Words Can't Explain (instrumental) - (5:09) 117 BPM
Words Can't Explain (Yu Su remix) - (6:59) 126 BPM
Review: 2018 was a significant one for Tom Harris AKA Hidden Spheres. As well as establishing the Fruit Merchant imprint to house his most tropical and dreamy productions, Harris also managed to deliver a delightfully trippy and intergalactic EP of acid, electro and deep house jams on Lobster Theremin offshoot Lobster UNDR. "Words Can't Explain" is another deft change of direction, with honey-voiced guest Oscar Jerome offering a superb soul vocal over a warm and woozy backing track rich in broken house drums, toasty synth bass, drowsy Rhodes chords and effortlessly jazzy guitar solos. It's superb, all told, and one of Harris's best tracks to date. Also worth checking is the club-ready revision by Yu Su, which not only utilizes heavy sub bass but also some crunchy drum machine percussion.
Review: Previously on Distant Hawaii, UK producer Tom Harris aka Hidden Spheres appears now on Lobster Theremin with four servings of his soothing, late night house. "It Ain't Easy" is a deep, jazzy and loungey joint, reminiscent of early Atjazz, as is the sexy and evocative "IshOnSax" featuring 'some of the most contagious saxophone ever laid to wax' courtesy of Ishmael. Then it is the Moodymann-ish "The Feels", a raw house number full of heart warming pads, dusty rhythms and soulful vocals. Closing out the release is the melting pot of swirling sounds, field recordings and playful drum programming on "It's Gonna Last".
Review: Since contributing Distant Hawaii's debut release back in 2015, Tom 'Hidden Spheres' Harris has showcased his dusty, musically expansive take on deep house on Bradley Zero's Rhythm Section International imprint. On this return to Distant Hawaii, he infuses MPC-driven deep house grooves with elements borrowed from synth boogie, Italian deep house, and tropical jazz. There's plenty to get the juices flowing, from the fluid jazz breaks, tumbling pianos and layered synth doodles of the barely-titled opener, to the saucer-eyed bliss of dream house shuffler "By & Bye" and sun-baked warmth of "Beachy". Closer "Movin", a jazzy deep house outing blessed with some killer keys, is also superb.
Review: It's been five years since Manchester's Ryan Hunn made his debut under the now familiar Illum Sphere alias. This debut album for scene titans Ninja Tune has been a long time coming. So, is it any good? First and foremost, it's a lot smoother and melodic than his wonkier early work. While there are off-kilter rhythms paired with futuristic electronics (see "It'll Be Over Soon" and string-laden "Ghosts of Then & Now"), these moments largely play second fiddle to woozy, James Blake-ish soundscapes and tactile downtempo moments. It's a curious move, perhaps, but one that suits the album format. Certainly, when he really nails it - such as the distinctly Balearic "One Letter From Death" - it's nothing less than sublime.
Review: The latest release from Illum Sphere on Ninja Tune comes bolstered with so many remixes they actually come in before the original material on the tracklisting. Legowelt leads the charge with a superlative version of "Embryonic" heavy on bleeps and keyboard choir tones, before Lone delivers a sugar-sweet drum & bass interpretation. "Spectre Vex" meanwhile finds Illum Sphere exploring fulsome synth tones with a coldwave leaning, which leads neatly into the JTC and Charles Manier versions of "The Road" with their varied 80s stylings. Let's not overlook the charms of the Zed Bias version of "Sleeprunner" not to mention the other original material on the EP. It's a veritable feast of electronic ideas for those with eclectic palates.
Review: For his second full length on Ninja Tune entitled Glass, Illum Sphere aka Ryan Hunn follows 2014's Ghosts of Then and Now LP, but sonically moves further in the direction hinted by his Spectre Vex and Second Sight 12's. According to Ninja Tune, Hunn is quoted as saying 'I wanted to make an album very different to the first one with a different palette, pace and energy." The album sees a noticeable change of direction from previous releases. Starting out with the sombre ambient experience "The Journey", there's the '80s style mood lighting of "Oracle" (reminiscent of Jan Hammer), the dusty downbeat EBM of "River" is most indicative of Hunn's recent change of direction as is lead single "Thousand Yard Stare" which sees him throw down some brooding and emotive electro variation.
Review: With his sizable history on labels like Fat City and Tectonic, Illum Sphere makes the leap to Ninja Tune with this esoteric concoction of slow house thud and starry-eyed melodics. "Sleeprunner" features all of the producer's strongest characteristics, from warm and immersive basslines to emotive strings, but all realised through a decidedly unconventional framework befitting of the reputation he has made for himself. Zed Bias meanwhile creates an equally housey version of the track that lays on some rigid claps, cheeky sub bass and fluttering arpeggios in a distinctly summery style. Clearly feeling doubly inspired from his first go at the track, Illum Sphere comes back around for a "re-run" of "Sleeprunner" that turns the track into a slow-release techno peppered with undulating acid lines and rugged drums.
Review: It's certainly no bold statement to come out and say that Illum Sphere is easily one of the hottest properties in UK dance music. Real name Ryan Hunn, the multi-talented producer has appeared on all the big 'uns; from Monkeytown to Tectonic and even 3024, he's always been firmly on point delivering the goods on a consistent basis. This is his return to London's Ninja Tune, and it's through both "Second Sight" and "Ritual" that we see the man moving onto something newer, less formulaic, and highly resonant with the wide-eyed and diverse expectations of any bass produce in this day and age. This come highly recommended and it's pick of the week from us!
Fuel The Fire (Beau Wanzer Adjustment) - (5:19) 65 BPM
Paradise (Machine Woman remix) - (6:06) 110 BPM
Red Glass (Hieroglyphic Being remix) - (6:17) 63 BPM
The Journey (Gavsborg remix) - (3:26) 59 BPM
Wounded (Fotomachine remix) - (6:03) 63 BPM
Review: By now, it's perfectly normal to think of Illum Sphere as an OG; the artist has been involved in the modern 'bass' scene since the inception of the term 'post-dubstep' into our minds and, over the years, he's come up with nothing but quality tuneage for all sorts of club DJs. That, of course, has been the beauty of contemporary dubstep since day 1. This time he's only around for a cameo, because his recent Glass LP on Ninja Tune has received the proper remix treatment from a squad of unexpected remixers and auteurs. Horror-show techno specialist Beau Wanzer gives "Fuel The Fire" his trademark treatment - this time an eerie techno wormhole fit for nightmares - and Machine Woman follows up with an equally sinister, mid-tempo techno experiment. Jamal Moss aka Hieroglyphic Being drops his usual cocktail of distortion and funk on us, in his remix of "Red Glass", whereas Govsborg's version of "The Journey" lingers to an outsider framework, and Fotomachine's take on "Wounded" offers some old-school Detroit business that recalls the likes of Ron Hardy's edits of Leron Carson's bangers. BIG.
FABRICLIVE 78 Illum Sphere (continuous dj mix) - (1:10:07) 126 BPM
Review: Illum Sphere steps up to represent Manchester crew Hoya:Hoya on this enlightening mix for Fabric's long running Fabriclive series. If you've not had the chance to catch Hoya:Hoya at the Farringdon club or in Manchester, this weighty 24-track selection is the perfect introduction, veering from dub to primitive electronics and Minimal Wave via spectral Lancastrian ambience and prime slabs of Midwestern Jakbeat. There's plenty of neat little touches throughout, like playing Grauzone at the wrong speed or dicing between the spiky "Fizz" from Powell and Carl Meek's dancehall banger "Danger" which lend the mix an element of personality lacking in many Ableton mixed sets these days. Major props to Illum Sphere for making space for Charles Manier, Streetwalker and Demdike Stare, and for the inclusion of the spellbinding "Cast Reflections" by Vazz.
Review: Earlier in the year, Hidden Spheres launched his own label, Fruit Merchant, offering up his most colourful, dreamy and tropical tracks to date. Naturally, there's an altogether different feel to this EP on Lobster Theremin (his second for Jimmy Asquith's lauded label). It's similarly melodious and analogue-rich, of course, with the cultured retro-futurist house warmth of 'This Is 4U" and bleeping deep house/electro fusion cut "McKenna's Mind" setting the tone perfectly. Elsewhere, he joins the dots between Chicago jack-tracks, organ-heavy '90s U.S garage and New Jersey deep house on "Lazer Beam", before rounding things off with a looped vocal DJ tool ("Talking Headz").
Review: Big fresh sounds once again flying out of the Nukleuz UK camp with young Russian duo Pulse & Sphere dropping one of their most noteworthy tunes to date. Following releases on Arisa, WAX, and Marcel Woods Musical Madness the pair really come up trumps on 'I Surrender' euphoric melodies combine with raw tech trance sounds and solid rolling percussion and bass-line. For something a little different but equally playable the in-house Big In Ibiza boys knock a treat up that is perfect for warming the crowds and stands up with the likes of Swedish House Mafia. A hot act to watch over the coming months, especially with them soon to get into the studio with Binary Finary.