Paraphrasing the Soul Sonic Force and sorting through today`s releases for tunes that could have graced Alfie & Leo`s Amnesia dance-floor.
Boy, but there was a ton of brilliant Balearic business either released or announced while I was away. I’m now back, currently clearing inboxes and physical mailboxes, attempting to address stuff in some kind of chronological order. Thank you! to everyone who continues to send music. If you’re not in here, please hold off on the hate mail, time permitting, I’m planning a Part 2…
Ammonite is teaser for a forthcoming album`s worth of fresh material from Sally & Steve, A Man Called Adam. Named after a fossil, this is anything but. Thumping along to a wonky 4 / 4, while morphing modular sequences take on a steel pan tone, and glide into giddy glissando. In the background there`s this nagging kinda wild pitch thing going on, so, together, the results sound like DJ Pierre French Kiss-ing Stephen Encinas` Lypso Illusion. Dancers can grab a breather as the track breaks down to hand claps, sampled poetry / prose, and softly strummed guitar, but it`s only mere moments before the music’s back generating more (dance-floor) power.
Baldo – Groove Radiance – Physical Education
Barcelona-based Baldo brings 2 tasty tracks into the world, on Physical Education. 1998 sets keys, chords, snares and kick spinning – again – in wild pitch-esque orbits. Battling with a big TB-303 bottom end, and a cleverly chopped Apache loop. Remixers, Liquid Earth, deliver something more broken. Fixed on the syncopation, their take is a sort of futuristic jazz-funk. Hotplay gets it on like a musical history lesson – tapping into both `80s and `90s New York. Mixing freaky freestyle with dangerous garage dubs. Boasting gated swells and Musto & Bones breaks, it`s both boisterous and energetic. Panorama Bar resident, Paramida, then swaps those NYC vibes for the Mediterranean, on her Hot Pants re-work . Taming the track with a warm, loved-up, classic Italian house glow, bongos, congas, and saucy Sueno Latino whispers. A vinyl only (unless you fancy coughing up 1000 Euros for files – it`s good, but not that good : ), all 4 forays employ nostalgic cues – for OG ravers – but take them somewhere refreshing and new.
Belfast`s Black Bones rock up for a limited 45 on Gothenburg’s Höga Nord Rekords. The rhythmic ritual rumblings of Nairobi Night Train summon the spirits, the dark downtempo “disco” and drum (machine) circle dynamics, of Dusseldorf`s Salon de Amateurs, and the Durian Brothers. The track topped by a surprisingly pop keyboard melody. On the flip, F.A.D., is a contrasting moment of uptempo techno, whose flickering frequencies are eventually overtaken by buzzing EBM bass detonations, and fierce, metallic, increasingly intense, Front 242 machinations.
James Bright and Joe Morris team-up for a 4-tracker on Joe’s Shades Of Sound. Evenfall spins harp-like sequenced swirls over a classy calm of congas. Their tide-like lapping eventually assisted by delayed drum machine clicks and claps – recalling Art Of Noise`s Camilla, The Old Story, or, in fact, any of the classics from the ZTT act`s essential Ambient Collection. Echo Bay is a similarly chilled, robotic reggae lilt, rippling with reverb, but in contrast, the title cut, New Island Sound bangs and rattles along, with its Rasta, ragga, samples, and whistled melody. The tune`s alternative Dawn Chorus Mix, is a beatless, bubblebath-like atmosphere of birdsong and synthesized sunrise orchestration. A Jamdown-influenced meditation that made me think of Big World`s former DJ Harvey favourite, Morning Light.
I’ve been a huge fan of everything that the Brothers Lee, Simon & Robin, have done with ex-Orange Juice man, Zeke Manyika. This E.P. is the latest in their ongoing fruitful collaboration. The title track, Maswera, rides a soca, carnival rhythm. Bouncing, jumping along to rumbling sub-bass like some souped-up zouk, bionic, buoyant, burger highlife. Zeke`s vocal harmonies dancing between blasts of Cuban brass and timbale solos. Bursting with an Arthur Baker meets the Gipsy Kings Balearic dance-floor energy. On the flip, Rugare straddles a more straight forward 4 / 4, and offers chants that evolve into song. Afro disco, proto-house, the infectious cut`s carried by clipped guitar, a piercing synth hook, and showered in dubwise sound effects.
Good Block have a couple of cool cuts, presented in a total of 4 live mixes. Reggae-infused numbers, that draw, take, toke, heavy influence from the mid-90s releases of digital dub artists such as The Disciples, Bush Chemists, and the recently reissued Ambient Warrior. The tunes, Naiad and Dryad take their names from Greek mythology. Water and wood nymphs, respectively. The opening sonic textures surrounding the former are suitably aquatic, before being hit with a galloping beat. Blasts of dubwise brass acting as a cue for the track to start seriously skanking. Quickly becoming a racing, rapid rockers, whose lithe live bass-line gives its undertow a post-punk edge. A second, alternative, mix is much slower, spaced-out. Dryad is also set at a calmer Caribbean clip, and again built around that bass guitar. Ancient woodwinds waft around, and the whole thing`s sorta Shriekback. Drum machines rattle, and disembodied dubbed-out chants add a nice Nyabinghi twist. The “Alt. Mix” in this case loses the b-line completely, and dips into trip hop territory. Showered in sound effects and following in the footsteps of African Head Charge`s severely stoned psychedelic funk.
Milan’s Apparel Music launches its “live” offshoot, Red, with a tune from Gambian griot, Haruna Kuyateh. Taught to sing and play by his grandparents when still a small child, Haruna fled his homeland, for political reasons. Travelling across deserts to Libya, eventually settling in Italy, where he teaches and performs on his chosen instrument, the kora. Haruna collaborated recently, for example, with Gerardo Frisina. The track, Kora Foo, is all virtuoso plucking and playful percussion, its cyclical groove also featuring some great Tuareg guitar. The high spirited vibe super reminiscent of Mory Kante`s Ye Ke Ye Ke (before Martyn Young worked his acid house magic), and it goes perfectly with the aforementioned Faze Action / Zeke Manyika release.
Pete Herbert reopens his Music For Swimming Pools – just in time for summer and the current heatwave – with a quartet of eclectic crackers, on a E.P. entitled Far Flung. The name perhaps a nod to the tunes` varied influences – from Dear Hector`s mix of dub techno and disco, to the futuristic jazz-funk of Early One Evening. There`s the chilled-out “chants & marimba” magic of South Seas, while the title track is treated to 3 takes. Pete’s is Mediterranean in mood, full of funky guitar and house anthem piano. Fellow travellers, In Flagranti, then filter, phase, and fuck with dancers, before unleashing that arms-in-the-air Joanna. Gold Suite`s contrasting “Re-String” is a sublime sunset / sunrise reprise.
“Bound to a classic Chicago house drum pattern, bongos, and a bulbous, almost acidic, bass, free-flowing frequencies – rushing like a mountain river – cleanse your dancing mind. Gently stabbing strings puncture this peace, while a clipped rhythm guitar then struts, cuts a near ska skank. Synths finally taking fusion flight, as Quinn`s soulful, pleading, falsetto begs a leaving lover to stay.”
Well, that`s I had to say about Quinn Lamont Luke’s Loft-inspired, Don’t Run Away, when it was first released last year, on El Triangulo. Chris Coco`s now licensed the tune, and remixed it for inclusion on his, and Matt Nearest Faraway Place`s Chillout Tent compilation. Keeping the soaring synths, but considerably mellowing the song out. Creating a deep fluttering dream-like twilight groove, behind Quinn`s heartfelt blues.
Ayman Rostom, aka The Maghreban, promo`s his new, incredibly eclectic album Connection, with the single, Waiting. A collaboration with UK soul legend, Omar Lye-Fook – the man behind Talkin Loud`s timeless 1990 hit, There`s Nothing Like This – the track finds the 2 digging for `80s rave roots. Mixing an Adonis-like bass-line with moody Master C&J synths, slowed-down sleazy (D) vocals back Omar`s anguished lead. Snapping snares driving a dance that honours the heritage of British pioneers – Bang The Party, Julian Jonah, Danny “Mechanik” Spencer, Rivrok & Moorrok, Debbie Malone & Ritchie Rich (Music that you can find compiled on Richard Sen`s excellent This Ain`t Chicago). The sound of illegal smoke and strobe-filled warehouses, RIP parties at The Clink. Lawless ecstasy-fueled abandon. Where the titular, lyrical “waiting” is a hope that fortunes will change. Echoing a whole generation, raised in Thatcher’s Britain, offered only the dole and / or a dead-end. The disenchantment and disaffection, the just about had enough, that sparked that second summer of love.
A touching tribute to the late Lord Sabre from D:Ream main man, Al Mackenzie – who must have spun, and partied, shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Weatherall so many, countless, times. The opening muted chimes paint the picture of a distant horizon, where hope might be a little dimmed, but resolve still stands strong. This, then, gives way to arpeggiated electro, a gated groove. The ceremony slowly supplemented with stubborn militant snares, as the spirit of Smokebelch, and echoes of acid house, hove into view. The former showering in sad cascades, as Al, choir-boy-like, pays his respects with the chorus, “Sail On.” A piano is added to epic, hymn-like, effect. A brass fanfare sounding before the song finally surrenders, succumbs, to the crashing of surf and waves. All proceeds from the release are going to charity. Get on board.
Celebrated Israeli, Tel Aviv-based, rock band, Minimal Compact, have their cult classic, Statik Dancin` re-released by Fortuna. Originally signed to Brussels label, Crammed Discs, the song appeared as part of the group’s debut mini-LP, in 1981. The OG is a spiky slice of ESG-esque post-punk funk. Guitar ringing, sax free-jazz honking and skronking. The rhythm, awkward, off-kilter, and angular, in a Talking Heads / Crosseyed And Painless way.
The reissue features a marvelous, extended, Mad Professor mix. Stripped back to percussive woodblock loops and a bold b-line pulse, the clipped, crackling 6-string action is subtracted, swapped for fancy use of feedback, echo and delay dropouts. To be honest, I’m not sure if this version excursion was something done at the time, and shelved, or recently commissioned – like Dennis Bovell`s dynamite dubs of the Pop Group – but either way its brilliant.
Dreams is drum-machine-driven, slo-mo, soul. Produced in 1989 by Inner City keyboardist, Art Forest. A divine Detroit artifact, rescued, revived, by Gary Abugan at Invisible City Editions. Strings and chimes give the song a soft-focus, loved-up feel, while vocalist, Shawn Pittmann, truly soars. There`s a remix, which if anything, is even sleeker. Shawn fragmented and echoed, her chorus now an ethereal wash. All this sonic seduction is countered by I’m Losing Control – a banging, crashing bit of uptempo dance that`s like Nona Hendryx fronting Material, meets Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam. Both new wave and electro edged. The accompanying Extended Bass-ment Club Mix tames this a tad by snapping the track to a significantly more streamlined house 4 / 4. Things are generally stripped back, spaced-out, and Ms. Pittmann is reduced to trippy tape effects, which vie with Star Trek / Mr. Spock samples for dancers delirious attention.
Echophonic treats listeners to a lovelorn lyric, set to a sun-stroked, easy, skanking beat. Brightened by bouncing blasts of Babylon-busting brass, and flashes of Jackie Mittoo-esque Hammond B3 organ. Rhythm guitar ringing out at a Chic-do-reggae / Carly Simon / Why clip. Syn drums pop, a flute takes flight, and there are some wicked wah-wah shapes thrown, plus a terrific trombone solo. The heavier, roots-ier, slower, more seismic Silverback Rock, sways to the song of a slightly melancholic sax. Throughout this tropical heat, Projections – Simon “Woolfy” James and Dan Hastle – create sonic shades similar to those thrown by the mighty Mike Fabulous, Lord Echo, and The Black Seeds.
Cal`s lining up a super review of this one, Struts comprehensive Risco Connection collection, Risco Version, but just case you didn’t know, the dub of No Stopping is a bona fide Balearic classic. An Amnesia “cover up” that was bootlegged under the alias Prism, and retitled The White Shadow (?).
Ruf Dug seems to be going though a purple patch right now – with a conveyor belt-like a run of quality release after quality release. Here, he once again teams up with sometime Durruti Column collaborator and member of the neo-soul sextet Lovescene, Pops Roberts. Using the moniker Private Joy, Pops provides sublime lyrics and vocals to a superior piece of street soul. Full of faux horns, peppered by Satie-esque piano, and stabbed by Soul II Soul / Reggae Philharmonic strings. The production sparse, but rich, recalling in places both Smith & Mighty`s work with Carlton, and `80s chart-toppers Loose Ends, the song is kind of the seductive flip to the pairs previous outing, the marvelous Make It Right.
An instrumental mix has you focus, meditate, on the b-line and marimba-like melodies, while a reggae re-rub just pips the post in the Balearic stakes. Its slightly quicker, skanking clip transporting listeners back to the daze of Ibiza 90, and the e-boat float of Movement 98.
STR4TA follow-up their brilliant brit-funk LP, Aspects, with a sound that`s a little more mechanical. Both When You Call Me and Night Flight feature the characteristic click and pop of vintage drum machines. Completely open about who they are paying homage to, the sparse, sexy former makes like Loose Ends, and swaps the jazz-aspirations of Freeez`s Southern Freeez, for John Rocca`s more synth-based Pink Rhythm. Programmed percussion rocks tides of tropical timbres, in a fashion that also recalls the `80s work of Wally Badarou and James Mtume. The latter is an unashamed nod toward Loft & Balearic classic, Rude Movements. Mixing the cool, clipped guitar, and rhythmic robotic purr, of that Mike Collins-produced landmark, with a little of Bluey Maunick`s previous bands, Incognito and Light Of The World. Each side of this 12 is a smart slice of sunset soul.
Flavio Vecchi – Work It – FuckTheGovernment
I`m not sure when this last one is out, as it was due weeks ago, but I can’t find any online reference to it. Alfredo Trastulli and Marco Riff, under their FuckTheGovernment alias, have licensed an archival track from Italian house legend, Flavio Vecchi, and paired that 1991 find with their own `22 remix. The Bologna-born, Vecchi, nicknamed “The Maestro”, is most famous for the 30 years plus that he put in behind the decks at the clubs Echoes and Ethos Mama, situated in Riccione, in Rimini, on the Adriatic coast. He’s also the person behind seminal stuff such as Love Quartet`s Kiss Me (Don`t Be Afraid). Flavio`s OG of Work It is a textbook piece of New York / garage-inspired `90s European house, propelled by punchy rhythmic loops – little bits of bass and guitar. In the breakdowns things get flipped and filtered. The sound, of course, is very similar to that of his contemporaries, Leo Mas, Fabrizio Lazzari, and Andrea Gemolotto, and the output of their labels, particularly Pin Up.
FTG`s remix is much more pounding – the snares now scything rather than skipping – but the banging beat is balanced by warm, blissed-out chords, gentle chimes, and swooning, massaging swells. Listening, the first thing that I thought of was Victor’s proto-house “Unclassic” Go On Do It. Then, slowly, the frantically flickering electro sequences reveal themselves to be a tightly twisted 303, to my mind, recalling Caucasian Boy`s soulful acid classic, Northern Lights.
Mix / mixes and Part 2 to follow…