Switched On – Detroit Love 3 mixed by Wajeed (Detroit Love / !K7)

What’s the story?

Carl Craig is building up some healthy momentum with his Detroit Love mix series. With Stacey Pullen and Craig himself having delivered techno-rich instalments, attention turns to Slum Village co-founder and Dirt Tech Reck label head Wajeed.

His is a very personal take on the city’s music, having grown up with its soul and hip hop, not to mention the rich house and techno tradition to which he has more recently moved. He describes his contribution as a selection of tracks ‘from a small group of my favourite contemporaries from Detroit and abroad’.

What’s the music like?

Pretty bouncy – at least from the start. Wajeed fires the starting gun with a couple of mid-tempo tracks with a spring in their step, 14KT’s We Out Chea and BlackloopsHigher.

Wajeed’s references to hip hop and jazz are subtle but lasting, making themselves known in Tall Black Guy’s Coffee Room before the mix heads for deeper territory with Patrice Scott and the cool vibes of The Detroit Upright.

With the mix settling into its groove quickly this is an ideal way into the evening, whether staying in or going out. If it’s the latter you will definitely benefit from Rocco Rodamaal’s Someday, a gospel-tinged number reworked by Brian Tappert rework, and from the rolling drums of Ninetoes’ Stand Up.

The sound perspective widens for D-Love Music’s Celestrial, a warm-hearted addition with its big brush strokes of spacey synths, which leads into Damon Bell’s Mermaid Blues, with persuasive vocal contribution from Camille Syfia. Roddy Rod’s Overbite has a strong bit of piano work and Matthew Law’s Minimariddim a good instinctive feel, stripping the textures back.

The bounce is back for Joss Moog’s persuasive 196, before the drums roll more for Teflon DonsGonna Tell Me. LADYMONIX gets some really good warehouse-style percussion for WhoRU, leading to the chopped up vocal of Harry Romero’s Revolution.
DJ Rimarkable’s I’m In Trouble has an excellent vocal, one of the stand-outs of the mix, and this paves the way for a closing duo of Lux’s groove The Set Up and Preslav & C. Scott with warm grooves to finish on Achey Breaky.

Does it all work?

Yes. Although Detroit Love is likely to be labelled as a techno series Wajeed proves there is going to be much more to it than that, with a commendable willingness to bring in the city’s other important forms of music commendable and definitely suited for the long term.

Is it recommended?

Yes. It will be interesting to see where Detroit Love goes next, for although we’ve had three volumes there are so many more musical back streets to navigate. Even if it heads for techno again there is a huge pool of more than able DJs from which to choose!

Stream and Buy (from November 15)

Switched On – Will Saul: Open Too Close (Aus Music)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Will Saul is a seasoned dance music producer, but in the last decade or so his preference has been to operate behind the scenes. That still makes for a busy life of music, with the highly regarded Aus Music to run, an excellent contribution to the DJ Kicks! series and a good deal of DJ work.

Open Too Close sees him return to the album format for the first time in 13 years, and employs his structural thinking of a DJ, condensing ‘what I play in a club if an eight hour set was condensed into ten tracks’.

What’s the music like?

Saul’s approach is a good one on several levels, for it allows him to show off his musical versatility while giving the listener value for money in the variety stakes.

It proves easy to relocate Open Too Close to the club, for in Freya’s Theme we have the perfect warm-up, a shuffling beat supporting cool keyboards that is reminiscent of earlier Matthew Herbert. It successfully captures that moment in a club where you know it’s where you want to be for the rest of the night, and a few hours’ dancing at the very least lie ahead.

Capitalizing on that, Room 9 and Visions up the tempo successively, the latter given a brilliant vocal hook as its beat harks back to 1980s funk. Openings and Moorings are bouncy numbers, Saul hinting at urban garage with the offbeat vocals, before Pingalatu breaks cover, driving forward with a sound that is pleasingly rough round the edges, a bit of pure club music.

Through the album Saul puts his music in the context of stuff he really likes and the artists and DJs he works with and around, meaning the style is never restricted beyond something you would definitely dance to. My Left Sock shows this off brilliantly, an energetic piece of break beat, countered by the warm weather specials Submerge and One For Rex, with its clattering beat. Get Back Up signs off with a nod in the direction of Detroit, spacious chords complementing the robotic vocals.

Does it all work?

Yes. Saul appears to have deliberately given himself the maximum time of an hour to fulfil his brief, and the ten tracks described above form part of a longer-reaching structure like a DJ set, just as he wanted them to.

It means the music always feels like it’s heading somewhere, and with a good number of earworms there is no chance of Saul outstaying his welcome.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Great to have him back as a creator of music as well as a DJ. He’s too good not to do both!

Stream

Buy

Switched On – Balance presents Soundgarden mixed by Nick Warren

Various Artists: Balance presents Soundgarden mixed by Nick Warren (Balance)

What’s the story?

The Soundgarden is an enterprise headed by DJ Nick Warren and his partner Petra, and in what seems like no time at all it has evolved from parties and radio shows to compilations and now a record label. This compilation marks a return to the Balance series for Warren, who as half of revered 90s duo Way Out West has an almost unrivalled pedigree in house music.

His wish was to create a timeless pair of mixes in which each track has involvement from a member of the Soundgarden family, illustrating the community ethics of the label.

What’s the music like?

Warren’s wishes are largely fulfilled, using his components to make a pair of mixes that could easily be listed as two recordings rather than their 27 tracks.

He creates wide open spaces and is careful not to fill them with too much music, so that sometimes the music can sound quite minimal. It always has a forward progression though, and in the course of two and a half hours opens out beautifully.

Warren opens up with a typically airy number, in this case Aārp‘s Gemma III, and lets the mix establish its own footing with a couple of airy house tracks. Arguably the best of these is Aspen, by Synkro & Arovane, which has a natural feel to it. As time passes a firmer footing and bolder sound are established. Warren’s mixing is typically seamless – it’s difficult to spot the joins at points – with other highlights including Kamilo Sanclamente‘s Urania, dispensing stardust far and wide. Darper‘s Crystal Voyager has broad harmonies and curious bleeps, musing on time and space, then Emi Galvan‘s Embrace flat major has a nice shimmery breakdown before panning out for Ben Archbold‘s SF.

The second mix is dreamy, a little darker but again thoughtfully compiled, starting with the Eastern leanings of SIX‘s Berlin. There are dark hues from Black 8‘s Black Tiger, while Dmitry Molosh’s Note brings a combination of distinctive sharper sounds and an ethereal vocal.

Later on Warren’s own Dreamcatcher, with Black 8, is subtly hypnotic, while Eli Nissan‘s Restricted Delusions is tougher. By the time Oliver & Tom‘s Luly comes around the pace has increased slightly but the mood is contented.

Is it recommended?

Yes. He may be an old hand at this compilation business, but Nick Warren still knows how to pace and mould a mix to perfection.

Stream

Buy

You can get this album from the Balance music website

Switched On – Instra:mental: Timelines (Nonplus Records)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

When Instra:mental started the Autonomic podcast series with like-minded producer dBridge, their mantra was ‘music first, drum & bass second’. The duo – Alex Green (aka Boddika) and Damon Kirkham – qualified this by saying at the time that their aim was not necessarily to make a drum & bass track, but to make music that was ‘emotionally charged, personally edifying and organic’. They proved this in their excellent contribution to the Fabric compilation series.

Timelines revisits the Autonomic series from their perspective, bringing together five of vinyl-only contributions with six previously unavailable archive tracks. Marking the fiftieth release on the Nonplus label, it is in effect their second album, eight and a half years after the excellent Resolution 653 in 2011.

What’s the music like?

With little reason to change a successful formula, Instra:mental continue to switch between brooding panoramic instrumentals and close-up, stripped back pieces of sharper sound and raw rhythm. Sakura and Pacific Heights fall resolutely into the former category, beautifully structured and weighted, and keeping a serene beauty until bolstered by the substantial rhythm sections. Tracks like Encke Gap, with its more explicit techno references, fall into the latter description.

The music will appeal to drum & bass listeners but it is actually more versatile than that, flexible enough to bring in lovers of deep house or even slower jams. This is because a lot of Instra:Mental’s music can be appreciated at either a fast or slow tempo. As they say in their commentary to the album, a lot of their tracks operate at a nippy 170bpm – but have rhythms inbuilt to cater for those who might prefer half the speed. This brings a curious tension to their music as well, found in the likes of the slower Deep Night, a nocturnal scene with a slight edge, or Photograph, a subtly reflective beauty. End Credits is even more delicately shaded, but again the tension this creates is exquisite.

Watching You is a superb example of their craft, a nocturnal, urban portrait, while Elsewhere has a 1980’s soundtrack edge to its main riff, an intriguing clash of modern with recent past that pans out nicely to a wider perspective around halfway through. Final track More Than is perhaps the pick, another piece of reflection but a beautifully voiced one.

Does it all work?

Largely, yes. Heard in a single LP the duo’s approach can seem a little singular at times, but if you’re listening on good headphones you will be able to fully appreciate the nuances of their rhythms and the ‘less is more’ approach that makes their music more pictorial. Better still, hear it on a dancefloor somewhere!

Is it recommended?

Yes – fans will not need any convincing and will certainly be pleased with the results of Timelines. It will be interesting to see where the duo go from here.

Stream

Buy

Let’s Dance – Mike Dunn: My House From All Angles (Classic)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Mike Dunn is a highly respected name in house music. The Chicago figurehead is already responsible for original house classics God Made Me Phunky, Face The Nation and Let It Be House, but as his many and varied pseudonyms indicate he is capable of an extremely versatile approach to house music.

The title of his first album since 1990 recognises that, the fourteen tracks including solo instrumentals and a few guest slots. My House From All Angles has been out since the summer, but Arcana wanted to recognise its existence and worth!

What’s the music like?

If someone asks you to play them some classic house music, Mike Dunn will never let you down. Because of the rich heritage he has in Chicago, he is capable of making music that recognises how house music sounded at the beginning, but brings it up to date in execution and variety.

He also has at his disposal another weapon – his voice. You don’t forget the Dunn tones in a hurry, his smoother than silk lower range used to cheeky effect on tracks like Phreaky MF or on the top notch track Move It Or Work It.

Classic house is not the only order of the day either. Modulation gets closer to techno, a brilliant instrumental whose closest cousin could be Kerri Chandler’s Bar A Thym. On the other side, The Wake Up Call, featuring Deejay Alicia, is darkly lit – as is You R, an acid tinged celebration.

Does it all work?

Yes. Dunn’s experience works so well here – he knows how to make a great house track but also the elements that keep it sounding fresh. That means that nothing is over-produced, nothing is too calculated – and that leaves room for a bit of instinct and a chance to tap into the party vibe, which after all is where house music works at its very best.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Mike Dunn is still full of ideas, and each of these tracks brims with creativity and a wish to have a good time. My House From All Angles is a show home definitely worth buying.

Stream

Buy