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Reviewed this week
Nothing says happy new year better than a 33-track jungle package. Ripping into the year in the same spirit they shredded 2016 with, DITJ have delivered something serious special here as some of modern jungle's finest creative minds: the never-failing DJ Hybrid slams the hammer down with the enormous VIP of "What Else", RMS continues his rich vein of form with some dagger-like samplecraft on the dancehall scorching "Burning Up", Section conjures up the spirit of Raindance past with some crafty drum-dicing "Black Magic" while Evade will turn you inside out on his trippy-assed amen omen "Reverse"... And that's just four of over thirty moments. Trust... We can't stress how massive this is.
There's naturally been plenty of hype surrounding The Black Madonna's "He Is The Voice I Hear", which originally dropped on a single-sided 12" at the tail end of 2016. It's undoubtedly the fast-rising Chicagoan's best record to date, and feels like an unashamed tribute to Patrick Cowley's fine productions for disco icon Sylvester. While there are mournful notes - check the extended, beat-less piano intro -it doesn't take long to turn into a deliciously muscular, Italo-disco style chugger laden with razor-sharp strings, bubbling acid lines, and the kind of fluid piano solos that were once a hall mark of Frankie Knuckles' remixes. In other words, it's a fine contemporary disco record from one of dance music's most notable DJs of recent times.
Formation, officially the longest running drum & bass label of all time, battens down the 2017 hatches with an incredible package of future fire. Gloves are off from the starts as the likes of Bladerunner charges up "Pulsar" with giddy VIP energy and NC-17 tickles our classic jungle fancy with "Bronx Roller" within the first few tracks while, deeper into the selection, Sweet & Sikka go all-out tech funk naughty with "Rebuke" and Benny V, Dfrnt Lvls & Entice get you thrusting lighters you didn't even know you owned. It's great to see label founder and all-round legend SS appearing so heavily across the album with his tracks, too... "Love So True" is a masterclass in classic early 2000s style dreamy soul, "New Jazz" takes us back to an EZ Rollers era and his Soul Saverz material continue to carve its own exciting unique conscious path. No other label has the heritage of Formation.
G.A.M.M's man in Paris, Young Pulse, is a talented chap. His periodic re-edit releases on the long-serving Swedish label have been amongst the most impressive rework-heavy EPs of recent years. Volume 4 is a little less expansive than usual, boasting just two cuts; happily, though, both are superb. "Everybody, Free Your Body" is a soaring, spiraling rearrangement and extension of The Dells largely overlooked 1977 album cut "Get On Down", which sounds like the stuff memorable midnight moments are made of. On the virtual flipside you'll find the similarly soulful and funk-fuelled "Don't YouKnow, Baby", a superb straightening out and subtle beef-up of L.T.D's 1980 jam "Don'tcha Know".
Having paid homage to cult Mexican gangster film Mi Vida Loca last year, 6Blocc takes time to celebrate another classic movie Boyz In The Hood with another concept album. Taking samples from the film and weaving them into gully floor heaters, 6Blocc shows us his darkest skills with a palette of sounds. "Church Booty" refuses to quit with its relentless back/forth sub ripples, "Crenshaw & Century" is a Tom & Jerry level jungle joint full of twisted amen edits and Ice Cube freshness, "In The Hood" slinks and tickles with "Pulp Fiction" style minimalism while "Mark" flips the mean and moody halftime bird with cosmic grit. These are just a handful of highlights.
Given his impressive track record, hopes are naturally high for Bonobo's sixth album, Migration, which is his first full-length since 2013. Happily, it's a majestic affair, with the producer delivering another sumptuous set of tracks. It was partly inspired by an extended period musing on the nature of personal identity, and the role that nationality plays in that. This concept is translated via thoughtful lyrics, and songs that draw musical influence from the four corners of the globe. It's not a big stylistic leap, of course - his bread and butter remains yearning, emotion-rich downtempo music built around gently jazzy grooves and impeccable live instrumentation - but given that few artists do it better than Bonobo, we'll forgive him for that.
And so the Modified Motion & Faction onslaught continues. Shotting out peaktime hype sirens at their most prolific rate to date, they step over to Sweet Tooth with four more high grade cuts. Both the fittingly titled "Nice Tune" and the rougher, looser hurter "Escape" tap into the mid-to-late 2000s jumpy sound where the dynamics were crafted to sweep you off your feet. "Wood Pecker" takes a deeper twist with its harmonic bass and creepy string sample while "Lifeline" seals the deal with a twist on the detuned Prodigy style rave synths. Think later era Bad Company with a dash of Sub Focus - it's that heavy.
Majistrate and Voltage: two diamonds in the D&B rough, the middle ground shared by these two titans is the holy land most producers invest years of studio craft in discovering. The riffy funk of Voltage, the sheer weight and energy of Majistrate, the cheekiness of the pair of them - both "Big Time" and "Face The Pressure" hit like you'd want them too. The former on a riff-focused bass trip, the latter on more dense, layered peak time flattener.
For this 49th serving of Disco Fruit, label boss Tonbe has turned to regular contributor Mitiko. Turn Off The Light is a weighty package, with seven sneaky reworks, cut-ups and sample-heavy club tracks to choose from. We're particularly enjoying the groovy, Sade-style dancefloor smoothness of "Let The Spirit Move Me", the jazzy disco bliss of "Turn Off The Light", and the drowsy, mid-tempo deep house shuffle of "I Need You", though there are plenty more highlights elsewhere. Check, for example, the glistening guitar solos of soft-focus disco closer "Lovin You" and the 105 BPM disco-funk party that is "No Attitude".
Sunner Soul is clearly determined to start 2017 in a positive mood. His first EP of the year urges us to have a Good Time, with the producer doing his bit to spread sunshine via a string of impressively warm and summery re-edits. He begins with a blissful ambient tool - perfect for mix intros and such - before expertly reworking a global disco shuffler ("Fuwafuwa Groove"). The swirling peak-time disco of "Good Time" is next, followed by an expertly executed cut-up of Evelyn 'Champagne' King boogie classic "Love Come Down" that offers a subtle nod towards Tiger and Woods. The sweaty disco-funk bump of "Ready To Back" and horn-heavy groover "Rescue Of Time" complete an excellent package.
Aussie adventurer Tornado Wallace seems to be getting better with age. Over recent years, he's delivered a string of brilliantly evocative, sun-kissed releases for the likes of ESP Institute, Beats In Space and Second Circle. Lonely Planet is his debut album, and it could well be his strongest release to date. The seven tracks are dreamy, trippy and atmospheric - we'd expect nothing less - and draw on a far wider palette of Balearic influences than we've heard on previous experiences. Coupled with a new-found desire to include more live instrumentation (particularly glistening, Peter Green style guitar passages, drums and exotic flutes), the result is an album that's as evocative, dreamy and humid as anything he's produced to date. In other words, it's a great album and comes highly recommended.
Ripping the heart out of 2017's kneecaps, Jedi continues his relentless proliferation of absolute gully. "Hash Cakes" wakes, bakes and shakes with a squidgy bass, sharp drums and an expertly dug sample. "There's A Better Way" follows with a really cool twist on a classic Kathy Brown vocal while "2 Drops" is straight out of the book of Playaz circa 2007 - buzzy, hooky and just on the right side of silly. Saving the best for last, "Hoo Baby" closes with one of Jedi's best vibes to date as swooning vocal coos melt into a bassline so cheeky it will have you dancing the chicken dance from here until 2019.
2017 has started with a bang for fans of French Kiss Records label boss KS French. First was a new instalment in the "Supa Funky Edits" series and now we have a rare full solo EP from man himself. Here on the Bad Soul EP French goes for a vintage soul influenced sound, particularly the sassy and brassy James Brown-sampling opener, "Godfather Edit". Elsewhere there's a nod to his fellow countrymen Daft Punk on the Edwin Birdsong-sampling "Cola Freak Baby", the stomping, bass-fuelled shakedown of "Party Noize" and woozy sax-led boogie on the lo-fi "Give It Up".
There's not much info about this latest offering from the Giant Cuts camp, other than that the four tracks are "classic disco modifications". In practice, that means expert cut and paste re-arrangements of the kind of vintage disco material that was once all the rage in New York City. Check, for example, the early Leroy Burgess vocals, rising orchestration and extra-percussive groove of "Nut Butter", the "Open Sesame"-era disco voodoo of "Aladdin's Groove" - here made even more alluring by the addition of some tasty dub delay - and the break-driven disco-funk thrills of "Wooden Doll", which sounds like a rework of a forgotten T-Connection cut. Also superb is the celebratory bounce of "Dance Party", which smartly focuses on a rubbery groove, layered percussion hits and memorable vocal passages.
There's a reason Randall hangs out with Jaybee when he's Stateside... He knows how to roll the ish out. Classically trained with his own sense of ruthless dark funk, every tune has consistently slapped and this Elm Imprint EP is no exception. "Dark Nine Seven" is straight out of the book of Blue Note while "Definition Of A Roller" lives up to its name while nodding respectfully at the likes of Spirit and Digital in the process. "Ain't It Something" jumps with a jazzy twist to the drums and an old school nod with the timestretched MC sample. Two collabos close the show.Calculon gets mucky on the tripped out halftime dub stomper "Bottlecap Riddim" while longstanding collaborator Dave Owen brings DLo into the fold for some straight up space age funk. Authentic.
Given the success of Red Rack'em's hard-to-beat "Wonky Bassline Disco Banger", we were initially skeptical of this remix package. Happily, all involved have done a good job in offering a fresh slant on one of the club hits of 2016. KiNK steals the show with a version that strips out much of the original's disco flavour, instead combining Rack'em's wonky electronics with trippy new noises and freakishly druggy elements. The result is a fine chunk of heavyweight weirdo-house. Classic chief Luke Solomon joins forces with the mighty Eats Everything and Lord Leopard on the virtual flipside, serving up a skewed version that veers from loose disco-house warmth to brain-melting electronic wonkiness, and back again.
One of drum & bass's most enduring craftsmen, Seba returns to his own Secret Operations stable with two more instant vintages. Flexing his distinctive drum dynamics from the off, "Stasis" is all about the rhythm intricacies as the drums play wildly over soft dreamy beds of synths and faraway spacy vocals. "Inner World" follows on a darker flex with some wonderfully warped bass tones, fickle drum switches and cold, crispy Headz style aesthetics.
Blueprint business: few tunes are as influential, unifying and iconic as "The HitMan". So durable and versatile, in fact, Cain's RIQ stable are celebrating it with an all-star series of remixers old and new. On this particular EP we get tripped out by Jinx, Kenny Ken rolls us out like the filthy minded junglists we all are while Toronto Is Broken sends fi de hacksaw with a message of pure bass venom that's arguably one of his best remixes to date. Finally Inna Culture brings the dancehall badness with a stripped back halftime stepper that will melt down every floor from here to Notting Hill.
Since making his debut some years back, Fabiolous Barker's reworks have appeared on many of the nu-disco scene's leading edit imprints, including Midnight Riot, Masterworks Music and Alpaca Edits. This expansive compilation draws together some of the London-based Argentine's finest scalpel moments to date, offering mostly freshly re-mastered versions for extra-loud dancefloor pleasure. There's naturally plenty to enjoy, from the elastic, pitched-down disco-funk of "Sexy Thing" and the soaring disco camp of "Love", to the all-instrumental sleaziness of Sylvester rework "Liquid Gold", and the quirky P-funk throb of "Bottoms Up". He's also included a number of his hip-hop sampling disco mash-ups, all of which are also tried-and-tested dancefloor gold.
New Year doesn't officially kick off until Viper smack you silly with their yearly "Drum & Bass Annual". 2017's edition smacks even harder than usual with no less than 10 exclusives including a Culture Shock/Dimension style roll out from Misfit, Halflight's "Communication Failure" that has enough power to cause a civil war and North Base's "Woman" that has so much seductive soul power to cause a mess in your trousers. Elsewhere The Voss & NC-17 pay respect to the Book Of The Bad on "Mojave" and Blaine Stranger sends you off to cosmoses unknown on "By Your Side". And that's just a handful of the unreleased cuts amid some of the label's biggest releases in recent times.