Sunday, 31 January 2016

deepArtSounds: Part Three

WITHOUT music, life would be a mistake. That’s what Nietzsche reckoned. And he was dead clever. Then again it already seems to be the mantra by which George Boutopoulos lives his life. It’s in his DNA, you see.

What else explains his evangelical commitment to the cause stretching back to a young clubber in late eighties Switzerland through to serious – and we mean serious – record collector onto DJ, producer and multiple label owner including his latest baby, the quite brilliant Zürich-based deepArtSounds which he co-runs.

Having witnessed seismic changes in how music is produced, distributed and consumed over the past thirty years since first stepping into a nightclub in his hometown, no one would have blamed Boutopoulos for retreating to his favourite armchair with his headphones on after bringing down the curtain on his first two imprints, Moto Music and No Acting Vibes.

Not so. Instead he plotted how to do a record label different, better, proper. The result was deepArtSounds, a highly enviable imprint launched in earnest a mere four years ago and yet already jam-packed with classic, timeless, soulful electronic music from a mouthwatering roster: Ron Trent, Anthony Nicholson, Above Smoke, Dubbyman, Jenifa Mayanja and more. Enough said.

In the third and final part [catch up with parts one and two here and there] of our deepArtSounds feature, the charming Boutopoulos talks to bringdownthewalls about what lies ahead for the label, the Madrid documentary and the importance of [being] Ernie.

Why did you feel the need to launch deepArtSounds? And why did it take you five years to get your first release out?
After closing Moto Music and No Acting Vibes, I remained related and committed to house music through buying records and DJing. Honestly, it took years to accept the new digital world, not only the new formats such as MP3 but also the new medias: MySpace, websites, Facebook.

The transition to this new era was not that easy. I still clung on to those “good ol’ times” but I knew something must change. I mean, I wanted to act again, but I needed to re-organise myself. By 2007, I started to mix my own digital podcasts, called deepArtSounds, and they became very popular and requested. It encouraged me to launch a vinyl label under the same name and I wanted to share it with my former label partner Roberto [Pistolese] and my friend Okan [Akpinar].

In reality, the main activity of deepArtSounds still remains to broadcast and to spread our mix podcasts, on [check it].

So who does what at deepArtSounds?
I’m kind of ‘art director’, trying to give the label a face and a direction. I am responsible for most artist signings and for the medias: design, website, promo videos, publicity etc.

Roberto is handling the entire process of production: end-mastering, manufacturing, distribution, promo shipping etc. Okan is more into the podcast thing. At the end we are a good team who help each other and without any hierarchy. Everybody knows exactly what his role is.     

You seem to have had a clear vision of what you wanted to do and achieve with the label. What was that plan?
There was no master plan, but yes, since the beginning I had a clear vision. It’s not only about releasing good music on vinyl. It’s also about having a great time together and also getting in contact with new people, labels and artists. To build new projects and collaborations, even family, as we did with the guys from Madrid.

For us it is important to reflect pureness and honesty. Listening to the music that we release you will notice a certain naturalness. We don’t really care about trends and movements. We just want to release music that was created from the bottom of the artist’s heart. And sure, it must sound deep and soulful!

You debuted with Ernie's superb Origami Town. How did that come about?
As we started the label, we needed food for the first release. We already had an eye on the Spanish deep house scene. We contacted Downbeat and Minuendo Recordings for setting off a project. Ernie responded to our email and he was amazed about our background and long-standing history.

Ernie is indeed a nice guy that we really admire, not only as a producer but also as a person. He connected and introduced us to his big family/kingdom that he has created over the last ten years. He still remains a key figure for the label.

We told him that we liked his beats and deep chords and asked him to produce the first deepArtSounds vinyl. We then took the plane to Madrid to meet him and to talk about the project. We had our ideas about how it should be and sound, but we assured and promised to give him as much freedom musically as he needed.

And then he created the brilliant Origami Town!  

The Spanish connection, and in particular Madrid, is strong. Why is that?
As I said earlier, it all started with Ernie. But we already felt huge potential in Spain. The Spanish underground deep house scene is more related to the US sound, which matched our taste. At first we thought the Deep Explorer label was based in the US!

In my forthcoming film documentary about the deep house scene in Madrid, I try to explain the reason for Madrid’s musical connection to the US.

In Madrid I always feel like I’m at home because my musical roots are the same.
The other reason why we like Madrid is the cuisine and the wine. It’s definitely an added bonus.

You mentioned the documentary you’re making, Madrid Exploring Underground. Having seen clips online it honestly looks fantastic. Tell us more.
It is something that makes me curious. I feel very close to them [Madrid’s deep house players] because of my similar ideas and preferences as well as the role of always being an outsider. We grew up in different countries with a different culture, but we share the same love for classic deep house that is without doubt strongly related to the US.

I have my own story in Zürich to tell, and they have their story. Do we have similar points of view? Do we have similar feelings? I have to find it out [watch the trailer here].   

You’ve set your standards already very high at deepArtSounds in a short space of time. So where do you and the label go from here?
We still keep an eye on our existing artists. We don’t want to have as many artists as other labels. Humility, continuity and consistency are the key words of the label. We are still on our mission and we are grateful to work with outstanding producers.

DeepArtSounds was not created to be an ego thing. It is all about spreading a message in the form of deep music. Meanwhile, the bandwidth of artists in our catalogue is already enormous.

Anthony Nicholson is our outstanding ‘superstar’ and he is very connected to the label. But we also support younger ambitious producers such as Giovanni Damico or Tominori Hosoya. There is more coming in the near future.

We will have more focus on albums. Anthony Nicholson’s latest album will be released soon. Then also this year we will have another album from a great artist, which I can’t announce yet.

Both the Codes Of Sacrifice various artists EP [read the review here] and Anthony Nicholson’s Essential Plates Volume 1 are currently available, plus we have coming up Jenifa Mayanja’s Human Nature EP featuring a remix from Trinidadian Deep.

Then I am also working on my own mini album to release this year. We are also in a serious project with the very talented singer Sarignia Bonfà, who contributed on my Allstarr Motomusic EP for Deep Explorer, Beauty & Simplicity Vol. 1.

One day the mission of deepArtSounds will be accomplished, but I hope the way there is not straightforward. Let’s hope there are still some interesting hurdles to overcome.

Check out:
deepArtSounds online
deepArtSounds @ Motion FM
Watch the trailer for Madrid Exploring Underground here
Codes Of Sacrifice is available here
Essential Plates Volume 1 is available here

Friday, 29 January 2016

Deymare/Satore/Yusuke Yamamoto – The Dead Bullfighters – Minuendo Recordings

EVERY time I write about Ernie I feel like a gawpy teenager penning an anonymous love letter to the subject of their desire. I’m totally smitten. Who can blame me though? Virtually everything the man lends his considerable talents to – whether as a DJ, producer or label curator – is beautifully coated with a fine dusting of pure quality.

So here we go again. Swoon. Ernie’s Madrid-based Minuendo return with yet another carefully collated and crafted various artists EP that is, as always, bang on and shows many a wannabe label how a deep house release should be done.

Featuring faces old and new to the imprint, The Dead Bullfighters is a fabulous four-track treat.

Fabulous Finnish producer Deymare [who was responsible for the stonking Rhythm Box EP on Minuendo four years back] takes over side one with a couple of choice cuts. Keeping the tempo firmly in check, both Meditation and Rise are deep house of the more cerebral yet groovy kind.

Dynamic Spanish producer Satore is no stranger to the label either [the underrated and super-limited A Winter’s Tale was released by the imprint in 2011] and the Palma-based artist even has history with us too [check it here]. His contribution, Moving Soul, is exactly the kind of funk-heavy, prime percussive workout many of us have come to expect from him.

Rapidly making a name for himself and making his Minuendo debut is Japanese producer Yusuke Yamamoto (Série Limitée Records/Canary). A run out on Minuendo will do his credentials no harm at all and his gorgeously chugging My House is an apt and fitting calling card to round off another must-have from Madrid.

Check out:
The Dead Bullfighters @ Juno

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Jimini – Jimini EP – Fox Trax

JIMINI is French. Apparently. He takes his coffee black. Allegedly. And he has never stayed at my place [twice]. Oh no. Because that might render this review a tad impartial and that would never do.

Especially if the whiff of nepotism detracted from the fact the increasingly-prolific Lille-based DJ and producer otherwise known as Jimmy Crispyn has turned out yet another cracking EP, this time once again for Fox Trax. It’s his second solo outing with the Moscow label – the classy leftfield deep house twelve Experimental Nature was released a couple of years back [listen/buy here] – but this self-titled latest offering is simply a cut above.

No More Notes, the fabulous opening track, is in many ways typical Jimini and certainly showcases what he does best; deep, emotive house with a sprinkling of glitterball funk. Rhythm Ballad In My Soul is of a similar ilk but with a more leisurely, low-slung groove.

The b-side features a pair of impressive slower jams, When Love Is Back and Who Want To See. The former has a bluesy, dusky Moodymann-esque quality about it, never a bad thing, whilst the latter is a rather pleasing drifting, ethereal affair.

Très bien, mate.

Check out:
Jimini @ Facebook
Jimini EP @ Juno

Monday, 25 January 2016

Various Artists – Codes Of Sacrifice – deepArtSounds

IT would take neither Einstein to theorise nor Sherlock Holmes to deduce that we love deepArtSounds here at bringdownthewalls. A brief shufty around this site and the eagle-eyed amongst you will soon spot not only reviews of their consistently superb output but a lengthy interview with the Swiss label’s boss man.

And there is one very simple reason for our infatuation with the Zurich-based imprint. They won’t stop releasing great records.

Here’s another, the various artists EP, Codes Of Sacrifice. The opening number, which near as damn it lends its name to this formidable four-track twelve, finds label favourite and US house music stalwart Anthony Nicholson [one half of African Blues with a certain Mr. Ron Trent and of Prescription and Clairaudience fame] in full soulful, percussive mode. Searing, sparkling, spiritual sounds of the highest order.

Label boss George Btp’s alter ego Allstarr Motomusic dives as deep as you can possibly go without the aid of scuba gear with the truly delicious Open The Sky. Fashioned from the fabric labelled ‘timeless house music’, the track could have been produced in Chicago or even Chipping Norton [ok, so we know it was Zurich], unearthed from the past or produced only last week, influenced by Ron the don or the men from Madrid. Truth is it matters not as what really counts is its infectious groove, joie de vivre and instant ability to put a dirty, great smile across your face.

Rapidly becoming one of our favourite producers round these parts is Jesus Gonsev, head of the Troubled Kids label and hired gun for imprints such as Batti Batti, Music With Content and Minuendo Recordings. He delivers yet again with the beauteous Kiss My Eye which unusually for him features a vocal, that of the seriously-talented Sarignia Bonfà.

Completing the package is Ron Juan, otherwise known as Giovanni Damico, founder of White Rabbit Recordings. His cut Black Jungle dovetails seamlessly with the other three tracks being as it is another hefty helping of your finest deepness.

One great big comforting onesie of a record. Wrap yourself up in it.

Check out:
deepArtSounds here
Codes Of Sacrifice @ Juno

Saturday, 23 January 2016

deepArtSounds: Part Two

FROM wide-eyed teenage clubber to serious record collector to DJ to producer and eventually label boss is not such an uncommon journey these days. Few, however, can have made it so seamlessly or with such grace and style as George Boutopoulos.

For Boutopoulos is one third of the serious and seriously-stylish Zurich-based label deepArtSounds, which burst onto the underground only three years ago but has made such an impact amongst the faithful on the back of a series of quality releases from what reads like a who’s who of deep house: Above Smoke, Anthony Nicholson, Dubbyman, Ernie, Jenifa Mayanja. Oh, and a certain Ron Trent.

Here in part two of three [you can read part one here], Boutopoulos tells bringdownthewalls about his first foray into running a record label, the two sides to his production work and the Asian connection that woke Moto Music out of hibernation.

Tell me more about your first label Moto Music.
After years of running our very first house label, No Acting Vibes, not very successfully, it was time to change something. The idea behind Moto Music was to set up a label dedicated more to techno and ambient. This was around 1996.

We wanted to create a cool underground brand. ‘Modern Music that sounds like technology’ was our new motto. We called it simply Moto Music. The philosophy was simple and that was to just release soulful and contemporary techno music related more closely to our idols from Detroit, who we had always kept an eye on.

At that time there was no internet and no label scene or community in Switzerland. We felt a little lost at the beginning, but together with our German distributor Formic we were able to build a really good set up. We sold more than 1000 copies of Moto Music 001, The Shine EP. We also had really nice support from international magazines, which put this record in their charts. The first four releases were my own productions [as Dan Piu], which brought international recognition. After this, we decided to sign Marco Repetto, better known under different aliases. He is probably the most respected techno act in Switzerland and he used to be the drummer of the legendary electronic punk band Grauzone [check 'em here].

There were seven releases in those first six years, the last in 2003 featuring Charles Noel from New York. That is probably the most requested record that we have ever released. In 2003, I decided to close the label. It was obvious to us that the analogue sound of Moto Music and its characteristic live arrangements were no longer in tune with the new digital world which had arrived by then.

So why then the sudden decision to resurrect the label again this year after such a lengthy hiatus?
To be honest, we were pushed a little by many people to re-awaken our old label. We made a link on Discogs between deepArtSounds and Moto Music and this was the reaction.

In 2014 I went to Japan to visit our distributors there and when I told them that we used to run Moto Music many years before they just said: “Wow! You are the guy behind this?”. They were surprised and they suggested why not re-launch this nice label. They said techno was in and that we could count on their support. This got me thinking during my long Asia trip. Later in Sri Lanka, I met my label partner Roberto [Pistolese] and while eating a nice Indian curry we both decided to re-open Moto Music.

It is our friend Todd Sines from New York [Planet E/Peacefrog] who has brought Moto Music back to life with his alias Enhanced on the Core EP, featuring four rough, groovy techno tracks and mastered by Above Smoke.

We want to keep Moto Music underground as it always used to be. No webpage, no Facebook. We will have a maximum of two releases a year.

Going back to your work George, you produce under the aliases Allstarr Motomusic and Dan Piu. Tell me about those two and what you have coming up from each?
My alias Dan Piu goes back to the time of Moto Music in the ’90s. The tracks are lush and groovy, analogue sounding and made for the dance-floor. They are very fluid and have been arranged mostly live with my 24-band analogue mixer. It’s kind of a manifesto to bring all machines together and let them speak. It’s definitely an improvised and spontaneous thing.

Allstarr Motomusic could be described as the opposite of my alias Dan Piu. The songs are structured completely differently. I use a Logic 9 sequencer and the songs sound more thoughtful and refined. I write the songs in my bedroom or in my living room or even while traveling. Then I go to my studio to finish and replace some digital sounds with real analoque synth sounds to give the songs the necessary essence and body. The last step is to mix my songs together with my mentor and close friend Eisentanz [] in his professional studio.

I don’t like to categorise my music but Allstarr Motomusic focuses more on the deeper and softer side of things. I’ve been making house music since 1992, but apart from my earlier No Acting Vibes releases, honestly, I never felt comfortable enough to release them or to show them to any label head.

What changed that then?
It was Dubbyman [Deep Explorer] himself during his Switzerland and Austria tour who discovered my music by pure coincidence. He was at my house and he saw a keyboard near my window, so it was obvious to ask me to show him something. His reaction was very positive and kind of surprising. A few months later, Ernie picked a track from my song library [Little Trinidadian Girl] for the Between Earth And Space various artists EP on his label Minuendo. It was followed by an original four-tracker EP [Beauty & Simplicity Vol. 1] on Dubby’s own world-class label.

Regarding releases, there is the forthcoming Beauty & Simplicity Vol. 2 on Deep Explorer and Open The Skymy contribution track on Codes Of Sacrifice, the current various artists EP on deepArtSounds.

I can also now reveal future projects. My track Get Da will appear on the forthcoming Big & Tall various artists EP on the Belgrade-based Soul Print Recordings. I played there [Belgrade] recently and have an excellent relationship with the Soul Print crew. There will be a really good collaboration in the near future.

Also pencilled in is an EP on Minuendo later this year, plus I have music signed to a Japanese label whcih will be coming out this year too.

Then I'm still working on my album, which will be a summary of my work during all the years behind the machines. Release date this year sometime.

Another project that I can also reveal is together with my girlfriend Sarignia Bonfà [the voice on Jesus Gonsev’s sublime Kiss My Eye]. We are currently working on some tracks together. Her voice is fantastic and we already have superb feedback including from well-known producers [Check out their track Light Of The Soul right here].

I’m also working on another project together with Malcolm Moore and his wife Debra Jones-Davis of Altered Moods. There will also be a few more vinyl releases in the near future on nice labels. However, I tend not to release too much and only for selected labels I can stand behind. For me this is important and I would also urge every producer not to release too much and not release every track they’ve produced on any label. You should always stand behind what you release. I don’t want to regret a release one day.

Regarding forthcoming releases under the pseudonym Dan Piu, there is nothing planned yet but I guess it’s obvious to release again on Moto Music one day.

Check out:
the deepArtSounds family here
Motion Fhere

Coming soon…DeepArtSounds: Part Three…Ernie, the Madrid connection and the way ahead.