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.
Upsammy – Another Place
You’ve got to hand it to those YouTubers who are the heroes we need but do not deserve. A vehicle for upcoming artists to get their music promoted, it certainly has its uses on the other side of the spectrum. Frontleft365 covered some of these in their fantastic feature that included interviews with Houseum, Slav and CMYK. Growing in number, such channels have offered not only exposure for those looking to get their name out, but also serving as inspiration to fellow producers. These have been in particular rich in genres of early 90’s IDM, ambient, breaks, jungle, techno and trance. Thessa Torsing aka Upsammy’s 2018 Dekmantel set was a beautiful, meandering sound safari covering the aforementioned genres with a retro tint. Hailing from the Netherlands, her ascendency has been no short of paramount, rapidly moving from playing in local clubs to nights at Panorama Bar. Her productions have been cherished and treasured, bringing a mix of breaks, Techno, IDM, ambient and Trance. Releases on Whities & Die Orakel gathered great attention, called upon by Mr Fingers for a remix alongside Joey Anderson and Kode9. ‘Another Place’, the titular cut on her 2018 debut EP on Rotterdam Label Nous’Klaer, is a mutative beast that is utterly mesmeric.
In conversation with DeSchool, Upsammy recalled her father having “loads of electronic mix CD’s, like Tiësto’s Forbidden Paradise, so [Torsing] listened to those.. growing up. Another major influence was MTV Lounge Vol. 3, with artists like Moby and The Future Sound Of London‘. ‘Another Place’ is an emotion-led, retro futuristic track, cut with a different cloth that uses the same blueprint. Pick any track from the nostalgic YouTube Channel, 2trancentral and you’ll find the same esoteric tropes written all over. Indulged in delay from the off, chimes and a bleep knock echo and streak through both ear canals. An drum pattern that goes into double-time on the second 4/4 beat keeps things off kilter. This all happens before a razoring dubstep & techno hybrid bassline, akin to one found in A Made Up Sound‘s (aka 2562) ‘Crisis’ enters. It also carries the same urgency as of Shed’s ‘Wax 1001B‘ acid lick. Blissful and alien synth-lines supersaw and oscillate, sounding straight out of a Roland J-8000 or Access Virus A/B textbook. Droplet sounds play out in assorted patterns in the background, before a minute long breakdown set ups the most euphoric of atmospheres. The bass then drops combined with the precision of the cymbals to truly transport the listener to a place far distant. Continue reading
Enrico Mantini – Hypnotizer (Da Groov Moov Mix)
Looking for a banger that will absolutely shut the place down? There’s a reason why this one is called Da Groove Moov Mix. Hearing this thing play on a piece of Plastic is unreal, and unsurprisingly so. Like Herbert, Ricardo Villalobos and Rhadoo, all his tracks are made on analogue. Enrico even himself professes to ‘Own every type of machine their is.’ Often playing at Number 90 Hackney party Half Baked, shows true soul in his production. First released all the way back in 1995, Hypnotizer (Da Groov Moov Mix) was rereleased this year and sounds just as fresh now. Displaying a real 90s sound, it equally shows a resistant toughness that will captivate the dancefloor.
As soon at the track starts a skipping drum pattern ticks along to automatically boost the energy. In this interview with Play Wax, Enrico talks about the range of machines he uses. Kawai Q80, Atari ST512 and Cuebase 2.0 are all mentioned as only being abled to sequence MIDI events. And you can hear that in the bass. Hit in a 3 note sequence, it’s not too dissimilar to Asquith or other Lobster Theremin tracks. Hi-pitched guitar licks give it a luminous city lights identity. A sublime lyric then beseeches the dancefloor commanding you to ‘Hypnotize Yourself’. With what’s going on around sonically, this won’t require much effort. A classic mid-naughties synth fitting for an illegal warehouse rave gives it a full flavour. With an afrobeat breakdown halfway through, Enrico’s enterprising versatility in style shines through.
Just check out this clip of Zip playing at Factory Club, Barcelona. You can see the power of Enrico Mantini’s tracks with the volumnious B1 Hypnotizer (Virtual Hypnosis) being played out. Half Baked crowned him ‘one of the European founders of the deep house music’. ‘Da Groov Moov Mix’, with its dubbyness, surely influenced the formula of production for more dubbed out producers like Subb-an or Dyed Soundroom.
Gemini – We Are The Future
The 90s was great a great decade for breaks. Normally reserved for fast-paced DnB or HipHop cuts, it inevitably it made it’s way into House. Gemini’s ‘We Are The Future’ released in 1999 showcases superbly how Breaks x House can complement each other. Chiwax, one of the phenomenon Rawax’s sister label did well to rerelease this. It’s a downtempo affair that certainly brings about hints of the Nu Jazz of Jazzanova inclusive of Acid Jazz elements. The looped drums sound like live instrumentation opening up the scope for listeners of neighbouring genres.
Pitched down, the drums are really brought to the fore of the track. They’re hit with conviction and nous of a skilled jazz musician. The same drum sample, albeit drenched with more reverb than a Patrick Topping set, was also used by Ron Trent’s USG project. Bass plods away sounding like a double-bass being slapped live. It brings an incredible funk sounding straight from an Erykah Badu Neo Soul cut. Single note chords enter the fray, before a sketchingly echoing like a car hitting the handbreak giving an off-the-wall feel. Stringed samples which Kanye West may use guide the track in a warm direction are used with care. Harmonized female vocals sing ‘We are the future’ imploring one to look ahead, rather than back, just as this track is forward-thinking. Continue reading
Glenn Underground – House Music Will Never Die (Glenn’s Afro Dub)
As the producer’s name suggests, Glenn Underground breathes for the underground scene. A descendant from the local pioneers such as Larry Heard and Lil’ Louis, he has taken the mantle of preserving the soul of House. ‘House Music Will Never Die’ is a heartwarming tribute to the dancefloors of The Warehouse, an anthem for the streets once ruled by Frankie Knuckles.
From the intro, clanging hats and cowbells pave the red carpet for the hefty synthesis of a robust kick & an eminent subbass progression. The power of dubbed bass gives the sound an elevated tier of thump. The super low ends that you’d find in a dub mix contrasts with the higher range in the melody. Paying his dues to the genre’s history, Chicago-born Cei Bei sings:
‘Originating from Chi-Town, House Music will never die.’
The singer often produces songs with lyrics that carry the essence of the early House music community. In ‘Dance Tonight’ he shouts out major world cities from the hotspot of Chicago. All is done with a sense of a virtuous spirit of fellowship immune from material greed. It is all about the music. Bei has previously collaborated with key players in the Illinois scene including Ron Trent, DJ Pap & Abicah Soul. His ability to combine serene with the vibrant vocally is transparent in Glenn’s Afro Dub here which gold-plates the production. Continue reading
Dense & Pika – Amber
Just like Rakim is often quoted to be your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper, the electronic underground scene has a few nominees for the producers category. Names including Terrance Dixon, Tin Man & Blawan are sure to make the shortlist. Likewise Dense & Pika are likely to get a shoutout, with their consistent releases striving to push the scene forward. Even Mathew Dear has previously asked the pair for their production secrets. What characterises the duo’s career is their diversity in production. Want to hear a deep house album released through Crosstown Rebels? Then checkout the 2010 release ‘Runner’ under their Glimpse alias. In need of a warehouse anthem? Their remix of Tiga’s ‘Planet E’ has you covered. And of course, ‘Amber’, a fitting tribute to the 1990s progressive techno scene interpreted through the lens of 2018.
Nostalgia Ultra ’90
Right from the get-go symphonic synths akin to Faithless’ monster-hit ‘Insomia’ lead the direction of the track. In support, tonic hi-hats bring a buoyant tone. Booka Shade influenced bassline manoeuvres around in the background teasingly. Once the mix-in section establishes itself, Ambstep genre female vocals glide in. The primitive cry of emotion almost feels like a throwback to God Within’s ‘Raincry’. Around the 2:38 mark comes an unforeseen turn – suddenly the track restructures itself into a tech-house banger. With a thumping energy, its a section worthy of a Bicep’s Essential Mix set. No better way to demonstrate Dense & Pika’s vigour to innovate.
LY – Back 2 Zanzibar (King Street Mix)
New York. It’s a cold winter night of 1994. Most of locals get their music from the radio, or from mixtapes swapped with friends. The Brooklyn Bridge shooting brought terror, yet could not break the spirit of a true New Yorker. Digable Planets won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance bringing pride to the city. It is in such context that the Manhattan-based Nite Grooves record label released LY’s ‘Back 2 Zanzibar’. The uplift given by the King Street Mix fleshes out the jazzy sound of the original. This is a track that depicts the streets of New York filled with narrow alleyways, neon-sign filled bars and active night time activity.
“New york, new york”
The lyrics are simple “Lets go to the Zanzibar” being rehearsed like a graduation speech. Yet the contrast between the uptempo beat and the melancholy synths brings thought into the dance. Bringing out the raw spirit that characterises the decade, the drums sound primitive yet crispy. Above it all, the saxophone, an instrument associated with New York’s Jazz greats such as Henry Threadgill & Lee Konitz, is given a free-roam. It is almost as if LY uses its independence as symbolism of the city’s nature. In the home of the Big Apple and the Statue of Liberty, you’re in charge of your will. Continue reading
Matrixxman – Initiation (oRIGINAL MIX)
If you’ve ever seen one of Matrixxmans sets, you will know he loves to show the crowd why he’s got the word Matrix in his name. Certainly one for the journey, these are always unrelenting and pumping. Released in 2018 on Dekmental, ‘Initiation’ seems crafted as a perfect track for 5 mins into a set as though a space trooper has just accepted his mission to combat.
From the off, low end sepulchral bass chugs in like it’s engineered for the big room. Squelchy alarm like chords reverberate around the track severing as a warning signal, as though it’s an alarm bell rung by the Death Star in Star Wars. It’s sound it so piercing it will leave leaves the dancer shuddering with anticipation on proceedings of a set. Matrixxman is a fan of 90s sounds, and the melodic bleeps are reminiscent of Jaydee’s ‘Plastic Dreams‘ with it’s galactic leanings, as though one is peering out the side of the space station looking at the worlds beyond. Continue reading
Model 500 – I Wanna Be There (Original Mix)
Juan Atkins’ Model 500 project is one that is not just an alias, but an alias that embodies the culture and concept of classic Detroit techno with its futuristic leanings. Released in 1996 on R&S records it is one that just does not get old, with it’s infectious vocals and it’s journeying through a year 4000 city-world feeling some Techno tracks can give you.
Cruising at pace, it’s airy synths that swell around the simple bass line don’t seem top filling at first, but this is deceptive through the way that it’s filtered. It is like a space ship corkscrewing, and by this giving it a real momentous force. For Model 500, Juan does his own vocals. The looping vocal tells the listener ‘I wanna be there, be with you’ validates the track sounding as though it is trying to get to get to it’s destination at rapid speed. Wooden flute sounds flutter in and out, adding an extra layer of Detroit musicality to the track with it’s jazziness. It’s very heady, helping the track feel a sense of freedom like the space craft is weaving and out of the city scape. Continue reading