Beta 2 feat Steo
Beta 2 makes a welcome return to the famous imprint and it sounds like we could have a future classic. Created to fit Steo's eloquent vocal refrain, the track comprises of tight, crisp drums and a humble bass, with haunting, ghostly strings. Representative of Headz through and through, with techy layers and the alluring balance of the dark and deep, glossed with a shimmering light liquid coat. A stunning piece of music.
'Artikal Music Compilation: Sampler 001'
A tangy sampler from the forthcoming compilation on J:Kenzo’s dubstep imprint kicks off with his own track, ‘Straight Defeat feat Collinjah’, a yardside duppy riddim if ever there was one. The Biome track melts a little in the previous track's shadow. TMVS remixes Thelem’s ‘Shottaz’ into a rasping staggering roller, before D-Operation’s effort blows them all away with the oscillating wormhole skank of ‘Sheba’.
'Brock Out EP'
Unknown To The Unknown
An assault on the senses from the first beat, 'Brock Out', a stripped-down, wiggling jack-attack from Atomic Jam veteran Chris Finke — under his Bodyjack nom de plume — rides that undefinable line between house and techno (hell, it's probably techno, really, so just pitch it down a bit). 'That's What She Said' ups the intensity further, and with a sterling bass-loaded interpretation from DJ Haus, this dancefloor weapon from the spectacular Unknown To The Unknown is quite, quite essential.
Audiotricz vs TNT
Quite literally everything either of these duos touches is hardstyle gold, so to put them all in a studio together was always going to result in a mammoth track. 'Ghettoblaster' has that TNT groove running throughout, combined with Audiotrics' uplifting melodies and a very familiar vocal which just brings it all together. Really accessible hardstyle, whilst steering clear of the obvious and commercial sounds.
Bad Habit Muzik
Here's a deep roller featuring gloriously nebulous snatches of female vocal, muted keys, heady atmospherics and a gorgeous synth string line that cuts through the mix like a hot knife through butter. Londoner 100Me (Alex Hilliar to his mum) has a sound that is all his own, progressive in vibe but with an urban edge and melodic sensibility that helps this music stand out from the crowd. Gorgeous stuff from a producer to keep an eye on.
'Where You Gonna Go'
As you would expect from genre-hopping producer Paul White, the usual rules of engagement don’t apply here, as he offers up his own suitably idiosyncratic take on house music. Ergo ‘Where You Gonna Go’ — with its none-too cheery subject matter of heartbreak and loss — provides the perfect platform for a cerebral jaunt into the realms of deep, hypnotic, pastoral 4/4. It even features Jamie Woon on backing vocals too!
Legion & Logam ft Adam Wright
'House Of Cards'
A soulful slab of drum & bass which sits somewhere in the midst of a melodic liquid piece and a deep tech roller. The weighty bass is omnipresent yet subtle leaving the crisp breaks, clicks and reverb vocal to take centre stage.There’s a huge country and blues vibe coming from the guitar and piano note. This is a stunning EP from a trio that are showing off their exceptional production skills, the flip is simply beautiful.
'Rock La Bibliotek EP'
Those of you who are familiar with Ekoplekz's modus operandi will know the kind of sonic pressure that will be awaiting you in any of his records. And this, a supposedly “dancefloor/ club”-orientated record is more like an opening set in a dank club in Elephant & Castle than any main room affair. Muted, dubwise, spatial and trippy with a hint of low-end theory pulse, this six-tracker is a slowly closing mandible of threshold dance music.
Marcus Intalex takes his house and techno sobriquet Trevino to the next stage, introducing a new label, Birdie, as a base from which to release such diversions from his other life as a drum & bass mainstay. 'To the Core' borders techno, sparse and somehow mournful, a heads-down chugger. 'Mesmerise' maintains a moody, enveloping soundscape, but it's 'Warmer', as the title might suggest, that breaks through the tech foreboding like a shaft of glorious sunlight. It's joyous, blissful, all those words used to describe moments when machine music is made human.
B Front & Alpha2
Sometimes I wonder how these guys can sleep at night — after producing such brutal, sinister rawstyle they must have worst nightmares than eating a block of cheese before bed. Nevertheless if you're into the raw sounds it doesn't get much bigger than this, with the epic film score-influenced breakdown building into a simple, twisted melody, dropping with seriously raw power.
Robert Nickson pres RNX
Originality is the highest accolade in trance, but consistency probably ranks a close second. If so, then props most sizeable to Colorize, and even more so to Robert Nickson. After ‘So Called Loyalty’, ‘Stars’ is his second RNX killer for the label in as many months and another study in low-end tempo, wind-swept synths, pad-pathos and spellbound atmospherics.
Wildbirds & Peacedrums
The Leaf Label
Back with their first record in nearly four years, the ever-creative husband and wife duo Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin decide to strip things back for this aptly-titled release. From the off, ‘Rhythm’ sets out its stall with a tight, driving, solo drum break, which acts as the metronomic musical anchor for Wallentin’s weaving vocal. Rarely has the old truism less is more been more brilliantly executed.
Following a tone set by the likes of Fantastic Mr Fox, Lapalux and Deco Child, you know the one; where electronica meets the influences of dub and West Coast low-slung attitude, Lost Midas conjures up this glistening slice of beat pop. The Captain Supernova mix comes through with the more fluid approach, but all in all a good effort.
'Walter’s Call '
Jazz in any form of dance music has always flirted with the naffer end of the spectrum, coz lets face it, jazz is only cool when it's from the '60s and played by a tortured heroin junkie. Most recently this heinous crime against music hybridisation aka electro swing has done more than most to poison the watering hole. And here is where we find the 'Walter's Call EP', lapping at the water's edge, flirting dangerously with shiny, major key jazzy melodies and mucky bass music beats.
Lazare Hoche & Malin Génie
Frenchmen Lazare Hoche and Malin Génie celebrate 10 releases from Hoche's vinyl-only imprint with two blazing cuts. 'Formes' is classic, deep space house music, all nagging bleeps, swirling pads and old school 909 drums. 'Work That Booty', which feels like it may well have been recorded live, is found on the flip. With an incessant vocal — imploring one to work one's booty — and acidic inflections, once skippy hats and snares pitch up at the halfway point you'll be punching the air. Pared down, minimal and infectious.
Monday Never Comes
Andy Whitby’s HARD brand has been taking over the UK’s hard dance circuit this year, with packed events across the country, as well as his highly popular monthly Hardkast. With the label now in full swing this new release features a very catchy male vocal overload on top of a piano lead breakdown, building with sharp snares and dropping with a dirty electro bassline, with a bouncy element. Fresh hard house for 2014.
'Remember When/Till We Meet Again'
After 2012’s fine ‘Nothing Is Forever’ and last year’s ‘Te Echos De Menos’, wistful title enthusiast Majera fields his 2014 offering. ‘Remember When’ should bring nods of appreciation for good structure, fine sounds and tight production. Midway through ‘Till We Meet Again’ though emerges a riff so chest swelling, so goddamn lump-in-the-throat big ‘n’ gorgeous, that ‘Remember’ may become just a memory.
Having distanced themselves from that frequently (over)used and much abused chill-out tag, for which they became so well-known, Messrs Binns and Hardaker return once again for another lesson in perfectly pitched electronic pop. Taking in vocal-led, arpeggiated synth house, pitched down kosmiche and super smooth, late night 4/4 pop, it’s all about that sharp, smooth production style and their meticulous attention to detail.
'Ann River, Mn'
Revealing a more plaintive side of his work, Dorian Concept takes a side-step from the usual contorted beat workings to offer something with a little more popular appeal. Festival friendly chords, his own vocal and a pulsing layering of percussive elements drive this along nicely in territory more reserved for the likes of Caribou and Dan Deacon.
'Disciple Alliance Vol. 1'
Despite being created in the bedrooms of London’s suburbs and tested in the bowels of dark, smoke-infused clubs, a large faction of the dubstep sound and scene is now very much US dominated, and with that it brings less savoury trappings. Eschewing the dungeon sound for a fluoro-hyper clownish version of EDM with a sour penchant for naff vocals and identikit wobble, if that’s your bag, look no further.
'Disciple Alliance Vol 1'
Various Disciple Alliance Vol. 1 Disciple Alliance 3 Despite being created in the bedrooms of London’s suburbs and tested in the bowels of dark, smoke-infused clubs, a large faction of the dubstep sound and scene is now very much US dominated, and with that it brings less savoury trappings. Eschewing the dungeon sound for a fluoro-hyper clownish version of EDM with a sour penchant for naff vocals and identikit wobble, if that’s your bag, look no further.
Technoboy, Isaac & Tuneboy
Last time these three guys hit the studio together we were blessed with a dancefloor banger, so expectations were high for this follow-up. Luckily there is no disappointment in sight with this perfect balance of old skool/nu skool production. The legacy of these three legends shines through, with the old skool samples and kick and bass mid-intro, but their relevance in the EDM sound today is more than apparent, with the big room house-style melody and blistering hardstyle kick on the drop.
GO On Air Recordings
Somna’s GO On Air debut is as good an example as any of the label’s excellent first innings stretch. Thunderously produced and cool without being laidback, it’s stacked with un-rote sounds. Add to that riffs that deliver their thrill without strolling too high up the keyboard, and FX that’ll tickle a neuron from a thousand yards out, well bottom line, ‘The Discovery’ just works.
' Depth Over Distance EP'
Neither Boris Bunnik nor Delsin are going to win any prizes for originality with ‘Distance’, but it nonetheless does an impressive line in deep techno. ‘Plateau’ is a sublime, chiming groove, full of seductive pads and spiky, metallic percussion and ‘Closer’ is all atmospheric, acid-tinged sweeps. However, the title track impresses most; teeming with mysterious synth lines and led by rigid claps and drums, it’s reminiscent of Carl Craig at his most eerie. It may be derivative, but it's executed exquisitely.
We’re usually fans of French label Infine's output, usually for their knack of spotting acts and tracks that have a certain kink or original musical twist. Take the recent re-issue of Bernard Szajner’s work or Danton Eeprom for example. This, however, slides way past. Atmospheric 4/4 crossover musings for the thin end of the art crowd. Sorry guys.
'Beyond feat Omar '
It’s great to see a keystone UK soul singer still making music with the underground and not desperate for that major label homogeny that many others think is the natural progression. Here, Omar’s silky vocals bed in nicely alongside the electronic syncopations from EVM, reminiscent of the Co-Op days alongside the Bugz and 4Hero. Marcel Lune further breaks things up with his staccato remix, heavy on the West London flex.
Tooms & Lenny D
'Burn In Sunlight'
Blurring the line between metal and gabba, this collaboration straight out of NYC shows some of the exciting collaborations that are happening since the explosion of electronic dance music in America. Being no stranger to the metal sound, hardcore legend Lenny D not only makes this an interesting crossover track, but something that will work on the dancefloors too.
Fred Baker pres Iguana
'Beautiful Sunshine (Remixes)'
Back before Fred Baker started making big room not particularly well, he made trance, usually brilliantly. A case in point is ‘Beautiful Sunshine’, from which James Dymond impressively manages to achieve even higher levels of euphoric altitude. Also included for good measure, lest you overlooked its finery first time round, is Stoneface & Terminal's almost as tasty 2007 treatment.
The second release on Marcel Heese’s label features a follow-up collaboration with Spanish producer P.E.A.R.L . ‘Aqua’ favours a similar approach as the debut record, its rolling rhythm and tough beats shot through with subsonic bleeps. Finitude has also scored a major coup in securing Regis as a remixer. Karl O’Connor’s recent activity on his Downwards label and for Minimal Wave appears to have had an effect here, and the tumbling drums underpin wave upon wave of murky analogue textures and dark blips and tweaks for a stomp somewhere between wavy sleaze and techno noir.
'I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)'
Stripping out any patriotic appeal that '500 Miles' had, Morris and co. rebuild The Proclaimers' original into a sleazy funk rock track that is steeped in '70s soundtrack psychedelia. Punchy organ riffs, sleazy guitar and a call and response vocal make this altogether more than the sum of its parts. Stark.
Habstrakt & Megalodon
'The Storm EP '
Never Say Die
Another hawking globule of brostep phlegm flobs into my ears in the most hi-NRG and mid-range way. It’s a pretty intense rush, kicking off with ‘Yabba Dabs’, a screeching joyride of grating wobble. Followed by ‘The Storm’ a pile-driving onslaught of side-chained synth abuse, only to be upstaged by ‘Revenge’, a thumping romper stomper, culminating in ‘Riddim 101’ which can only appeal to anyone below the age of 18, delirious through Meow Meow abuse. I’m exhausted.
Wragg vs Nomad
'Future Is You'
Despite many hard trance artists abandoning the scene to capitalise on the explosion of either EDM or hardstyle, a few have stayed true to their passion, and there are no better examples of this than Wragg & Nomad. This latest collaboration is all about the pounding dark groove, bubbly acid lines and haunting melodies. Great to see these guys continuing to push the sound forward.
Inside 'Cubic' (or ‘Cubik’ depending on whether you believe mp3, press release or artwork) is an excellent trancer fighting to get out. In the engine room, the beats, bass, percs, sub riffs et al piston superbly. With the riff though, comes the caveat. Note-wise it's effective, but the thin, reedy synth playing it is simply not cutting la moutarde.
The talented Stephen Brown has changed direction since he returned to music-making. Gone are the hyper-kinetic rhythms of releases on Djax. Nowadays, he is more likely to be making the kind of reflective, bass-heavy grooves that feature on his latest Real Time release. ‘Micron’ features cinematic, textured soundscapes, but is lent some dancefloor bias thanks to its snappy percussion and nagging bassline. As its title suggests, ‘Swing Left’ is a swinging rhythm, full of jazzy nuances and sees Brown veer into the space once occupied by Ian O’Brien.
'Bricks Don't Roll'
You can’t dispute it’s a banger, You can’t dispute that it sets the dance on fire and you certainly can not dispute his title as the undisputed King of jump up. Hazard has the formulae to create the biggest of tunes from the simplest of sounds. The patterns are reminiscent of Clipz circa late naughties, never a bad thing, and the vocal is super sexy. Listen to this with caution, its seriously catchy, and you’ll sound like a weirdo trying to hum it on the bus.
'You've Been Light to Me (Marc Marzenit's Back to Disco Remix)'
This remix from progressive powerhouse Marzenit slipped out discreetly during the summer, but it’s a sleeper that’s been wielded like a weapon by those in the know. That digitally-distorted choir sample sends shivers down spines, though it just foreshadows the dominating bassline that swings in halfway through; abating during the breakdown before slamming back in with even more force. Nine minutes of rollicking power, it’s a progressive anthem if ever there was one.
'Fuel For the Night (Q Base Anthem)'
Geck-o is the king of the Qult sound, fusing house, techno and hardstyle into a wonderful new genre of hard goodness. It’s only fitting that this guy be given the honour of writing the Q Base Qult anthem this year. Shuffly percussion, rising synths, epic melodies and brutal kick-drums all wrapped up in a relatively modest 135bpm package. It’s not hard to see why producers of all styles are experimenting with this sound after hearing this. Freedom and creativity at its fullest.
The proverbial hat trick, Andrew puts his third solo of the year square into the back of the dance floor net. Loads of chime-y piano juxtapose effectively with angular FX (and the odd whip-crack or three) and big squelches of distortion, Stupendously uplifting - and only more so over repeated spins, while it maybe doesn’t quite ace ‘Once Lydian’, it lands inch close.
'Ground Loop EP'
The Bunker NY
The latest release from Uwe Schmidt feels like being in the middle of an explosion. ‘Ground Loop 1’ starts with wave upon wave of chilling synths before a wiry, squelchy rhythm comes hurtling in. 'Ground Loop 2’ is more restrained, but not by much. Powered by a slinky, metallic rhythm, its dark bass pulses play host to synth builds that are so powerful to the point of being all-consuming.
This is future music — well, it sounds like what we thought the future would be 20 years ago, you know, all scary and ruled by robots. It’s chillingly dark, screechingly metallic, and militantly industrial. There’s a good old school flavour to the drums, which gives this track some dancefloor vibes. But that weird robotic drill at the centre of the mix is unexpected and indescribable — definitely one to check out with your own ears. And while you're there, check out the techy two-step number on the flip.
'Fire in the House (Simon Patterson Remix)'
Tech trance kingpin Patterson turns in an unexpected rework here of Hard Fi’s 2011 single. Retaining the charm of the original, it otherwise sees Patterson firmly in electro-progressive mode. The vocals are used to conjure a lovely sense of melancholy, with Patterson reworking the original’s harmonies into dizzying flashes of trance melody. Uplifting to the max.
Jon Phonics pres Tabanca
'Domino Effect '
Push & Run
With an atmosphere bigger, thicker and more chewy than an episode of Come Dine With Me, Jon Phonics fills every crevice in your earholes with rich, syrupy electronica while Tabanca drizzles her mellifluous vocal icing over the top. Having a pop at the remix recipe is U, carefully maintaining the sonic integrity of the original and vocal, but underpinning it with dense and lush half-speed Amen drums, which further add to the emo resonance.
Italy’s leading lady of hardcore AniMe is back with another awesome EP to damage your ear-drums. My pick of the tracks is 'Cowards'. The hook of the track is a movie-style vocal in the main break, carried by a crisp and crunchy kick-drum and on-beat melody to get the people stomping hard. The main break dials up the euphoria on the melody before unleashing hell on the climactic second drop. A very powerful track.
'Adagio For Strings'
Trance’s goggle-eyed fixation with ‘Adagio’ takes another turn. One of two new versions that dropped literally side by side into the inbox the other week, Sixma’s comes underpinned by industrial levels of side chain compression and tremulous wobble-bass. Like Tiësto’s treatment, Mark’s lead is of the caustically bleached-out variety. Unlike Tiësto’s, it does away, almost entirely with the (titular) strings.
7 Days Entertainment
Big Strick keeps it in the family as the latest release on his label comes from his son. Favouring a similar approach to his dad, Strickland Jnr. delivers the killer, percussive techno of 'Chili Cheese Fries' and lays down skittish drums and jazzy flourishes on the excellent ‘Idee Fixe’. Proving that he’s not just a chip off the old block and that he has his own identity, the young producer also drops two excellent mid-tempo, beatsy tracks, ‘Vanilla Sky’ and ‘The Tomorrow People’, which inhabit a middle ground between Detroit techno and dusty hip-hop.
It’s been a while since either this label or Stingray have released material, so ‘Psychiatrist’ is a welcome return. In true Sherard Ingram form, the title track is a blistering, high-paced electro track, scattergun percussive volleys fired over hyperactive metal 808s as Stingray drops noisy, discordant riffs into the ether. ‘Strontium Dog 2’ is less pacey but just as intense, with waves of tough claps supporting insistent techno-bass pulses. It sounds like he never went away.
I hate to be the guy that says it, but shit, it was pretty inevitable — considering the close quarters they share — that elements of grime and jungle would mix. It’s been permeating through the slow/fast Metalheadz indebted productions of people like Om Unit, Hyroglifics and Sam Binga, but Berlin’s She’s Drunk makes it feel more like the dulled bass pulses and compressed handclaps are twice as important as the classic drum breaks layered on top on ‘Talk To Them’.
16 Bit Lolitas
'Deep In My Soul'
You couldn’t pick a better example of a house act who’s reinvented to stay abreast of trends, while remaining consistent with its core sonic ideals. 16 Bit Lolitas hit back big time this year with ‘Beat Organ’, though they’ve possibly topped it with ‘Deep In My Soul’. Opening on a techy, bleepy frame, an icy rush of melody establishes itself as the tune’s central hook, alongside one of those classic deep house samples that’s stuttered to hypnotic effect. Divine and deep as hell.
'Songs of Pressure'
Keeping up the pace with another quality release (alongside recent tunes from Andy Blake, Cage & Aviary and exhaustive, archival material on sister label Emotional Rescue) on Emotional Especial is the third label release from Richard Sen. Mixing up proto-house dynamics with post punk/dub aesthetics (think African Head Charge), Sen has always had a canny knack in writing killer club tracks, using these primary influences. ‘Songs of Pressure’ features a brilliant remix from The Asphodells (Weatherall and Fairplay) in a particularly uptempo mood — fusing dub elements and exotic nuances into their Muslimgauze-style version.
'So You Wanna Be Hardcore'
Zany, Jowan & DV8 team up once again as the legendary Donkey Rollers with a superb vocal laid down by DV8, and some furious beats around it, keeping all the fans of raw sounds happy.
The Green Martian
'A Last One For the Road'
Laurent Christian Georges Véronnez’s first crack of the Green Martian whip in the better part of a decade. The tone and vibe of the 'Original', Splattered Implant & Alan Riddick versions are very Goa, with plenty of chunky percussion and acidic squall. It’s Gary Delaney’s excitingly arranged, polished, assiduously FX’d trance-progger that has the pulse-rate running quickest, though.
Function & Vatican Shadow
'Games Have Rules'
Dave Sumner and Hospital boss Dominick Fernow team up for a decidedly understated release. If you’re looking for the former Sandwell District member’s sub-sonic techno or Fernow’s raucous industrial, you may be disappointed with 'Games'. On the other hand, if you are a fan of either artist, chances are you have an open mind and the deep house, shimmering techno and the terse ambient passages that comprise this album, will resonate. Inspired by the eternal life pulses of New York and recorded in that city, it’s an excellent side project.
'Just Getting Started'
You can’t ever really hope to bottle the elements that Peverelist and co. look for in the music they release on Livity Sound and its backwards spelt offshoot label, but if you could, you’d be something of an instant techno savant. Coming with a kind of bruk and bolshy rolling accessibility, Bruce’s first plate proves to be a super solid entrance, made of minimal elements and a refreshing sense of wryly wrought joyfulness on ‘Tilikum’.
Above & Beyond
'Blue Sky Action (Grum Remix)'
With all the goals Grum has been kicking this year, it’s little wonder Above & Beyond recruited him to rework their summer crowdpleaser ‘Blue Sky Action’. And what an epic job he’s done too. The sing-along original is reborn as stomping electro-trance that takes things in a crazy psychedelic direction when the chorus rocks around. The vocal is used superbly, though if you want to hear Grum’s sonic adventures in their purest form then check out the dub mix.
'Mirror of the Sun'
New label venture from Seth Troxler focusing on music with a more organic bedrock. Clarian’s debut mixes pop, folk and loose, post punk ideas into his polished strain of house music. Ex-Footprintz partner, and Visionquest affiliate, Clarian North follows releases for Turbo and Hot Creations with this pleasantly skewed, three-track EP. Nicely varied content, but my personal favourite is the racing punk-funk of the title track, where Chris Isaak meets the Bush Tetras.
Howla & Wbbl
Ghetto Funk's signature hip-shaking midtempo vibe is in full effect on this double-header of squelchy, organic bass and chunky breakbeats. Bristol's Howla takes a soulful female vocal and shakes out a killer slice of brass-fuelled wiggle-funk on 'Gunfunk', before Guildford's Wbbl joins him in the studio on the manic, jazzy ass-shaker that is 'Crazy Paver'. A brace of bouncy floorfillers from a couple of welcome new names on the scene.
Tangle’s second for VANDIT this year (in and around a mass of other productions for his own Tangled Audio imprint, Lange Recordings and others)… ‘I Believe’ is less snarly 303-driven tech (ala February’s ‘Aquarius EP’) and far more of a get-down-the-front, shirt-pulling euphoric number. Its angelically sung hook will mark it well for the crowd and as the synths go vertical, so, very likely, will the hands.
'Stack It Up EP'
Not content with rewiring the Detroit techno code with Ike Release as Innerspace Halflife, Hakim Murphy drops a killer analogue release. 'Has 1' is a driving, housey groove that gives way to eerie synths swooping in, while 'Has 2' sees him venture down a deeper route, back towards his Detroit techno sound. The highlight however is 'Silent Monk 2', a rough and raw percussive workout that centres on a searing bassline.
As a precursor to Call Super’s 'Suzi Ecto' album, the subdued edit of ‘Sulu Sekou’ that graces this 7” feels at first like it could be a bit misleading, built, as it is, out of tuned percussive ticks, worming melodies and sampled jazz toplines. But it isn’t. It’s actually the perfect palette cleanser from what’s come before it and a fantastic entrance point to what’s coming after. Impressively clever, it’s beautifully assured in its understatement.
'Up All Night feat Angel Taylor'
Arty is a progressive trance star who’s been gradually seduced by the charms of the main stage, though here shows he’s still using his formidable studio powers for good. ‘Up All Night’ is a manic mix of diva house, sugary trance and mass-market EDM, beginning on a classic vibe before exploding into main stage excess, which Arty proceeds to empty bucketloads of glitchy noise over. Slightly insane and all the better for it.
'Lookin For Love (Mark E Remix)'
New EP from Robot 84, who washes some creamy synth tones over some dreamy, Italo-influenced nu-disco. Rolling at mid-tempo, ‘Lookin For Love’ is an ideal accompaniment for those a bit reluctant to leave the White Isle this season, especially the final track, ‘Yo Yo Yo Dance’. An excellent production from veterans Andy Williams (Fuzz Against Junk/Yam Who?) and Scott Ferguson — and if this isn’t enough, Mark E casts a little shade on the mood with his inspired remix.
'Say What Again'
London-based producer WHAT delivers a barrage of jackhammer bass and thumping drums, featuring a sample of Samuel L Jackson from Pulp Fiction that's so perfectly pitched for big room hedonism that you have to wonder quite why no-one's purloined it before now. Jackson's lyrical energy bounces around the beats with characteristic verve and attitude that can now be let loose on the dancefloor through the magic of studio osmosis.
Future Sound Of Egypt
Daisy-cutting beats, zipline-ing synths, belching distortion and at least two monster moments more than your average — one of the current shining hopes for UK trance drops science here.
Blak Madeen feat Edo G
Blak Madeen are a duo featuring Al J & Yusuf Abdul Mateen, and they've cooked up something haunting and hypnotic here, bassline stuck to without deviation, beats crisp and right, scratches sublime, and some wonderfully unhinging textural additions that stop things from just becoming purely rotational — as you'd expect a sparkling cameo from ED O.G (but way too brief!) seals off a totally compelling deal. The album this is lifted from is called 'The Time' and I want to make its acquaintance as soon as possible.
From the get go, ‘Coax’ feels like the sound of Graze resetting all the machine defaults after their 'Edges' album dropped back in January. A different beast altogether, there’s a tougher more actual assault to it; from the very temperament of the drums to the timbre of the lead line it feels like it all has a specific purpose. If people overlooked Graze before, coming with a sound such as this certainly makes them harder to ignore.
'Young Forever (Andre Sobota Remix)'
It’s difficult to put your finger on what’s so good about Andre Sobota’s remix. There’s a certain sense of '80s nostalgia that sweeps you up in the moment, and a tension as it slams into its house groove with heavy force. However, it’s that melody twinkle scattered throughout that will really melt hearts. Emotive electro-progressive, it’s another remix good enough to encourage hunting down the dub mix and erasing evidence of the original’s vocal altogether.
Beppe Loda Presents Egotrya
One of the pioneers (alongside Daniele Baldelli) of the Afro-cosmic sound happening in the clubs of north Italy during the '70s makes his Nang Records debut, and presents it as part of his new project, Egotrya. This alluring, electronic disco number hosts a number of alternative mixes, including the euphoric JMRS ‘Garden Party’ remix and favourites from Faze Action under their Andromeda Orchestra guise.
Rhythm Riders feat Aswad, Renegade Soundwave & Brother Culture
'Give Me A Sign'
Jay Cunning's ever-reliable Sub Slayers imprint drops a sun-kissed blast of dubbed-out, percussive breakbeat reggae from Rhythm Riders, a supergroup featuring Tony Gad & Drummie Zeb of UK dub icons Aswad, Danny Briottet of electronic pioneers Renegade Soundwave and Tim Bran of Dreadzone. For their second single the crew team up with vocallist Brother Culture for a rootsy clarion call to the masses. On remix duties, Londoner King Yoof shows there's life yet in the future jungle sound with a reworking of pure fyah, while Renegade Soundwave turn in a driving, drum-led, acid and fx-tinged breaks version.
Icicle feat Skittles
The first single to be released from his November scheduled album ‘Entropy’, ‘Problem’ is a calming, eclectic meld of genres. Grey in the most glorious sense of the tone, classy, soothing and accentuating brilliance in a low-key, unpretentious way. Drums march serenely forward, with power brought through by the contrasting, fast-paced vocal of Manchester’s Skittles. The mix of hip-hop, grime and drum & bass with the sultry, hedonistic air of toned down euphoria creates a vibe that will see the floor moshing like a synchronised army.
Slaine feat Reks & Termanology
'Zip Zero '
Suburban Noize Records
Instinctively distrustful of the La Coka Nostra stable (cos I fucking hated House of Pain) but keep getting pleasantly surprised by their latest offerings. This is so Buddha-blessed, rootsical and lush it could soundtrack an Indian wedding video — a truly strange mix from producer The Arcitype of cooing backing-vox, trippy raga-harmonium, thrumming rocksteady bass slowly enfolding you in its clasp, Slaine breaking forth with some thoughtful, moving rhymes about rising from nothing, how to become a flower. Superb.
'Rock La Bibliotek EP'
No guff Chet, I’ve been waiting for Ekoplekz to do something like this for what seems like a long, long time. Not that he hasn’t made music that would function on and pretty much batter any lesser soundsystem in the past, it just feels like these six tracks completely revel in their newfound directness. Basically, take that busted plekzed sound palette, apply it to slow chug techno and you’ve got ‘Sarkaztik’, aka my realised dream.
The Macarize stable delivers another gorgeous blend of uplifting trance and deep progressive. ‘Duality’ begins on a chilly note that suggests a deeper affair, though it builds step-by-step through its harmonic progression into a big hero chorus, with Zuubi wisely avoiding any protracted, predictable breakdowns. ‘Connect’ on the B-side is just as seductive.
Shaun J. Wright & Alinka
'Journey into the Deep'
Tenacious party duo from Chicago, Shaun J. Wright & Alinka, debut their label with this tricky disco number. In tow, two mixes from Kim Ann Foxman and Stereogamous twist up the strobing, Tenaglia-inspired disco-fantasy of the original into their respective proto-house variations; both of these warped, system-testing mixes are strewn with the right amount of dazzling disco effects. ‘Journey into the Deep’ turns out to be a promising start and gets a full recommendation.
'Got to Believe '
London badman Deekline showed us his knack for deep, euphoric breakbeats on the radio-friendly club banger 'Deepa' six months back. Now he's dipped into his studio hard drive for more of the same with 'Got to Believe', which lands with an electrifying female vocal refrain, lilting arpeggios, ravey pads and warm Reese sub, before dropping into a bass-fuelled Hannah Wants-style groove. It's the pick of his new five-track 'Heartbreak EP', which also offers up a quartet of tasty house/bass outings for the four-to-the-floor brigade.
'Coming 4 U'
Chinking and clinking with subtle sparkles, seductive hummed "ohhs" and "ahhs" give an instant feelgood vibe. ‘Coming 4 U’ is a liquid roller with elements reminiscent of late '80s early '90s R&B, with its muted piano chords and female vocal. The choppy, scuttling breaks bring some bounce as the sub softly plays its integral, understated part. Quality, vocal liquid at the standard we’ve come to expect from Break.
Statik Selektah feat Joey Bada$$ & Freddie Gibbs
Duck Down Records/Show Off Records
Good god but I'm in love with the break in this track. So fat, so punchy, pure pleasure in the beats, a kick so heavy it carries its own bassline with it — SS keeps things simple with the loops, a peal of Dave Liebman/Jan Garbarek-style sax, and some sighing droning dissonant strings that swim in the kind of unsettling cinematic waters Lalo Schifrin or Quincy Jones would be proud of. Great stuff from Gibbs, even greater stuff from Bada$$ — looks like the new 'What Goes Around' set is gonna be Selektah's tuffest and most essential yet. Been waiting for him to come out with a record that's consistently great from start to finish. Looks like he might have done just that. Essential.
Electro Magnetic Fields
Sharing a rather stark and grey-scaled outlook with Akkord, a duo who I’ve made no bones about my love for before and whose EMF label are actually releasing this, Troy Gunner’s club material comes with a pretty weighty stamp of approval. Layered and rhythmically playful, sonically all four tracks are sort of devoid of colour and stand firm and broad backed, jutting out of their surroundings like the concrete monoliths of London’s South Bank.
'You To Me'
Interesting times in German house and techno, where it’s okay again to splash around a dash of melody here and there. And there’s no better example than ‘You To Me’; smooth, melodic and funky with a dash of sex appeal, it all goes down smoothly.
The Black Madonna
The Nite Owl Diner
The Black Madonna graces Chrissy Murderbot’s The Nite Owl Diner after a tidy release on neighbouring Chi-town label, Argot. Here, we have two tracks of chopped-up disco loops, treated with woozy effects and production retouches — on that vintage NYC bootleg tip. Killer tracks, with my favourite being the extra-special, kaleidoscopic rehash of Barbara Mason’s West End smash, ‘Another Man’. Top marks.
'Whip It EP'
This is brooding Swamp 81-style broken beat bass music, 21-year-old Derbyshire producer Jack Mackmersh dropping booming bass, cool percussion and a pitched-down rap vocal refrain over complex, intelligent drum work on lead track 'Whip It', then following up with the equally darkcore-flavoured rudeboy alt-grime of 'Crater Face VIP'. This free EP on Bear Fresh seems to improve at every listen, a rare achievement.
'Land of the Dead'
Ten Ton Beatz
I continuously find myself defending jump-up from the unattractive “unintelligent”, even “chavy” label that it’s been plastered with. If you don’t understand its simplicity, it doesn’t mean it’s any less important than your musical preference. Have some fun people, jump-up is all about vibes and German producer Shurst uses that jump-up staple sample, the pneumatic drill, to show us just how many vibes you can find in a tool box.
Fliptrix feat Rag N Bone Man
'Praise the Sun '
High Focus Records
'Vultures' was one hell of a preview, 'Praise the Sun' is the second single to be lifted from Flip's highly anticipated fifth solo album 'Polyhymnia' produced by Molotov. Accompanied by a brilliant animated video 'Praise the Sun' is a minimal yet massive grower, slathered by Molotov with some peachy backing vocals and scratches, Flip really starting to sound unique in his attitude and delivery, his persona really coming across stronger than ever. At this rate High Focus are battering all competition in terms of the most exciting, vital UK label of the moment. Superb stuff from all involved.
Fulgeance is one funky French guy; I watched him totally slaughter a crowd with a dual MPC set-up at Thugs & Hugs once. His latest endeavour with Darius Broobecker as Claude drops the hip-hop and dials up the dancefloor proper though, toting certain tracks that channel Dorian Concept’s early thickened synth work and others that would sound like they were toeing the five-panel techno line if it weren't for the genuinely enjoyable conga and organ flourishes.
'Fake Drukqs/Blue Balloon'
One Day Wonder
First off, some full disclosure — in case you didn't know Capracara is the production alias of Jonathan Burnip, who curates the disco page in DJ Mag. Yes, OK, on paper it looks a bit like bias, but to justify such accusations, you'd better be coming with a better slab of swirling discoid, Detroit-stabbing madness than 'Fake Drukqs' — and we'll bet our hats, coats, shoes and quite possibly our reputation too that you can't. This, as they say, is the shit.
Extensive remix package from Duncan Gray marking the 13th release on his Tici Taci, collecting new versions of some of the previous label highs. Garnering support from Andrew Weatherall (tested at his Love From Outer Space parties), Gray’s mid-tempo ‘death disco’ style gets suitably re-produced here by the likes of Kieran Holden, Red Snapper, Future Bones and Somerville & Wilson, who individually span the genres of new beat, dub, post punk and new wave with these brilliant remixes.
'Original Pirate Sound'
Prolific London duo Radiokillaz ramp up the old skool flavours once again here, throwing junglistic breakbeats, dystopian synthwork, hardcore stabs and snatches of pitched-up ragga vocal over heavy kicks and snares for a track that's full of dubwise rave energy. On the remix, Pressa adds clipped keys and heavily-delayed brass stabs, while Galvatron grabs an Amen and furiously freewheels for a reworking that heads into full-on 170bpm d&b territory.
From the humble beginnings and turbulent times any start-up label must face, Terabyte Records have gained enviable amounts of love and respect in a relatively short amount of time, all down to a succession of solid releases. Slow and steady tribal beats are the order of the day, backdropped by a pattering of jittering metallic bugs: atmospheric in all the right places and a wonderful use of space.
'Toast Jazz '
High Focus Records
Fucking fantastic, and to be honest it's about time that hip-hop addressed the important issue of toast and exactly how fucking ace it is. Now, I'm not gonna make some bold claim like 'Toast Jazz' is the greatest song ever about toast, cos we all know that Streetband's hit from '78 'Toast' is thee ultimate toast jam but mygod, Verb T comes damn close here, running down the options, repping for Marmite like a good 'un, a track that glories in both the simplicity and diversity that makes toast the common manna-from-Breville for early-morning kids, poverty-struck families and red-eyed late night stoners alike. No marg, butter please, triangles, not squares. Cheers.
If there’s one person whose music seems to encapsulate the current landscape that can so often be clumsily defined with clumpy drums, dark side bass and snatched grime vocals, it’s Wen. So there’s really no better person to call on to introduce your new label and that’s exactly what the Wisdom Teeth crew do, pairing Wen’s trademarked fog with a whirling cut from label co-owner Facta.
Dutch wunderkinds Beesmunt Soundsystem, aka David van der Leeuw and Luigi Vittorio Jansen, make their debut on Catz N' Dogz' Pets Recordings, and it's little wonder why they've become so feted with assured releases like this. 'Body Shape' manages to straddle that big room, reverb-laden sound yet maintain that all-important shuffle and avoid looking po-faced. 'Amsterdam 808' harks back to the Dutch capital's sterling electronic legacy, while 'Sugar Square' is a glistening electro break. Marvellous.
Hard With Style
Hard Driver has been tipped for the very top by the likes of Coone and Headhunterz. With his infectious productions featuring catchy melodies and fresh, accessible, raw drops we can certainly see why. This next single from him has a hands-in-the-air glide melody and subtle vocal building up and dropping, with some seriously heavy kicks and time-stretched stabs.
This sampler for V.I.M. Records' 'V.I.M.BREAKS250' compilation, celebrating a hugely impressive 250 breakbeat releases on the Greek label, sets out on solid ground with the lively and inoffensive mid-naughties-style acid tech funk of Grove's 'Spawner', a heady journey into progressive Hardfloor-style 303 territory. However, for me it's the shadowy, doom-laden stealth breakbeat of Miss Mants' 'Anonim', with its minimal breakstep drum work and deep dubby groove, that stands out.
Prince Fatty meets Nostalgia 77
'Medicine Chest/Seven Nation Army'
Considering these two are amongst some of the finest producers in the UK, this collaboration was always going to result in some form of musical greatness... and that it does. Taking on two tracks from N77’s back catalogue, it’s all about the echo, phasing, and reverb as Prince Fatty does the business. Dennis Alcapone even makes an appearance for their rework of White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’.