Review: Awanto3 (AKA former Rednose Distrikt man Steven van Hulle) has long been the beating heart of Amsterdam's musical scene, seemingly operating as the city's collaborator in chief (he's previously worked with San Proper, Tom Trago, Young Marco and others). Predictably, this debut solo album features a wealth of local talent (most uncredited) and offers a thrillingly imaginative romp through his seemingly endless list of influences. Darting between heavy Latin percussion workouts (the stand-out "Cowbelgian" and delicious "Bubbles Made Me Cry"), moody Afro-house ("Su What?"), vivid jazz-flecked deep house ("Boogiedownpoke"), moody beats ("The Wall") and kaleidoscopic rumba ("Baila Con Paula"), Opel Mantra is an impressively varied and vivacious debut that delivers just the right balance between celebratory dancefloor fare and left-of-centre headphone fodder.
Review: While somewhat shadowy in their backstory, B.D.I. return to Rush Hour after a release two years ago, and bring with them a serious degree of dense, pumping goodness for this industrial strength DJ sets. While the metallic clunking may be laid on thick, there's also a palpable heart at the core of the machine on 'Decoded...', which makes it all the more magnificent. 'New Robotics #17' is more jagged and sparse, with a tricky kind of swing, but still strides confidently into its own nasty space between functional tool and wild expression, making for a daring party rocker in the process.
Review: 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!
Review: Last seen dabbling in some Ballard-referencing song-based material as Singing Statues, UK producer Ben Thomas returns to the more familiar BNJMN guise and the label for whom he's arguably done his best work with this Hummingbird EP for Rush Hour. Seemingly directly inspired by the humble hummingbird, the three original tracks here demonstrate a wide appreciation of tempos, with the glistening 140bpm techno of the title complemented by the shifting, sludgy sonics of "Slowwave". The final BNJMN production "CRVD" feels closest to previous BNJMN material, whilst the title track is blessed by the first ever Xamiga remix from Lowlands forest techno exponents Legowelt and Xosar.
Review: Rush Hour's Direct Current series has already struck gold on several occasions - most notably the back scratching endeavours of FaltyDL and Cosmin TRG - however a shift upwards in ambition and a swerve in focus towards these shores has delivered a truly startling full length album from BNJMN. The latest alias of Ben Thomas, a young UK producer whose work has featured under a variety of names for labels such as Svetlana Industries and Tirk, Plastic World could feasibly be conceived as Thomas finding his true musical identity. This is an album that's covered in a glistening sheen of utopian futurism; from the grinding amphibian machine funk of "Wheels In Motion" to the more upwardly mobile jacking acid melodies of "Tunnel Flight", BNJMN seems to posses an innate and auspicious talent for creating music that's just as suited for the floor as your headphones. Whilst "Blocks" has been most commonly claimed as the track that will draw you in, it is perhaps "See Through The Stars" that leaves the most lasting impression, throwing together frosted soundscapes with throbbing bass and tingling percussion and washing them with rich sounding shafts of upwards electronic melody with jaw dropping results.
Review: Having released his Plastic World album just earlier this year, BNJMN spoils us with another sizable package in the form of this 9-track treat. There's something pleasingly arcane about the way he uses the tried and tested 4/4 formula as a secondary backbone to the rich layers of textures. At times he can be gentle, at others quite manic, in the way that he triggers the elements in his tracks, but the harmonious tones always reach a sweet-natured conclusion. 'Wisdom of Uncertainty' is a prime exponent of the fairy tale sound he has cornered in which to express himself.
Review: Braiden appearing on Rush Hour is possibly one of the least expected combinations to surface in recent times; more specifically Braiden appearing on any label is surprising, given how quiet the Londoner has been on the production front since gracing Joy Orbison's now defunct Doldrums imprint. A sideline in photography, a smattering of remixes and a prospering reputation as both a club and radio DJ (check his NTS show) means Braiden's been kept a busy boy, though this two track induction on Rush Hour demonstrates there's been loss in production verve. Lead track "Belfry Tower" seems built for submission pounding intent, rhythms gleefully bouncing off each other as a pressurised bassline puts the squeeze on the crunchy textures that attempt to implement some semblance of melody. "Paganini" introduces a whole different slant on Braiden's palette, commencing with a famous singer's ode to the Italian composer who lends his surname to the title which subtly drops into a killer house groove, all expertly layered drum patterns and wonderfully warm and bouncy bass lines complemented by some brilliant echoed usage of the vocal throughout.
Review: In recent times, Rush Hour's Direct Current offshoot has been a constant source of inspirational, dancefloor-baiting material. Seemingly designed to offer a retro-futurist take on house from producers perhaps better known for their more experimental material - see the thrilling, head-warping releases from Cosmin TRG and BNJMN - the imprint has rarely put a foot wrong. This two-tracker fits neatly into the RH DC template: Braille is a new pseudonym for Praveen, one half of post-dubstep visionaries Sepalcure. In true Direct Current style, the tracks presented here offer a cutting-edge take on house music that gives classic Chicago jack and the melodic futurism of Detroit a fresh new twist. "The Year 3000" opens with a delay-laden vocal snippet from Sterling Void's Chicago classic "It's Alright", before sprinting off on a woozy journey into 21st century Euro-jack. "Leavin' Without You" treads a similar path, but offers more basic, straightforward thrills; a heartfelt vocal sample nimbly dances round a ricocheting rhythm of off-beat 4/4 percussion, densely layered chords and mind-altering FX. Like its impressive A-Side, "Leavin' Without You" is off-kilter late night house music of the highest order. Essential.
Review: The town of Mildura in Victoria probably doesn't rate on any global lists of disco hotspots, yet it was here that the Carter Brothers story began. Having relocated to Adelaide, South Australia, the Carter Bros fell under the global gaze of Rush Hour, who snapped up their latest single "Full Metal Jacket". There's not much to either the original or the dub version - in this respect it brings to mind Kerri Chandler's "Bar A Thym" - because what it does, it does brilliantly: locking into a loop and riding it along for the tracks' duration with uplifting synth sweeps and divine horns dovetailing insouciantly. Nebraska meanwhile does a sterling job on remix duties, chopping up the beat, filtering it and adding in some vocals and brass farts for maximum value!
Review: Next up is another archival release from Rush Hour. There's little known about Rodap. Hailing from Martinique, in the French West Indies, he began producing more than 30 years ago in a context where many French Caribbean musicians were searching for their own style and fusing traditional heritage (Gwo-Ka, Bel Air, Biguine) with synthetic music. The Beletronic EP features three productions that the label describes as "otherworldly Caribbean electronic dance floor cuts." Rodap recorded them in the '90s and in 2000 but this is the debut on vinyl and digital formats. "Hiwa" is an emotive and epic synth disco journey with razor sharp arpeggios and soothing pan pipes. "Paco" rocks out harder; some razor-sharp synth riffs and euphoric pads soar over some furious drums; this one was wicked! Finally "Zouklove" has more of a loose and lo-slung balearic vibe about it and is perfect for summertime drifting.
Review: Just when you thought that it was possible to pin Cosmin TRG's ever-evolving sound to an identifiable trajectory, the Romanian producer throws his audience another few curve balls. Unlike the recent "Separat" release, "Crush" is not an exercise in exhilaratingly claustrophobic techno meets dubstep. In fact, Cosmin's approach is alluded to in the title, and it sees him succeeding in being all things to all people. The title track sets the tone for this magpie-like collection, with what sounds like samples of folk music looped to a juddering percussive backing and then combined with muffled, indistinct vocals. That Cosmin manages to make the end product rooted on the dancefloor says a lot about his skills. "Sirop" is another unusual proposition; caught between woozy chords and a stepping rhythm are Chicago kettle drums, appearing at regular intervals. "Negligee" also flirts with contrasting sounds, but has little bearing on the previous tracks. Instead, it pits an abstract rhythm against Warp's 'Intelligent Techno' era bleeps and eerie, ghostly riffs. The final piece in this most unusual jigsaw is "Magnetic Bodies". Like "Separat", the beats are relentlessly dense and raw, but the filtered chord sequence makes nods to Detroit techno and the liquid dreams of hardcore - a sonic effect akin to being hit over the head in slow motion with a feather-covered sledgehammer.