Function – Ember 12″ – Sandwell District

David Sumner’s Function project, the moniker for almost all of his solo releases , is well established through over a dozen 12″s over the past two decades. Through his association with Sandwell District since the mid 2000s, he’s gone through a kind of renaissance; this 12″ is exemplary of the introspective thrust of his more recent work.

Spread across four tracks, the Ember 12″ starts with its most uptempo track, Decending, a spiraling deep techno saga that interweaves 16th note drive with a supine, melancholy atmosphere.  Picabia follows that with what could be a slower take on the material, this time with more resonant tones and interferences. On the B side, the title track is a beatless interlude of glowing pads and radio fragments, and the EP closes with a long, lulling melange that lands somewhere between ambient house and his minimalist techno. While all  four works seem like variations on a central sonic theme, they are compellingly realized and come off as the patient explorations of an seasoned artist.

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Hakim Murphy in-store set at Gramaphone today

Stop by the shop around 5pm today to get an advance listen to Gramaphone Podcast #2 from Hakim Murphy as he mixes up some of his favourites for a special in-store set. For a preview of his productions, check out our reviews of his recent work: Vanguard Sound Vol 2., Dogs & Flies, Moonbeam Express, or click over to his Machining Dreams homepage & blog.

Gerry Read – All By Myself 12″ – Fourth Wave

The rough, loosely tumbling sample collage house music of Gerry Read continues to hit its stride with this 12″, his first of 2012 and third on Fourth Wave. He has his own distinctive take, landing somewhere between between Falty DL’s barely restrained R&B chaos and Losoul’s slowly revolving lumpy house. It’s revved up and optimized for the club, recommended for followers of Nonplus, MCDE, Eglo and the like.

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Reel People feat. Tom Momrelle – Golden Lady

Since the inception of Reel People, a musical union formed by Oli Lazarus and Mike Patto in the early 2000’s, they have supplied a grateful fan base with nothing short of musical miracles, incorporating the vocal stylings  of Dyanna Fearon, Vanessa Freeman and Angela Johnson, to name a few. Reel Peoples material is deliberately emblematic of a time where the clarity of notes, both subtle and sensational, the sincere warmth and grace of melody and the clever yet sometimes competitive edge of improvisational musicianship occupied the air waves of the 70’s and 80’s.

The new single entitled “Golden Lady” a cover of the classic song coined by Stevie Wonder continues their saga with the same level of excellence. The stellar instrumentation is beautifully threaded and held together by the vocal talents of Tom Momrelle. I have no doubt that Stevie would approve.

Reel People spared no expense by providing the vinyl lovers of our time with a murky clear plate and a label which is both informative and picturesque. Also in supply is the original Latin soul of soul album mix along with two additional underground takes, the Golden Keyappella and the Roots Mix, both brilliantly reinvented by Louie Vega. His mix seems to be the center piece of this 12 inch. The initial take off is bubbled with a slightly acidic bass leaving one with the impression that it’s preparation was rendered for the dance floor but such an impression is shortly eclipsed by the layering of spiritual harmonies that surface gradually and ultimately define this piece. The fluid vocals of Tom Momrelle which are expanded to address the lavishly symphonic arrangement of Louie Vegas efforts is a testament to the art of the earnest remix. Though today’s studio technology is present in the production,  I can say unequivocally that the listening experience in it’s entirety is compelling and memorable in much the same way that I remembered listening to the vintage and notable achievements of such artists as Chaka Khan, Change, George Duke, Phyllis Hyman, Herbie Hancock and yes Stevie Wonder many years past.

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Review by Oscar McMillan

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Saint Etienne – RMXs 12″

It’s unclear how to categorize this, it’s a new pressing of older tracks, but they have never been on a record together before, so it’s not exactly a classic, nor a reissue, but it’s certainly not a new record either. Together at last, Autechre and AFX (aka The Aphex Twin, Richard D James) on the same 12″. The closest that’s come to happening in the past are the voluminous WARP 20 and We Are Reasonable People compilations…

Harvested by forces unknown from Saint Etienne’s Like A Motorway single and Who Do You Think You Are? 2xLP, two outstanding B-side remixes by the English masters. These are timeless abstract electronic reworks, sliced and diced shards of Sarah Cracknell’s beatific disco pop vocals scattered over post-electro detritus. And it’s a loud, well-balanced pressing.

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Boo Williams’ love letter “Home Town Chicago” gets re-released!

In 1994 Boo Williams hit the scene with his debut release on Relief Records. Since then the Chicago native has played a pivotal role as part of the city’s second wave of house music. This re-release of his 1996 album “Home Town Chicago” on Anotherday Records is great evidence as to why he became so integral in not only supporting the Chicago sound’s past but also creating its future.

The LP’s uncomplicated arrangements, yet deep, driving sound harken back to the days where warehouse parties ruled supreme and you knew the sun was about to rise but you just couldn’t stop dancing. There’s great moments all over this LP and it truly shows that a passion for the music is far more important than studio magic any day.

This is an album that is just as good today as it was 16 years ago and was an excellent choice for Anotherday’s maiden release as the imprint begins to unearth forgotten classics. I look forward to seeing what other gems they may have for us in the future.

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Virgo Four – Untitled 12″ – Rush Hour

More music here courtesy of Rush Hour’s “Resurrection” of Ace and The Sandman aka Eric Lewis and Merwyn Sanders aka Virgo Four. Pressed on glass-clear vinyl, both tracks here seem to be total re-imaginings of the Virgo Four originals.

Capracara & Scott Fraser take on Lites Go Out, according to Rush Hour’s website the cover was recorded in Andrew Weatherall’s studio, which might account for the springy, rocky quality of the recording.  Chicago’s Hieroglyphic Being turns in a particularly oblique interpretation for the B, a quixotic 100bpm clatter. For followers of Virgo Four’s long history and the more experimental side of electronic dance music, this will be a collectible.

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Chez Damier & Stacey Pullen’s classic “Forever Monna” gets a re-release and more!

Originally released in 1993 “Forever Monna” became a classic deep house track as it stripped off all the disco influence in favor of a more smooth, thumping electronic sound. It is also a collaboration that showcases its creator’s home sounds combining Chez’s classic Chicago funk and Pullen’s smooth Detroit electronic stylings. Regardless of its original release date, it has proven its longevity over and over and is still a guaranteed floor mover. On this re-re-re-release on Balance Recordings, we get a special treat of some nice spoken word vocals from Nouha to spice things up a bit over two different mixes of the classic track on the A side.

On the flip we are treated to more deep grooves from Chez, this time joined by Leroy Burgess and Mark Bell’s magic fingers on the console for “Your Love.” Full of joy and depth, this one will definitely put a smile on your face and a force in your feet. Lastly we close out this fine EP with “Why (Classic Edit)” which is a nice, groovin’, slow-house edit of one of my favorite Chez tracks complete with the Harmonica solos and that killer guitar stab.

With all of this talk about the new Deep House sound lately, these are the tracks that show it truly has always been here. Get this one while you can as it is a limited “Collectors Edition”.

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Tony Ollivierra – Nangka 12″ – Northside District

This Nangka 12″ marks the opening of Tony Ollivierra‘s new Northside District imprint (more info available on the label’s facebook page.) Not to be confused with his brother, Neil Ollivierra of The Detroit Escalator Co., Tony Ollivierra has recorded eponymously for the Dynamite Soul label and more extensively under the Ibex moniker for Planet E, Rush Hour, and Yore records.

The Detroit veteran producer launches his new US label with a subtly updated, polished yet classic midwest sound.  It’s an acid-tinged, electro-leaning, melodic and driving approach: the A-side is more upbeat, the title track hints at an Aztec Mystic / Underground Resistance flavour with its sweeping harmonic motion and emphatic string-stabs; Interplay starts off with an insistent bleepy Jeff Samuel bounce that morphs into a more flowing motion of sound. The flip is full of memorable melodies, both tracks anchored by acid basslines.  Body Slam stands out with beautifully contemplative rhodes and a rolling 303 set against crescendoing claps and emotive strings. Orchestra Proforma finally closes out the 4 track EP with an energetic beatdown vibe. An auspicious start for the label, these are all full-realized songs that are timeless and dancefloor friendly.

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Hot Edits From The Mysterious Eros Imprint

I’ve had a copy of “Prepare To Energize” by Torch Song on I.R.S. for many years and every time I play it for a younger audience they go crazy and inquire as to its origin. It seems whomever is behind these completely anonymous Eros records knows what’s up too.

This second volume of Eros edits kicks off with “Prepare To Energize” and it delivers all of the best parts of the original’s electro, new wave stylings in a nice DJ-friendly slice up. Next up is a cut up of the groovy, spacey “Courage” by Talking Drums with a booming live bassline and soaring synths. On the flip we get equally as good edits of Jo Bisso’s groovin disco jam “Your Love” and the pounding Chicago track “Boom-Boom” by Dancer.

This is an excellent record for the edit heads out there, a definite must have.

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Tevo Howard – The Drapes In The Living Room 12″ – Thug

A placid, almost drifting release, even by Tevo Howard‘s standards, The Drapes In The Living Room introduces Howard down under on the Australian-based Thug Records.

The A side tracks have a slow, continuous lethargy to them, the bigger washes of melody on the B side lend the second pair of songs a compellingly warm liveliness.  The package, with its boldly hand-sketched full-cover art exudes an ease and finish that is fitting the music.

Of course, this is another strong addition to Tevo Howard’s acclaimed catalog, most along the lines of his work on Beautiful Granville, and I’m sure will also appeal to fans of Smallville, Plan B, Machining Dreams and classic Chicago.

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Pittsburgh Track Authority – 001 12″ – Pittsburgh Tracks

The trio that makes up Pittsburgh Track Authority has been gaining steam via releases on Uzuri, Further, Love What You Feel, and now their eponymous Pittsburgh Tracks imprint.

To begin the label-launching EP, they open with an untitled track that drifts between an agitated arpeggio reminiscent of Chicago Skyway or Tevo Howard and freestyle synth riffing in clear homage to Detroit’s Underground Resistance.  The clean propulsive beat programming and dynamic programming (replete with a build-up breakdown followed later by a full denoument and reprise) will make this a club favourite.  This could easily be a very big break-out track for the production team.  On the flip, Monongahela Rainforest is a downbeat deep beauty of a house track, one that I’ve personally been featuring frequently.  Recommended.

m50 Gramaphonemx 2012 Session – Tuesday January 17th, 2012

I’ll be mixing my follow-up to the Gramaphonemx 2010 this evening in the shop (2843 N Clark), starting around 7pm. Come by and say hello.

Vanguard Sound Vol 2 12″ – Plan B

Opening with what sounds suspiciously like a daring re-cut of Bob James’ Nautilus, G Marcell contributes one of the standout tracks so far for Plan B’s rugged and raw Vanguard Sound series. This, the second installment, again features Chicago’s own Hakim Murphy along with label regulars DJ Spider and Dakini 9.

G Marcell’s aforementioned Renegade Rampage is dirty house with a swaggering swing offset with the sliced piano stabs that will appeal well to fans of Ethereal Sound and Levon Vincent. The contributions from Dakini 9 and DJ Spider are on the more forboding side of four to the floor, with an ominous, claustrophobic atmosphere of swirling pads and delayed drum bits. DJ Spider’s is set apart by its loose drum programming, Dakini 9’s by it’s almost junglist-heavy sub-bass progression.  Closing out the prettily coloured EP package, Hakim Murphy’s cheeky Ctrl Alt Delete is a chaotic arrangement of machine whirs and computer bleeps.

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The Secret Initiative 4 12″ – The Secret Initiative

At the leisurely pace of 2 releases per year, The Secret Initiative has put out their fourth entry to close out 2011.  On transparent blue vinyl, there are a pair of weighty, ominous, metallic techno cuts with massive clanks that reverberate through the darkness, certainly an appeal to the warehouse aesthetic.

Both in terms of approach and sound, this will entice followers of the Transversable Wormhole project, as well as to DJs supporting the “Berghain Sound.”  The etched “A” side seems to read “Chordrophonic,” which makes sense since the driving beat has a warm chord drone as backdrop, whereas the flip only has momentary spooky notes occasionally warbling beyond the sternly marching kick.

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Kowton & Tom Dicicco – untitled 12″ – Project Squared

Maybe it’s imagined, but there’s something about the tracks here that feels distinctively British.  As much as they’re all quite within the realm of contemporary techno, there’s a certain cheerless frustrated energy in the detailed high-end of Tom Dicicco’s opening cut, and likewise for the static energy he has flitting around the top of his remix effort.

Kowton takes it down a notch with his overcast and brooding original, and then flies even lower for his rework on the flip.  Overall, it’s an efficient 12″ that will no doubt find its way with many tech-house listeners, and it has enough character to offer some staying power as well.

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Kevin Reynolds – Liaisons 12″ – NSYDE

Second release from Richard Zepezauer’s promising Nsyde imprint comes from Detroit-based beatdown artist Kevin Reynolds.  While he only releases sporadically, Reynolds’ music always demands full attention.

In the case of Liaisons, the title track trundles along with a lopsided tumbling bass motif until the beatific roller-rink chime melody lightens the mood.  On the reprise of this track (B2) he revisits the darker side of the track without the grand chords and it functions as a head-down floor shuffle.  Finally, on Port, he revs up a bit with some loose snare-and-shaker work and sliding strings reminiscent of his debut 12″ on Todhchai.  With support from heads like Falko Brocksieper and Dan Curtin, these are tracks that you’re liable to hear out, especially from Detroit-leaning DJs.

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Ghostek – Leaving For The City Of Saints 12″ – Other Heights

A good friend turned me on to the Belgian under-the-radar Other Heights imprint, which has been curating some high quality for just over a year now.  Here they present newcomer and apparent Burial disciple Ghostek, who supplies one solo track and a remix, along with a pair of collaborative works with the very talented Roof Light under their joint Ghostlight moniker.  While there’s a clear line of influence from Burial and cohorts like Roof Light and Late, Ghostek original Cryon shows a shade of a heavy techno stumbling beat, and the TH remix’s more coherent, lyrical vocal delivery both set this offering apart.  But even with those differences in mind, those listeners too eagerly awaiting Hyperdub’s latest ration can take solace in this 12″s satisfying that craving in the meantime.

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Dollar Disco / Adulture’s Birthday Bash – Sunday January 8th, 2012

Tonight Gramaphone blog’s Adulture is hosting a birthday party at Smartbar, along with Gramaphone’s Michael Serafini, Smartbar’s Kid Color and special guests Jake + Andrew.  Cover is 2$ (free with student ID) and they’ll be playing disco and disco-influenced tunes till 4am.

Seldom Seen – Radio Slide (2007-2010) 12″ – Frustrated Funk

With Radio Slide, Santiago Salazar records his second release under the Seldom Seen alias.  His first was on Underground Resistance in 2004, and as the subtitle for this 12″ indicates, this is a kind of short anthology of what he’s been up to in the interim.  These are funky, feverish, and a bit unhinged, the loose acid basslines and booty bass spiced with ad libbed vocal asides and constant tweaks.  For Motor City electro heads enamoured with the Electrifying Mojo sprit of Ectomorph, Cybotron, and the Detroit Grand Pubahs, this is sure to be a hot EP and is an easy party starter, straddling the divide between booty house, Bunker electro and UR techno.

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