Review: Kike Henriquez – My Own Time EP

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4 Stars

Spanish DJ/producer/Analog Music jefe Kike Henriquez has just dropped a new triple-bopper, the fifth release on his label. The My Own Time EP shows off the deeper side of dance with lush splashes of sound and color while keeping things accessible for ears across the spectrum. “People” is a solid affair with a catchy bassline, unconventional vocals, and a structure that brings in a naturally fresh flow. There’s not a lot of flash and fluff here but plenty of energy to work the crowd. “Sypnosis” is a heavy 4/4 cut with spoken samples that straddles the line between tech and house. This one has a bit more intricacy in terms of layers and runs and it pulls a nice dynamic sound without getting too busy. “Preciso” starts with slow-building stutter-steps before catching itself up and rolling out the groove. It weaves in some warped-cassette sounding vocals between the tweaks and beats and offers a strong third leg to balance out the release. Each is unique and all have a forward-moving fun quality about them. My Own Time is worth more than a moment of yours.

Review: Aeronautic Vol. 1

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4 Stars

With this collection of bass artists from around the globe showcasing a variety of styles, Aeronautic Records’ debut compilation shows off a wide range of talent. Bass music as a genre is so varied, and Aeronautic Vol. 1 does a good job at showing off the many styles that come under its umbrella as trap, juke, footwork, Ghettotech and ambient styles are all featured heavily here.

The compilation collects such a wide range of sounds and styles over its 20 tracks. From Dev79 & Swimwear’s cinematic blend of classic Ghettotech and trap on “Shoot Dice” to the laid-back vibe of Atman’s woozy “Whenever You Want Me” to the mix of a hip-hop indebted, high-octane Baltimore club music of DJ FLP’s “Good Old Days” with its heavy use of its 808s and the eclectic nature of “The Stokes” by Radius, there is a huge selection for your ears and mind to get stuck into.

Some of the standout tracks include the heavyweight and brooding electronic feel of “Late Night Situation” by Satta Don Dada & Ace Myth, the destructive digital funk of “Chicken Strip” by Pleasure, the vibrant “Back To The Cave” by Squash, the cinematic crawl of “Borjas Carry On” and Zebo’s “Indigo”, an uplifting track reminiscent of Rustie and Hudson Mohawke.

With the interest in bass music in all its variations at an all-time high, and the rise of clubs and labels like Brainfeeder, Low End Theory and Numbers, Aeronautic Records have released this showcase at a perfect time. Hopefully we will hear a lot more from then in the future as they are definitely a label who have a knack in selecting talent.

Review: Balance Presents Alex Niggemann

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4 Stars

Balance Music has been at the pinnacle of electronic dance music label, sporting a label packed with a critically acclaimed catalog of double-disc albums, single-mix spin-offs, podcasts, EPs, remixes and more. With artists like jozif, Guy J and Patrice Bäumel, Balance Presents manages to find that sweet spot between new artists and established players, juggling cutting-edge, experimental, and sometimes risky music with more proven, tried-and-true sounds.

It’s no surprise that German tastemaker Alex Niggemann was tapped for the latest Balance Presents project. His collected works feature on top labels like Poker Flat Recordings, Watergate Records and Sasha’s Last Night On Earth, and his own AEON imprint is known for breaking new talent. It’s with this colorful resume in mind that we turn to Niggemann’s newest mix.

Over the course of the single disc the sounds roll smoothly from chilled house to deep tech with a few surprises along the way. The mix opens with TVA’s “Radio Camaldoli Stereo” and the misty wash of pads break away under pumping drums as the sound convalesces and slowly worms its way into your earholes. Andrea Oliva’s “Empty Lips” tails nicely off the opener while simmering up some tech sauce marching to some snappy snare rolls like the like drummer boy poppin’ his way across the dance floor.

Trevino’s Heartbeat Remix of Dark Sky’s “Rainkist” pulls off some haunting vocals atop pulsing bass, heartbeat kicks and synth rises all finding each other in a melancholy maelstrom. Gui Boratto’s “Joker” (Dave DK Mix) scribbles up the action, bouncing the leads back and forth before finding a moment of peace on Ricardo Tobar’s “Garden” (Daniel Avery Remix). Here we slow down enough to enjoy the spaces between the sounds as things have room to breathe; it’s slick and somber with a reverb-dripping snare, playful off-tempo toms and kicks and frantic hats and percs. Niggemann’s own “Hurricane” featuring The Shadow Self shows up next in another vocal track with deep drums and a grumbling bassline. Trikk’s “Volta” gives the project a none-too-subtle swerve, riffing an almost-acid squelch lead as the mix turns in a more driving, less heady path. “SK4” from dubspeeka is a deep and drum-heavy, coconut-hooved groove followed by Baikal’s “Pelican Flight,” another trippy tech tich.

Phillipp Stoya’s “Rula” rips along with dark and driving beats. TVA’s second appearance is “Stolen Jacket” and features an intricate key run. Next up is the Denis Horvat Remix of Speaking Minds’ “Monongahela,” a brain-bender over big drums that swirl into the deep and melodic lushness of MUUI’s “rsrsrs.” The sprinkling of sounds on Aril Brikha & Sebastian Mullaert’s “Illuminate” softens the edge a bit for Valent’s uplifting “Crisis of Faith” before pushing into the moody and majestic “Opto” from Etapp Kyle. Niggemann is back with “Divergent,” another off-beat beast with swarming percussion and indigenous digital flutes leading melodic sweeps. The set closes strong with Antigone’s “Blue Note” and comes full-circle with Ø [Phase]’s “Astryx.”

The mix never wanders too far off the beaten path, so it’s no surprise it never stumbles. While Alex Niggeman’s Balance Presents won’t blow your mind, it’ll let you rest easy knowing the next generation of trend-setting electronic music artists has arrived and is more than capable of moving the culture forward.

Review: 3LIAS & Ali Ajami – Bring it Back

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4.5 Stars

Whether you dig the deeper shades of progressive house or roll closer to the dark and techy side of things, John Digweed’s Bedrock label has been the genre’s standard bearer for the past several years. Despite the different sounds, styles and artists, one thing is consistent across each and every release: quality. And “Bring It Back,” the newest latest from Lebanon’s 3LIAS and Ali Ajami, delivers.

The original version of “Bring It Back” is pure perfection. Sexy synths, a warm bassline, smooth grooves, guitar, drums and a pinch of magic. It turns down a low-key funk with a mild disco flavor and an almost jam-session-like progression of layers riffing off each other with an easy camaraderie. This one’s about the journey, not the destination. So enjoy the trip. The flip side features a remix from Manchester’s OC & Verde and is an almost complete rework. Where the original had a subtle swing and sultry vibe, the remix is a straight in-your-face ride with more punch but fewer elements. The groove from the original is replaced by a bold energy and pounding kicks and this one does indeed bring it back with a quasi-’90s progressive build. It’s got a different sound for a different set, but both will earn top marks among DJs, critics, and (most importantly) the dance floor.

Review: ANNA – Face Your Fears

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4.5 Stars

São Paulo bred Barcelona-based decknician ANNA has been contributing to techno and tech-house’s ongoing renaissance from behind the decks and in the studio. As a producer she’s been coming on strong for the better part of two years and shows no signs of slowing down. On her latest outing for Monika Kruse’s Terminal M, ANNA crafts a pair of bangers that perfectly complement each other. “Face Your Fears” exudes rollicking percussion, squelchy synths and a warped vocal sample loop that would make Josh Wink smile. ANNA brings the rolling boil to simmer on “Leave House,” a stripped down, bad-ass floor mover that’s punctuated by swirling vocal samples and dollops of low-slung bass. As both genres continue to progress at an amazing pace, this release affirms ANNA as an up-and-coming innovator in an unstoppable musical movement.

Review: Upercent – Pedres EP

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4 Stars

Spanish supremo Upercent finds his way back to Sincopat with another tale to tell. The Pedres EP is his seventh project for the label and the electronica-infused tech-houser brings a subtle funk and full-bodied warmth, as much the result of an old-school analogue foundation as Upercent’s own stylings. The title track rolls out with a slick groove built on wide-bottom kicks and a flirty piano alongside jagged-edged synth tears. David Keno’s remix strips out some of the flipside’s melodic elements and opts for a more straightforward pounder. The original “Cronopio” is a solid slow burner with dynamic layers, hypnotic percussion, and a haunting vocal that all tie together for a somewhat melancholy experience. Third Son’s “Cronopio” remix is a bit more shadowy than its counterpart, but the pumpin’ upbeat vibe and robo bleeps give this one a quirky personality all its own. It’s been a good year for the Sincopat team and the Pedres EP keeps the party going.