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26 Oct 10
19 Nov 12
Review: Whereas certain trends and producers regress or digress at a moment's whim, ESP Institute remain steadily on their own unique stylistic path overseen by Andrew Lovefingers Hogge from his NYC base and propelled gently on the wave of critical acclaim afforded to the litany of diverse artists that release on the label. Following serene and sublime dancefloor emissions from Michael Ozone and Young Marco, ESP Institute invite you to bask in something even gentile with the self titled debut album from Land Of Lights. A collaborative project from ESP regular Johnny Nash and former Spectral Empire producer Kyle Martin that's been in gestation for some time, Land Of Lights comes with the advance warning that "if you don't have time to really listen, please do not buy this record. If your mind is not ready to unwind, please do not buy this record". "Flares" sets the tone that justifies this warning, laying down all manner of meditative textures before any discernable rhythmic force appears. While that opening track is undoubtedly the most expansive production from Nash and Martin, the subsequent five productions retain the sumptuous levels of production throughout and it'd be a truly angry man to reach the end of "Higher Love" in anything other than a blissful high.
12 Nov 12
Review: In this enduring age of shallow house and poorly executed "disco edits" you have to applaud labels like ESP Institute who keep veering down their own stylistic trajectory with little regard for trend or fad. Their latest release comes from a new name to us in Michael Ozone, a Melbourne based producer whose apparent interest in Giallo Horror soundtracks and New Beat is very much evident here. However it's the unique and absurdist way with which Ozone implements these influences across both "Perfect Systems" and "Hetropia" that grab your attention and have you flipping the needle back to the start again and again to try and cram every detail into your cerebral cortex. Both tracks get twisted in all new directions by Young Marco and Steve Summers; L.I.E.S. mainstay Summers tackles the title track, increasing the Italo drama markedly amidst loose drum programming and thick analogue bass and adding a further sense of menace via his own masked and echoed vocals. Complementing this, Rush Hour's secret weapon Young Marco retains the mysticism inherent in "Hetrotopia" but adds his own dense murky dub laden embellishments.
18 Feb 13
Played by: Kid Who
Review: Pharoahs have already graced 100% Silk with their brand of disco-inspired synth jams, but these three tracks are infinitely more accomplished. "Ahumbo" combines subtle Afrobeat influences with thick, lustrous bass and the kind of spacious guitar licks that would make Talking Heads jealous, while the dubby feel and atonal percussion of "Island Time" recall Ital's brilliant track "Queens". Finally, the "If It Ever Feels Right" goes in as hard as you could imagine an ESP release going, with thick analogue bass tumbling out of control at 132bpm driven relentlessly forward by a conga-led rhythm, which segues effortlessly into a blissful saxophone breakdown. Unsurprisingly, this is excellent stuff which comes highly recommended.
30 Apr 12
Played by: The Time And Space Machine
28 Nov 11
Played by: Cloned In Vatican!, Chris Coco, In Flagranti, Ilya Santana, Dynamicron (Los Grandes/Our Nights), Pablo - Fatty Fatty Phonographics
Review: Given the eclectic nature of Soft Rocks' output so far - and, in particular, their effortlessly Balearic re-edits of crate-digging obscurities - you'd expect this debut original album from the Brighton quartet to be impressively varied. For the most part, it is - though perhaps not in quite the ways you'd imagine. While you could certainly describe it as Balearic - see the dreamy, Kate Bush-ish pop of "Thunder Thunder", the Afro-tinged slo-mo prog-disco weirdery of "Slowdown" and the Spanish vocals and bubbling grooves of "Mirador De las Estrellas" - that wouldn't really do it justice. Hidden amongst the album's 11 exquisite cuts are trips into weirdo cock-rock territory, twisted dub-punk and folksy, string-drenched hypnotism. A fittingly impressive debut.
23 Jul 12
Played by: Dicky Trisco, Kid Who, Chris Coco, John Digweed, Freddy Love, Steve Lee, Brioski, Dynamicron (Los Grandes/Our Nights)
Review: For some reason, Soft Rocks' brilliant debut album, 2011's The Curse of Soft Rocks, flew under the radar. It's a pity, because it's one of the best full-lengths to emerge from the cosmic/Balearic scene to date. Here, that album gets remixed, with an impressive cast of like-minded producers re-imagining the Brighton crew's immaculate efforts. Predictably, there are some stunning versions, from the intense fuzziness of Andrew Weatherall's take on dub-punk single "We Hunt Buffalo Now" and Spectral Empire's ket-addled rework of "Thunder Thunder", to the dub disco shenanigans of Young Marco, and Cage & Aviary's wonky new wave version of "Slowdown". Best of all, though, is Justin V's take on "Talking Jungle", a ten-minute slice of baggy disco peppered with impeccable pianos.
18 Feb 13
Played by: This Is A Recording, Dicky Trisco, Gazeebo, Discomendments, Andrew Allsgood (Free Association), Pete Herbert, Lusty Zanzibar, Juno Recommends Disco, Marcus Marr, Shota Tanaka (Beaten Space Probe), Sccucci Manucci, Cc:disco!, Dynamicron (Los Grandes/Our Nights), Inigo, Faux Métier, Dixfisical
Review: In a 2010 interview, Tornado Wallace explained the inspiration behind his distinctive title as "something between a deep south blues artist or a logger from Nebraska". In subsequent years the Australian has seemingly swapped the south blues artist for something southern Italo, keeping the Nebraskan edge with his logger's beard. This is demonstrated in wondrous fashion on the water-coloured artwork to Thinking Aloud, his debut EP for Lovefingers' ESP Institute. Heavy bass plods switch to a walking bassline in "Bit One", as motorised and starry arpeggios weave between breathy vocals that are as much human as they are synthesised. This is complemented by "Cloud Country" which lowers in BPM with more Italo inspired arpeggios, pulsating toms and sprinklings of Latin sounding synths. The title track slowly reveals itself to be a Balearic burner of the highest calibre, opening with an analogous kick-snare combo and a "higher-self" spoken word spiel that's reminiscent of Will Powers legendary "Adventures In Success". Peaks come; troughs go as the track builds sublimely before dovetailing back to its original form. Welcome back sir!
13 Feb 12
Played by: Discomendments
Review: The underground music scene is full of unheralded talent - people and labels whose significant contribution to a sound or style often goes overlooked. Amsterdam-based Marco Sterk could well be one of those people. A graphic designer by trade, he is responsible for the distinctive look and feel of Rush Hour's many releases. But that's not all. He's also the man behind the stop-start Hand Of God label, an imprint whose sporadic releases gainfully attempt to join the dots between classic and contemporary house, leftfield disco and, on occasions, Italo. Here, he joins forces with the similarly overlooked ESP Institute label. Like Sterk's own Hand of God imprint, ESP Institute operates at the margins, delivering music that doesn't quite fit into neat categories. The two tracks showcased here are typical of both Sterk and ESP Institute's approach. Lead cut "Nonono" seems to exist somewhere in the margins; some elements sound like Stereolab, others Larry Heard after a fistful of downers. "Darwin", on the other hand, could definitely be described as "Balearic". Featuring relentless, hypnotic melodies and marimba-ish riffs alongside nagging, stripped-back percussion, it sounds like a skewed take on the classic works of Steve Reich. With darting, soft focus synths and an undulating groove, it's both mesmeric and enchanting. To these ears, it almost sounds like a contemporary answer to Chris Carter's beguiling "Moonlight", itself re-released last year by Optimo Music. Given the quality of these two tracks, it's likely we'll hear more from Young Marco over the next few years.
08 Nov 12
Review: We've prattled on before about the immense talents of Amsterdam-based producer Marco Sterck, describing his previous missive for ESP Institute as being like "Larry Heard on a fistful of downers". "Video Days", on the other hand, is like an immense MDMA rush in the company of Lindstrom, Yellow Magic Orchestra and LB Bad - all twinkling, Japanese-inspired melodies, darting electronics and gently lapping chords. It goes without saying that it's superb. "Later Than You Think" is impressive, too, layering bold, "Coma Cat"-ish melodies atop a woozy base of frisky, jazz-flecked drums, bittersweet chords and vintage electronics. If anything, it provides even more of an intense rush than its predecessor. Bliss.