2013 sees Eglo celebrate four years of releasing music with their first label compilation Eglo Records Vol 1, a year in which label head Alexander Nut ponders the next step for his close-knit stable of artists. Tom Banham speaks to Nut along with Fatima and FunkinEven.
What makes a great record label? It’s a subjective matter, of course, and the ingredients of success vary from label to label, and from scene to scene. Keen students of legendary labels, from post-punk outlets such as Stiff, Celluloid and Factory, to modern day underground success stories such as L.I.E.S , International Feel or Night Slugs, will tell you that there are certain characteristics that remain constant throughout. These include, but may not be limited to, a distinctive musical aesthetic, a vibrant group of key artists, an attention to detail lacking in lesser labels, and a steadfast artistic vision that never wavers, regardless of sales. Oh, and owners that don’t just know their stuff, but are open enough to new sounds to take calculated risks now and then.
It’s fair to say “Phone Line” has matured into something of an obsession for this writer since hearing it towards the end of last year, and the expectation of gripping it on cold, hard vinyl hasn’t dampened one bit despite its release finally arriving nearly ten months later. The infinitely playful collaboration between Funkineven and Fatima might just go down in history as one of the finest B Sides ever too, as “Phone Line” appears three tracks deep into an EP that further cements how well the duo work together, having previously contributed to one another’s Elgo releases.
Not content with releasing some incendiary music for the Eglo imprint, ace London producer FunkinEven has announced news of his own record label entitled Apron, with the first release from the man himself set for release next month.
It feels as though Sam Shepherd’s output under his Floating Points guise has been huge of late, so prevalent is his name in the current dance music landscape, but really his legacy thus far is made up of just a few pristine gems. Thankfully, the latest two-track jam for his own Eglo imprint sees no dip in the quality, further cementing his reputation as a naturally gifted producer steeped in an understanding of soul and groove.
The A-Side “Marilyn” is destined for countless airings this summer, bursting with effervescence and pure good-times vibes from the deceptively smooth intro to the bumping boogie of the drop. It’s the sheer musicianship that instantly places Floating Points above the glut of have-a-go beatsmiths, as expressive warbles and flairs flirt with each other before the funk slams in from out of nowhere. That aforementioned drop is certainly a magnificent one, precision-honed to break a grin across every mug in shouting distance with parping bass and the barest of percussion to propel things along.
“Farukx” however is a perfect antidote to the peak-of-the-summer tones resplendent on “Marilyn”. After lilting to life on a bed of wistful strings, when the beat does come into play it’s a steppy stumble of gossamer hats and snares that manage to trip over each other in disjointed harmony. There’s a yearning quality to the music that tugs at your heartstrings, occasionally reaching a crescendo with a flurry of the rubbery synth that drives the A-Side.
Mizz Beats – the pop/hip-hop/R&B/dubstep producer who first burst on to the scene around ‘05 – has a pretty impressive history behind her. Already, the 24 year old, East London raised gyal (otherwise known as Iman Yanee Tonge-Grant) has collaborated with the likes of Wiley, Skepta, Lady Sovereign, Dizzee Rascal and Roots Manuva. Channeling a dubstep, grime and funkyhouse influenced sonic palette, full of 8bit computer game sounds, chiptune elements and the zeitgeist drawl of bass heavy urban funk, Mizz Beats is a serious force to reckon with. Following her debut solo 12” – “My World / The Jester” – on Mala’s Deep Medi Musik last year and before that, her collab with Silkie “Purple Love” in 2009, Mz B now steps up with a superb five track Are We The Dictators? EP on Floating Points and Alexander Nut’s Eglo imprint.
First up is funked up groove of “The Day Before Tomorrow” with its call to arms, loose, rolling drums and jazzed up, shimmying synths which provide a backdrop for the main tune which seems to slowly grow around these elements like a shoot sprouting from a seed. Classic 8bit bleepy melodic flourishes prevail in “Dirty Dishes”, up next, which has a slightly Ikonika-esque feel to it as well, as does “Sancturary”, in which Mizz Beats juxtaposes hefty drum kicks against simple repeated computer game tones. Evocatively entitled track “Sofa Beat” continues the journey onwards with fidgety melodies and computerized cheeps and chirrups punctuating the tune, before the EP closes with “2Bit Road”. It’s a superb finale as Mizz Beats tunes into a low slung groove with resplendent crackling intro, soulful jazz keys and reggae vocal calling “selassie” chopped up amongst the rattle of maracas and clipped beats. A diverse and genre-spanning EP.
Swiftly following the news of the rather splendid forthcoming Floating Points & Fatima collaboration, Eglo boss Alex Nut is also preparing the next release on offshoot Ho Tep imprint which premieres the unique sounds of London producer Mau’lin.
With heavyweight support from such musical luminaries as Dam Funk, Mary Anne Hobbs, Benji B and FaltyDL, Arp 101 – the alias of D&B producer Alix Perez – first came onto our radar last July with his debut 12” on Alexander Nut’s revered imprint, and later with his remix of Starkey’s “Paradise” from the Space Traitor EP. Employing a warm, woozy, synth-drenched sound, Arp 101 successfully blends gradations of funk, R&B, house and dubstep into a beautiful and unique sonic sketch. Now he returns in 2011 with this glorious follow up Flush EP.
Any devoted Benji B fan will be familiar with the title track by now – a delicious electronic venture with enticing arpeggiated melody, shuffling house rhythms and clicking beats. Erring on the experimental side, Arp 101 lays down a warm, analogue sound, deftly building layered textures which swirl around one another – immediately drawing comparisons to Rustie’s Sunburst EP with blankets of synths wrapped around intricate sonic patterns.
Continuing the journey, aptly named ode “Korg’A’Tron” is another characteristically synth-laden piece. An evocative spaced out intro leading into a bass heavy tune, reminiscent of Joker’s iconic sound of “Tron” and “Purple City”, with that intoxicatingly dark undercurrent, hissing crackles and crunches and sumptuous velvety b-line forming the backbone of the piece. Rounding the EP off with the exclamatory “Ac!d”, it’s all nocturnal electro-funk for the finale in the manner of Jimmy Edgar, with a touch of that multifarious Night Slugs sensibility. Glitchy, wonky and screaming with funked up panache, its bubbling psychedelia and infectious groove make it an essential dancefloor staple for the future.
Eglo Records take over East london venue CAMP next month to celebrate their second year in business with a bumper lineup that includes the great and the good of the London label as well as Mary Anne Hobbes.
Ninja Tune are offering those not fortunate enough to have grabbed their recent XX box set a further chance to enjoy the exclusive Floating Points Ensemble material featured with the release of the two tracks on a double A side 10 inch.
The tenth release on Eglo, the label birthed by Floating Points and Alexander Nut, and yet another effortless slab of brilliance from London producer FunkinEven. A man who’s dazzled with subtly effervescent funk jams like “She’s Acid” and “Kleer”, not to mention his production work with Fatima (such as the floaty “Coming To America” tribute, “Soul Glo”) “Heart Pound” sees him go off on an acid-inspired tangent that once again showcases his incredible production skills.
Fans of old-school acid artists like K Alexi, Adonis and Blake Baxter will roll over with delight when they hear “Heart Pound”. With a classic 303 synth squall at the heart of it all, as well as galloping snares and a rock-solid kick anchoring the whole thing down, Funkineven multi-tracks his deep, commanding voice to create a call and response between him and his studio. When his chorus ends, cymbals and snares fill in the gaps making it a thrilling voyage – and one that never loses momentum thanks to his incredible arrangements and the host of subtle touches he adds to the motorik melody.
“Another Space” is even more hyped, and a true product of late ’80s hardcore. With chords cut up, pitch-shifted and resequenced to sound similar to The Latin Rascals seminal tape-edits, he drops a spanking Miami bass beat to really kick things off and let’s it ride out with cut-up vocal samples and flanged hi-hats keeping the momentum high throughout. Both tunes signal yet another subtle shift in direction for Funkineven – a bad move for most artists, but for this accomplished and forward-thinking producer, the sky really is the limit in terms of how dope and eclectic he can be.
Out on Eglo, the label set up by fellow futuristic funksters Floating Points and Alexander Nut, comes this wonderfully crafted debut from producer Arp 101. Whether he’s referencing the catalogue of galaxies or just the make of synthesiser in calling himself “Arp” we don’t know, but it could easily be both.
After a blustery intro, “Dead Leaf” breaks out into a sick 100bpm wonky beat, with slaps and kicks falling over themselves but generally given enough room for the funk to really shine. The bassline is thoroughly liquid, some understated reverse echo parts divide up every 32 bars and some vibrated, hi-octave and long-release string synths play out a discombobulating melody that only adds to the sense that this is an R&B record made by very mischievous robots. Wafer thin vocodered vocals are finally added to the stew, though mainly for colour rather than any lyrical insights – but heck, we’re not complaining when the results are as bumping as this.
“Warriors Galactic” is just as down low and warped out – this time with an even sparser beat of gated old-school drum machine hits. Fat analogue synths play the bass, which has a refreshingly unsequenced, live feel to it, while a shiver of buzzy vintage pads and synths slowly rise over the mix. It’s instrumental and all over the shop, but that adds to its charm in a way – and certainly to its head-nodding credentials. These are both tunes to get lost in, so rich and deep are the arrangements and sounds, and short of Biggie coming back from the dead to rhyme over them, couldn’t get much better.
There’s plenty of post Field Day parties on offer tommorow but the much lauded Juno Plus stamp of approval goes to the Eglo crew’s party in the intimate surrounds of the CAMP basement just off Old St, with DJ sets from Floating Points, label boss Alexander Nut, Funkineven, Fatima, Shuansie and a ‘very special guest’ from the West Coast (who’d be a very successful Ice T lookalike).