Saturday, 30 April 2016

Gregor Yan – Jazz City Mini LP – Deep Explorer

WITH the big four-oh – releases not years that is – just a record away, Spanish label Deep Explorer appears to be in no mood to play safe or rest on its rather excellent laurels.

Having journeyed during its 12-year existence from minimal and tech grooves through to the grown-up deep house canon it has become synonymous with, the Madrid-based imprint has gone and flipped the script by conjuring up what almost amounts to a jazz concept album.

Of course there are significant elements of house music and the usual high-quality Deepex deepness thrown in there, we would expect nothing less, but the carefully curated six-track selection from Gregor Yan – a new name round here – is imbued and styled overwhelmingly by this thing called jazz.

Opening up the album is the languid title-track, a percussion and piano driven number with a cool-as-fuck male vocal and more than just a faint air of low-budget film about it.

The long player kicks on with Take #2, which has been reshaped by the New Jazz Fakers, aka Yan and the incomparable label boss Dubbyman. Still dominated by the jazz vibe naturally but with a house beat and purpose, it’s one of those tracks that reminds you just why God made us phunky.

Both About Love and Take #7 mine that same hi hat and sparkly keys late-night jazz club seam to great effect, whilst Loud Silence is a beautiful and wistful unhurried journey that brings the album to a perfectly fitting close.

Sandwiched between these and worth the cover price alone, however, is the majestic Strange Emotion. It’s straight-up, honest-to-goodness deep house dripping in soul, power and, of course, emotion. Bundles of it.

Individual moments of brilliance notwithstanding, a holistic approach is perhaps the best way to experience Jazz City; a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Close your eyes tightly though and I swear you can make out Dubbyman, a striking figure with fedora strategically tilted to one side, gliding contentedly and with purpose through some smoky dive bar or other. And that’s got to be a very good thing.

Check out:
Jazz City Mini LP @ Juno

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Marc Cotterell feat. Doreen Younglove – Deepinside – Minuendo

FOR one very frightening, sweat-inducing split second my eyes failed me and I was convinced that the new release on Minuendo was a deep house version of the camp classic I Am What I Am. I should have gone to Specsavers.

Panic over and normal service resumed, it turns out I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Because instead of an updated homage to dressing up in drag, the latest offering from the wonderful Madrid-based imprint is in fact a rather-tasty label debut for the much-experienced DJ and producer Marc Cotterell, owner of Plastik People Recordings.

Featuring three juicy value-for-money takes on the same cut, I’am featuring the powerful and potent vocal talents of Doreen Younglove, the Deepinside EP is Minuendo at its very soulful best. The classic vocal mix is precisely that, a soaring and uplifting cut with its heart and soul rooted in the finest traditions of proper deep house.

We love the sartorially-splendid Chris Gray round here [I picked up his equally-splendid release on yet another formidable Spanish label, Pulp, only last week]. His own Deep4Life imprint has achieved an almost mythical status and his work is constantly challenging and brilliant in equal measure. His Deep4Life dub here is everything you would want from a remix of his, turning the original upside down, putting his stamp all over it and taking the track firmly underground into dark room, bass-thumping, late-night territory. Hats off to Senor Gray.

Version three is the divine 5am Get Laid mix. It’s a little more chilled than the original, a touch deeper and more laidback. One for the heads no doubt and certainly excited these ears.

Nestled between this appetising selection is another naughty little number, Into The Light. Deep, vocal-driven house once again but with much more of a heads-down vibe to it. Music for grown-ups.

Check out:
Deepinside EP @ Juno

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Owen Jay & Melchior Sultana – Contrasts featuring Mykle Anthony (Deep Explorer remixes) – Batti Batti

SIBLING rivalry, eh. Don’t you just love it? My sister kicked me in the face once when we were kids. If that wasn’t bad enough, she was wearing roller skates at the time. It was an accident of course. Well I think it was.

I bet the Brothers Alvarez [aka Above Smoke and Dubbyman] wouldn’t kick each other in the face even if they were arguing over who could knock out the best remix. And I’m not about to call it either. Because what you do get for your money, on a slice of tremendous 10” vinyl no less, on the latest from the ever-wondrous Batti Batti label is a pair of achingly-beautiful versions of Owen Jay and Melchior Sultana’s already-stunning Contrasts, featuring the vocal talents of Mykle Anthony. It’s win win really.

Having said all that, it still behoves me as a reviewer to throw in my two-penneth [I have no idea what that is in new money or Euros]. The original first appeared on the Maltese imprint’s Kiss The Sun EP a couple of years back. Now label head Jay has commissioned the Deep Explorer pair to work their magic on the track for this the first in a series of 10” releases. And work their magic they do.

Above Smoke is something of an unsung hero. Noted for his excellent mastering skills and The Hole Of The Dub studio, it is sometimes forgotten what a great producer he is too. Not by those that know of course and certainly not by me. If you are not already familiar with gems such as Burning, Jazzt Me and Inner Vibe then make them your best friends right now.

Here he takes the uber-laidback, chilled out, Mediterranean charm of the original and adds a pacier undercurrent, enhancing the velvet-smooth vocals and losing none of its satisfyingly-warm glow.

Dubbyman, meanwhile, opts for the slow, sexy and sultry route. And boy does it work. Wrapped up in those summery vibes we’ve come to know and love from Deep Explorer, it’s a mesmerising and gorgeous piece of work. Which is best though? You choose.

Check out:
The Hole Of The Dub studio
Contrasts @ Juno

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

V/A – Stuntman Mike Car's Soundtrack: Part 2 – Troubled Kids

IT’S no secret that I harbour dreams of packing my bags and moving to Spain someday. Sun, sea, sand and sangria or so they say. Add to that superb deep house so what more could I need seƱor?

Ok, so the scene in Spain is centred largely on the urbanised capital of Madrid far from the beaches, whilst the internet breaks down those pesky physical barriers anyway but you get my drift. Now whilst most attention is focused on Ernie at Minuendo plus Dubbyman and his brother Above Smoke over at Deep Explorer, Jesus Gonsev of Troubled Kids doesn’t always get the attention he rightly deserves.

Apart from cracking releases for the likes of Batti Batti, deepArtSounds and Foliage [check out Drift, Kiss My Eye and Flash respectively], the Madrid-based DJ and producer runs his own imprint with a finely tuned ear and is a sizeable addition to my own record collection. Troubled Kids’ latest, the Stuntman Mike Car's Soundtrack: Part 2 EP, is no let down either. Featuring Gonsev himself once again, the aforementioned Ernie, Japanese starlet Miruga and American gun-for-hire Alton Miller, it’s a bit of a belter.

Miller is not surprisingly the star attraction here and When The Morning Comes 2nd is undoubtedly a gloriously memorable, polished and darn-enjoyable hunk of deepness. Job done.

Actually no, because not for the first time the boss man Gonsev steals the show as far as I’m concerned. Traits Of Humankind is yet another beautifully evocative, emotive and exceptional cut that wet my whistle handsomely. Lord knows what he’s been putting in his San Miguel of late but the boy just gets deeper and deeper. Long may it continue.

Miruga has got some serious form for Altered Moods, Balance and Ethereal Sound to name but three and he certainly doesn’t disappoint here either with the lush and enigmatic Endless Waltz. That man Ernie – a firm favourite at bringdownthewalls – is on point with Sharepoint, a darker and moodier take on the deep house oeuvre than he usually turns out but a more than fitting addition to a tip top EP.

Check out:
Troubled Kids online
Jesus Gonsev on Facebook
Stuntman Mike Car's Soundtrack: Part 2 @ Juno

Monday, 11 April 2016

SofaTalk – Fairy Dust – Roots Underground

SECOND generation Mods were the dominant youth cult in my school in South London towards the end of my time there. So as one of only a handful of committed soul boys with a chunky wedge and decked out in the latest Italian sportswear, it would be fair to say I was on the wrong end of no small amount of grief. Taxing they used to call. Mugging I called it as I was chased for my beloved Sergio Tacchini tracksuit top through a park in Croydon.

Even so, I still look back fondly on that time – not because of the taxing, obviously, I’m not that twisted – but because it was a great period for soulful music, when Anita, Teddy and Luther loomed large over my record collection, pirate radio was spreading the jazz funk gospel and style was everything whatever your choice of scene.

And so I was transported musically back to those formative years courtesy of the first official vinyl release from Italy’s Roots Underground label. Not that the splendid and appropriately-titled Fairy Dust EP from Italian DJ/producer SofaTalk is in any way retro or a pastiche of a bygone time, it is just that it is so magically and liberally sprinkled with soul, funk and jazz that those faraway teenage days came flooding back to me in an instant.

Contains Sulfites (Intro) is a delightfully warming and textured curtain raiser and perhaps the pick of a super selection for my money despite its brevity, an accomplished and languid slice of groovy deepness that is in no hurry and is all the better for its lack of urgency.

Picking up the pace is Dance Of The Cranes, a satisfyingly funky and jazz-inspired [perhaps jazz funk then after all] broken beat workout with a hint of house, whilst the fabulous title-track Fairy Dust (Instrumental) sits splendidly somewhere between the first two cuts.

Perhaps pinching the plaudits at the death is the vocal version of Fairy Dust featuring the talents of Kris Tidjan. Though little different in essence to the instrumental, the addition of Tidjan’s sublime vocals adds a greater depth and emotional resonance to an already-excellent piece of work.

Check out: 
Fairy Dust video teaser
Roots Underground online
Fairy Dust EP @ Juno

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Rai Scott – Clarinet Moods – No More To Roam

IT was only the other day I was thinking to myself that you really don’t get enough clarinet in house music. Then blow me along comes the new solo EP from the sublimely-talented Rai Scott –  she of Inner Shift Music fame  absolutely brimming with the bleedin’ lesser-spotted woodwind wonder.

Honestly though, the Edinburgh-based artist’s charming Clarinet Moods, only the second EP on the already-promising No More To Roam – sister label to Contrast-Wax – is not only ridiculously good, it’s also a bit of a breath of fresh air in a world dominated by sterile, lowest-common-denominator dance-music.

The title track comes in two versions; sultry and even more sultry. Well, officially the Melody Mix and the Lazy Dub but both take low-slung hot and steamy house music to the borders of sexy before actually straying into late-night Channel 4 adult foreign film territory. Not that I’ve ever seen any. Honest.

Both takes on the same tune are seriously enchanting, haunting and drop-dead gorgeous. Scott and the folks behind No More To Roam both deserve great credit for sticking to their guns and putting quality to the fore rather than a knee-jerk commercial impulse to include a ‘banger’.

Move To The Front does wrap up this super little package with a nice little gear change though – the closest we come to banger here but still nothing to break sweat over mind – with layers of rolling bassline, percussion and ethereal synth pointing the way to the dance-floor.

Check out:
No More To Roam @ Soundcloud
Clarinet Moods @ Juno