Active Ingredients proffer party-starting hip-hop. There’s Boogie Angst from Frenchman Georges. James Bright gets balearic. Bruise, brother, can they play that piano. Clive From Accounts launches his own label. DJ Oji teams up with Tracy Hamlin for some proper healing house. Felipe Gordon goes deep for Razor-N-Tape, whose JKriv moonlights for Holland`s Heist. Junktion delivers the disco. Milton Jackson returns to Freerange. Opolopo overhauls Local Talk`s back catalogue, while Norway`s finest give Third Attempt`s recent releases a good / great going over. Uzu Moon shines for Fluid Funk. Everything, but everything, gets The Insider`s big dance-floor thumbs up.
All selections and words by The Insider.
Originally written by Beyonce’s younger sibling, Solange, and released on her 2016 album, the lyrics of Cranes In The Sky explore the artist`s failed attempt to distance herself from a past love. The new version was happened upon by Foundation Music boss man, and NTS regular, Ross Allen, while he was strolling down the boardwalk in Coney Island. House heads will know We Lift Our Hands In The Sanctuary by the Baltimore underground legend DJ Oji, who on this new rework, gets together with Tracy Hamlin – vocalist with Philly Jazz fusion ensemble Pieces Of A Dream – to bring us a funky Club version of Solange’s’ already stunning original. The soulful vocals will heal you, while the mid-tempo moments will also mellow the masses, and UK Funky grooves will keep the shuffle moving along, way into the early hours.
Boogie Angst is the solid Dutch label run by Kraak & Smaak, and this month they bring fresh talent to the roster in the shape of rising French producer Georges. This funky bass and key playing studio boffin kicks the E.P. off with Karma. The track reaks of those hazy mornings at an Adriatic festival after an up all-night naughty. It’s a slo-mo, tops off, windows down, Cadillac roller with its sweet piano stabs and sexy vocal sample. A syncopated jazz-funk opener. Now That You’re Gone features vocals from Lovebirds` I Want You In My Soul legend Stee Downes, with his unmistakable tone, and uplifting disco swing set over the infectious and no-nonsense piano. There’s also a Dub for those who prefer to leave Stee’s vocal aside. But what would you do that for? Back To FM is another sparkling disco anthem – from the start, it`s off, with roaring trumpets and funky bass. There’s actually boss bass lines for days on these never-ending grooves , once again from the relentless Boogie Angst.
JAMES BRIGHT / ONE WISH / SVEVA MUSIC
Mancunian composer and sound wizard, James Bright, is back on Sveva Music with the spellbinding One Wish E.P. The title cut features Danish artist Malo, who’s vocal takes you back to a sweet time in Ibiza, say around ‘92. It opens all beautifully Balearic and smooth, but later morphs into a more hectic acid trip. We’ve all been there! Bright again constructs terrifically textured mid-tempo moments with Moondance. Its infectious bassline plays out, while piano stabs and celestial strings make for a perfect transitional tool to move on up the tempos. On The Nameless, driving synths and vocal chants are joined by marimba, adding a tropical twist to the tribal dance. E.P. closer, Neptune Blue, dives into the magenta, as the drums tease around warm pads that highlight Bright’s refined attention to delicious detail.
This Bogota native is back again, this time on Brooklyn’s Reserve imprint of Razor-N-Tape – the sub label is JKriv and Aaron Dae’s space for all things original. Colombia’s hottest export, Felipe Gordon, seems to be firing out releases in all directions, with efforts on Shall Not Fade and Heist Recordings up close. Keeping the quality high, the Clasico four-cutter kicks off with the swinging Strings Of The Afterlife, conjuring up big Prescription Records vibes, while Fall Of A Withered Empire goes deeper and melancholic. The E.P., for me, peaks with the title cut and its relentlessly hypnotic synth loop. Closer, Julia y Luis, gently seduces with its wistful trumpet touches, riding us out into the sensual sunset. With his effortless combinations of jazz, acid and deep house, this producer is making worldwide waves right now.
CLIVE FROM ACCOUNTS / THE ALAN E.P. / INCOME TRAX
Hot on the heels of his Strictly Business E.P., Clive From Accounts proves again, that he ain’t no regular producer. The amount of genius it took to make this record is nothing short of ridiculous! The office bloke comes boldly down the corridor to the boardroom and smacks this on the table. Born out of his obsession with the ‘Alan Partridge Show’, it’s made entirely of samples lifted from the `90s TV series. From slamming doors to banging draws, from car horns to the Black Beauty theme, weaving a blanket of curious but richly textured sound across the five minutes of Alan A. Second cut, Alan B, is my own highlight, with its dark and dubby broken beat, smothered in sirens and robotic breaks. The wonked-up Linton TT is a genre-bending gem with leftfield bass and acid lines. This is all housed on new label, Income Trax, created by Clive as a home for his eccentric ideas and brilliant madness!
This is a family affair, since Ramrock Red is the label run by Jo Wallace – Ashely Beedle’s “better half – that hosts this single from Aussie producer, Inkswel, and original bad boy Atlanta MC, Stan Smith, produced under their new moniker, Active Ingredients. Inkswel has been prolific on Atjazz Records, demonstrating a knack for fluid broken beats and hip-hop flavours, while Stan has worked the mike for with Daz-I-Kue on Tokyo Dawn Records. Together this transatlantic pairing delivers their first outing, full to the brim with bounce and swagger. The E.P. contains seven generous variations on the original party starter, where Smith’s lyrics flow over a classic NYC “hip-hop come hip-house” beat. North Street West production trio of Ashley, Jo, and studio wizard, Darren Morris, go all Philly for their vocal, “clean”, dub and instrumental versions.
Production squad of the moment, Bruise, are back on Ross Allen’s Foundation Music with another dance-floor bomb, entitled When Pianos Attack. Their signature sound is instantly recognisable, where swinging beats, layered keys, lavish orchestration, and hosts of heavenly, soulful, choirs, all come together to form this massive cut. Horse Meat Disco dropped it last weekend at Homobloc, and apparently the crowd went off like a Mexican space piñata at New Year! This celestial house monster is another killer from the North London collective, where chunky beats, punchy pianos, and slinky strings make for another giant peak time treasure.
There’s something about this E.P. that opens me up like a tin of peaches. Dutch imprint, Fluid Funk, are into their second year as they continue with their quality roll, presenting Uzu Moon and the beautifully titled Paradise Forever. Moon is a new name, based in the Netherlands, and of Japanese descent. This elegant producer delivers four delectably smooth cuts across this emotionally charged release. Asa sets the scene, with piano stabs that chime along alongside a r&b vocal sample, while acid lines play around with bits of jazzy broken beats. Sunder, Love gets a remix from Shall Not Fade affiliate, Cody Currie, who revs up the original and takes it direct to the dance-floor. But I have to say the that OG of of this track pulls it out of the bag, with its funked-up synths and guitar solo, a la Santana. It’s just so good! As it rolls to a close, 303 squelches are placed in all the right spaces to make this work a treat. When I Get Home, I’ll Know Its Over gets ya straight in the feels, and that’s just the title! Koto-esque colour, resonance, drums and acid loops weave a melancholic mood that will tug at your heart strings and make you think of long lost failed loves. It’s a real beauty this – probably Fluid Funks best so far.
Mad Mats and Tooli head up the mighty Swedish house imprint, Local Talk, and have been wowing the house scene with high grade business since 2011. Clocking up over 200 releases, they must be bloody good at it! Inviting one of Scandinavia’s most prized exports, Opolopo, to poke around their vaults and pull out some beauties for the tweak. With releases on a Tru Thoughts, Z Records, Om, Sony, Tokyo Dawn, this studio don injects the maximum dose of funk, and disco, into these already triumphant tracks. Laying down his trademark sound and infectious groove with plenty of panache. Making this a monster package that’ll have you thinking Christmas has come early. Highlights include the opener, Testify – by Jamie 3:26 & Masalo – Opolopo’s tweak of the late and the great Soulphiction’s Bizzness, and Kiko Navarro’s rolling, deep, Dope High. But its Opolopo`s take on Soul Renegades Craig Smith and Ricky Reid’s Speak To Me which is the showstopper.
Expanding their roster, Heist Recordings bring on board two fresh faces. Razor-N-Tape head honcho, Jkriv gets together with New York scenester and Underground System frontman, Peter Matson, on the Bigtime E.P. This record fits so well on discerning disco dancefloors – with its afro disco Secret Squirrel vibe! Ewesse Ye opens with a cosmic bang, and loads of cowbells – the flow of Cameroonian star, Samy Love, floating on top. Heist invite global sound artist Auntie Flo to step up to the remix plate. Flo adds marimba, and layers up the vocals, flipping the OG like a Dutch pancake into a deep and dark afro-tech monster. New Friend will get you right in the Balearics with its cosmic synths and touch of Italo disco greatness a la Alexander Robotnik. The fourth, and title, cut on this unexpected curve ball of an E.P., Bigtime, brings out the big brass horns for an absolute belter – kicking sitters out of their seats, sending them stomping onto the dancefloor.
Continuing to make heavy impressions with heads at the tender age of just 23, the depth of knowledge and skill of Third Attempt is nothing short of staggering. He’s one of those rare producers who gets that little hidden nexus between broken beat, techno, jazz, disco, and electro. Consistently dropping bombs, his fans include Ron Trent, Ron Basejam, Bill Brewster, and Paper Recordings` Ben Davis. Citing his inspirations as Floating Points, Four Tet and LTJ Bukem, this young dynamo has set the bar high. Based in Oslo, he`s signed to cornerstone Norwegian imprint Beatservice, and this month he brings us the last installment of his ‘Quarantine’ works. With rerubs from Oslo shock squad Kim Young ILL and Duv Tales, Henrik Villard, Tromsø’s Keecen, Reidar Bruun, Ribbish and Jose. High point of the album to check is by Oslo-based Bulgarian, Ivaylo – the man behind Bogota Records, and label manager for Prins Thomas. His Dypmiks remix of Images. Frantic percussion whips and jacks while piano stabs drive the melody, and acid bass makes the groove pop. From trip-hop to acid, from jazz to ambient, from deep house to disco, to downright dirty basement jams, Third Attempt continues the lineage of the Norwegian luminaries Todd Terje, Prins Thomas, and Bjørn Torkse. It’s 10/10 here!
Junktion makes a welcome return to our ear space with his Tributes E.P. on Outplay Records – the label he co-runs with Daniel Leseman. Real name Hans Peeman, Junktion is one half of much-loved Dutch duo, Fouk, that everyone wants to take home to meet their mums. Outplay`s been at it since 2012 and was originally created solely as a home for Fouk and Junktion’s own releases. The label later snared quality coups from Laurence Guy, Clive From Accounts and Loz Goddard. Junktion has taken a little break while Fouk has been stealing the limelight, but he’s back in December with four fresh-as a new pair of kicks cuts. Just A Disco Thing is a perfect example of how this producer does the disco funk hybrid like no other. It’s loose and funky with welcome rough edges in contrast to so many super clean records of this same leaning today. Real To Me has a perfect combination of modern pump and swishy Salsoul orchestration, while the twisted groove of I Got Somebody will give you a warm rush of love all over. The delicious and dreamy spaced-out vibe of Tribute closes this outstanding E.P. It’s a labyrinthine of loops to lose yourself to underneath the shiny Christmas disco mirror ball.
Milton Jackson is back on Freerange Records with a quintet of pure quality. And how good is it to see Midlothian’s finest sharing his formidable talents once again? Remember kicks off with its driving, weaving rhythm, and lush synth chords, while the crunchy rolling beat of Lockdown Love will fill you with positivity and lift you up. Dropping the tempo, Adriatica goes heavy on the sparkling Rhodes, its key changes and strings will have you in goosebumps and transport you to the sunshine on the top deck of the HMS Argonaughty. Birdsong is one for the nimble dancers, with its full on tropical groove. Closing cut, Miami Voice, will make us lose ourselves in the music, like that analog beauty from years gone by. Call it deep house or Balearic chug, Milton is the absolute master of emotionally manipulating mood and melody. It’s beautifully rhythmic, evocative, and downright f*****g lush. Get in there Glasgow!
Selections from all these releases can be heard on Saturday – 8 til 9PM Japan time, from midday GMT – when The Insider will be my very special guest on The Remedy, care of FM Karuizawa 77.5 MHZ. Following broadcast, the show will be archived on Mixcloud.