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".
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".
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".
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.
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.
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".
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.
Italian Producer Andy Bros hails from Caserta (near Naples) and presents his second release for Hamburg house institution Diynamic, following up last year's well received Essenza EP. Starting off with the dark and moody journey track "Midnight Love" which is guided by a razor sharp arpeggio shimmering away beneath all the eerie pads and adrenalised rhythms. Next up is some evocative mood lighting in the form of "Family Ritual" which features some impressive orchestral arrangements. Finally "Hilltop Town" further demonstrates the classically trained musicianship that this producer possesses, featuring some impressive piano parts and lush strings over this gradually building progressive/ tech house groove.
With just ten EPs to his credit in as many years, Joe is not the most prolific artist, but he clearly favours quality over quantity. Tail Lift is his fourth release on Hessle Audio - he debuted on the label during its early days back in 2009 - and it's as individualistic as ever. "Tail Lift" sees the UK producer combine a swinging rhythm with jazzy keys and some wild-sounding, out of tune segues. Throw in psychedelic riffs and rave whistles and you've got one of the most unusual dance floor tracks of 2017. "MPH" sees him go even weirder, with wobbly piano lines and lo-fi kazoos unravelling over mid-tempo drums. This will keep his fans content until Joe's next left of centre instalment.
Maya Bouldry-Morrison's first joined the Honey Soundsystem crew earlier this year via fine full-length Where Are We Going? Here, one of the standout cuts from that set is given a deserved single release. The producer's original version, a rolling, deep space chunk of hypnotic deep house laden with echoing analogue synth lines and drowsy, intergalactic electronics, naturally kicks things off before Dorisburg and Avalon Emerson deliver their own interpretations. The former opts for a darker, early-morning-in-Berlin style take - think bold analogue bass, intricately programmed beats and foreboding aural textures - while the latter gives the cut a more "live" feel via layered new drum hits and oodles of outboard hardware effects.
Geneva (formerly Amsterdam) based Night Noise serve up a new one by Mark Cooper's Bedford Falls Players: a collective of DJ's heavily influenced and inspired by the early acid house and balearic experience including Terry Farley, Justin Drake, Alan MacKenzie and Rob Webb amongst others. On "Moon: Chapter 1" (Agent Cooper's "Peak" Time Warm Up mix) it's an interesting genre defying one, we must say. Gloomy dub chords soar over cavernous beats and a howling EBM style arpeggio. There's some dark and reductionist Italo business up next on "Chapter: 3" (Agent Cooper's Black Lodge Excursion) which will appeal to fans of the Correspondant sound. It gets remixed up next - they save the best for last with Duncan Gray of Tici Taci's deep and lo slung balearica rendition.
Hailing from the fertile community they have built up around them in Bucharest, Delusion Men and their label Future Nuggets represent a very different twist on the contemporary Romanian electronic music scene. This album is a prime case in point, dealing in off-kilter wavey synths, intriguing rhythmic approaches and spooked out atmospheres that speak as much to the folkloric mystery of the East as any electronic traditions from other parts of the world. If you're drawn to music that sends you to exotic new places on the fringes of your imagination, then Stuck On The Border is the album for you.
Extrawelt aka Arne Schaffhausen and Wayan Raabe have come a long way since the neo-trance of early releases like Soopertrack, but the pair's association with Cocoon has been one of their constants over the past decade. This release signals the latest development in this relationship and is a taster for their third studio album on the label, due this month. "Fear Of An Extra Planet (Black Out)" shows that the German act has shaken off its trance associations; rather than shimmering melodies, they confront the listener with intense bleeps and a jacking rhythm. "Hail the Whale" has echoes of their past thanks to its robotic vocal and mysterious riffs, but the pulsating bass exudes techno menace.
Released February 2015 on Bedrock, Frankfurt DJ Gregor Thresher considers "Goliath" up there with "A Thousand Nights" and "About A Good Place" as one of his most successful tunes in his career so far. Over two years later, Gregor and Bedrock present two precision tailored remixes that add to the track's enduring success.The deeply melodic and slow burning journey by UK hero Alan Fitzpatrick weaves suspense filled elements for maximum dancefloor drama. French techno legend Emmanuel Top turns in a powerful rendition that's equal parts tension and suspense with its powerful qualities. Finally, we're treated once again to the evocative original: just the way that white noise build up comes to a climax before that mighty drop and that mesmerising bassline. Sublime.
Brothers Wolfgang and Reinhard have decided to re-kindle heir collaborative project with impeccable timing. After a number of years laying dormant, Voigt & Voigt returns to drop the 99th release on Kompakt offshoot. "Sanfte Grusse" sees the pair fuse a rubbery, squelchy bass with eerie synths, dissected found sounds and some atonal groaning. It's a fascinating mixture of the earthy and the electronic but still packs a lot of dance floor clout. On the flip side, "Durchdringung" sees the pair delve into a much darker sound. The rhythm is stepping and hypnotic, but is buried under wave upon wave of grey noise and ear-splitting drones. It's an intense prelude to Speicher hitting one hundred.
Frantz Thomasen aka Djuma Soundsystem has a small but acclaimed catalogue that stretches back to the early 00s. For his latest release, he teams up with fellow Danish artist Westerby for a deep, tripped out release. The title track follows a woozy groove that underpins a soulful Afro chant. It's ominous but ethereal, menacing but has an undisputedly emotive feeling to it. Jonathan Kaspar, who is making a name with releases on Pets, is tasked with reworking "Disambigua". He transforms it into a rolling tribal affair that resounds to loose but swollen bass tones and organic percussion. Meanwhile, Get Physical artist Aaron delivers a remix that veers back towards the tripped out original with a shimmering, melodic affair.
Cropper has form for releasing killer material on Blah Blah Blah, bringing the label its first global dancefloor smash in 2013 with the undeniably sizeable "Forever". This belated follow-up is equally as impressive and has already been championed by DJs including Hannah Wants, Richy Ahmed and Huxley. The title track is a thing of great beauty: an evocative vocal number that morphs from a strings and double bass-laden downtempo cut to a bass-heavy dancefloor shuffler midway through. Elsewhere, "Shade" is a jazzy and bluesy, ultra-tactile chunk of deep house with slick tech-house percussion, while Hackman's remix of "Sunlight" sits somewhere between picturesque analogue electronic beauty and weighty, UK funky-influenced deep house. Tip!
Following last year's Deep Learning album on Symphonic Distribution, Abrasiv delivers an impressive new EP. Clearly inspired by the darker side of techno as well as industrial, Machine is a bleak but intoxicating release. The title track centres on a rickety rhythm and menacing metallic riffs, coming across like Regis jamming with Orphx, but with an abstract flavour. "Revolt" is straighter and more club-friendly as a dense tribal groove and rough drums underpin scratchy riffs and noisy textures. On "Microbe", Abrasiv returns to the same abstract that fuelled the title track, but with a difference this time; dramatic, chilling strings unravel over a gnarly rhythm that lurches slowly but menacingly.
After Nuno dos Santos' striking Trigonometry of Love EP, Something Happening Somewhere presents a killer four track remix pack that lets others give their perspective on the tracks. Far Out Radio Systems turn in a gentle and evocative deep house rendition of "Prosa", as do fellow Dutchmen Polynation - who give the track a more soulful vibe reminiscent of early Innervisions or Diynamic. Fader From Borneo give "Storm Inside" a taste of the acid life on this pre-peak time stomper. Finally the Tabernacle and Pinkman affiliated Mark Du Mosch is a surprising addition, we must say! He gets bittersweet and emotive as ever in lush and (dare we say it!) kinda prog-house fashion with his remix of "Dust In Your Eyes".