We can certainly resonate with the curators of XLR8R. Their Best of 2018: Tracks featured some of the most endearing releases of this decade. Traumprinz’s DJ Healer robotic Ambient cut ‘Great Escape‘. Leon Vynehall’s experimental downtempo ‘Envelopes (Chapter VI)‘. Hypnotically intricate Sublee’s ‘Irealis‘. The rerelease of So Ingawa’s minimalist ‘Logo Queen‘. All of these tracks carry a common thread of dreamy warmth. One of the highlight tracks on the list which struck a chord above all others was Abacus’ ‘Basic Amounts’. Also known by his real name as Austin Bascom, it’s the DJ and producer’s first release since 2011. As XLR8R says, with the recent years of drought ‘you’d be hard pressed not to think he was retired’. Abacus’ first releases came from Chicago-based labels. Ron Trent and Chez Damier’s Prescription Label and Guidance were the outlets of his earliest releases. The Toronto-native’s discography also bolsters more soulful cuts under his A:xus alias, eventually leading him to start his own Re:Think Recordings. Tracks like 1995’s ‘Decadent Dub‘ on Derrick May’s Fragile showcase his exemplary skill to bring danceability. Released over 20 years later, ‘Basic Amounts’ shows that Bascom’s still got more than enough left in the tank.
Distributed by James Duncan’s (of Metro Area fame) ripping Innermood Label, the track fits right at home. Each of the label’s release so far has carried a semblance of the old-school, with majestic use of soulful samples. Abacus’ cut opens up with with various criss-crossing vocal samples that bring about a solicitous emotion. 5mag describes the track as having ‘full, rich drums filling up the speakers like they’re just poured on in there, an Afro-Latin flavor that serves as the pendulum swing for Abacus’ hypnotic vibes.’ The producer’s Chicago influence shines on a ten note organic bassline that dawdles with nonchalance, sounding like it was played on a Clavinet. Rootstrax ‘Harlequin‘ comes to mind. Horn-like pads that you’d find on a Rick Wade cut bring an uplift. Compressed and abstract, the synths transcend into the metaphysical, expanding the space of the frequencies. Wiggling rigorously like a 303 line, yet bringing a mellow touch of tenderness. The end result is a perspicuous concoction which achieves its aim to bewitch the dancefloor. Continue reading →
Marshall Jefferson – Open Our Eyes (Marshall’s Elevated Dub)
Everyone in the underground scene has come across Marshall Jefferson’s ‘Move Your Body‘ before. The anthem, a definitive Trax Records release lead by Curtis McClain’s vocals, embodies the free spirit of 1980s Chicago House scene. At times, referred to as the Godfather of House Music, Jefferson unquestionably was pioneer heavily involved with the nurturing of its early progress. Being a friend and collaborator of Frankie Knuckles, and the producer behind DJ Pierre’s groundbreaking ‘Acid Tracks‘ EP project are just some of the extracts from his CV. His 1988 release on the New York label Big Beat Records ‘Open Your Eyes’ offers a more gossamer take on production.
The track is an exhibition of a polished Jefferson drum programming, with the producer noted to have been an enthusiast of the Roland TB-303 back in the 80s. The profuse bass line used sounds very similar to Mr Fingers’ (aka one of the father’s of Deep House Larry Heard) 1985 release ‘Mystery of Love‘ that has more recently been sampled by Kanye West in his track ‘Fade‘ featuring Post Malone. The innocuous, yet poignant lyrics repeat ‘Open Our Eyes, Give Us The Light‘. The Elevated Dub offers a crunch that is more club-ready for a a crowd that have gathered for a shared communion of dance. Continue reading →
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 →