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.
Hot to trot vibes machine FooR goes balls-deep on this epic 50+ track compendium. Bulging at the seams with slinky two-steps, stinking basslines and every essential element in between, it's an incredible collection of on-point bass music cuts spun around the UKG / bass house axis. Those with a soulful interest should instantly fall for cuts like Thorn's "In 2 Deep", anthem-addicts need to know about Foor's own heavenly synth/guttural bass jam "Lift Me Up", bass-devoted breakers will go giddy for "Don't Hold Back", gully munchers will chow down heartily on Tyrone's "Ravin Face" while DJs in need of more of a classical deep roll-out should be smitten by Tengu's "Evil Ting". And that's not even scratching the surface - this is a true trove of future talent and shadowy sonic skill. Golly gosh YosH.
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.
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.
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.
Originally released in 2015, Young Marco's "The Best I Could Do" shows that he is as adept in the studio as he is behind the decks. The renowned crate digger draws on his knowledge of underground house and techno for this understated, melancholic affair. Sad synths swirl up over a raw, resonating bass and the end result has a decidedly wintry feeling. House veteran Tom Trago drops a similar sounding track, "Brutal Romance (TT's Love Fix)". However, on this occasion, the groove is upbeat and the riffs are more insistent, but the same frazzled approach to production prevails. Keeping it atmospheric, Fatima Yamaha delivers the slow tempo, synth-heavy "The Creature From Culture Creation", which also featured on the original 2015 release.
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.
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.
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)".
Jay Airiness is the latest alias of DJ Moar. Known for his work with his nu-disco group Venice Beach, he, as he claims himself: always has his eyes on the groove. With a fresh vision of club music, he has had releases thus far on Diggin Deeper, Editorial, FKR & Rebel Hearts. Starting this fine EP off with "Grand Baie", a deep and summery nu-disco jam reminiscent of Max Essa, he then gets stuck into the funky and filtered funk sleaze of the title track: those vocoded vocals are wicked! "Priceless Love" goes for some more retro vibes from the '80s which is totally bittersweet and irresistible. Then, on a final note, Reverso 68 main man Pete Herbert serves up an always impressive rendition, in this case the title track which has us counting down the days 'til summer.
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".
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.
Having come to light on Optimo Music, The Junto Club now kick off the Snap Crackle & Pop label with a new single that builds on their promising reputation. "Shiviana" is a perfect encapsulation of what the band are about, channelling all kinds of wave styles into their instruments but still coming off sounding contemporary and seductive at once. Khidja comes on board to remix the track, turning it into an acidic burner with a heavy dose of bombast thrown in. "Ikiryo" presents a more post punk side to The Junto Club sound, which Smagghe & Cross then buff up into a crafty electro number for the dancers.
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.
Israeli duo in Amsterdam Juju & Jordash really are unstoppable at present. When not focusing on solo projects or collaborating with German deep house don Move D as Magic Mountain High, they're up to their usual shenanigans in tandem and this new one for hometown heroes Dekmantel is a fine example of how they excel in what they do. The deep hypnotic house of "Monday Mellow" floats gently above soaring, ethereal pads, a bouncy bassline and soothing bell tones while "Wednesday Something" is more uplifting and and positive; swirling in layers of rich vintage synth flair and rushy arpeggios. "Thursday Heavy" is much harder hitting, but rest assured: it is still deep, with its booming Juno bassline and reverberated drums creating some basic trance induction that works a treat.
Muna Musik has been successful by offering EPs (and one double-CD compilation) that gather together high quality tracks from a variety of artists. This fourth label missive retains this approach, offering up no less than six solid club cuts. DOP serves up two mixes of the deliciously wonky and off-kilter late night house work out "Be The Beat" (one containing some quirky, soul-flecked vocals, and the other without), while Ezekiel impresses with the skewed, bass heavy tech-house/deep-house/hip-house fusion of "Save The Children". German veteran Timo Mass drops the throbbing, bass-heavy pulse of big room chugger "Heaven Is Hell", before Romano Alfieri delivers two EP highlights. There's the strutting, bassline-driven disco-house funk of "Everybody Loves Fonzi", and the warehouse-friendly stomp of "Mission to Juno".