Review: DJ Overdose – Dead City (Berceuse Heroique)

Recent releases by Overdose have been up there with some of the most consistently exciting music of the last couple of years. Last year’s House Jam Freakier got, as far as I’m concerned, a weirdly subdued reaction from people I can only assume didn’t know their shit because it was a rocker, especially Vinca which was a dollop of scuzzy, dirty high-tech soul that had fallen off the space rocket and into the gutter. Likewise, Hero’s Gone Mental on L.I.E.S was a real eye opener, the title track a brilliant slab of phasing madness which took old school D&B and sloooooooowed it the hell down until it began to unravel at the edges.

Dead City propels itself in a different direction, and is an unexpected turn from both the producer and the label. That’s not to knock it, because there is a fair amount of quality shenanigans on offer, but it’s a record that seems slicker and maybe even quirkier than we are perhaps used to.

Largely, it’s the two cuts of Sorry To Disappoint which provide the departure from the recent Overdose sound. The producer himself has a lifelong love of hiphop, and it’s a vibe strongly on show here. His own mix of Sorry To Disappoint is a thickly sleek low-riding summer jam built of stripped down yet rugged beats that marshal the warm swirls of hazy, dusky melody around to excellent effect. At least at first, because as it unfolds it slowly begins to warp, taking on stranger hues from murky vocoded vox, and tricking out the low-rider with little snaps of Dutch electro trickery, drawing out moods and spinning the listener back on themselves. OB Ignett’s mix seems at first to stay well within the boundaries of the original, straying only a little from its slow bop, and only ratcheting the tempo upwards a little with a more insistent 4/4. And then without warning it begins to climb, stretching and mashing the tune until it redefines itself as a deep and exploratory house burner with some wicked bass. It’s a classy take on the art of the remix, to stamp your own personality on it without losing sight of the original funk.

The title track feels almost incidental to the hazy grooves of Sorry To Disappoint, blitzing the listener with wild frequencies and crunching drums. It takes a while to sort out the shards of sounds, interrupted as they are by an occasional randomness that borders on musical free-association. But even as you try to make sense of it, the grooves are bubbling up from underneath, latching onto the wild pitches and coiling around the slow, almost ambling, yet heavy breaks, turning into the rawer, moody flipside of Sorry To Disappoint’s tough, yet hazy energy.

I’ve always thought April was a deceptive month – fooling you into thinking that Summer is only just around the corner even while the late snow freezes your nuts off. There is a similar trick played here. It lulls you into thinking that it’s all about the warmth, a sort of west coast Saturday night cruise. When you get down to it though, there is a darker undercurrent – one that provides the mettle to the record’s winsome funk. It might be the poppiest thing that we’ve had from either Overdose or Berceuse Heroique – and there is something deliciously subversive about that, way more than any amount of contemporary noise can manage. Messing with your expectations and your head with some proper old school grooves.

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