Black Key Vol 1 by Various Artists – Black Key Records
Happily disproving the lazy notion that all good electronic music south of Manchester emanates from London, Brighton’s Black Key Records has already made a name for itself in its short lifespan with three excellent releases from Andy Ash, Chamboche and Johnny Cade and remix work from BLM, Ethyl and Ugly Drums, putting it to the forefront in 2012. For its fourth it enlists three of the brightest of the UK’s production talent, with BLM, James Johnston and Flori’s skills further stamping its South coast mark on the map.
BLM’s My Sound Tool is a beautifully uncomplicated deep house cut that plants male spoken vox over a dual chord structure, the more understated keys punctuated by brighter stabs, that roll on through its near-seven minutes, never leaving the groove and getting the head nodding straight away. Flori’s Red Rectangle announces itself immediately, its analogue bass notes forming a rich, vintage veil over proceedings, evoking Chicago’s finest as pads, strings and echoing notes whipping up a heady atmosphere. James Johnston’s Lights Off completes the package, slowly upping the ante in an elongated workout that focuses on deep, spacey melodies and vocal snippets, blended into a pressure-building cut of some class.
Critical Distance Pt. 2 by Tom Demac – Hypercolour
Hugging Hypercolour like a warm cloak, Tom Demac graduates from their sister label, Glass Table to follow up his brilliant Obstructing The Light EP from earlier in the summer. In a case of right-place-right-time that would suggest far more than luck when it comes to A&R, Demac’s set was lit up at Glade this year by Critical Distance, and when you listen it’s not hard to see why. The producer’s had a fruitful few years, with releases on Murmur, Morris Audio, liebe*detail and My Favourite Robot in that time, but Hypercolour seems to welcome him back on a regular basis, happy to take any of his expansive tastes into their clutch of labels. And it’s rewarded them every time with releases that make others sound bland in comparison.
Critical Distance couldn’t be more different than Obstructing the Light. That’s the beauty of Demac’s work: you never know what’s round the corner. In the case of this EP it’s a throbbing, hulking monster of a track, that starts relatively spookily and explodes into growling, brilliant menace. Following an eerie techno template, two minutes in, the bottom falls out of world and rasping bass notes slap the listener across the face. It’s a real “what the fuck” moment, and it’s not hard to see why this found the label boys running to the DJ booth when it hit the speakers. There’s also a great remix from Hrdvsion, taking a shuffling snare and cutting back the low-end’s influence to make it into a driving, intense cut of techiness. Utterly fantastic.
Ignition EP by Dwayne Jensen - Landed Records
Landed’s measured progress through the UK house scene in the last year has steered clear of the oft-used torrent of releases, distilling their message into five choice releases from Terry, Moodymanc, Norm Tailey, Zumo and Geoff Wichmann. And it’s Tailey that paved the way for the sixth of Jon Reynolds’ imprint’s, when he alerted him to Detroit head Dwayne Jensen, a DJ and producer that’s been around the godfathers of the scene since the beginning, and he snared this three-track EP for a late-summer appearance.
The title track is a wonderfully breezy cut of warm, organic house music, with light keys and deceptively brooding inertia, that shows Jensen’s talents off and makes it easy to see why Landed snapped up the EP. A near-perfect balance of melody and percussion infused with Detroit’s own character, it sets the scene for the trio. Deep Dive Dub takes up this mantle with gusto, embodying its title with sumptuous, jazzed-up grooves and watery fx that float through the track around the two-chord structure, the cutback on bpms removing none of the power. Closing out is My People, a funky, jacking house track that lays on heavy percs and vox and horn samples and whips them into an unashamed party record.