Friday Night Tune Special – Favourite Tune of 2014: Denis Sulta – A.A.S (Nite and Day mix)

Seeing as this is the last Friday Night Tune of the year I thought I would do it slightly differently and play my favourite tune of 2014. I’ve heard a lot of tunes this year, we all have, and if I were to base something like this on purely technical or statistical information – such as amount of plays or something equally thrilling – we’d have ended up with an 8 bar loop of 150 BMP acid techno I did in Ableton one night when I was in a mood about something. And none of us wants that.

The fact is I don’t think I could do a top ten or 5 or whatever without some serious consideration and work. There have been a few stand outs, tunes which I have listened to far more often than I possibly expected to. Waltz from Dario Zenker’s ‘Morsin’ EP on Trilogy tapes was fairly rinsed around these parts, as was Buzzsaw by DJ Spider and Franklin De Costa. Person Of Interest’s Side Serena on his Russian Torrents release, Impressions by Zemi 17 on The Bunker NY and TX Connect’s Cheetah Blades from his ‘Real TX Jaxx’ EP on Bad Mums all did the business too, as did another hundred which came and went throughout the year.

A.A.S (Nite and Day mix) by Denis Sulta on Dixon Avenue Basement Jams wasn’t even a tune I’d heard in its entirety until a few weeks ago, but after that first listen it began nagging at me. In a year where the trends in house were towards more frayed edges, more scuff or full immersion in a retro sound of your choosing I think what got me about A.A.S was the fact it was one of the very purest of house tunes I’ve heard in a long, long while. Quite a lot of house these days is ever more abstract or detached – a sonic form of post modernism but this is a different breed. What marks A.A.S out from the pack is that it shines with an emotional energy that should always be present in house music but often isn’t. Critics could claim that it is maybe too in thrall to a particular time, a particular place. But that is missing the point. It’s isn’t so much the sounds of the tune that catches but the echo of darkness at its heart which is something all the very best house tunes carry with them. It doesn’t reinvent the genre, it doesn’t seem to fit with either the grubby, knackered house posse, nor the over-precise retro brigade but it brings back an atmosphere that had really began to vanish. A stormy, sultry tune that should be wrecking havoc everywhere. My favourite of 2014: A.A.S (Nite and Day mix) by Denis Sulta.

Favourite Records of 2014 Part 2: ALL THE HITS

So here we are with the last part of the contractually obliged trilogy. I’m limiting myself to a top five because we could be here for weeks otherwise and I have to go to the cinema to see the Hobbit in a bit. Is this list representative of the great world of electronic music? Nope, it is representative of my tastes and little else. These are just five records I’ve particularly liked and have come back to over and over again.

Special mentions have to go to a few records before we get to these top five though: Moodcut’s ‘Tame Cats’ on Nous, ‘The Space EP’ by RVDS on It’s Germany and Dario Zenker’s ‘Morshin’ on Trilogy Tapes were all on heavy rotation this year. As was Jared Wilson’s ‘Ghost Miners’ on 7777, a huge slab of grizzly, stamping acid house. ‘Dhool’ by Unnayanna on Something In The Water was a great record that could have done with a far, far less limited release. The same can be said for LIES Xmas 002, by M Rav AKA Patricia. Hopefully both will be back at some point. There are others, many others: The shambling psychedelic journeys of The Maghreban, and a raft of frayed, dusty house from Napoli courtesy of the Early Sound Recordings crew all figured large. It was a good year. Let’s press on.

Unspecified Enemies – Everything You Did Has Already Been Done (Numbers)

Pounding, insane ghetto-acid-techno-rave culled from an ancient live recording which was found washed up in a bottle of cheap, blended whisky on Jackmaster’s private island, Unspecified Enemies provided their second release for Numbers in the shape of one of the hardest and funkiest records of the year. Pitched somewhere between DJ Funk at his rawest, white-hot tribal house shenanigans and the seething energies of early nineties British rave, Unspecified Enemies showed that it is still possible to combine funk, grooves and aggression to great effect without falling into the miserable, monotonous ‘industrial’ heaviness that plagues so much current techno.

Rawaat – Day Laborer (Lobster Theremin)

Weirdly patronised by many reviewers on release for apparently sounding like Legowelt (no, I don’t know either), ‘Day Laborer’ was the point at which Lobster Theremin moved from being just another modern house label and started putting out records which refracted the genre’s tropes through a prism of expermentalism. Detroit native Rawaat delivered a collection of tunes that kept the beats to the speed of a frozen river and coupled the sort of expansive, reality stretching sample-delic wander of Austin Ceasar with some slow burning, down pitched grooves. Best of show, Motion Sensor is an homage to the ghosts of ambient techno; sharp edges in the mist, it’s haunting and disconcerting.

Denis Sulta – Sulta Selects Vol 1 (Dixon Avenue Basement Jams)

A quieter year than 2013 was crowned by DABJ’s best record of the last twelve months and possibly their best ever release. Newcomer Denis Sulta’s paen to Proper House Music lights up with the glimmer of the deepest subterranean clubs as it weaves and twists with the spirits of disco, italo and the most loose hipped, most jacking of classic Chicago house. A.A.S (Nite and Day Mix) is the standout; Drawing on memories of Ralphie Rosario’s classic U Used To Hold Me, it kept the prowling, seductive tone but replaced the stroppy sas of the original with an aching vulnerability. Easily one of the best house tunes of the year and once again proving to the hordes it’s the attitude of classic house that matters, not the sound.

Jay Daniel – Karmatic Equations (Wild Oats)

Daniel’s début release, 2013s ‘Scorpio Rising’ got far better praise than it perhaps deserved, which was ironic because ‘Karmatic Equations’, depite being fairly well received, never got enough. A record so earthy sounding you suspect it spends its Sundays on an allotment growing funk tomatoes, Daniel pushes a selection of slow burners through what must be some of the most knackered analogue instruments ever recorded. But aside from the grittiness it is the technicolour warmth of the tracks that charm. Modern Detroit house and techno with a touch of Chicago swagger. Many went for Royal Insanity or 4 Red, but it was the slinky Euro-pop turned dirty-faced gutter hymm ‘Change 4 Me’ that won it for me. A big record that bodes well for next year.

DJ Fett Burger & Luca Lozano – Hands Of Doom (Sex Tags UFO)

I was late in coming to this, which is a shame because when I did get round to buying the record, it quickly became one of those 12″s which is rarely out of reach. Breakbeat, rave, junglist leanings and chunky, rolling house all figure on a pair of tracks that exists purely in a universe powered by a pair of huge speaker stacks and a lot of smiles. what separates it from the host of other records that rediscovered the joys of old school break beats this year is the fact it sounds utterly contemporary. You couldn’t confuse this for something from 1991. Tongue in cheek and yet utterly genuine it just felt like the real thing. A smasher.

And that’s it, folks. Merry Christmas and thanks for reading. We’ll be back after the Christmas break with more ‘cheap and easy’ content, more reviews that are far, far too long, and more op-ed pieces where I forget my point half way through and panic my way to an excuse over two or three follow-up articles. Updates may be occasional over the holidays as buckets of bloody Marys take effect. Have a good one!

Favourite Records of 2014 Part one – Albums

2014 has been an interesting year for house and techno. The scene has changed over the last year as well. In the underground, the taste for ‘outsider house’ has abated somewhat and a rougher, more aggressive sound has begun to assert itself across the genres. Experimentalism seems to be very much in vogue as well, which is always the sign of a scene that is on the move and bringing with it new ideas and styles, although it might not always look like it with the mountains of reissues getting in the way. Anyway, let’s get down to brass tacks. I have no criteria other than to pick records I like, and in this case that is mostly those that have me sneaking back again and again. Albums first…

FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2014

Away from the superstar releases like Syro or Live At The Guggenheim, there were a huge amount of good LP there, and it’s beginning to look like house and techno (mostly techno, if we’re honest) is finally looking beyond the 12″ format as a means of expression. Steffi, Lee Gamble, Adam X and many others released albums that were some of the best work they have done and Andy Stott (no stranger to the longer formats, it has to be said) got the critics musing over ‘Faith In Strangers’. In fact, the number of bigger names putting out LPs was amazing. You’ll have to look elsewhere for Theo Parrish, though. I can’t afford it. Such is life when you buy your all your own. Here are my five favourites. Each of them represents some strand of electronic music that was important to me this year.
Prostitutes – Nouveauree (Night School)

Down low there were all sorts of gems out there. James Donadio’s Prostitutes guise delivered a snarling street smart bomb of twisted electronics and cauterizing beats for Glasgow’s Night School. It wasn’t an easy album to love, always willing to kick you in the balls for a laugh. But on tunes like Hate’s In The City or Late To Take It Light it delivered a blistering, taut burst of swaggering, refined brutality like few others. At only five tracks long, though I don’t know whether it should be classed as an album. Hell, Juno says it is, so it stays.

Gesloten Cirkel – Submit X (Murder Capital)

Dark side of the moon electro and body music shot through with a certain fragility that just adds to the slightly melancholy over all feel of the album, particularly noticeable in the achingly lonely sounding Chatters , and the brusque, Kraftwerk-esque Stakan. Elsewhere, such as Zombiemachineacid or Submit X itself it belts into the New Electro Dawn. A sometimes bleak, sometimes disjointed album, it delved into the toolbox that Murder Capital has made its own and managed to come back up with something fresh and new. It sounds Like Voyager doing karaoke on a dancefloor somewhere in the Oort cloud. Stand out remains the creeping, Arabic sounding electro pop of Feat Liette. One of a handful of proper classics from this year.

Herva – Instant Broadcast (Delsin)

A great album that seems to have disapeared as quickly as it arrived. Which is a real shame because there were very few others like it this year. A wildly experimental canvas brightly painted with curiosity and gentle humour, it sat at the border of ambient field recordings and live studio jams, watching the world go past. Whether it does, as was claimed at the time, fully eschew references to Detroit and Chicago is perhaps as difficult to quantify as the claim is meaningless. What matters are the velvet soundscapes inter-spaced by disco and experimentalist electronic beat downs plus some cheeky and raucous workouts which help to pull some of the more wilfully louche moments back to their feet. Slam The Laptop remains both the best and most immediate tune on it, but others like the Delroy Edwards-ish Jointless or the warbling, cloud hunting No Way Out come close to topping it.

Kassem Mosse- Workshop 19 (Workshop)

Kassem Mosse’s début album is probably the biggest of all five. Arriving almost unheralded back in April, it quickly garnered a justified reputation. A slick production, it is the antithesis of the Prostitutes record, exploring a beautifully realised sonic world of shimmering, drawn out house numbers washed over with warm analogue tones and just the right amount of soulful grit to keep your mind and body going. Whilst it hardly broke, or even blurred boundaries, it moved with such seductive grace we never had a chance. From the futureworld cocktail lounge grooves of the opener to the Latin jazz tinged disco of the closer it is a record that is overflowing with proper dirty funk.

Joey Anderson – After Forever (Dekmantel)

I don’t know when Joey Anderson began to eclipse his peers on the east coast, but it was definitely before this LP proved there was a real depth to his influences and talents. Not that many albums these days are worthy of being described as LPs, Long Players. Most are happy enough with a collection of very loosely connected moments, snapshots of where the producers’ head was right then. After Forever, though is a unified whole, a single narrative statement that rolls from one end of its tale to the other. The elements it draws on are suberb, from the deft avant-guarde roll of Brass Chest Plate, the deep, woozy jazziness of Sorcery – sounding like the best Metroplex record that never was – to the gossamer ghosts of the small ambient moments like Space Colour Ideas all the way through to the aquatic deep Drexciyan requiem of Archer’s Ceremony it is never less than striking. And yet, it is the simplicity of the grooves and the warmth of the drive that makes it such a great record, and one that makes it even better in the head than on the feet. Not only my favourite album of the year but one of my favourite for a long, long time. Outstanding.

Pattern Burst’s favourite labels of 2014: A magical seasonal selection.

Well, we got there. It’s nearly the end of 2014 and it is time for my contractually obliged round ups.

I hate lists. Actually, that’s wrong: I hate lists by other people. I spend most of my leisurely days jotting down lists. I list this, I list that. Sometimes I’ll list my favourite lists, just for the sake of completeness. But the problem I have with the lists other people make is that they are always wrong. Always. Well, usually.

When it comes to a subject as dense as the best record labels the wrongness can go exponential. How do you define how successful a record label has been? Amount of records released? quality of output? Does a label who puts out one totally banging record and nothing else deserve the same praise as one who puts half a dozen quite good ones? Already I am confused. House and techno, though, have a long history of labels that thrive away from the majors, and it is still those labels operating in the underground that forge the paths everyone else eventually follows. That attitude, that determination to bring a musical vision to the rest of us, is really the only thing that matters. Well, that and good tunes.

Just outside the top three are The Bunker NY with a slew of fine techno pitched at the more intelligent end of the scene and covering that ground where house, techno, trance and raw electronics come together into a strange blend. I can’t claim that every record they released got me good, but the hit rate wasn’t far off. The second record by Clay Wilson was a great example of the burnt alien landscapes so much of their material traverses. My favourite record from them, ‘Impressions’ by Zemi 17, has repeatedly made itself into my own mixes on the back of the heavy, dubby emptiness of the title track.

Dixon Avenue Basement Jams also had another good year, although a quieter one than 2013. They also left their best to last, with the dirty, sultry raw house funk of Denis Sulta and the ice-cold acid of TX Connect keeping the Glasgow label up there as one of the great current underground house labels.

Both of these labels, and a select few others, were at the top of their game. Numbers also had a pretty good year, with great releases from Unspecified Enemies, DJ Deer, and all the techno-grog baiting fun of ‘Lemonade’ by Sophie. Dog In The Night should also be commended. Very few labels managed such a sustained output of screamingly mad, warehousey, grimy techno at such a high quality. Their Christmassy seasonal record, Michael Ferrogosto’s ‘Pissing on Your Head’ ends the year with the label in rude health.

But my three favourite labels were easy enough to choose.

Russian Torrent Versions

The label that is but isn’t an offshoot of Long Island Electrical Systems did the unexpected and actually eclipsed its non-parent parent label in quality. Maybe there is something in the labels generally gnarly, nasty sound and punk rock feel that appeals to the adolescent in me, but so many of their releases were Must-Buys it stopped being fun around May and simply became an obsession. Certainly they hit a point mid year with a trinity of records by Karlist, NGLY and Person Of Interest that just blew everything else out of the water. That just about the only artists on LIES proper who bettered these records were NGLY and Person Of Interest themselves has not gone unnoticed…. Their last record of 2014 by Steve Summers was a blinder of jacking house and a damn good way to sign off for the year.

The Trilogy Tapes

Will Bankhead’s Trilogy Tapes has become one of the most important British labels of the last few years and one of the few that seems to properly understand that the seductive power of a 12″ isn’t just limited to what lies hidden in its grooves, but also in the way the whole thing is made memorable by artwork and design. But even if he was just packing these records in a plain white sleeve (something of an overdone gimmick this year), the music itself would still have us sitting up and taking notice. They started this year with one of the finest Theo Parrish records in a long time, and brought us gems from Anthony Naples (Zipacon), Dario Zenker (Mörsin) and Willie Burns (A Tab Of Acid) but it was ‘Never In Doubt’ by Andy Mac and Peverelist’s Zennor Project that sealed it for them. Such a massive set of tunes. An even better year for TTT than 2013.

Lobster Theremin

But my favourite label of the year was one I barely had any real concept of at the start. Lobster Theremin have blasted out of the gate with an output rivalling LIES at their most industrious. Now branching into sub labels and ending the year with their first album (By Chicago Jim) they’ve become synonymous with the noisy, groovy and experimental house and techno that came to define the year. Stand out releases? Snow Bone’s dystopian ‘Mystic Vision’, Daze’s freaky future ballroom ‘Lips’ and Rawaat’s majestic ‘Day Laborer’ were all records I found myself reaching for again and again. Look for a Chicago Jim review in the new year (as long as I remember to actually buy it.) There was something in the way typical forms were gleefully discared that made so much of the output so good to listen to. Detroit, Chicago, Rave, IDM and god knows what else were melted down to provide the raw materials for a gang of new beasts. The constant subversion and reinvention of what we expected kept us – and them – on their toes.

It has been a great year for Jimmy Asquith’s label, and given his talent for unearthing some real hidden gems, I’m looking forward to seeing what next year brings.