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Reviewed this week
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.
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.
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.
Hot on the heels of the underrated Memories From Another Planet EP on his D.KO Records imprint, Ralph 'Flabaire' Manauri brings his brand of smooth and groovy deep house to Popcorn. He begins confidently, channeling the atmospheric spirit of Twin Peaks on the swirling, soundscape deep house shuffle of "Laura Palmer". He doffs a cap to the disco-flecked warmth of vintage East Midlands deep house productions on "Shabbat Jam", before fusing gentle acid lines, dreamy textures and bubbly melody lines on the enjoyable "Urquinaona". British techno veteran Aubrey weighs in with a fine remix of "Laura Palmer" that cannily turns the track into a melodious, hypnotic tech-house roller.
Efde has only a few releases to his credit, but this outing on Tom Trago's label trumps his previous output. In its original format, the title track combines soaring trance melodies, rolling snare drums and a central riff that gets more and more noisy as the arrangement progresses. It makes for an intoxicating combination and is redolent of "Primary Roots", one of Trago's own, earlier productions. There is an eerie ambient version of the title track, but it's clear from the rest of the release that Efde's real home is out on the dance floor. "Just Did It" is a pulsing, electronic bass-heavy affair, while on "CMP135", he mines a deeper but still driving house sound.
Frankfurt innovator Rajko Muller returns as Isolee, working his magic this time for The Drifter's rather impressive Maeve imprint; which in recent times has brought us fantastic work by Ed Davenport, Baikal and Ripperton. "Pisco" is a slow burning groove with phased marimbas that cause a hypnotic dream state, while "L5 Syndrome" dives deeper: this smooth and introverted trip is definitely suited to the early night as it is for the afterhours and reminds us of his seminal, earlier works in the nineties for imprints like Playhouse. Finally, the title track is where Muller saves the best for last; this dubby, lo-slung groove is drenched in delayed and reverberated aesthetics. More great work by one of electronic music's true innovators.
By anyone's standards, ESP Institute enjoyed a hugely successful 2016, delivering a string of fine singles and killer albums from Moscoman and Lord of the Isles. This first digital missive of 2017 is equally as impressive, and comes from the previously unheard Nancy Azzuro. Opener "Grace" is undoubtedly impressive; a rolling trip into 21st century dub disco territory blessed with killer percussion work and an addictive electronic bassline. "Illustrations & The Large" is a deliciously woozy and melodious chunk of softly spoken Balearic deep house, while the loopier "Teen Bee" fixes ghostly melodies onto a loose and warm disco-house groove.
French disco deviant and Robsoul/Ondule mainstay Around 7 is back with more bumpin' and loopy house jams for proper house gangsters on the rather infectious "Discotronic" with its hypnotic bass riff and dusty drums really doing the business. "The Woohh Sound" does exactly what it says on the tin: you could really imagine DJ Sneak or Mark Farina using this one to whip up a frenzy at some Chicago basement party. Finally we have "Kiwi Kawi" which serves up some late night deep house of the smooth and sexy variety.
Larry De Kat seems to have grown tired of delivering material to established labels - for now, at least - so has decided to launch his own imprint, Katnip, as a vehicle for his productions. This expansive first release contains a slightly wider palette of sounds, styles and influences than we've come to expect from the Utrecht producer, though it maintains his usual dedication to dusty soul samples, jazz-flecked deep house and Andres-style grooves. So while opener "Nuijaga" is a rock solid chunk of St Germain style jazz-house, and "Solitary Maybe" a similarly energy-charged deep house bumper, the rest of the EP flits between bluesy, pitched-down grooves ("Sun La Shan") and instrumental hip-hop beats (the Damn Funk-ish "I Never Knew" and deliciously dubby "I Still Don't (Part 2)".
Munich minimal prankster Jichael Mackson is back! The producer known to his Mum as Boris Steffen appears for the third time on Vincent Lemieux and Stephen Beaupre's Musique Risque and it's his first return since 2010's fabulous Just In Time EP. The Catch 22 EP starts off with the deep and driving and, dare we call it: progressive house groove of "Troublermxshort" which is reminiscent of older tracks like "Hokus Pokus". There's also "GTI"; equally deep and on the proggy side but using an adrenalised and suspenseful sidechained melody which pumps away gloriously. Finally we've got the deep and immersive ambient house of "Bob In Motion". There's always a mellower and dubby track on Mackson's releases and for many they're favourites; this ethereal stunner does not disappoint.
In the sales notes sent to record stores, Smalleville has described this multi-artist affair as "a club night from start to finish". Certainly, the four tracks are pleasingly varied, moving from the 109 BPM bliss of Makybee Diva's untitled dream-house shuffler, to the energetic acid house/deep house fusion of "Monkeys On My Roof" by L'Amour Fou, a collaborative project whose members include the legendary David 'Move D' Moufang. Elsewhere, Arnaldo delivers a near perfect chunk of Detroit techno inspired deep house hypnotism ("Screaming With A Blocked Nose"), and Chicagoan producer Snad combines sweaty, bumpin' grooves and becalmed synthesizer motifs on the excellent "Excerptz".
It is that time of year again and Hot Since 82's Knee Deep In Sound is back with some treats that are going to be unleashed at the Mexican super-festival this year. Iman Habib aka Habischman is a super talented production phenomenon that brings you "Moan", a driving progressive house style journey much like the following slow burner by James Grow entitled "Te Mar". Piem & Spencer K's "Lowrider" is more typical faire of the label on this bouncy and rolling tech house groover that will rock White Isle punters this year too. Druggy afterhours minimal is covered courtesy of Veerus & Maxie Devine who serve up the rather Mobilee-ish "The Church".
The latest up-and-coming artist to join the Earthly Delights roster is Kora, a Montreal-based producer of evocative, emotion-rich deep house/tech-house fusion. With its' chiming melody lines, tactile synth bass and hazy atmosphere, EP opener "Vayu" sounds like a cross between late '80s Italian dream house and the contemporary tech-house shuffle of Dixon and Ame's Innervisions label. The latter influence is arguably even stronger on "Fragile", which laces plucked guitar notes and held note chords (the latter reminiscent of Orbital's "Belfast") over a hypnotic groove, eyes-closed groove. Timujin provides a tasty remix of the latter tune, beefing up the drums via some African-influenced percussion, while also adding some mind-altering effects to Kora's original chords and melodies.
Jordan Lieb's Black Light Smoke project first appeared on Hafendisko back in 2011, before joining forces with Scissor & Thread for a string of notable releases. Fire In My Head is the producer's first EP for four years. There's a pleasingly dusty, analogue rich feel about all of the tracks, with the dirty house rhythms, bold pianos and woozy vocals of "Fire In My Head" just shading the deeper and woozier "Signals" in the 'best track' stakes. Pleasingly, Lieb has chosen to include instrumental Dub remixes of each of the tracks. We're particularly enjoying the acid-era dreaminess of the "Fire In My Heart" revision - the extended breakdown is particularly spine tingling - but all three are rather good.
Berlin-based Argentine Leo Grunbaum has a reputation for atmospheric, soundtrack style deep house music that draws heavily on Balearica, tech-house and nu-disco for inspiration. Interestingly, this outing on All Day I Dream appears to be his first single for nearly six years. He starts in confident mood, wrapping Aerial East's deliciously atmospheric vocals around twinkling pianos and tactile, tech-tinged grooves on brilliant opener "Bloom". Safa provides a brilliant, Balearic-minded downtempo remix of the same track, full of Flamenco style Spanish guitars and swirling atmospherics, before Victor Magro joins Grunbaum for the rich, jazz-flecked deep house jam "Amarone". The wavering sax lines, metronomic grooves and foreboding chords of "Cruxes Credo" complete a fine package.
Italian artist Roberto Clementi has released previously on Soma Records, Echocord, Kontra and Hypercolour. This time it is for famed Berlin imprint Pets Recordings where he serves up more deep and lush techno of the dubbier persuasion on "Avesys". On "Voschod" he takes it all the way to Berghain on this factory floor style stomper that wouldn't be out of place on a label like Fachwerk. Finally "Landing A Man" merges the sensibilities of both previous tracks wonderfully on this fierce yet stripped back slow burner with immersive low end dynamics intact.
This time last year, Toronto-based producer Hauy made his debut with a quietly confident EP of shuffling dancefloor grooves on Tiles. Here he delivers a delayed follow-up, bringing his brand of heavily electronic deep house to Get Weird for the first time. Opener "Your Way To Paradise" sets the tone, with Hauy wrapping glistening melody lines and spacey chords around a gently bass-heavy, tech-tinged deep house groove. He opts for a sub-heavy bassline on the deep, dreamy and alluring "Amanita", before tipping a sly wink to early Italian dream house on the Balearic deep house shuffle of closer "Blue Moon". It's the EP's most becalmed cut, but also arguably its' standout moment.
It makes perfect sense that Greco-Roman's Joe Goddard would be into the music of Jeanga & George. Their skewed, wonky and lo-fi take on Balearic synth-pop inhibits a similar musical space to the early works of Hot Chip, the band with which Goddard made his name. European Repetitive Beat is the East London twosome's debut album, and cannily showcases their unique blend of retro-futurist synth-pop, sun-kissed Balearica and skewed, radio-friendly dream house. Highlights include, but are not limited to, the glassy-eyed, piano-heavy shuffle of "Sunscreen" and "Compromise", the Syclops-goes-pop madness of "New Generation", the krautrock-influenced bliss of "The Gates of Dawn", and the Juan MacLean-ish breeziness of "Showtime".
Before making his name as a house producer under the Moodymanc alias, Danny 'Dubble D' Ward eked out a career as a jazz drummer for hire. Here, he cannily combines jazz and deep house on an EP created with the assistance of a battery of musician friends. Live instrumentation - pianos, double bass, and his own impeccable percussion work - is expertly fused with hypnotic drum machine beats and classic house vocal samples on "Gone", while the brilliant "Stunt" recalls the glory days of Ludovic Navarre's St Germain project. Best of all, though, is the groovy and bumpin' "Cherries", which boasts some seriously good trumpet work. That comes to the fore on the accompanying "Trumpet Strip Dub" of the same track.
Dutch producer Casper von Banniseht sidles over to Bristol stable Boogie Cafe to present a three-track EP of impeccable dusty house grooves imbued with that Detroit-esque feeling that oozes out of a Moodymann or Theo Parrish record. "Bossa" revels in choppy broken beats and plenty of choice samples in a most loose and soulful of concoctions, while "Lazy" cools down to a simmer with subtle disco licks making the most immersive of deep house jams. "Lone" meanwhile plies a more chipper trade with its hooky chord stabs, but still the vibe remains smooth and laid back, just how the Boogie Cafe crew seem to like it.
Exclusives
GARRY TODD - Mind's Eye (BPitch Control Germany)
LARRY DE KAT - Five Point After Dark (Katnip) - exclusive 30-01-2017
WELL CUT JAZZ WORKSHOP (WCJW) - Well Cut Jazz Workshop (Well Cut)
Exclusives
LUCATWANA - Kinda Hooked (Fancy Human)
NICK MONACO - Half Naked (Remixes) (Crew Love)
CHEZZ - Bossa EP (Boogie Cafe)
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Mr Brazil Aka Lono Brazil DJ Chart
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