Review: Scott Featherstone – The Groovement EP

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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)

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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

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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.