Review: Casio Royale – In Basements Vol 1 (Dixon Avenue Basement Jams)

While I generally prefer to be a forward-looking kind of guy when it comes to house music, more happy to embrace whatever new sounds the future brings than cast my ears back for yet more mid eighties influences, I seem to have been digging out a lot of old records over the last couple of years that seem to provide an experience I just don’t get from the current scene. While the music put out by Relief Records, for example, or Dance Mania may not always be the most amazing in the genre, and sometimes feel a little one-trick (and a little dated), they still hit up a dirty, nasty, mischievous vibe, a vibe that has been sidelined a bit in recent years. Likewise the music of Mike Dunn may not have the slick sophistication and depth of a producer like Tin Man, but damn. You know, Damn!

It’s lucky for me, then, that there are still a handful of labels out there showing strong love for the seedier, rawer and more acidic end of the spectrum. Since Dixon Avenue’s first release, that murky, funky record by Jared Wilson, they’ve pretty much been bang on point every time I needed a go-to for some proper jams. Since Modini’s Turk EP and Denis Sulta’s Sulta Selects back in 2014, though, they’ve hit a real roll, putting out a sequence of records where every one has been somehow bigger, brasher and filthier than the one before it.

Casio Royale’s first record for the team is right in there, and builds up nicely with some balls out, toy-town jackers pushing a Chicago-ish sound that’s filled up with Armando like cheek and Relief’s pogo-ing stomp. I say Chicago-ish because there’s more to it than that, and it’s DNA is infused with an acidic wonkiness that owes as much to home-grown acid madness as it does to anything from the other side of the water. It’s a ballsier sound, Casio Royale have – fatter too – and one that’s less prone to losing itself in a cul–de-sac even though it likes its beats just as direct and to-the-point. It chucks deepness in the bin and sicks up on the shoes of subtlety, instead letting the grooves spiral up from the gut to fill their boots from the gleeful sonic mayhem going on all around them.

Crucially it’s this mayhem that brings everything together. It adds in the glee and sense of fun that were always as important to house and acid as the Roland gear. From the way Hell House chases Green Velvet up a stairwell with malicious intent before layering in some billowing, doom laden pads for no other apparent reason than they make everything crazier, you get the sensation that some mad house scientist is seeing how far he can push it before it explodes. Fun House retools for a wobbly jive that gets direction from the chiming riff and chirping bursts of acid.

Joyrider is a full on killer, born in Chicago but brought up in Manchester or Liverpool or Glasgow. Furious, prowling and funky it uses the thick toms to swat you around.It’s more serious about its business than either of the A-side tracks. The grimy shimmy of the riff slides here and there into a slanted middle eastern vibe that broadens the tune’s horizons. It’s a hard thing to decide whether this or I Finish takes the gold. I Finish might still be stormer, but it’s tighter than the others. Darker too and less in your face, it relies on a frosty, creeping acid line to get under your skin, and it holds the madness in check, stripping away much of the previous onslaught and letting a more nuanced mood filter through.

And there was me pretty much complaining they don’t make them like this anymore. The thing is they do, and they’re as jacking, fun and life affirming as ever.

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