Fine Art Recordings chief Nitzan Hermon clearly has a sharp eye for concepts. One of his most intriguing ideas to date was the 2009 MVSICA project – pronounced ‘musica’ – a CD compilation of downtempo music from producers known primarily for their 4/4 techno output. The CD, a collaboration with Sawdust studio, was released on a special ‘scratch off’ surface on hard laminated paper, meaning that the cover would evolve over time – much like the music contained within. Those who bought one of the 200 copies made could either keep it in pristine condition or subject it to the rigours of regular use and thus earn something genuinely unique.
Over a series of stupidly limited, much-hyped singles on Andy Blake’s Dissident label in 2008 and 2009, Italo-obsessed South Coast trio The Off Key Hat announced themselves impressively. Fusing hard, raw, sequenced synth lines with a smart pop sensibility (most notably on “Emergency Calling”), they seemed set for big things.
That they didn’t kick on in 2010 is still something of a surprise, but they have their chance now thanks to a deal with ISM – and, more specifically, this expansive, seven-track EP. Featuring two original cuts alongside a string of superb remixes, it could be the EP that launches them into the musical stratosphere.
Of the original cuts, the killer here is “I Am The Body Electric”. Featuring another standout vocal from Michelle Manetti, it’s a wobbly, offbeat slice of leftfield pop that twists their vintage synth sounds into thrilling new directions. They’ve come along way since those grubby Italo bangers on Dissident.
There’s a second original composition here, too. Crackly, deep and atmospheric, “Fuga Da” is wonderfully wistful and melancholic. Musically, it benefits from a sound set that’s part Balearic European pop, part Italo, part witch house. However you describe it, it’s enchanting.
What really makes the package, though, is the remixes. There’s a pair of fine, squirming Italo reworkings from cosmic disco legend Daniele Baldelli, a jolly electro-disco stomp from Ashley Beedle and Yam Who, and a spooky leftfield take from Young Athletes. Best of all, though, is the Cosmodelica rework of “Emergency Calling” – a thrilling, dubbed-out midtempo synth-disco romp that twinkles in all the right places.
Since discarding illicit disco re-edits in favour of original compositions, Roy Dank’s Wurst Music label has barely put a foot wrong. Echoing the revival in interest in New York for off-kilter house, Wurst has thrived by specialising in house music that appeals to the nu-disco generation (see Neurotic Drum Band’s “Robotic Hypnotic Adventure” and Nick Chacona’s “Slice Of Life”).
This new EP from veteran Brooklyn house producer Henry Maldonado (Strictly Rhythm, MAW Records, Speak, Tirk) is another great example of Wurst at its best. While distinctly different from Maldonado’s distinctly sweaty dancefloor outings of the past – both “Till It Hurts” and “Push 4 Love” are far poppier than you’d perhaps expect – they still retain a distinct New York air, which is half of the fun with Wurst.
With Craigslist-recruited singer Javi on vocals, “Till It Hurts” is a nagging underground house/disco singalong that doffs a cap to Funhouse-era Jellybean, Prelude style synth disco and even Wurst’s penchant for delay-laden piano riffage. There’s also a decent dub for those who prefer instrumentals.
“Push 4 Love” continues in this past/present vibe, utilising some excellent Freestyle percussion sounds, classic basement bass and even hookier vocals. The accompanying Son of Sound Dub is, if anything, even better – all Latin Rascals style edits, a stripped down groove and copious amounts of delay.
Whilst a question mark remains over International Feel’s Uruguayan credentials, there can be no dispute that the label has enjoyed a fine year. Since their arrival on the scene with DJ Harvey releasing actual new music in the autumn of 2009, International Feel has carved a niche within the realm of contemporary discoteria for uniquely atmospheric music imbued with a real energy. Releases from Coyote, Rocha, Hungry Ghost and the aforementioned Harvey’s Locussolus project have been received in glowing terms by cryptic cosmic taste makers 20 Jazz Funk Greats, respected broadcasters like Tim Sweeney and DJing deities such as Erol Alkan.
This deluxe package compilation sourced from the Japanese market is a near perfect way to sign off 2010, collating a selection of the most prized tracks from the vinyl releases to date, generously padded out with a smattering of unreleased aural glee. The opening piano tones of Maxxi & Zeus’ “The Struggle” ease you in gently, and are further sedated by “Little Boots”, the syrupy prog rock meets slo mo chug of Harvey’s Locussolus. It’s the first exclusive track, After The Deluge’s remix of “Don’t Eat The Apricots” by Hungry Ghost, which lifts you out of the sensory slumber, thanks to the relentless pulsing disco groove, augmented by warm bass washes and plenty of dubby FX. The exclusive version of Rocha’s “Fingers Of Sand” that follows retains your interest with a bewitching combination of ethereal keys and a bubbling sense of acidic menace. Equally impressive is Coyote’s expansive and gently heated rework of International Peoples Gang’s “Second” which drowns the melody in copious amounts of dubbed frequencies.
However it is Thomas Bullock’s superlative reworking of Rocha which leaves the most lasting impression. The Welcome Stranger Creation Dub of “Feel The Love” begins with an air of tranquil fragility before gradually building towards an increasing storm of fizzing electronic drama. Bullock seemingly does his best work as Welcome Stranger and this is a stunning example.
UK disco royalty Faze Action are back. For the fifteenth release on their own imprint, they’ve searched the globe for producers to remix tracks from last year’s well received album Stratus Energy. Kicking off in the tropical climes of, erm, Glasgow, The Revenge comes through with a druggy deep house refix of “I Wanna Dancer” replete with one of the best basslines Mr Clark has produced to date. This element is expanded on superbly in the accompanying dub version that bumps that little bit harder. From here, we are introduced to some rising talent from opposite ends of the globe, as Sao Paolo duo Boogie Central remix “Danae’s Journey” and treat your senses to a glistening contemporary disco classic. Vintage elements such as the hugging bassline and sweet vocal harmonies dovetail nicely with the crisp drum programming and key shimmers. Finally Muscovite TARAS 3000 engages light speed for a suitably cosmic sounding refix of “Starship”, which is built around an increasingly euphoric piano melody.
We fully expect this third Popular People’s Front Edit 12 inch to swiftly follow the previous editions into the realm of “sold out and only available for ridiculous amounts on Discogs”. Rightly so too, as the third volume is the best one yet and worth buying for the A Side alone. “Abah Dabah Dis” is a marvellously drunken disco throbber, replete with heavily phased horn arrangements and over dubbed Eastern vocals. The ever present acid bassline guarantees smiling faces and encourages hip movement. The B Side is equally as good though, commencing with an Everlasting Chorus Edit of Cheryl Lynn’s all too rare “You Saved My Day” which expands the vocal refrain and rearranges the song progression to take advantage of the infectious hand clap rhythm section. Heavily dubbed vocoder reverberates out over the vintage outer galactic p-funk groove of “Party Over Here”, the final track on another superlative and varied selection of edits from the PPF camp.
It’s been a hot minute since some classy Toby Tobias has been rotating round our 1210s at 33rpm so there was a tingle of excitement when news of a new 12 from the Rekids fella filtered through. That Tobias has once again indulged his musical schizophrenia to deliver some edit action as Casinoboy on the newly relaunched Tracky Bottoms label is further reason for joy. (The Casinoboy rework of “La Vie En Rose” from the last TB EP in 2008 edges out Mark E’s subsequent version for UTS). The title track “Alreet” is a pleasant enough bump through synth shimmer deepness. “Omniad” shows more production nous, infectious soul claps combining with crisp midtempo programming, with chopped up vocals and dramatic string stabs providing some real heat. The B Side provides more smiles, with a captivating bassline squelch mutating out of the sharp drums and electro synth patterns of “Paradub” – fans of the recent Lee Foss EP on Hot Natured will gravitate towards this one. The reverberating chugging boogie bliss of “Ce Soir” is an equally fine end to this EP.
Hot on the heels of their popular EP for Solardisco, US duo Marbeya Sound trade Glasgow for Milano. We’re big fans of Mad On The Moon, the label run by The Heels Of Love, thanks to some superlative releases from Ajello, The Love Supreme and the label bosses themselves and Marbeya Sound’s induction is just as good. Epic space rock riffs set the tone on the cavernous low slung dub of “Blind Cause” with strains of flamenco and soft shimmers of synth riding the most part of meteoric groove. The Love Supreme is enlisted to remix the track and opt to strip back the instrumental excesses in favour of indulging the bass and the drums in a superlative array of dub and delay. Once the psychedelic acid tinged groove kicks this remix really hits the spot. “Gangsta Reedflex” is all about building the momentum with an over the top synth ever rising over the meaty kicks for six minutes. Parma based duo The Mushroom Project add to their growing repute with a deep atmospheric reflex that keeps you waiting a whole three minutes before the brilliantly rusty beat kicks in.
In the space of just four years Munich imprint Permanent Vacation have hustled their way to the front of the queue marked labels Juno loves and generally challenge DFA for first place in our collective affections. It’s a label that oozes quality, from the compelling concepts behind their compilations to the lovingly presented twelve inch releases. To commemorate the landmark of 50 releases, Permanent Vacation indulge us with 22 tracks from the likes of Pollyester, Tensnake, Woolfy Vs The Projections, John Talabot and Sally Shapiro. Amidst these more recognisable PV artists, there’s some curveballs like DMX Crew and Arto Mwambe’s “Lauer” and a dash of unreleased gems. Instant classics such as Tensnake’s “Coma Cat” and Azari & III’s “Reckless With Your Love” are present as well as three versions of Midnight Magic’s soon to be classic “Beam Me Up”. In fact it’s the previously unreleased version from Bostro Pesopeo that ends the compilation which provides the highlight, stripping the track of its vintage disco sheen and turning it into a quite brilliantly haunting track.
Chris Todd ended a three year production hiatus for his Hot Toddy project in 2009 with the release of slow burning disco bomb “I Need Love”, which remained on the sleazy side of the 100 BPM barrier and featured the wonderfully deep croon of Ron Basejam. Todd, who also keeps busy as a writer, producer, guitarist, keyboard player and general knob twiddler for legendary live act Crazy P, returns here with Late Night Boogie, the first LP release on Om offshoot Smoke ‘n’ Mirrors.
Unsurprisingly, the album maintains a live feel throughout, such is Todd’s skill in this department. Two superb collaborations with Crazy P vocalist Danielle Moore sandwich the funk-infused guitar lick of “On The 1AM” – the first, “Freekend”, comes in on an 80s boogie tip, while “Won’t Let Go” sees Moore’s faultless vocal delivery ride atop moody atmospherics and vintage synth flourishes. Jennifer Rhonwen comes from nowhere to provide arguably the album’s finest moment on “Down To Love”, on which delicious jazzy keys and subtle instrumentation straddle Rhonwen’s stunning vocal delivery for an utter gem of a song. Todd dispenses with vocals on “Phantom Jam”, thus allowing the low slung guitar hook to take centre stage, while the album’s title track shimmers with an early morning glow, before nice string arrangements and twinkling keys combine on “Don’t Look Back” to bring the album to a gentle close.
Strut have been long time supporters of Danny Krivit, having enlisted the Body & Soul resident to compile and mix Grass Roots, a selection of his influences as well as releasing an inaugural volume of his edits in 2003 (some time before the “edit scene” came back into vogue). Whilst that first volume was slightly populist in it’s track listing with recognisable tracks from Cymande, Diana Ross and Sly & The Family Stone amongst the ten tracks, this second volume is an altogether more exclusive affair.
Reaching deep into the Mr K archives which holds over 300 edits, Strut present a selection of ten versions that cover disco, soul and funk and includes some unreleased material. Indeed it’s the unreleased edit of Black Blood’s “Chicano” that provides one of this selection’s most enjoyable moments and highlights Krivit’s talent for editing. Reworked from the seven inch, Krivit extends the tracks by some two minutes adding some real depth to the heavily percussive groove. Elsewhere the gloriously euphoric version of Rare Pleasure and the final lolloping nine minute reworking of Chairmen Of the Board make this yet another essential release from the guys at Strut.
Flashback, Endless Flight and Jiscomusic are just three of the labels that have bestowed upon our ears and hips the musical brilliance of Canadian producer du jour Eddie C. Equally, Hometaping Is Killing Music have impressed with every single one of their releases since the debut from The Revenge in October last year. Thus, it’s not rocket science to expect great things from the former’s debut on the latter, and you will not be disappointed. A core vocal sample drives “Tell Me” and is wrapped in layer upon layer of typically intricate production from the Canadian. Crisp 808 syncopation drops in and out, string arrangements sit deep in the mix and the warmest of basslines running throughout gives the track that extra dancefloor impetus.
Rising Australian talent Tornado Wallace is employed to remix the track, adding a sheen of hissing Detroit deepness to proceedings, with midnight synth lines and soaring chords floating atop the cavernous bass, undulating percussion and submerged vocals of a slightly slower but just as impressive version. Special praise however is reserved for “Organised”, the old school track that separates the aforementioned. A brilliantly sweaty organ riff is central to this jacking bit of warehouse fodder, with vocal harmonies and crowd noises cut up and slipped into the spaces between the pounding beat and throbbing bassline. Excellence as per usual from all involved.
In commissioning the legendary Tom Moulton to remix the Philly Groove back catalogue, Harmless have chosen a truly fine concept to commemorate their 100th release. Philly Groove was one of the labels that ushered in the disco era thanks to a brace of hits from The Delphonics and subsequent smash releases from First Choice and The Philly Groove Orchestra (aka MFSB). Crucially though, the majority of the Philly Groove output was released prior to the invention of the 12 inch format that Tom Moulton himself was inadvertently responsible for. Through a series of fortunate circumstances legendary Disco remixer Tom Moulton was granted full access to master tapes of the Philly Groove back catalogue with truly stunning results. Across twelve tracks the brilliantly craggy Moulton subjects the aforementioned bands and more to his unique mixing down process, rearranging the tracks, placing emphasis on certain melodies and arrangements, whilst retaining that distinctly orchestral sound throughout.
Italian duo Simon Maccari and Andrea Bellentani aka the Diaphanoids re-emerge from their record releasing slumber newly christened as Blakula, presenting this brilliant album on their spiritual home Bear Funk. Nominally a soundtrack documenting the life of a fictional Hawaiian Vampire seduced by the art scene of late 70s NYC, Permanent Midnight allows Maccari and Bellentani an opportunity to indulge their fascination with the classic Giallo horror genre championed by Dario Argento. There is however a deft uniqueness to the ten tracks presented here thanks in no small part to the usage of live musicians throughout.
The haunting atmospherics of album opener “Witches Crew” where ghoulish chants are the backdrop to visceral bassline, chugging live drums and horrorcore keys sets the tone. From there on the album sways with brilliant menace between genres, the paranoia inducing psychedelics of “Where The Angels Fear to tread” sandwiched between the voodoo funk grit of “Vampire Building” and “Any Soul You Could Buy” a three minute blues tinged oddity.
The more discerning DJs will adopt tracks such as the punk funk strut of “Miss Morgue” and heavy percussive sleaze that is “Feed Your Demons” but Permanent Midnight works just as well as an album to lose yourself in. As it draws towards its brilliant conclusion, the cavernous string heavy soundscape of “Surrender to The Shadows” fades away before the concluding title track bursts with energy, a crash of stadium rock drums the prelude to one last intricately arranged funk workout heavy on the horns. Forget the god awful witch house tag that’s being bandied around, Bear Funk have just provided the perfect musical accompaniment for Halloween.