Saturday, 15 February 2014

BLM - Spwn Camping- Contrast-Wax

British wunderkind BLM and Contrast-Wax were always going to make a perfect match. The savvy vinyl-only label and the outstanding young producer, who is one half of the incomparable Fear Of Flying imprint, clearly share similar values on aesthetics, quality and style. It was always going to work. 

Yet neither party surely could have envisaged that the Spwn Camping EP would actually turn out to be such a thing of beauty. Ten-inch vinyl, 100 copies and two top-rate tracks add up to one formidable release.

From his debut release on FOF back in 2006, BLM was marked out as a talent and it has been a delight to see that early promise realised and blossom with stand-out work not only for his own labels (he is also behind Sudden Drop alongside FOF partner Jay Robinson aka Jay Massive) but also for Secretsundaze, Tsuba and Jus-Ed’s Underground Quality. That talent is present and correct here for Contrast too.

A tad less chunky and just a touch more restrained too, opening track Range Mod is nonetheless of a similar hue and standard as the young Ben Micklewright’s  Roll ‘Em EP for UQ a couple of years back. It really is that tasty. Packing an understated punch, Range Mod is perhaps BLM’s finest moment thus far for these ears and displays all the quality and maturity of an up-and-coming talent now come of age.

All of which may have rendered the b-side a disappointment by comparison. Fear not though as the bristling and curiously melodic eponymous track Spwn Camping has a shuffling, ethereal and hi-tek charm all of its own thanks to BLM’s undoubted ability.

File under ‘need/want’.

V/A - Los Dedos Cortados - Minuendo Recordings

My love affair with Minuendo Recordings goes on and on. With every release the wonderful Madrid-based label grows in reputation, stature and self-belief. Now celebrating its tenth year it has gone from a vehicle largely for the inspirational Ernie and friends to an imprint at the very beating heart of the deep house movement that has become home for the scene's best talent, old and new. It has been a delight to watch it blossom from a great label to a truly great label.

Los Dedos Cortados [the 'cut fingers' if my Spanish translation software and the EP's artwork are to be believed], the label's 27th release, is classic Minuendo and highlights all that is best about the imprint. Legendary producers and artists, rapidly rising stars, beautiful artwork and attention to detail, more deepness than you could possibly wish for plus a long-overdue re-appearance from the man himself, Ernie.

Side one is the epitome of a label brimming with confidence. Featuring Soul Element (aka Stacy Kidd, the vastly-experienced US producer who has recorded for amongst others Dance Mania, Cajual and Peacefrog) and the iconic vocal talent that is Peven Everett, their track How Bad I Want Ya is classic soulful house done simply, with subtlety and to perfection. No tricks, nothing fancy or too clever, just a great song executed superbly. Nothing more, nothing less.

As if that weren't enough, the cut gets the remix treatment from yet another legend, a man whose records have adorned my shelves and those of countless disciples since way back when, none other than Glenn Underground. The man from Chicago's Southside does what he does best, adding a touch of jazz and GU magic, beefing and bumpin' up the track just enough whilst paying respect to the original throughout.

If side one is an all-Stateside affair then the flip is thoroughly European, at least by manufacture anyhow, and all about the label stalwarts. Making a second appearance on the imprint are Owen Jay and Melchior Sultana, the creative forces behind the Batti Batti label and key players in Malta's electronic music scene. Their offering Memento is delightfully lush, deliciously downtempo and stylistically a laidback complement to the Soul Element tune. 

Wrapping up proceedings is Tormenta Tropical from the tattoo-obsessed Ernie, his first artist appearance on his own label in the best part of four years. As usual, the man does not disappoint. Once again the track fits entirely with the rest of the release albeit with a Mediterranean undercurrent and a classic electronica twist. Deep, kick-driven, dream-like and a hefty nod to Manuel Göttsching's E2-E4, the quintessential Balearic chill-out, it is not only a welcome return for Ernie but also a suitably fitting way to mark ten years in the game. 

Brad P - Inner Visions - Inner Shift Music

Brad Peterson is one of those producers who can do no wrong in my eyes. Or should that be ears? Either way, his solo and collaborative track record over more than a decade with Minuendo, Moods & Grooves, Yore et al speaks for itself and his output on his own label Inner Shift Music is just as tidy.

Indeed, the Inner Visions EP, his first solo venture for the imprint he runs with partner Rai Scott, is not only a fine record but also a snapshot of what Peterson is all about.

The opening track is perhaps everything you might expect from a cut called Light Years. It’s ethereal and spaced-out deep house, the kind of thing Peterson does exceptionally well at the best of times anyway but here he is at his most excellent. In the hands of lesser artists the ‘otherworldly’ vibe can sound hackneyed but not so with the quietly-spoken American, who works at a higher level than most in this field and who always imbues his music with a hefty dose of soul. It’s what separates the wheat from the chaff in this game.

Whereas Light Years is bright, brash and jazzy, Slow Walker is much more introspective. A brooding, slow-burning ‘heads down’ of a track fashioned beautifully by Peterson for those darker moments. Take U There is Brad P on something of a jazz-funk tip, albeit within the parameters still of his take on the cosmic deep house oeuvre. Whale Cry, meanwhile, brings the journey to a suitably calming conclusion and augurs well for the man’s forthcoming album.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Various Artists - Sunken Guidance - Appian Sounds

Five releases and counting for Appian Sounds and head-honcho Al Blayney’s A&R skills and powers of persuasion are still sharper than Julie Burchill’s tongue. Having secured highly-desirable releases already from Ethyl & Flori, Eduardo de la Calle, LAAK and others, Appian is bang with a bomb from four more sought-after debutants.

There’s a first time outing for the much-talented and erudite young American Natan H, who has popped up in the last few years on other on-trend labels such as Ethereal Sound, Batti Batti and George Fitzgerald’s ManMakeMusic. Here with VX407 Natan is again on form, this time with a more contemplative Detroit techno offering than of late. Dominated by waves of glistening synths undulating throughout and set against a broken and not too heavy-handed kick, the track is superbly subtle, simple and sublime.

In many respects, Starling Dance is of a similar genus. Produced by the excellent Irish producer Leonid (real name Paul Smith), the cut relies heavily on atmosphere and emotion, the bass a delicately restrained yet much-apparent force resulting in a track that is near-on as good as anything produced by Smith previously. And that’s saying something for a man who has previous with Sistrum and Dolly.

New York starlet Joey Anderson’s Dormency, however, strays into much darker territory. The former dancer’s track creeps, crackles and slithers menacingly and magnificently with little more than a distant bittersweet melody for company. Prima facie evidence of why Levon Vincent, Jus-Ed and DJ Qu rate him so highly.

Fellow New Yorker DJ Spider’s Anticipate The Wolves is, as might be expected of the man, more muscular and direct. Yet there is something decidedly funky about the piece despite the trademark sonic assault, with the plangent bells, reverb and general aural fog very much adding to rather than detracting from the overall vibe. A high five for Appian.

Gauss - Braunschweig - Gauss Ltd.

Contemporary techno can leave me cold. Too often it is just that little too mechanical, soulless and glib. Of course there are many exceptions and, besides, every genre has examples of ill-conceived ideas and projects lacking real integrity. This from newcomers Gauss, however, is my kinda techno.

Gauss are both a new label and production outfit comprising two artists better known by other names and for different styles. They are keeping their identities under wraps. For now. What is clear, however, is that this their two-track introduction is an intriguing, raw and worthy way to make an entrance.

Opener and title-track Braunschweig bounces briskly, moodily and robotically from beginning to end. Deep soulful chords, however, ensure the track remains at all times so much more poetic than prosaic despite its deliberate rough edges and obvious mechanical construction.

The B-side cut Interpolations is much more experimental and angular. A broken and slightly muted kick underlines the cut’s techno heritage whereas the synth work is unexpectedly melodic despite its dirty and off-kilter approach. An accomplished, self-assured and solid debut.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Jorge C. - Love Songs - DeepArtSounds

Serendipity it was that first brought Chilean producer Jorge C. my way. A stray email here, a wayward link there and next thing I knew we’d hooked up an interview to discuss his then-burgeoning record label Ojo De Apolo.

With previous on Sean Deason’s legendary Detroit label Matrix Records, it was also clear that the man also known as Jorge Cortés was no run-of-the mill producer either. So when the Zurich-based imprint DeepArtSounds - which has fast become a firm favourite chez moi thanks to a ridiculously-brilliant roster and ear for quality music - had signed-up the now Berlin-based artist, beautiful things were expected.

Beautiful things have, thankfully, been delivered on the resulting four-track EP, Love Songs.

It’s a formidably funky affair all round in truth. None more so than opening joint Love Song. Though reliably chunky and hypnotic throughout, a model exercise in contemporary house music in many ways, the nods and winks to yesteryear - from the swirling strings to the Herbie Hancock-esque vocal  - are omnipresent and point bus-stop pose-like to a disco galaxy far, far away.

Sibling cut Sista has something of the disco fever about it too - albeit a touch more restrained -  due in part to the jaunty Latino perc, disco whistle, cosmic vocal stabs and pervasive seventies New York hustle vibe.

By contrast, the Dan Piu (aka George B. from Allstarr Motomusic) re-work of the Jorge C. track Jam is a welcomingly more subdued and jazz-tinged offering, yet still very much in keeping with the rest of the EP. Bringing the release to a close with a full-on dance-floor assault is the superb uno-due-3-4, an uncompromising mover and shaker in which Jorge C. cuts loose entirely and serves up soulful, deep house at its bumpin’, thumpin’ and jumpin’ finest.