Review: House of Praise – Colours EP

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4 Stars

The debut Deeplife Records project from Surrey, England-based producer House of Praise (a.k.a. Gareth Dicks) is the Colours EP. The title track shines with a rainbow of sound across the sonic spectrum of house music with warmth, depth and a bright splash of soulfulness. The simple song structure keeps things uncluttered for the uplifting groove. “Serenity” offers an almost retro feel with chattering percussion, chiming layers, and big flourishes sweeping across the sky where the crystalline leads really sparkle. “My Feelings Run Deep” rounds out the release with an emotional ride, a distinctive bassline and trance-y synths. Piano keys take the lead and tickle their way down the backside for a strong finish. The beats-per run a bit faster than traditional deep-housers, but the Colours EP doesn’t live by labels or play by the rules.

Review: AFFKT – Son of a Thousand Sounds

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4.5 Stars

After nearly three years of work, Sincopat patrón AFFKT is back with his sophomore LP Son of a Thousand Sounds. True to the name, the spinnin’ Spaniard brings together the best elements of house, techno, electronica, chill-out and more on this long-player of new bits and old hits.

Here’s a rapid-fire recap of the action (try to keep up):

The smooth into of “Dreamback” rolls out broken beats that grab the ear, and the sound is a nod to the extreme ways things played in the 1990s. “Oxi” is a deep and techy house groover that drops into a straight beat supporting smooth synths and atmospheric layers. We’ve been to “San Diego” before and the return trip hasn’t lost any of the fun energy. “Between Us” cools things down; it’s a perfect time out to take a breath among the gently pulsing basslines, tinkling synths, and layers of emotional ambience. “The Show” is worth the price of admission; the hook and poppy vocals by Sutja Gutierrez make this catchy electronica cut a winner. “Ikigai” presents an introspective intermission, a time to reflect upon what’s come before and to anticipate what’s ahead. “Flashcrash” is the second of three songs featuring Sutja Gutierrez. Hold on for this one; the melancholy vibe contrasts nicely with the upbeat vocal work. It’s good. It’s evil. It’s a bipolar bopper. “Boira” is a chiller that sounds like it was beamed down from the mothership to initiate First Contact. “Someone in the Sky” is another we’ve seen before; it’s got a gentle groove but lacks luster. “Mareny” is a more-than-minimal techy break; a great follow-up to “Sky.” “Ceniza” has a unique personality; it’s a blissful percussion-driven downtempo ride. Last up is “Esclafit,” another broken-beat downspin with stutters, thrumming pads and good vibrations. Great way to close the set!

The tracks can stand alone, but for full Zen effect you’ll want to put on the cans, sit back and just lose yourself to the journey.

Review: Myles & Mike – Let’s Get Started

Myles-+-Mike-Lets-Get-Started DeepLife Records

4 Stars

Myles & Mike’s newest project “Let’s Get Started” (Deeplife Records) brings a grinding techy attitude to the floor. “Let’s Get Started” is all about the drum layers, atmospheric builds, and twangy bass playing beneath skittering percussion and punctuated with a digital duck call; it’s all about the quirky energy. “LFT” brings in heavy kicks and buzzing synth wings swarming and pulsing to an almost klaxon-like effect with water-drop percs and suggestive whispers. The pounding four-to-the-floor drops into a quick wave of broken beats before firing back up to speed on this techno treat.“Movement” is all about the interplay between the bassline and the chiming leads and stuttering grit of the power-tool attacks. Also included is the LFT DJ Tool, which is just what you’d expect. The pack is an underground contradiction of sorts; rough and smooth, deep and energetic, all at once. Brilliant work all-around from Myles & Mike. Diversity is key; this EP could bang both the dark peak-time dance floors or the deeper after-hours sets. Great stuff.

Review: Kevin Di Serna & Ditian – Crystal Forest / Dallah

Review: Kevin Di Serna & Ditian Crystal Forest Dallah Lost & Found

4.5 Stars

Leading the charge in Argentina’s new guard, Ditian and Kevin Di Serna boast a string of individual successes and have recently put together their newest treasure for Guy J’s Lost & Found label. “Dallah” opens with soft beats laying the groundwork before it unfolds in a blissful chorus of pads, juxtaposing it with melancholy piano chords and smooth synth pulses. Add Kevin’s subdued but effective vocal work and tie everything together with engaging percussive patterns and you’ve got a masterpiece of breathtaking beauty. “Crystal Forest” is more grounded with a deeper bottom, but it also has an airy and inspiring aura. A hypnotic groover laced with melodic goodness, this taste of euphoria gets my pick of the pair. This is the perfect union of intelligence and emotion with rich textures, full sounds, and an almost tangible tugging at the soul. For these two rising stars, this double dose of deeply uplifting progressive power is set to launch into the stratosphere.

Review: Kali Phoenix – Voices

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4 Stars

After previously working together on a few musical projects, Glaswegian singer Kali Phoenix reconnects with influential Bristol producer Hundred Strong (a.k.a. Ben Dubuisson) to create Voices. The album is an intensely personal journey that’s informed by the ending of Phoenix’s relationship. Her strong vocals mark her as one to watch.

Voices is dominated by her strong, passionate voice and soulful blend of different musical genres. From the gentle mix of soul and jazz on “What’s Your Poison” to the swirling acoustics and P-Funk grooves of “Bolt From The Blue” (which sounds like a more soulful version of Bristol legends Portishead) to the gentle but stirring beats of “Save Me,” there is a such a variation of different sounds. Each of the tracks segue together effortlessly, and despite all that is going on sonically, nothing ever sounds out of place.

These musical landscapes are bolstered by Phoenix’s voice. She can go from a gentle hush to an emotional howl in a heartbeat with ease and confidence. Under the tutelage of Hundred Strong, Phoenix displays her talents which despite the seemingly laid-back vibe of the project are defiantly focused and supremely executed.

There’s is a strong hip-hop and dub influence under the whole thing with Hundred Strong’s Bristol roots giving Voices an urgent yet familiar feel. The producer does a fantastic job with the two styles, making them work brilliantly together. Although the material could be raw given the subject matter, the musical outcome is smooth and uplifting and sounds all the better for it.

The circumstances for the content of the album may have been brought together by a tumultuous experience but the result is definitely a positive one. Kali Phoenix’s voice is the perfect example of the healing power of music and establishes her out as a talent for the future.

Review: Josh Wink – Shoelaces EP

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4 Stars

Mention Josh Wink’s name and immediately a handful of hit techno/house ear-drillers like “Don’t Laugh” and the classic “Higher State of Consciousness” come to mind. His newest work on the Shoelaces EP (Boysnoize Records) is another notch on his belt of big bangers. The diversity of techno ranges from casual to hardcore so there’s something here for everybody.

The original mix of “Shoelaces” features knotty acid runs twisting up and down the board with Wink’s trademark dirty tech-driven style shoveled atop a crisp electro-breakbeat structure and tied together with a throbbing bottom, oversized bass bubbles and deep, cosmic vocals. The Instrumental and Acid Instrumental mixes each present a slightly stripped alternative without losing any of the snap and punch of the prime cut.

The four-to-the-floor shock-and-awe of Truncate’s bangin’ remix is for those headstrong hard-tech warehouse ‘heads that would laugh big-room EDM out of the club. For a more conservative spin, check out the Mono Junk remix— it’s got that same solid techno flavor without the strict niche appeal of the others.

I like techno in bite-sized morsels, and the breaks make this EP even more accessible to those whose heads aren’t always buried in the underground. If you stumble across this one on a dark dance floor, consider yourself lucky to be trippin’ over Josh Wink’s Shoelaces.