The manner in which an artist tackles a Fabric mix reflects – to an extent – what they’re like as a character, much like the often uncanny resemblance shared between dog owners and their pets. Some go down the conceptual route (Four Tet, Surgeon), while the likes of Ricardo Villalobos, Shackleton and Omar S choose to fill their mixes solely with their own material - a sign of supreme confidence in one’s own ability, any pop psychologist will tell you. Levon Vincent has chosen to pepper his entry into the Fabric canon with a mixture of his own tracks alongside material from the New York-based contemporaries he holds so dear, and it says a lot about the man.
Back by popular demand, it’s the Juno Download deep house podcast.
We’ve extolled the virtues of on-fire Ukrainian producer Vakula so many times in recent months that quite frankly it’s becoming a little embarrassing. Yet it seems that as soon as the dust settles from one stellar release, another hits the shelves more or less immediately. Indeed ever since that Firecracker 10″ arrived in 2010, it’s been a constant stream of quality, with subsequent releases on Ethereal Sound, 3rd Strike, Archipel and, now, Dekmantel. The small Dutch label is credited by no less authority than Tom Trago with reinvigorating the Amsterdam house scene with its Detroit-leaning parties in the mid 2000s. A slow but steady release schedule has so far brought material from Amsterdam-based artists Juju & Jordash and San Proper, with techno ledge Rob Hood commissioned to remix a single from the latter’s debut album.
Vakula’s debut for the imprint opens with “Picture Of You”, which unfurls majestically from a melodic deep house jaunt with aquatic melodies and cosy pads to a hands-up piano driven stomper – just wait for those stuttering keys to come in towards the end! “Acid Release” serves as the perfect foil to the grandiose opening salvo, doing exactly what it says on the tin with a dusty acidic thump ridden throughout, the result being something that would fit snugly into the dirtier corners of the Dance Mania back cat. Flip over for the ambiguously titled “Music”, which features a female vocal turn that sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of a well, along with a dense bassline and twangy, metallic hats. “Smooth Sketch” features some off kilter Theo style mindfuck weirdness with marching hats and meandering melodies, before “Johnny” picks up where “Music” left off with another memorable vocal, this time nourished by jazzy keys and superbly crafted chords.
There’s something naggingly familiar about “Love & Happiness”, the latest instalment in Rush Hour’s excellent Voyage Direct series. Sometimes in house music, this can be a good thing. A shared sample, cheeky steal or familiar vocal can lift a tune from the depths of mediocrity to the dizzy heights of dancefloor domination.
“Love & Happiness”, though, is not a mediocre record. In its instrumental form, it’s a wonderfully atmospheric vintage house jam that fuses classic Chicago jack with the blissful, sometimes moody New York deepness of Nu Groove. Production wise, it’s brilliantly authentic, with just the right amount of frantic 808 claps, hissing hi-hats and original synth sounds. It has that raw fuzziness that came with original acid and Chicago house tracks – a cheap warmth devoid of digital sheen and contemporary studio trickery.
While producer Danny ‘Legowelt’ Wolfers’ instrumental is impressive, it’s the vocal version that really stands out. It’s here that the ‘naggingly familiar’ bit comes in. You see, “Love & Happiness” shares vocal and organ samples with another recent underground deep house hit, The Godson’s “Analog Love”. Both are brilliant records, though “Love & Happiness” offers so much more than its sample-mate. Indeed it’s a better record all round, not just because of the quality of Wolfers’ vintage production (which is outstanding), but thanks to the way the vocal is used. Here, the soulful vocal weaves in and out of the backing track as if it were a half-remembered dream. The result is nothing less than spellbinding.
For their most anthemic outing yet, Drumpoet Community have turned to the most unlikely of sources: former Compost Records nu-jazzer Bernd Kunz, better known as A Forest Mighty Black. When Compost boss Michael Reinboth decided to launch his Munich-based downtempo/nu-jazz imprint in 1994, it was Kunz who provided the first release – the decidedly trip-hop-ish “Do-Ba-Ye”. In the early days of Compost, A Forest Mighty Black releases were a regular occurrence, but Kunz disappeared from view in 1999. While nerds will point out that he moved on to Detroit-influenced deep house sometime ago (he was part of the Lost Men, who released a trio of releases on Drumpoet Community in the late noughties) it’s still a surprise to hear him laying down such an unashamedly ‘big’ slab of uplifting, piano-centric late night jack.
With liberal use of cut-up vocal samples, soaring strings and dense percussion, it has a real classic New York house feel – albeit with a big dose of Underground Resistance thrown in. It’s undoubtedly the best thing Kunz has done yet. The more hypnotic “Nasty Imposition” continues in this vein, building a pleasingly trippy groove around dubbed-out electronic riffage, dense drums and delay-laden vocal snippets. While it doesn’t have the unashamedly euphoric feel of the A, it’s perhaps closer to what you’d expect from Drumpoet Community. It’s certainly wonderfully deep.
Even if you weren’t privy to the news that Firecracker had launched an sublabel, your immediate thought when grasping this inaugural release on Unthank would be that the Edinburgh imprint were involved to some degree. Arriving in bespoke purple hand stamped sleeve art pressed on 10 inches of clear vinyl and covered in Japanese style plastic wrapping, it’s one of this year’s most attractive propositions for vinyl obsessives.
This is all without even approaching the music, a debut peek into the musical mind of the Amsterdam dwelling Estonian producer known only as Bakey USTL. In “A Tender Place” Bakey has delivered one of the most disjointed, flagrantly risqué, thumping eight minutes of house music your senses might be exposed to this year. There’s a dizzying momentum to the track, with several blunt and deranged sonic right turns, such as the brief silent interlude before the main glorious hook drops, which prove nothing less than stunning. A less than worthy soundbite would be to call it Moodymann on Viagra. A more than worthy summation comes from Jackmaster, with the Numbers honcho calling it one of this year’s best house tracks, with support from the likes of Ben UFO and joy Orbison adding credence.
In contrast to the sleaze on the A Side, the opposing proceedings open with the shuffling future soul abstractions of “Nose Candy” minimalist beatdown at it’s finest, whilst “Heroin” marks a swift descent into the depths of South American narcotic noise. Thus the schizoid brilliance of the A Side is matched by the slightly menacing strangeness of the opposing side on a record which is limited in numbers and high on demand.
The Retreat imprint overseen by Yanneck Salvo aka Quarion and Session Victim’s Hauke Freer continue to lay the emphasis on quality, enlisting Iron Curtis to programme only their seventh release in two years. The German certainly doesn’t disappoint delivering a resolutely fine deep house moment across the A Side in “Cover Me”.
Swathes of Chicago loving pads punctuate the first half of a track, driven by liquid drips of bass and hi-hats primped with crispness. It’s the glorious drop into silence that prefaces the arrival of highly pitched vocal thumping 808 kicks and crazed key stabs that acts as the most pleasant slap in the face you’ll receive in 2010. Whilst Retreat is onto a winner with the A Side alone, it’s the multiplicity of sounds explored on the B Side which transcend this release into the realm of ‘MUST HAVE’. Straying far from the deep house template, the title track “Stumbled Across” is delightfully schizophrenic attempt at beatdown, driven by a deliberately off key array of snares, hi-hats and claps. Synths and keys are laid down with a similar degree of stutter to dizzyingly brilliant effect.
Flipping the script further is the all too brief “Creeps” which displays a talent for head nodding MPC choppage to a backdrop of ethereal chord patterns. Curtis ends on the short but sweet “All My Friends” with the click clack of a mechanical 80 BPM half step stutter set to repeat over a wonked out moog line. An intriguing insight into where Iron Curtis might choose to go next.
Eastern Europe is proving to be something of a deep house goldmine these days. The arrival of Anton Zap and Nina Kraviz on Jus-Ed’s Underground Quality imprint built an invisible bridge between Russia and Connecticut, whilst unheralded Estonian producer Bakey USTL will soon appear on Firecracker sub-label Unthank. That won’t be the first time the Linkwood-Fudge Fingas-House Of Traps axis of Scotch drinking/house music has peeked beyond the Iron Curtain, with Ukranian producer Vakula (aka Vakula Karpenko) popping up with the fifth instalment of the famed Firecracker 10” series back in June.
Here we see Karpenko return with an EP on Under The Shade sub-label 3rd Strike, which has already released some deep house fire in 2010 from Erdbeerschnitzel and Mark E. Opening gambit “Nema” – evidently named after the vocalist it features – starts with a nice rolling drumline interspersed by live bongos, which rest snugly beneath Nema’s beautiful if indecipherable vocal sweeps. It shares the A-Side with “Nerve”, which opens in a Moodymann- “MEANDNJB”-style flourish, dropping immediately into a rolling analogue crunch which works nicely with bleepy synth chops.
The flipside commences with the extended bongo solo intro of “All The Same”, before some club-friendly kick drums arrive, riding above murmurings of sub bass as chord stabs drift in with a vocal snatch uttering ‘New York’ to set the mood. “Hoopa Loopa” follows in a more understated tone, with soft chanting replacing the tropical percussion, while “Beat Ja” – definitely the cheeky hidden gem on this 12” – closes out with pitched down vocal gurgles and raw junkyard drums.
Having hooked up with multi-instrumentalist Tad Wily, it sounds like Retrofit boss Jay Shepheard is trying to push deep house in a new direction. With so much of the contemporary music in this bracket either trying too hard to appropriate sounds from the timeless US style or, worse still, attempting to beef up the jaded drums of mnml, Shepheard and Wily’s rawer, more organic approach is welcome. “Parallel Perc” provides a hint of where the duo is headed, with a groovy, low-slung bassline and dubbed out drums hinting at dance music’s funk and disco heritage – connections that are reinforced thanks to the use of soaring, orchestral strings.
“Haselnuss” has a similar set of influences, although the duo put a greater emphasis on a funk guitar riff and melancholy synth hooks while “A Sopot Connection” also doffs its cap to the 70s, with its prowling, predatory bassline sounding like a lost porn movie soundtrack, were it not for the accompanying juxtaposition of cool, icy synths. Finally, “TEC 1″ also references the late 70s and early 80s, but rather than disco, focuses on the primal electro funk of Cameo to make its mark. Like the previous releases in this series, Retrofit #3 shows that with a little imagination and some good old-fashioned perspiration, house music can still sound exciting.
Jus-Ed is quite possibly the hardest working man in house music. You probably know him as the Underground Quality guy – label boss, DJ, producer, radio show host. But to others he’s also the firewood guy, the lawn guy, the junk removal guy, the handyman guy and a devoted father and husband. He’s a people person, and even the most fleeting of conversations will elicit some kind of laughter, and probably leave you with a deep and lasting sense that this is a man doing what he loves.
Ed (full name Edward McKeithen) has been DJing on and off since the age of 10, but his first production didn’t hit the shelves until as recently as 2005. Since then he’s been in prolific form, with 33 releases to date, most of which have been pressed up on his beloved UQ imprint. His weekly radio slot on Myhouse-yourhouse has served as a platform to preach the virtues of underground house music, and Ed has used the position to give up-and-coming producers a boost (indeed some have reported getting label deals soon after getting the Jus-Ed stamp of approval).
We logged onto Skype for a chat with Ed, who, speaking from his home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, had much to say about going digital, DJ politics and how 2010 has been a watershed 12 months for his label.
Osaka imprint Millions Of Moments make a swift return to our shelves with this extended reissue of Raza brilliance on a clear orange twelve inch. One time Warp artist Raza first appeared on MoM last year with “Gonna Make You Work” and “As One” featuring either side of a swiftly sold out clear seven inch. Both tracks form the A Side here and sound just as immediately gratifying over a year later. Vintage Chicago sounds course through the roots of “Gonna Make You Work” from the warm luscious bass throbs to the delicate yet piercing 909 shuffles and main vocal refrain. This is complemented by the futuristic rhythms of “As One” which manages to reference two decades of Detroit techno in little over six minutes. Just to be different the tracks on the flip play inside out. “Big Room Subtleties” is just that, little more than a bleepy rhythm over abrasive kicks, whilst “Now Is The Time” is a return to the pumping raw Chicago sound of the A Side’s opening gambit. The cavernous and ever so slightly druggy techno throb of “Chocolate Drops” closes off proceedings in fine style.
Innervisions team up with German organization Media in Cooperation and Transition on this 12 inch offering two remixes of award winning Sudanese musician Emmanuel Jal by Henrik Schwarz and The Knife’s Olof Dreijer. Borne out of the MICT curated Sudan Votes Music Hopes album which featured Jal along with other notable Sudanese musicians, it’s a further attempt to promote international awareness of the upcoming referendum in January 2011 in which South Sudan residents will vote on whether to become an independent state or remain under the tutelage of a united Sudan. Innervisions stalwart Schwarz is on fine form, basing a typically hypnotic groove around a nagging bassline and singular key throb. An oscillating synth melody and rushes of strings add momentum and there’s a brilliant breakdown into the harmonious vocal refrain for good measure. Dreijer’s remix utilises the vocals brilliantly, crafting a deep bouncing melody that works so well with the off kilter syncopation and brushing drums. The usual golf claps to Innervisions also for the really well thought out sleeve design.
Skylax treat our ears to the second dose of Terre Thaemlitz’s musically brilliant schizophrenia in a matter of months. June’s “Hush Now” was one of this year’s more enduring deep house jackers and on this latest DJ Sprinkles Vs K.S.H.E 12” Thaemlitz doubles the quantity of tracks but retains the quality. “Down Home Kami-Sakunobe” eases you in with the odd but bewitching combination of violin strings, intermittent piano flourishes, overdubbed percussive shuffles and glacial breathing. Cavernous atmospheric abound on “Double Secret” which is dominated by bass notes of true warmth and the tingling interplay between soft piano and haunting vocals. “Fuck The Down Low” completes the proceedings on the A Side with a short but oh so sweet Moodymann esque bumper replete with a sample familiar to Beastie Boys fans. The real gold is reserved for the B Side with “Hobo Train”, a raw percussive delight. You will be totally captivated from the early moment that the cavalcade of heavily compressed hi-hats take centre stage.
It’s been a long time coming but Prime Numbers FINALLY unleash the brilliance that is Discreet Unit’s “Shake Your Body Down” on the record buying public. The track has been a staple of the Firecracker/Prime Numbers crew all summer and is destined to fit snugly in the upper echelons of our favourite releases of 2010. Containing one of the warmest basslines these ears have ever heard, “Shake Your Body Down” references first wave Detroit techno and early Chicago house but has a contemporary feel that ensures it a status beyond mere pastiche. Whereas the A Side takes its influence from transatlantic house and techno progenitors, “Twilight” on the flip is steeped in the early European techno sound you’d find on R&S. Crisp driving percussion is slapped around by a violently pulsating acid line to a backdrop of odd brooding siren filled atmospherics. The final act of crunching kick drums and spectral key flourishes just add to the sense of intensity that runs throughout.
From the New York house of Underground Quality chief Jus-Ed to the tribal percussion of Mark E’s new jam on Running Back, there’s no shortage of deep gems on this week’s Juno podcast.
There’s certainly no denying that Birmingham producer Mark E is on top form right now. The recent “Special FX” single on his own MERC imprint was a wondrous creation; all slow build, dub-laden 80s soul vocals and just the right amount of dancefloor chops. This EP for Gerd Janson’s Running Back – usually a safe bet for high quality deep house – is another great offering.
Lead cut “Nobody Else”, for example, is a far bolder proposition than much of his catalogue so far. Built around dense layers of bongo-laden disco drums and a heavyweight synth bass loop, it builds majestically via spine-tingling pads, cute organ chords and classic vocal drops (the clue is in the track title). Stick it on in a club and the full power of the production roars through. I’d argue this was a major step forward; we knew he could do long, deep, head-nodding cuts; now we know he can mix it with the best for pure dancefloor thrills, too.
Flip “The Wolf” is perhaps more akin to what we’ve come to expect. Deeper, druggier and loopier than the A, it’s classic Mark E; all nineties NYC house chords, spiralling sirens and bumping head-nodding bass. For digital buyers, there’s also a neat little bonus cut called “Stoneleigh Express”. In turns muffled, claustrophobic and unsettling, it sounds like Orbital’s “Semi Detatched” re-cut for the ketamine generation.
It’s hard to believe Keith Worthy is still a relative newcomer to the production game – his first release dropped in 2005 and he started his own Aesthetic Audio imprint a year later – simply because his sound is dripping with the soul, polish and deepness of a Motor City veteran. Indeed Worthy is continuing Detroit’s proud tradition of emotive house music, but also pursuing his own unique musical path, and we were delighted to touch base with him to talk about what’s in his record bag this month…