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SWITCH GENRE
 
Reviewed this week
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Nils Penner's first release for Freerange, 2012's Munich/Berlin EP, seemed to re-ignite his career, landing him subsequent appearances on Compost Black Label and Exploited. This return to Freerange as every but as warm and involving as you'd expect, with the title track skipping along on a wave of Innervisions-style bottom end, shuffling drums, heart-aching string chords, bluesy vocal samples and some wonderfully tactile riffs. Even better is Pittsburgh Track Authority's superb remix, which adds a little Detroit swing and classic Chicago deep house bounce to Penner's very European-sounding original (think jaunty piano chords, eyes-wide-shut strings and fizzing Motor City percussion). Bonus cut "State of Mind" - all melancholic pianos, drawn-out breakdowns and tech-house swing - is pretty tasty, too.
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After revealing each exclusive track over the last month, Kry Wolf finally delivers his DNA collection. A way of showing his own roots and party passions while celebrating his peers and labelmates' finest studio creations, the mix is a great reflection of Wolf, his and Shadow Child's label and its talented roster. Highlights include Shadow Child and Friend Within's WOW-referencing "The Moon", Kry Wolf's percussion-pummelled twist on "Piano Weapon", Geoff K's floor-melting bass shaker "Dysturbed Trumpet" and NYTA's dangerously demonic vocal cut "The Call". Also included is Kry Wolf's mix that joins the dots between the many sonic shades. A great concept backed up by an immaculate collection; DNA is where it's at.
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Here's something of a pleasant surprise: a Steve Lawler record on Hot Creations that finds artist and label eschewing their typical sound in favour of something a bit different. The plainly titled "House Record" comes on like a long lost Tyree or Fast Eddie production - all "This Is Acid" stabs, thickset bass and lolloping hip-house rhythms. Flipside "City Nights" continues on a similar theme, with spitting drum machine percussion, jack-tracks style handclaps and an undulating bassline stirring long repressed memories of sketchy warehouse parties sometime around 1988. As a package, this is easily Lawler's - and Hot Creations' - best release for some time.
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If you've not invested in a physical copy of Session Victim's excellent sophomore set, See You When You Get There, you probably should. Alternatively, you could pick and choose between the various digital samplers on offer. There's tons of high quality material on this third EP. Throughout, the German duo expertly tiptoe the fine line between disco and house, variously delivering warm, rolling, Rhodes-heavy deep house (the brilliant "The Most Beautiful Divorce Ever"), loose and organic disco-house ("Under Your Spell"), eyes-closed slow jams (the seductive and becalmed "Eeo's Place") and cut-up Balearic beats (the picturesque "Crystal Maze"). Throughout, the production remains warm, smart and endearingly dusty.
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Given that this is the first album from the great Theo Parrish since 2007, it's unsurprising interest in American Intelligence has rocketed over the course of the year as Sound Signature left a trail of hints. Happily, American Intelligence is a fine album; deep and woozy in parts, undeniably soulful, shot through with jazz influences and full to bursting with killer cuts. By now, everyone should know the brilliant "Footwork" single (arguably one of the records of 2014); soon, clubs will swing to the off-kilter dancefloor jazz of "Make No War", the 21st century broken house of the epic "Fallen Funk" and the decidedly odd - but brilliant - "Helmut Lampshade".
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Given that Creative Swing Alliance's Pablo Valentino owns Faces Records, it's surprising that this is the deep house duo's first single for the label (it's doubly surprising given that the imprint has been active since 2002). Happy, the Weekend EP was worth the wait. Each of the four original tracks delivers the perfect balance between tactile soul, chunky dancefloor grooves, rhythmic swing and heady musicality, as if their aim was to sit somewhere between Moodyman and Motor City Drum Ensemble. Arguably the EP's standout moment though, is Rawinthecity boss Fulbert's remix of "The Way You Need Me" - a dusty, ultra-deep groover capable of sending shivers down the spine of even the most sober of punters.
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It's been a while since A1 Bassline last sullied our souls with his low-end shuffles. But he's back with four killer tracks that showcase his deeper side. "Hidden Agenda" is straight out of the late 90s before garage got so dark it morphed into dubstep; featuring shuddering drums and off-beat bass bubbles, it's a great way to show the deep house fakers how it's really done. "Burnt Out Piano Island" jacks with more of a Chicago vibe, all chop-slappy and sample-soaked, while "Outsider" is a brighter, breezier affair with a synth hook so sharp it could catch a shark. "T Moe P" brings the show to a close on another 4/4 UKG vibe; laced with stretchy subs and jitterbug keys, it will have both the bass and deep house communities in a lather. Welcome back A1.
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Having brought countless obscure tracks from the '80s to our attention through their mix CDs and club nights, Optimo now turn their attention, albeit temporarily, to the decade of drums, the 90s. While the later part of the 1990s saw dull tribal house and one-note loop techno monotony prevail, this split release shows that the use of heavy drums wasn't always tedious. On "The Way Out Is The Way", Norwegian-English duo Illumination deliver three minutes' worth of searing bass and epic keys before the filtered drums roll in, while Mr Marvin's "I Want You" is straighter percussive rhythm although its stuttering vocal sample makes it stand out. Best of all though is Fuel's "Rigid", a panning, stomping affair with traces of Chicago's ghetto sound.
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In 2013, the artist formerly known as Elite Force - a trail-blazing tech-funk pioneer throughout the late '90s and early 2000s - returned under his given name, with a well received foray into minimal and tech-house territory. Two years on, and a string of releases later, he returns to Stereophoenix with two more twisted dancefloor bombs. "Bishoujo" sets the tone, peppering a chugging, locked-techno groove with spooky melodies, EDM effects and gnarly noises. There's a little more dustiness and depth to "SWT", which successfully fuses a woozy deep house sensibility with Shackleton's trademark tech-funk swing and bump.
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Having focused exclusively on digital releases for its first six years, leading Mexican disco/house/Italo fusionist label Electrique has decided to press this 80th EP to vinyl. Happily, it's also available as a digital EP. An all-star concoction featuring various label regulars, it variously touches on bleep-heavy deep house (La Royale and Pato Watson's bleep-heavy "Gravy"), dirty analogue electronics (a trippy and fuzzy offering from Max Jones), rubbery machine funk (Gameboyz), throbbing heads-down fare (Bufi, Eddie Mercury) and Latin-tinged analogue disco (Juan Soto & Rocco Desentis). Best of all, though, is Thomas Jackson's Lee Scratch Perry-sampling "For The Junkies", a prize slice of fuzzy, Prins Thomas-ish organic disco.
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Having dropped his latest party bomb, Hate On Me, back in the Summer, Herve (aka Josh Harvey) breathes further life into the tune with some new remix action. Jaded eschew the campy gurrrl-friendly vibes of the original in favour of some prowling, moody bassline house (which also gets re-edited by Herve himself), while Skapes & SFX go for the jugular - delivering some prime retro speed garage with plenty of funky house garnish on top.
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Auckland-based eight-piece Weird Together are an interesting proposition - and not just because it's helmed by Tokyo-based journalist Nick Dwyer and one-time NRK deep house regular Dick 'Magik J' Johnson. Their style, as showcased on this debut EP for the admirable Soundway Records, is fiendishly hard to pin down. In essence, they take inspiration from a myriad of global styles - mainly localised sounds from parts of South America, Africa and the Caribbean - and fuse them with contemporary house rhythms and structures. Throughout, highlights come thick and fast, from the dense percussion, booming bass and African vocals of "Gban Gban Lewa" and picturesque, Soweto-house shuffle of "Karima's Story", to the South American bliss of "Mbira".
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Italian musician Papik certainly believes in 'amore speciale', recruiting none other than his own wife to luxuriously breathe her vocals all over this jazzy poolside breezer, "Special Love". The song is culled from his recent double album Sounds For The Open Road, which boasts two CDs - a soulful one and a jazzy one (the mellow Fender Rhodes chords all over this tune tie it firmly to the latter). Remix-wise we get drivin' housey funk from Submantra, deep, downbeat glitchy vibes from From P60 and trumpet-led, sun bleached bossa-house from Sounds Of Soul.
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If the first instalment of Huntleys and Palmers' Chapter series of split EPs was all about showcasing up-coming talent, this second volume has been designed as a tribute to those who've influenced them. It's a neat twist, with typically formidable results. There's much to admire throughout, from the surging machine disco of oklo Gabon's "City Gym" and the undulating alien funk of Comeme man Sano's "Duraco", to the Ket-addled wonkiness of Golden Teacher's trippy "What Time Is It". While Uslo's spacey, piano-laden, percussively loose "Galaxy" is also inspired, it's beaten in the "best track" stakes by Balearic man Wolf Moller's "Rudeltanz", a decidedly cosmic chunk of live dub-disco with tumbling synth melodies and baked, low-slung synths for days.
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If you're going to put together a set of "past and future acid classics", we can think of few better to handle compilation and mixing duties than Altern 8's Mark Archer and veteran British DJ Jerome Hill, once a renowned face on the "summer of love" free party scene. The collection they've put together - some 34 tracks deep, with a mix from each - pretty much touches all bases. Sure, there are Chicago classics present (think Phuture, Master C&J, Pharley Jackmaster Funk, Mike Dunn and Maurice Joshua), but also rave-era British records (Slipmatt, Hill and Archer) and later remixes and original productions from Mike Ash, Steve Mac and others. The result is an excellent selection of 303 abuse in all its forms, with plenty of lesser known gems and "secret weapons" to entice those with deep collections.
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Having changed tack with last year's folksy Acoustic set, progressive trance veterans Above & Beyond return to their trademark style on We Are All What We Need. Since first gate crashing the scene back in 2000, the Anjunabeats founders have become flag-bearers for the more melodious, musically expansive side of trance. There's plenty of that here, of course, from the spine-tingling beauty of "Blue Sky Action" and sparkling "Counting Down The Days", to the gorgeous builds of "Hello". Pleasingly, the album is also peppered with superb downtempo tracks, with yearning vocals smothered in sinewy strings and twinkling pianos.
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It's no surprise that Italian brothers Alessandro and Federico Fognini aka Mind Against have enjoyed such a rapid ascent. The duo's music melds many of electronic music's recent tropes into an accessible blend - audible on this release for Life & Death. The title track is based on a stripped back rhythm and the kind of sonorous bleeps one might have heard on a Sandwell District record. Despite this, "Strange Days" exudes warmth. The same can be said of Recondite's remix, with the German producer adding only a hint of melancholia thanks to some sensuous strings and a more stripped back rhythm. "Polarstern" is another unusual melange, with the pair fusing wounded wasp 303s and the kind of tie-dyed melodies that Border Community specialises in.
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Steve Bug proves his skill as a remixer with these two versions of fast rising act Pentatones' "Karma Game". Taken from their forthcoming album, the Poker Flat boss has turned the original version's haunting, pop noir sound into a stone-cold dance floor killer. Bug's 'retouch' is led by sublime chimes, an evocative, MANDY-style bass and is supported by a pulsing groove. Better still is the instrumental version, where Bug puts a focus on breathy, saccharine sweet melodies and a series of subsonic bleeps. Fused with a similarly evocative bass and a stepping rhythm, it shows that Bug is one of the most talented remixers in his field.
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For their latest missive, German label Toy Tonics has turned to Italian producer Andrea Pedra, previously famous in his native Tuscany as a DJ and promoter of parties in a "dirty old jazz cavern". This EP - his first for Toy Tonics - showcases his love of sleazy but fluid deep house, created using analogue equipment. There's naturally much to admire, from the revivalist Italian house bump, late night vocal snippets and jaunty organs of "You Know What?", to the driving drums, woozy synths and densely layered vocal samples of "Muff 60". Best of all, though, is opener "In My Eyes", an effective fusion of undulating acid lines, fireside chords, trippy vocal samples and boompty-influenced drums.
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Morales returns to the bold chunky soulful sound he really made a name for himself with 20 years ago; a hook that nags so hard you'll be humming it for weeks, beats that chugging so relentlessly you won't sleep for weeks and a groove so funky you'll be shifting you booty for hours, "Lovin" has all the hallmarks of a straight up summer anthem. Move over deep house, it's time for soulful house to shine again.
Exclusives
PENNER, Nils - I Can Be (Freerange) - exclusive 23-01-2015
WOLF MOLLER/OKLO GABON/SANO/GOLDEN TEACHER/USIO - Chapter 2 (Huntleys & Palmers)
SESSION VICTIM - See You When You Get There Part Three (Delusions Of Grandeur) - exclusive 26-01-2015
Exclusives
ABOVE & BEYOND - We Are All We Need (Anjunabeats)
BANTAM LIONS - Recollections EP (Scenery)
ARMY OF ME - In My Eyes (Toy Tonics)
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