Friday Night Tune: Jason Fine – Jack Yo Bodda

One of the funniest things about a lot of the deep house stuff that is currently doing the rounds is that not much of it sounds very deep. Of course, anyone bandying around terms like deep house is liable to be bombarded with all that current wisdom about how ‘that isn’t deep house, grumble grumble, deep house is Larry Heard, grumble grumble, mutter..’ It’s a good point, and one that is made so often on house forums that it rivals Godwin’s law for ubiquity.

As a genre name it has become a useful method on Beatport, say, for fooling all of the people all of the time. You can chuck any old EDM under the DH banner and people will lap it up because it automatically comes with a cachet of cool intellectual sophistication which allows its purchasers to talk down to people who haven’t made the transition from glow sticks and breakdowns. The fact that a number of EDM DJs are currently rebranding themselves as deep house jocks probably tells you everything you need to know – and more. Even decent stores like Juno seem to whack everything that isn’t pounding techno under the deep house banner, which further confuses the issue.

The problem is that even if we limit ourselves to discussions of ‘The Good Sort Of Deep House’ we quickly find ourselves having to define what it is we mean by ‘deep’. It has become a catch-all term over the last few years, used to describe anything that isn’t an out-and-out thumper or obviously experimental in nature. In truth, I’m not the best person to be talking about deep house because as much as I admired Larry Heard and a lot of the originators it was never really my thing. A lot of it past me by and there was always something else I thought more interesting.

My own take on it is that deep house should probably be something fundamentally different from house with jazzier chords or an air of wooziness. I think it should be a form of house that captures the sort of moods that usually aren’t on display in a genre so geared to movement and dancing. Yeah, using that terminology you could probably say Frankie Knuckles’ Baby Wants To Ride or Bam Bam’s Where’s Your Child are deep house – and who wouldn’t want to hear that Bam Bam number dropped in a big Beatport DH night just to see the effect it would have? Ludovik Navarre’s St Germain are obviously guilty of jazz bothering and borderline noodling, but listen to Boulevard; Navarre is a master of atmosphere and emotional manipulation. He has entire tunes built out of those skills and he uses them to plumb the very depths of mood.

Jason Fine’s Jack Yo Boddah is my favourite example of a tune that I think is proper deep house. It doesn’t wash the listener in sleepy sounds, it doesn’t resort to moody progressions to do the damage. It’s certainly slow, but it can be jacked up into a proper floor destroyer any time you want. What does it for me is its atmosphere. It is a prowling tune, and one that relies on seductive soulfulness to inflict its damage. From the drawled vocal to the endless growl of the bassline it is genuine sex-music. Not in a fraudulent ‘erotic’ sense, though, but in a primal and ancient way. My God, it’s deep; an abyss of abandon.

And I think that is the crux of it. Most music described as deep is anything but because it is so sexless, so caught up in a need to impress on the intellectual level it forgets about the body. Deepness should come from the soul, from the centre of ourselves. Not from the brain, not from the mind and certainly not from the focus groups of besuited men working for huge online music stores. If your going out to a deep house night tonight, take this with you and change some lives.

Review: Mark Forshaw – The Fuck (Berceuse Heroique)

Somewhere along the line Berceuse Heroique have gone from being an interesting but deliberately small-scale operation to becoming a big deal. Partly I suspect their success is down to a reaction against a tide of increasingly bland house and techno and, say what you want about BH, nothing they do is bland. Featuring a roster of artists like Ekman, Koehler and Mgun, all strong in the dark side of the funk, pissing off dubstep puritans by re-releasing classic Loefah tunes, and redefining record packaging with vicious polemical inserts, Berceuse Heroique have brought a tonne of righteous noise back to a scene that would seemingly rather twat off about how lovely everything is all the time.

Mark Forshaw’s début for the label comes at the head of BH’s best run to date, and it was always going to take something special to one up a slew of absolute bangers that included EMG and that Smackos album. Forshaw is a good fit for BH, his work drawing heavily on a form of loose, experimental but very sharp acid house, with nods to classic Detroit and Chicago, all refracted through a uniquely British understanding and flavouring. Whilst he has never really delved into the deep oceans of static and chaos that some of his new stable-mates call home, his music tends to roll with a tight street-wise bump that sets it apart from the pack.

The Fuck is a hard medicine. You will not sip a whisky and nod your head serenely whilst listening to its blistered acid howl. It will not make you love your fellow man, and it will not have you romanticising amongst implanted memories about the second summer of love. But you need what it does give you. You need it very badly.

Across the two tunes are the sort of raw, jacking, poisoned jams that restore your faith in just how mental-fun house music can be when it pushes itself away from the template. The Fuck itself is a razor of sound that cuts and probes for an eternity before dissolving into a brutal industrial acid groove that takes the roof (and the skin) off with its twisted melody and toxic toms. Jamal Moss’s mix on the flip dries out much of the blizzard and lets the things straighten into a jack-hammered dose of prime Chicago techno like something from Relief Records that’s got at the Buckfast and gone dancing on the moon. It’s one of the very, very few remixes I’ve heard that I would shell out the money to buy on its own. A snaking, biting piece of borderline madness that connects perfectly with the essence of Forshaw’s orignial. Not in the least delightful, and all the better for it. Nasty, classy stuff.

Review: Paul Woolford – Orbit (Hotflush)

I only discovered The Black Dogs’ ace and massively missed Little Detroit forums a couple of years before it came to its end. It was a brilliant place, existing in the delicate balance between stupidity and learning that is the hallmark of all the best places on the internet. What really made it so special was that its denizens were always more than ready to shunt you in the direction of fresh sounds. I have Little Detroit to thank for turning me on to producers like Inigo Kennedy, 65d Mavericks and a host of other lunatics.

Paul Woolford too, was one of the artists who came with a heady recommendation, which was surprising because Woolford might be a lot of things as an artists, but creator of searing contemporary techno ain’t one of them. Regardless of that, I fell on the recommendation and sucked at a bunch of his records until not even the marrow remained. I blasted out tunes like Bareback and 5meO on repeat play, loving the way they sounded like classic house rebuilt for the far future, replete with frazzled melodies, shimmying drums and high wire strings.

Woolford hasn’t done a lot under his own name for a year or two, preferring instead to work on his equally excellent and ballsier Special Request project – and if anyone just maybe wants to give me a copy of his Vapour/Mindwash EP I’ll be perfectly happy to take it off your hands. But it’s still the work as Paul Woolford that has drawn the most praise, and justly so.

Orbit is a big sounding record, and one that is full of nods to old UK house as it was when it was still The Enemy Of The State. It’s dark, shadowy even, but with many moments of colour that suddenly flood the music with life, like strobes coming to life. Orbit itself is marginally the weaker of the two tracks. A thrusting, analogue builder, the kick all but reduced to a pop to make room for the vast rumble of the bass the mayhem it brings is to be found in the crazed fog of percussion that hangs over everything else. It propels the tune one way and then another, ratcheting up the drama during the occasional breakdowns.

It’s the B-side, though. MDMA is an absolute belter, make no mistake. True old school UK house, flecked with acidic rudeness, sparkling with massive piano breaks and vocal snips that couldn’t be more 89 if they came in dungarees and a stupid hat. It pumps along, a joyous riot of hands in the air NRG, almost ruining you for anything sensible when the clarion bass farts out. I don’t often want to go to clubs anymore, but I want to hear this on the biggest sound system my ears and bowels can take. None of that Funktion 1 rubbish either; I’m talking about some traveller sound system monstrosity with about thirty speaker cabinets lashed together with the string they usually tie their dogs up with, and a hollow-cheeked speed casualty dancing along side them, his hearing gone forever but still getting off on the bass.

Paul Woolford as Paul Woolford has been a long time coming back. It’s been worth the wait, though. Especially with MDMA kicking it hard. Sorted.

Friday Night Tune: Aux 88 – I Need To Freak

In the mid nineties Detroit techno suddenly seemed to explode, coming apart at the seams only to be rebuilt into a host of very different styles than those the first wave had shepherded through the scene’s kindergarten days. There were, of course, elements that lingered over from the early years; the strings and a forward-looking, sc-fi tinged vibe were still there, as was the deeply soulful edge that continued to differentiate Detroit techno from the host of new pretenders who were on the rise on the other side of the ocean.

But what the second wave brought with them was a hardness that had not always been apparent before. Underground Resistance, having quickly risen to a place of prominence on the world stage, infused high-tech soul with a fire that was not easily put out. UR alumni, chief amongst them Robert Hood and Jeff Mills, led this new assault – Hood with his tight minimalist approach and Mills with a form of techno that would fuse funk to a furious aural assault – and would alter techno forever and irrevocably.

What tends to get forgotten about now, however, was the reintroduction of electro into a scene that become more and more focussed on slamming 4/4 beats. It had always been there. From the very beginnings of Detroit techno – and even before – there was a silver thread that tied techno to Kraftwerk’s measured robotic movement and beyond via Juan Atkins’ work as Cybotron and Model 500. In truth it was Atkins who had greater influence than the Germans. His pioneering application of the purest grooves to Kraftwerk’s tight machine blueprints became one of the defining moments in music history and it’s doubtful that techno would have sounded anything like it did had it not been for him.

Two acts in particular came to define this renaissance. Drexciya became one of the genres’ great exponents, fusing their take with an Afro-futurist manifesto that gave the music its own world to soundtrack. They were esoteric as much as they were earthy, and although you could always tell their influences if you looked into the shadows long enough, they quickly transcended, ceasing to be techno, or even electro, but instead fully and completely Drexciyan.

Aux 88, however, were a different proposition. They came to embody the ethos of Detroit electro-funk (or techno-bass), a form of electro that had a massive and different kind of effect on contemporary producers than Drexciya did. The output of several Detroit labels from the era bear witness to this influence: Underground Resistance, Metroplex and Direct Beat, an offshoot of 430 West which Aux 88 called home and released most of their best work on, were all full of artists who were cooking up this fierce blend of electro, street tough techno and acid. It was so potent a sound that for several years towards the end of the decade, it seemed that every record to out of Detroit was electro bass in mind, body and soul.

Aux 88 did not have quite as major an influence on the rest of the world as Drexciya, and several of their records sailed a bit too close to the Kraftwerkian sound for some tastes, especially in Europe, perhaps, where people did not always want their Detroit imports to sound like the very thing they had sent out into the world. But these are minor gripes, because when Aux 88 got going, God, they really went for it.

I Need To Freak, a track taken from their début album Is It Man Or Machine, was a bloody banger of a tune and the perfect example of techno-bass in full flow. The Kraftwerk touches are still there, as are little nods to Model 500, but they are consumed by the fire that is lit by the swagger of those destructive, sweeping beats and the snares which are so sharp they cut preconceptions to the bone. What makes the track, though, is the mammoth acidic bass that coils around everything and brings together a sense of mischief and funk that is barely contained. It’s a corker, and it’s a track that still smashes its way through the night after twenty years. My copy is all worn out. Can I get a repress? Please?

Reviews: Doms & Deykers – Fonts For The People (3024); Lando – Stunts (Ultramajik)

Doms & Deykers – Fonts For The People (3024)

Steffi and Martyn deliver a collaboration as Doms and Deykers on Martyn’s 3024 label which is bang on message for the sound of the season. The three tracks of Fonts For The People swing through breakbeat, Deep moody house and chilled electro to deliver a record that is woozy with warmth but not at the expense of a little bit of a proper kick.

We’re getting a lot of tunes these days that take a 90s ravey feel as their starting point, and Fonts For The People itself might seem like more of the same before it morphs into a deadly bit of twisty, acidy house that’ll get your skin nicely crawling with the sensation of being crammed into a disused factory just as the dry ice starts to choke you and the police arrive in force. It’s a sleek belter of a number that’s both eminently listenable and massively danceable. Penny’s Groove summons the spirit of Chez Damier and roughs it up with fat bass and pads so high up you could hang the stars off them. Special mention, though, goes to Tepper which simply flows in the breeze with one of the most laidback hits of electro you’ll hear all year. A lovely, understated and haunting end to a record that came out of nowhere to deliver a hit of the purest house shenanigans that you’ll have heard for a while.

Lando – Stunts (Ultramajik)

I’ll be the first to admit that Lando is a producer with whom I’m not entirely familiar, our one intersection to date being his release on Icee Hot a couple of years back which I only bought because of the kick ass remix of Help Myself by Shake Shakir. It was a pretty good release, however, and I really should have paid a bit more attention to his work since then.

Stunts could so easily be a proper example of big room house if it were not for the fact that almost every tune on it takes pleasure in its weird and off-kilter vibes. As it is only Show Me Tricks dips a little to much of its toe into the waters of convention. The rest of the EP is an excursion into a place where the exploratory is brought together with straighter vibes to create a record of prowling, moody house, where sliced vocals and stark, alien electronics tease out strange atmospheres that never quite allow you to rest in certainty that you know what’s going on. Stunts itself is a subtle builder of slightly discordant stabs and burst steam pipe percussion that swells with sinister motives as the tune goes on. Onwards and Upwards has the darkened feel of a Prince Of Denmark record shorn of its wibbly pretensions and redirected to a dancefloor cloaked in ground mist.

A gloomy record maybe, but it’s one full of strange little touches and oddball energy that’ll get stuck in your head. Although it never quite breaks free from a certain breed of minimal slickness, it definitely pushes its austere toolbox as far out as possible. Unexpected and mischievous, Stunts takes delight in rendering tunes that restore a dose of the freaky darkness that house has been lacking of late. Well worth checking out.