Paraphrasing the Soul Sonic Force and sorting through today`s releases for tunes that could have graced Alfie & Leo`s Amnesia dance floor.
Secousse and Hot Mule synergise, and shine, collaborating on a reissue of A.B. Crentsil’s sought after 1992 feel-good Burger Highlife hit, Obi Baa Wiase. Its whistling synth melody bouncing along on bright, uplifting, piano, the sublime production boasting both a soaring backing chorus, and some serious, serious guitar from Ralph Karikari.
Break Mode, the man behind that blinding ON-U-esque remix of Betamax a little while back, returns with a new track, Bob The Dub, on his own imprint, Bed Of Roses. Pretty piano echoes over a sparse 808-like beat, where it`s joined by a bouncing bionic bucolic arpeggio, and a swooning synthetic melody, that has something of The Cocteau Twins about it. Some very cool Soft Cell “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” clarinet (or is it a soprano sax?) then provides the pièce de résistance, soloing all over the top of this robotic romance.
Chris Coco ditches the “chillout” that he’s famed for, just for a second, and collaborates with Italy’s DJ Rocca on some mid-tempo house. The first results, the single, Your Sunshine, shimmies like a sunset reprise of an amalgam of everyones Chicago favourites. There’s the cowbell from The Nightwriters` Let The Music Use You, and that Juno b-line synonymous with Larry Heard / Mr Fingers` early work. Can you feel it? Yes, we can! Crazy P`s delightful disco diva, Danielle Moore, supplies the vocals. Her wistful whispers in duet with whistling woodwinds, feather-like flute. It`s a siren-like song, worthy of The Apple-era A Man Called Adam. A loved-up, blissed-out barefoot wander through your head. Dusty (Springfield) at Shoom, rather than Memphis, Muscle Shoals.
Chris also delivers a delicious dub, all gorgeous gated swells. Constantly rising, and promising to peak, and the digital E.P. serves to promo for both a forthcoming dance-floor directed album, plus a few promised CocoRocca summer parties.
This is a terrific 12 containing 5 varied boogie numbers, where the culprits, for now, will remain anonymous – although the clues are there if you look. Tempos increase across the quality quintet – from the gentle, jazzy, swaying, swooning, Paul Strange (imagine a female-fronted Steely Dan doing disco), to Wilson`s mix of orchestral and diva drama. Get It is an `80s “unclassic”, to rival Luther Vandross` chart-topping soulful sweetness. All rippling romantic piano, until it hits a rumbling, timbale, Set Fire To Me, rumba breakdown. Surge is a sleek 6-string jam. A jot of joyful jazz-funk, a light fantastic loop, full of dizzying dextrous details, and Loft party mirrorball magic. My personal pick, though, is Jesus Train, an uplifting offer of trip to a unified promised land, riding a cracking clipped rhythm guitar riff, and coming over a little like Cat Stevens cutting a Caribbean rug.
Calm`s Mellow Mellow Acid Remix of Gallo`s Abysso, originally appeared on Hell Yeah!`s second Buena Onda – Balearic Beats compilation, late last year. Tokyo`s King Of Chillout turning in an uncharacteristically menacing, lysergic, machine rumble, all be it softened in its second half by orchestral strings and showering keyboard sequences. Something of a sunset / sunrise suite, its classic arrangement is clearly a loving nod to Jose Padilla`s early / mid-90s Cafe del Mar heyday, and the tunes that the maestro collected on his first few comps for React. Calm`s rework is now paired with a dub deconstruction, which builds from the Roland b-line, and what sound like live drums, to a house 4 / 4 and some proper euphoric piano power.
Also on Hell Yeah! and also a far cry from the Italian imprint`s trademark cocktails at twilight tackle is My Friend Dario`s Sonica Jonica E.P. The title shot is a slow snarling electronic throb. A disorientating, dark, aural whirlpool. Marittimo is a house / samba hybrid, while Old But Gold is loopy boogie – ambient techno tones combining with groovy guitar, flute and bass-line, in a kinda future fusion. Acid Mosquito In A Summer Night starts out all muted, filtered, echoed, and full of dubwise rattle, before giving way to locked wah-wah licks and treated, fucked with, jazz samples.
The Machine Soul are straight outta Sweden and signed to Leeds label, Paisley Dark. Their number, Norra Linjen, couples an accelerating acidic arpeggio to a big room-shaking boom, while paying tribute to the EBM of Niter Ebb and Front 242. With a steam-punk jack hammer kick, metallic percussive clanking, and a little of Mark Moore`s S`Express in the melodic TB-303 workout, the breakdown is reminiscent of Human League`s Being Boiled.
Man2.0`s remix strips things back, and twists the acid tighter. TR-808 drum rolls rattle, like Plastikman`s Spastik, synths take their cues from John Carpenter. The Mindbender Rave Remake adds hissing graf spraycan high hats, as it pummels you into submission. The overall vibe is that of Weatherall`s Sabresonic, circa 1993 – somewhere between Effective Force and Abfarht.
Mauritian label, Babani Records, revive a 1977 single from Reunion Island outfit, Malaaz. Part of the Electric Maloya movement – documented a brilliantly by Strut – their Malaazé is cowbell clonking funky fusion. A boisterous, Brazil influenced, boogie from a tight tight, big band, it features great group vocals, slapped basses, wah-wah effects, and brass outbursts. This is out now, paired with the more orchestral, Lélé.
Arising from pre-pandemic sessions at Mental Overdrive`s Tromso studio Where? has psychedelic sanza sequences at its core. Electric kalimba, and echoed chants, like Tony Allen and Fela Kuti, flying like Carlton “Santa” Davis` cymbals through King Tubby`s high-pass filter. As it shuffles along it mixes in tech and house elements, but its actually beatless for all but the final minute of its duration. Manchester producer, Daco`s Afro Dub bounces along, adding clicking and clacking percussion, and short, sharp piano chords. Cal Gibson and Mark Limb, as BCB, deliver an extended mix of two halves. The first is a feather-light float on fogged, delayed, fragments – recalling the classic mid-90s Ninja Tune reworks by Mixmaster Morris and Susumu Yokota, commissioned for acts such as The Cinematic Orchestra and Coldcut themselves. The rhythm reduced to shaken percussion and mere suggestion. The odd euphoric explosion rocking the reverie of the hypnotized listener. The second dances to a more boisterous breakbeat.
Classy, authentic Italo vibes – created by Mr. Dug on his Korg DW8000 in honour of his neighbour, Il Bosco, of Manchester’s Red Laser Disco crew – where some cool drum-programming is countered by racing arpeggiated sequences, and a cute kinda popcorn popping melody. This is backed with a Version, which staggers the b-line and subjects the drums to deranged delay. Those dub effects eventually sending everything spinning. The results like some lost cocaine-crazed `80s New York freestyle flip-side.
Clandestino`s Nick J. Smith makes some impressive solo moves, while employing the moniker, Lone Saxon. Creating a quartet of cuts that all pay authentic homage to the arms-aloft dance music coming out of early `90s Italy – the sort of stuff collected by Young Marco on his wonderful Welcome To Paradise comps. Balancing buoyant 4 / 4s with birdsong and bongos, trippy gated sequences, and loon-like synths. Don’t Stop Enzo features sexy whoops and giggles. One Hot Night is slightly acidic, post-Sueno Latino, rave. Feelings, perhaps, will prove to be most folks favourite – the Amazonian screeching cast in a more tribal setting. Catchy woodpecker-like percussion punctuating the hypnotic thumping, and effectively forming the tune`s focus and hook. The one for me, however, is I Am The Ocean. Countering cowbell with a computerized celestial choir, and bewitching, magical, Rod McKuen-esque spoken prose, this builds to a climax of `89 pianos. It`s a blissed-out banger. Heavenly hippie house.
More beautiful Balearic-ally bent / leaning house can be found on Shades Of Sound, the label run by Nick`s Clandestino partner, Joe Morris. The imprint`s latest offering is an E.P. from Larry Quest. Titled Mystery Herd, much of it comes on like the Lisbon-based producer`s namesake, Mr. Fingers` soulful, sophisticated, `90s deep house-defining moments, pushed through a few of Basic Channel`s filters. The there are downtempo diversions, but its the more up ones that work best for me. Haliotis, for example, is dreamy and Detroit-tinged / toned, like a mellower vamp on Derrick Carter’s I’m Sorry. The opening Venus Girdle is accompanied by a Cafe del Mar sunset-worthy remix care of Joe.
Taken from last year’s Visions E.P., and previously remixed by Flamingo Flame, Statues` Lele receives a further three reworks. The first, by the band themselves, initially skips and then stomps, while surrounding singer, Laura Maidment`s ethereal exclamations with arpeggios a-go-go. Vanity Project combine chilled-out chimes and gentle TB-303 flexing. Topping things off with a smokey sax solo. Finally there`s a radical reconstruction from Ban Ban Ton Ton`s mate, Mikey “45 Turns” Sibson, who submits a seriously squelchy, almost industrial dub. Wickedly wobbly and wonky, he worries its broken slo-mo breaks with Fairlight fragments and clattering cowbell clusters.
Niklas Wandt hands over a hugely inventive, and idiosyncratic E.P. to Animals Dancing, the nature of which will come as no surprise to anyone aware of Niklas` music. Forget about genres and rules. Schlabberwasser starts out kosmische, pastoral even, eavesdropped dialogue mixing with post-rock guitar picking, but after a couple of sampled party “whoops!” it transforms into pumping prog-house. Whirling and reeling around a big dub bass-line. Barmy, potty, and playful. Im Verborgenen is a darker, druggier, chug. Gated gurgling and elastic oscillations adding to its disorientating air. This, together, with its spoken lyric, recalling a teutonic Daniele Baldelli spin – something by, say, Kowalski, or Moebius, Plank, and Neumeier. I Wandt To Believe is a bipolar boogie, a phased percussive workout, where dramatic, stabbing horror score synths are jump cut with eruptions, cascades of uplifting keys. Sleeker and smoother, the vocoder-ed 300CE is a more streamlined machine. A fusion-flavoured, racing, cops and robbers chase theme. Harold Faltermeyer`s Axel F meets the proto-Goan trance of Koto`s Visitors and Jahbada.
Wrekin Havoc quickly return with a second selection of steamy, sleazy Euro-disco edits. Where `80s R&B is looped into a hypnotic cosmic chugger – throbbing, sexy, satanic, spell-weaving, with crossroads 6-string licks running backwards – and sultry French swing beat-influenced pop whispers, À bout de souffle. The pick, for me, is Heavy Breathing, a no doubt costly cover-up that`s highly reminiscent of Mandy Smith’s I Just Can’t Wait, complete with cool & breezy jazz guitar. Keys make like bright brass fanfares, and there`s a snatch of skeleton bone xylophone. The constant click of castanets summoning memories of, making me wish for, a summer full of ecstasy and adventure. It`s also quite possibly also a little inspired by Yello`s The Race.
Coastlines – Yasmin`s Theme – Flower Records
A.B. Crentsil’s Ahenfo Band – Obi Baa Wiase – Secousse / Hot Mule
? – Jesus Train – Everything You’re About To Hear Is True
A Mountain Of One – Star – Amore
Marc Roberts – UNO – Moton
Cruisic – Pacific 707 – Flower Records
Wrekin Havoc – Heavy Breathing – Wrekin Havoc
Parkway Rhythm – Be Yourself – Parkway Records
Richard Sen – Lata Mangeshkar – Paisley Dark
Felix Dickinson – Calling The Shots – Spun Out
Mental Overdrive & Flash Atkins – Where (Daco`s Astrodub) – Paper Wave
Nick J Smith – I Am The Ocean – Lone Saxon
Cantoma – Alive (Conrad`s D And B Mix) – Highwood Recordings
Anatolian Weapons – Acid Research 20 – Byrd Out
Niklas Wandt – 300CE – Animals Dancing
Ruf Dug – Manctalo Banger – Spun Out
Kota Motomura – Paradise – Hobbes Music
Toro Instrumental – Dunas (Live) – Mother Tongue Records
Malaaz – Malaaze – Babani Records
Perrate – Boa Dona – Lovemonk