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
Mike Grant – My Soul, My Spirit (Mr G’s Freedom Train Mix)
Born in Derby but now local to London, Mr. G is a true legend of the game. With releases on Rekids, Defected, Bass Culture, Holic Traxx, as well as his own label Phoenix G, the number of his releases is astronomical. None of these come at the cost of quality however. Cassy best sums up his production style in her description of his remix of Fred P‘s ‘Mystery of Fantasy’. ‘He’s in between house and techno, so for me, whichever direction I want to go in, he gets me there. Often if I’m unsure what to play next, it’s the ever-reliable Mr. G I turn to‘ she told fabric. His productions are the archetype for those which straddle House and Techno, much like Radio Slave & Joris Voorn. In their Machine Love feature Resident Advisor crowned him as ‘the literal definition of tech-house‘. His sound is as tough & punchy as MMA fighter Anderson “The Spider” Silva on the world’s most potent steroids. G’s output is consistently heavy on the drums to keep the jack moving like a marching band. At times, upon first listen of some of his tracks you would be forgiven for thinking you were listening to any Detroit producer of the Rick Wade and Delano Smith cloth. This remix of ‘My Soul, My Spirit’ is yet another capstone of his treasured discography.
Released in 2003 on Grant’s own Mood & Grooves label, it was G’s second remix of the very same track. ‘The Struggle of My People (Mr. G’s There’s Hope Mix)‘ was an inspirational call echoing the pulpits sourced from the DJ booth. A preaching from the biblical text James 1 so to speak. ‘My Soul, My Spirit’ is an effigy on freedom. Sublime swelling horns radiate providing an instant buoyant air. Coming from a West Indian background, G has a love for heavy sound-systems. This can be heard on the tough as a nail sub-bass. A dedicated fan of Akai MPC’s and Korg MS2000’s, the hats are capacious and built for Big Room play. Speaking with Ibiza Voice about his time spent working in the Derby record shop R.E.Records, he recalls opening up to music styles that included jazz, blues, boogies, soul, funk and disco. Saturated in funk, the bassline is one that The Sylvesters or Boney M would be proud of. A stringed pad that floats on top adds rays of sunlight. The breakdown features a whispering female vocalist preaching about liberty that compliments a dolloping of arpped keys, before shuttling back into the kick and bassline. A truly uplifting track. Continue reading
Delano Smith – Dream Come True
Being in Ibiza over the summer, it was only natural to play some DC10 podcasts while lounging around the Ushuaia beachside. With John Dimas at the helm, I was sucker-punched once this track came up. Expecting to cop the L anyways, I Shazam’d fifty times to no avail. Recently, however after some serious digging on Soundcloud, I struck gold. It was none other than Delano Smith. The The Belleville Three are most well known in the Underground, but are not the only heavyweight trio to hail from The Motor City. Delano is part of Detroit Beatdown and The Beatdown Brothers. Consisting of himself, Norm Talley, and Mike ‘Agent X’ Clark the three fly the flag for the more deeper shade of Detroit. In an interview with Resident Advisor Delano defines Detroit Beatdown as being ‘Raw, minimal Groove’. Dream Come True exemplifies such perspective. The B2 on 3 tracker EP ‘Precipice‘, it was released on his own MixMode Recordings in 2012.
His label releases records that carry a dusty sound. ‘The Thesis‘, his EP with Derwin Hall being one such highlight that carries this aesthetic. Boomkat describes the Precipice EP record being ‘Solid, chuggy trax with that ounce of late night flavour – all warm chords and thick drums’. That’s certainly the case for the first two tracks. Delano flips the switch with this track though, as it is the chords that take the lead role. Speaking with Meoko, Delano’s claimed he is “looking to entertain the listener more with talent and artistry versus just beats and groove’. You can tell he’s got his ear in all the right spaces, as the chords truly hit the spot. Don’t get this mixed up – this is more of a tool than anything. Sitting on the same chord progression for a minute, it allows the DJ to mix it in with ease. This sets the tone for a late time City bar vibe with the jazzy saxophone samples. A unembellished bass note is plonked, seemingly satisfied to stay in the background. Metallically sheened chords of differing magnitudes reverberate. Yet it is the chords more than anything that win, rolling with decadence. Their potent rhythm would get the dancefloor swinging standing on its own.
Reflecting on the origins of techno, Delano claims the genre was born out of the electronic sounds of disco: Giorgio Moroder, Kraftwerk, Gino Soccio. Introduces to the cross Atlantic sounds by Electrifying Mojo, Smith was mentored by pioneer, DJ Ken Collier, who was the first to take whole parts out of tracks and layer others on top. This unquestionably birthed Delano’s desire to experiment. His first two releases came through using Yamaha RM1x and Motif, and to this day he’s maintained his fondness for analogue machines due to their retained rawness. This shines through in ‘Dream Come True’, revitalizing the very same authentic sound.
Danny Daze – Silicon
While many producers opt for a sound pallets which seamlessly compliment the kick, idiosyncratic production can often strike gold. Floridian DJ Daniel Gomez, better known by his stage name Danny Daze, has a special fondness for avant-garde computerised sounds, as shown in his FACT Magazine Against The Clock segment. Claiming in his interview with Electronic Groove that most of his “influences come from the melting pot that is Miami”, Daze ravels in versatility. His own catalogue is a testament to such approach. You can find releases ranging from his caliginous Hot Creations Deep House collaboration with Louisahhh to the synth-parading Kompakt anthem ‘Swim’. CRRSD describe his sounds as “esoteric and cerebral”. ‘Silicon’, Daze’s 2014 release on Jimmy Edgar’s Ultramajic imprint embraces such label with delight, a track that erupts like a typhoon onto the dancefloor.
A trembling bassline that interlinks with the hissing white noise ushering the intro of track hints at an upcoming zonked experience. The shredded yet deviant rhythm it brings is optimal for a peak-hour set of a spaced-out night. Heavily-indebted to the influence of Miami Bass, the thickset sound bridges the Miami-Detroit connection. ‘My girl is made of silicone‘ repeats an extraterrestrial voice you’d associate with a Green Velvet release. The “droning synths“, however, are the limelight of the track. Given unrestricted freedom to roam like a Pitbull with rabies, the stentorian frequencies squawk, shriek and squeal piercingly. The reverberate was most likely created using Roland JP-8080, a piece of hardware Daze told Music Radar he uses for the “drone” sound in his production. The merit of an electronic track with a consistent 4/4 beat opens up a sphere for layering textured experimentation. Halfway through, the producer tones the lower EQs down, granting the squelches the platform they deserve. Krautrockian pads daintily float for a few bars before the hammering kick resumes the party. Matthew Dear’s Audion alias is responsible for equally vanguard production. Continue reading
Moodymann – I Need You So Much (Runaway)
Moodymann, also known as Kenny Dixon Jr., is a prophet of Detroit. Motor City has long produced a line of father-figures for a music scene that craves substance. The Electrifying Mojo, Chez Damier & Theo Parrish, are just some of the names on the list. The spirit of Detroit combines spiritual essence with the stark contrast of the often harsh living conditions experienced by its people. Few have come close to infusing such soul through sampling in a majestic way as Kenny Dixon Jr. has. If you need proof just listen to ‘Ya Blessin’ Me‘ or ‘Sunday Morning‘. He’s graced stages worldwide from Rex Club to Dhërmi Beach in Albania, yet claims East Side of Detroit as his favourite place to visit. Moodymann’s ‘I Need You So Much (Runaway)’ came part of his acclaimed Black Mahogani album released back in 2004 on Peacefrog Records. A gentle reminder that the DJ behind the project is a guru of Deep House.
The track begins with crowd talking sampled from Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up‘. Dixon Jr. is well know to be a fan of the Soul singer, releasing a tribute track “The Day We Lost The Soul” in 1995. However, there’s also a connection to be made with Motown’s Detroit roots. After all, the genre takes its name after the Motor City. Moodymann is an ambassador for his city through and through. In fact in ’Forgotten Places’, he calls out the geographically local areas where he likes to hang out. The piano keys, saxophone and the bass guitar combine for what appears to be a Jazz improvisation at first. This a recurring feature of the producer’s releases, seen in his other tracks like ‘People‘. The DJ’s performances back home often integrate a live local band. However, a crisp kick here provides the rhythm that partners with what sounds like a man clapping in a bar to the beat. Roberta Sweed’s vocals are like honey running into your ears, melting into the wholesome atmosphere created. Finally, the producer stamps his mark as his own vocals give a shoutout to the lead vocalist. Extravagant yet soulful, the track is a gift from a talent blessed by the heavens above. Continue reading
Anthony Shakir – Travellers (Mrsk Remix)
Secretsundaze is a party & label synonymous with the deeper spectrums of House. Run by James Priestly and Giles Smith it has forever been pioneering sounds. Whether that be at one of their parties at Pickle Factory or Oval Space (originally it was at 93 Feet East), or through their label as Two Armadillos, they know their stuff. Speaking with Hardlife they state, ‘Its very important for us to get across that timeless element, that’s very much something we strive for with the label.’ On their 10th Year Anniversary CD (and Gile’s Little White Earbuds podcast), the aforementioned cut appears, certainly compatible with that. Anthony ‘Shake’ Shakir is one of the forefathers of House, and here he gets the remix treatment from Swedish artist MRSK. One half of the duo The Fishermen, MRSK delivers a deep but gnarling weapon.
It must be a big ask not to mess up one of the inventors of Techno. Opening up on the original a vocal tells how travelling across the world showed that music was the language of all. A downtempo number, tt’s whisks of streaky noises, ambient tones and future-Jazz sax give it that classic Motor City vibe. It’s an albatross cruising leisurely. Completely flipping it, MRSK pays homage by certainly making the listener travel, but like a Hawk. Dubby bass blasts the ear cavern engineered so well, you could even just leave loop as a tool. Similar vibe to an Enzo Siragusa or Fuse London Artist. Rubbery bass-synth stabs are then followed by some sublime synth work. What they both do well in synergy is reverberate back off each other causing trepidation. Stringed and airy ambient synths are slowly introduced building real tension, before a serious of flash-in-the-pan synths light the show up. Continue reading
Seth Troxler – Love Never Sleeps
Seth’s output isn’t as strong these days but there was a time when he released banger after banger. ‘Trust‘, the Tech-House bomb with Tiefscwarz unfurled tribalism Luciano is now more associated with. ‘Hurt‘, in collaboration with Matthew Dear aka Audion although Emo Minimal, brings an essence of soul. This track however is straight into the realms of Brian Eno alternate reality. One listen is all it will take to go into another realm. Dropped in 2008 on Crosstown Rebels, ‘Love Never Sleeps’ keeps a Minimal blue print but heavily nods towards the Deep House leanings that was welcomed with aplomb towards the end of the 00s. Seth is a Tier 1 headline act these days you can guarantee will play at Burning Man & TomorrowLand. However a regular at Circo Loco DC10, Time Warp, Sonar, Fabric (often doing a b2b with Craig Richards) & Romanian Minimal Festival Sunwaves, the big stage performances have never taken the polish off his underground roots. This is most displayed in this track.
Coming from Detroit, you know that hypnotism is going to be present. Even just the drawl itself is hypnotic. First Heard on a Nic Fancuilli Global Underground CD, I was fascinated by its charm from the start. Heavy-knit bass plays buoyantly in a simple 2-note pattern. It’s thwacked with the loud thump of an Osunlade or Green Velvet cut. Scraps of warped synths hack at the track. Groaning with the growl of a pissed off blue wale, the synths are cinematic. Picture watching a Mission Impossible and the shot panning across a city with a countdown to the end of the world. They instil a sense of dread throughout the track. Various chopped vocals are on display. All short and all ghostly. The first two sound like a man high on Nos, saying ‘Let’s go’ and ‘Never Mind’. The second is an Aretha Franklin female lifting swirling ‘ahh’s’ in the air. It’s said as though the listener is stuck in a dream-like state of David Lynch creation. The whole concoction makes it feel as powerful as voodoo with the way it bewitches.
Matthias Agyuo spoke on the state of mid-00s mnml in his monumental hit, DJ Koze’s remix of. ‘Minimal’. ‘Got no grooves, got no balls’ he sang. This track however see’s a real shift away from that accusation. It must’ve been as fresh as fresh cut grass. His ventures with Lee Curtis, Shaun Reeves and Ryan Crosson as Visionquest saw further musical exploration. These days, he’s not making much music, having to balance his packed out tour schedule with the running of his Shoreditch BBQ restaurant Smokey Tails. If he is, it’s usually as Tuskagee with the Martinez Brothers. More would be good.
Junior Boys – Like A Child (Carl Craig Remix)
In the 00s Carl Craig really could do no wrong. Which hits such as Sandstorms, At Les and Throw under his Paperclip People guise already under his belt, it was difficult to think anything could top them. And then his 2005 remix of Theo Parish’s Falling Up got dropped. Just as Spin Magazine called it, the track was more in sight on DJ setlists than cretins on a Fabric dancefloor at 7am on a Sunday. Then when you thought he could top it along comes this weapon. Released in 2007 his remix of the Junior Boys track was an absolute monster. Originally a slowed indie electronic track, the Planet E Communications boss uses his genius, expanding certain elements and dubbing it out to craft yet another ubiquitous hit. He once stated ‘the Carl Craig stuff is a new, ambient, avant garde concept that comes directly from being how Carl Craig is.’ Like A Child, Carl is innovative, encompassing all of these concepts and it shines most on this track.
It’s embodies other Minimal tracks of the 00s. Emptied out like a supermarket in a flood, it’s stripped to the bare bones. Starting off with single note percussion that pings back and forth, you realise this was intentional. The track is one that crescendos with the ascendence of a 120m hill on a 30% gradient. Taken from the original, the bleeps hit at pace played like a looped 8-bit arcade machine. Minor chord stabs, play in 3 note decent, before a 4 note hit on the end of the beat. At the same time panning apps sounding like they’re from the X-Files sweep in adding to the bizarreness. Carl uses the wispy vocals of the first half of the originals to set things up by adding in the kick. Then half way through the 10 minute journey, a dubbed out muddied modulation underpins the whole thing. It’s more hypnotic than Uri Greller. The bass is then given the lead role ensuring the dance-floor is still swaying, with quick ghostly snippets, before bringing the bleeps and arps back in.
DJ Linus – K.B.s Groove (Kris Wadsworth Love Letter to House Remix)
Kris Wadsworth’s reputation as a top tier producer needs no question. The pop, crackle & snap of the lower notes on one of the monumental tech-house tracks of the 2010’s ‘Lime & Pink‘ hit every ear cavern in a way which had as much of an impact as Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange did for the RnB scene. As anyone would, were you to discover such an intoxicating squelches, you’re bound to make a brother, sister or two. One of the highlights is his remix of DJ Linus’ K.Bs Groove, released in 2012 on Initials. The track, as the lead vocal states is electrifying.
The low-pitched male vocal on this track sounds like a evil villain featured in a Japanese manga hailing from another dimension. KW lets it play out saying ‘When I feel good, I think of you, then I touch the sky’. A flat single note underpins this before it precedes to tell you ‘It’s Hades Groove, it’s your groove.’ There’s likely never been a more haunting voice in dance music. It effortlessly exuberates suave however, once the squelchy lines start teasing you. If you’ve heard Lime & Pink one cannot help to start wincing, knowing what’s about to hit you. Mixed-in is a different sequence with same low-end bounces that are like a huge rubber bands being strummed by a giant orc. It offers more squelch than marches towards Mordor in Lord of the Rings. KW is equally an impressive Deep House producer. His use of a shadowy deep synth on the top makes this track truly statuesque. Continue reading
Aux 88 – Direct Drive (Original Mix)
Detroit Electro is a scene deserving of an academic module itself. An offshoot of the iconic city’s techno second wave, the subgenre offers some of the rawest pulsating bangers. Aux 88, a fellowship of Tom Tom (Tommy Hamilton) and Keith Tucker (DJ K1) hold a strong claim to its crown. Search ‘Detroit Electro’ on Google and you’ll find that the first result is Tucker’s essentials guide to the genre. Released by the criminally underrated Direct Beat label, ‘Direct Drive’ is a historic artefact of the duo’s legacy.
Original released in 1995, the track is an alchemy of Miami Bass and Detroit techno. With a BPM close to 140, oscillating energy pounds to the core of the inner bone. One of the first things you come to notice is the combination of the thrumming hi-hats and Southern Rap influenced claps. Sinister soundscapes reminiscent of an Italian giallo movie synergise with a thumping bassline deserving of a Need For Speed track-listing. ‘Trans Europe Express‘ is undeniably a direct influence here, however, Aux 88 add an element of inner city grittiness. Its no wonder that the resulting track is highly sought after by DJs old and new. Continue reading