By their usual standards, prolific Tel Aviv twosome Red Axes has enjoyed a relatively quiet year. In fact, this four-track EP on Life & Death contains their first original material of 2017. As usual, it's an eccentric collection of tracks. Compare, for example, the cowbell-rich, wonky house hustle of chiming opener "Calacol", which manages to be both funky and weird, and "Vego Gam", where surf guitars and alien synth lines surf an eccentric, post-punk house groove. The dancefloor eclecticism continues with the Italo-disco/dub disco fusion of "Round" makes way for the undulating tropical drums, pots-and-pans melodies and glassy-eyed vocal snippets of "Sami".
Having spent the last few years giddily hopping between labels, COEO has decided to settle down. Flesh World is the Munich-based twosome's second release of 2017 for Toy Tonics, an imprint they first graced back in 2014. As usual, they're in a positive frame of mind, serving up a trio of tracks rich with both the feel good pulse of disco and boogie, and the metronomic heaviness of house. Both "Flesh World" and "In Motion" explore similar sonic territory, with the duo working a range of ear-pleasing samples from killer old disco and boogie cuts. Best of all, though, is the Kapote Drum Jam version of "Flesh World", which adds a little percussive pressure to an already celebratory workout.
German imprint Quintessentials' mission statement is to keep underground house music on the map. It claims to hold a candle to those old house records: they love that raw yet soulful vibe. For their 56th (!) release they have tapped Mexican producer 4004, who has had releases also of late on FACES, Poetry In Motion and Late Night Jackin'. Smoky late night groove "No Dreams" gets things off to a good start with its smooth Rhodes, bumpy bassline and hypnotic bongo action. We particularly enjoyed the pumping NYC basement vibe of "Fanta Club" while "Black Alley Shuffle" gets back to the program in sexy and dusky fashion complete with some dusty rhythms, diva vocals and further mood lighting with the impressive use of filter sweeps.
Earlier this year, Dan Snaith raised a few eyebrows by releasing a FabricLive mix that was almost entirely made up of previously unheard Daphni productions. It's some of those 19 productions, presented in extended and fully-fledged form, that make up the bulk of Joli Mai, Snaith's second Daphni full-length. It's a far more varied and evocative set than its largely dark, percussion-heavy predecessor, variously touching on dreamy, head-in-the-clouds late night house, acid-fired, off-kilter dancefloor psychedelia, bustling Afro-house fusion, stripped-back dub disco, revivalist rave thumpers and, in the case of stunning closer "Life is What You Make It", languid instrumental bliss.
Few Portuguese producers can boast as strong a track record as Trikk, whose high reputation was founded on fine singles for the likes of Optimo Trax, Hypercolour, ManMakeMusic, Lossless, Pets Recordings and, most recently, Innervisions. Here he returns to the latter with his most ambitious project to date: a debut album rich in tribal drums, exotic synthesizer motifs, humid electronics and all manner of global musical influences. Naturally there is a number of bespoke, floor-friendly tech-house and deep house cuts to enjoy, but the album's genius primarily lies in the producer's devotion to mood and melody. There may be plenty of tracks that would sound good in DJ sets, but it also works as an album to listen to from start to finish: something that can rarely be said about house albums.
While Ben Worrall's debut album as Crackazat, 2015's slightly overlooked Crescendo, was quietly impressive, this sophomore set is simply superb. Naturally musically rich - Worrall is a brilliant producer, but has always been a very talented musician, too - the set sees him lay down ten tracks that gleefully join the dots between slick jazz-funk instrumentation, sensual and soulful vocals, brilliantly played solos and grooves that put the dancefloor first and foremost. While there are a few downtempo explorations dotted throughout (the dreamy synth chords and meandering synth-sax of "Midnight In Sector Six" standing out), it's naturally the quality and quantity of his U.S garage, soulful house and deep house cuts that impresses most.
Since this EP dropped on vinyl earlier in the year, the sizeable title track has become one of the most ubiquitous peak-time anthems around. That's not meant as a criticism; few do rush-inducing musical moments quite like Dusky, and "Square Miso" is one of their most euphoric productions to date. It's something of a retro-futurist treat, with colossal piano riffs and dewy-eyed vocal samples riding thunderous drums and a booming, mind-altering bassline. For extra spine-tingling pleasure, check out the beat-free "Reprise" version, which wisely emphasizes the "Strings of Life" style pianos and synthesized strings, and the warehouse-friendly, Inner City style throb of "LF10".
Given that she first worked with the Classic Music Company 15 years ago, it seems fitting that the label is releasing the long serving Chicagoan's debut album. Described by its creator as a "very personal statement", the set contains a mixture of remastered gems from the vaults and fresh new material - including a swathe of collaborative cuts featuring headline-grabbing names such as Seven Davis Jr, Joi Cardwell, Sam Sparro and regular studio sparring partner Tim K. It's naturally rooted in deep house, but also rather varied, with the First Lady of Chicago House variously doffing a cap to classic jack-tracks, smooth soulful fare, synth-laden boogie-house, wide-eyed late '80s fare and Dancemania-inspired hip-house. The set also contains a rather wonderful cover version of Carly Simon's "Why".
Andhim aka Simon Haehnel and Tobias Muller have been releasing their heady mixture of house and techno for the past seven years, but Huso is one of their most original records yet. The title track is an expansive affair, built on loose drums and rolling percussion, and also featuring vocodered vocals and Middle Eastern motifs. It's one of 2017's most distinctive and strangely infectious house tracks. "Amene" is another unusual affair; while it draws on a familiar-sounding chord build, it features a strangely hypnotic vocal sample - possibly from North Africa - playing out and building over an out-of-kilter rhythm. It makes for an unusual, exotic release.
Iron Curtis' back catalogue is a formidable beast within the realms of deep and tech house, touching on labels like Morris Audio, Jackoff, Sudden Drop and Mule Electronique. He's intermittently popped up on Hudd Traxx as well, and he returns with a fulsome new EP that hints at a forthcoming second part. "Lights" is a bold, chiseled peak timer with some emphatic string stabs coursing through it, while "Captured" takes a slinkier route without dulling the impact of the Curtis studio approach. "22 Days" is a funkier concern that lets the low end synths do the brunt of the work, and then "My Humming Machines" rounds the EP off with a warm and bubbling deep house roller for a cosier part of the night.
The third volume in the Dance 2017 series is notable for featuring the first collaborative production from Giles Smith and James Priestley under the Secretsundaze moniker. Given that they delivered their first combined mix CD some ten years ago, "Motorway" has been a long time coming. It's also rather good, offering a hypnotic and wide-eyed blend of urgent, 128 BPM percussion, parping synth stabs, heavy bass and swirling string loops. It's not exactly Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" for the tech-house generation, but we sense the Robots would approve. Less surprising is Palm Trax's "Outflight", a positive and melodious chunk of synthesizer-heavy deep house goodness full of new age melodies, darting synth-bass and crunchy drum machine hits.
French house master DJ Deep has always had a knack for associating himself with the very best from the dance game. Throughout the 00s, you could find him chilling on Tresor or up on the Distance label, but his speciality was certainly spinning records. In fact, that's how he struck up a relationship with NYC's mighty Kerri Chandler, going on to form a long-lasting relationship that would land him on Deeply Rooted House and, as of now, Kaoz Theory. For The Love Of Kaoz is a tripped-out pile of percussive dance sketches, all wrapped up in a noticeably tribalistic sort of flair. "Thai" and "Tuesday Record Shopping In Paris" are slower, more warm-up pieces, while "Guardian" and Cavalier Drums" pump out that classic DEEP sound we all know and love...pushing it far and hard.
Benjamin Frohlich has been at the helm of Permanent Vacation for the past decade, but has only put out a handful of records on the label. However, as Rude Movements 2 shows, he is an adept producer. "Dream City" features some evocative synth riffs that sit atop a jerky rhythm, while "Drawn from Memory" represents a more robust take on this combination. Meanwhile, on "Computer Riot", Frohlich drops a frazzled electronic groove, that is kept in check by ticking percussion - but it's all about the deeper side of house and techno on this release, and the warm purring bass and jittery synths of "Ethereum" will melt even the most cynical, coldest heart.
Storied producer Nicholas, whose bulging discography boasts both slo-mo disco-house chuggers and Nu Groove inspired treats, seems like a neat fit for the hyped Church label. Interestingly, the six tracks on offer are closer to the usual Church sound - think dusty, hazy, sample-heavy deep house with clear jazz influences - tha the producer's previous work. They're all rather good, though, with the bustling and bluesy "The Answer" and jaunty, bongo-laden dancefloor warmth of "Dahlia" immediately catching the ear. Killer keys-man Paul Cut provides headline-grabbing solos on two of the EP's best moments ("Black Juniper" and the jazz-house opus "Resolution"), while "Lonnie's Reprise" is similar in tone and vibe to fellow Church contributors FYI Chris and Chaos in the CBD.
A love letter to the Basement Boys 2001 classic with Ras Baraka "An American Poem", Malik Ameer Crumpler lays down an incredible, wry and poignant sermon over a swing beat that builds into some fine freeform horn work from Leron Thomas. A fusion that spans Sheffield, Paris and New York, pays homage to Gil Scott Heron and delivers a critical message, the timeliness of this is legitimate.
Thanks to a series of killer re-edit EPs released over recent years, Chicago veteran Cratebug is finally getting the credit his talents deserve. This surprise release on Classic - his first "original" production to get an official release since 2013 - is likely to raise his profile further. "Melondrop" is something of a sleazy peak-time treat: a sweaty, disco-tinged jack-track full of urgent drum machine percussion, delay-laden vocal samples and mind-altering analogue bass. Cratebug's "Chicago Mix" subtly rises and falls throughout, with the producer tweaking a handful of killer elements to do maximum dancefloor damage. Label boss Luke Solomon provides the obligatory rework, delivering a "Savage Body Edit" that pushes the track's disco elements to the fore whilst retaining the original's locked-in intensity.
Virginia-based Greg Stewart once again dons the now familiar DJ Aakmael guise for a first outing on Monologues. Predictably, the sometime Church, Dimensions Recordings and Freerange contributor is at the top of his game throughout, delivering a pair of highly playable original tracks. First up is "Dahlin", a wonderfully melodious and floor-friendly affair in which Stewart demonstrates his ability to create drama out of a handful of killer loops (think strings, harps, and so on). He flips the script a little on "Organik", wrapping positive synthesizer chords and meandering Hammond organ solos around no-nonsense drums and a killer analogue bassline. Both tracks are given the remix treatment, too, with Ben Gomori's sleazier, early morning tech-house tweak of "Organik" standing out.
Federic Lange's AOW just keeps on bringing the heat. Their eighty EP is no exception. Sometimes the heat is blazing with vibrant synth flames (Hoffstadt's "Heavenly Dancing"), sometimes it's smouldering MAW-style (Jesse Bru's "Tonite"), sometimes it's smoking, jazzy and moderately jacked (Jad & The's "Gospel Five") and sometimes it's plain scorching (Turenne's "Triplett"). In summary: hot.
Maya Bouldry-Morrison's first joined the Honey Soundsystem crew earlier this year via fine full-length Where Are We Going? Here, one of the standout cuts from that set is given a deserved single release. The producer's original version, a rolling, deep space chunk of hypnotic deep house laden with echoing analogue synth lines and drowsy, intergalactic electronics, naturally kicks things off before Dorisburg and Avalon Emerson deliver their own interpretations. The former opts for a darker, early-morning-in-Berlin style take - think bold analogue bass, intricately programmed beats and foreboding aural textures - while the latter gives the cut a more "live" feel via layered new drum hits and oodles of outboard hardware effects.
When launching a new label, it helps if your first release is a bit of a cracker. Happily, this first EP from Forgot, a multi-artist affair featuring a variety of deep house treats, is really rather good. Hoffy kicks things off with the bumpy, MPC style cut-up house rhythms and effects-laden blues and soul samples of bass-heavy bubbler "Makei Klap", before Ratomagoson slows things down with the experimental, sample-heavy Detroit beatdown shuffle of "Diesel Pump". Joe S opts for a deliciously dreamy and musically expansive vibe on the slick and spiritual warmth of sax-laden groover "David's Vocal", while Pila reaches for the bleep style sub-bass on crunchy, clarinet-boasting roller "It Just Makes". Top work all round.