Review: MANIK – Undergroundknowledge


The narrative of MANIK’s sophomore album for Josh Wink’s Ovum Recordings tells the story of his coming of age in NYC. It’s a throwback to an era when house music was percolating in the underground below the mainstream’s radar.

MANIK, who is now based in L.A., forges ’90s-tinged deep-house tracks with authority: “Lefrak City” (the name of an apartment complex in Elmhurst located near where he grew up) shines with sweeping pads, clacking percussion and a soulful female vocal sample; “People Of Rhythm” is aligned with the famed Wild Pitch sound; and “Restart” is emblematic of the era’s techier house productions. Close your eyes and you can hear these tracks sauntering into Tony Humphries’ late-night ’90s KISS-FM Mastermix Dance Party.

MANIK peels away layers and goes deeper, revealing furtive acidic romps (“Devils Dance,” “Restart”) that channel the essence of The Todd Terry Project. Greg Paulus of No Regular Play makes a wonderful cameo on the meditative “5 Pointz,” where he contributes his trumpet mastery.

“APT 3D1” is the only throwaway track; it’s a pastiche of samples culled from movies and sports he watched as a kid growing up in Kew Gardens. You had to be there to appreciate its context.

“PS99” is an interlude featuring shout-outs from Eli Goldstein from Soul Clap, Doc Martin and Option4 and a fake message from “the mayor’s office of New York” reminding him to “Stay original. Stay true to the game. And do not worry about anything anyone else says. Take your first, stick your middle finder up in the air and wave it like you just don’t care.” It doesn’t can’t get more New York than that!

A personal reflection of his roots, Undergroundknowledge eschews nostalgia and sentimentality in favor of celebrating a childhood spent in the greatest melting pot in the world. As any New Yorker will tell you, nothing is stronger than writing about what you know.

Review: Souljazz Orchestra – Under Burning Skies


Montreal’s Souljazz Orchestra return with Under Burning Skies, their first full-length since 2015’s Resistance. Like that album and all of its predecessors, it’s a free-flowing, grooving and uplifting opus. Soul, funk, jazz, Afrobeat, Latin and roots are the fondation of the band’s sound. It all comes together to create a magnificent uplifting sound that Souljazz Orchestra are renowned for.

Under Burning Skies features an array of hypnotically rhythmic tracks such as “Lufunki,” “Holla Holla” and “Sorrow Fly Away.” Album opener “Dog Eat Dog” has a bit of a slower groove and a more laid-back pace. That doesn’t detract from the vibes and just demonstrates Souljazz Orchestra’s musical diversity.

The grooves on the album are tight and the band keep it funky throughout. I would defy anyone not to nod their head, tap their feet or just dance along when they listen to this album. Just listen to “Adawe Boogie” and the album’s closing finale “Aduna Jarul Naawo” for proof.

The musicianship and playing is also top-notch. The way all the instruments morph together to create such a vital sound is undeniably impressive. With as many members of the band that there are, this is suitably impressive.

This is music that is of such a sunny disposition that when you put it on in the upcoming autumn and winter months, it’ll feel like summer anyway with its upbeat rhythms and sunshine grooves. You can rely on Under Burning Skies to create a warm atmosphere no matter the weather. So put it on, turn it up and bring the sunshine into your home.

Review: Kevin Yost – Chant The Night


All these years after unleashing 1999’s seismic deep-house bomb “One Starry Night” on New Jersey-based i! Records, venerable DJ/producer Kevin Yost remains at the top of his game.

After flirting with the mobilee camp vis-à-vis 2016’s moody “Don’t Give In” on Leena, remixing Ray Okpara’s “Satin Curtain” at the beginning of the year and contributing the exclusive cut “The Future Remembered” to Mobilee Rooftop Summer 2017, Yost finally makes his debut on the label. Aligned with the blueprint he etched out in the late ’90s, Yost delivers two powerful deep-house masterpieces that are all killer and no filler.

“Chant The Night” is tailor-made for a big room, but don’t mistake that assessment for sounding anything remotely close to fromage. Yost opens with a sinister, meticulously scripted mission statement, then leads us to a breakdown of eerie pads and vocal samples that unfurl into a soul-stirring crescendo.

“La Espere” is a case study in how to forge a tense, techy eight-minute track. Brandishing a harder groove, Yost peppers in quixotic melodies over a suspenseful groove that’s bound together by a chugging bed of percussion.

In an egalitarian age where everyone is a DJ, producer or musician, Kevin Yost’s two decades of experience behind the boards continues to distinguish him from the pack, enabling him to shine on like a crazy diamond.

Review: Depeche Mode – Going Backwards (Remixes)

Depeche Mode Going Backwards (Remixes)

Since the spring release of Depeche Mode’s politically charged fourteenth full-length, Spirit, much of the world’s existential crisis has only deepened. Meditations on our society à la Mavin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” aren’t abundant in electronic music, but that’s never stopped these genre innovators from speaking their mind.

On 1983’s Construction Time Again they took aim at corporate greed and corruption (“Everything Counts”), poverty (“Shame”), and the threat of nuclear war (“Two Minute Warning”). “People Are People,” an anti-racism anthem, followed along similar thematic lines on 1984’s Some Great Reward.

Related: Read a review of Depeche Mode’s Spirit

Spirit is a musical sign o’ the times that’s full of disbelief fueled by a belief that we can all do better, but it’s bogged down in preaching to the converted. This 12-pack of remixes sets that dichotomy aside and takes one of Spirit‘s best tracks to the dance floor and the meditation room.

The Belleville Three — Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson — rinse “Going Backwards” with classic techno-house Detroit vibes, forging a righteous Motor City remix of timeless synth-driven strings and four-to-the-floor thump. Maya Jane Coles and Solomun do a solid job of moulding the somber number to work in the main room, while Point Point turn in a slo-mo version flavored with cosmic boom-bap. The bundle is rounded out by the Soulsavers’ re-rub of “Poison Heart” and the Latroit remix of “You Move,” which are both on the money.

The most compelling iteration is Chris Liebing’s Slow Burn Mix. It’s a brooding, stripped down remix that forgoes euphoria in favor of a beatless, meditative soundscape. The song’s urgent lyrics remain front and center: “We’re going backwards / Turning back our history / Going backwards / Piling on the misery.” Its contemplative arc is thoughtful and purposeful. If only the same could be said for our politics.

Review: Balance presents Natura Sonoris Mixed by Henry Saiz

Balance presents Natura Sonoris mixed by Henry Saiz

As more over-hyped pop festivals clutter our calendars and more celebrities demand a spin in the DJ booth, the frustration grows for discriminating ears to separate the pure from the pretentious. The electronic dance music scene has become a caricature of itself, pumping out disposable tunes from an assembly line of ghost writers while the corporate cash-in echoes the blind eye of a dying dance floor during the death of disco.

But for us jaded-types, all is not lost.

Enter Balance Music. The Aussie label’s newest release is conducted by Spain’s Henry Saiz. Balance presents Natura Sonoris Mixed by Henry Saiz is a journey of epic proportions, blurring the line between chill house music, techno, tribal, acid, and more.

With a runtime of nearly 2.5 hours (as either a two-disc physical set or a single continuous digital download), this project is near-perfection. It’s packed full of exclusive music, classic reworks, remixes from Saiz’s Natura Sonoris label, special samples, and unique layers.

Related: Henry Saiz shares his 5 tracks of the moment

Saiz’s confidence really shines through in his acclaimed live sets and award-winning productions and reworks. And just as importantly, he’s in touch with the dance floor; he knows how to program a set that’s interesting and emotional. His music inspires artists and engages listeners. This is his first official mix album since Balance 019 more than five years ago, and it was well worth the wait. Continue Reading

Review: Reset Robot – Bark Orders EP

Reset Robot - Bark Orders EP

UK producer Dave Robertson, who is better known as Reset Robot, takes his bespoke brand of tech-house/techno into the stratosphere on his cosmic debut for Ovum Recordings.

With an unmatched track record of crafting transformative tracks for Adam Beyer’s Truesoul, Sven Väth’s Cocoon, and Anja Schneider’s Mobilee Records — in addition to co-founding Whiteblower Records with Alan Fitzpatrick (with whom he co-helms the Customer project), Rhymos and Con Fraser — Robertson displays his uncanny ability to summon musical nirvana.

Opening track “Bark Orders” is as a lean, mean and subtle tech-house romp. Minimal melodies ebb and flow as the track unhurriedly simmers. The synth-driven “Croquette” sprints out of the gate with a big kick drum, adding shimmering pads over an enthralling nonlinear narrative. Robertson flips the script on “Tincture,” where he cuts to the chase right away on the darkest sounding track, which is my favorite of the three incredible offerings. The fiery cut wields a stirring, ominous groove that’s peppered with a meandering melody and frog-like croaks (that’s right, croaks).

The Bark Orders EP is all killer with no filler. It’s manna for DJs with inclinations toward pitch-dark dance floors and the magic that happens when the lights are turned down low.