Any new album from deep house pioneer and all-round legend Larry Heard is good news, but especially so when it's credited to his best-known and best-loved alias, Mr Fingers. Around The Sun Pt 1 is Heard's first album under the alias for four years and, unsurprisingly, it's as musically expansive, evocative, and atmospheric as they come. Naturally, it's rooted in the warming, dreamy, subtly jazz-flecked deep house style he's been tweaking and improving over decades, with occasional forays into sun-kissed downtempo grooves ('Touch The Sky'), angular acid tracks, Heard's take on dub house (the deliciously deep, micro-house influenced 'Marrakesh') and summery Balearic house ('Shimmer'). All in all, it's another masterpiece from deep house's most significant pioneer.
Big room house specialists Toolroom have been responsible for countless White Isle anthems over the years, something that makes their annual Toolroom Ibiza compilations a must-check for those seeking future floor-fillers. Their latest edition is something of a beast, featuring no less than 50 full-length, unmixed tracks and a couple of themed, non-stop DJ mixes (one gathers the set's deep, funky and electro house cuts, the other the tech-house tracks). Naturally there are far too many highlights to list here, but our current favourites includeMason Maynard's subtly DJ Mujava-inspired 'Light My Fire', the piano-powered rush of GotSome and Georgia Meek's 'Dead End', the twisted tech-house weight of Iglesias and Classmatic's 'Freak', and the warped, mind-mangling late-night shuffle of De La Swing and Rendher's 'Voodoo Step'.
Five years after his Tribute To Eddie 12" of remodelled disco heaters, Live Ones boss Lorca (AKA London-based producer Sam Crossman) is back with a couple of edits-not-edits inspired by all-round disco, boogie and early US garage legend Larry Levan. 'Larry's Bomb', a swirling, filter-sporting, MPC-driven cut-up of a vintage peak-time disco banger, opens the EP in fine style, with Lorca adding a few spoken word samples from documentaries exploring Levan's legacy in celebration of the Paradise Garage resident's immeasurable impact on underground dance music culture. He takes a similar approach on the slowly building - and undeniably far more bass-heavy - 'Look What You Do', throwing cowbells and hissing cymbals into the mix for extra percussive pressure.
Mask-sporting techno titan Redshape (real name Sebastian Kramer) can usually be relied upon to deliver the goods, particularly when it comes to the warmly nostalgic, timeless-sounding outings he delivers on Running Back. There's a definite "back-to-the-future" feel to 'Release Me (Base Mix)', a jacking slab of acid house/techno fusion piled high with psychedelic TB-303 lines, booming bass and creepy, held-note chords. He explores the track's vintage Chicago House influences further on the more stomping, acid-fired 'Windy Mix', before opting for a warmer and bouncier techno sound on 'Bonuz Me' (check the melodious, looped riffs and synth-strings). Closing cut 'Second Ten', meanwhile, sounds like vintage Mr Fingers updated for the Berlin techno generation.
It's testament to Ben J Worrall's skill as a musician and producer that his soulful, jazzy deep house productions can be mentioned in the same breath as those by all-time-greats Larry Heard and Ron Trent. Yet unlike those producers, he's yet to deliver an album so good that it will be considered a true great. Until now, that is. Evergreen, his first set for Freerange, is simply sublime: an unapologetically soulful, life-affirming set that blends effortlessly brilliant vocals and jazz-funk inspired instrumentation (think incredible horn arrangements, smooth bass, twinkling keys and glistening guitars) with the luscious, often Latin-tinged deep house beats that have long been his calling card. If there's any justice, it will end of being regarded as one of the electronic albums of 2022.
Over the last 15 years, few producers have released quite as much high-quality dancefloor fare as Alan Fitzpatrick. Somewhat predictably, his latest EP - a label debut for Bristol-based imprint Shall Not Fade - is another must-check missive. He's scored something of a coup, too, by recruiting Chicago 'ghetto-dance' legend DJ Deeon to add his evocative spoken word vocals to 'Shake That Thing', a deliciously spacey chunk of analogue house brilliance whose evocative chords and restless rhythm track will bring joy to many dancefloors this summer. Rising star DJOKO remixes, doffing a cap to the early 2000s work of UK tech-house stalwarts Swag on a deliciously swinging, loose-limbed rub. Fitzpatrick then delivers a bouncy, life-affirming chunk of disco-house hedonism, 'Learning to Love', which is pure pleasure from start to finish.
About House: When disco fell out of favour at the tail-end of the 70s, the sound went underground. In 1980s New York and Chicago, diehard lovers of the 4/4 stomp gravitated to clubs like New York's Paradise Garage in New York and Chicago's The Warehouse, where DJs Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles (respectively) were mixing up soul and disco classics with the newer electronic sounds emanating out of Europe – Italo-disco, Kraftwerk and synth-pop – for an audience comprised primarily of black and Latino gay men. Local producers then sought to capture this melting point of influences on record, and lo! House and garage music was born.
Right back to the jazz days, the east coast of the US has favoured smoother, more soulful sounds while the midwest has tended towards more stomping beats – hence house can be thought of as garage's brasher, louder sister and vice versa. Arguably the first indentifiably 'house' record was Jesse Saunders' 'On And On', released in 1984. By 1986 house music had begun to spread worldwide, but it wasn't until DJ Pierre's 'Acid Tracks' EP in 1987, which presented an even more raw, stripped-back take on the sound, that things really took off internationally. By that time, Detroit had already provided us with its own version of the artform, techno, and clubbers in the UK and Europe fell hard for what, at that time, sounded like music from outer space.
Fast-forward 30-odd years and house, garage and techno have spawned a hundred sub-genres: within house music alone there's deep house, funky house, progressive house, tech house, tribal house and so on, and that's before you even start to consider the apples that fell a little further from the tree, such as jungle, breakbeat and EDM. It's that constant evolution that keeps the artform fresh and vibrant – yet despite that, 'traditional' house music has never gone away, because, quite simply, house is the mothership for 99 percent of the electronic music we know and love today.