Detroit Memories by Samaan – Fullbarr
Arthur Barr’s adroitly-named house imprint has been carving itself a deep and distinctive furrow since it first burst onto the scene in 2008, and through its sixteen releases it’s managed to keep the public guessing, eschewing a simple house stencil for a wider interpretation of what four-four really encompasses. Along the way we’ve had EPs as diverse as those from Matthias Vogt and Russo to Danton Eeprom and Le Jockey. As if putting its puberty behind it, the latter end of 2011 is greeted with its first vinyl-only release, a coming of age quartet of tracks from Irishman Samaan that followed up his excellent Navigator EP at the start of the year. And for vinyl-lovers (and the label) it’s worth the extra pennies.
The title track is a love letter to the legendary American city. Enveloped at first in warm pads and staccato percs, once it drops it’s the 303 that takes centre stage, with subtle changes – rides, hats, flanged fx – that give it the mark of a modern techno stormer, before the pads return in an atmospheric finish. The remix comes from one of the UK’s finest techno producers, and in Mark Broom it’s given an ethereal makeover, losing the acid b-line but retaining the relentless pace as arpeggiated melodies cascade at its core. The two remaining tracks from Samaan are also outstanding, firstly Pixel Planet, taking the deep side of Detroit with its lush chords, drum fills and wandering bassline, while Ya Feel Me is part rasping low end and part mesmerising, lofty melodics. Superb.
The Life And Times Of The California Hat EP by Garry Todd – Illusion Recordings
Illusion Records’ have made waves in their short lifetime, prefacing their fantastic first EP with a barnstorming off-Sonar rooftop party in Barcelona in June. With co-owners Tom Craven and James Cotterill working from their instinct for tracks that take the best of classic house and drag them into the new decade, their virgin release contained a quartet of diverse four-four offerings from Acid Mondays, Sean Thomas, DJ Ali, Garry Todd and Death On The Balcony. For their second they turn again to Todd, the Sunderland nomad making waves whether he’s in summer summer home (Ibiza) or winter hideout (Australia).
The fantastically-named The Life And Times Of The California Hat EP opens with the even better-titled 24 Hour Party Sausage, a riff on classic rave-era house. Complete with cut-up vocal diva slices, analogue basslines, retro percs and piano drop it’s a modern paen to the days of baggies, white gloves and whistles. Following it up is Vacation In Sunderland, a downtempo cut of 90s-flavoured goodness that sails on an ass-shaking bassline, filtered keys and female vocal that makes you want to put on a pair of Kickers and a Caterpillar jumper. Remixes come The Mole, working with 24 Hour’s bassline and vocals and enveloping it in spooky, off-kilter melodies that twist the head, while Death On The Balcony sprinkle their house magic on Vacation, pinning it on the piano riff and making the listener book their tickets for Miami in a rush of sun-drenched euphoria.
Deep Deep Down EP by Cottam – Aus Music
Will Saul’s twin-pronged assault on electronic music’s fortress is now five years strong, with Aus Music – the redoubtable Simple’s younger, stranger sibling – continuing to challenge its boundaries with its championing of artists as colourful as Midland, label favourite Sideshow, Sian, Cortney Tidwell and Lee Jones. Recently, certainly, it’s been the indulgence of Saul’s love of bass-driven, dubby sounds that’s truly given the label its own pressing identity, and in 2011 it’s one of the UK’s most vital imprints. Following on from George Fitzgerald’s Silhouette EP in June comes one of the UK’s unassuming new heroes.
Preston man Cottam’s memorable releases on his own imprint have brought him high acclaim from across the electronic music spectrum, and this trio of tracks is further confirmation of his talents. The title track is a rave-infused gem that may drop the bpms but oozes class with its wandering acid bassline, warm chords and sax, all dosed with subtle delays and layered into complex sonic textures. Side Twang similarly evokes downtempo classic house, its popping percs enlivening a gloriously lazy b-line, jousting with guitar licks and vocals to a multi-threaded crescendo. Ukranian Vakula works his influence on the title track, resulting in a modern, fathoms-deep houser that slow-burns its way to an elusive finish. Pure class.
My Gang EP by Timid Boy – Time Has Changed
Dealing mostly from a tight-knit crew of artists led by label head Acumen has given French label Time Has Changed its own distinctive identity, with house that roams from more minimal shores to deep and groovy. 2011’s been arguably its best year yet, and as it approaches three dozen releases in its fourth year, label favourite Parisian Damien Almira, in his Timid Boy guise, follows up Tom Budden’s punchy Choco Swing with an EP that fizzes with energy and purpose. The producer’s work has taken him far and wide this year and recent cuts on Barraca and Amam lead to his return on a label that he last visited in April of last year.
The title track revolves round tight, looped-up percs, underpinning the melody as the keys emerge from the fog of a high pass filter, a heartbeat that remains through the snare fills and white noise of the drop. The EP comes alive with the deep, well-rounded warmth of How To Kill A Piano In 3 Lessons, its insistent vocal sample and sub bass providing the backbone for the titular piano to do its work, the chords slowly revolving, adding inertia at each turn. Berliner Dana Ruh takes on remix duties, stripping back the melody in her Black Flowers remix, full of nervous tics, dropping the reverb-laden chords alongside the vocal in the breakdown to release the pressure. Timid Boy teams up with Alex Costa for the final track, My Girl occupying similarly deep, grooving territory, with lofty keys and fx punctuating the insistent pace.