Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Ben Lovett's Grooveyard Dance column

Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard
Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard Blues & Soul covering E.D.M (Electronic Dance Music) @The Grooveyard Jay Shepheard R.I.P HMV - As Nipper hears his master's voice one last time Body & Soul's 3 Kings party with Louie Vega, David Morales and Tony Humphries DJ Vivona feat. Miss D: To Another Day (Ita Super Soul Music) Nicky Curly: Piano In The Dark EP (Defected) Pablo Fierro: I Want It (Defected) Slow Hands &Tanner Ross: All The Same (US Wolf + Lamb) Benoit & Sergio: Bridge So Far EP (UK Hot Creations) Osunlade: A Man With No Past Originating The Future (Gre Yoruba Records) Ian Pooley: What I Do (Ger Pooled Music) Jay Shepheard: Home & Garden (UK Retrofit) Disco Love Vol 3: Various Artists (UK BBE)

So we’ve passed through the furious festive season and made it to the other (cold) side. How are we? Did we enjoy? Mine, disappointingly, was a rather sedate affair, dodging family members with Norovirus and spending long days at home with leftovers and predictable TV. New Year’s Eve, however, proved a suitable turning point, my gaff accommodating the house party to end all house parties. My friends and I DJ’d, as did Frankie Knuckles and Norman Jay (courtesy of Channel 4’s excellent live House Party: NYE pumped through one serious surround sound system), the food and drink flowed, conversation remained lively, and January 1 was a glorious guilt-free write off.


But no time to rest.... 2013 is only just beginning and, already, news from the club scene is breaking thick and fast. Take Mixmag’s newly launched Great EDM Debate campaign, for example, which during the past few days alone has generated enough argumentative heat between artists and fans to melt our Great British winter well ahead of schedule.

EDM is the brassy, pop-pumped house sound currently storming mainstream America and competing hard against traditional Yank scenes aligned to rock and urban. Fronted by the likes of Rihanna and, it’s showing no sign of abating. Hence Mixmag’s interest in holding an online debate, to capture the global club community’s views on what has now become one of the biggest dance developments in years. Those views are dynamite.

As acknowledged, on Twitter, by Justin ‘Lionrock’ Robertson: “The #EDM debate is so entertaining, people are blowing gaskets right left and centre.” Elsewhere, Brit music-maker Mat Zo has attempted to put EDM in greater, calmer perspective: “there’s nothing new about the wave of pop-dance and the battle of old and young”. And, to Tweets that EDM will help accelerate underground invention, The Chemical Brothers’ Ed Simons has responded (rather philosophically): “big wheel keeps on turning.”

Dimitri From Paris remains unconvinced, posting: “SNATCH street culture at maturation, RIP its guts out, stuff it w/FLUFF & cash, BUY some of its fathers, REBRAND & SELL as nu #EDM.” And original superstar DJ-producer Sasha provocatively suggests: “most EDM is made by douchebags for douchebags. Do i care if lots of douchebags buy it? Not really, But it pollutes [sic].” But Felix Da Housecat has rounded on critics, typing: “Who Cares...Shut up and Dance!”

The debate rages on....


Meanwhile, fast-rising Londoner Jay Shepheard is preparing to release his eagerly awaited debut album Home & Garden, via his own label Retrofit, in February (see my review later on). Shepheard has shaped his career to date with real care and attention, avoiding the risky boom and bust of others for the sake of artistic credibility and stability.

“From the beginning, I always had the suspicion that building my career slowly would be far nicer than going for the jugular with one big track; more stable,” he reflects. “It is sometimes frustrating to see other artists blowing-up over night with a track, when I’ve been seemingly plodding in the studio since 2007 but I know where I’d rather be. Besides I feel like I’m generating some serious momentum now.”

Damn right. Shepheard, real name John Julian Shepheard, has widened his flock of fans and supportive critics considerably, yet consistently, over the past five years and reached a major tipping point in recent months. A large part of that is to do with anticipation around Home & Garden.

“I grew up within the generation that valued electronic artists releasing albums; outfits like the Chemical Brothers and Orbital. The albums they released during the Nineties turned a lot of people onto club music; they were vital expressions” he explains. “Today, DJ culture has massively exploded and in turn there’s greater focus on tracks and remixes rather than longer, idea-driven projects. I’ve wanted to record an album for ages; create a body of work that best reflects my personality and speaks to the widest possible audience. I believe in the importance of albums. This is a key moment.”

Home & Garden is a majestic summary of Shepheard’s discography to date, an immersive expression of the deep, discoed ‘nu vintage’ house sound that has as much informed his earliest studio forays (for Compost’s renowned sub label Black) as it has more recent output (for Retrofit and Electric Minds). But beyond its release, listeners should expect something different: “It’s largely down to my move from London to Berlin. I’ve not long finished setting up my new studio,’s hard to describe...has a completely different sound. I’m using that as a platform to explore new ideas. Home & Garden is kind of a full stop; it’s time for fresh thinking.”

If Shepheard entered the music industry by chance – his first job, in music PR, came via his sister’s boyfriend; it’s when I first met him... – then his talent soon shone through. Stints in club promotion, the Cayman Islands (as a resident DJ), and Brixton’s Studio 207 (one of Basement Jaxx’s famous recording homes) would lead to work at online record giant Juno and, in turn, low-key releases on a friends’ imprint, Sounds Like Soul; not to mention self-financed white label. When another friend sent some of his demo work to Compost and they demanded an EP, Shepheard knew his life had changed.

Debut EP, Romance Gdansk, quickly made way for follow-up Pipes N Sneakers and several other Compost Black 12s. “I was learning, making progress” Shepheard suggests of this only studio time, “but it was only after that demo went to Compost and they indicated that they wanted to release it immediately that I realised my output was truly at release quality.”

There is plenty planned for 2013. A honeymoon in Thailand first and foremost (he married last summer, the late Martin Dawson his best man), Home & Garden, and a slew of new remixes and singles – in a tougher, more minimal vein – including material on Catz ‘N Dogz’ Pets label, unreleased Retrofit collaborations with Dawson (Dawson, a close of friend of Shepheard, sadly passed away last year; Shepheard is discussing specific releases with Dawson’s partner) and re-rubs of Blond:ish, Finnebassen and Move D. Retrofit will also be busy with the beats of others, including projects from Session Victim and The St Petersburg Disco Spin Club.

“Between Retro, my own stuff and the DJ'ing it’s going to be crazy this year” he remarks. “Everywhere I go there’s a deep appreciation of the music which I see as another sign of how well the dance industry is doing really. Dance music is everywhere. I just want to make sure I protect my interests... the studio, the label, the podcasts. It’s a steady stream of things now.”

Does he have any concerns about the craziness that awaits?: “I’m really happy to be honest. I feel like I’ve got my feet firmly planted on the ground with everything. Besides, music is what I do and love, and having days like the one last week when I finally got my hands on a finished copy of the album, with all the artwork and everything, makes it so worthwhile. That was an amazing feeling. I’m looking forward to lots more.”


I have to squeeze in a quick line on HMV. It was so sad to see this high street institution entering administration but, plainly speaking, the business simply didn’t acknowledge music’s significant digital trend early enough. In subsequent days several key music industry figures have spoken out in support of music retail on the high street and, crucially, HMV has found a debt destroyer and saviour, restructuring specialist Hilco (which already owns HMV Canada), but if we are to have chain record stores in our towns and cities in the future then they will need to undergo radical, radical changes. Analysts predict that around 90% of music will be downloaded or bought online come 2016. Wow.


Last up – word of the unmissable 3 Kings party on January 26 (10pm to 6am) at London’s Electric Brixton.... Out-and-out legends Louie Vega, David Morales and Tony Humphries will be playing a special tag team set in association with infamous Body & Soul promoter John Davis. It is the first time that the ‘3 Kings’ have ever played outside America, previously rocking New York and Miami (during Conference) for one-off, rave review events. There’s ticket info via the following link

Three words.... I. Can’t. Wait.



DJ Vivona feat. Miss D – To Another Day (Ita Super Soul Music)

Sicilian DJ-producer Vivona hooks up with accomplished New York-based singer Miss D for a deep, afro-tech’d house workout. The supporting cast of remixes also delivers soulful depth, Frankie Feliciano adding warm pads and delicate piano, Vivona collaborator Jonathan Meyer reverting back to Africa via crashing percussion and marimba, N’Dinga Gaba providing epic synth-scape and Jon Cutler working mesmeric key riffs ‘n’ loops. Both Vivona and Meyer and Houseconverse include additional deep workouts, rounding off a seriously comprehensive and engaging package.

Nicky Curly – Piano In The Dark EP (Osunlade Remixes) (UK Defected)

Defected’s first remix release from Nick Curly’s smart debut album Between The Lines stormed clubland in 2012 – in the hands of Dennis Ferrer, Curly Cut Underground headed Beatport’s Deep House chart for over a month. The London label’s second revisit grabs soul-dance high priest Osunlade and tracks Piano In The Dark and Wrong Hands with sensational results. Osunlade’s organic Yoruba take on the former gilds its soulful, emotive male vocal with gentle, enriching percussion whilst, in stark contrast, his dub of Wrong Hands explores hypno-synth 4-4 and conjures vivid, neon-streaked images of underground New York. Class

Pablo Fierro – I Want It (UK Defected)

Delicious ass-shake house via Tenerife-based Fierro, a talented young DJ-producer-singer-songwriter who has already scored releases on reputed Stateside imprints King Street and i Records. I Want It marches confidently into raw, effectively plotted wobbles of analogue bass, euphoric synths and a suitably impassioned male vocal. The end product is edgy but hugely tuneful and, in turn, infectious. Boss groove with which to begin 2013....

Slow Hands &Tanner Ross – All The Same (US Wolf + Lamb)

Slow Hands, AKA Ryan Cavannah, and Tanner Ross, tease the first fruits from a forthcoming debut album driven by their poolside pairing in Majorca last summer. All The Same is stunning house melancholia, firing crisp beats ‘n’ bass into a dense fog of blurry keys, coma vocals and spiralling, heart-racing synths – it is powerful, introspective stuff. Baby Prince and Soul Clap’s Eli Goldstein (under his Bamboozla guise) bolster drums and tempo for their burnin’ remix whilst a Jah Bless revamp slows down to liquid guitars, spacey FX and golden dub swagger.

Benoit &Sergio – Bridge So Far EP (UK Hot Creations)

Another dose of clever electro-pop-house style from widely-hyped Deutsch duo Benoit & Sergio, complete with distorted ‘calling card’ vocals and appropriate Eighties references. The title track opener lays sharp 4-4 beneath subtle, melodic synths, shimmering keys and floaty vocals; hand-clapping follow-up $100 BILL skews its seductive money-hungry wordplay over a warbling, stompin’, utterly hypnotic retro groove that reminds, in part, of vintage Daft Punk. Killer EP....


Osunlade – A Man With No Past Originating The Future (Gre Yoruba Records)

Ambient, filmic opener The Realm Of Difference is a wholly appropriate introduction to Osunlade’s seventh studio album, stripping away all vestiges of what you thought you knew about the man and his music in order that you may rediscover them in more brilliant relief than ever. A Man With No Past is ambitious but well-judged and, crucially, likeable. From The Realm Of Difference, epic, atmospheric, blank audio canvas, to Eclipse, immaculately programmed jazz-funk shimmy, we travel, and then on to everything from stunning vocoder ballad Human Beings and the charming Goddess, all tinkling piano, tip-toeing flute and rich, soulful melody, to cutting socio-political commentary Sour The Plan (featuring agile newcomer Supreme – “I’ve got the power to sour the plan”) and peppy, parp-y lowdown funk slide Luna Moth. Osunlade has demonstrated for many years now that he is much more than the spiritual house pigeon hole into which he is so often squeezed but this latest long-player (completely house-less) pushes his wide-open boundaries with newly discovered levels of conviction, soul and personality. Transcendent.

Ian Pooley – What I Do (Ger Pooled Music)

Pooley, real name Ian Christopher Pinnekamp, has been making house records for over 20 years now and What I Do, his seventh album to date, brings him full circle – back to the raw, Nineties analogue sound that first defined his career. Tracks like CompuRhythm (released to favourable reaction on Innversions last year) and Tale Of The Big City build dancefloor momentum with satisfying sharpness and acuity but their author still holds his trademark ties to melody and soul as strikingly demonstrated on the disco-filtered Swing Mode and melancholic, tightly wound I Should Be Sleeping, with its intense loops of piano. Elsewhere vocal gems 1983 (featuring Hogni Egittsson) and Bring Me Up (featuring Dominique Keegan) rub well-buffed shoulders with funky, hip-hoppy mid-tempo workouts like Get It On, and so Pooley successfully marries tradition with progression. Pooley returned to analogue after growing bored of working by computer but What I Do is no staid, retro-house time capsule; modern thinking motivates its apt agenda and so too our feet.

Jay Shepheard – Home & Garden (UK Retrofit)

Fast-rising, Berlin-based Brit Jay Shepheard - see my interview above! – consummately abbreviates his first five years as a producer (releasing on labels Dirt Crew and Buzzin’ Fly as well as the aforementioned Compost and Retrofit) with this slick, tightly meshed 11-track fusion of deep, yet colourful disco and house. Zippin’ rides its Odyssey sample sky high, fuelled by luscious hi-hat rhythms, piano stabs and filters, Signs seductively mixes funky space-groove with ethereal vocal, and Type 1A motors on subterranean bass, skanking synth riffs and irresistible, rapidly oscillating sound frequencies. Shepheard delivers further variation (and imagination) when embracing wonderfully languid, Beloved-style electro-pop for Here Comes and the euphoric, almost progressive 4-4 crescendo of closing cut Two Much Love. Home & Garden is, as its title suggests, contemplative residential listening rather than full-on nightclub wig out and as such its rich detail and smooth, immersive flow serve it incredibly well. Expect an album, then, not mere tracks and beats...

Disco Love Vol 3 - Various Artists (UK BBE)

It’s a third super-swish but under the radar Disco Love outing for Glasgow’s finest Al Kent– AKA Ewan Kelly. The formula is much the same, thank goodness, Kent eschewing mainstream and regularly visited underground disco licks alike, in favour of those ultra-rare mirrorball cuts that you’ve probably never even heard of. And you’ll kick yourself when you do hear them, much as you did following Volumes 1 and 2. Kent opens up with the low-down bass and stirring strings of The Mighty Gents’ magnificent self-titled disco sashay, before leading into bullets from Sandy’s Gang (snappy vocal workout Hungry), Marion Javius (boogie-ful hi-hat jam Waiting In The Wings, sampled previously by house giants MAW, I think) and Ronnie April (deep horn hustle Dancer’s Theme, complete with funked-out bass guitar and soulful keys). There’s room, too, for Moses’ dreamy lilt Something About You, Rhond Durand’s percussively spicy Disco Fever and Cherish’s final fluid, harmonious word (great vocals) For You. Disco Love Volume 3 is another unbeatable BBE hand which, enhanced by Kent’s oh so subtle edits and tweaks, will enlighten as much enlighten. Sizzling sophistication....

Ben Lovett

Still working the late shift...

Please feel free to contact me with any Dance news that you feel would benefit others Thank you.

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