Review: The ever increasing understanding between Apron and Wild Oats and the many artists affiliated with both labels continues to bear fruit for those out there that like their house music raw and rugged. The idea alone of young Detroit talent Jay Daniel getting behind the buttons with suave Stevie Funkineven should set the pulses racing and both "Discipline" and "Abyss" will leave you craving more from this partnership. There's an effortless glide to "Discipline" as both keep the drums to a minimal yet bugged out line of kicks, leaving it to those killer keys and thick-set chords to hit you in the gut and the hips. "Abyss" finds the duo opting for a more pared back, abstract production where rhythm is kept to a minimum as the space is filled with tweaked out motifs that sound like a paranoia-filled John Carpenter.
Review: Over the last few years, Kieron Ifill aka K15 has been visiting Simbad Stanislas's studio, where they delved deep into conversation, as well as into an arsenal of analogue gear. The result? A revered collection of raw grooves that Apron boss and mutual friend Steven Julien was compelled to share - welcome to Earth State. A collection of deep and mellow urban expressions that blur the lines between, deep house, nu-jazz and neo soul. Smooth broken beat jams such as "Thursday" or "Oceans" feature creamy Rhodes, intricate rhythms and shimmering synths galore, while "Dry Mango pt2" calls to mind the classic vibe of UK broken beat by Bugz In The Attic or Atjazz.
Review: Two of the six tracks featured here - 'Aeva Forest' and 'Her Theme' - are out-and-out ambient/piano pieces, 'Ember' is a fierce, dark electro workout and 'Entity' sits most comfortably under the experimental electronica banner. From a house POV that just leaves two tracks to talk about: 'Purity', which loops up raw, shuffling drum beats and piercing synth notes, and 'Pneuma', which starts life as an ambient strings piece before more of those lo-fi drums come crashing in. Both would clear the floor at your local Ritzy's but could find a home in those longer sets and podcast mixes.
Review: Brazilian duo My Girlfriend - AKA veteran multi-instrumentalist Zopelar and 18-year-old wunderkind Benjamin Sallum - come with six pleasingly varied cuts here that will suit the dancers as well as the chin-strokers and headnodders. 'Piercing', a two-minute beats-free intro piece that's reminiscent of early System 7, opens proceedings, followed by 'Gidi', which marries ker-razy jazz beats to a west coast funk b-line and suspiciously 'Baby Love'-like female "ooh-ooh-ooooh-oohs". Things take an 80s electro turn on 'Modal', 'Believe In Something' has a blissed-out, Sunday AM feel, 'Corner Club' is a fiery lil' shuffler and finally 'Fingers' pushes further into looping, experimental territory.
Review: If you're unfamiliar with the Ratgrave name, you're not alone: this bustling, future funk album marks the first time collaborators Max Graef and Julius Conrad have released anything under the alias. The set was apparently recorded at different times, and in different places, over a three-year period. Musically, it draws much inspiration from intergalactic jazz-funk, P-funk and otherworldly '80s boogie, but also feels instinctively loose, carefree and improvised. The result is a set of lo-fi cuts that sound like they were recorded straight to tape during improvisational jam sessions, but were probably far more polished and thought-out than you might expect. Either way, it's the kind of LP that gets better with each successive listen.
Review: Sudi Wachspress, AKA Space Ghost, delivers his eighth long-player in just 10 years. The Oakland, California native has carved out a sound that draws on house, disco, R&B and disco as well as strong influences from the LA beats scene, and the result is an album that operates largely at a walking pace, and as such is probably best appreciated in a home listening setting, with 'Feeling Real Good' and 'Prayer For You' providing the only obvious dancefloor moments. Standouts include the haunting 'Love Beam' with its haunting, looped vocal and bruk beat-y bass squelch, the druggy, slo-mo jazz-funk of 'Mystery Angel' and the sultry, soulful 'I'll Be Yours'.
Review: Steven Julien is better known as FunkinEven, the project that has yielded releases for high-profile labels like Eglo and his own Apron imprint. However, that only tells part of Julien's story, and he has also put out two long players under his own name for Apron. Unsurprisingly, this material tells a more personal story, with "Teer" featuring gloriously spacious synths and indistinct vocals unravelling over an introspective groove. That's not to suggest that Julien has lost sight of what he does best, and "BLK808" is a tough, percussive drum workout, led by rolling drums and tight hi-hat sequences.