end, leads the way. Following close behind is "Elevation", a carnival-friendly fusion of pounding percussion, snaking synths and booming bass. "Intergalactic Jam" is a warm and rich exercise in stargazing deep house, while the curious "Bootsy's Nightmare" is hard to pin down. Listen carefully, and you can hear influences from UK funky, UKG, kuduro and ultra-deep house.
Taken from their summer album Broken Toys, modern day Northern soulsters Smoove & Turrell unleash this instantly hooky number. Galvanised with a life-affirming chorus and chord changes that sound so natural, you'll be singing along by the end of the first listen, it's one of the album's strongest tracks. And it comes with some very strong remixes, too! Ashley Beedle adds his trademark strut and disco bubbles, Opolopo gets his jazzy jack on while The Porters take S&T to the very edge of the cosmos on a ship made of twinkling arpeggios. Beautiful.
As soothing as it is dancefloor-perfect, "Don't Take it Away" is the first tune to grace this beauty of an EP, given up by Portuguese producer HumaNature. Rolling out an uplifting vibe, he sets the stage for his duet with Silence Groove "Just A Thought" which snips out hip-hop samples and jazz piano for a patchwork of inspiring influences. Partnering with Kalum for this track "Soul Revival" there's a retro liquid sound at work here, bringing back memories of d&b summers past. Finally a crisp stepper pushes on with help from Leeds-based maestro Colossus, "Nothing" swirls and spins with fizzing atmospherics and gorgeous vocal sampling adding some welcome wide-open atmosphere to proceedings. Excellent pairings from an exciting upcoming talent.
There's been some serious rare groove mining at Wall Of Fame HQ lately and they've come up with four chrome-plated gems for "Edits Vol 2". "Family Affair" kicks things off with a slap bass attack laced with some soulful female vocals, "Funk Giver" is a hot mess of phased funk guitar licks and a shimmering, chant-led stomp along. However the real stars here are the fuzzy, ecstasy-fuelled Balearic loops of "Marcy Hustle" and the percussion-heavy moody jam, "Mission".
Featuring album lead-off track "Impossible" and the dark hip-hop & dancehall hybrid "Control" with Robert Dallas on the mic, "Impossible" starts off with sweet vocals and skanking keyboards. "Control" features Kwality on the microphone in a half-time hip hop style, laden with dub effects and circling synthesizers. Contrast comes from Kwality's dancehall-style vocals flowing around the sparse drums while getting wrapped into the delay effects that run through the center of the production. Showcasing two contrasting sides of the Numa Crew on this deadly drop, Liondub is bringing International pressure on the bass scene for 2014.
While he's more than happy to reflect and look back via his Trust Me I Was There mix series and the recent Rinse 20 re-releases, Zinc is in his element when he's bringing the roots kicking and screaming into the future... Which he's done consummately right here with this six track UKG/bass house adventure. "If You" is a bubbling old school rave feeling wrapped up in contemporary house styles, Marky co-lab "Double" is a dark strutter, all snares and menace, "Boppa" flips the electro switch with one simple waspy bassline, "Emanate" does that hooky up-and-down bass refrain Zinc has always been a sucker for while "After Time" is an organ-heavy twist on the current deep house flavours. Finally we hit "Runouts". A breakbeat-surcharged homage to the hardcore era in which Zinc cut his teeth, it's instant shock-out material. Bring on Structures part two!
As sure as night follows day, there will be at least one Kyodai release a year on Local Talk. Konbanwa is the Berlin-based Garayalde Oses brothers' third EP for the Swedish house imprint in as many years. The title track is particularly potent. Impressively, it chugs along in a foreboding manner - think tough, late night deep house with growling electronics - before breaking down into a piano-laden middle section that will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end. It's then a piano-laden darkroom sprint to the finish. "So Special", meanwhile, brilliantly laces vocal samples from an NYC Peech Boys' Larry Levan-produced '80s disco classic over a chunky, rolling, classic-sounding US house groove.
When it comes to consistent quality, few re-edit labels can match Midnight Riot! Yam Who's label rarely gets it wrong, and the veteran producer has so far given debuts to a swathe of future re-edit heroes. Here he's at it again, offering Tom "TV" Vine a chance to flex his scalpel skills for the first time. Vine delivers four mature, floor-friendly concoctions that range from the Balearic rock-meets-dub disco vibe of "Games People Play" and delay-laden boogie hustle of the decidedly dubwise "Body Movement", to the surging electrofunk-meets-proto-house throb of "Shalama". It's this latter track that impresses most, with darting synths and Prince style fuzz guitar coasting waves of Italo-style arpeggios.
West Midlands finest, Nu Era, are back on their preferred label, Four 40, for more forays into the bass music universe. Their wide range of influences is again showcased here, so we get booming, badd ass, night cruiser trap on "Red Box", deep, sumptuous and off-kilter jazzy swing step on "Runaway" and wobble-heavy feelgood piano house on EP closer, "Have You".
Re-edit maestro and disco/house producer Tonbe dons the lesser-used Loshmi alias for this four-tracker on his Disco Fruit imprint. This time out, he's exploring a P-funk/electrofunk flex, delivering Serious Edits that subtly toughen up and rework a quartet of little-known '80s jams. There's a delightfully celebratory feel about opener "Bring Me There", whose jaunty horns, party atmos and synth squiggles are backed by a superbly rubbery low-end groove. There's more urgent slap bass action to be found on the baggier "Fighting For Nothing", while "Wsoop Wsoop" and "Whatever You Do" both deliver heavy, floor-friendly P-funk workouts. In other words, Tonbe delivers all killers, no fillers.
Launched as part of their highly prized Black Box series and featuring some of the best-regarded producers in the game, Black Box Three is a masterpiece. Populated by heavy, intelligent tracks from the likes of Royalston, Teddy Killerz & Nfonix, Loki, Bad Company UK, Optiv, Prolix, Blokhe4d and tons more, it's definitely an LP that'll see you through to the other side of Christmas. Get the survival cupboard packed and hunker down - you're gonna be in this for a while.