Johnny Fiasco – Set Me Free
‘I know a track is done when it draws out some emotion’ Johnny Fiasco told 5mag. The Chicago producer’s tracks tend to evoke emotion within the first few minutes. Releases such as ‘Kalimba‘, ‘In The Best Mood‘, ‘Last Word‘ and his remix of Slammer, Ivaylo & Renate’s ‘Invisible Solution‘ are tracks you can play for half an hour straight without clearing the dancefloor. Drenched in jazziness, his production always is a groove-filled affair, owing to his musical background. In operation since ’93, the Chicagoan producer found his releases picked up by the trend-setting Green Velvet, who offered the outlet of his Cajual Records label. Fiasco’s debut album Moody Grooves Vol. II came out in 1997, and with it a barnstorming, monster House opener ‘Set Me Free’.
Similarly to another Cajual track we’ve reviewed ‘Percolator‘, the influence of ‘Set Me Free’ on today’s Tech-House scene is quite uncanny. Starting with broken-beat drum, a hat is energetically played in tandem. ‘Take 5‘, Johnny’s release on prolific soulful house label of the early 2000s Om Records. showcased some unparalleled vocal sample work. It’s no different here, with the regurgitating staccato’d ‘Oh Oh Oh’s expertly chopped. Mutated stringed synths pour all over the top. Fiasco cites Michael Jackson’s ‘Rock With You’ as being one of his major influences, and you can certainly hear it here. The Unique Selling Point of the track, however, is its sonorant bass. Dirty yet funky, it wouldn’t fall out of place in a Hot Creations‘ Hot Waves compilation. An electronic piano loop mixes things up to keep a flavourful and colourful vibe to the track. Continue reading
Lee Webster – Freaky Bitches
UK Garage was born out in the early 90s and had a heavy presence in the early 00s. DJ EZ, Artful Dodger and So Solid Crew all became British household names, as the genre’s 2-step, feel-good and palatable sound topped the charts. It is a sound that is still regularly peppered on top of sets by Dan Ghenacia, Shonky & Dyed Soundsystem‘s group Apollonia as well as Seth Troxler. With such substantial exposure, it would make any music nerd keen to trace down its roots, which originate from the East Coast of the US. And its influence features heavily in Lee Webster’s sound, with similarly delectable smatterings of soulful vocals. Tracks like ‘All Night Vibe‘ and ‘I’ll Be Your Toy‘ beseech one to call back to the era. ‘I guess my first introduction to underground dance music would have been the UK garage and US house scene in England.’ he tells Music Is 4 Lovers. It certainly seeps into his music. And it’s all unashamedly ostentatious. Much can be said of ‘Freaky Bitches’, with less of an influence of the aforementioned soul, but with just as much swing.
Released on the renowned Glasgow Underground label in 2012, the track was the A1 to a four pack that contained two banging Garage-inspired Deep House tracks. The EP also featured a timeless disco cut, showcasing Lee’s production prowess. ‘Freaky Bitches’, however is a no-hold-barred party cut that is akin to putting the pedal to the medal in a Lamborghini on the German Autobahn. Constantly rotating pitter-patter drums are mixed in with single note tribal drums & knocks. This masks the cheeky shenanigans which proceed to take place. In cue with the sub-bass, a manipulated vocal taken from Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Nasty Boy’, too naughty to repeat in this review, set a raunchy premonition. The track breaks down with delectable Deep House synth stabs. An acidic bassline, more deep and dirty than a Paradise DC10 party at 7am, kicks in and obliterates all that goes before it. A true party masterpiece. Continue reading
Lee Foss – Someone New
2011 was a formidable year for the Tech-House scene, as producers rode the crest of the 2010 wave well into the following year. Tale of Us released a mammoth remix of WhoMadeWho’s ‘Every Minute Alone‘. Solomun’s Vox Mix of Noir & Haze ‘Around’ catapulted him into the spotlight. Slightly under the radar, Get Physical released DJ T’s ‘Pleasure Principle’ remix compilation featuring interpretations from David August, Jimmy Edgar & Subb-an. One of the labels that was on everyones’ lips, however, was Hot Creations. Founded by a Welsh-Chicagoan partnership of Jamie Jones and Lee Foss, the label introduced us to heaters such as Danny Daze‘s ‘Your Everything‘, Miguel Campbell’s ‘Something Special‘ and the chart-topping Hot Natured’s ‘Benediction‘, all released within the same year. While Jones’ can be seen as more of a patron of the label, Foss’ late 2000s and early 2010s releases laid noteworthy support to the crew’s rise to success. Tracks like ‘Keep My Cool‘ & ‘U Got Me‘ are fine examples of the finesse traced in his early releases. Coming from his Starfruit EP, ‘Someone New’ is a time capsule of era when Foss was at the peak of his production game.
Deep, elegant & sensual are just some of the words that can be used to describe Foss’ signature style. His earlier discography tended to have an unadulterated approach to using lightly-processed analogue synth lines. Such is heard in ‘Someone Knew’, as 1980s Miami inspired soundscapes mollify into the intro that cuts the lower EQs. In conversation with the Night Bazaar, Foss tributes Funk groups such as Paul Simpson Connection to having a major influence on him. Noticeably, his new label Repopulate Mars‘ pushes track like ‘Freak You Right‘, which are more fubsy in percussion sidechaining. This is somewhat a departure from his earlier sound that’s epitomised in this track. The bassline serves as an ancillary, melting into the groove created by a fairly emollient layering of the drums. The overall sound tenderly seduces the listener, rather than overbearing with an in-your-face approach. Fundamental to most renowned releases, is the polished use of the vocals. Here he reworks an extract from Usher’s 1994 track ‘Think of You‘. ‘All the time I think of you, Holding on to someone new‘ brings a set of rather guarded lyrics. Yet the groove created by the remaining elements of the track pacifies the listener into a dance that’s filled with reflection. Continue reading
Ben Klock – DGTL Amsterdam
Who would have thought that Ben Klock would drop a set under 130 BPM? Repping the Resident Advisor booth at this year’s DGTL Amsterdam, the Berghain resident delivers a masterful ‘House Set’. DGTL has spread its wings to deliver finely curated festivals under its branding in places such as Barcelona, Madrid, Sao Paolo, Tel Aviv and as far west as Santiago, Chile. DGTL is known for its cutting-edge ability to blend Music with the Arts. This year’s installation collaboration with Ace & Tate is proof. Seeing as Klock himself is also renowned for his amalgamation of live production and music, as seen in his Photon parties, the set he provides here is one for the ages.
Though it’s been labelled as a ‘House’ set, it can be more accurately described as diluted Techno. Ringing up the curtain with a dark tense beginning, the magician DJ seems to lock a chastening groove over the dancefloor. Dropping Marco Shuttle’s ‘The Moon Chant‘, the Berliner follows up with cuts from the stellar New York label L.I.E.S., as well as Mandingos ‘Another Dub On Earth‘. Succeeding comes DJ Hell’s drum-focused 1998 classic ‘Jack The House’, a nasty malapert track that will send the most rigid of dancers into lunacy. Laying down full on breaks near the half way mark, things go full alien EBM on the Identified Patient’s ‘The Female Medical College Of Pennsylvania‘. Close to the wrap up Klock goes full Berghain mode with Biemsix’s ‘Clear‘ serving some sublime Dub Techno. The German veteran then finishes off with Kevin Yost’s irrepressible, time-transcending track ‘It’s Getting Bigger‘. For those familiar with the Techno titan, the set may feel more flaxen than his usual raucous sound. We see this is a testament to Klock’s savoir faire.
Mystic Bill – U Wont C Me
In the early 90’s, the UK underground scene was all about Acid House. The ‘Second Summer of Love‘ that coloured the summers of 1988 & 1989 saw the rise of Danny Rampling and Paul Oakenfold, with the trademark TR-303 sound squelching away to pulp away clubbers minds. Ibiza acted as the middle man of sorts, introducing the sound to the European audience. Though Chicagoans Ron Hardy and DJ Pierre can be attested as the founders, William Torres best known as Mystic Bill formed part of the second wave to push the sound. The artist was present at parties such as Phuture Shock and Medusa’s, central to Chicago’s Acid House history. However his sound doesn’t just stop there. After taking a 10 year hiatus from releasing output, it seems Mystic Bill is enjoying a second wind. Taking cues from Larry Heard, akin to our previously reviewed Satoshi Tomiie‘s ‘Bassline’ sees ‘U Wont C Me’ as a obligatory House track for all DJs.
‘You Won’t C Me’ was released in 2015 on Snuff Tracks found on the EP of the same name. Phonica Records describes it perfectly a being a ‘powerful spoken word chant greater than the sum of it’s parts‘. The track begins in a familiar fashion to ‘Bassline’, with it’s bassline however using a major chord change in the final 8 beats of a 16 bar. Oscillating hats bring a frenetic contrast to the tracks 120bpm nature, having hollow percussive jabs add the jack. With ogling eyeballs donning the front cover of the EP, it fits the eery pads which pirouette slowly. This forma a sound taken out of a 1970’s horror movie. Dense on the reverb, an echoed keyline adds to the heady nature. A hypnotic vocal then speaks in a monotone way repeating ‘You See Me I’ll Be Gone, Thought Your Love For Me Was Strong, Now The Love You Had Is Gone, Now I Must Be Moving On.’ It’s very vanilla, yet insanely powerful alongside the myriad of sounds. Continue reading
Tiga & The Martinez Brothers – Blessed (Dirty Mix)
Jerome Sydenham’s ‘My Pet Gorilla‘, Munkie’s ‘Progression‘ & Skrillex’s ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ have the ignominy of all branding the same fate. They’ve all received under 2 on Resident Advisor’s rating system. It was a debate of many a commenter before the site took the decision to close the section down in early 2019. Most of the time you could roundly concur with RA writers’ thoughts. However, on this cut we must strongly put a case against their 1.7 rating. A meeting of three minds with the modus operandi to deliver vernacular fun was always going to sprout forth discombobulated funk-outs. Canadian veteran of over 20 years and head honcho of Turbo Recordings, Tiga has always brought his tongue-in-cheek approach. With staple releases heavy on the low-end like ‘Pleasure From The Bass‘ & ‘Hot In Here‘, it seems to contrast the nature of The Martinez Bros more Big Room hits. This makes for a collaboration straight from the vox populi. The two Puerto Ricans bring a shuffling vibe built for all-night partying. On ‘Blessed’, they all combine with Tiga to bring back a more minimal cut that truly does the business.
“These tracks are tougher, funkier and weirder than 99.3% of contemporary dance music, and it’s all because we were brave enough to get sincere and real.” Tiga told Electronic Groove. And it is these elements that make you recall the sound of mid-00s Minimal Techno. A bouncing, largesse bass drives forward like the best unsanitary Minus or Vakant release. Having previously worked on solid collaborations like ‘Bugatti‘ featuring GOOD Music boss Pusha T, Tiga knows how to spin a hip hop lyric on top of a 4/4 beat. The Martinez Brothers likewise layered down a dope interpretation of Jay-Z’s ‘H To The Izzo‘. In ‘Blessed’ it is Tiga who serves an inspirational bar lyric, reminding the the listener that they are blessed simply because they woke up this morning. Fuzzed hats sizzle alongside static robotic percussive clicks. The track is full of funk with the bass and hats alone, but the trio truly flex their muscles once the melody kicks in. A torrent of delayed, stretched and echoed bleeps, fiercer and more metallic than Rebukes recent hit ‘Along Came Polly‘ ascend and descend interwoven at will. With Tiga’s warped lyrics shimmering in and out, it is a bewildering experience. Continue reading
Meg Ward – Chief
‘It’s not Hip Hop or House, its Hip House‘ proclaimed Fast Eddie in his 1989 classic ‘Hip House’. Almost thirty years later, the spirit of his track lives on. Newcastle-based DJ Meg Ward is fairly fresh to the inner-side of the underground scene, having been DJing in clubs for a year and a half or so. Holding a residency at Cosmic Ballroom’s weekly Tuesday night out “Ill Behaviour”, she’s also starting to cause a ruckus outside of the North, travelling to places around the country while playing feel-good groovers to the believers. This has given her the opportunity to support her heroes that include Bellaire, Folamour, Mark Blair and Kettama. ‘Chief’ is her most recent release on Genesis, reviving the convivial vibes that Eddie preached about.
Hitting with infectious ferociousness of Karizma‘s festival favourite ‘Work It Out‘, ‘Chief’ is a track that is mature in it’s opening. The track’s lifespan begins and ends with a heavy-injection of filtering. Not only making the transition easier for the DJ in charge, but also providing the track with a character of its own, especially when the intensity that perseveres is introduced. ‘Hip Hop and rap, yeah that’s where my heart’s at‘ Lords of Underground vocals taken from ‘Chief Rocka‘ chant with magnitude. The idea for the track came from Meg playing around with synths while listening to old school hip-hop, a genre she is particularly fond of. Accompanying it is a chopped-up collage of keyboard notes transported from back from a 1990s Thomas Bangalter set. Contagiously irresistible, it precedes the use of reversed snare reverb that hurdles the vocal into oblivion to inaugurate the breakdown. To complete the coronation, a DJ Pierre-inspired acid bassline melts what is left of the listener’s brain, making this a perfect weapon for peak-time set at a House-head festival. DJ Deeon would approve.
Frank & Tony feat. Bob Moses – Marigold
Brooklyn old-timers Francis Harris and Anthony Collins were a prolific production partnership under the guise of Frank & Tony in the mid 2010s. Part-owners of the taste-making New York label Scissor & Thread, their output was a melange of mature, tender interpretation of Deep House. Harris brought the exhaling texturing that complimented Collins’ percussion finesse. Pitchfork adequately claims duo were more “concerned with the sound of House music than its function“. In such, their tracks serve well for listening sessions and in-store DJ sets. Their 2012 track ‘Marigold’ found the perfect vocalist suitors in Bob Moses, a Vancouver duo that was christened by them. The NY veterans gave the Canadians their name, and their support on ‘Marigold’ kindly returned the favour.
Frank & Tony’s production notably interpreted the lower ends of EQ in a number of creative ways . While releases such as ‘What You Believe‘ & ‘Amedeo‘ brought a much more restrained approach, ‘Modest Season‘ & ‘Harmonium‘ came freshly baked from the academy of Basic Channel. In ‘Marigold’ they opted for a chugging bassline that is rich in flavour to open the track. True to form, however, soft keys reverberate in rotation to create a serene ambience. ‘All the way, all the way, all the way, watching this burn” the vocals repeat. Bob Moses’ mellifluous singing has made them a headlining act in the Underground scene, and a desired collaborator. Frank & Tony were blessed with an album’s worth of features back in early 2010s. The pads that eventually enter feel like a substitute for the Pacific wind, gently caressing the listeners ears. The vibe almost be described as a slower tempo, Western approach to Nu & Jo Ke’s – ‘Who Loves The Sun‘. It would comes as no surprise, therefore, to hear it feature at a sunset mix of Jose Padilla. Continue reading
Audiojack – Inside My Head
The Guardian ran an article in 2011 titled ‘How dance label Crosstown Rebels bounced back‘. Didn’t realise it had fallen off. A label that has ebbed and flowed with the times, there’s no denying it has also been a trendsetter, launching the careers of Jamie Jones, Seth Troxler and Art Department. Head Honcho Damian Lazarus has been on a run of sorts recently, with the punishing releases coming from the Arthur Baker & Rockers Revenge, as well as the atmospheric Aether. The same newspaper recently featured the leading contender for ‘world’s greatest party‘, Get Lost based in Miami. With Audiojack’s ‘Inside My Head’ we could have one of the track of the year’s on our hands. Releasing EPs on 20/20 Vision, Tsuba and Hot Creations, the duo’s style is uncompromising in it’s lean rawness. So it comes as no surprise that their latest Tech-House release reached number one on the Beatport Charts. The Ibiza-based, Leeds-raised duo bring their best in what you can only describe as euphoric.
Listening to the Audiojack’s 2016 release ‘Vibrate‘ proves that the lads are exemplar at providing heavily echoed vocals. The track opens up with a female vocal that’s sampled from Cuba Gooding’s disco-funk classic ‘Happiness Is Just Around The Bend‘. Echoing ‘There’s something going round inside my head‘ the vocals are spacey and add to the kindred nature of the track. ‘We knew the vocal back from an old progressive track in the 90s, but why it suddenly kept looping round Jamie’s head we don’t know” explain Audiojack to Magnetic Mag. ‘Now it’s your turn to endure the loopy repetitive vocal of this low swung proggy groover‘. The Wurlitzer keys bring this spellbinding wall of synth that brings a trancey atmosphere. It’s akin to ‘that‘ track from Solomun’s Cercle set. The boys truly love their production. Speaking with 6AM Group about their infatuation for Native Instruments, they state ‘Max4cats recently brought out a semi modular plugin called Pallas which is so much fun routing one thing into another and modulating stuff in strange ways to get some really out there sounds‘. These quaint sounds can be traced in the track, combining manipulation of guitar strings, western Asian percussion and screeches of a jet engine. Unadorned yet devastating. Continue reading
Brett Johnson – Missing You
Though it might be known as the home state of Rodeos, Ford F150s and the Republican party, Texas has also birthed a number of accomplished producers. Unrelated to the Canadian techno–maverick Mathew Jonson, Brett Jonson is part of a cabal of DJs hailing from the Southern state that includes Maceo Plex and Convextion. Speaking candidly with XLR8R about the state of the underground scene, Jonson observes that ‘We live in strange times, where people are famous for being famous, and a person’s hype often outweighs their actual talent‘. Commenting on dilating issues such as ghost production and pay-for plays gigs, he’s a music man. There’s clearly a special vitality in Brett’s productions. With a prolific amount of releases on labels such as Freerange, Cynosure and F Communications, Brett’s productions are a combination of moreish, euphoric and funky. And none more so than his 2009 release on the EP of the same name, ‘Missing You’.
Tracks like his remix of My Favourite Robot’s ‘Still In My Heart‘, or his own release ‘Get It Together (5am Dub)‘ showcase unbridled skills at walloping Tech-House bass. Brett’s versatility is on full blast in ‘Missing You’. Eight Tracks describe the track as ‘a gloriously melancholy cut that successfully bridges Brett’s affinity for potent house rhythms, Detroit-bred bass lines, and decidedly deeper intentions‘. It starts off with a timid kick and cymbal partnership that synergises with a crunchy percussion sample. Similarly to Andre Lodemann’s ‘Where Are You Now‘, measured bells are chimed. Sequenced stringed pads add to the melancholic nature with the plodding bassline allowing the rest of the track elements to shine. Brett speaks about being influenced by R&B in an interview with the Dallas Observer. Here, a vocal sample akin to 112 can be heard as the bass jumps an octave. What follow is truly mesmeric, as the strings caramelise, drooping with subtlety. Like his Visionquest EP ‘The Secret Place‘, ‘Missing You’ is elegantly eerie. Continue reading