Review: Leipzig's Bondage Music returns with a massive compilation featuring 20 tracks, all in the label's distinct style of deep and sensual tech house. If that was not enough, the label bosses Sven & Sven aka Pornbugs deliver a continous mix, working those selections to perfection on each of their journeys. Highlights are not limited to: Mihai Popoviciu and NTFO delivering some rolling and hypnotic 'Rominimal' vibes on "Gazoo" and "Key Part" respectively, London's James Dexter delivering a typically emotive afterhours minimal groove on "Come In" while Pornbugs themselves serve up the slinky "Precocious Life" before the return of Swiss scene stalwart Dachshund on "Instant".
Review: Jonathan Kaspar, the resident of Cologne's Gewoelbe Club, has fast become a staple of hometown imprint Kompakt where he's brought an evocative style of dancefloor drama across several EPs. Much like his previous outing (the Kante EP) this latest release by Kaspar is right in line with the label's sound, faithfully recreating snapshots of their many phases over the years. The mesmerising "Muster" with its minimal acid chug, harks back to the label's output at the turn of the millenium, while the brooding atmosphere of "Alle" makes for perfect mood music during those heads down moments in the club - in typical Kompakt fashion. There are also two featured versions of "Beton"; the main one is a bouncy yet subtle tech house groove underpinned with clipped rhythm programming - the latter aspect playing centre stage on the Strip Down version.
Review: Permanent Vacation co-founder Benjamin Frohlich is enjoying a productive year so far, with The Joy of Repetition following hot on the heels of rock-solid outings on Live at Robert Johnson and Optimo Music's Digital Danceforce offshoot. Frohlich has previously proved to be a master at blurring the boundaries between genres, and much of the material on show here follows a similar blueprint. Opener 'One More Time' sits somewhere between hypnotic tech-house, stirring deep house and lilting nu-disco, while 'Repeat After Me' fixes hazy, dub techno style riffs and chords to a rolling, peak-time house beat. Elsewhere, 'Again and Again' joins the dots between dub house and dub techno, while 'Acid Routine' combines attractive musical features with jacking drums and mind-bending TB-303 motifs.
Review: Label regulars Drunken Kong release their first EP of the year on Tronic and it's a heady affair. The title track revolves around tough, pounding kicks and menacing air raid sirens that swoop in at regular intervals, while "Phase One" is a high-paced roller populated by wiry acid tones and rasping percussion. In contrast, "One Day" is more subtle, with doubled up claps and a linear rhythm laying the basis for moody synth stabs and a gurgling bass, while "Non Stop" sees the duo venture down a tripped out route as a straight rhythm provides the backdrop for eerie synth riffs and powerful filtered builds.
Review: Dutch techno and electro veteran, Orlando Voorn has been even more prolific than usual of late, delivering must-check EPs on Kompakt, Bombis and Bad Manners. Voorn's new outing on Burek, a Croatian label that's genuinely going places, is rather good too, though musically far more colourful, funky and house-influenced than we've come to expect. Check first sweet, summery and boogie-influenced opener 'Soul Society', before getting your ears around the heady piano-house stomp of 'Lovin' You (Shine)' - a superb slab of celebratory retro-futurism - and the warming haziness of twinkling deep house cut 'Waters Run Deep'. Elsewhere, 'Funk Isolation' adds undulating bass guitar, swirling chords and bleeping 8-bit melodies to a hot-steppin' house beat, while 'Waters Run Deep (Beatless)' reinvents that track as an ultra-deep drift through ambient space.
Review: Supported by industry heavyweights such as Jamie Jones, Eli Brown, Sirus Hood and Josh Butler, the mysterious Eighteen Keys delivers the fifth installment of his eponymous imprint here titled "Light It Up". This is a deep and sensual tech house cut that provides perfect mood music for the warm up or afterhours alike. It's backed by second offering "You Know" a deep down and dirty expression in minimal house, packed with druggy, bumpy bass and clipped rhythm programming which would also go down a treat on Sunday morning.
Review: Hexagonal Club isn't a real nightclub, just the name given by Paris-based Pont Neuf to their compilations showcasing fresh electronic grooves from up-and-coming French artists (France being known colloquially as 'l'Hexagone', you see). And what a compilation Volume 2 is: few things in life get this writer as excited as a collection of quality deep house jams from people you've never heard of, and this album ticks that particular box nicely! The over-riding influence is deep house from the Heard/Trent/Damier school but there's room too for everything from the Italo/prog stylings of Fasme's 'Turbo Blaster' to the left coast-ish bump of THEOS's 'Wanna Go Out'. Get 'em while they're chaud, people!
Ahora Todo Va (Gorgon City remix) - (8:00) 124 BPM
Review: Something of a meeting of minds here, as long-established Spanish producer Dennis Cruz (Stereo Productions, Hot Creations, Moon Harbour Recordings) joins forces with fellow deep house/tech-house fusionist Josh Butler (Madtech, Defected, Rejected), for a joyous bounce through carnival-ready Latin house. 'Ahora Tado Ba' sneakily uses portions from what sounds like an old Latin jazz record, brilliantly weaving them around a bouncy, drum-heavy samba-house groove. It's an insanely infectious cut and one that we're fully expecting to hear tons over the summer. It comes backed by a drawn-out, loved-up tech-house take from Gorgon City that's arguably far more emotive than Cruz and Butler's original, if a little less urgent, energetic and funky.
Review: &Friends label head, former Radio 1 and now Defected Radio host, A&R consultant for Atlantic Records and all round electronic tastemaker, Lucy Monkman aka Monki sure keeps busy. She makes her debut on Hot Creations here with "Yurican Soul", which will hypnotise you with its slinky and hypnotic acid groove. This is backed up by "Ring Ring" featuring the vocals of award winning American poet and songwriter Rosemarie Wilson aka Queen Rose, who has previously collaborated with Luke Solomon, Eli Brown and Yuksek. This one hits with more power, mainly coming from its driving bassline.
Review: A most trusted producer over the years with a sound that's evolving into something more progressive and synthy for this particular release while maintaining that classic Reset Robot reboot - this EP's lead track is its most intriguing. With a touch of techno-pop be-it electroclash weaving its way through "I Wish You'd Never" there's no denying its trancey and rave roots. Dipping deeper into straight up big room acid techno for "Time Loop", the whiplash of rip curling synths in "Fluid" peel over ephemeral atmospheres and the dusty thud of drums. And for the that serene bonus, Truesoul caps off this release with a "I Wish You'd Never (dub)", steering the original toward something arpeggio-driven over vocal-led.
Review: By his usually prolific standards, Harry "Choo Choo" Romero has been rather quiet of late, offering up just two missives of note in 2020. Here he pitches up on Damian Lazarus's Crosstown Rebels imprint for the very first time, delivering a dark room throb-job that's arguably far less muscular than many of his productions - even if it does boast a thickset, mind-altering bassline and plenty of layered percussion. Romero provides vocal and instrumental mixes, with the former adding spoken word sections from Jessica Eve to the New York producer's addictive blend of minor key motifs, spacey chords and suitably wonky electronic noises. Rodriguez Jr. provides the other mix, skilfully re-imagining the track as a woozy, soft-touch tech-house number full of shuffling beats, moody chords and undulating lead lines.
Review: "Ham The Monkey" is German producer Jimi Jules' third EP for Innversions, following up 2019's "Fool" and "Karma Baby". A concept EP, Jules tributes the music here to Ham the Astrochimp, a chimpanzee and the first hominid launched into space. In 1961, Ham flew aboard the Mercury-Redstone 2 mission, part of the U.S. space program's Project Mercury. From the evocative feelings of opening cut "Don't Take It Personally" which is very much in the Innervisions aesthetic, late night mood music is catered for with the sensual deep house of "Grumpy Monkey" while the seething energy of closing track "Tinnitus" is the typical style of dancefloor drama you've come to expect from Ame & Dixon's label.
Review: "Switch" by London based Michael Jansons (Classic/Knee Deep In Sound) with Canadian vocalist Dope Earth Alien was one of the biggest tracks of 2019, earning massive airtime on radio and in the clubs. The pair finally return to follow up its success with their new banger "Medicine" which is sure to bang the party all over again with its addictive groove and jacked vocals. The Extended Dub Mix is a worthy addition too for all the DJs out there, working those acid house style rhythm patterns to perfection. Expect to be hearing a lot of this one as well in 2021.
Review: As the title suggests, this expansive EP from the Burden Brothers' Octave One project delivers new remixes of two tracks from 2015 album Burn It Down. We're treated to a trio of reworks of stab-happy, retro-futurist house cut 'Believer', featuring the trademark vocals of long-time collaborator Ann Saunderson. There's an edit and extended version, both of which cannily combine their usual ear-pleasing Motor City electronics with Inner City style, warehouse-ready grooves, and an almost entirely instrumental dub mix that's arguably even more loved-up and glassy-eyed. There's a similarly old school feel to the outfit's 'ReWork' of 'Whatever She Wants' - think deliciously positive chords, chunky drums and smooth bass-while the accompanying 'ReDub' adds a little more bottom-end weight while retaining the track's undeniably saucer-eyed vibe.
Review: Still fresh off of his critically acclaimed album 'Midnight Swim' on Dirtybird, Boston's Steve Darko showcases his relentless studio work ethic once again, teaming up with homeboy (now San Diego based) Nik Thrine of Staybad, for two intoxicating and typically bass-driven tracks. First up the is the druggy afterhours bounce of "Small Things" which is the perfect musical accompaniment to knackered Sunday morning vibes, followed by the tough rolling UK tech house vibe of "Droids" which by comparison is much more upbeat and aimed squarely at the main room dancefloor.
Review: It's been a while since Roman Flugel last delivered an album, and that was the all-ambient Themes I-XIII in 2018. Eating Darkness, the German veteran's fifth solo full-length, is therefore well overdue. It's a quietly confident and undeniably entertaining affair, with the former Alter Ego man smartly sashaying between evocative IDM ('Magic Briefcase', 'The Best is Yet To Come', the Autechre-ish 'Eating Darkness'), druggy slo-mo fare ('Chemicals'), raw new wave throb-jobs ('Wow'), acid-flecked jack-tracks ('Jocks & Freaks'), hypnotic late night minimal techno ('Cluttered Homes'), drowsy downtempo cheeriness ('Locked'), beautiful ambient synth-scapes ('Charles') and revivalist Euro-disco pump ('D.I.S.C.O'). Throughout, Flugel reaches for vintage analogue and modular synthesizer sounds, giving the album a distinctively timeless feel.
Review: In the space of a handful of EPs and contributions to compilations, Edinburgh-based Astro has developed a trademark sound that tends towards the starry and intergalactic. He further expands on this attractive sonic blueprint on Into The Past, the producer's most sizable offering yet. There's plenty to set the pulse racing across the six tracks on show, from the piano-powered, peak-time sci-fi house of the title track, to the squelchy, loved-up deep house bliss of 'Calipso' and the driving, immersive dancefloor futurism of 'Mars'. Also worth checking is ultra-deep shuffler 'Celestial', whose heavy sub-bass adds serious dancefloor weight, and the atmospheric, undulating brilliance of 'Strange Object'.
Review: It's a fact that Poker Flat is without doubt the hardest working label in the business. Going full steam ahead into 2021, their next release comes from label chief Steve Bug, who teams up with industry veteran (and fellow Berliner) Cle on "Gentle Push". The duo have worked together countless times, both being veterans of the German rave scene going far back to its early days, yet their output remains as fresh as ever. Those early influences are abundant on the track, with its epic Reese bassline roaring throughout its pumping and ecstatic groove, with a strong nod to The Motor City sound. This is followed by the slinky and hypnotic afterhours vibes of "A Pinch Of Space", awash in deep and glacial dub techno aesthetics.
Review: Ascendant DJ/producer Nicky Elisabeth has already left her mark on the Dutch scene, with a residency at Amsterdam's club De Marktkantine where she also runs her concept party called OPAL. She makes her big label debut here, in vibrant fashion, for Cologne institution Kompakt with the pulsating and strobe-lit drama of "Celeste". There's no doubt that this one will induce you into a trance on the dancefloor. It is backed up by the slinky and hypnotic mood music of "Say" that features her angelic vocals atop, further adding to its mesmerising touch. Also some terrific remixes from veteran German producers coming as part of the package: Roman Fluegel takes "Celeste" into adrenalised territory with his direct and punchy perspective, while Robag Wruhme of The Wighnomy Brothers fame goes deeper, naturally, taking "Say" into typically glassy-eyed and bittersweet realms.
Review: Despite being friends and operating in the same sonic sphere, Richy Ahmed and Jamie Jones have never before collaborated on a joint single. This EP for Four Thirty Two is therefore significant, not least because it comes from two of the biggest names in the business. As you'd expect opener 'More Energy' sounds tailor-made for big rooms, with the pair adding minor-key motifs, mid-90s garage organ sounds and spoken word snippets to a tech-tinged, peak-time house groove. Arguably even better is 'I Need It', a super-charged, retro-futurist piano house number that also contains some decidedly druggy minor-key synth sounds. Butch and Ray Mono both remix that track, with the former's deep house/tech-house fusion revision just edging out the latter's smoother and chunkier tech-house take.
Review: Veteran British DJ/producer Anthony Middleton is back on his Do Not Sit On The Furniture label. As one half of acclaimed duo Audiofly, to co-running their Supernature label and Flying Circus brands, Middleton continues to be a leader in electronic music. His newest offering is "Wheel Of Life'' which explores the typically deep and sensual side of tech house that you've come to expect from him, incorporating Middle Eastern percussion and vocals plus a hint of acid for good measure. Next track "Magic Touch" is much more upbeat and energetic, but still retains a dreamy and ethereal quality within its rich tapestry of melody.
Review: German electronic wizard Lorenz Brunner aka Recondite is back, with a new offering for Italian label Afterlife, following up 2018's Rainmaker EP. There are two enticing offerings on The Bird EP, with the sublime title track taking you deep into the aether by way of its rich tapestry of haunting melodies, backed by ethereal chord progressions. Brunner then makes his transition into the peak time with the optimised dancefloor dynamics of "Secluded". Again his penchant for infectious melody is on display with this element taking centre stage, underpinned by a minimal yet mesmerising backdrop of euphoric aesthetics.
Review: Respected mix engineer, live act and producer Hannes Bieger returns to Poker Flat to follow up 2019's "Chemistry", bringing two stunning new tracks to the surface on The Heart EP. The title track features the unmistakable vocals of Philadelphia-based poet, activist and vocalist Ursula Rucker. Her powerful words at the forefront, supported by a deep and mesmerising arrangement that makes for perfect mood music. Second offering "Santorin" sees Bieger inject more dancefloor dynamics into proceedings on this hypnotic tech house groove. This one is just perfect for those heads down moments in the club on Sunday morning.
Review: Moscow main man Archie Hamilton is back for the London-based label's newest release, after presenting a massive compilation on sister imprint Moss Co. back in February. Here he serves up the slick late night bounce of "Journey To Juno" led by the punchy boompty bass of its namesake and underpinned with glistening FM textures and swung rhythms. Second offering "Midnight Delight" cleverly samples a classic from some certain Swiss electronic pioneers on this percussive tech house tool, where its syncopated tribal rhythms groove away nicely beneath some hypnotic 303 acid for added effect.
Review: Following up promising releases on Box Of Cats, Elastic Rhythms and Teethy, Los Angelenos Arnold & Lane made their Dirtybird debut last year with their track "BayBay" on the Couchout Compilation. 2021 sees them bring a full EP full of oddball grooves on "Dinky Whale", a serving of wonky, bass heavy and boompty minimal tech house. Going for more of a UK tech house vibe is "That's House Music" up next, a tough rolling groove full of attitude that is aimed squarely at the main room dancefloor at peak time.
Review: German wunderkind Tim Engelhardt returns to Watergate to follow up 2020's Rooted EP. The Cologne-based producer was prolific throughout 2020, seeing the release of the LP Idiosynkrasia on Stil Vor Talent, and remixes for the likes of Trentemoeller. From the sublime deep house stylings of the title track, which is as glassy-eyed and bittersweet as it gets, there's also the sunny and uplifting open-air vibes of "Polygon Particles" with a strong influence of Afro house and an innate soulfulness. Finally, Engelhardt executes one more expression in perfect dancefloor drama on "Connected in Silence", guided by a wonderful melodic progression and underpinned with moody elements which intensify the track's overall tension and suspense.
Review: It's been over a year since their Ayu EP on Diynamic and now Catz 'n Dogz return with another infectious release. The title track is available in two versions, and despite its name, the "Existential Mix" is an infectious affair: based on a niggling groove, it features searing acid lines that accompany catchy vocal samples. On the "Reality Mix", the Polish pair opt for a more heads-down approach; utilising dense tribal drums and a pulsating bass, they still include the vocal samples. This combination makes for a tripped out but highly effective track that will rock late night dance floors.
Review: Constant Sound strides into 2021 with a fresh four-tracker from Casey Spillman, a rising star of tech-house whose impressive releases on Infuse and LOCUS still get plenty of plays. As you'd expect, there's much to set the pulse racing across the EP, from the clandestine thrills of opener 'Up & Away'- all warped analogue bass motifs, brain-melting vocal snippets, sturdy kick-drums and jazzy percussive fills - to the skipping, bass-heavy shuffle of deep house/tech-house fusion number 'Let's Go'. Sandwiched in between you'll find the paranoid, slightly foreboding 'Big Steppers', which reminded us a little of Orbital's more minimalistic cuts, and the deep space tech-house shimmer of 'Right Order'.
Urmet K - "Secrets Of Your Heart" (feat Shawni) - (6:51) 119 BPM
Cagdas Dumlupinar - "Lionisa" - (6:23) 120 BPM
Review: Odyssey: Let The Journey Begin is a new various artists EP that showcases the lush Odyssey sound with new music from Atlanta-based Modd (All Day I Dream / Anjunadeep) who serves up the ethereal Sunday afternoon rooftop vibe of "Gambit", Saint Petersburg's Dibidabo going for a deeply meditative mood on the Afro house influenced "Higher", rising producer from London Urmet K delivers the most sensual sounding deep house cut on here titled "Secrets Of Your Heart" (feat Shawni) and Turkey's Cagdas Dumlupinar delves deep into the exotic on closing track "Lionisa" in the tradition of the classic Innervisions style.
Review: Mexico"s Duro label returns with its latest effort by label chief Theus Mago, joined by fellow countryman Mijo on the Pebbles Mind Horrors EP, which follows up some great releases by Arthur Johnson and Colossio. Get tranced out under the strobe light to the druggy low slung groove of the title track, while "Ustedes Los Ricos" takes its cues from Chicago"s acid house days on this sleazy, heads-down jacker. This is backed up by a swirling and hypnotic rendition by Poland's Mytron up next, then ending with one more cerebral outing in the form of "Nosotros Los Pobres" that's awash in a tapestry of intoxicating melodies backed up by some infectious polyrhythms - a trademark that Mago has fast made a name for himself with.