Matt Oliver Looks Back on 4 Years of Big Shot Music Reviews

The man himself: Matt Oliver

The man himself: Matt Oliver

After four years of copiously penning music reviews for Big Shot, Matt Oliver has moved on. Forever grateful for his vast musical knowledge and unbridled enthusiasm for music, we asked him to recap notable albums he encountered during this time. Ever the trooper, Matt was eager to comply.

Upon the warpath to the darkside where night terrors squeeze you into its clenched fist, King Cannibal’s corpse-maker Let The Night Roar bellowed as a breathless dubstep/accelerated dub contortion of metal, spewing from the most messed up recesses of the mind of someone licking blood off their fangs. Pulsating as it slides off the rails, Reso’s In Da Mix was even more cut-throat a chainsaw massacre, a breathlessly brutal dubstep pump-action born from a laboratory breakout that rounded up every single super villain and weapon-wielding baddie. Slaughter Mob’s Under the Radar was more a wait and see adjustment to night vision mode, but was no less an electrifier, skulking on the third rail and engaging dubstep in armed combat.

At the time, the sunshine embrace of Axwell’s Axtone Volume One sounded like house had finally come home; with “I Found You,” “Let It Go” and “Leave the World Behind” sounding hot. Unfortunately all such dance floor compassion would lead to the preset, riff-ruled domination of Swedish House Mafia and co as EDM took over and manipulated fewer and fewer braincells. All the while, the third installment of DJ Deep’s City to City series looked on unimpressed, its retrospective and repositioning of house integrity topping an already excellent acid-sown, Detroit to Chicago run. CJ Mackintosh’s Nervous 20 concurred, a supreme double decade anniversary of hands-up house everyone should’ve been clearing their throat for, skippered by Byron Stingily’s perennial road-blocker “Get Up.”

Modern house with values dipping back toward uptown old school and thus knowing the score from the moment the needle dives into the black, had Chris Carrier & Hector Moralez (Lotus Seven), Apollonia (Fabric 70) and Daniel Dexter (Focus On…Daniel Dexter) all carving out star-funkin’ shuffles and rump-rattlin’ beats impossible not to have a good time to as they mapped out an impressive feet-to-floor index. Maybe giving them the label of faith restorers is going too far, but both provided unrepentant proof of a universe kept real outside of EDM. Maceo Plex’s groove-stuffed Life Index was part of the Crosstown Rebels march toward deep house majesty, topped and tailed with a pair of ridiculously cool rides into and out of the sunset helping usher the heat of the party into the lounge.

Harvesting the most magical of mushrooms, Legowelt painted dreamy skies at speed with the off-rave The Paranormal Soul; on the thoughtful side of hardcore (yet still pretty hard), capable of moving any mountain, delivered as smooth as water…well, you know the rest. Deepchord’s Sommer bubbled under and bewitched as an architect of almighty deep and dubby house and techno directed to the highest plains from the lowest of vantage points. A magical mystery tour that conversely was at its best when found not to deviate. The tease of tingling euphoria running through Kris Menace’s Electric Horizon became as indispensable a part of your holiday checklist as a passport and Factor30, steadily building and flourishing into a spindly White Island essential swapping histrionics for clubbing to fall in love with and to.

Shed’s The Killer simply trampled, blackened and blazed all before it. A techno timekeeper on its own watch so as to rotate its strike rate, it packed its drums with TNT and happily leapt up and down on the plunger like it was a seesaw, without it ever being a torrent of unintelligent blows. Firing from the same trenches, Oscar Mulero’s Black Propaganda dumped speakers into post-apocalypse craters with nine tracks of trembling, troubling disdain matched by a minimal amount of fuss, and it’s worth repeating the description of “the spellbinding sound of shit about to go haywire” given to Anstam’s mega conquest Dispel Dances.

Recorded through a flickering surveillance camera, LOL’s Me Me flexed a claustrophobically oily yet engrossingly forthright exploitation of pop and dubstep using sex, lies and videotape to take it just left of center where angels fall. A harrowing best kept secret. The return of Air and their ambitious soundtrack for Le Voyage Dans La Lune breathed life into a unique, genuine antique, with music strong enough to compete with the attractive back story. Ikonika’s creamy future surveying Aerotropolis was the sound of someone who actually really knew what the 30th century might sound like, playing god on a Hyperdub triumph of geometric R&B and energized electro reimbursing from and raising the bar of multiple other genres.

At the forefront of category defiance – was it dubstep, did it come under the footwork/juke umbrella, does “bass” do it enough justice etc – and epitomizing the ilk of producers making beige weightlessness sound ferociously, phantasmically mellifluous (and tremendously danceable), was Sepalcure’s eponymous LP. Messrs Stewart and Sharma were part of the Hotflush/Holy Ghost dynasty, reaching out to a ridiculously upfront label compilation featuring a who’s who of underground sovereigns (Back and 4th, embodied by Joy Orbison’s trailblazing “Hyph Mngo”) and label head Scuba doing more of the same for a DJ-Kicks session (featuring Sigha, Boddika, Locked Groove and Peverelist) that snorted and smoothed out horsepower in one movement. Author’s re-writing of jungle jazz laid dubstep down in the penthouse suite on the equally heavyweight Tectonic, featuring an omnipresent horns player making the vibe über opulent and smartly removing Ruckspin and Jack Sparrow far from the maddening crowd. There were no uncertain terms when Fracture & Neptune dropped Retrospect and rammed ten years and nearly two hours worth of boss jungle and drum & bass into heads wanting a re-fix of splintered snare pressure, just like the rudeboys used to make.

Leading a neon-lit dance class also attended by Classixx (Hanging Gardens) and Letherette (Letherette), Miguel Campbell’s boarding of a soul plane on Back in Flight School took him through Gallic go-to grooves that out-punked Daft duos, and disco/electro encouraging a little fromage being good for your diet. Throughout, the album looks the part without forgetting how to sound like a whole lotta fun. Having fun at everyone else’s expense, the brilliantly packaged Endless House compilation on Dramatic Records wove a fictional tale of folly defining reckless super club culture decades before it even existed, while housing scarily cold synth pop and electronic new wave.

Album Review: Deep’a & Biri / ‘Emotions Visions Changes’ (International Deejay Gigolo)

Emotions Visions Changes

★★★☆☆

The Israeli pair’s strict set of deep electronica rules gets house and techno wound around a distinctive scene standard — the scrunched cyclic filter that sounds like a tunnel boring machine with LEDs, or Darth Vader’s heartbeat pumped through an iron lung. Twitching murkily and experiencing a peculiar twinge of the optimistic (though only in a dominant shade of metallic grey), Derrick May and DJ Hell have lauded what is an undoubtedly thoughtful and calculated piece of engineering that has left the Detroit manual dog-eared.

Its dubtronic science burrowing through a concrete jungle that’s part ghost town, part science fiction colony, is kind of beautiful in its own clunky, downbeat way. Protective of your headphones in its occupancy of archways of echo, reverb and accentuated ricochets, it goes without saying that once the record’s stall is set out, the amount of variation invested becomes a thorny stick-or-twist issue. Deep’a and Biri keep on with what they’ve introduced, raising the tempo with “It’s Makes Sense” and “Pressure Loss,” recalibrating on “Tears,” but trundling averagely on “Black With Purple” when stimulation goes missing; arguing that the same pattern through all four sounds slightly worked on.

The foundation of leaving you in suspense wears thin to the point to trapping you. Technically capable as a sensory investment, the two know the game and play to the rules, both of which act as the album’s strength and Achilles heel.

File under: Terry Lee Brown Jr, Steve Sterac, Juan Atkins & Moritz von Oswald

Album Review: Sons of Kemet / ‘Burn’ (Naim Jazz)

Sons-of-Kemet-Burn

★★★★☆

From the glare of stage spotlights to alone and out in the wild, the Sons are a travelling quartet boarding a Mystery Machine that can brake from 60-0 at the click of a finger. Distinctive UK jazz congregates Bolero-like performance art and the expected aspects of an all hands to the pump ensemble, creating buzz-worthy bursts that clash with deliberations showing respect for classical compositions.

After opener “All Will Surely Burn” builds a wailing wall of squalls and “Inner Babylon” follows with a blitzkrieg of percussion — SoK on some double drummer biz, with a solitary horns-man attempting to play funk pacifist on both — the presence of impish clarinet and reeds take over. Between light-hearted and fending for itself when passages are left threadbare, and part of a tuba-assisted little-and-large combo, you can never imagine its players simply standing still, more likely to be performing ballet steps in a narration needing no vocal adornment.

When the band is sworn to playing quietly, the thin line emerges between going on instinct and pre-rehearsed storyline; either way, it confirms a live presence that will dominate any boards they tread. “Going Home,” “Beware” and “The Itis” see an intersection of frenetic, limb-heavy jazz hustle and the lead character tiptoeing impudently. In sharp contrast, “The Book of Disquiet” leads the record’s pleas for caution, where cymbals and snares vibrate to plant seeds of doubt in darkness, and a pastoral finale creatively reconstructs Boney M.

File under: Quantic, Hidden Orchestra, Ariya Afrobeat Arkestra

Compilation Review: ‘Suolmates: Till von Sein’ (Suol)

Suolmates- Till von Sein

★★★★☆

Making opposites become allies — the art of the eclectic DJ mix in a nutshell, and just the job for Till von Sein’s magic needle and thread. With a start of tumbledown, shivery, emotionally charged electronica — a false album forecast turned wholly logical launchpad — TvS is a maverick, but quick-witted in overseeing a go-slow mix of seeming odds and ends.

Scouting the electronic sphere from a far-off hideaway, common bloodlines are found in a warm inspection of dying embers. Ayala and El_Txef_A eke out post-dubstep as a perfect bridge to Klaves’ plaited future soul riddims, and deep house from Ripperton and a de-misted Toro Y Moi heralds an energy spurt where the mix casually gets up and goes, staying refined while almost politely excusing itself. Viewing from a Balearic observatory — a timeshare TvS divides his time in to act out satisfying post-nap stretches and generally announce that all is well — spies DJ Nature’s slick sax scoring “Sexual Tension Scene 1” and the backlit lounge to Twit One’s “Hornoxn,” both indulging in a vibe wealthy in its humility.

The flow is one of the most seamless going — on another day some inclusions probably wouldn’t work — and the attention to mutual track properties is exceptional. Readily finding extra spark so the set emits rays of light that are smuggled to safety without any coordinates being disturbed, this is a high end back to mine.

File under: Fritz Kalkbrenner, Tigerskin, Sebastien Tellier

Album Review: Deetron / ‘Music Over Matter’ (Music Man)

Deetron-music-over-matter

★★★★☆

A house network providing a little bit of everything, and rarely disappointing whatever mood you’re in. Vocal numbers, funky muscle, regeneration of prototypes, electro-pop gateways and deep house settlements with an additional filtered disco plug, make simple a potentially oversubscribed mix and match.

This is after initially allowing image conscious tracks through the same gate as uptown grooves. The former naturally chafing against the roll of the latter, become easily ignorable as you get to the album’s warm core, Deetron’s sequencing getting them out the way early as simple means of demoing his repertoire. As his ego is reined in at the point of the Hercules & Love Affair feature “Crave,” attempts at edginess pass without incident, both to the detriment and benefit of the LP. The Seth Troxler writhe “Love Song” jostles in the same position, saved by expertly throwing back acid forwards. Either way, both are scolded by the spiritual “Bright City Lights.”

“Sing” will take you to rooftops so you can broadcast its praises, and “Can’t Love You More” will fly when rays are on its back. “Starblazer” deserves upgrading from ‘only’ being the bonus track with a tough bump and hustle; overall, strong songwriting and vocals from dons, divas and crowd pleasers aside, the dance floor isn’t really treated to anything out of the ordinary. Yet with Deetron keeping the basics strong and trad values topped up for sun worshippers and graveyard shifters, treated it most definitely is.

File under: Subb-An, Steven Tang, The Shapeshifters

Compilation Review: ‘The Pink Collection’ (Eskimo Recordings)

eskimo-recordings-pink-collection

★★★★☆

With all the creaminess of a Belgian chocolate, The Pink Collection parades 13 exclusives of dream house in pursuit of polygon paramours. A day in the life of a color-coded Eskimo icon is to be caught gazing at itself in the mirror before being called up for astronaut’s duty, such is the inexorable relationship cosmic disco seems to have with comic book concepts of space travel.

The softness and sparkle of straight lines made wavy, makes light of a hashtag of first world problems and holds a Euro exhilaration to sail away upon, with Majestique’s “Must Get There” a great holding down of the dance floor. For the most part the airbrushed pop of Holy Models and co is either poolside or shoulder padded up; Made In Sane are caressing the controls of a rocket ship launched from the whitest of sandy beaches, fronting what could just as well be a retro arcade simulator; and Ichisan dabbles in low strength acid for a new way to access the compilation’s collection of shooting stars.

When teetering, quite knowingly, on being too soft and similar to go anywhere — structurally you can tell where the collective are gonna dazzle — Kasper Bjørke stands up to dint the shine, and Mastercris crosses a Mad World-like divide thanks to an excellent vocal from Novika. It’s to the credit of its sequencing that The Pink Collection progressively starts to highlight small cracks in the facade, without shattering the illusion.

File under: Low Motion Disco, Allez Allez, Aeroplane