Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Gauss – Gauss 04 – Gauss

IN an increasingly uncertain world of Brexit, Trump and Honey G (for those of you mercifully outside the UK, check it here), what some of us need is a great big comfort blanket. A metaphorical one, naturally.

So it’s heartening to know that there are still some things you can rely upon. Namely, that if it’s intelligent techno with heart and soul that you’re after then Gauss won’t let you down.

After a cloak-and-dagger introduction on their eponymously-titled label a couple of years back, Gauss have more recently been outted as the production partnership of two respected old hands, Owen Jay and Natan H.

Jay has considerable form not only on his own label Batti Batti but also for the likes of Underground Quality, Moods & Grooves and Minuendo. Natan H is no makeweight either having made his vinyl debut on Anton Zap’s excellent imprint Ethereal Sound before going on to equally impressive outings on Finale Sessions, ManMakeMusic, Mysterious Russian Soul and more.

It is, indeed, those credentials that set Gauss apart. Because strip away the veneer of techno and you will always find a touch of soul or deep house swing in their joint productions.

They’re back again with the label’s fourth release, hand-stamped on gorgeous red vinyl and imaginatively titled, yep you guessed it, Gauss 04. The outstanding title track Numerical Coefficients is nowhere near as cold and prosaic as the name might suggest. For sure there is an element of the mechanical and even automaton about it, but stirring synth swathes nudge the piece in a more emotional and dare I say ‘human’ direction. Six minutes of techno heaven.

Curvature is a cleverly understated number, one of those brooding and deceptively melodic productions that has more pace about it than you might think on first hearing and a very neat line in shimmery cosmic synth work too.

Packing a punch right ‘til the last, Differential closes the EP with more bounce and swagger than Gauss have displayed previously. And it ain’t half good.

Check out:
Gauss @ Juno

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Ewan Jansen – Aqua Libre – Red Ember

EWAN Jansen first caught my attention with the deep-as Blueline Summer long-player on the influential Moods & Grooves some tens ago or so. But he’d already been quietly making his mark for a number of years before that with appearances on the likes of Track Mode, Deep4Life and his own Red Ember Records.

Then nothing. Not a peep out of the Australian producer. That was until last year when he popped up with new material on the German collective Hardworksoftdrink. That was quickly followed by a slew of fresh EPs on Adelaide Soundworks, Going Good and Inner Balance.

And now it has also signalled a revival of Red Ember after a 15-year hiatus with the Perth-based Jansen re-launching the imprint with the formidable solo EP Aqua Libre.

Opener and aforementioned title track, Aqua Libre, is dusted liberally with the feel-good factor, a hearty, honest and warming track with little in the way of pretention but a whole lot of uplift and joy. It’s one to put a smile on even the most sour and curmudgeonly of faces. Following swiftly in its wake is Plankton, in many ways a just as pleasurable and rewarding hunk of deepness but with a more muscular groove.

Freckles is no makeweight either, a stirring and emotionally-charged little number with a light touch of disco laced around its edges.

Yet despite the considerable craft and quality of these three, for my taste at least it is the closing cut – how often does that happen? – Castel that nigh on steals the show. It’s a real beauty, spacey, blissful and with that emotional content that both Moodymann and Keith Worthy spoke of.

With more goodies in the pipeline, notably the forthcoming Return To Hyperbola EP on the ever-excellent Inner Shift, it’s a welcome return. I have no idea where Mr Jansen has been, but I’m sure glad he’s back.

Check out:

Aqua LIbre EP @ SoundCloud
Buy Aqua Libre @ Juno
Red Ember @ Discogs

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Leo Gunn – Journey Inwards – Deep Explorer

LEO Gunn releases are like the proverbial London bus. No, not dangerous at night with a whiff of stale urine up top, but nothing for ages then two come along together.

In fairness, there is some method in the madness of the folk responsible for this, the brothers Alvarez [aka Dubbyman and Above Smoke] at Deep Explorer who have developed, encouraged and nurtured the precious talent of the enigmatic Gunn. In return, the Adelaide-based producer is fiercely loyal to the label and a deep explorer through and through.

So what’s the deal? Simple really, Gunn returns to the fold with an anticipated mini album for the Madrid-based imprint, plus there’s a tasty two-track bonus 7” available too for those who crave even more Gunn fire.

First up, the longer player then. It’s a handsome beast, visually and musically. Those of us who snapped up any of Gunn’s earlier exceptional EPs on Deep Explorer and appreciate his natural, almost organic, style will not be disappointed. Journey Inwards is very much the sequel.

Dreamy and melodic soundscapes with a hint of Larry Heard-style jazz – in the loosest sense – are very much Gunn’s stock-in-trade, which makes Leo & Leo Jr. the perfect scene-setting opener. From Old sports the jazz motif too, another beautifully harmonious and ear-pleasing piece with a touch of Mr Fingers coursing through its grooves.

Deep Breath has that satisfyingly wistful and mood-setting air that Gunn excels in, but this time with extra beef; not quite dance floor hedonism but no comfy sofa number either. And although perhaps still in warm-up territory, the lush and lengthy title track also has a more urgent kick and intent, whilst skilfully still mining a pensive, faraway seam. It’s proper deep house, as it should be.

Digital vs Midi is another super cut expertly straddling that fine line between feet-moving and head-nodding fodder. So why not try both? Home Base presents no such ambiguity. It’s about as full-on dance floor material as Gunn gets, punchy and purposeful from start to finish.

As for the aptly-named Bonus Tracks on seven inches of vinyl, well, it’s a joyous little something extra for aficionados of Gunn and Deep Explorer. Voodoo and Moondub are easily a match for anything on the album and may even, for my money at least, be the pick of this classy collection. The former is a gentle, soothing and spaced-out production that is so easy on the ears and soul. It’s right up there with Gunn’s best work. The gorgeous and trippy Moondub, as the name suggests, takes inspiration from cavernous, echoing piano soundscapes. Four and a half minutes of bliss.

Best part of two years since Gunn’s last release. Worth the wait then? It was never in doubt.

Check out:

Journey Inwards @ Juno
Bonus Tracks @ Juno
Leo Gunn @ SoundCloud
Deep Explorer online