Saturday, 20 September 2014

Common Dreams - Common Dreams 1 - Common Dreams

Quality techno is back on trend. Maybe it never went away. But with the likes of Italian upstart Joe Drive, mysterious newcomers Gauss and the debuting Common Dreams firing on all cylinders, it seems that right now is a good time for techno.

And what all these projects have in, ahem, common is a keen sense of musicality, harmony and, of course, quality. Common Dreams, both the artist and label, clearly share this vision judging by release number one and with an equally-impressive follow-up from UK producer John Shima also waiting in the wings, it already looks like a project to keep a beady eye on.

As for Common Dreams 01, put simply it’s ace; a two-track, ten-inch techno treat. It does exactly what the label promised in serving up futuristic, rhythmic techno for the heads, hearts and minds.

Side one track Data Waves delivers on all counts being a deep, hypnotic and pulsating force intended to inspire both listeners and dancers. It does.

Over on the flipside, Twisted Future is a little more genteel, a touch less relentless, but its soulful and funky hue means it is every bit as inspired and dance-floor friendly as Data Waves and just as listenable. As for Common Dreams 02, bring it on.

Check out:

Common Dreams @ Juno
Common Dreams @ Facebook

Friday, 19 September 2014

Gauss - Schwarzgerat - Gauss Ltd

In rock and roll it is the difficult second album. In underground electronic music there is no such luxury. It is the second EP that often proves problematic. No such concerns though for the enigmatic Gauss project who build upon their solid debut release of earlier this year, Braunschweig, with a three-track techno follow-up of even more intelligence, style and quality. That EP is Schwarzgerat.

Hitting the ground running, the title track finds its feet fast as no doubt might you since its woozy groove is both infectious and insistent, its melodies fiendishly catchy creating a cut designed for the more discerning and savvy dance-floors of the underground. 

As might be expected of a number entitled F(X), it is a little more prosaic than the opener. Its precision, however, is finely balanced by a charming ambient tincture which, combined with the slower pace, add up to a deceptively hypnotic and rewarding little groover.

Continuing the ambient theme, Quadratic Forms (Prelude) brings the curtain down in dramatic fashion with broad-sweeping synth motions and an orchestral lilt that demonstrate Gauss are more than just your average techno outfit. With rumours already of appearances on other like-minded labels, Gauss are clearly in it for the long haul.

Check out:

Schwarzgerat @ Juno
Gauss @ Facebook

Fred Buddah/Ofuren - Mystical Arts - Roots Go Deep

It was only a matter of time before South Africa’s embracing of deep house began to bear fruit. Now its DJs, producers and labels are gradually spreading their wings, making a mark and leaving an impression on the international scene. At the forefront of this charge and taking matters to the next level is the Roots Go Deep imprint.

Until now a digital-only label devoted to the music of South African artists, it has boldly seized upon the zeitgeist and released its first vinyl EP.

And what a debut it is too. A split EP featuring label heads Fred Buddah and Ofuren, Mystical Arts is about as self-assured, striking and unexpected as deep house gets these days. Featuring a solo track each and a pair of collaborative cuts too, the release is a bona fide four-track triumph.

Off-kilter, wonky and by their own admission nodding towards MCDE’s Raw Cuts, Buddah and Ofuren’s opening salvo Floral Synergy is a classy and well-constructed beauty that trips languidly yet purposefully throughout, aided and abetted by a menacingly soulful undercurrent. It bodes well indeed for their partnership.

Solo-wise, Ofuren’s Ripples Through Reflection takes the dubbed-out route to great effect, applying the less-is-more ethos and allowing the space between to do the work every inch as much as the music. Buddah’s individual offering, Ragan, is just as tidy and enjoyable though more ambient and edgy in style.

Arguably saving the best until last, Buddah and Ofuren’s Do Deejays Dream Of Dancing Sheep not only nods to the origins of sci-fi classic Bladerunner, but is also light-years ahead of much of the music masquerading as deep house these days. Sumptuously sub-aqueous, wonderfully wobbly at times, suitably melodic and with a touch of acid too, Do Deejays Dream Of Dancing Sheep is sublime to the very last drop. Deepness as it should be, straight out of [South] Africa.

Check out:

Mystical Arts @ Juno
Roots Go Deep @ Facebook
Roots Go Deep online

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Andy Vaz - It’s Ok - Yore Records

Andy Vaz is one of the unsung heroes of house music. Despite a lengthy career of considerable note encompassing numerous essential labels including his own distinguished imprints, he nonetheless goes about his business the right way. No bombast, no hype, no PR overload just a minimum of fuss and a maximum of quality.

Forays onto labels such as Delsin, Chiwax and Soiree Records International in recent years have been well received but it is with his own much-respected Yore Records that he seems most at home these days. Last year’s Bicycle Love EP was a demonstrable deep house classic, albeit in no small part to finely-judged remixes from Brad P and Damon Lamar, whilst his earlier and excellent Straight Vacationing album illustrated beyond doubt the depth of his ability and craft.

Building in some respects on the work of the aforementioned LP, Vaz now returns to the Cologne-based Yore with another reminder and snapshot of his undoubted talent, the four-track EP, It’s Ok. It’s more than ok, it’s ace and sees Vaz at his most flamboyant, feel-good and fabulous yet.

Love You Forever (featuring Niko Marks) glows, sparkles and uplifts with an authentic garage-inspired house sound that pays homage to the genre rather than bastardises it. Marks’ vocals are a delight transcending the track from contender to front-runner. Joyous.

Strutting manfully in tow but to a very different vibe is Hurry, Hurry (Malik Let The Horn Play Mix), a broken beat, free-flowing jazz-inspired workout that is something of a breath of fresh air for an EP that will undoubtedly be filed under ‘deep house’. Not only does it work in its own right, but it highlights the confidence currently coursing through Vaz that he is brave enough to take chances rather than play safe. Fair play.

Worst Fantasies is no soft option either. Featuring an electro backdrop, it is reminiscent of The Micronauts’ classic The Jag but with a more soulful lilt and features a catchy male-vocal tale of love on the rocks.

The EP closer U Did Me Wrong is a more orthodox deep house number with a cute female vocal snatch. It is, however, executed so superbly by Vaz that it will undoubtedly garner as much attention from certain quarters as the preceeding three tracks. Much recommended.

Check out:

It's Ok @ Juno
Yore Records

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Rai Scott - Reason To Smile - Inner Shift Music

Inner Shift’s bid for domination of the underground house and techno scene shows no sign of abating. Levity aside though, it has been a seriously good year musically for the Edinburgh-based imprint and in particular its co-owners Brad Peterson and Rai Scott.

The former released his first album, the excellent Inner Visions, whilst the latter enjoyed her first solo outing on vinyl, the just as essential Inner Shift Volume 1 EP on London-based Ornate Music.

Now Scott takes centre stage once again with her debut solo release for ISM, the four-tracker Reason To Smile.

With its ambient tones, ethereal vibe and delicate, wistful melodies, We Love You is almost trade-mark Scott. Certainly she has carved something of a niche for herself when it comes to dreamy, organic grooves and with good reason. She does it so well. But there is so much more to We Love You, as the deeper you wade in the more the percussion drives on culminating in six minutes of glorious deepness.

Keep On has the warming glow about it of 2DeepSoul, the production partnership Scott shares with the equally-gifted Peterson. As delightful and well-balanced as We Love You but with just a little more soul, a tad more dance-floor nous and a touch more meat on its bones. Beauteous from first to last.

Cats & Water too has more urgency, more swagger. Bold, bouncy and bombastic, Scott really lets go and turns in a cut of real confidence and dance-floor appeal. 

As is often the case, the closing track throws up something a little different and, perhaps for some, something even more interesting and engaging. One thing is for sure, Sky In The Clouds is no makeweight, no filler. Rather it is a wonderfully minimal, hypnotic and groove-heavy slice of ambient house that may just be the star of an already marvellous show.

With such an accomplished and, frankly, fabulous EP etched onto her CV, it is no wonder Scott has reason to smile. More please.