Review: He might live and work just outside of Detroit, Michigan, but Blair French has made some decidedly Balearic music over the last few years, in the process notching up EPs on Claremont 56 and NuNorthern Soul. In its original form (track two), 'Honey Rooftops' has a White Isle-friendly feel, with eyes-closed vocals about "chasing the sun", delay-laden piano motifs and glistening guitar flourishes riding handclap-heavy beats and a warming, undulating bassline. French's short 'Reprise' versions (available in vocal and instrumental variations) beef up the beats to provide a more dub disco-leaning vibe, while the Instrumental mix is a sun-soaked delight. Arguably best of all though is Chris Coco's near nine-minute take, which is a supremely immersive, mid-tempo dub-disco treat with oodles of sunrise-friendly Balearic charm.
Review: Detroit's Blair French is a man of many talents: he's a graphic designer as well as a music producer, while in the studio he's just as happy turning his hand to ambient music and sound design for film as he is knocking out club tracks. It's in the club where we find him on this latest release, though, as he serves up three dense, African-inspired shufflers. Choose from the chant vox and piercing flute/pipe line of 'Transcultural Dance', the pounding drums and sing-song vocal of 'From Over The Hills Beyond' itself, or the rainforest sounds and monkey howls of 'A Shade Of Victory'.
Review: Although he's flirted with other labels - most notably Claremont 56 and NuNorthern Soul - Blair French usually saves his best work for Peter Croce and Moonlighter's Rocksteady Disco imprint. Here he returns to that label's loving arms with his first full-length excursion in six years, a vibrant, atmospheric and musically mixed-up set that we think is his single greatest release to date. Starting with the extra-percussive, dub disco goes Afro-house heaviness of opener 'Faded By The Sun', highlights come thick and fast throughout. Our current favourites include the Afro-beatdown trip that is 'Stay Detroit', the jazzy downtempo grooves and spoken word vocals of 'Deep Tissue', the celebratory Balearic disco loveliness of 'Honey Rooftops', and the Hammond heavy Afro-funk cheeriness of 'Genes'.
Review: Three very playable deep house cuts from young Detroitian producer Jaco Matthews here. 'Lesson One', a tribal-leaning drum workout, gets the ball rolling before 'Snacks' leads us into more straight-up deep house territory with its garage-y two-note organ hook, male vocal cut-ups, intricate hand percussion and rolling disco bassline. But the standout is Matthews' remix of Peter Croce's 'Revival', wherein more tribal percussion, hypnotic pads and a cheeky Camisra/Sandy B-like bassline underpin Rev William Barber II's stirring address to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. "Pay people what they deserve, share your food with the hungry" - amen, brother!
Review: Motor City man Peter Croce has previously proved to be an adept re-editor, so there was much cheer in the Juno Download office when the Rocksteady Disco co-founder's latest EP landed. All three edits are superb: tactfully beefed-up rearrangements that make already excellent tracks into 21st century disco bombs. He begins with "Life Is A Circle", a stomping slab of heavyweight disco-funk, before dipping the tempo and loosening the beats on sweet disco-soul rework "What Can I Do For You". Arguably best of all though is his "Mystic Rhythm Dub Edit" of "Do What You Wanna Do", which turns a spacey and throbbing disco workout into a breathless sprint through percussive dub disco pastures.
Review: In recent times, sometime Escort bassist J Kriv has been in full-on disco mode, delivering a string of singles with old pal Adeline that recall the rush-inducing brilliance of NYC in the late 1970s. "Aguaxire", his latest single, is decidedly different, offering a superb fusion of TB-303 driven acid house, swirling deep house, Afro-house and horn-powered Afro-jazz motifs. It comes accompanied by three tasty alternate versions: a hazy, delay-laden dub tailor-made for glassy-eyed early morning moments, a jacking and forthright "Acid Test" mix that predictably emphasizes the track's psychedelic TB-303 lines, and a wonderfully bouncy, driving and percussion-rich "Beats" track.
Review: Blair French has spent much of his career sidestepping lazy stereotyping, successfully turning his hand to all manner of downtempo and club-friendly styles. This fine EP for Rocksteady Disco sees the Detroit-based producer exploring some of his global influences in three different ways. Opener "Standing Still is an Illusion", where glistening guitars, rich electric bass and fluid hand percussion combine with drum machine beats and impassioned vocals, is a brilliantly warm and sunny fusion of Balearic disco charm and organic Afro-house grooves. These African influences are explored further on the dense, tribal style thrust of "Ayiba I Yeri O", before he whips his shirt off and heads for the Rio carnival on the equally percussive "Pagode Americano".