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Reviewed this week
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Given the rise in popularity of Dance Mania-inspired ghetto-house and ghetto-tech releases over the last couple of years, it was perhaps inevitable that someone would put together a compilation celebrating the label's greatest moments. That it was Strut that did it with Dance Mania Hardcore Traxx: Dance Mania Records 1986-1997 was something of a comfort; Quinton Scott's crate-digging imprint does these kind of history-driven compilations so well. Dance Mania: Ghetto Madness is a second trawl through the archives of the label and features some fifteen cuts of little-known or hard-to-find tracks from the likes of DJ Funk, Paul Johnson, DJ Rush, Jammin' Gerald and Wax Master Maurice (whose bizarre but brilliant "Bounce That Body" is a highlight).
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Hailing from Belfast, it sounds like Schmutz is a new production force to be reckoned with. Indeed, this release on Dirt Crew sees them take influence from a range of styles without sounding derivative. The title track is a drum-heavy techno workout, with waves of droning sound unfolding over relentless, pummelling drums. "The Charge" sees them take influence from Technasia and the leaner end of Steve Rachmad's catalogue as dramatic chords and strings surge over a driving rhythm. "Sherara" focuses on the same territory, albeit with an acid-tinged hue, while "DDLF" has an old school feeling, its rhythm peppered with rave-era vocal samples.
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It's fairly rare that a remix will blow you away, but that's undoubtedly the case with Acid Arab's astonishingly good remake of Etienne Jaumet's Metallik Cages, the first single to be taken from the former Zombie Zombie man's forthcoming album, La Visite. Utilising only the briefest snippets from the original (sadly not included in this package), the Paris-based duo deliver a snaking, slow-building, deliciously paranoid rework that puts their exotic intentions and dense Middle Eastern percussion at the heart of the action. In truth, the clips don't do it justice; it's an amazing piece of work. Versatile boss Gilb'r sticks close to the druggy, EBM-inspired chug of the original on his solid Club Mix, but it's his Bonus Beats version - a trippy rhythm cut that makes excellent use of stereo panning effects and weird noises - that impresses more.
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Having originally made his name with the (now dormant) Peanut Butter & Jams blog, Washington-based Jackson Ryland has turned his hand to music production. This debut release for Massimo Previti's popular DaBit label shows much promise. Lead cut "Crystal City" is particularly potent, with glassy-eyed chords and gently throbbing melodies tumbling over sweaty, carnival style percussion. The thumping, cut-up house of "JP's" is also impressive (check the heavy sub bass that enters during the breakdown for proof), while "Up The Shelf" expertly fuses new age electronics with the best of British bass music. Chiwax man Steve Murphy remixes "Crystal City", delivering a tight-but-swinging roller that makes great use of deep chords and colourful piano stabs.
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It's been interesting to see Le Texier's gradual shift towards purist techno and "Valiant", the first track on this release, could be a Jeff Mills composition. Over gargantuan kicks, he lays down a bleepy sequence that moves up and down the tonal scale. Oscar Mulero's remix is typical of the Spanish producer's sound, with broken beats underscoring a dramatic, building filter that cover the original's bleeps in a dense cloud. "Divergent" sees Le Texier deliver a more intense version of 90s techno and its distorted kicks and merciless claps sound more like Luke Slater than Mills. Mike Storm's ravey take on "Divergent" completes this flawless underground release.
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It's been nearly two years since Virginia's last solo single (the well-received Loch & Hill), making this belated return to Ostgut Ton well overdue. Pleasingly, it sees the Brazil-born producer in fine form, indulging her love of melodious, synth-laden productions and shimmering, emotion-rich deep house. Opener "Fictional" seemingly fizzes from the speakers, with yearning, one-note chords and bubbling electronics melodies riding a thick synth bassline and rolling deep house groove. "Never Enough" and EP highlight "My Fantasy" both sit somewhere between atmospheric deep house, Metro Area and contemporary deep disco. The latter is particularly good, and somehow manages to seem slightly sad despite its cheery, floor-friendly appeal; a genuinely bittersweet gem, in other words.
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Richard Smith, AKA L/F/D/M, made his debut on Optimo Trax in 2013, with an EP bristling with analogue acid and robust machine jams. Last year's follow-up for Clan Destine Records, LHF 3, was similarly minded. This debut album switches things around a little, supplementing his usual hard-wired, hypnotic rhythms, motorik attitude and hazy melodies with a gaggle of more experimental cuts (see the freaky ambience of "New X" and new wave-era shuffle of "Book of Five"). It's not a dramatic stylistic leap, of course, but one that makes perfect sense.
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CVBox teams up with likeminded producer Micha Freier for a gorgeously seductive deep house release. Favouring an introspective sound, the duo conjure up the kind of fantastically melodic, intricate tracks that are usually the preserve of Detroit producers like Patrice Scott or Keith Worthy. "Blinking Lights" sets the tone wonderfully with its swirling chords and understated drums, while "Bad Gate Way" is underscored with a pulsing electronic bass. It's the most dance floor-focused moment on the release and soon enough, the pair are navigating their way back to more refined sounds courtesy of the subtle percussive ticks of "Playwatch" and the immersive icy ambience of "XOXO".
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As Dance Mania continues to bring the goods back to wax and digital, so Paul Johnson's classic entry in the development of ghetto house gets a look in 20 years after its original release. From the cheeky fun and games of "Feel My MF Bass" to "Booty Call" (for all the lovers of "Percolator" out there) you're never going to have a dull time with one of these jams playing out. It's a demonstration of when dance music truly knew how to be rough and ready, with little more than a beat and a couple of catchy samples.
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DJ Spider and Franklin de Costa follow their debut on Killekill with another rough and raw techno release. It begins with "Second Bass", where tough, distorted drums and a searing bass are put through a filter that see them plunging and climaxing in an unpredictable manner. At the outset, it seems like "Comsume" might follow in a similar path, but its distorted kicks gradually give way to spiralling acid lines and a sci-fi movie sample that proclaims "it came without warning...like nothing on this earth". It's hard to know whether the unnamed vocalist is talking about the track itself, or "Coffee Break", the distorted, stepping rhythm that follows, but either way it's certain that there are few other releases like this doing the rounds.
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It's been a long time coming for Marco Shuttle's eagerly awaited debut album and the results are huge. Take one listen to "Beyond The Mass" and you won't need further convincing. The first half of the eight-track album provides an industrially vamping, static heavy collaboration with Donato Dozzy, while "And Then" is an atmospheric tingle of analogue statics and booming gongs. For deep, tripped-out techno check out "Masay Lama" and for a cinematic call to arms "Elephante" is a bedroom DJ's wet dream to play in Berghain. Shuttle then goes to similar depths as Joey Anderson on "Volts" and closes out his first long player with the rejuvenating synth play of "The Way Out". We have lift off.
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It may be early days for Air Max 97, but already he's making his mark after emerging on Liminal Sounds last year. He's back in action on the same label with his slick, grime-inflected productions, sounding just as essential for the dancefloor without losing that esoteric bite that characterizes his distinctive cuts. The bass on "Fruit Crush" is wielded with flair, while the delirious vocal samples nudge the track into pleasantly surreal territory, and "Shape Cut" displays even more inherent skill for handling complex percussive tones and experimental sonic matter in a dense but dexterous arrangement.
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By sampling a famous scene from Scarface for this release's first track, is Delroy Edwards, like Tony Montana, trying to say: "You need people like me so you can point your fuckin' fingers and say, 'That's the bad guy'"? With an EP title like Kickin' Butts!! it's certainly possible, and he's the type of artist that's made it known he doesn't care what others think of his music. It's a minimal five-track EP overall and very lo-fi, none more so than the Steve Poindexter-styled "Str8 Fuckd" and on the swirling, metallic phase action of "Insane In The Membrane". Edwards throws down a basic hip hop beat in "Die Motherfucker" while it's the title-track that provides this release with the most dynamic moment of the lot.
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This pair of tracks from Untold represents the first release on a new sub-label of his Hemlock Recordings label, Hemlock Black. Launched to specialise in "futuristic physical club music", the first missive wastes no time in getting down to business with "Doff", a frazzled combination of nightmarish jungle subs and jackhammer rhythmic pulses. "Phive" is a very different beast, pairing plucked strings with a gravity well of bass pressure that seems intent on sucking everything on the dancefloor into its orbit. Without doubt some of the most innovative stuff Untold's made in recent years, and highly recommended.
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It's been six years since US producer Alland Byallo's debut album was released, but not much has changed. That's not necessarily a bad thing; the former San Francisco resident excels at making soft-focused, organic electronic music and Bones Flesh is full of such moments. From the hazy ambience of "Looking Long" through the mushy chords and melodies of "Sah" and into the blissed out "Fool Me Twice", Byallo's second album is full of seductive, melodic textures. That's not to suggest that he shies away from the dance floor - as the warbling synths and rubbery groove of "Beguine" and the drunken bass of "Singularity" both demonstrate - but this album's real strengths lie in the blurred sound scapes and murmuring vocals of "Periphery" or on the haunting chord sweeps of "Tomb Tomb".
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Ontario Hospital is a new collaboration between Dave Foster from Teste and Rich Oddie, who is one of the founders of industrial techno act Orphx. Slowed down to a death march pace, this four-tracker spits blood and fury at every opportunity. The title track sets the tone for the release, a lumbering mid-tempo broken beat arrangement, with the splintered drums and gnarly knots of bass providing the backdrop for a bile-soaked narrative. "Consumer Report" is more of the same, cloaked this time in corrosive acid, while "Perfect Skin" sees the pair revisit their techno background as firing percussive nails are added into the arrangement. "Bleed Down" brings the release to an unforgettable end by descending into a noisy, discordant mess.
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Upwellings is a name that's been kicking around the digital alcoves of dub techno for some years now, and with this release on MOSHItaka the French artist looks to be hitting some form following a release for Telrae. Blue Line Dubs sees Vincent Raude deliver four tracks rocking Steve O'Sullivan-like kick, bassline and hi-hat combos, cutting through light atmospheres that go deep, but not too deep. "Blue Line To Brixton" is the most overtly dub reggae production and "King's Cross Dub" the most uber dub track of the bunch, while "First Storm" and "Remember Donau" deliver elements of the aforementioned styles made to fit a danceable framework.
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Rod Modell and Stephen Hitchell's cv313 project is one of the long-standing fixtures of the Echospace imprint, representing something of a definitive guide to the dub techno sound once it ran on from the Basic Channel days. "Under Starlit Sky" has everything you could wish for from the pair, as distant and hazy pads undulate through cloying reverbs and the beats chug away with a regal patience, utterly blissful in its overall effect. The "live" take is a more simmering offering that pares the swathes of pads down and lets a murmuring rhythmic construction take the mantle - without moving far from the realms of moody, immersive dub techno of course.
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Booma Collective co-founder Solpara made his vinyl debut in November, sharing the first L.P.C 12" with Vancouver oddball Lnrdcroy. Here he branches out on his own for the first time, delivering a debut EP proper for Nicolas Jaar's label, Other People. It's pretty darn good, too. While "The Descent" and "Swing" are almost claustrophobic in their immersive nature - think vintage ambient house mixed with the hypnotic pulse of dub techno - there's a rhythmic intensity about the loose, African-influenced drums and drifting harmonica melodies of "Vitamin D". "Short Circuit", on the other hand, fizzes and pops from the speakers with raw intent, while closer "Seahorses" is deliciously innocent in feel and melodious in execution. Superb stuff, all told.
Exclusives
PLASTIKMAN - EX Club Mixes (Mute)
CVBOX/MICHA FREIER - Transparency (Uncanny Valley)
CV313 - Beyond Starlit Sky (Echospace)
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