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Reviewed this week
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Sam Shepherd has long been a master of the kind of ultra-deep, rolling, soft focus deep house that raises the spirits and soothes the soul. Even so, there's something incredibly special about "Nuits Sonores", the lead track from this must-have EP. Based around a deep, tactile groove and blessed with rising synth solos, dancing acid lines and his usual fireside Rhodes antics, the track rises magnificently for 12 spellbinding minutes. As it progresses, further elements make their way into the mix, until it reaches the kind of organic deep house climax that makes even the grumpiest souls go weak at the knees. Flip for "Nectarines", the kind of loose-limbed fusion of deep house sassiness, Detroit techno electronics and fluid jazz drumming at which Shepherd has always excelled.
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Brand new nu-disco brand from Brazil, Mareh have already established themselves as sonic connoisseurs with their annual festivals, long before this debut release. NYC don Duncan takes the lead with a stately Italo-referencing groover that builds and builds with analogue insistency, twisting, turning and evolving throughout. Pete Herbert and Dicky Trisco follow on a much funkier flex. A nagging synth hook, loopy guitars and a pertinent sense of disco insistency are all tied together with a bold swing and plenty of party panache. Mareh mercy!
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No 27 in the Wolf Music discography sees the Lupine London label look to the Lowlands (try saying that five times in a row) and introduce their network to the talents of Dutch duo Homework. As Homework, Amsterdam-based Tom Waist and Zip Stolk have racked up a clutch of releases for Shir Khan's Exploited label over the past four years and their brand of classicist Chicago house is most definitely high grade Wolf material. It's hard to describe the three Homework cuts here as anything other than luscious with "Time & Time" a definite highlight thanks to the vocal sample flip. Includes a rather dusty remix from Wolf Music regular Greymatter.
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Richard Grey has some history in house music, having played a part in developing the "French touch" style in the latter half of the 1990s. He's been active ever since (often under a dizzying array of aliases), though Positive Vibes is his first EP under his most famous pseudonym for almost 18 months. The track itself is something of a big room banger - a chunk of UK garage-influenced rave revivalism full of hands-in-the-air stabs, sub-bothering bass and ragga vocal samples. It comes backed with a strong remix package, from the bumpin', bass-driven thump of Rare Candy's speed garage-inspired take (think Armand Van Helden's Dark Garage Mix of 'Spin Spin Sugar'), to the bubbly, organ-laden two-step rework from ASMR and Lamont Dex.
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Delusions of Grandeur present a second selection of tracks from Session Victim's superb sophomore set See You When You Get There, the German duo's acclaimed follow-up to 2012 debut The Haunted House of House. Predictably, there's much to admire, from the jazz keys and skewed deep house swing of opener "Do It Now", to the rubbery disco bass, smoky atmospherics and Moodymann style, jazz-flecked grooves of "Make People Dance". There's also a hip-hop tempo excursion in the form of the heady title track, and - best of all - a deep, bluesy disco-house jam in the shape of the brilliant "Hey Stranger".
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By his impeccable standards, Michael Baumann has had a pretty quiet year, with EPs on Musik Krause and Circus Company his only releases of note. Here, he finishes the year in style, returning to the Philpot label he co-founded with another impressive pair of tunes. While the heady deep house warmth of "Obsidian Fields" is nominally the lead cut - think soul-flecked Rhodes chords, sun-flecked guitars and unfussy grooves - virtual flipside "Born Again" is arguably a stronger proposition. While it, too, features some typically tactile electric piano motifs, it's built around the kind of raw, distorted, broken techno rhythm he does so well. The track manages to simultaneously be tough and dreamy - a particularly attractive proposition.
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Sounding like a killer death move in an '80s 8-bit wrestling game, Dragon Suplex immediately fits right in with the Mullet aesthetic, even before we've heard the music. Speaking of which we get four retro tinged jams, just the way label boss Casio Social Club likes it. Highlights include the smooth but tough electro-house groover, "Something Something", the Shannon-esque "Playing With Me" and the vapour trail synth-washed "Proud".
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Apparently, deep house producer Daso - famed for his outings on Connaisseur Recordings and Still Von Talent - has been looking for an outlet to release the disco side of his work for some time. Here, he finally gets that chance with an EP of shimmering, melodious nu-disco chuggers on Dikso. Opener "Tide Waves" is particularly beautiful, with smothering strings, twinkling keys and bubbling electronics riding a sun-kissed Balearic disco groove. "Cosmic Alone" doffs a cap to Italo whislt retaining Daso's deft nu-disco touch, while standout "Ride Tide" is a Scandolearic disco gem with definite hints of Diskjokke, Blakbelt Andersen and Magnus International. Best of all, though, is Daniel Solar and Andi De Luxe's voluptuous synth-house rework of "Tide Waves".
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2014 has been a vintage year for Melbourne music-makers, with Inskwel, Benny Badge, Andras Fox and Tornado Wallace all delivering killer releases. The latest Victoria producer to emerge from the shadows is Roland Tings, who returns to Internasjonal with his second EP for Prins Thomas's acclaimed label. "Devotion" kicks things off, layering bold riffs and glassy-eyed electronics over a chugging, 105 BPM Scandolearic groove. There's a touch more tropical humidity about virtual flipside "Pala", an eight-minute excursion that expertly layers Balearic electronics atop a killer bassline, jungle sound effects and dense, calypso-influenced nu-disco groove. It's this second track that really makes the EP, and suggests that there will be more to come from Roland Tings in 2015.
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Baaz has been quietly building up an impressive discography since 2007, delivering quality deep house on labels such as Elevate, Quintessentials and Slices of Life. Here he returns to his Office Recordings imprint with his most ambitious release yet - a long-promised debut album. While there's plenty of spacey, dancefloor-focused club tracks - see "Closed", "Endori", the becalmed "Anyway" and pleasingly picturesque "Glass Voice" - the Berlin-based producer also takes the opportunity to showcase a previously undisclosed love of downtempo beats. So, we get the Motor City electronics and glitchy beats of "Spacehub", the ambient hip-hop of "Pressyn", and the beautiful, beatless electronica of opener "Everyone". The result is a rich, evocative album with its head in the clouds, and its feet on the floor.
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Aussie DJ Hi-Shock has been running his influential Elektrax label for ages now, with its success eventually leading to the creation of a sub-label, Hypnotic, to cater for the deeper sounds he wanted to put out. Here he's reached out to Japan to source some new inspiration, featuring work from four separate producers - the synth pad-heavy minimal house of "My Funny Daughters" by Tominori Hosoya & Tomi Chair, the fuzzy contemplation of "Shiki" by Deep Inquisitive, the arpeggiated trance of "Light Line" by Asian Psilocybe Foundation and the swishy digi-washed fizz of "Club Harie" by "Takashi Watanabe".
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When Ben Hackman first burst onto the scene with a spate of dubstep and garage-influenced anthems back in 2010, it seemed inconceivable that he would one day end up on 20:20 Vision. Clearly, he's mellowed with age. While "Carry On" boasts some subtle bass music influences - most notably at the bottom end - it's basically a dreamy, tech-tinged deep house record. Surprisingly, the accompanying Dub goes even deeper, and comes blessed with one seriously spine-tingling breakdown. Best of all, though is Rampa's remix of similarly deep bonus cut "The Blue (Instrumental)", which is built around heavy bass and loose African percussion. Brilliantly, it sounds like a lost Golden Teacher B-side.
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Hashman Deejay's Future Times debut, Tangerine, was something of an overlooked gem - an exotic, melodious gem that pinned Tangerine Dream style electronics to a restless techno groove. This surprise debut album has a similarly dreamy feel, even if the techno side of his output has been tamed a little. Instead, we get a range of eyes-wide-shut compositions that variously touch on Mood Hut style deep house ("Mercury"), ultra-deep electronica (the odd beats, spacey noises and relentless chords of "Mozaic"), swinging, Max D style drum workouts (the rich bass, dubbed-out synths and loose house grooves of "184"), trip-hop style downtempo beats "Statues PF"), and thrillingly loose, new age house anthems ("Xssential-3").
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Kellerkind continues his long-standing relationship with Stil Vor Talent on Move Me. The title track is a loose, rolling groove, punctuated by a piercing guitar and a doomy, incoherent vocal. It's house music, but only in the most liberal interpretation of that term. "Believe In You" is more direct. Featuring a tough bassline, a vocal sample intoning 'in you' and hypnotic drones, it makes for a more DJ friendly approach. However, the remixes push the release back towards abstract territories; the Jiggler take on "Move Me" is a dubby, tripped out house groove and Joachim Pastor's version sees him navigate his way through wiry abstraction on one side and powerful subs on the other.
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Could German producer Alex Niggemann have a big hit on his hands? "Sorrow" sees him fuse pulsating basslines and beautiful, ethereal melodies with a mournful male vocal from Bon Homme of Whomadewho fame. It's the kind of teary performance reminiscent of the opening music for Danish crime drama The Bridge. Deetron and Marco Resmann are tasked with giving the track some extra dance floor clout. Resmann's take ups the dramatic quota, with the chords blustering and sweeping away over a nagging groove, while Deetron's version gives the original extra power thanks to its heavy, tribal drums and muscular bassline.
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Growing up in Metro-Detroit, and having recently played on the 'Made in Detroit' stage at this year's Movement Festival, you'd have a fair idea of what to expect from Appian. Indeed, the influence of the Motor City's signature sound on much of the burgeoning talent's output is unmistakable. Yet Appian's forthcoming release 'Chatter EP' on FINA Records is a testament to his varied and experimental production style; a distinctive sound borne out of inspirations as varied as funk, experimental electronica, disco, "80s stuff", early house, and Aphex Twin.
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Given the quality of his Synthetes trilogy on Don't Be Afraid the lack of new material from Nick "Mr Beatnick" Wilson in 2014 has been incredibly frustrating. This return, then, is more than welcome. This time he's up on London label TIEF with a typically attractive, soul-flecked four-tracker. Opener "Marshmallows" pits gooey chords and typically loose deep house percussion against picturesque melodies and a subtle acid line. "Ice Cream Strut" is similarly gorgeous, though the beats have a broken feel and the snares doff a cap to his hip-hop past (for the confirmed househeads, there's a solid Francis Inferno Orchestra remix included). Finally, "Oxytonin" is a bubbling foray into melodious, Detroit-influenced deep house soaked through with autumnal sunshine.
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Looking back it's been a killer year for DJ Haus and his pair of labels, Unknown to the Unknown and Hot Haus, and it seems like he won't be easing the gears down from "unfcknrelenting" now December has arrived. The latest Hot Haus release (the sixth issued since September!) sees a welcome return for whippersnapper producer Palace whose Vision is the third release issued on the UTTU offshoot in a year! If you liked previous Palace releases you'll love the three tracks here, which are all raw and effective DJ tools sprinkled with immediacy, individuality and nagging basslines - "Solstice" in particular is a real burner of a track.
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Nu-disco fans now have an unexpected Christmas bonus in the form of this meeting of minds collaboration between Belgium's mighty Mugwump and Relish's DC Salas. As expected "Giallo" is a moody heavy breather that is clearly influenced by the legendary soundtracks of 1970s Italian giallo horror cinema. Soft Rocks step in to add some seriously amazing drama in their massive Flesh & Fantasy mix too. Lastly things on a stoner high end with killer Balearic chug-a-thon "Hinterland". Essential!
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Matthew Herbert's return to the dancefloor, via the re-launched Part series (volume one landed way back in 1995, amazingly), has been one of the good news stories of 2014. Part 8 is the third instalment in the long-running series this year, and features another quartet of wonky, left-of-centre house cuts in his inimitable style. Naturally, there's much to admire, from the piano jazz-meets-outsider house swing of "Remember Ken" and the glitch-funk of "Ticket", to the acoustic-goes-electronic pulse of "Her Face". Arguably best of all, though, is "The Wrong Place", which boasts many of Herbert's aural trademarks - think cut-up vocal edits, tipsy electronics and a delightfully odd, low-slung groove.
Exclusives
ZINC - Structures 2 (Bingo Bass)
DASO - Cosmic Ride EP (Dikso) - exclusive 15-12-2014
BAAZ - Red Souvenirs (Office Recordings) - exclusive 29-12-2014
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XXXY - 18 Hours (Rinse)
BASEMENT JAXX feat SHAKKA - Rock This Road (Atlantic Jaxx)
ICARUS/N69/TOYBOY/ROBIN/DE$IGNATED/PISTOL PETE - SubSoul & Friends Vol 1 EP (SubSoul)
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