Review: Balance presents Sudbeat Mixed by Hernan Cattaneo

Balance presents Sudbeat mixed by Hernan Cattaneo

4 Stars

When it comes to music, change is inevitable. Sometimes it’s gradual, an evolution of sound and style that grows with the artist. Other times it’s sudden, a quick turn one way or another due to a new inspiration, musical trend, or experimental expedition off the beaten path. But in order to make change work one other thing is required: quality. If you can’t deliver a quality product each time and every time, well, forget it.

Balance Music understands the need to never stand still, to keep pushing forward and evolve. Diversity has been a big consideration in their artist selection. With compilations from Danny Tenaglia to Alex Niggemann to Guy J, Balance covers all the bases, and just as importantly, they do it well. They don’t compromise quality when it comes to choosing which names to feature. And when you partner with artists you trust, the music works itself out.

Hernan Cattaneo’s Sudbeat label epitomizes top-tier progressive tech and house music. It’s been called “Global in ethos; South American in spirit” and has reached the ears of countless fans around the world. This year marks the big eight since the label’s founding in 2009 and has seen over 100th releases. Cattaneo’s newest Balance compilation highlights some of his label’s best talent with the latest music from genre stars, newcomers, and Hernan himself. Cattaneo says, “All music on the compilation is exclusive and unheard … so I’m sure all our followers will be very pleased to find so many fresh tracks to discover. Both mixes are the perfect example of Sudbeat’s identity that of course is also mine as a DJ.”

Favorites like Guy J, Nick Warren, Henry Saiz, Giddyhead, Guy Mantzur, and more are all featured. Mix One opens with simmering sounds before seamlessly sliding across the next several cuts, turning up the slow burn as it unfolds. It’s the portent of perfection blowing in on the clouds before the emotional storm itself. You can almost hear the rusty gates of preconceptions swinging back and forth in the wind and the flotsam of mental baggage being carried out on the breeze. It doesn’t take long for things to come to a boil with trippy pans and throbbing bass followed by the hypnotic percussive lead. Soon the skies fill up with swirling sounds. Rich. Melodic. Surreal vocal work talks us through uncertainty and is followed by a spot of sunlight breaking through the gray storminess. Playful lyrics turn things up a notch and roll down the home stretch, driving through blissful beats and finishing strong with a big bottom energy of and the haunting wind-down and the bittersweet idea that “life is a wonderful anomaly.”

The flipside is decidedly more energetic and with a somewhat darker and more sinister vibe bringing a nice contrast to deep, emotional zen of Mix One. Mix Two blows in from the desert sands, dropping you in the oasis with dulcimer leads and a pulsing bottom. The beats drive on, riding percussive leads and subtle grooves. The airy breeze carries the notes of a beautiful and lonely piano before rolling into a hypnotic groove built on snappy percs. Next up are dancing synths and uplifting leads. The mix chugs along with rich textures and lush tropical vibes until peaking with the chugging bottom and sprinkled chimes and finally ending with the sassy and upbeat closer.

Hernan doesn’t break any rules or new ground here, but he doesn’t give any up, either. As expected, there aren’t a lot of vocals or obvious hits; instead the music do the talking.

This project is all about substance, atmosphere, and texture. Mix One is the perfect poolside player – chill and enjoying life. Mix Two is the clubber’s wingman – upbeat, energetic and ready to dance without being overbearing. The Balance: Sudbeat collection is the next perfectly placed step forward in Cattaneo’s evolution. It will satisfy old fans and win new ones to both his Sudbeat label and to himself as an artist.

Review: Bad Boy Bill & Gettoblaster – Hustling For Horns

Bad Boy Bill Gettoblaster - Hustling For Horns

4 Stars

Last year Windy City house legend Bad Boy Bill and rising Chicago/Detroit duo Gettoblaster teamed up to forge the booty-tastic ghetto-houser “Shawty Want That Cake” heard on the pair’s star-studded second full-length album, Diamonds & Palm Trees (We Jack). A year later they’re back in a big way with “Hustling For Horns,” a peak-time 4/4 jam for San Francisco’s Guesthouse Music. Pulling no punches they go straight for the jugular, laying down an infectious saxophone-driven melody played over a rockin’ groove laden with crisp percussion and a fat-ass bassline. The chemistry is clearly strong between this lot. Can’t wait to hear your next collabo, guys.

Review: Bonobo – Migration

BonoboDJ

Bonobo Migration

4 Stars

In 2013, not long after Big Shot interviewed downtempo bon vivant Simon “Bonobo” Green on the rooftop of a building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (watch the video interview here), he released his acclaimed fifth album, The North Borders and embarked on a nonstop tour around the world. Festivals. Club gigs. DJ sets. Name the city and Green and his band probably performed there — twice. An important musical statement in the arc of his career, Black Sands (watch Green explain how the album came together here) is where Green veered his sound in a darker, glitchier direction after arriving at a musical fork in the road. Having no doubt become a platinum member of his preferred airline, it’s no surprise that his sixth album, Migration (Ninja Tune), is a byproduct of his many travels and experiences. It’s also informed by his feelings about living as a Brit in New York outside of his native UK.

Migration is ambitious but not nearly as transformative as its predecessor. It didn’t need to be. The album finds him elevating his sound to a new plateau, one where he displays his seasoned mastery of conjuring thoughtful, compelling songs with sublime melodies and luscious instrumentation.

Green’s “No Reason”collaboration with Nick Murphy (f.k.a. Chet Faker) is pleasing, but he’s at his most brilliant when he’s heads down and cooking for the ‘heads. “Second Sun” is an emotive instrumental overflowing with cinematic strings and heartfelt guitar; the woozy “Grains” featuring snippets of folk music icon Pete Seeger is a case study in how to conjure understated euphoria; and “Kerala” is a quixotic, jittery sample track that skips along with perfectly placed samples from R&B songstress Brandy.

What’s next for Green is already known — he’s heading back on the road. Again. What’s certain is that whatever he sees and feels will manifest itself into the next chapter of his musical life. Safe travels, Simon.

Review: Scott Featherstone – The Groovement EP

scott-featherstone-the-groovement-ep

4 Stars

Scott Featherstone is known for using vintage machines including the Roland 808, 909, SH-101 and other bits of analogue kit in his music. His signature sound shines through on The Groovement EP as Good Voodoo Music continues its own march of great releases. It’s a revolt against bubble-gum club fluff and EDM; a banner-waving charge to take house music back to the roots. It’s also raw and underground. It’s smooth with a minimal funk, a 4/4 punch and strong sample work.

“Want You to Groove” is a back-to-basics houser with a Quaalude attitude. “The Experiment” pumps out with some disco flutters and squelchy bass worked around some great B-movie samples. “Call That Music” rolls out with some punchy beats while explaining what exactly makes good music so good. Finally, Featherstone’s remix of “Abfunk” brings the boppin’ beats wrapped in a funkin’ bassline, samples, and shimmering swirls.

The Groovement is all about simplicity and the classic house influence is immediately obvious. It’s deep. It’s tech. It’s retro. This is one movement to unite the fractured house genre, one all us ‘heads can support whether behind the decks or on the dance floor.

Review: T99 – Anasthasia (Kevin Saunderson & Dantiez Remix)

t99-anasthasia-kevin-saunderson-dantiez-remix

3.5 Stars

Belgian duo T99’s post New Beat anthem “Anasthasia” was among a selection of transformative tracks produced in the early ’90s that helped draw mainstream attention to the blossoming underground rave scene. A frenetic cut released in 1991 founded on samples of Love Unlimited Orchestra’s “Bring It On Up” and Lyn Collins’ “Think (About It),” T99’s 25-year-old anthem has been reimagined by father-son Detroit techno twosome Kevin and Dantiez Saunderson.

The Saundersons do a solid job of recontextualizing “Anasthasia” into a tech-house affair. They craft a simmering buildup filled with rollicking drums, and they take their time incorporating the original version’s goose bump-inducing intro wielding one of electronic music’s most iconic orchestral synth lines. Of the two mixes, the eight-minute Extended Mix is the go-to selection for its sheer expanse and mixability.

With many records from the era now hitting the quarter-century mark, it’ll be interesting to see if any other classics get a reboot.

Review: Kike Henriquez – My Own Time EP

analog_music-kike_henriquez-my_own_time_ep

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.