Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard (Jan) DANCE COLUMN

Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard (January 2012)
Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard (January 2012)

New Year is a time for resolutions. Especially so within clubland, as music-makers seek to define plans that will reap them larger, even more appreciative audiences and huge career satisfaction over the following 12 months. January is also an apt time to consider bigger pictures – where the dance scene currently is, where it is likely to go, and where it should be heading.
Former Blaze man Josh Milan – currently masterminding soulful live collective and label Honeycomb Music – promises a year of artistry in the same upbeat spirit as his New Year’s Eve celebrations. “Y’know, for the first time in many years I plan to bring the New Year in partying and dancing” he told me just before Christmas, “…having a good time. The year 2012 will be a reflection of how I bring it in.”

Of course, Milan is concerned about the level of originality and quality where contemporary house music is concerned. He wants it to increase, naturally, but is realistic about what can be done in the short term: “I’d like to see intros, good lyrics, bridges, live instrumentation, vamps and endings. But it is asking for the miraculous to happen.”

Purple Music’s Jamie Lewis, poised to release new remixes of two Prince singles (taken from 2009 album IMPLSoUND) and fresh from private festive parties in Swiss castles, echoes those sentiments: “I just want better quality music, to be honest. I’ve had enough of the heavy electro noises.”

However, soul-dance Londoner Richard Earnshaw – he behind the release of acclaimed 2010 debut album In Time and deeper, progressive alias Spiritchaser (alongside Mark Bamford) – thinks that soul and song-based dance music will make a significant mark this year, following its promising rise in popularity last. This piecemeal renaissance has protected his interests, he argues, whilst the economic climate continues to worsen.

“That deeper, more soulful and song-based sound is definitely experiencing a resurgence, which I’m really pleased to hear” he offers. “I really want the opportunity to keep developing a business and, of course, my music. It’s so tough out there; the very fact the business is still growing and expanding is something to be proud of in these testing times.”

Earnshaw is readying a new Spiritchaser album, more solo material (including further ‘lifts’ from In Time), and music via his other alter-egos – One51 and Little Big Band. But it isn’t simply economics he’s wary of but ongoing digital revolution: “Any help to minimise the impact on musicians and companies of today’s methods for music sharing and distribution would be a good, good thing.”

Canadian house, tech and jazz-fusionist Mathew Jonson – a third of the ever impressive Cobblestone Jazz trio – hopes that the next twelve months leads to greater open-mindedness on stage. “The DJs should start playing the music they make in the studio live” he exclaims. “And the live acts like me should get back into playing records again. I miss it.”

Rob Star, promoter of cult London parties Mulletover and Eastern Electrics (and Circo Loco’s huge New Year’s Day blast at Proud 2), thinks that cross-pollination and experimentation is already much in evidence. “I love the fact that people are playing more and more diverse sets and not just sticking to house and techno” he reflects. “Musical boundaries are blurring and even disappearing, which I think is really great for the scene. We’re all about making things bigger and better in 2012.”

Meantime, Moodmusic confidante Michelle Owen – a seriously up-and-coming purveyor of deep-routed, Eighties Chicago-inspired house – intends the New Year as an opportunity to fully break through. “2011 was a building block towards greatness!!” she teases. “I released my Perchance To Dream EP on Moodmusic with Chez Damier remixes and it was received really well. I also started my own monthly event in Berlin It’s Almost Night and built my blog site."

“This year, I want to play lots more gigs and travel the world. I’m particularly looking forward to my Panorama Bar debut this month and the Snowbombing festival in April.”

For Gallic deep house ‘n’ tech maestro Phil Weeks, 2012 is set to be the year of discovery. Aside from releasing new album, Raw Instrumental, in March and aiming to add Roland TR909s to his live sets “wherever possible”, Weeks wants to find exciting young talent for his rated Robsoul label.

“I always dream about discovering new talents who will blow my mind like crazy, to bring things to the next level” he buzzes. “I want to find someone doing some sick beats, manipulating and chopping samples the old school way, all with subtlety and the ‘original phat sound! Who is out there in 2012 like this?”

We’ll just have to wait and see….

Some brief news. The Ultra Music Festival (UMF) has just announced its first wave of names for March. This year, of course, the three-day gathering – March 23-25 – will run in tandem with Miami’s Winter Music Conference.

So who’s playing? Veteran pioneers New Order and Kraftwerk are down; an indication of Ultra’s ever-widening remit. So too is superstar spinner and producer David Guetta; not to mention trance legends Tiesto and Armin Van Buuren, dubstep’s headline-grabbing newcomer krillex, French electro-rockers Justice and dance-edged indie outfits Metronomy and Little Dragon. Elsewhere, Sven Vath, Loco Dice, Jamie Jones and Seth Troxler all play.

Ultra is moving to Bayfront Park this time round – it last played there in 2005 - moving from recent home Bicentennial Park. Further artist announcements to follow; keep track via

Just time to flag that DJ Sneak is responsible for the next instalment of Fabric’s illustrious mix CD series. Released March 1, Fabric 62 will lean heavily on jumpin’ jack-house grooves - with a nod or two to classic Chicago and the sounds of techno – via artists such as Ramon Tapia, DJ W!ld, Basti Grub and Tripmastaz (with exclusive new single No Turning Back). There’s a launch party at Fabric on February 18 with, of course, the main man himself.

American house originator Chez Damier will also be in London – the revered DJ and producer touches down at Basing House, in Shoreditch, East London, on January 27 for an extra special three-hour set.

Damier is synonymous with Ron Trent and the mighty deep house label Prescription they founded back in 1993; not forgetting his early roles as manager of Kevin Saunderson’s KMS estate (studios and imprint) and founder of pivotal Detroit club The Music Institute. He took a lengthy sabbatical from the music business at the tail-end of the Nineties before returning to occasional work during the mid-Noughties and then building things up from there.

Today he oversees the Balance Alliance label – fostering a new generation of electronic talent – and continues to re-grow his DJ commitments. High-profile spots at Rex (Paris), Panorama Bar (Berlin) and Eleven (Tokyo) last year should be followed by much more in 2012. His Basing House appearance, promoted by Simmer, will be backed by sets from locals Josh Silver and Richard Adam – both Simmer regulars. Head to for more.

And so on to reviews….

Knee Deep – All Nite (CH The Brothers)

Another sexy Knee Deep remix package from Swiss label The Brothers. Defected A&R Aaron Ross twists and turns beats, basslines and vocals to deliciously quirky effect on both deep and dazzling updates; ‘brother’ Edi Carlucci, meanwhile, embraces retro, funky, Eighties-vibed house, punctured and nitro-boosted by several dramatic breakdowns, and ensures All Nite offers plenty of New Year resolution.

Prince – Dance 4 Me (CH Purple Music)

It was Prince’s management team who approached Purple boss Jamie Lewis about remixes of tracks from his (last) 2009 album IMPLSoUND. Dance 4 Me , the first instance of purple pop meets Purple house, works well enough. Lewis’s main rub adds forceful deep house drama to the squelchy funk, heavy piano-play original, whilst LA producers David Alexander and Brian Matrix carve out their respective tribal and electro-house niches – the former much more successfully. Good if uninspired.

Art Department – Touch You Gently (UK Crosstown Rebels)

New material from Goth house favourites Jonny White and Kenny Glasgow, which swells through the thoughtful aggregation of moody synths, basslines, FX and Kenny’s trance-y vocals before driving towards a melodic, powerfully vaporous denouement in that classic Art Department style clubland has come to worship in recent months. B-side cut Tell Me Why is taken from last year’s acclaimed Drawing Board album and varnished with Brennan Green’s smooth, effortlessly classy nu-disco licks. A sign one hopes of things to come in 2012.

NY Stomp – Can You Feel It? EP (UK Illusion)

Leftfield Dutchman Gerd steps up as NY Stomp to indulge a long-held (and now topical) passion for old-skool East Coast house music. NY House Trak is exactly that, a raw, fizzing beats ‘n’ bass tribute to Nineties Todd Terry, MAW and Kerri Chandler, flanked by Italian sensation Nicholas’ (see last month’s Nu Groove album review) funked-up remix. Additional track Can You Feel It? casts deeper, darker spells around vintage key stabs and looped vocals, and ushers in DJ Aakmael (soulful) and Illusion bosses James Cotterill and Ross Elliott (minimal) for intense, immersive alternatives.

Albums now….

Cage & Aviary – Migration (Nor Internasjonal)

Electronic Londoners Jamie Paton and Nigel Of Bermondsey give wings to their debut studio album on Internasjonal, the label run by Norwegian ‘space disco’ don Prins Thomas. It’s far too eclectic and intricate for any old pigeon hole or genre tag, zooming mercurially (and composedly) between future funk, ambient cinemascape, R&B shakedown, electronic jam and embryonic house. But, crucially, accessibility and feeling are there, as much as the evident quality and structure. Cage & Aviary are building a real name for themselves through releases on DFA and Astro Lab, as well as their own label The Walls Have Ears. Their reputation should continue to fly chirpily high over the coming months.

Various Artists – Inertia/Resisting Routine (Nl Ann Aimee)

Delsin boss Marsel Delsin hooks up with close friend Delta Funktionen to compile 16 exclusive tracks for this gritty new techno project on sub-label Ann Aimee. Funktionen contributes (he also mixes) alongside young guns Mike Dehnert, Roman Lindau and Sacha Rydell (Fachwerk), 50Weapons, Skudge and Cosmin TRG, their broadly collective vision moody, muscular and emphatic if not always euphoric. Subtly incorporated elements of house, dub and acid add some further spice and, to quote Delta man Niels Luinenburg, serious fun.

Carl Taylor – True Faith (UK EPM Music)

Taylor engaging dancefloor personality, defined through previous releases on Bugged Out and F-Comm, positively shines on True Faith, his second artist album. His grasp of techno’s key mechanics is impressive, as is his versatility, forcing tougher, angrier beats next to more soulful, melodic and ethereal passages. It’s believable stuff.

Octave One – Revisited (Here, There And Beyond) (US 430 West Records)

Detroit’s legendary Burden brothers (Lenny, Lawrence and, on occasion, Lorne, Lynell and Lance) celebrate 20 illustrious years with a CD compilation giving some of the siblings’ favourite producers access to their huge house and techno back catalogue. Hence Sandwell District takes on 1989 Octave One debut I Believe with shady-bass aplomb, Cari Lekebusch gives Love And Hate deep, tech-house bite and Ken Ishii loops colette’s key musical components into a devastating new (standout) groove. Elsewhere, Luke Slater throws fierce 303s at The Greater Good and Alter Ego seriously jack perennial classic Blackwater. There are a couple of disappointments, notably Aril Brikha’s plodding tech-house revisit of Daystar Rising, but all in all Revisited represents a worthy, contemporary tribute to one of techno’s finest acts.

Dominic Martin – Family Affair (UK Lost My Dog)

Glaswegian producer Dominic Martin helms the second instalment of CD series Family Affair, aiming to bottle label Lost My Dog’s unique deep house sound. Eight brand new cuts are blended with older Martin material and remixes of his work by the likes of Milton Jackson and Johnny Fiasco. The result is a warm, connective journey through classic New York and Chicago as well as more contemporary and European dancefloor influences. An affair to remember….

Shades of Gray – Soul Machine (Aus Beef Records)

In with the old and out with the new is how this extremely slick Soul Machine works, Michal Schwa and Nick West’s slow-cooking debut finally spitting out its contemporary twist on old soul, funk and disco from the Sixties and Seventies. The boys – whose fans include Laurent Garnier, Miguel Migs and Jimpster – have grabbed a hatful of original samples via Ableton, before confidently stirring in punchy house beats, meaty analogue b-lines, funky guitars and delicious, stuttering chords; a second, bonus CD offers remixes from the likes of Soul Minority and Fiord. Soul Machine is a smart, super-smooth operation.

Various Artists – Best Of Disco Demands: A Collection Of Rare 1970s Dance Music, Compiled By Al Kent (UK BBE)

Kent’s legendary Disco Demands series, started in the early Noughties as something of an antidote to those repetitive disco retrospectives focussed on the same few marquee labels (usually West End and Prelude), has gone from strength to funky strength. Five awe-inspiring volumes in fact - ultra rare mirrorball licks hustling next to some of Kent’s own, extra special re-edits of forgotten gems. Nearly all of those priceless retro cuts have now made it onto a highly desirable five-CD, two-vinyl doublepack and bumper download Best Of - most specially re-mastered and re-re-edited. Under-the-radar hipsters ranging extensively from Curtis, Omni and Harold Butler to Hot Ice, Volstarr and Bobby Sanders groove and delight away; Best Of Disco Demands is an absolutely essential summary for those who adore pure, unadulterated, original underground disco, and who missed any of Kent’s previous BBE skirmishes.

Ben Lovett

...Still working the late shift!

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