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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
Birdee: aka the Los Angeles dwelling Italian Marcello De Angelis is back, with some killer boogie-house disco flavours on a new ISM Records EP. "Meant To Be" is a funky and feel good deep disco joint, featuring vocal dynamite Alena Herel. Then there is Yam Who? dropping the remix business and in the process inject the track with some added dancefloor dynamics: for later in the night when any serious DJ needs to turn the heat up a notch or two.
Lorenzo Esposito aka Lehar follows his 2016 debut for Diynamic with this distinctive but highly diverse EP. "Dream" sounds like it contains a variation of the lead guitar riff from Simple Minds' New Gold Dream before it veers into a pulsing, grainy groove. By contrast, "Declaration" is a deep, tranced out track anchored by rolling drums and rickety, organic percussion and featuring muffled vocals. Meanwhile, on "The R.E.M. Phase", the Italian producer has echoes of Efdemin, with layers of hypnotic chimes building over a stripped back rhythm. "Metrotango" sees Esposito deliver a prowling bass and chiming guitars, and there is a further variation on "Dance of the Last Man", where a stripped back rhythm provides the basis for spiralling trance melodies.
Propaganda is Oliver Huntemann's fifth studio album, and sees him expand his sound and range over the course of 12 tracks, without losing his signature style. "Taktik" and "Poltergeist" see the German producer flirt with slower tempos, but the bass is so menacing on the latter track that its intensity is unstoppable. The pace picks up on the insane filtered builds and rolling snares of "Egoist", while recent single "Rotlicht" is classic Huntemann, all spiralling foghorns, insistent percussion and the darkest sub-bass this side of late-90s tech-step. Propaganda does contain some real surprises - like the down tempo sound scapes of "Anonym" - and the eerie electro of "Momentum", but its unifying theme are bass lines that are uniquely malevolent and multi-layered.
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".
Story has it that Chicago disco legend Sadar Bahar discovered Ben (aka Cosmic Force of Clone/Creme Organization fame) Spaander's Utrecht based studio, and it's said to be housing around 60 synths. Electro fiend Spaander 'was charmed by the electronic elements in Sadar's funk and Sadar loved Ben's ideas.' They claim that nothing was sampled on these two tracks. There's undoubtedly an old school flavour to "We Are Righteous People" with its funky bass, sleazy guitar licks and bongo drums galore over spacy synths. Next up "Bouncing Atoms" gets the party started in fine form with dusty/live sounding drums, more frenetic guitar work and the mandatory cowbells going off all over the place!
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".
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.
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.
Hot Creations boss Jamie Jones manages to find time for another release, in between his Ibiza residency and travelling the globe as one of modern house music's most popular DJs. His latest offering brings everything you'd expect from the Welshman and nothing less. These four Summery and pop-inflected tech house cuts are hot material on their own and make a cohesive EP. Starting off with the anthemic "Sound Of Music" covering jungle legend Nookie's track of the same name and with pop sensation Katy B on vocals. The rolling peak time groove "Kooky Chords" is absolutely the sound of not only 'The Island' but Jones' label and will bang the party just as much as recent offerings by wAFF or Phil Kieran.Then there's a bouncy and sleazy early evening jam in the form of "Positive Pressure" featuring American Kevin Knapp and the druggy/minimal afterhours DJ tool "Parallel Universe".
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.
Having just emerged on Roska's RKS Dubz with "That Time Again", Western Romance Language Continuum's DJ Polo makes his full single debut with two deliciously slinky, stripped back UK funky grooves. "Signet" leads with majestic-feeling harmonic synth tones and a carnal tribal hook that digs deep into your innermost loins while "Burnt Tone" flexes with more of a broken drum arrangement and a cool sense of hypnosis in the percussive layers. Fresh.
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.