Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

Welcome To B&S




Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard (JULY 2011)
Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard (JULY 2011)

I’ll be interesting to see how this rapidly escalating debate on ‘underground pop’ progresses over the coming months…

Underground Pop

Underground pop I hear you say? It’s a term that has grown massively in prominence ever since Visonquest’s Seth Troxler coined it a few weeks back to summarise his personal feelings about some of the new dance music entering clubland right now.

This new music, linked to the cluster of artists working for or around influential set-ups Crosstown Rebels, Wolf + Lamb and Visionquest, has seen the traditional blueprints of house and techno ripped-up and re-constituted. Functional four-to-the-floor rhythms are being spliced with syrupy soul-funk and cute pop vocals not to mention cocksure 80s boogie and sugar-rush R&B samples. It’s a mash up of cool tech sass and supermarket soundtrack that has got nearly everyone talking.

The clubbing public is, at this time, undecided. There are those arguing that such sounds are fun, friendly and uplifting – a stylish nod to the original community-minded instincts of house. Others, however, want it canned, spouting on any forum that’ll care to have them about dumbed-down disco with no emotional punch and a damaging effect on the wider dance scene’s cultural integrity.

Justin Winks, founder of Mullet Records and cult artist alter-ego Casio Social Club, believes that house and techno lovers need to consider their music’s recent histories before coming to a decision on so-called underground pop. Winks has made much of his good name from feel-good dance vocals and pop-edged grooves, and stresses that recent, loosely-related cuts by names including Lee Foss (Forward Motion, Your Turn Girl), Soul Clap (Pop Edits, R&B Edits) and Jamie Jones are a natural reaction to the post-2000 glut of sparse tech and minimal records – themselves a reaction to the 1990s predilection for big, heart-on-sleeve vocal dance.

“It’s all cyclical” he smiles. “Light then dark then light then dark…. In recent years we’ve had too much darker tech and minimal house; the feel good factor of dance music was stripped out. People have gotten used to this culture and forgotten that dance music evolves and, in the bigger scheme of things, has regularly pulled on its earliest roots – disco, soul, funk.”

But that’s not to say the dancefloor’s latest developments are all sweetness and light. Several members of the Resident Advisor online forum are keen to point out many of them are, in fact, rather melancholic. One contributor comments: “It gets away from what house music is all about - partying with a smile on your face! Not moaning vocals and swaying and pouting with your head tilted back. It just doesn't have the hedonistic, hands-in-the-air vibe of true house music.”

Ultimately, no-one is certain where house and techno go next, and what this year’s developments mean in terms of the bigger sonic picture, but one thing’s for sure underground pop is on an irresistible march; it’s hard to ignore. Expect it to move dancefloors, one way or another, for quite some time.


Elsewhere, news reaches me that Brixton’s finest Basement Jaxx has teamed up with 60-piece orchestra and 20-voice choir, the Metropole Orkest, as well as prominent London conductor Jules Buckley, for a special album project delivering classical takes on the legendary Jaxx back catalogue.

Basement Jaxx’s Felix Buxton has been working with Buckley and the Metropole Orkest (not to mention regular Jaxx singers Sharlene Hector and Lisa Kekaula) for around about a year now and the fruit of their labour, entitled Basement Jaxx vs Metropole Orkest, gathers classical and contemporary orchestral interpretations of everything from Red Alert and Raindrops to Bingo Bango, Do Your Thang and Where’s Your Head At? (complete with baroque harpsichords).

The new album also includes recordings of the project’s only live performance to date, in Eindhoven earlier this year. Fear not, further concerts are planned at London’s Barbican Theatre July 14 and 15 to coincide with the album’s launch on July 11 – via Atlantic Jaxx, of course….


Before the reviews, quickly room to mention that the next instalment of Muak at London’s EGG club (N1) will take place July 23 with special guests including The Martinez Brothers, fast rising Big Apple househeads, and Phonique, revered Deutsch DJ and producer.

On July 24, at an as yet unconfirmed London venue, the stylish Secretsundaze crew celebrates 10 years of promoting quality house nights around the world. Special guests are promised and a further party in August – August 28 – with Moodymann. Secretsundaze promoters James Priestley and Giles Smith launched their party in East London back in 2001 before it snowballed into major venues in Tokyo, Ibiza, New York, Amsterdam and Berlin, as well as a booking agency and record label.

Secretsundaze, synonymous with chic deep house and nu-disco, are also releasing an anniversary mix compilation, which I have the lowdown on below….

Singles first….


AphroDisiax – Slip Away (UK MN2S)

MN2S regulars AphroDisiax present another delicious slice of deep soul-house, layered with tech and broken-beat influences. The track is actually a collaboration with Afronaut (AKA ‘Bug’ In The Attic Orin Walters) and proudly polished vocalist Sabrina Chyld. Wonderful.

Tanner Ross & Soul Clap – Shady Shores EP (US Wolf + Lamb)

Mind-altering sonics from ‘e-funk’ don Tanner Ross and Wolf + Lamb faves Soul Clap on a EP that hops between lush mellow house, zany space-funk, deep dubstep and abstract movie soundtrack with consummate and rather irresistible ease. Complex for all the right reasons…

David Morales – You Just Don’t Love Me (US Ultra Music)

Out-and-out house legend Morales is back on the dancefloor with his first single since 2004’s 2 Worlds Collide. New release You Just Don’t Love Me is a big, bustling production driven by snappy electro b-lines and punchy drums but given soulful definition thanks to Jonathan Mendelsohn’s accomplished vocals and some sweet, melodic key work. Electro influences notwithstanding, this is ultimately clean-cut dance fayre in the manner of which Morales has stormed clubland for decades now. A decent, hook-heavy set-up for his Resurrection album due later this summer….

Various Artists – Visionquest Beach Edition – Spring Summer Collection (Ger Visionquest)

Sunlight and melancholia combine with mesmerising results for Visionquest’s summer sampler. Maceo Plex cuts through the haze of lovelorn vocals on Falling with suitably twisted synths and subtle jackin’ beats, and Tale Of Us’ Winds Of Change throws eerie, almost introverted disco moves, while Pillow Talk (AKA Sammy D) filters classic soul-dance through lens of 60s R&B. Varied and engaging.

The Demitrios Project – Feel Alive 2011 Remixes (UK MN2S)

One of MN2S’ earliest signings – an R&B cut revamped by Mr ‘Purple’ Jamie Lewis - brought smoothly to life via capable new mixes from Sean McCabe. Solid soul-house.

Phil Agosta – Tribute To Detroit (US KMS)

Powerful tech-house, enriched by retro pianos and strings, from Detroit producer Agosta on Kevin Saunderson’s well respected KMS imprint; Agent X and John Johr supply deeper, more percussive tech remixes.
And now albums....


Various Artists – 10 Years Of Secretsundaze (UK Secretsundaze)

Secretsundaze founders Giles Smith and James Priestley mix a CD each for this, their 10th anniversary compilation. It’s a characteristic selection of stirring deep house and stylish nu-disco, underpinned by infectious rhythmic builds and injected with dreamy atmospherics. Secretsundaze classics such as Salt City Orchestra’s remix of Marshall Jefferson vs Noosa Heads’ Mushrooms and Zed Bias’ (as Maddslinky) sub-bass bomb Cargo are present and correct alongside recent material from Mark E and Space Dimension Controller. Special

Various Artists – Horse Meat Disco III (UK Strut)

Cult London DJ crew Horse Meat Disco, synonymous with rare but exuberant slices of disco, 80s boogie, electro-funk and retro-house, are back with a third compilation pushing all the right dancefloor buttons. Both discs on offer, mixed by resident DJs James Hillard, Jim Stanton, Severino and Filthy Luka, cover off the more energised, peak-time and lowdown, early hours sides of the mirrorball equation with real confidence. Strident Salsoul revamps on Disco One like Claudja Barry’s Sweet Dynamite (by Todd Terje) and Raphael Cameron’s Together (by Stupid Human) give way to deeper, sleazier moments on Disc Two, including Marcel King’s Factory Records classic Reach For Me; the result is an album as independent and well-rounded as it is approachable and, ultimately, infectious. A special vinyl format release includes exclusive photos of Horse Meat events around the world, and a set of excellent sleeve notes courtesy of New York DJ and journo Daniel Wang.

Bah Samba – Shake The Dog (UK Favouritizm)

Brighton’s outrageously soulful Bah Samba ‘band’, fronted by Julian Bendall, finally presents its fourth studio album, a project some three years in the making. The end product is well worth the wait, Bendall hooking up with executive producer and close friend Ben Johnson (Syam), and an impeccable cast of contributors – ranging from vocalists Monique Bingham, Nadirah Shakoor and Alice Russell (a long-term associate) to revered soul-dance producers Jephte Guillaume, Quentin Harris, Filsonik, Phil Asher and Ashley Beedle – to craft an intelligent yet emotional long-player with striking instrumentation and funky, soulful punch. Soul-house groove mixes amicably with ghetto-beat, jazz jam and reflective love song; Shake The Dog barks completely up the right tree.

Various Artists – Heidi Presents The Jackathon (Ger Get Physical)

BBC Radio 1’s fast-rising In New DJs We Trust resident releases a peppy mix album based on the classic jack-house vibes that have seen her Jackathon parties spread rapidly across the world – London and Berlin to Paris and Miami. Heidi grabs top-draw selections from the likes of Derrick Carter, Deetron, DJ T, Anja Schneider, Soul Clap, Steve Bug and Jamie Jones; all tracks made specifically for this record and stitched together with considerable flair. Standouts include Soul Clap’s low-slung funker Incoming Bitch and DJ T’s wonderfully acidic High; but then the standards are high throughout.

Various Artists – Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times 30th Anniversary Edition (UK Strut)

You should know what to expect by now from one of Mr Jay’s Good Times compilations – breath-taking and booty-shaking variety across the genres of everything from house and garage to dubstep, reggae and hip-hop, all included cuts bathed in sunshine and gloriously unfettered carnival spirit. Jay’s 30th anniversary release is a landmark in terms of title but much the same sonic goodness as before, Zalmac’s boogie rarity Dreamin’ and Fries & Bridges’ killer Cee-Lo Green-fronted, house-style lick Forever This mixing with Jacob Miller’s soulful reggae skank, Little Anthony & The Imperials’ classic doo-wop and Basement Chemist’s indy hip-hop. Varied and vivacious.

Robert Hood – Omega: Alive (US M-Plant)

Techno legend Hood presents recordings from the highly successful live show based on last year’s album release Omega. That conceptual work, inspired by classic 70s sci-fi flick The Omega Man, has been artfully deconstructed and rebuilt to work for the stage, wielding all manner of tense drum patterns, atmospheric strings and jagged key riffs. Three bonus studio cuts are also included, one of which is new piece Atomic.

Various Artists – We Love… Artist Portraits 01:[b] Mat Playford (Sp We Love Recordings)

Playford, resident DJ at institutional Ibiza night We Love… Space, steps up to helm the first instalment of a new profile-driven compilation series launched by affiliate label We Love Recordings. One disc gathers nine original Playford Productions (including those as Weirdo Police, alongside Tom Gray) from the past six years or so; an interesting, engaging collection of spacey house grooves featuring trademark 80s synths, acidic bleeps and ambient undertones, not to mention guest spots from Crazy P’s Danielle Moore, Alisha’s Attic’s Shelly Poole and tabla king Talvin Singh. Playford’s other disc, meanwhile, is straightforward mix, nimbly linking musical, multi-layered tracks and remixes by such names as Phil Asher, Salt City Orchestra, Mutiny and Onionz. Fresh and playful – a great introduction to Playford and the new series….

Various Artists – Bloomingdale 2011: 10th Anniversary Edition (UK Defected)

Who’d have thought it? 45 minutes from central Amsterdam, and practically on the UK’s doorstep, lies exotic beach-clubbing venue Bloomingdale. Neighbouring coastal town Zandvoort, Bloomingdale has attracted many of clubland’s great and good over the 10 years it has now been running – Afrojack, Axwell, Fedde Le Grand, the Defected label – and with anniversaries in mind the resort is a double-disc mix comp. Mixed by Bloomingdale resident Ricky Rivaro, one of the Netherland’s fastest rising DJ names, the album maintains a consistent, appealing flow through suitably cool, but worthy house cuts from Phil Asher, James Talk & Ridney, Dimitri From Paris, Joris Voorn and Larry Heard. The beach just got a little nearer….

Various Artists - John Morales:The M+M Mixes Volume 2 (UK BBE)

Morales, whom many (rightly) consider a legend of the disco mix, presents his second volume of underground New York goodies on London’s educative, ever entertaining BBE imprint. As M+M Productions alongside Sergio Munzibai, Morales issued over 650 mixes; mixes covering everyone from the Rolling Stones to Aretha Franklin. The quality of his work is plain to hear on this retrospective, wonderfully typified by previously unreleased revamps of Salsoul gems like Double Exposure’s My Love Is Free and Inner Life feat. Jocelyn Brown’s Make It Last Forever. Soulfully supreme; a vital, fun-fuelled history lesson.


...Still working the late shift!

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