Soul Capsule – Seekers 12″ – Trelik

This is not a new release, but the recently reinvigorated Trelik label is still wandering its way to outlets around the world (including Gramaphone) so I thought this gem would be worth a late mention.  Thomas Melchior and Peter Ford team up for another subliminal loopy session under the Soul Capsule guise.  The original is all deep reverberated moans and repetitive vocal bebop over a classic rolling tech-house beat.  It’s so straight-ahead and sub-driven that it seems primarily intended for club play, but it’s heady enough to demand a special moment even there.  On the flip, they’ve enlisted Ricardo Villalobos for a rework.  His entry is fairly conventional for those familiar with his catalog, this time he throws in some moody keys along the lines of his Heiko Laux remix and reduces the vocals to subtle wisps playing against some loose background snare jabs.

If you follow Perlon, you already know what they’re up to here.  Well established as they are, it’s not groundbreaking but they still set the standard.  And of course it’s great to see Baby Ford‘s Trelik imprint (most active from 1995-2001) back on the map again.

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Plaid – Scintilli 2×12″ / CD – WARP

Plaid are still off in their own exquisite world.  They seem to have invented a personal language, and continue to develop its vocabulary through this latest, long-awaited full-length.  In the half-decade since their last WARP releases they have provided feature film soundtracks for Heaven’s Door and Tekkonkinkreet and this may have helped to further develop the already cinematic vision present in their earlier work.  As with the tangled origami artwork on the cover, their results are both striking on first glance and illuminating upon further investigation.

Songs like the triumphant “At Last” and Danny Elfman-esque “35 Summers” show a dream-like charm in their composition.  Elsewhere, they utilize the extended format to stretch their precise sonics and intricate rhythm programming; moments in “Talk To Us” harken to LP5-era Autechre, while the tricky time signature work in “Tender Hooks” and “Missing”, proto-dubstep of “Eye Robot” and playfully rocking shuffle of “Unbank” hint at their enduringly, endearingly adventurous approach.

Even as Plaid has been heavily imitated and inspirational to the swath of musicians and programmers left in their wake, the British duo is still singularly distinctive and original.   For the fans out there, this will also serve to tide you over until (hopefully) the eventual physical release of their score to Tekkonkinkreet.

[edit: Tekkonkinkreet did get a physical release on Japan only CD, and was just this week released internationally for download on Bleep.  Still waiting on the vinyl & international CD versions, though…]

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Tobias. – Leaning Over Backwards 2×12″ / CD – Ostgut Ton

Leaning Over Backwards is Tobias.’ debut album. Kind of.

Since his recordings as part of Hypnobeat in the mid-80s, he’s worked with Atom Heart as Sieg Uber Die Sonne, released a solo album as Zoon in the mid-90s, done extensive work as Pink Elln both in collaboration with Atom TM and solo albums and singles for a wide variety of labels, and of most recent notability, recorded as 1/2 of Non Standard Institute with Sun Electric’s Max Loderbauer.  Not to mention his extensive studio work… but about this album.

It’s heavy, refined, often restrained, propulsive techno that has an air of ease and playfulness about it.  This unassuming spirit shows easily in the vocal samples, but there’s a fresh quality to the tracks and the various abstract tangents that sounds like he was having fun with the production.  Leaning Over Backwards is a subtle, strong release from start to finish both as a listening album and as clubbing material.

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John Heckle – The Second Son 2×12″ / CD – Mathematics

Only the third artist to have an album released on Jamal Moss’ Mathematics imprint (not counting those under The Sun God‘s various aliases), John Heckle more than meets the high expectations involved.

The album’s strength lies in its ability to jump from one style to another while remaining confident and commanding. On “The Charge,” “The Second Son,” and “Healer’s Charm,” John evokes a heavy retro-Chicago sound that has been so influential for the M>O>S and Rush Hour camps of late; on “Analog Bulldog” and “Atomic Response” he delivers straight acid jack tracks; on “The Rise Of The Believer,” “Atmostheatre,” and “Interstellar Light Collect” he seems to channel the convoluted cosmic gyrations of the Hieroglyphic Being himself. Taken together, The Second Son has been a critical darling for good reason.

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Echologist – Subterranean CD – Steadfast

Brendon Moeller, recording here under his more frequently techno-oriented Echologist alter-ego, releases the first album on his own Steadfast imprint.

Subterranean is groundbreaking.  It is immersive, experimental, textural journey.  Through it, the artist has seemingly distilled his techno work to solely the atmospheric elements.  This process is most transparent on tracks like “Slowburn (Filter Dub)” where he takes already familiar material and refocuses it as a pulsating soundscape.  It would be misleading, though, to describe this as a purely ambient, beatless collection, because while it is superficially lacking the standard reference points of techno: the kick, snare, hat underpinning, it is a heavily rhythm-driven excursion.  The syncopation is continuously flowing, with one groove seamlessly, subliminally giving way to another.

But it’s a unique work, and in that respect indescribable.  The melodic key seems to remain the same throughout but with shifts in the emphasized chord, the tempo seems to remain the same throughout but the cadence and accent is constantly re-invented.  Think of it as the humidity of Monolake‘s longform ambient naturalism combined with DJ Koze‘s playful spontaneous manipulations, Alva Noto‘s frequency manipulation and Surgeon‘s compelling gravity; all oppositional, seemingly contradictory perspectives coming together to crystalline effect.

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Marcellus Pittman – The Midwest Advocates 12″ – Unirhythm

Marcellus Pittman of Three Chairs fame presents the Midwest Advocates EP Part One, hopefully in earnest because it certainly deserves a continuation.  These are raw-as-nigiri drum machine workouts.  The two cuts’ skeletal vision is to Detroit house what Jeff Mills‘ The Drummer series was to techno.

They’re excellent tool tracks that manage to eke a surprising amount of personality out of the unadorned rhythm work.  Not hedging at all for the home listener, these are aimed straight at the dancefloor.

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D. Shettler gets his Hot Burrito out.

So, oddly enough, I went to school with Dave Shettler. Well, to be more accurate my younger brothers were good friends with him and I knew him through them. We played in bands in the Detroit area at the same time and are Facebook friends. Needless to say, I was surprised when I looked at the label on this Hot Burrito #1 release from M1 Sessions and saw his name. I know that a few years back I saw he had got into synths and I guess this is what he’s been working on recently.

“Hot Burrito #1″ is some pretty straight up, Detroit styled deep house with some loopy analogue synth lines, and filtered disco sounds beneath some compressor pumped drums. There’s a tension that builds around the rise and fall of the rhythms, wobbly synth melody and knob twiddling that never reaches a fevered peak but never lets you down either. On the flip is “Hot Burrito #4″ which is a short, loopy, stripped down yet funky number featuring the sounds of some decaying analogue sounds over the top of a lo-fi bassline and sparse 4 to the floor drum programming.

A nice first release from Shettler and the M1 Sessions label out of Detroit. I’ll be curious to hear what they both have to offer in the future. For now, I suddenly want mexican food.

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Chicago’s Ricardo Miranda twists things up on 102point7

2011 has seen some nice releases on Hour House Is Your Rush and Noble Square from Chicago’s Ricardo Miranda, and his debut for the Stilove4music label continues that journey. The title track “102point7″ is built around a running, jagged sawtooth synth line and serious claps. The track grinds and jacks relentlessly on its sparse, overdriven sprawl.  On the flip “Rotary Cells” goes deeper with a 909-led track full of sub bass augmented by a woozy vocal asking “Do you know the emotion and the feeling that rages through my body as I listen to true Chicago House?” The mental jam level is turned up even further by “Greenline”, a stripped back cut with running hats, flanged claps and the kind of mind-bending synth melody that wouldn’t sound out of place coming from Jeff Mills or Claude Young. This is excellent dark, raw and pulsating dance music.

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Mr. Fingers White Label Reissue of “Moonglow”

Mr. Fingers "Moonglow" (whitelabel)

Previously only available on 1993’s Lost Trax compilation, this is some amazing work by Larry Heard that should never have been “lost.” Built around a foundation of shuffling beats, excellently programmed toms, some jazzy keys and some amazing etheral synth melodies this one is a sure fire floor filler. I only wish the quality were better and the track didn’t just run out at the end, but beggars can’t be choosers right? I’ll still be playing it late into the night. This one’s a big pretty and deep middle finger to all the newbies who think Chicago house is one dimensional.

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Area – Dogs & Flies 12″ – Mindshift

This four track EP on Chicago’s Mindshift Records shines as an excellent example of an ideal marriage of house and techno concepts. The A side dives deep into some lush, dubby and reverb soaked sounds that immerse the listener yet doesn’t drown them. There’s plenty of tension in the tracks to drive a dancefloor as Area and Hakim Murphy both deliver really nice deep cuts. On the B side Murdoc takes a turn at remixing the title track delivering a bit more driving take, with rhythm structures that call to mind early Carl Craig productions and some nice stuttered editing. The last track “Powder Burn”, also by Murdoc, is a tracky affair with microhouse influences and sounds reminiscent of Matt John’s releases on Perlon or Underl_ne. Definitely one for the deeper and headier house & techno set.

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Levon Vincent – Impression Of A Rainstorm 12″ – Novel Sound

Levon Vincent’s increasingly infamous Novel Sounds imprint, an outlet devoted to his solo releases since 2008, drops another likely limited, stamped whitelabel edition to close out 2011.  If you’ve been following his progress, this release will come as no surprise, but rather as a welcome addition to his steadily building catalog.  (Well, steady save for his studio hiatus in 2010.)

For his new listeners: this New Yorker produces a distinctive blend of deep techno and Chicago-style warehouse music.  His is a brand of pseudo lo-fi that gives the impression of grubby, overdriven amps and crackly speakers yet is meticulously arranged for heavy impact and sonorous clarity.  In essence, these are prime dancefloor movers for the deeper set.

 

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The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble – Mr. Machine 2×12″ / CD – !K7

Indie heavyweight Studio !K7′s latest signing, The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble, comes on strong in the recent tradition of Francesco Tristano and Christian Prommer (another !K7 alum.)  This is a fully-realized,  largely acoustic recording, which while taking some loose inspiration from the language of electronic music, doesn’t stay in loop-oriented territory for very long.

The downtempo “You Make Me Real” is reminiscent of Plaid‘s Rest Proof Clockwork album, with its evocative use of acoustic texture, almost ominous tension in its delicate crescendos and taut patter of percussion, harp glissando and plucked melodies.  Following that immediately is BBF’s rework of Pretend, released earlier this year on Emika’s EP for Ninja Tune.  The version here is a different revision though, where the Ninja Tune version of the track drew electronic material from the synthetic original, the sprightly acoustic album rendition contents itself to recreate the melodies and structure of their rework with more classical instrumentation.  It’s a remarkably worthy revisit.

The studio team no doubt bears mentioning on this package, the studio recordings were a collaborative effort between Jazzanova’s Axel Reinemer and Dubplates & Mastering’s illustrious Rashad Becker, the latter also being credited for the final mixing and mastering.  Foremost an immersive listening experience, Mr Machine is a crystal-clear, precisely orchestrated recording that should interest audiophile listeners, dance music and downtempo fans, modern classical and jazz heads.

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Rick Wilhite – Analog Aquarium 2×12″ / CD – Still Music

Fourth member of the Three Chairs collective (alongside Kenny Dixon Jr.Marcellus Pittman, and Theo Parrish), Rick Wilhite has finally produced his debut album, a scant 15 years after his first credited releases.  He’s a veteran who knows his way around the decks as well as the studio, and this savvy shines through in his floor-ready tracks: they’re all heavy on groove and while they fit in to the deep-house bracket, they’re have an earthy character that sets them apart.

It’s an amorphous and highly varied album, moving effortlessly between the Amp Fiddler improv funkadelia of Muzic Gonna Save The World Pt. 1, the stripped-down Levon Vincent dub of Cosmic Soup, the giddy filter-house of In The Rain, and the Three Chairs dusty cabinet funk of City Bar Dancing and Dark Walking (a collaboration with Marcellus Pittman.)

“The Godson” seems to have such command of his paradoxically clean and dirty sonics that he navigates effectively from tracks that sound like roughly stitched-together sketches to those that feel like fully-arranged studio compositions.  Most of all, this album represents coherently so many of the records that he would play in a dancefloor set, with its moments of building tension, moments of steady groove, of jubilance, and of sweaty release.

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Theo Parrish – Parallel Dimensions 2×12″ – Ubiquity

Essential reissue from Theo Parrish here. In stark contrast to the showy influence of nostalgia on so much deep house being released in the past couple years, this double-pack 2004 reissue of his year 2000 sophomore album on Sound Signature sounds torn out of time and trend.

Much of it ranges from slow-house to hip-hop in tempo (120 down to 80bpm), chopping bits of drum texture and soul samples into funky minimalist collages.  Often his tracky recordings embody the idea of sampled human voice foremost as an instrument, disembodying words from their meaning and turning them into choral mantras.  Sometimes he lets these loops stand on their own (Brain, So Now What), others he embellishes upon the theme, turning the song into a full-on jam-session (Summertime Is Here, Anansies Dances).

While the forward-thinking album doesn’t reinforce the current understanding of “retro deep house,” it’s an inspired and inspiring voyage, one that’s already stood the test of time.

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Fudge Fingas – What Works 10″ – Firecracker

Very pretty 10″ packaging with an eye for detail, with a limited batch apparently released with gold rather than silver ink, Firecracker keeps their collectible series of retro-house releases alive with this Fudge Fingas joint.  Sounding even slower than their true midrange tempo, all these songs share a nostalgic view to the mellow melancholy of string-laden 90s vintage Detroit and Chicago house singles.  There’s a little variation between Vakula‘s deeper, dubbier, more contemporary version versus the original, but both stay pretty close to the thematic chord elements and progression.  To contrast, the pseudo-tropicalia B2 outro adds levity, with a loose tin drum melody and layered ambience over warm sub-bass response.

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Damon Bell – Kush Musik Wax 12″ – DeepBlak

Aybee’s DeepBlak compiles 3 tracks from Damon Bell’s Kush Musik series for vinyl release.  The music is as much a kaleidescopic diaspora of organic influences as the label art.  At times evoking dub reggae, downtempo, Detroit house, but at each moment seeming to move fluidly between these points rather than trying to completely blend them into some hybrid.  To keep pace, Aybee reworks Ezuku, leaving in the echo-effected vocals intact, and stripping down the beat around it.  With fragments parallel to Eighteenth Street Lounge, Ubiquity, and even Meat Beat Manifesto, Damon Bell creates uptempo rhythms with lush sophistication.

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Instant House – I’m Free 12″ – Sacred Rhythm Music

Instant House, the NYC / Dance Tracks-related collaboration between Joe Claussell, Stan Hatzakis and Tony Confusione, was apparently active between 1988 and 1993, as indicated on their 2003 retrospective compilation Jungle Source Records.  Now rarities, Joe Claussell revisits some of the material on his own Sacred Rhythm Music label.

Included is what sounds like an original version of “I’m Free,” which is a short, soulful piano house tune with impromptu diva vocals laid overtop.  Claussell updates “Hi-Hat” as a rumbling, dub-delayed house jam with clattering hats and claps, in much the same spirit as Francois K’s deep excursions.  Finally, Star-Gato, a tinsel-thin keyboard ambient piece, reminiscent of Detroit Escalator Company or John Beltran‘s atmospheric side.

NYC house heads may well recognize these jams and with the wide variation between the three tracks, it will gain the project some new interest too.

 

 

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NSNT PRJCT – Laygo My Faygo 12″ – Wild Oats

The strange acronym here stands for the collaboration between Manuel Gonzales and Wild Oats owner Kyle Hall.

Of the tracks here, 3 of them sound to me like they could have been rough-sketch versions of Kyle Hall’s Must See EP for Third Ear.  They’re handy with the rough-and-ready swung percussion, quick cut edits, and boomy bass, but less developed, structured, and melody-driven than he’s been producing lately.  While they’re less hummable, they’re perhaps more immediate and DJ-friendly.  The beats are straight-ahead with drifting effect-manipulation, they forgo some of the rhythm change-ups that made some of his earlier Wild Oats releases daunting to mix.

The lone outlier and most interesting track on the release is the nearly beatless (We Invented Dis.)  It has mostly disintintigrated rhythm part that wanders in and out of the mix, a warped and wildly pitchbent vocal, and an evocatively modulating turquoise chord structure.  The overall impression is discombobulated ambience; it would feel right at home on C2‘s Just Another Day EP, and from one Detroiter to another, that’s a pretty worthy outcome.

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Itchie’s Pick of the Week: Two new 7″ releases from Chicago’s own Tall Black Guy

I first started hearing about Tall Black Guy when All Natural Inc. was throwing the Dance To the Drummer’s DB beat battles at Sonotheque in the middle 00’s. I’d heard he was a beast, but it wasn’t until he dropped off his group The Eighties Babies (with D. Jackson) debut full length at Gramaphone that I really understood how much of a beast was. I loved the record and became a quick, devout fan. I like to joke with his wife that I’m his number one fan, before her and even his own mama.
He’s released another album with D. Jackson entitled Sonic Music, has another nearly complete project with 1773 called Greenlight Go slated for an early 2012 release, and just released an album Darling Lure with Chicago Hip-Hop pioneers Primeridian on All Natural Inc. He has numerous free projects on the web: Hollyweird 1 & 2 (GrittyGoat.com); and his Michael Jackson remix suite available here.  I was really looking forward to him releasing this one!  He broke me off with his flip of “Beat It” maybe a year before… and I played it everywhere I could!  It’s a banging tune.  Get’s MCs open every time. It’s a perfect example of how he takes familiar tunes and dismembers them, turning them into something brand new, and often beautiful.  His productions are full, and lush, soulful, with cracking drums, banging bass.

The first 7 inch, released on BstrdBoots, is a Gilles Peterson favorite (it’s included on the new Brownswood Bubblers Volume 7 compilation).  It is a flip of Fela Kuti’s “Water No Get Enemy“.  It’s origins stem from the Facebook based producers community The Beat Inn, where members agree to use the same source material and share the results.  It’s a slower piece than the original Fela song.  TBG flips it with a new time signature and swing.  It’s melodic, and beautiful.  It never seems to repeat itself.  The flip side “Lost & Gone” is also quite a gem.  Buy it HERE.

7 inch #2, released on UK based First Word Records, features Primeridian’s Simeon Viltz, and Shev Rock on “Dance Forever”.  The B-side is a bit more uptempo and funky (I can see it becoming a party anthem in an ideal world), flips The Fatback Band’s oft-sampled west coast classic “Backstrokin’” (check Dr. Dre’s “Let’s Get High” from The Chronic 2001 or Dolla Holla’s “Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood” on the original Project Blowed compilation).  Buy it HERE.

Both are highly recommended and available at Gramaphone now.  Check the webstore at the links above for sound samples, or come in and find them on the hip-hop wall, grab a turntable, and zone out.

Vakula – Saturday Remix5 12″ – 3rd Strike

Recently emergent Ukranian producer Vakula revisits his Yuri Shulgin collaboration “Saturday” on this crowded EP.

Vakula closes out the EP with a revision of his own work, a blurry and moody blue joint that is too enchanting for its short running time.  Sharing the B side with him are Fudge Fingas, who submit a melody-heavy downbeat house version, and Legowelt, with a song based around a dissonant acid line, rave whistles, and even a chime melody a la Peter Kersten.

The longer tracks stretch out on the A side.  Deetron brings the song up to nightclub standards, with a lustrous rendition balancing a pumping bassline and a crescendo of FM acid tweaks fading finally into a contemplative piano refrain.  Then, the most unexpected contribution on the record comes from Jean-Francois Roit L’Eveque, lured back into the studio as Jeff Sharel.  He reinvents the track as new jack swing, complete with slap bass, big synth work, and sultry vocals.

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