Traxx : Files #70
Kenny Hanlon goes Dutch via Chicago and Cork in his latest round-up.
As we pass the half way point of the year, it’s maybe not a bad time to take stock of the opening six months. Has it lived up to expectations? Or did we even have any expectations? This would be an easier exercise if there wasn’t such a bombardment of great music hitting the shelves (or, eh, websites) every week. No sooner have I managed to sit through one new batch then the credit card is out and I'm clicking ‘Buy’ on another bunch of must-haves. So fuck taking stock – it’s been a good year. Now let’s see what else is fresh.
Calling one of the biggest releases of the month "fresh" is probably being a little generous, with Alden Tyrell and DJ Overdose FINALLY releasing the second 12” from The Hasbeens, ‘I Fall To Pieces’, on Frustrated Funk. Any visitors to the Clone website will have noticed that this record has been sitting tentatively in the ‘Upcoming’ section for what seems like about 15 years (well, probably closer to six months) but for whatever reasons has only become available now. The debut full release from the duo, ‘Keep Fooling Yourself’ was this writer's favourite record from last year and is regarded by many as something of a classic. So the pressure was on. Instead of sticking to any sort of formula, the pair have taken things down a notch or two, with one side a soft, melancholic beatless piano track and the other a dark slo-mo synth jam, barely crawling over 100bpm. For obvious reasons this won't be causing too much shapethrowing on a dancefloor anytime soon. And this is not a bad thing. While certainly more low key than the earlier cuts, there are still similarities between the two; the sombre and deeply rich tones. Retro synth sounds and vocals layered with vocodor-style FX aren't usually associated with feelings of despair and sadness but this only helps mark out The Hasbeens as one of the more exciting groups in recent years. The output is scarce, but at this rate quantity will not matter when every 12" is a future classic.
Sticking with Holland, Clone, whose ‘phoenix from the flames’ relaunch will no doubt be one of the talking points come years end, continues to show up most other labels with a relentless release schedule of brilliant and varied electronic music. The Jack For Daze sub-label has Serge and the gang paying homage to the early sounds of Chicago. It continues with an effort from British producer Neville Watson and new guy on the block, Steve Summers. Watson has already got some sterling work under his belt on Rush Hour and his latest keeps the quality up. ‘Bleeding Through’ and ‘Up Yours’ are two blissed-out, deep workouts not a million miles away from the likes of Larry Heard. Sparse, analogue groovers perfectly suited for summer sunsets. Serge himself takes controls alongside Gerd for a remix of ‘Up Yours’ on the flip which, pardon the pun, jacks up the original somewhat. Summers’ ‘Shake The House’ has a heavier feeling but it's coming from the same place as Watson: Chicago, circa the late ’80s. Menacing acid and synths along with some Phuture-inspired vocals drive these mid paced lo-fi jams. It's a timeless sound that he manages to breath enough new life into, making it an essential purchase for aficionados.
The Chicago-Holland connection is again represented on the lastest from M>O>S Recordings, the label run by Aroy Dee that in the past has released gems from the likes of Gerd and Legowelt. This time around it's the turn of Chicago Skyway who's debut ‘Bells’ on Eargasmic Recordings I gave props to earlier in the year. ‘Heavens and Angels’ can be described as epic without the bombast. The original takes its pretty little time getting going, showing deepness with washes of minor chord melodies before the kick, accompanied by some wondrous percussion, drops. Echoed handclaps accompany throughout, creating a master class in deep techno/house. The flipside edit/remixs adds some more drum action and acid lines that may work more favourably in club environs, especially the Aroy Dee Edit.
Before moving away from the lowlands of central Europe, the enigmatic Newworldaquarium, in cahoots with Delsin, has re-released his 2000 bomb ‘Trespassers’ with a deeper, more spaced out dub remix. Suited to either techno or house DJs – and a big Carl Craig track for a few years - the original, with its weird little high-pitched (sampled?) two-note hook, is still the main attraction. It's a record that doesn't really do a whole lot, but it doesn't need to. Simple and hypnotic, it's one of those songs that you can either leave running for ages on it's own or layer it over another couple of tracks until it has complete control over the listener.
Continuing the theme, we leave Holland for the Windy City. The Partehardy label has been sporadic in its output since its inception in 2005. The work of Ron Hardy's nephew, Bill, the aim of the label is to get out some classic Hardy/Music Box work to the masses, some of which has never been released on vinyl. The first transmission this year (and going on past form, maybe the only one) features a Hardy edit of Revelation's glorious ‘Get Ready’ along with the original of K.Alexi's ‘Don't You Know’. It's a brilliant representation of two elements of Hardy and the Music Box's legendary nights. On one hand, Hardy edits old disco while simultaneously showcasing the ‘new’ house music, which was inspired by those same records and what he was doing behind the decks. A must have for anyone who's ever dreamt of getting down to a Hardy set.
Cork's scruffiest golden boy John Daly also tips his hat to the capital of Illinois with his latest, ‘Space Walk’ on Mule Musiq. The main track is somewhat heavier than much of John's previous work with aggressive percussion driving a biting, deep acid line. But it's still unmistakably the work of Daly as he counteracts the more intense aspects of the track with some laid back harmonies floating in the background. Perhaps John has listened to the odd Kraftwerk song in his time?
Backed up by two more relaxed acid affairs, ‘Morning Moon’ and ‘Lightyears’ (anyone else get the whiff of hippy from these titles?) John's intense release schedule doesn't seem to have any effect on the level of quality of his work. This is as good as anything he's done so far.
Travelling east over to the Motor City, Patrice Scott celebrates the 10th release of his Sistrum imprint with a new release of his own, ‘Excursions’. Like Mr Daly, the last couple of years have been very good to him, and he shows no signs of running out of ideas for his take on techno and house. Fans of Scotts won’t be disappointed, and for those still unaware of his work this is as good a starting point as any. Another lauded member of Detroit's house community is Rick Wade who's two latest releases ‘Intelligence’ and ‘Dark Thoughts’ come via the German imprint Laid, a sub label of the excellent Dial Recordings. A vinyl-only label, these two releases showcase a more uptempo and slightly darker side to Wade, containing all manner of strange melodies and vocal samples.
’The Son of Cybotron’ is a mysterious release on the D-bass label. From what I gather these tracks originate from some time in the past and are allegedly the work of Rik Davis' son. Rik Davis was the other, lesser known, member of Cybotron whose other member was Juan Atkins. Fans of 313 electro-funk will want to get on this release. If The Son of Cybotron is who he says he is, then he obviously paid attention to what is Dad and Juan did - though I'd say these have more of a Model 500/Atkins feel.. Either way, it sounds ancient but is still funky as hell.
Jared Wilson and Blank Artists are two names I knew nothing about until very recently. And I still know little, but the music is tight. ‘Bangkok Four Seasons Hotel’ is the latest from the label which initially grabbed my attention due to it having a remix by Osborne, who's been putting out some sterling work of late. This is a nicely odd gem, featuring acid, electro and house influences with some musical nods to the sort of weird harmonic interplay that Aphex Twin attempts occasionally. Not to say it sounds anything really like Aphex, but his influence is bubbling under.
To wrap things up Pepe Bradock returns to the fold with the oddly-titled ‘Swimsuit Issue 1789’ on Atavisme. Like The Hasbeens, you’ll never going to loose count of Bradock releases, but one has to take notice every time he does put something out. Kicking off with Path of Most Resistance’, a beautiful, soulful piece of deep house with a raw, lo-fi edge, it continues to evolve and surprise as it shuffles along, with a main refrain bedding the track down. ‘CU @ Minna & Lafayette’ on the B-side continues in the same quirky, funky manner this time with a jacking hi-hat carrying it. The warped strings and whirling keys make it sound like the whole thing is being jammed live. (Be warned, the Youtube graphic is slightly NSFW!)
He finishes it off with some ambient weirdness on ‘Unapologetic Weightlessness’ but he's done his job and more with the first two cuts. You'd want to be some sort of crazy to like house music and not love this EP. And for an introduction to the man’s consistently excellent work, you could do worse than check the new comp on BBE.