'Love Your Illusion'
A lot of water has travelled under the bridge since Art Department delivered 'Without You' on Crosstown Rebels in 2011. Tech house and deep house are still getting chewed up and spat out, with DJs dropping newly evolved forms of the sound as quickly as it's found its way into the charts and been picked up by stadium-filling titans such as Tiësto.
At all such crossroads, though — those moments where a genre reaches that tipping point between underground credibility and mainstream credence — it's down to a certain breed of producer to kick back against established norms, go back to the drawing board and look beyond interchangeable dancefloor fare to push things forward that little bit further.
Eric Volta is one such artist unwilling to be carried by a modern day tide of mediocrity. Residing in Berlin, he's refused to stay still despite an association with arty tech house labels like No.19, Ellum Audio and Visionquest, his DJ sets joining the dots between pitch-black techno and the more melodic sounds of the (deep) house spectrum, while throwing dub, even Afrobeat styles into the mix.
As a producer too, he's insisted on embracing new sounds. 'Believe' on Maceo Plex's Ellum Audio imprint saw him churn up r&b soul into a stodgy lump of harmonic funk, while his remix of Ejeca 'Akrobat' (Lokee) revealed the far-out breadth of his dark, cosmic mind. However, it's his new bomb now out on Jonny White's No.19 that's making Volta's name as a stand-alone producer able to deliver an insidious dancefloor weapon. Built upon the chug of a chunky metronomic beat and a sticky underside of squelchy acid, the deep, seductive groove of 'Love Your Illusion' makes it such an irresistible tool for a DJ.
But arranged around two drops the size of Mount Kilimanjaro, both made with enough alien planet psychedelia to give Howard Marks a DMT trip, it's even more of a headfuck for those on the dancefloor. Clipped with some double-step percussion to give it a catchy skip and expertly layered to devastating effect throughout, it's no surprise that Volta sat on this like a golden egg as it caused DC10-style “sit downs” the world over throughout the summer. A darn sight more impacting than the majority of beige, homogenous tech house fodder about right now, we think you will agree.
'Midi Chains Vol.1'
An exchange between the Systematic boss and Audiojack's Gruuv label has kicked up a curious example of extreme party pollination. Crossing a rump-shaking booty bass with shuffling 125bpm breaks and a ghetto house vocal hook — even hardcore's 'Dub War' sax sample makes the cut — 'Ghetto What?' is one of those rare, hybrid experiments guaranteed to cause a chemical reaction. Phil Weeks and A1 Bassline join in the fun with fab remixes.
Named after those cotton trousers that won't go away, Silesia's Chino has impressed us with something special on Poland's S1 Warsaw imprint. Harking back to Motor City electro made by Model 500 and Drexciya, 'Ghost' is a raw, unbridled machine work-out with plenty of funk. 'Rooftop', however, is much warmer, a captivating slice of smooth analogue bubblegum with breezy, melodic synths flagging this guy up as one to keep in the crosshairs.
Long time techno badman Dario delivers four direct to the floor for the excellent, fiercely underground Ilian Tape. Thunking technoid 4/4s and keyboards from the school of John Carpenter create something both functional and creepy on '27 Northwest' , perfect for strobe-lit late mornings, while 'Cookin Bookin' boasts distant rave stabs. All four tracks are a variation on a theme, and have a freshness that could see them easily fit into all kinds of sets and genres.
Hannah Wants & Chris Lorenzo
If breaks are back in a big way, this is the tune to take that revival to the next level. Hannah Wants, fresh from her gully grime house caper 'Dappy' alongside compadre Chris Lorenzo, hooks up again with her production partner, dashing down this gutter level breaks stepper, with a bassline dredged from the dankest sewer, a snippet of classic house vox and synth pads on the break (for the rush). Tripmastaz fit it for 4/4 floors on the flip — also wicked. Best Dirtybird release for ages.
Josh Caffe/David Newtron
'Let Love Ruin'
One of the DJs and promoters behind London club night Banjee Boy Realness, Josh Caffe's vocal debut alongside David Newtron is part Mr Fingers, part East End post-millennial electro. A darkly camp tale of love's raw side, Faith co-founder Leo Zero adds some extra jack, label boss Hannah Holland strips it down to a throbbing late night beast and New York's The Carry Nation add crystalline synths for our pick of the bunch. Ace.
'Is This Love? EP'
Part of Fabric's Sunday night residency, WetYourSelf!, Cormac's releases may be few and far between but they raise the bar each time. Providing vocals across a whole EP of deep, engaging house, 'Is This Love?' sounds like the blissed-out slow motion of an afterparty Valium haze, while 'Retrace' is wonky and off-key. 'Tone Alone' weaves hypnotic synths and strings around an equally mesmerising vocal and 'Who Funk?' drops primal exhortations over a mean bassline. Yes, we'd say it's love