London’s premier celebration of all things house, Tief, are hosting a Voyage Direct party at Corsica Studios on Sunday August 26, and we have a pair of tickets to give away.
The new Crossover Series from the Sound Pellegrino crew makes for a canny and eye opening endeavour, offering like-minded producers from different paths the chance to collaborate together with the aim of “crossing the invisible bridges of the great house music archipelago”. The standard for the series is set truly high on the inaugural release that sees Alex Bok Bok Sushon team up with Tom Trago for the Night Voyage Tool Kit EP.
If you’d paid keen attention to recent interviews with either the Night Slugs founder or the Rush Hour regular, you might have noted subtle whispers of mutual appreciation – something that was clearly not lost on Sound Pellegrino figurehead Teki Latex, who approached the two to open proceedings on the Crossover Series. In broader terms, this project is just one aspect of a growing bond between the emergent powers of the UK underground and the Dutch standard bearers. (Blawan and Untold surfacing soon on Clone and Dexter indulging in some Bristol loving sounds for the recent Great Northern Driver 12″ are further examples for those who require them.)
Musically, Night Voyage Tool Kit is the result of a four day recording session at Trago’s studio in East Amsterdam earlier this summer, with the help of a Sequential Drumtraks 400 analogue drum machine newly gleaned from the aforementioned Dexter. The six tracks see Trago and Sushon deliver heavily, stripped down drum trax informed by a love of Dancemania era Chicago House. At times the results are playful; see the opening track “Pathfinder” – little more than the duo checking out how pliable the rubbery analogue tone at the core is, with drums stripped down to a hissing undercurrent. More structure is evident on the skeletal “White Type R”, which slowly unfurls into compressed head jack material, though that playful sense of melody creeps through intermittently.
The midway point here is perhaps the release’s strong point, with both “Vector” and Pom Clash” heavily pressurised club workouts. The former contains some brilliant usage of space, dropping into just the birdlike sonic swivels before a wave of percussion takes hold. The latter is even more thrilling, utilising the sort of Funky rhythms that Bok Bok knows all too well and marrying them with vocal stabs that veer the scale of dementia as the track bumps along.
As the EP progresses, the overarching feeling you get from this release is two producers becoming increasingly comfortable working together – see how the vocoder led “Time Master” unexpectedly bursts into a percolating 23rd century p-funk out. It’s obviously just the start of much more from the duo, with Trago revealing the duo will continue their Night Voyage endeavours in some shape or form.
Those of us who expected Tom Trago’s second album to follow the same trajectory as his first opus, 2009′s Voyage Direct, were sorely mistaken. The sample based Detroit-meets-disco vibe is largely non-existent on Iris, replaced by a diverse stew of styles that range from vocal hip-house workouts to ambient interludes, via a spot of garage and late night electro-funk. The end result shows a producer clearly comfortable in his own skin, prepared to experiment and challenge himself musically. While Voyage Direct had no original vocal contributions, Iris has six – including Chicago house legend Tyree Cooper, Romanthony (the man behind the vocals on Daft Punk’s “One More Time”), and emerging star Olivier Daysoul. There’s even room for an unexpected vocal debut from well loved Amsterdam producer San Proper.
Perhaps the biggest legacy from Voyage Direct exists not in sound but name; the Rush Hour-backed Voyage Direct series has seen Trago turn his hand to the world of A&R, curating releases from the incredibly deep pool of Amsterdam based talent. Trago’s close working relationship with the Rush Hour empire is obvious – all of his original 12″s and albums thus far have been released on the Amsterdam based imprint or labels directly affiliated with it. Indeed he is arguably now just as entrenched in the city’s music scene as the label itself, acting as a linchpin for the city’s network of emerging producers and DJs. Juno Plus called on Trago to dissect the making of Iris, and discuss the Amsterdam electronic music community and what the future holds as DJ, producer and label chief.
If Tom Trago’s debut album, Voyage Direct, was an impressive exercise in developing a signature style, then this sophomore set has clearly been designed to show the sheer scale of the Dutchman’s growing ambition. Where that album was sharply focused in its promotion of a thick, floor-friendly sound that neatly fused synth-heavy disco with rock-solid European deep house, Iris takes a far broader musical approach. It’s almost as if Trago is setting out his stall: he’s not just a simple disco/house fusionist, but a musical alchemist with more strings to his bow than a twelve-string player with an impressive collection of lutes, mandarins and sitars. It may be a tortured metaphor, but it has a ring of truth.
The 15 tracks that make up Iris include forays into noughties hip-house (Tyree Cooper collaboration “What You Do”), crisp, late night electro-funk (“Suckers For Fools”, with Olivier Day Soul), ambient soundscapes (“Soon In A Cinema”), rush-inducing Joy Orbison-ish future garage (“Joys Of Choice”) and, curiously, hooky, radio-friendly pop-house. Of course, there are some typical Trago moments (“Scent Of Heaven”, the Dam Funk-does-deep house vibes of “Space Balloon”), but these are sandwiched between a kaleidoscopic array of rainbow-tinted songs and collaborations (Romanthony, Meikbar and San Proper also feature). In the wrong hands it could have been a misjudged mess, but it’s nothing of the sort. If anything, Iris feels like an impressive step on a much longer a journey; a very good album, yes, but merely a taster for future Trago full-lengths that will no doubt eclipse this. Think of it as a calling card from a producer still on the rise.
Dutch electronic institute Rush Hour unleash the second and final Voyage Direct remix EP. Keeping their local sentiment, all four featured remixers come straight out of the label’s Amsterdam base. Aardvarck, Boris Werner, San Proper and Sotu The Traveler deliver a diverse set of mixes that continue to retain the interest in Tom Trago’s debut album.
Following a string of acclaimed singles over three years, April 2009 saw the release of the hot Amsterdam producer’s debut album. Turning heads instantly, the album was a hit and was followed up with a remix EP in August last year. Earlier this year, we saw the release of the Live Takes and now the final instalment drops to round off what has been a highly successful Voyage Direct campaign for Tom Trago.
Opening the EP, Boris Werner provides a latin infected house version of “Lost in the Streets of NYC.” With shades of disco, the rework has an airy quality to, induced by an intricately delicate piano pattern. A flowing groove keeps the rest of the track grounded as the other components drift off in a dream-like trance. Famed for his distorted dupstep-techno crossovers, Ardvarck hands in a tough electrodisco version of “On the Side.” Roughed up kicks combine with Soundstream-style string edits. Highly energised and full of power, the track is roughened up in Ardvarck’s trademark Cult Copy style.
San Proper ‘s “Use Me” remix sees disco looping edits, acidic synthbass merging with a Detroit feel before Sotu the Traveller closes the release with his hybrid of dupstep and electrohouse on his interpretation of “Voyage Direct.” As the long journey of his Voyage Direct draws to a close, Tom Trago will no doubt look back with starry eyes. Stretching the output from the album to the max but always maintaining the quality, he could have surely never imagined the ride would be this long and prosperous.
Review: Tom Jones
Tom Trago’s adventure with “Voyage Direct” keeps on going and going – this time the journey continues as the Amsterdam DJ/producer unleashes two of his live versions.
Last year’s seven track mini-album was received with much critical acclaim. It served as a reminder to many that house music can still be deep, raw, sexy and passionate. Following its success, two EPs followed with remixes from Motor City Drum Ensemble, Actress, Ardvarck or Sotu the Travller.
Now, Tom Trago goes back for another adaptation of the album. Live Takes consists of outtakes from his live performances, as the title would suggest. Opening with an extended disco version of “Use Me Again” this release bridges the gap between the studio and the live performance, between old and new. It shifts in and out of the original unassumingly, meandering between the two for over eight minutes. Rather than just your straight up re-edit, this version is more akin to a new, modern version of the original.
The flip side is much more club orientated. An exclusive from his live sets, here Tom strips the classic “Over and Over” right down to the minimum, only allowing the original groove to appear momentarily before the updated, Chigargo-esque rhythm takes over again.
These two tracks cover two shades of equally compelling disco house. First we get the deep and funky side from “Use Me Again” and then there is the more pumping, jacking style from “Over and Over.” Either way, they both get the dancefloor rocking!
Review: Tom Jones
Title: Best of Rush Hour 2009 (unmixed tracks)
Label: Rush Hour
Genre: Deep House, Dubstep/Grime
Buy From: Juno Download
Amsterdam label Rush Hour wrap up the year just gone with this compilation of some of their biggest and brightest artists. On the house side, Rick Wade’s “Crazy Luv” is a must-hear, a timeless slice of soulful vocal house that’s almost impossible not to fall in love with. On a different tack, Future Beat Alliance’s “Relentless” is just that. Driven by a chunky two-note bassline, it’s cool but creepy vibe almost begs for it’s own section in the record racks – Horror House.
Danny Breaks (formerly known to Hardcore fans as Sonz of a Loop da Loop Era) teams up with DJ Adlib to cook up some J Dilla-esque beats on “The Sound”, adding a nice Dubstep flavour along the way. London producer Nebraska also adds some Trip-Hop to the mix with “The Other Side”, as well as getting faster and funkier on “My Brother”.
The Motor City Drum Ensemble mix of Tom Trago’s “Passion” was always going to be one of the highlights, and the MCDE magic is definitely here in full soulful effect. Also included is Trago’s own mix of “Lost On The Streets of NYC” from his album Voyage Direct.
Review: Oliver Keens