Zinc is obviously a legendary D&B producer and DJ, but he's recently been delving into a bit of house music. However, far from the majority of house released today, his particular brand is considerably bass-laden and shuffled when it comes to the percussion! Six new belters here to follow up from his last Structures release, and you get everything from quasi garage on tracks like "Backup", to break-ridden grooves such as "Vampires", and even a dash of tech house on "Wonderful". Ace and diverse, Zinc is still teaching how its done 20 years from his first releases.
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.
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.
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.
Glaswegian producer Harvey McKay's music is helping to push underground techno into the mainstream, and releasing on labels like Jon Digweed's Bedrock will do him no harm. The title track is a dark, driving affair, its rhythm enclosed in a mesmerising filter and punctuated at regular intervals by a ponderous vocal sample. As it progresses, "Amen" veers into a dreamy coda, but the underlying rhythmic power is still there. By contrast, "Cry Wolf" is far less intense. Over a jacking house rhythm and steely kicks, McKay samples a vocal from an old ghetto track. It lends "Wolf" a gritty feeling that means while it's not as upfront as "Amen", it still packs a hefty punch.
Rupert Taylor continues his ongoing partnership with Rinse, with the three-track 18 Hours EP providing a solid follow-up to Never Enough released earlier this year. The title track sets the tone, with Taylor layering long, drawn-out chords and glistening electronic melodies atop a shuffling tech-house groove. He successfully flips the script on rave-era techno slammer "Clap Pitch" (think foreboding electronics, footwork style handclaps, booming sub and breakbeat hardcore stabs), before "Tool (Satire Mix)" provides a final flourish. Rolling and sweaty, it sees XXXY charge off in an acid house direction via some twisted 303 lines and hard-wired electronics.
Lithuania isn't the first place you would associate with deep house, but it's where Few Nolder comes from and it's true that the Vilnius-based producer makes a compelling take on this established form. Like his other releases, the tracks on Moli have a fragility to them, like they are about to fall apart at every bar. Thankfully none of them do, and the listener is able to enjoy the slurred vocals and nagging percussion on "Twin" and the warm melodies of "Sonar". Few Nolder leaves the best to last though, and the title track's epic synth crescendos and played on the fly groove make for the perfect soundtrack to a midsummer's Baltic party.
Quantistic owner Dionigi steps up with an impressive collection of dubbed out disco. From the opening track, "They Forgot" onwards, the Italian producer puts a focus on heavy drums, wah-wah guitar riffs and acidic bleeps. Even when he plays it harder, as is the case on "What Is Going On Here", he breaks into angular guitar riffs. Given his approach, it is no surprise that the best tracks are the most freaked out; from the cavernous grooves and ponderous vocals of "Some Theoretical Considerations", the cowbell-heavy pulses of "The Emerging Picture" and the cosmic disco closer, "Passport To The Cosmos", this is a brilliantly spaced out collection.
Steve Bug's label brings together in one compilation tracks from the EPs that marked its fifteenth anniversary. While all of the music stays within house and techno parameters, what's most impressive about this collection is its diversity. From the heads-down jacking groove of Joeski's dub remix of Martin Landsky's "Reject" through Josh Wink's acid-fried "Groove" and into the surging chords and ravey undercurrents of Taylor's 'Trapped In 92' take on Steve Bug's "A Shot In The Dark", there is something here to suit most persuasions. Meanwhile, the Larry Heard-influenced snares and woozy pads of Anaxander's "A Place To Go" shows that the label's future is as rosy as the past 15 years.
Prolific German producer Philip Bader delivers his own take on classic house music for Nic Fanciulli's label. "Circus" is a contemporary take on '90s disco house, its looped vocal sample and rolling groove bolstered by steely drums. "Terrazzaas House" is also inspired by classic sources, with the well-known 'house music all night long' sample married to acidic licks, orgasmic moans and a snaking, tracky rhythm. Best of all though is the title track. Centred on a swooping, menacing bassline and a repetitive vocal loop, its tough beats and slightly off-beat rhythm are reminiscent of Mr G - which can be no bad thing.
The risque Furfriend make another lewd and suggestive appearance on Berlin label Killekill. The title track is a pounding industrial track, led by stomping beats and grating rhythms, while an unintelligible vocal mutters the track's title in the background. Dingo Tush's suggestive vocals make a return on "Touch Myself". Set against a slower, more stripped back groove, he lists a series of sexual pursuits, including the unforgettable line "they scratch your hairy back, then your hairy crack". By the time that the spoken word "Fuck Olympics" appears, Furfriend have strayed into the realms of the bizarre, but it's hard to forget the brilliant but playful "Touch Myself".
Demian Muller teams up with his fellow Chilean producer Andre Butano for this heads-down dance floor release on Yousef's label. The title track sets the tone, with steely, metallic rhythms creating a tracky sound, supported by buzzing bass tones. "Esvivir" is similarly inclined and sees the duo conjure up a dense, rolling groove that slips into dreamy break downs. While David Glass' take on "Nitid Night" is led by heavy drums and tough kicks, there is also a lighter side to this release; in its original form, "Night" is a dubbed out groove full of billowing chords and trance-inspired melodies.
With a title like Back To 92, there can be little doubt about Kaily and Blandy's intentions on this first collaborative EP for Lapsus Music. The "Warehouse Mix" of the title track is particularly potent, sounding as it does like a big room house fusion of Adonis's "No Way Back" (the bassline/main riff is almost identical) and dancefloor-igniting, rave era piano riffs. Cera Alba's remix of the same track inserts a little Sound Factory style shuffle and booming bass to proceedings, with the resultant rework sounding like the kind of thing Junior Vasquez used to champion. The EP's other track, "How Long", is a woozy and percussive jaunt into late night tech-house territory.
German duo M.A.N.D.Y don't release much material - they have only put out a handful of records in the past decade - so when they do, it feels like an event. Here, the title track is a dubby, bassy affair, led by a clanging rhythm and supported by tough claps. It's darker than their usual fare and sounds like it was the by-product of many months spent working in a blacked out underground bunker. By contrast, "Miss Jonson" is more typical of the duo's usual approach. A heavy, surging bass powers the track, providing the basis for one of M.A.N.D.Y's unforgettable neon melodies.
Fast-rising Belfast producer Garry McCartney aka Ejeca delivers a killer release for Ellen Allien's label. McCartney's skill lies in drawing on established house tropes and putting his own spin on it. "Charger" sounds like a textbook deep house tune, with its flowing chords and insistent groove, but then it veers off course with a series of blaring sirens. "Bound To The Pump" is in a similar vein, but on this occasion, Ejeca utilises firing percussion and insistent vocal snatches to stand out from the slew of samey deep house. Meanwhile, "4Mula" and "Swey" sees him strip back his sound and focus on swinging, primal rhythms, with the latter impressing most.
Premiesku delivers another dance floor-focused release for Loco Dice's label. It sounds like the young Romanian producer has been inspired by UK tech-house producers and labels from the late '90s, and the influence of artists like Pure Science and labels like End Recordings are audible here. In particular, "Abduction" and "Access" are noisy, jacking affairs led by powerful filters and insistent vocal snatches. "Her", with its tough and raw drums, sees Premiesku look to US house for inspiration, but it's only a temporary distraction; on "Vreju", he returns to the kind of hypnotic, tracky sound that makes Aproape an essential release for track-heads, both young and old.
Here, Italian producer Alessio Pagliaroli returns to Moodmusic with his third EP for Klas "Freestyle Man" Linblad's long-running label. "Chance A Glare" is a memorable concoction - a quietly upbeat chunk of Innervisions style deep house that benefits greatly from a superb vocal by Benjamin Frnkln. Pagliaroli adds just the right amount of subtle musical touches - think occasional pianos, hazy electronics and drawn-out chords - to emphasize the beauty of Frnkln's vocal. Innervisions associate Peter Pardeike delivers the obligatory remix, laying down a slightly darker late night rework full of early '90s "intelligent techno" sounds, acid-flecked electronics and a thumping groove.
Having received support from Richie Hawtin for a previous release, it's safe to say that newcomer Fraser Stuart is tipped for great things. The title track and "Reflection" are expertly executed, functional affairs. The former revolves around a dense, rolling rhythm littered with stuttering vocals, while the latter is darker, with dense tribal drums supporting a bleak bassline. Sabb's take on "Motivation" continues in a similar vein, all tough beats and dense rhythms, but there is also some divergence from this approach; Joal's take on "Reflection" is a deep, tranced out techno groove that is reminiscent of early '90s Music Man releases.