German producer Matthias Zimmerman is obviously a man of many talents. This EP for Tigersushi wanders off in numerous directions, delivering fine fare throughout. Taking vintage synth sounds and spacey atmospherics as his theme, Zimmerman tries his hand at spiralling, John Carpenter-influenced soundtrack synth moods (the bubbling "Xoxi"), Kraftwerk and Orbital inspired melodic nu-disco ("Joseph") and gritty, low-end dubstep disco ("Yaver"). Best of all, though, is "Martin", a tough tropical-meets-nu-disco workout that boasts delightful cascading melodies and Julio Bashmore-ish R&B vocal cut-ups. When the breakdown finishes and the piano-heavy drop kicks in, you'll be impressed.
The latest release on America's Smooth Agent Records sees Italian duo The Zars deliver a woozy, wide-eyed concoction that sits somewhere in the margins between house and nu-disco. "Some More Dope" has all the atmospherics of deep house, but its percussive touches (most notably some tasty cowbells), midtempo groove and bubbly electronics scream nu-disco. Either way, it should have wide appeal. The remixes are impressive, too, with Ooft going balls-deep in search of intoxicating deep house thrills, and Lumindisco opting for a rush-inducing wall of sound approach; it's impressively tactile. More disco thrills can be found on the Soundstream-ish "Saxa Rubra".
New school deep house specialists Delusions Of Grandeur return with another solid three-tracker, this time from Seattle-based studio knob-twiddlers Zepp001. It's the duo's second EP for the label, following 2009's warmly received "Don't Sleep". "The Warm" itself has a touch of Deep Space Orchestra about it - all off-key chords, otherworldly noises and alien melodies. "Dearly Beloved" has a slightly warmer feel thanks to a bubbling low-end groove, sneaky carnival percussion flourishes and some excellent, far-out nu-disco synths. Best of all, though, is DJ Nature's remix of the same track, which re-casts the original as a jazz-flecked spacey deep houser.
Grimy Edits stalwarts Zernell and Goodking are back with more re-workings of the soundtracks to long-lost disco nights. "Big Time" is a killer looped accelerator with slick guitar licks and female chanting. "Strivin" is ironically, more laid back with a swingin' slap groove that flowers into a lovely melodic chorus and finally "Get Down" ends things with an intense cowbells 'n' wah-wah funk guitar jam.
There's something faithfully fuzzy about the Grimy Edits series. Clearly inspired by Rahaan's scalpel-heavy reworks and the crusty grooves of Theo Parrish's Ugly Edits series, there's a loose authenticity throughout that should appeal to crate-digging disco heads. "Who Can I Turn To" sets the tone, delivering a percussive rework of an unfamiliar lights-out, disco-soul anthem. It's an undeniably sweaty in that "shirts off" way that only a particular kind of disco can be. The faster "Freakin" brilliantly flits between heavy disco-funk breaks and the sharp strings of its source material, while "Keep On Running" rides a way of soaring horns, heavy percussion and breathless vocals.
Even before the release of last year's Horizontal Disco EP, Parisian DJ producer Zimmer was gleefully using the term to describe his sound - a mix of Californian slacker-rock attitude and cosy, funtime house, disco and electrofunk influences. This remix EP touches on all of those styles and more. Moullinex's jaunty rework of "Looking At You" somehow manages to shoehorn all of those into one happy-go-lucky track, while Mercury's "Slave To Your Heart" rub tugs at fetlock towards 90s New Jersey garage. Following some solid deep house and nu-disco reworks, a bulging package is completed by the best remix of all - a bleary-eyed Balearic version of "Cruisin" by Brooklyn's Lou Teti.
The Strangling Frog From Bommershime - (4:49) 123 BPM
Mission Zulu One - (6:40) 126 BPM
Kleptoleptic - (5:38) 77 BPM
Kick U Up - (5:32) 118 BPM
Bommershime In The Haus - (4:26) 110 BPM
The Third Testament - (3:45) 114 BPM
Zulupolis - (1:45) 93 BPM
Zulutronic - (4:00) 118 BPM
Rock The Church - (3:31) 110 BPM
Unless you have a particularly good memory, or an encyclopaedic knowledge of Germany's long-forgotten Pharma Records imprint, you may not be aware of Zulutronic. It was a mid to late '90s side project from Jammin Unit and Air Liquide man Cem Oral (also the boss of Pharma, as it happens), and occasional production partner Roger Cobernus. They released two albums, delivering snappy and occasionally booming blends of electro rhythms, hip-hop beats, acid house sounds and ambient synths. If that sounds like a recipe for a more cultured take on big beat, that's because it is. Given how big beat has aged badly, it's a nice surprise to find that this is one blast from the past that still resonates.