Friday, 28 October 2016

Tomi Chair – Warm Seasons – TC White

NEVER cared much for U2. Their stadium-rock posturing and Bono’s holier-than-thou pontificating has never been my cup of char. As for their declaration that it – whatever it might be – is Even Better Than The Real Thing never washed with me.

Let’s take the latest release from Japanese rising star Tomi Chair [who also produces under his real name Tominori Hosoya]. It’s been quite a couple of years for the artist whose work has appeared on the likes of deepArtSounds, Minuendo, Soul Print Recordings and TH Pressing, the label he launched in 2014.

Now he’s gone and started up the TC White imprint as a vehicle for his own music debuting with the first-rate Warm Seasons EP.

It’s an originals versus the remixes affair with the latter taking over the A side of this five-track package. Even better than the real thing though? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or ear in this case, so I guess you pays your money and you takes your choice. But here’s my two penneth.

Pascal Viscardi [Saft/Traxx Underground] with his Mystic Juno mixx [sic] does a fine job in giving Spring a touch of old-school bounce, burble and brawn, a real departure from the original and a tasty cut in its own right. Tackling Summer head on is Nick Anthony [aka Simoncino of Finale Sessions, Mathematics, Quintessentials and many more] with his African Morning mix. It’s a powerful and evocative drum-driven production that again takes the original into new territory giving it a life all of its own.

As accomplished as both interpretations are though – and they really are – it is on the flipside where the two original tracks plus another from Hosoya and the real beauty reside. All three are right up my alley.

Hosoya’s version of Spring has a light and deft touch. There is little in the way of urgency or indeed kick but it is much the better for that. It’s a classy little number for sure.

Summer, by contrast, is bolder, brighter and brimming with optimism. Soulful and sassy, it is deep house with purpose and attitude as well as the pick of this fine collection.

Rounding off proceedings is the exquisite and deeply-satisfying Morning Bird, a delicate breed with more in common with Spring than Summer.

Check out:

Buy Warm Seasons @ Juno

Zarenzeit – Black Inside – DeepArtSounds

WE lost more than one Prince this year.

Not so high profile yet striking a more personal note for me was the passing of Prince Be, one half of hippie-rap combo P.M. Dawn. He was one of the more colourful and charismatic characters to emerge during the early nineties and the band’s take on pop, hip hop and the industry of music was more blissful, inspiring and curious than most. 

I was reminded of him again recently on hearing this album. Not in a musical way as such, although they do share an era and certain sense of soulfulness, but because as I sat back and wallowed in its glory I was Set Adrift On Memory Bliss.

Black Inside is in many ways an unashamed nostalgia trip. Even the cover photography harks back to the time that made these tracks. It’s a past that is clearly held dear to its creator George Boutopoulos [aka George Btp], co-founder of Zurich-based label deepArtSounds. Indeed, Black Inside is imbued with such intense warmth, comfort and sincerity that on each listen I find myself transported back to another time and place too when soul was the music of love and house still in its early years.

Although technically a collaborative project involving Boutopoulos’s label partner Roberto Pistolese [aka Robert P], indeed the pair formed the band as a live act in 1993, Zarenzeit’s debut album has got Btp’s fingerprints all over it. Even the name, which means era of the Tsars, was inspired by an article he read during one of many musical and cultural trips to Berlin during his formative years in the early-to-late nineties.

And despite many other quality releases as Dan Piu and Allstarr Motomusic, given the style, substance and context of Black Inside – the clue is in the title, innit? – coupled with the fact that Boutopoulos penned or co-wrote every track, you get the feeling that this time it’s personal.

Because not only is Black Inside the culmination of a project that started more than 20 years ago, which in itself must be deeply personal and satisfying, musically it is the autobiography of a soul boy who, amongst many other things no doubt, discovered house and Larry Heard. Much like me.

With the entire album sharing a musical DNA, it’s near impossible to pick stand out tracks. They all stand out.

Melodious and moreish instrumentals such as opening cut Time Travel, the perky Grown In The Bird Hood and slightly melancholic Junkietown clearly share a certain je ne sais quoi, whilst the title track and There, But Here As Well are tributes to Zarenzeit’s house and jazz roots respectively. The gorgeous-yet-brief Let Them Think They Won, meanwhile, evokes shades of the incomparable Mr Fingers himself more than any other number on here; deep, soulful and wondrous.

Regular collaborator Sarignia BonfĂ , surely one of the best house vocalists to emerge of late, shares credits and lends her talents to the sensuous Love Mood and gospel-inspired Talk About A Child. On a different tack, the soft, spoken-word delivery of guest vocalist and writer Debra Jones-Davis, director at the superb Altered Moods, is simply sublime on 2souls, 1heart, her own heartfelt tribute to the other Prince. Oh Ms Jones, where have you been all my life?

Black Inside resonates deeply with this old soul boy turned househead. It’s sweet, as we used to say, a debut of impressive proportions for the Zarenzeit vehicle that may even prove to be Boutopoulos’s magnum opus.

Check out:
deepArtSounds @ Juno
Black Inside @ SoundCloud

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Fuminori Kagajo – Chase Down – Roots Underground Records

PERHAPS it is because I am hopelessly out of touch, tragically unhip or even subconsciously jealous that I am so uncool to carry it off with any conviction, but I have an inherent distrust of anyone who describes other folk as ‘cats’.

It seems to belong to another time and place, when roll-necks, wide lapels and wild Afros ruled the world. And I would undoubtedly be chased from my local Wetherspoon by burly men in cheap sportswear for talking such jive.

Yet cats is the term I keep returning to when pondering the dudes behind vinyl release number two from Italy’s beautifully burgeoning label Roots Underground. Because for the excellent four-track trip – and it is a trip – that is the Chase Down EP, Sapporo-based Fuminori Kagajo [King Street Sounds/Slip‘N’Slide/Fatsouls Records] has surrounded himself with a gaggle of accomplished musicians who sound like they may have served their apprenticeships with Herbie Hancock and The Headhunters.

The title track is a funky-ass journey back to the seventies; soulful, sassy and seriously groovy, it couldn’t be cooler if it were sporting a leather trench coat and mirrored shades. And that is in large part due to the outrageously sharp keyboard skills of the super-talented Takuto Kudo. His fingers are working overtime too on the stunning Aggregation, a wonderfully deep and driving number that irresistibly works both the head and feet to maximum effect.

Over on the flipside there is no sign of slowing down. Indeed, if anything the joyous The Tropics takes the pace up a notch or two, albeit this time with an Afro-Latin lilt. And despite more sterling keyboard gymnastics from Mr Kudo, it is in fact the brass section that takes centre stage with a twisted and frenetic contribution.

Closing track Depths Of The Forest is much more contemporary house territory. There’s still a delightful and uplifting keyboard solo on parade but this time married to a deep house sensibility and kick. It’s a heady brew.

Buy here.

Check out:
Roots Underground @ SoundCloud
Roots Underground @ Bandcamp