Review: In 2009 Tom Trago stamped, sealed and delivered what went down as one of the best house, instrumental hip hop and disco mutations we've seen - up there with the likes of New World Aquarium, Aardvark, Awanto 3 and the entire Detroit inspired crew. Resulting in the future launch of Trago's Voyage Direct label that added a new arm to Holland's house music prowess, Voyage Direct's original release came at a time when the likes of Rondenion, Nebraska to Daniel Wand and Rick Wilhite were dominating Rush Hour's agenda. With tracks like "Brothers Of String", "Lost In The Streets of NYC) and "Live At The BBQ" withstanding the sands of time, to the nu-disco-fied "Use Me", this entire album is well worth the remaster to revisit. Word up to the Carter Brothers if you're out there.
Review: Dekmantel rounds off a hugely successful year with a compilation that reflects the organisation's multi-faceted approach. At one end of the spectrum there's the dubbed out groove and spacey vocals of Peaking Light's "Blind Corner" and tropical act Bruxas' left of centre beats, while at the other end Robert Hood delivers the blistering techno of "Red Machine". In between these extremes, there are Dekmantel-supported artists such as Betonkust & Palmbomen II - impressing here with the Legowelt-esque "Renaat Egypte" - and zeitgeist-defining names like Lena Willikens and Matrixxman. Add in some Dutch scene veterans such as Tom Trago, on fine form with the epic but understated "Working Machines", and it's not hard to see why 2018 was a great year for the Dutch collective.
Review: A true staple of the Amsterdam scene, the Rush Hour affiliated Yuri Boselie aka Cinnaman takes up the reins for local institution Dekmantel's extended tenth birthday celebrations with this mastermix. It takes in the entirety of the 10 volume edition - what an effort. What may seem as an outrageous challenge - what with the compilation's genre diversity and wide rage of tempos - it's a success, for they've certainly found the right candidate. Cinnaman plays a wide range of styles anyway, and is never afraid to mix the known with the unknown - he has a reputation for his remarkable combinations and transitions. From moments of sublime ambience (Italian ambient legend Gigi Masin with the utterly evocative "Maja") to bass heavy electro bounce (courtesy of Egyptian Lover or Syracuse & Epsilove), right through to techno bangers of the cerebral variety (by Donato Dozzy & Peter Van Hoesen or local hero Talismann) and stuff by Bufiman or Tony Allen - it's a solid effort here by one of Holland's finest selectors.
Review: This is Amsterdam scene stalwart Tom Trago's fourth album, coming five years after The Light Fantastic. Trago set up a new studio at his family home, in the coastal town of Bergen in the northern Netherlands. The album was made with the purpose of creating a global sound, along with the music that has influenced him throughout his life in a new yet natural environment. That is evident throughout the album, because it's a rather diverse affair which demonstrates his expertise in the studio and the impressive variety in his repertoire. From the chill, blunted urban ode of "Bergen", the classic Detroit electro influence of "Zeeweg" or "Morph" to moments of sultry, late night deepness on the emotive "Faith Belongs To Us" or the (hi-tech) soulful closer "Working Machines" - this sees Trago at the absolute top of his game.
Review: For his first outing on his own Voyage Direct label since 2014, Tom Trago has prepared a loving tribute to his favourite synthesizer, Yamaha's 1980s classic, the DX7. What he calls the machine's "glassy but classy, icy sound" is evident throughout, as he delivers a melodious collection of tracks bristling with colourful tunefulness. Impressively, Trago has also delivered tracks that touch on a range of moods, from the bustling electro bounce of "XYZ" and soundscape-driven deepness of opener "Harvest", to the psychedelic, mind-bending dancefloor bubbliness of "Rain Room". You'll also find two different versions of "Opulent": the cascading cut-glass melodies and chunky deep house warmth of the "Without Mix" and the stab-heavy peak-time bounce of the "Within Mix".
Review: Ten years and still going strong, Amsterdam's Dekmantel are celebrating with their 10 EP series throughout 2017. Having kicked off in in March, with one EP being released every month, the series will touch upon every musical fragment that has come to define their events and festivals over the decade. On this edition, we have local hero Young Marco up first with the bouncy and summery house shenanigans of "Palace Green Beans", them American in Amsterdam Diego herrera aka Suzanne Kraft with his emotive effort "Moving". It wouldn't be an Amsterdam joint without a bit of Tom Trago right? The Voyage Direct head honcho steps in with the retro futuristic deepness of "Digital Love" until Awanto 3 brings it on home classic house style with "Pepe Mujica".
Review: While he may have moved on musically in recent years, Tom Trago still can't escape his 2010 anthem "Use Me Again". To be fair, it is a stone cold killer - a stomping, peak-time friendly disco-house masterpiece that makes great use of elements borrowed from a particularly potent, singalong disco classic. Should you not have it in your collection - and, let's face it, you should - then this timely digital reissue is just the ticket. As it was all those years ago, the track comes accompanied by 2009's "Lost In The Streets Of NYC", a thrilling chunk of cut-up deep house heaviness complete with melancholic piano flourishes, rubbery electrofunk bass, fuzzy chords and driving beats.
Review: Originally released in 2015, Young Marco's "The Best I Could Do" shows that he is as adept in the studio as he is behind the decks. The renowned crate digger draws on his knowledge of underground house and techno for this understated, melancholic affair. Sad synths swirl up over a raw, resonating bass and the end result has a decidedly wintry feeling. House veteran Tom Trago drops a similar sounding track, "Brutal Romance (TT's Love Fix)". However, on this occasion, the groove is upbeat and the riffs are more insistent, but the same frazzled approach to production prevails. Keeping it atmospheric, Fatima Yamaha delivers the slow tempo, synth-heavy "The Creature From Culture Creation", which also featured on the original 2015 release.
Review: In January 2015, Seth Troxler and Tom Trago decided to mark the passing of legendary Amsterdam venue Trouw by getting together in the studio. The resultant track - a woozy, undulating, 10-minute deep house epic - was first showcased on Troxler's DJ Kicks mix last autumn. Here, it gets a deserved single release, with accompanying remixes from Prins Thomas and Voyage Direct artist Maxi Mill. The Norwegian producer does a terrific job reinventing the track as a long-slung Balearic disco gem, full of glistening guitars, chiming melodies, percussive breakdowns and heavy, punk-funk bass. In contrast, Maxi Mill emphasizes the spacey elements of the original track, laying down a rolling, Detroit-influenced deep house shuffler.
Review: No less than two years after The Light Fantastic came out, tracks from Tom Trago's third album are still getting a second look by regular cats from the extended Rush Hour community. Young Marco gets to grips with "Avenido" first, and delivers a patient sermon that glides on featherweight pad lines with snowflake chimes sprinkled on top for good measure. There's still a purposeful beat kicking away underneath the melodic niceties mind you. Awanto 3 meanwhile brings a peak time urgency to "The Elite", dropping some chunky synth stabs over a nagging bassline with a lick of disco exuberance thrown in for good measure.
Review: If your finances couldn't quite stretch to buying all four releases in the unique Dekmantel x Patta series - in which limited edition vinyl EPs came packaged with exclusive items of clothing - this digital compilation is something of a lifesaver. For starters, the exclusive material - first included on the hard-to-get EPs, and now showcased here - is pretty darn tasty. The various Amsterdam-based producers involved generally hit the spot, from the melodious, analogue-rich Balearic techno of Young Marco's "The Best I Could Do (With What I Had)", and sparkling Detroit retro-futurism of Mark Du Mosch's "2nd 5ystem", to the cosmic deep house shimmer of Tom Trago's "Brutal Romance", and bizarre, off-kilter deep house-jazz of Makam's "The Struggles". Aardvark's quirky rumba-house workout, "Kubaa Rumbaa" is rather good, too.
Review: Australia's Balance Music is known for its quality mixes by the very finest in the underground music circuit. With previous compilations by the likes of New York's Danny Tenaglia, Deetron and Funk D'Void, among others, this is as close to a Fabric mix as you can get without those shiny tin cases. Ex-minimal legend turned all-out techno queen Magda steps up for number 27 in the series, and it's nothing but vibes on this one. Amalgamating shreds of stripped back techno - Marcel Dettmann, DVS1, Samuli Kemppi - together with newer, more underground sounds from some of the most cutting-edge labels around - Marco Bernardi's Sandman project, TTT's Minor Science, XDB and Shackleton - the Minus legend shows why she's still one of the best in the game and a true expert at evolving her aesthetic. A great mix, dig in.
Review: Will this be the year that Tom Trago finally becomes a household mainstream name? Listening to "The Elite", it sounds like his time is about to come. It sees the Amsterdam-based producer draw on funk, electro and hip-hop and the 'single edit' version is a near-perfect summertime tune, something that has lot to do with the street party samples on the intro and the combination of squalling sax and colourful keyboard flourishes. In its original format, "The Elite" is tailored for DJ usage. The street sounds are still there and the uplifting vibes haven't gone away, but they are underscored by tight electro beats and thumb clicking percussion. Expect to hear it everywhere this summer.
Review: Rush Hour staple Tom Trago serves up a taster for The Light Fantastic, his upcoming third album for the label, with this three track sampler 12" featuring celebrated contemporaries Steffi and Breach. With details on the album still under wraps we are free to focus on the music here and it finds the Voyage Direct boss in fine fettle; this release is meant for the floor without a doubt. Steffi collaboration "Two Together" is a loopy disco jam with hints of her Third Side material, while the dubby "True Friends" seems Breach's vocal build to a crescendo amongst heavily delayed chords. Non LP track "Avenido" contains the most wonderful flurry of handclaps and expertly plonked chimes.
Review: Drafting in the vocal talents of Footprintz and Seth Troxler for a pair of catchy floor-friendly numbers, Subb An makes his first appearance on Visionquest in what seems like an inevitable move after years of graft for the likes of Crosstown Rebels, Spectral Sound and 20:20 Vision. "Rain" is an emotive, floaty variation on electro given a synth-pop twist by Footprintz's Anglophile singing. Alongside Tom Trago, Subb An works a typically whacky turn from Troxler into a simmering house jam full of dubby chord echoes and submerged strings for maximum tension with little release. It's a sturdy release custom built for the modern house music fraternity.
Review: To date, Italian wonky disco revivalists The Barking Dogs have released a serious amount of material in a relatively short space of time. This four-tracker for Gomma, though, is arguably their strongest to date. While it still bears the sonic hallmarks of their Italo-fixated work, it sits somewhere between analogue disco and shuffling deep house. Amsterdam producer Tom Trago contributes barely audible vocals to the dubbed-out analogue deep house shuffle of "Your High", while fellow Dutchman Young Marco adds some excellent keys to the late night oddness of the EP's standout track, the epic, alien-sounding "Margherita". There's also some ragging, mutated strangeness in the shape of electro-disco weird-out "Ebony".
Review: An excellent and largely overlooked release here from Studio Soulrock, released on vinyl last year and finally hitting the digital domain. Contained within you'll find two tracks from Awanto 3 aka Steven Van Hulle, namely the dusty "I Love Hugh" and funked-up "Good Old Days" (the latter featuring Rush Hour stalwart Tom Trago). Rounding off the release is a cut from hirsute legend Aardvarck , with "Tape" a typically rugged journey through demented sci-fi house atmospherics.
Review: Rush Hour come through with perhaps their heaviest remix package to date in their illustrious history, enlisting Messrs KiNK, Linkwood and Larry Heard to grace tracks from Tom Trago's second LP Iris with their own distinct production touches. Almost a year after release, Iris remains filled with potent propositions for the DJ, though you'd be forgiven for eschewing the originals in favour of what's on offer here. Heard is up first, tackling the Tyree Cooper collaboration "What You Do", stripping away the ripeness in favour of the kind of warm, emotive dub groove he made his Mr Fingers name on. Not to be outdone, Linkwood is on some prime Carl Craig tip with a fully transformed rendition of "Being With You" that drips with hi-tech soul. On the flip, KiNK brings some dementia to proceedings, totally ripping apart "What You Do" and rebuilding it as a rugged, growling monster of a track which gleefully delays the arrival of a low set Tyree Cooper for an absolute age.
Review: Rush Hour further document Tom Trago's continual maturity as a producer par excellence with this EP which sees the Amsterdam resident extend and rework a quartet of tracks from his acclaimed second album Iris. These dubbed versions are a welcome bonus from Trago's recent switch to performing live, with each of the tracks here the end product of live experimentation. Trago's focus is on the album tracks that were shorter productions aimed at bridging the different moods, and reworked here they come to life as the inner qualities are unveiled and embellished for the dancefloor. "Life In Dubs" in particular is brought to life, arising from the guttural throb and chirping bird like melody into a dubby percussive monster that never settles into any one rhythm. Equally, the one minute excursion through beatless keys "We Like Naom" is fully reimagined as burning, UK garage flecked brilliance with "We Like Dubs".
Review: The new Crossover Series from the Sound Pellegrino crew makes for a canny and eye opening endeavour, offering the chance for 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. 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. 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.
Review: Rush Hour break off one of the highlights from Tom Trago's multifaceted second album Iris in the form of the gliding Chicago house meets future R&B melt of "Steppin Out". Romanthony's iconic drawl dipped in soul is a perfect foil for Trago's winning mixture of Chicago bounce and a snapping drum flex. At three minutes long, it's got playlist potential written all over it but still finds room to work in several rhythmic movements. There's an instrumental version to fully appreciate Trago's work. Get used to seeing the names Romanthony and Rush Hour too, as the label is beavering away on a compilation with the legend.
Review: 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. 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. 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).
Review: To quote Charlie Sheen, Tom Trago has got a certain poetry at his finger tips and based on this sampler you should be getting more than a bit excited about his forthcoming debut album. The three tracks present are a perfect example of the diversity that you can expect when Iris is released. "Being With You" is comparable with the Velour project Bashmore & Hyetal are involved in, melding purple tinged R&B melodies with contemporary electronic rhythms. "Space Balloon" sounds like the track Kyle Hall and Space Dimension Controller wish they had made, laying down heavy bass flourishes and outer galactic pads over a delicious beat. "What You Do", Trago's collaboration with Tyree Cooper, perhaps offers yet another chance for the hip house revival that Cooper began all those years ago in Chicago. Cooper is one of several collaborations on Iris - Romanthony and Oliver Daysoul also feature - which further demonstrate Trago's intent to bridge the gap between the past and present.