Riding high on the buzz he has generated in the last twelve months, Max Graef delivers this album to Tartelet as a man very much in demand. His style, fuelled on the foundations of sampling funk and soul to a brilliantly modern end, has more space to breathe on this LP, but still the fundamentals remain. "Itzehoe" struts on a lazy jazzed-out sizzle of drums and beautiful Rhodes notes while "Tamboule Fudgefunk" punches its way through woozy synth work and a righteous beat and "Drums Of Death" struts on a perfect disco groove replete with live instrumentation, but there's a wealth of other tempos and styles all shot through with the homespun jazz charm that Graef has made his own of late.
With their influences ranging from chart-baiting house music to skippy garage and deeper moods, Nu Era stride forth on their debut single for Four40 as representatives of the West Midlands scene. "Give It All" screams crossover appeal with its canny mix of vocals, strings and chords precision placed for maximum ear-worming, while the "Bass Mix" brings a much ruder underground twist on the track. "Came Into My Life" rides a more electro influenced beat but keeps the cheerful melodic elements and chipmunk vocal slices present and correct, leaving it to "Source" to bring a techno edge to proceedings with its nasty synth line and strict 4/4 jack.
Edit fiends Basic Fingers usually reserve their tastiest material for the occasionally used Gold Finger offshoot. That's arguably the case here, as Deejaykul delivers a sumptuously deep and soulful house interpretation of the much-played "Feeling Good" (think Nina Simone, though this version has a delicious male vocal). The A-side DeejayKul meets Soultechnic Deepa mix is particularly potent, with intricate Latin percussion, smooth pads and sensual vocal riding an effortlessly sunny groove. There's a bit more vintage US garage on the other track, where the Classic Love Deep mix laces soft-focus chords and classic organs over a typically skippy groove. Impeccable stuff, all told.
Surprisingly little information exists online about new Home Taping artist Simba. BY the sounds of "Phase Seq One", though, he's something of a talent. You see, "Phase Seq One" is deep, crackly, woozy and soulful, sounding not unlike the heady productions of Detroit heavyweights Andres and Moodymann - all warm loops, bumpin' beats, classic soul vocal samples and just the right amount of filter tweakery. As debuts go (assuming this is his debut), it's pretty damn hot. The Black Madonna delivers the obligatory remix, stripping back the original and adding a little more drum machine oomph to the beats. The resultant version - blessed with occasional intricate keys and the usual BM Chicago soul - is something of a late night triumph.
Helge Tommervag aka Mind Over Midi has been making music for many years. The Norwegian native was famous for his raucous and uncompromising approach to techno in the '90s, but he's slowly moved towards less constrictive terrain. The always-wonderful Diametric label presents an ample collection of his new sound - one that's inherently deep and aqueous, where the synths feel loose and percussion is scarce if at all existent. There's a sense of transportation throughout the whole LP, where Tommervag's wailing atmospherics and pensive arrangement are worthy of a proper listen. No laptop speakers or ear-buds. Sit back, blast it loud and be off on your way to the cosmos. Recommended to fans of everything from Klaus Schulze to Aphex Twin.
For their second outing, LOFT Records have turned to London-based rising stars Dorsia. The duo is on fine form on "Ghana", an attractive chunk of bass-heavy, tech-tinged deep house that benefits greatly from a superb cut-up vocal, subtle melodies and just the right amount of winding analogue electronics. The remix package is impressive, too, with Jay Shepheard's foreboding, gently sweaty take - all acid bass, rising chords and US garage era organ stabs - just edging out Roberto Rodriguez's deep, woozy, enveloping version as our personal favourite. That said, HNNY's loose, analogue-heavy deep house revision is pretty tasty, too.
Jimpster's Freerange label has always been good at spotting and developing new talent. Here, they give a debut to little-known producer Hyenah. He impresses with "The Wish (Dub)", an undulating chunk of atmospheric late night deep house in the label's trademark style - think ricocheting percussive hits, rolling chords, rising chords and fluid electronics. It's the sort of hypnotic, ethno-tinged fare you'd expect to hear on Innervisions, which is praise in itself. There's more Joe Claussell style African drum hits on the deeper but no less intoxicating "King Kobra", while Manoo impresses with a pair of uptempo, techno-tempo remixes. It's the 10-minute "Manoo Likes Apfelschorle Remix" that stands out, though the surging future voodoo of his "Darkside Remix" is also pretty formidable. Impressive stuff all round.
While Redshape certainly has a way with melody, his real skill is drum programming. Even his most metronomic techno productions are blessed with swing, shuffle and a percussive looseness that belies their thunderous heaviness. Further proof of his skill with drums can be found on Bonuz Beatz Volume 1, a quartet of stripped-back but surprisingly lively percussion tools guaranteed to ignite dancefloors. Each of the cuts, from the handclap-laden low-slung bounce of "Itz" and tech-jazz swing of "Finizh", to the cowbell-laden vintage breakbeat-house goodness of "Dogz" and basement techno slammer "Zteel", feels like an invitation to lose it out on the dancefloor. Making drum tracks this addictive is a skill, and Redshape is undoubtedly a master of the groove.
Danny Wolfers' restless productivity knows no bounds. Not content with dropping stone cold 12" singles at a furious rate, he's delivered yet another Legowelt album to Creme Organization. Pleasingly, Crystal Cult 2080 (so called because he used a homemade crystal compressor and dusty second hand Roland JV2080- synthesizer throughout the recording process) is up to his usual high standards. There are few surprises - we should all know what we're getting by now - but plenty of reasons to be cheerful, from the fuzzy new age electronica of "The Future of Myself" and muddy Detroit futurism of "Fundamental Superstition", to the tropical pagan mysticism of "Ancient Rites Demoni Mundi" and warped acid of the feverish title track.
Given that UK producer Dauwd made his name on the Pictures Music label, it's no surprise to see him graduating to Cologne institution Kompakt, after all both labels have shown an emphasis on melody and emotion in their respective discographies. Dauwd's arrival on Kompakt with Kindlinn comes after an initial appearance last year, remixing COMA's "My Orbit" and the three tracks suggest we really should be demanding more music from the producer! Sumptuous, playful and romantic are a few words that immediately spring to mind as lead track "Lydia" unfurls; the little flourishes of synths as the track draws towards it's close are particularly memorable. The title track shows off a tougher side to Dauwd in terms of groove, though the plangent textures remain intact, whilst "Rain Raker" largely forsakes beats in favour of compositional drama.
Arun Verone's approach is pleasingly straightforward. Put simply, he combines elements of deep house, Chicago acid and UK funky to produce a trademark brand of UK bass-house that's almost irrepressible. As a result, this four-track assault for Q Recordings is well worth a listen. The title track does a great job in layering cut-up vocals and an icy, music box melody over shuffling house beats and a low-slung acid house bassline. The "VIP" version is a little more garage flavoured and adds a little late night darkness, whilst retaining the original's attractive elements. "The Coming (Keep It Coming)" sounds like "Good Life"-era Inner City making UKG, while "Short From Change" rolls forward on a wave of zipping electronics, choice hip-hop samples and a killer sub-heavy bassline.
Wolf Music turn 25 and pull out something approaching a curveball in handing a label debut to Ossie. Known best for his work on Hyperdub, putting Ossie together with Wolf Music isn't an equation most people would make, but if you've caught the Londoner DJ you'll know he's super tight at mixing and plays plenty of classic house. Indeed it's nice to see Ossie back on the solo flex, having recently been focused on the Black Orange Juice project with vocalists Tilz and Paul Black. Perhaps that time spent working with others has given Ossie a new sense of confidence as the four tracks here are some of his best work so far. The title track shows off Ossie's innate knowledge of the skip and bounce that characterises UK garage whilst there's something almost '90s Armand Van Helden about the heavy disco influenced house of highlight "Forever".
Annie Mac faves Hannah Wants and Chris Lorenzo have been tipped for big things this year. Certainly, their particular brand of bass-heavy, basement-friendly tech-house is incredibly appealing, with both tracks here impressing. Lead cut "Girls" takes a no-nonsense approach, layering sparse bleep melodies and wonky vocal samples over a hissing, skipping groove and apocalyptic sub-bass. "Breathe" is similarly booming but slightly deeper, with eyes-wide-shut chords and vocal harmonies bouncing over a sturdy groove. Like its predecessor, "Breathe" also features a gargantuan speed garage bassline, which provides a sweaty counterbalance to the dreamy electronics and tactile melodies above.
Amici inaugurates the Lo-Beat label, an imprint which we've been told will bring back garage to the dancefloors. Title track "Feel The Vibe" is a seriously addictive tune, where crunchy, swinging beats meet rough melodies and deep, swelling licks of sub bass. Each track offers a different perspective on the garage genre, but our favourite moment has to be "Your Man" - it's both funky and totally nutty at the same time thanks to its off-kilter beats and memorable lyrics. If you want to cause some real damage on the floor, just play the whole EP out - we can't wait to see what's coming up next on Lo-Beat.
Whey Baq comes through correct with his second release for World Wide Phonographics, a label reserved solely for the most swaggering of garage-house hybrids. "Quirks Of Riddim" opts for a late '90s kinda vibe, juicing up the 4/4 swing with an old-school bassline, some flurries of acid and Clare Evers' soulful lyrics deep within the arrangement. You also get a UKG cut of the title track where the beats are tighter and snare-heavy, but our favourite tune is actually "John Wayne", a funky house bomb for the summer months. "Stand Up" is an ode to Frankie Knuckles, where joyful vocals meet progressive beats, and if that wasn't enough there's a sparser Vibes mix and a more menacing dub cut to boot!
Kornel Kovacs, Axel Boman and Petter Nordkvist Studio Barnhaus label can usually be relied upon to deliver the sort of curiously left-of-centre deep house that offers more than mere straight-up dancefloor thrills. That's certainly the case on the latest piece of eccentricity from label regular Baba Stiltz. While "Transit" itself is the epitome of eccentric - think vintage acid house fused with early '80s New York electro and dreamy electronica - it's the jazzy "Principles", all lolloping rhythms and fiercely cut-up rhythms that really impresses. Even odder is "Principles Oh So Fresh", which dispenses with the beats and concentrates on the original's chiming music box melodies.
Arguably, the key to a successful "split EP", featuring tracks from a range of artists, is delivering a range of floor-friendly cuts that DJs can reach for at different points in the night. What's on offer here more than passes this test. There's some stabbing, stomping old skool revivalism from NDV ("Chestivations"), a glittering slice of warm-up futurism from Appian (the superb "G381"), and a sweet, undulating, late night foray into melody-heavy space-house from Cyclonix ("Rising Tide"). Best of all, though, is Nubian Mindz' "Lock Out", a formidably sweaty romp through heavily percussive peaktime pastures that's worth the admittance price alone. As ever with Nubian Mindz, the drums are layered brilliantly, with just the right amount of murky atmospherics to impress the heads-down late night crew.