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Albums - Issue 576

KiNK - Playground



Running Back

Genre hopping is fun
Purists, be damned. Sofia, Bulgaria’s Strahil Velchev clearly loves the full spectrum of dance music. As KiNK, he’s produced an impressive array of singles since 2005, touching on everything from Chicago house (‘Rachel’), to euphoric hardcore (‘Pocket Piano (Breakbeat Mix)’) to lush disco (‘Valentine’s Groove’). Whereas KiNK’s first album ‘Under Destruction’ was a diversion into conceptual electronics, for his second, ‘Playground’, Velchev’s decided to consolidate his influences into a set of laser-guided club cuts. It’s an approach that suits him. ‘Suncatcher’ is a breakbeat cut with a heavy Reese bass undertow and fun old school samples, whereas ‘Yom Thorke’ (can you see what he did there?) is a huge house tune with a steadily intensifying bassline that surges into a tangle of barely-contained energy. ‘Russian’ is an ingenious 4/4 piece that bolts together soulful Detroit pads and strings, and ‘Perth’ is suitably sunny, a sample-heavy house beat that could have hit big in the French disco days. ‘Teo Techno’, on the other hand, demonstrates KiNK’s ability to craft steelier moods, and ‘Five’, while it begins with hard-as-nails bleeps, gradually morphs into melodic soulful bliss – and back. It’s clear that this producer can turn his hand to any style, but he’s not just going through the motions. Passion is here too. There are several slower cuts, but the dancefloor tunes impress the most. KiNK’s live set is among the best around at the moment, with his interactions with the crowd, creating tracks and loops on the fly with an array of gadgets, and general sequencing skill. It’s this sequencing and spontaneity that comes across on ‘Playground’. Though some might grumble that it’s not “an album” for home listening, DJs and dance fans will find many gems to pick from here.
Ben Murphy
L-Vis 1990 - 12 Thousand Nights

L-Vis 1990

12 Thousand Nights


Scene it
With technology bringing us closer together each day, it’s becoming a challenge to uncover distinct, localised scenes. Night Slugs co-founder L-Vis 1990 is a producer who flits between New York, London and LA, and this mixtape is the story of him, vocalists and producers hooking up in different cities to create some *fire emoji* – ‘12 Thousand Nights’ being the finished product. With added production from Sinjin Hawke, Jimmy Edgar and NA, L-Vis pushes the underground sounds that have made Night Slugs such a looked-to label. London’s Tali Whoah-featuring ‘Flexin’ is a metal-coated R&B jam, while the Gaika and Mista Silva-featuring ‘Sunlight’ has a sunkissed, just-stepped-off-the-plane vibe. The more London-centric ‘Yeah Yeah’ flirts with grime, ‘My Ting’ with dancehall, and ‘121’, synth-pop. It’s an interesting snapshot of a meeting of cultures and minds – but more importantly, it really, really bangs.
Felicity Martin
Levon Vincent - For Paris

Levon Vincent

For Paris

Novel Sound

Faire la paix Faire la paix Faire la paix
Berlin-based Levon Vincent’s productions have become a landmark sound of the city over the years; effortlessly transgressing between techno and house; Berghain and Panorama respectively. He released his debut self-titled LP back in 2015 and in a surprise move gave the whole album away for free online the day before the vinyl dropped in the stores. As an artist that’s known for being outspoken, his second album might come to some as a public apology; but the concept is strong and clear. It kicks off with ‘Kissing’; a highly strung number, emotionally charged with layers of reverbed strings. ‘If We Chose War’ is a dark, gruelling observation much like its title suggests, grenade explosion samples providing a gritty soundscape. Stormy moods unfold into ‘If We Chose Peace’, a welcome answer to the latter with evolving melodies, soft synths, 808 drums, and an ever-changing BPM to keep DJs on their toes. Final track ‘Dancing With Machiavelli’ recalls his earlier work, a trademark piano piece with freestyle melodies and underlying stabs. The LP is a statement – one thing’s for certain, that we should all take heed of the power of sending messages through music, especially those of positive action against war. Listen to Levon.
Anna Wall
Paul van Dyk - From Then On

Paul van Dyk

From Then On

Vandit Records

A love letter to the #trancefamily
Paul van Dyk has been forthcoming about seeing the world differently these days, following an accident while DJing last year that nearly cost him his life. ‘From Then On’ is his fifth studio album, though it’s equally drawn from his own deeply personal experiences relating to his physical recovery, and eventual return to touring and public life. His elation is best captured in its euphoric lead single ‘I Am Alive,’ the first written following the accident Interesting, while PVD doggedly insisted for most of his career that he wasn’t a trance DJ, these days he’s comfortable in the warm, loving embrace of the global #trancefamily. While the album publicity has emphasised its futurism, in truth ‘From Then On’ channels classic euphoria more than any of his previous full-length efforts. As such, it’ll hold limited appeal outside the trance scene, though its deftly executed selection of dancefloor euphoria will offer certain bliss for fans.
Angus Paterson
Not Waving - Good Luck

Not Waving

Good Luck

Diagonal Records

Future sounds
Clinical yet punk-y elec-tech might push the tolerable description limit, but what else can we say? Edgy, punchy, mechanical, stomping and, at times, oddly euphoric, ‘Good Luck’ forges a staggeringly original path through futurist acid, New Beat, proto-rave, EBM, and anything with the word clash in it.
Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
Damiano von Erckert - In Case You Don't Know What To Play

Damiano von Erckert

In Case You Don't Know What To Play


Varied and vital collection
For his third album, Damiano von Erckert lays down a selection of on-point études that prove his Cologne hometown is about much more than the smooth techno of Kompakt. A vinyl hoarder who loves soul, afro and disco as much as house music – all that shows in the tracks he conjures here. They are all immediately aged sounding things with dust crackle and warm analogue textures, and range from woozy hip-hop joints like ‘From The Sun’ to serene Detroit techno like ‘In Case You Don't Know What To Play [TECHNO]’. It’s an album that does what it says on the tin and covers plenty of ground with equal élan. Perfect for dipping into as a DJ or as a roller coaster pre-party home listen, this is an album that sounds like randomly dipping into von Erckert’s record collection and always pulling out gold.
Kristan J Caryl
Daphni - Joli Mai


Joli Mai


Snaith's completed sketches
For those who were swept up in Dan Snaith's scorching mix for the ‘FABRICLIVE’ series, here he turns many of those snippets and sketches of the tracks he made specifically for the album – some he even made on the fly as he was mixing it – and finishes the job. Though it feels an oddly around-the-houses kind of way to arrive at a second album under his Daphni guise, it's nonetheless appreciated. ‘Vulture’, which didn't appear on the Fabric set (but did on Midland's Fabric mix), throbs ominously, before bursting into full-on dementedly ecstatic bliss. ‘Tin’, the Jersey-esque garage-houser, which did appear, is a joy in its full form, a chugging dancefloor menace, as is ‘The Truth’, a hail of stabbing synths which bursts into UKG vibes with very little warning. ‘Hey Drum’ now sprawls over seven psychedelic minutes, deploying its rave credentials with a deft flourish. How it's come about matters not. This is a delight.
Ben Arnold
PBR Streetgang - Late Night Party Line

PBR Streetgang

Late Night Party Line


“It goes round in circles,” sings Mattie Safer on ‘Everything Changes’, “I feel it coming again”. Listening to Leeds duo PBR Streetgang’s debut album, you can see what he means. For much of ‘Late Night Party Line’ is going to seem pretty familiar to not just anyone with their earlier singles, but anyone who went clubbing around the turn of the century. We’re talking groovy deep house with starburst synths, flecks of disco and funky piano and the occasional vocal from the aforementioned Rapture vocalist or Danielle Moore from Crazy P. They’re hardly bursting with new ideas but they do old ones damn well, and as ‘Everything Changes’ points out: “Everyone thinks that music peaked when they were 18”. There’s plenty to excite those discovering proper house for the first time here, and just enough for the more seasoned listener to remember how that first thrill felt.
Paul Clarke
Tomas Barfod - Paloma

Tomas Barfod


Friends Of Friends

Easy to admire, difficult to love ‘Paloma’ is immaculately appointed music that rarely actually engages the listener. There is deliciousness in the textures of much of ‘Paloma’ (the radiophonic oddity of ‘Grandiose’ in particular, as well as the dubby splendour of ‘Rhodes’) but far too often Barfod makes the mistake of being happy with whatever hook he arrives at, without pushing the songwriting to the level it needs to lift this overly-polite drek above the coffee table and into your heart. This half-finished feel to the songcraft shows itself up particularly where the vocalists aren’t in themselves intriguing enough to convince you they care – only Jonas Smith on the pristine ‘Family’ sounds like he has a stake in the words and vision here, the remaining singers seem dazzled by the studio-sorcery but curiously disconnected with the emotional centre of the tracks they inhabit. A state-of-the-art tour around Barfod’s undeniable capabilities, but a strangely unmoving one.
Neil Kulkarni
James Holden & The Animal Spirits - The Animal Spirits

James Holden And The Animal Spirits

The Animal Spirits

Border Community

A psychedelic wig-out
In describing his new album project earlier this year as a collection of “synth-led folk-trance standards”, James Holden appeared to be making it clear that a zeitgeist-straddling marketing strategy wasn't at the forefront of his mind. That said, it's a pretty accurate description of what he's been up to with his band The Animal Spirits. His first album since 2013's ‘The Inheritors’, it's a psychedelic journey into the unknown, all recorded live and in single takes, with no re-edits or overdubs. But while such endeavours have their merits, each track feels like it culminates in a cacophonous, unruly morass, the takeaway being a recurring feeling of mild exhaustion. Perhaps that's the point. There are glimpses of greatness on ‘Each Moment Like The First’, an epic, pulsating wig out, and also on ‘The Neverending’ and ‘So Gladly Into The Earth’, but if you've alighted for bleeps and kick drums, you will leave empty-handed.
Ben Arnold
Altered Natives - The Black Album

Altered Natives

The Black Album

Eye4Eye Recordings

Dark side
Formerly prolific London producer Danny Native has been relatively quiet since 2015’s ‘In The Place Where Love Once Lived’ album. The reason, he recently revealed, being that he has been battling health scares and the loss of his sight. But his eighth album would be a stunning achievement in any context, the sound of a producer with all guns blazing. Like its predecessors such as the ‘Tenement Yard’ series, the beats here are nominally house and techno, yet stutter like a paranoid version of UK Funky, while the atmosphere has the weed-curdled dread of early dubstep. Yet there’s both tenderness in the mournful melodies and tentative hope in the jazz chords too. Apart from Special Request, there are few other producers in recent times who have bound together the many different sounds of the UK underground past, present and future into such a unique and epic whole.
Paul Clarke
Ben Frost - The Centre Cannot Hold

Ben Frost

The Centre Cannot Hold


Cold comfort
Coming from a similar angle to electronic composers such as Tim Hecker or Blanck Mass, Australian musician Ben Frost’s intricately sculpted sound design is considerably angrier. His fifth album is an exercise in unease that aims to capture the fearful political climate that has engulfed much of the world today. Frost is based in Reykjavik, and ‘The Centre Cannot Hold’ sounds just as changeable as the Icelandic climate, though this record was made in Chicago with famed punk producer Steve Albini (who worked with Nirvana among others). Performed live by Frost and recorded by Albini, the latter employs his expertise at capturing extremity. Made by machines, but influenced by industrial and ambient metal, there are moments of beauty that emerge from the darkness of ‘Trauma Theory’, while ‘Ionia’ glimmers with gothic melody. This is a massive sounding record – lovers of the leftfield should investigate.
Ben Murphy
DJ Seinfeld - Time Spent Away From U

DJ Seinfeld

Time Spent Away From U

Lobster Fury

Beautiful, raw club tracks
It’s not easy to transform heartbreak into hard-wearing grooves, but that’s exactly what upcoming producer Armand Jakobsson has done. As with the blissful, YouTube-rinsed track ‘U’, his debut full-length is an album of rugged house fed through an emotive filter, written by Jakobsson to deal with a doomed relationship. Melancholy as that sounds, there are plenty of bangers present (the rolling acid punch of ‘How U Make Me Feel’ is a big highlight), and even the soulful numbers are clearly, unashamedly rooted in upfront, Chicago sounds (such as the crunchy, euphoric ‘Time Spent Away From U’) and ’90s house jams (‘Too Late for U and M1’). Though the subject matter may be heartbreak, this isn’t music to brood over, unpick or even analyse too much. It’s music for the dancefloor – nothing more, nothing less. And it works sublimely.
Tristan Parker
Ziur - U Feel Anything?


U Feel Anything?

Planet Mu

Berlin’s Ziúr releases her excellent debut LP just a year after two EPs that boldly delved into sonic extremes, intimate feelings and deconstructed club soundscapes that elicit a dizzying range of emotions. On ‘U Feel Anything?’, Ziúr continues to tussle between tenderness and confrontation throughout its twelve diverse tracks, while further pushing the boundaries out on an already shadowy and fringe sub-genre of music that’s ripe with creativity at the moment. From the ethereal, ambient opening of ‘Human Life Is Not A Commodity’ to the caustic percussion and wind instruments closing out ‘Fractal’, there is a constant ebb and flow of tension that’s as hypnotic as it is challenging. Ziúr also collaborates with Aïsha Devi on one of the album’s best tracks; she manipulates Devi’s vocals to sound gruff and scary in parts yet eerily beautiful in others as a haunting arrangement of electronics swirl about.
Zara Wladawsky
DJ Pierre - Wild Pitch: The Story

DJ Pierre

Wild Pitch: The Story

Get Physical

Evolve or be extinct
There have been many chapters in the career of DJ Pierre. Though now based – and running a club – in Atlanta, his impact on Chicago house cannot be overstated. This first ever album proves that in bringing together his many different sounds across 15 tracks. There is plenty of the acid house he invented as Phuture, as well as an overview of the WildPiTcH remix, DJ and production style he became synonymous with. It’s a frenzied, multi-layered take on house that will amp up any main room, and sits next to 2017 updates of classics tracks ‘Master Blaster’ and ‘Love and Happiness’. Add in an epic remix of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ and you have an album that tells of house music’s evolution, even if it falls short of signposting where the genre might be going next.
Kristan J Caryl