Alex Danilov – iinnii EP – Contrast-Wax

Even with little back-story to go on, it would be fair to say the boys behind Contrast-Wax are on to a good thing. Just three highly-prized and limited releases in less than a year, the first two rapid sell-outs and with a dedicated following building too, the label is one of the best to emerge over the past 12 months thanks largely to on-point A&R skills.

For this their third outing they’ve done it again plucking the enigmatic Alex Danilov from the backwaters of deep house to join the Contrast-Wax family. By no means a newcomer having released on a variety of labels since 2008, Danilov is a talent that nevertheless may well have escaped the attention of even the most dedicated of heads. Which makes it even more pleasing to see him pop up on Contrast-Wax with such a tip-top two-tracker.

More Analog Vibes is, well, exactly that. Except unlike many of the current crop of me-too hardware merchants knocking out plastic “raw” this is the real McCoy thanks to that indefinable element that distinguishes the faithful from the fakers. For a track trumpeting it’s use of machinery it has real heart and soul.

By contrast the title-track is deliberately more obtuse and angular, a little more difficult to pin-down but no less interesting with a burbling bassline and crashing synth jostling for attention and promptly getting it. A slow burning treat.

S.H.A. feat Shawtyshank/ChangEd – The Oneness Of Sound And Its Echo Vol. 1 – Sound and Echo Records

A little bit of Larry is never a bad thing. Larry Heard that is. And although The Oneness Of Sound And Its Echo Volume 1 – the debut vinyl-only release for Sound & Echo Records – has nowt to do with the great man as such it does owe a significant debt of thanks to his pioneering sound. It also stands head and shoulders above much of the material posing as deep house and is quite the head-turning arrival for a new kid on the block.

Indeed the EP’s musical lineage is much more Larry than just a nod and a wink. Both tracks on the A side, from production duo S.H.A., feature Chicagoan vocalist Lee Pearson Jr., long-time friend and collaborator of Heard. And boy does it show. Both Who’s To Blame and I’ve Got This Feeling are reminiscent of Mr Fingers at his soulful, introspective and emotive best complete with Pearson’s very Robert Owens-esque vocals. An absolute treat for jaded ears.

Even the instrumental version of Who’s To Blame wouldn’t sound out of place in a Larry Heard collection and was recorded in the ‘one-time’ style [once made can’t be re-arranged or changed] favoured by S.H.A. on their analogue hardware.

Such is the strength in depth on this vinyl-only EP that it is easy to overlook the so-called bonus track, Wildest Dreams. That would be a shame. It’s a re-work of a Barry White and Tina Turner duet and a slow-mo Balearic odyssey the like of which is rarely heard these days. It is produced by ChangED, aka Ed Ayers, a chap with an alleged pedigree par excellence. Starting out as a session trumpet player working with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Herbie Hancock and Roy Ayers, he also DJed at the Paradise Garage, was a leading figure in the early house scene and went on to marry Agneta Fältskog of ABBA. Hmm, really?

Whether the folks behind Sound and Echo are truly broad-minded musically or inherently old-school remains to be seen but with an EP this beautiful on their hands they won‘t go far wrong. Must-have.

Trevor Deep Jr. – DoRight! – HPTY Recordings

Somehow Finland seems an unlikely home to one of the hottest and most coveted talents deep house currently has to offer. Then again, the enigmatic Trevor Deep Jr. is no ordinary talent.

Helsinki’s man of mystery grew up listening to his father’s jazz records and watching the old man playing ‘dirty old Rhodes keyboard’ until hip-hop took a hold of him before moving on to the legends that are Moodymann, Theo Parrish and the daddy of them all, the aforementioned Larry Heard. Or did he?

Fact or fiction, it matters not. Thoroughly and constantly enjoyable, the sound of TDJ – whose mantra is House Music Everyday All Day – is not only influenced by the pioneers and heroes of Chicago, Detroit, New York and New Jersey, it is a sound that those dudes would be proud to call their own. It is steeped in what Trevor calls ‘deepness’.

It is also much sought-after by the heads. So although the DoRight! EP was the debut release on TDJ’s own label HPTY in 2011 (he‘s since popped up on Delsin and made a successful return to HPTY with this year‘s People‘s EP), this repress is a god-send for those flinching at the hefty price-tags the discogs hawks were demanding.

One listen, however, and it is so easy to understand why some buyers were willing to dig deep. Quality courses through this record.

Opener and title-track DoRight! is so right. A gorgeous mid-tempo homage to the First Choice/Al Green classic Love and Happiness, it effortlessly radiates levels of depth, emotion and soul that most deep house wannabes can only wet dream of.

Keep It Raw mines a similar vein though is decidedly brisker. Raw, of course, atmospheric and deliciously deep chords, it is impossible not to dig. And then comes Othaway; a warm, piano-led beauty where a bossa vibe is weaved around African drums. So full of soul and soulful too. Completing a formidable line-up is Our Love, another stunner driven by an infectious meaty kick and more sterling synth work.

Four ace tracks but like Trevor said, it’s all about one thing; deepness.

Owen Jay & Melchior Sultana – The Riot – Batti Batti

By his own admission, Owen Jay is a gear slut. Moog, Alpha Juno, Korg, Rhodes, Reaktor and much more, his set-up sounds more like a NASA space mission yet his list overlooks the Led Zeppelin factor found in all his releases; a whole lotta love.

Because whether it be his own productions or those of others released on his Batti Batti label, Jay really knows his way round deep house these days. So for the imprint’s latest vinyl adventure it is pleasing to see him renew the fruitful partnership he sometimes shares with Maltese compatriot Melchior Sultana.

It is by no means their first collaboration having worked together not only for Batti Batti but also on the excellent Memories Of You EP for Jus-Ed’s Underground Quality.

Here though they fly solo on a track apiece before joining forces on the remaining couple of numbers. It’s a revealing approach.

Comfortably the darkest cut on the EP is Jay‘s Silent Change, a menacing and brooding offering that chugs along with intent and purpose yet at the same time remains entirely engaging throughout. All of which makes perfect sense given that Jay cut his teeth as a techno producer back in the Nineties and his excellent Spank track on Housewax was from the seedier side of deep house too.

In sharp contrast comes the multi-instrumentalist Sultana’s beautifully dreamy Mirror, a track drenched in Mediterranean vibes and intoxicating soundscapes echoing his Maltese heritage as well as his house sensibility. It’s in the blood as the young composer has previous having released an album of downtempo electronica on Italian label IRMA.

Yet despite the undoubted quality of their individual efforts, in some respects it is together that the pair are at their most devastating and soulful. Afterparty’s laidback, unhurried and breezy approach is a welcome interlude, whereas The Riot – the pick of a very fine EP – is a touch more urgent and intense yet still retains that emotional charge found in the very best of deep house. Go buy.

V/A – Oscillating Metronomics – Appian Sounds

Timeless is what Appian Sounds’ owner Al Blayney promised on the Oscillating Metronomics EP and timeless is exactly what he’s delivered. And although release number three is the blossoming imprint’s first various artists venture the boss has assembled a selection that is, well, boss.

On Peptide the ever-ace Slowburn, very much favourites round these parts, explore that grey area between house and techno to superior effect managing to forge a sound that at first glance appears effortless and casual. It is of course anything but, rather it is a multi-layered joy that would be lauded considerably more should it have come straight outta Detroit rather than Dublin. Make no mistake, these boys know exactly what they are doing.

So too do LAAK. The production team behind the super Austere Recordings chips in here with the deeply hypnotic cut Semantics that moves, grooves and drifts at a suitably relaxed pace punctuated only by the intermittent and wholly-suitable Mutabaruka-style vocal snatches. Ace, totally.

Rob Belleville’s impressive and futuristic Recovered Desires is an equally comfortable fit on this thoroughly enjoyable EP, while Brazilian producer Ney Faustini flips the script a tad with Flying High that is unashamedly chunky and funky by comparison with the other three productions though no less decent; deep, dance-floor fodder if ever there was. Timeless.

Gari Romalis – The No Beat Left Behind EP – Hizou Music

You gotta love Hizou. Only four releases in and the independent Spanish label run with unbridled passion and enthusiasm by young producer Satore has already featured Anton Zap, Deymare, DJ Aakmael and Rick Wade.

So you know his A&R skills are none too shabby. For the latest excellent twelve the label has surprisingly yet very cutely homed in on Detroit stalwart Gari Romalis, a producer who is far from prolific despite his longevity in the game. Less, however, is sometimes more.

More than 30 years a DJ and leading figure on the Motor City techno scene, Romalis has managed the city’s famous Buy Rite Records, worked for Derrick May’s seminal Transmat label, played the infamous Music Institute and the notorious Tresor too. He’s truly old school.

On The No Beat Left Behind Romalis employs every ounce of his old-school know-how to deliver an EP that is not only immersed in the traditions of Chicago house and Detroit techno, it positively bursts with raw energy, is sonically gritty and exudes the kind of authenticity that could only come from one who was actually there; you can’t fake the feeling.

Dance Demo (Da Give It mix) is no messin’ pumping house at its very best, made entirely for maximum dance-floor damage. Pray is all about the feel-good factor; brash, bouncy and with more than enough funk for any man, woman or dancer. For a heavyweight tribute to the underground scene back in Romalis’ hometown there is Detroit Shuffle (Quick Step C mix), while First Love (Latenight Funk Breakdown mix) is a soulful groover for the wee small hours.

With Satore pouring his heart, soul and hard-earned into his beloved label hopefully this latest bomb will get the support it thoroughly deserves. Show it some love.

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