Beyoncé’s Break My Soul – making house music all night long

by Ben Hogwood

Last week we saw the return of Beyoncé with her first new music in three years – and as so often happens with artists of her standing and calibre, it didn’t take the direction everyone was anticipating:

In fact, Break My Soul is something of a history lesson in dance music, and could have been released at any time in the last 35 years. That is definitely not a criticism, as the music sounds fresh out of the studio, but in using a sample of classic house music the former Destiny’s Child singer has put the focus firmly on recent American music history.

The principal sample on Break My Soul is the Robin S classic Show Me Love, in its 1992 Stonebridge club mix form:

Several records have sampled it of late, including Craig David on My Heart’s Been Waiting For You (where he also namechecks the song in the lyrics) and Charli XCX’s Used To Show Me, both taking the main hook of the track for their inspiration. Beyoncé has been a bit more subtle, lifting just a short snippet from the middle of the riff.

Other records come to mind when hearing Break My Soul for the first time, over and above Show Me Love. Firstly, there are some very similar vocal techniques used in the early Chicago house classic Jack Your Body, the genre-defining track from Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley – which also happens to be in the same key:

Detroit, too, is not far off where influences are concerned. I was put in mind of this Gospel-flavoured treat from Terrence Parker a few years back:

There is no suggestion that Beyoncé, or her writers (principally Tricky Stewart and The-Dream) have copied any of these records, more an observation that they have respectfully mined a long-standing tradition of house music influence, using its heritage to create something that could only be a Beyoncé song.

It will be interesting to chart the direction of the album, as house music gains an ever-greater hold on this year’s new American music.

Let’s Dance – Various Artists: Back To Mine – Horse Meat Disco (Back To Mine)

What’s the story?

Back To Mine have been running for 24 years now, and ever since Nick Warren curated the first release, with its strapline ‘a personal collection for after hours grooving’, the series has blossomed into a must-hear with every release. There was a pause in production of 11 years, between Krafty Kuts in 2008 and Nightmares On Wax in 2019, but since then the productions have been shown to be in rude health. This 32nd release turns to Horse Meat Disco for feelgood inspiration.

This is the quartet named after a partially obscured newspaper headline (‘Horse Meat Discovered In Salami!2) but that moniker perfectly supports what they do, somehow! Their brand of feelgood disco music began in a Chinatown basement in 2003 but since then has added an essential dimension to the London gay scene and now a long way beyond.

With founders Jim Stanton and James Hillard joined by Severino Panzetta and Luke Howard, the DJs have been on a roll ever since, expanding their musical outlook to music Hillard says you will get ‘if you love dancing and have an open mind’.

As with all Back To Mine releases, the music is available as a collection of unmixed tracks but also in an unbroken mix lasting just over an hour.

What’s the music like?

As you might expect from this source, extremely uplifting! All these grooves are effortless and given with a smile on their face, though some have quite far-reaching lyrics that speak to the heart as well as the dancing feet. God’s Greatest Gift To Man Is A Woman by Margie Lomax is one such example, a simple but really catchy groove repeating the essential strap line. Róisín Murphy’s Ancora Ancora Ancora is another, with a low slung beat that Severino & Nico de Ceglia work to perfection.     

Alien Alien feat Igino’s Perfidia has a relatively slow but effortless groove thanks to Panzetta and Ray Mang on the remix. Escape From New York’s Fire In My Heart is brilliant, with anthemic chorus over chunky keyboards, while if it’s a great, empowering piece of spoken word you’re after, look no further than Ona King, guest on Larry Heard’s brilliant Premonition Of Lost Love, in its Extended Adult Mix form. Catchy lyrics also turn up in GAME’s wonderful Gotta Take Your Love, with the unforgettable line “You turn me on just like a shower”.

Meanwhile Horse Meat Disco’s own Self Control, from their debut album, has the ultimate combination of twangy guitar, subterranean bass and deadpan spoken word. Messages From The Star by The RAH Band is arguably the pick of the bunch, with a heady guitar lines and a chorus you could put on repeat for hours. Most intriguing track award, however, goes to Marianne Faithfull’s Sex With Strangers, featuring Beck, which leaves a distinctive mark.

Does it all work?

Yes, completely – and it succeeds by bringing the whole feel of a live Horse Meat Disco into your living room or onto your headphones. The smiles, the dancing, the feeling of unity and togetherness – all are brought to life.

Is it recommended?

Enthusiastically. Horse Meat Disco are never knowingly undersold in the tunes department, to use a famous retail phrase, and they certainly deliver the goods here!

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Let’s Dance – Various Artists: DJ Kicks: Cinthie (!K7)

cinthie

written by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Berlin DJ Cinthie steps up to take the baton for the latest in !K7’s ever-successful DJ Kicks series. She has been busy of late as a producer, releasing her debut album Citylights, under the Skylines alias, on Will Saul’s Aus label in 2020. Since then she has been producing a wealth of excellent house music singles on her own labels.

Her aim with this generous 24-track selection was to bring together a sequence including her old heroes but also new house music sounds. In her words, the music ranges from ‘deep to Detroit, from banging to smooth, from jazzy to stomping, from Disco to Chicago, from dubby to big room’.

That means big names from Chicago, New York and Detroit – including Paul Johnson, Boo Williams, Amir Alexander and Spencer Parker – and new ones too, such as Amy Dabbs, Logic1000, Lis Sarocca, Anna Wall and Cinthie herself.

What’s the music like?

Hugely enjoyable. From the moment Terence Parker’s I Love The Way You Hold Me bursts out of the blocks, the mood is set for over an hour of good, uptempo grooves, and Cinthie gets a brilliant mix together to ensure the momentum is never broken.

Highlights include the bouncy, vibrant start from Parker which gets a complement from the suitably uplifting Oldtown Dub from Niles Cooper and Shinichiro Yokota’s Time Lapse. The home-style piano and springy beats of Sandilé‘s Jammin and Slammin work well, while  Amir Alexander‘s Blessed Are The Meek is really good, transitioning beautifully into UC BeatzCrash Nerd. Later on the heavier, rolling beats of Adryiano’s Non___Stop lead into a brilliant choice, Paul Johnson’s Y All Stole Them Dances. The music is motoring now, the beats broken up more for selections such as the funky Logic1000 selection I Won’t Forget, the momentum carrying through a fine finishing pay-off of Amy Dabbs, Chevals and Anna Wall.

Does it all work?

Yes, so much so that you’ll be more than happy to go round again. The ratio between old and new feels just right, and Cinthie’s enjoyment throughout is clear as day.

Is it recommended?

With gusto! A feelgood selection celebrating house music’s power to inspire, and acknowledging along the way the part disco has played in its evolution. Absolutely top stuff.

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Let’s Dance – DJ Spen: Eye Of The Storm (Quantize Recordings)

dj-spen

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Eye of the Storm is a remix album, a track by track reconstruction of DJ Spen‘s successful 2021 album Soulful Storm. It calls on a starry house music guestlist.

What’s the music like?

Very, very good. In each case the choice of remixer and original song seem to fit hand in glove, with properly uplifting results.

The collection starts with a classy deep house groove from Jovonn, and the organ-led title track, before we hear from DJ Meme for a broader, funky version of You Are My Friend, vocalist Michelle John on hand to ‘turn my frown upside down’. Kerri Chandler is smooth as silk in his take on Goin’ Home (To See My Savior) before DJ Spen himself references Chicago house in a lovely, late-night take on Nobody But You.

Everywhere you look on the 18 tracks, house or disco music royalty can be found. John Morales turns in a stellar take on Wish I Didn’t Miss You; meanwhile David Morales gets a thoroughly enjoyable bounce to two versions of I Got The LoveMichael Gray does a lovely line in piano-led house for Party People, while Ralf Gum gives plenty of room to Brandon Yancey’s vocal on Perfect Timing. DJ Spen himself brings a chunky beat to The End Of It All, and while we’re talking chunky you couldn’t get much better than Mike Dunn recasting Crystal Waters‘ vocals on Party People.

Does it all work?

Yes, handsomely. When good news and feelings are in short supply, a blast of any number of these tracks will provide the uplift required.

Is it recommended?

Yes – there is some quality vocal house music here, guaranteed to lift the spirits! Even if you already have Soulful Storm, this is an ideal complement.

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You can listen to clips and purchase this release at the Traxsource website

 

 

Let’s Dance – Various Artists: Darkroom Dubs Vol. 5 – Compiled and Mixed by Silicone Soul (Darkroom Dubs)

darkroom-dubs-5

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Glasgow duo Silicone Soul have been running Darkroom Dubs for two decades now, which is a lifetime in house music – and it is great to report the long running series celebrating the achievements of the label is back for a fifth instalment. As with previous releases there is a mix from the duo, which is complemented by separate unmixed tracks and a number of bonus remixes.

What’s the music like?

The mix is compelling, and as good as anything Silicone Soul have put together in their time. It is ideally paced, moving surely through the gears and upping the intensity with each new track. The strong opening section hits a peak with Sigward’s remix of Id!r’s Monday, a smoky torchbearer that has long, held drone chords and a cutting bass. This segues nicely into the Shall Ocin remix of Silicone Soul’s own Farenheit 625, featuring Franklin Fuentes on some excellent vocals, and in turn this moves to a white hot cover of the Blancmange classic Living On The Ceiling from Skinnerbox.

Things turn darker and more acidic from here, through Dino Lenny’s Chained To A Ladder, but the sun soon reappears in the heat-flecked Undo track Acid Summer and Amount’s Kreuzberg. The more acidic direction is enhanced by two tracks from Justin Robertson’s Deadstock 33s, the second one – The Music Is Madness (To Those Who Cannot Hear It) – a particular treat.

With a little more acid in the mix, it’s good to find warmth again with Undo’s Tempesta, nocturnal atmospherics from Mariano Mellino’s Mubarak, and then something completely different in the slower but sharply defined electro beats of Am$trad Billionaire’s Outer Limits (Part 1). Wrapping up the selection are two more hot weather winners, Eduardo De Le Calle’s Breatharian and the DJs Pareja remix of Alejandro Paz & Local Suicide’s quite creepy but effective Splish Splash.

The beat patterns of the mix are largely four to the floor, but as the mix progresses there is greater room for manoeuvre, especially as the keyboard lines take on strobe-like patterns.

Does it all work?

It does, especially if you listen to the mix the whole way through without swerving. Only then will you get the best sense of the pacing of these tracks, which is pretty much nailed down to perfection.

Is it recommended?

Yes – whether you have followed the Darkroom Dubs story from the early days or whether you are just pitching in to their newest chapter. Silicone Soul clearly retain their appetite for new house music, while staying true to the principles that have made their label a solid and assuring presence in British house music and beyond.

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