Isabelle & The Rain (Mr K 7" Breakdown edit) (5:28)
Review: 1971: Isaac Hayes redefines what a movie theme can be with the worldwide sensation "Shaft," single-handedly making wah-wah rhythm guitar and racing hi-hats a prime ingredient for the decade of music to come. The huge success of "Shaft" meant Hayes was in demand to bring his vision of cinematic funk to other films, and in 1974 he scored (and starred in) the Blaxploitation B-movie Truck Turner. It's from this soundtrack that "Pursuit Of The Pimpmobile" is drawn. The progression Hayes made as a composer is clear: "Pimpmobile" uses complex layered guitar lines with brass and string sections that build and cascade over each other and takes the "Shaft" formula to an entirely new level.
The song became a firm favorite with funky DJs in the '70s, from the refined space of Mancuso's Loft to Bronx and Harlem jams. Indeed, when the Zulu Nation DJs began spinning at a downtown roller disco / dance club called The Roxy in the early '80s, it was firmly entrenched as one of their favorites. Another resident DJ at The Roxy was Danny Krivit, who was already well acquainted with the song and the effect it had on dancers. For this latest addition to Most Excellent Unlimited's steadily expanding catalog of Mr. K 7-inch edits, the master editor distills the sprawling nine-minute original down to a fit five-and-change, maintaining all the muscle that made this one a perennial champion of New York City's varied dancefloors.
The quirky "Isabelle And The Rain" was also a key cut for deeper DJs, uptown and downtown, albeit often on bootlegs as the original was, and remains, extremely scarce. Very little is known about the obscure jazzy cut, the work of a largely anonymous bunch of Los Angeles studio veterans led by keyboardist Mike Lang, whose electric piano solo is the song's defining feature alongside the driving drums, which get plenty of space to shine on Mr. K's Breakdown Edit.
The audio fidelity and peerless editing of these essential tracks - virtually nonexistent on 7-inch vinyl before now - makes the latest from Most Excellent Unlimited a can't-miss addition to the playout box of any DJ with a funky floor to rock.
Review: Cheeky upstart label Club Of Jacks follows up on a strong opening statement with this boisterous bout of house workouts geared towards the peak time. "Follow Me" is on a serious garage flex, with rude bass, hooky sax leads and some naughty breaks chops all feeding into the melting pot. "Bring It Back" is a more soulful jam with some great vocal licks and sweet piano leads, while "Need Your Loving" keeps the heartfelt heat up with another powerful diva vocal and a buttery smooth bassline. "Don't Know You" takes things deeper without losing that powerful vocal presence, providing a perfect balance to this solid, all-rounder house 12".
Review: Earlier this year, Durand Jones and the Indications delivered one of the revivalist soul albums of 2019: the conscious, politically charged "American Love Call". Their latest "45" boasts one of the album's standout moments, "Morning In America", a weary but impassioned commentary on Trump's United States that features evocative strings, laidback 60s soul grooves and a stunning lead vocal from Durand Jones. It comes backed by previously unheard cut "Cruisin' To The Park", a lusciously sugary, heartfelt and loved-up affair where drummer Aaron Frazer handles lead vocals. Like the A-side, it's a stunning slice of emotion-stirring soul.
Review: It's been a while since we last heard from the Mellophonia label and its star attraction, A Vision Of Panorama, but now the producer known as Mikhail Khvasko is back with a new record that expands on the soft and silky Balearic house sound he established himself with across some wonderful EPs and 2016's "Aquafusion" album. The sun is still very much shining down on this new record, which leads in with the fittingly titled "Delicious Saw". Khvasko's whole sound is geared towards celebration of gorgeous synth tones, and so it goes here thanks to that seriously tasty sawtooth wave. "Lum" cools down the boogie bump of its predecessor for something more reflective, while "Euphoria" gets into an oh-so-sweet house funk that would sound at home on Strictly Jaz Unit. "Fourth" finishes the EP off with a seriously sticky bassline squelch and some effervescent piano lines - another melodic marvel on a record full of them.
Review: Is this pop? Is this experimental? These are the thoughts that will have crossed many minds when encountering the kind of baffle Jai Paul offers. A guy who seems intent on creating curveball works of art, "BTSTU" in many ways is minimalist stuff, save for the concepts behind the sounds. Or at least its structures give the illusion of minimalism. From the first waterfall of synth to the way in which vocals are allowed to (quite literally) speak for themselves - a multitude of characters with one voice - it's at once bound for the charts and your bookshelf of classic works.
Review: The fifth release from Wilson Phoenix on his own self-titled label continues the impressive pace set by this breakout techno artist. "Analogical" opens up the A side with a heavy-hearted, emotionally charged strain of techno tough and tender in equal measure. Things get spicier on the flip as Phoenix plays around with rhythmic structures to make a deadly, bass-charged broken techno belter under the name "Gamma Meld". "Automatic Africa" finishes the EP off with a tightly wound percussive work out - just the kind of interesting DJ tool track you want to spice your sets up with.
Yoshiko Okabe - "Tree 4" (Yamuraka club mix) (6:54)
Review: House Running are back with another of their signature compilation 12"s, calling on a host of talented producers keeping the house dream alive. Paris-based producer Colkin is bringing nothing but good vibes on piano chopping, lately bass-ing burner "Central 13". He also gets a second look in with "Gonna Be", which features none other than Detroit breakthrough star Javonntte on impossibly powerful vocals. On the flip, Meemo is on hand with the spaced out funk of "Untitled" while Yoshiko Okabe's "Tree 4" gets a 90s-style, club-ready re-rub from Yamuraka. If you're looking for high grade deep house music, look no further.
Review: Shahr Farang continues to blossom as a label, primarily as a vessel for the work of Sohrab Karimi and Rasul Gafarov, better known as Ahu and Lenta respectively. On this occasion, Ahu and Lenta have teamed up to present some intriguing clippings from two separate improvised studio jams. As is customary with the label, the primary mode of expression is minimal techno shrouded in hazy textures and atmospheric matter, but it veers more towards the kind of clicks and cuts you'd expect from a classic Scape record than anything geared towards the dancefloor. The steady tick of a 4/4 kick means this music isn't necessarily consigned to the headphones though - the right kind of warm up slot or backroom could be just the place to melt into these delicate productions.
Review: In 2016 the Olympians - an all-star soul combo featuring members of The Dap-Kings, The Expressions and the Menahan Street Band - landed on Daptone with a fine debut album. Three years on, the Toby Pazner helmed group returns to action with a brand new "45". A-side "Midnight Movement" is a particularly sweet and ear-pleasing affair, with the band layering sweeping strings and lilting horn parts over a jaunty, piano-dominated instrumental soul groove. Over on side B, "Stand Tall" is a sharper, punchier and slightly funkier affair, with the band's fuzzy horns and fluttering flute solos rising above a Blaxploitation era-influenced backing track.
Review: Third time's the charm. Low Bias parallel project Dream Cycle returns to the ever-comfortable Sneaker Social with the next part of their annual series. Once again it's a barrage of two-step delights ranging from dank and mystic to deep and dreamy. "Told You" kicks off proceedings on a serious London bumpy flex, all sassy vocal snippets and a steam roller sub line. "Long Time" follows and takes us down a much deeper, contemplative path that's almost Detroit in its mood with those lush pads and spirited piano lines. Deeper again we strike the more technoid twangs of "Sensa" before "Untitled Dream" closes the EP on the deepest, wooziest tip of the EP, all downbeat, trippy and far too addictive for its own good. The Cycle continues.
Review: Adam Monti aka ADMNTi heads up 4Plae Records out of London and joins Casey Spillman (who just debuted on Infuse) for his label's fifth release. Monti opens with the hypnotic, bass-driven and swing-fuelled loops of "0207", a sublime groove reminiscent of iO (Mulen) or Jack Wickham, while Spillman's contribution comes in the form of the very UK influenced bounce of "Juice Appeal". This takes the best of 2-step and garage (and even the mandatory "rewind") to create a sexy serving of late night mood music. On the flip they flip the script, with both artists remixing each other's track and for what it's worth we reckon it's all about Spillman's remix of Monti's - tough rolling and functional tech house that's aimed squarely at the main room at peak time!
Review: Over the course of her three year solo career, London-based Australian Carla Dal Forno has steadily moved from a dark, stylish and bleak all-electronic sound to something a little warmer and more organic in tone. On "Look Up Sharp", her third album, she continues this trend, complimenting her usual lo-fi drum machines and synths with low-slung post-punk bass and the kind of pastoral, traditional instrumentation more often associated with folk music (think flutes, recorders, clarinet etc.). It's a curious blend, but one that works wonderfully well throughout the album, and especially on those songs to which she adds evocative, often melancholic vocals.
Review: Return to 2001: Swiss brothers Shakedown drop an iconic house anthem that debunked the standard XXL funk du jour with a much spacier, synth-based 80s boogie sound. Still relevant and heavily played, Defected have commissioned three on-point artists for the 2018 contemporisations: Peggy Gou gets her acid tweaks on, Tiger & Woods pitch down the vocal and dust off the Street Sounds electroid feel and Purple Disco Machine cooks up an unapologetic funked up house jam that wouldn't have gone amiss on Classic back in the day. For good measure Shakedown return with their own signature Galactic Boogie version that pumps with strong Moroder tendencies. Good night.
Review: Since debuting in the early 2000s, Dutch trio Kraak & Smaak have established themselves as one of Europe's premier purveyors of eclectic, funk-fuelled dancefloor positivity. It's little surprise then to find that their new album "Pleasure Centre" - their sixth studio set in total - is another joyous romp. This time round, they've drawn more influence from West Coast style blue-eyed soul and yacht rock while continuing to offer nods towards boogie, P-funk, synth-pop, '80s soul, jazz-funk and Rotary Connection (see the superb "Twilght", with vocals by rising star Izo FitzRoy). It's a wonderfully warm and attractive blend, with the result being a superb collection of dancefloor cuts and heady downtempo numbers that all adds up to their best album to date.
M&M Vs Andrei Swipe - "Analog Express" (Don Carlos remix) (7:29)
Review: There's an undeniable air of quality that lingers over the 12"s emerging on 14th Level Of Paradise, the mysterious label presenting originals, edits and repressed tracks for true house devotees. First up is a little known track from Sasha Makin and Suntetic, given a shimmering polish by Don Carlos and Steven Perri to become a heavy funking masterpiece, before Joe Claussell drops in a percussive dub delight on Monday Michiru's "Higher". On the flip, Vincent Inc and LA get things pumping with the slow but chunky, jazz-licked "Red Room", before Carlos returns for another deep house reverie as he remixes M&M and Andrei Swipe's "Analog Express".
Review: The Fantastic Voyage label kicks off with a summery joint from RFX, otherwise known as Pharmacy Records mainstay Romain FX, straight out of Hong Kong. There's an undeniable African lilt to these tracks, shot through with a classic 90s house twist - just check the infectious bump of "Indaba Kabani". "Gambian Neptune" has a snappier feel, channeling the vibe of 80s extended dubs with its strident drum section and bombastic atmosphere. "Nigerian Charon" has an interesting mixture of vibes going on, part Art of Noise mash up and part peak time synth sizzler, while "Sudanese Xena" heads into the heat of night, conjuring up a seductive, swirling mood to get truly lost in.
Review: The Well Street family continue to bloom with this assured grip of adventurous steppers from Significant Other. You know you're onto something serious as soon as "Postdrome" fires up in a tangle of break slices, percussive rattles and poised kicks. The sparse drum-focused style continues in a quicker fashion with the tense and twitchy "Delos", while "Brain Fingers" amps up the bass flex to make for a dance-wrecking-ball of a track. "Memory Drum" completes the set with interlocking patterns balanced between organic and electronic and draped in tones of icy dread.
Review: Mick Harris is a master of bludgeoning sound, whether wringing out apocalyptic steppers in his Scorn guise or wrestling D&B into contorted shapes as Quoit. Monrella is one of his aliases that reaches back to the mid 90s and Regis' ZET label. These four new tracks capture the same mood of granite heavy Brummie techno as the original run, wholly compatible with the tougher end of the Downwards oeuvre, sculpted with the masterful ear for sound design that Harris has displayed throughout his accomplished career. Following on from the retrospective compilation on Berceuse Heroique last year, it's a real treat to have some fresh Monrella to chew on for the hardest of techno sessions.
Review: Amato brings the kind of nasty electro business that fits right in on Helena Hauff's mighty Return To Disorder stable, and you know it's serious from the opening strains of the VHS noir monster "Escape From Grenoble 2018". "Hydraulic Funk" takes things slower, coming on like a freaky Frak flipside and sounding excellent for it. "Machine Outil" takes things in a more muscular direction that sounds built for bench presses and body jerks - the consummate peak time sledgehammer. Umwelt takes this sturdy starting point and demolishes it into a hailstorm of acid malevolence that'll melt your face clean off.
Review: Fans of digital roots take note: "Gun Fever" is a brilliantly dark and direct offering from Frankie Jones. Mixing up the sound of 80s Jamaica and the sort of dub that was loved in the UK by dancehall crowds, it first landed on Third World in 1986 and now gets a crisp new remaster for the first time in its history. The low swinging bottom end is warm and rich, the claps chart and the rimshots are laden with effects, especially on the flipside "Version", that really sink you deep into the riddim.
Review: Get out of the shower scene and onto our decks. Drone follows up his Circadian Rhythms release with a ruthless jam that's straight out of the Norman Bates guidebook to life. Stark staccato strings, booming bass and spacious beats; this is pure Bristol Psycho business and it's backed by another west country horror Boofy on the remix. Chopping up the original within an inch of its life, he adds a little ghetto-twist in the beats for added murderation. Heavy.
Review: Let the "Games" begin! MOREOFUS returns to juice us up with his long-awaited return on White Peach. Four future-focused instrumentals, all brittle, bruising and abstract, if you were lucky to be at Outlook this year then you'll know all about these ones. "Games" takes the lead with a broken glass riff that's comprised of multiple lines all Q&Aing each in quick back-chat mode. "Runnin'" continues the chaos with a trip through a maze of eastern flutes and pipes while "Thieves" gives us a breather with a deeper vibe and a bassline that sounds like it came from 2007. Finally "Do You Know" closes with another uncompromising sound palette. Cold-yet-dramatic and set somewhere far far in the future. Game over.
Catch Me If You Can (Jorge Savoretti Ethereal dub) (7:08)
Review: Michael James' "Winds Of Change" EP was a big look for Constant Black, and now the eminent minimal house label draws on a hit list of sharp shooters to deliver some deadly remixes. Huerta is up first with an angular but rolling dub twist on "Catch Me If You Can", before Nick Beringer pings things in a wonderfully hazy direction with his "7am Dub" of "Stormy Skies". Pascal Benjamin gets into a tight, focused funk on his version of "Reservoir", and then Jorge Savoretti flies in an "Ethereal Dub" of "Catch Me If You Can".
Review: Long-time sonic sparring partners and kindred fusion spirits Paradox and Nucleus return to their Esoteric imprint for more glacial goodness. "Beatbox" is a perfect example of the two OGs' sonic palette. Unhurried, spacious and colder than an overnight party-for-one in a morgue. "Plexus", meanwhile, takes us even deeper down their rabbit hole. Stripped back to a well-chiselled two step, rolling break, cosmic pads that constantly mutate and a velvet sub bass that really pops when you drop this on a big rig, it's perfect hypnotic fodder for the 4am crew.
Review: The mysterious Dreadz white label returns for a follow up to their self-titled 001 in 2017. Once again one-sided, no info or credits, just a good old-fashioned system shaker with a sub line that melts through the scoops like ice cream on a hot day. Deep, spacious and, quite possibly, a head nod to Ras Nyto's release from 2008, this is proper contemporary 140 / dub business and it's not likely to hang around.
Review: All aboard the Zion Train for a fantastic first single from the artists' forthcoming 2020 album "Illuminate". This one features Prince Jamo of Black Rose studio working the rhythm and a host of musicians including Paolo Baldini of internationally renowned Dubfiles project on live bass and guitars and production from Perch. "Politrix" boasts chest pumping and rousing militant vibes with flabby bass and roots trumpet calls getting you up and moving. The dub version on the flip is just as hot and makes for a fine taster of what promises to be a standout album next year.