Reviews

V/A – Atmospheres – Batti Batti

Life must be sweet right now if you are Owen Jay. Respected as a DJ and producer, a must-listen radio show that the deeper heads swear by (myhouseyourhouse.net for those that haven’t) and now a record label, Batti Batti, that reflects with deadly accuracy his own impeccable musical taste. And although the imprint has been around for a few years as a successful digital specialist it is the recent addition of vinyl to the fold that has been particularly smart.

Because so far the formula has been simple and effective. Four tracks, four different producers, one aim: raw, deep and high-quality sounds. It worked on Batti Batti’s first vinyl release last summer, Basement Tracks, and it works here on the latest EP, Atmospheres.

As with BBR01, the EP opens with Jay himself alongside studio partner and accomplished musician Melchior Sultana, this time with a cut entitled Spheric. And as is often the case with Jay’s selections as a DJ, this one is all about the vibe. A smouldering, crackling and dubby undercurrent plays perfectly alongside the understated kick and rising synth, contrasting sharply with the more groovy and soulful cut the duo crafted for Basement Tracks.

Making his label debut here is Natan H, a producer who is currently and deservedly getting attention from all the right people and places. Here he offers up Alpinism, a track that is not dissimilar in sentiment to the Jay/Sultana opener but less menacing and deceptively funky courtesy of some great perc work. Little wonder the man is coveted by many a label these days.

The little-known Cleveland has previous with the label’s digital offshoot and here makes a cracking vinyl debut with Pandora. Emotionally-charged synths and melancholic keys are the order of the day yet there is plenty of dance potential still underpinned as the track is with a surprisingly bouncy bass.

Completing the package is another familiar Batti Batti collaborator Bittersuite with Monk Vibe. Arguably the most soulful of the four tracks, Monk Vibe has a near jazzy – in the loosest possible sense – feel about its take on this thing called house. No bad thing that and an entirely satisfying way to round off a damn fine EP.

Natan H & Amy Jean – For Her – Man Make Music

It’s that man Natan H again. Remember the name because you’re going to hear a lot more from and about him this year as he is currently something of a hot property here in Europe where labels and heads love the cut of his jib.

Roots of the Natan H sound are firmly in Chicago and Detroit as with many producers. But there is a distinctive 21st century high-tech twist to his work that at times has more in common with the fertile musical grounds of central and eastern Europe that have embraced deeper vibes with a fervent passion. Indeed, aside from an earlier outing on Anton Zap’s respected Ethereal Sound imprint, also coming soon to a record store near you from the California-based artist is the mightily sweet Gave EP on recently-founded label Mysterious Russian Soul.

It is, however, this delightful part-collaboration with long-time friend Amy Jean that I am here to praise. And praiseworthy it is. Three tracks of achingly sumptuous deep house. It is almost as cut and dry as that.

Title track For Her is a bright and breezy affair that for just a nano calls to mind Julio Bashmore’s Au Seve but far less intense or bass heavy, while I Know is equally dazzling and a veritable mover and shaker. However, it is the collaborative track Rush – the first two being solo productions from Natan H – that steals the show. Pumping and bumping deep house at its finest, soulful too, and one very much for the head as well as the feet. Remember the name.

Ethyl/Flori – Plurals – Contrast-Wax

Contrast-Wax know their shit. Having issued a statement of intent by signing Spain’s deep house don Ernie for their debut release, they’ve displayed just as much ambition and style for the follow-up by enlisting two of the UK’s brightest and most talented hopefuls, Ethyl and Flori.

Although the young pair often work together – Quintessentials/Secretsundaze/Freerange – here they fly solo with a track apiece on this double-A sided vinyl-only EP, which again is limited strictly to just the 100 copies. And it seems the friendly competition has brought the best out of each. Both producers are in sparkling form here giving Contrast-Wax another ‘must-have’ release on their hands.

Ethyl was the first of the duo to emerge a few years back initially alongside Huxley who too has gone on to great things. His track here Syncopate suggests he has lost none of his swagger, a gurgling acid line ebbing and flowing continually alongside ethereal synths and a muted kick. Psychedelic house anyone?

By contrast, Flori’s cut Wandering is more orthodox though no less superb. More bumping than the flip and effortlessly easy on the ear, Wandering skips its way joyfully through with the aid of heartily warm pads, jaunty hi-hats and just the occasional vocal interruption. Ace.

All of which begs the question, what the hell do Contrast-Wax do next?

V/A – Words From The Medium – Remote

The east has given electronic music some significant talent. East Anglia that is, not London. Guru-like DJ Harvey, the revered Idjut Boys and more recently the excellent Jitterbug are all straight outta Cambridge. Now with one foot in the university town and another in the smoke comes the label Remote.

Around since 2010 as a digital imprint, Remote made the move into vinyl last year with quality releases from Ed Maddams and Toni Be. Now comes its third foray with a various artists EP that is bang on the money.

Opening salvo is from Perseus Traxx who fire off a jackin’ analogue title track that pays homage to the early days of Chicago house and is exactly the kind of sound that is getting the deeper heads all worked up right now. Newcomer Lakumer follows on with Kensal Prize – a clue to his neighbourhood? – that is sparky and raw yet melodic and engaging all at the same time. A name to note no doubt.

Get Down from Montenegrin talent Kammerton (Boe Recordings/Housewax) is deeper and more hefty than the first two cuts, though no less excellent or well-executed, while finishing proceedings in style is the superb Hurt You from Haze ‘n Adaze (aka Lady Blacktronika). Pumping bass, siren-like synth and a mournful vocal that borders on disturbing; it’s a chunky mother.

Joey Kay/Chicagodeep & Taelue – Keep The Face – Minuendo Recordings

You know the deal by now with Minuendo. Lovingly crafted releases, superior aesthetic values and proper deep house on vinyl and self-distributed by the man himself Ernie. So if it ain’t broke then why fix it?

He hasn’t. In fact what is really interesting is that save the odd remix, Ernie hasn’t released on his own label for a couple of years now and during that time Minuendo has matured into a thing of rare beauty. That’s no reflection on Ernie’s work. No way. No one is a bigger fan of the man from Madrid than me and during that time he has been busy making incredible records for other people’s labels, most of which are proudly stacked on my shelves. It’s just that taking a step back from Minuendo, concentrating on the A&R, which is faultless, the management and the overall feel of the label has paid dividends. For many it is the best label in Spain and I for one wouldn’t argue.

So what of Keep The Face? Quite simply it is joyous and grown-up. It smacks of a label head that really knows what he likes, what he wants and gets it. Presented here are two tracks from Chicago producer Joey Kay including Perfect Time, a fully-fledged soulful vocal house song of the old-school variety and the most commercial track ever to appear on Minuendo. Kay’s Cliff Dwellers (2013 reprise) is more shuffling beatdown by comparison and no doubt a perfect tool for DJs.

Debuting on the flip are Chicagodeep and Taelue, both fancied producers in their own right, but collaborating here on Sunday Drive. It is deep house of the hustling, bumping kind, simple for sure, but effective too, groovy and totally mesmerising. The track is given the remix treatment by Ernie’s old pal Dubbyman who does what he always does best; deep, sexy, hypnotic vibes.

Trinidadian Deep – Vision & Sound – Deep Explorer

Talking about Deep Explorer without mentioning the ‘d’ word is darn near impossible; see, I did it already. Seriously though, the label’s foundations are deep in every sense of the word and even the name tells you everything you need to know about this beautiful imprint.

Fast approaching ten years of releasing top-notch music and nearly 30 records in now, the label has been presided over with much tender loving care by the Alvarez brothers Javier and José, who are better known in underground circles as Above Smoke and Dubbyman respectively.

Their fingerprints are all over this EP which is entirely in the Deep Explorer mould although the artist is actually Toronto DJ and producer Trinidadian Deep, a cousin of Ron Trent. It’s a perfect match.

At the risk of sounding like an old hippy, opener Mind Fluid has a spiritual vibe about it that is both beguiling and likely to make you want to move. So what’s not to like? Title track Vision & Sound is of a similar ilk, with waves of synth swirling languidly in the distance, floaty chords punctuating from time-to-time and neat percussion and drum work providing plenty of pep.

Above Smoke chips in with a classy remix of Vision & Sound that is more muscular and has a tad more dance-floor nouse than the original yet still respectful of the artist’s work. As for the ‘d’ word, definitely.

Tim Gibney Feb 2013

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