Let’s Dance – Jody Wisternoff: Nightwhisper (Anjunadeep)

Jody Wisternoff Nightwhisper (Anjunadeep)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Jody Wisternoff is dance music royalty, being one half of Way Out West where he is joined by Nick Warren. The two have made powerful and progressive albums since the mid-1990s, sitting squarely between house and trance music, but are free to run their own solo projects alongside the duo. Nightwhisper is Jody’s second solo album, his first since 2012, and it has served as an outlet to express conflicting emotions felt through the death of his father, with a sustained period of caring for him beforehand.

Written in 2019, it faces those sorrowful events in the context of weekends where Wisternoff was involved in the ‘day job’, as it were, DJing at exotic party locations.

What’s the music like?

The conflict between the different areas of Wisternoff’s life is certainly felt here, but the overall impression is firmly positive. The songwriting here is direct and so it is easy to relate to. For example when the loop ‘don’t go away, don’t leave me now’ starts up on Here To Stay, the combination is just right – some introspective thoughts but presented through a really good vocal hook.

Wisternoff chooses his vocalists well, with the husky tones of Rondo Mo working well on Lately, or James Grant and Jinadu on the ultra cool Blue Space, singing how ‘I’ve been looking everywhere for a sign’. Grant also appears on the title track, a blissful number tapping into the spirit of The Beloved. The varied rhythms that Way Out West have always used are in evidence, too – Andromeda marshals its breakbeats well, Story Of Light works a sharper bassline, and the lovely soft timbres on For Those We Knew are really nicely done. Mimi Page’s vocal adds a beautifully weighted tribute here, an apt memorial piece.

Does it all work?

Yes – Wisternoff uses his experience to provide exactly what is needed for a pool soundtrack or for the dancefloor. To be honest each of these twelve tracks can move effortlessly between the two, and since the vocals are good they stand up well to repeat plays.

Is it recommended?

Yes. This is classy, hot weather music which works really well on the beats front, but has music of substance to go with it. Because of that, Nightwhisper works equally well as foreground and background listening – and it stays with you emotionally too.

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Let’s Dance – House Masters: David Penn (Defected)

Various ArtistsHouse Masters: David Penn (Defected)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Spanish DJ David Penn gets this very welcome career retrospective from Defected, a chance for fans to appreciate not just his original, Latin-flavoured house tunes and his teamwork with DJ Chus, but a whole host of remixes. Penn has in the past bravely taken on classics like Pete Heller’s Big Love and Sophie Lloyd’s Calling Out, but as this collection shows he always comes out on top.

What’s the music like?

Excellent, and brimming with good vibes. The original productions include Penn’s uplifting Nobody, which sets the tone from the off, but also What Is House, with Rober Gaez, and Stand Up, a piano-led, gospel-tinged winner with Ramona Renea. The collection has a really good ebb and flow between these productions and Penn’s remixes, so early on we get the rolling beats and bass of Jack Back’s (It Happens) Sometimes and a brilliant take on Candi Staton’s Hallelujah Anyway, smooth as silk in the production but still hitting the essence of the song. Later on the same can be said for Ron Hall & The MuthafunkazThe Way You Love Me, which Penn treats just right, and also Todd Terry’s Babarabatiri, which plays right into his Latino strengths.

Speaking of which, Penn’s El Sur, with Jabato, is a highlight later on – as is Esperenza, the long-established anthem made with regular sparring partner DJ Chus. Both appear later with a remix of Lenny Fontana’s The Way, before teaming up with Concha Buika to bring the house down on Will I (Discover Love).

Does it all work?

Yes. Penn’s remixing style is uncomplicated – which is an underrated quality, because it means the quality of the original still shines through in spite of the new clothing. The Mediterranean warmth is ever-present in his own productions, which flow beautifully and are consistently classy. A good piano riff is rarely far away from a David Penn production!

Is it recommended?

Yes. It’s great to see Penn getting the spotlight in this way, and he deserves his place alongside the hall of fame Defected have built up in their House Masters series. He understands what makes house music work so well in the hotter European climes, and this compilation shows off his output beautifully.

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You can buy David Penn’s House Masters compilation from the Defected website here

Let’s Dance – Crosstown Rebels present Spirits III (Crosstown Rebels)

Various ArtistsCrosstown Rebels presents Spirits III (Crosstown Rebels)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

In the press release for the latest instalment of their Spirits compilation, Crosstown Rebels founder Damian Lazarus explains why the series has become so important to him. He sees it as ‘a very important annual mission in which my focus is to uncover some of the most exciting new underground music and piece it together in a way that makes a statement for the label. In discovering new artists and putting them side by side with established people we are setting new agendas for sound and for the future. These are battle weapons, freshly unearthed anthems, deep experiments and awakenings’.

What’s the music like?

Very much in keeping with the press release. There are several striking cuts here, and as Lazarus says it’s a very healthy blend of the known names and new ones. Not surprisingly the known names includes Lazarus himself, and his Ergot starts proceedings with a deep track whose riff almost slips down the back of the music.

Elsewhere the chunky beats and bass of Denney and James Dexter’s Transcend are a hit, as is the brooding Creatures Of The Night from Aiwaska with Jimmy Wit an H. Arguably the most distinctive and memorable track comes from Cipy and Knowkontrol, whose Newark has a really good falsetto vocal as its main hook. Dennis Cruz gives a nice trumpet imitation of an elephant to add a bit of humourous deep jazz to Mother Earth, while Harry Romero reinforces his reputation for fine house music with the excellent It’s You, a kind of mini chant that really gets going over bleeps and a nippy beat. The tempo drops a bit for Eli & Fur at the end, their collaboration with Brothertiger She’s Just A Wanderer a loping piece of dub-house that works really well.

Does it all work?

Yes. It’s well laid out and delivered, and does exactly what a fan of Crosstown Rebels would want it to do.

Is it recommended?

Yes, for the above reasons! House music is the main name of the game here, but Damian Lazarus has put together a really good set of forward facing Spirits that deserve to be heard.

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You can buy the compilation from the Phonica Records website here

Switched On – Balance presents Vivrant mixed by Jeremy Olander

Various Artists: Balance presents Vivrant mixed by Jeremy Olander (Balance)

What’s the story?

‘Melancholic’ and ‘cinematic’ are two of the words closely associated with Jeremy Olander’s music. They are often applied to the Swedish producer’s own work and his DJ sets, which often contain a lot of his own music. Time, then, for him to release one of those commercially – which he does here on the Balance label. Olander confesses to feeling a little intimidated by the prospect, with last year’s epic contribution from James Zabiela casting quite a shadow, but he nonetheless steps up with music from his own studio and those of his Vivrant label artists.

What’s the music like?

Yes. Olander goes for an expansive style in his mixing, and often stays rooted to the same pitch for ten minutes or more. This is a really effective tactic, creating wide open spaces and a pleasant feeling of hypnosis for the listener, who after a while will discover their feet are tapping automatically. The introduction of the first mix bears this out, with three tracks from J.Singh that stay rooted to one pitch before long bass notes move the music on. Marino Canal & Miguel Payda’s Hidden Eyes are excellent, with a moody vocal and soaring line.

The mix is like a single, arching structure, as is the second which has an utterly sublime beginning from Olander’s own track Akzo. This is a lovely, starry piece of music and it cuts to more spacey, beat driven material in Yoyo. Again the continuity here is more important than single standout single tracks, and Olander judges the build of intensity in the mix just right, finishing with his own Life After Death.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Olander’s mixes are in for the long haul and work best when heard in full, creating spaced out and hypnotic atmospheres. They may not always be full of hooks but the late night spell is cast to perfection.

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You can buy this release on the Balance website

Switched On – Pop Ambient 2020 (Kompakt)

What’s the story?

Wolfgang Voigt has every right to be proud as one of the flagship series of the Kompakt label, Pop Ambient, reaches its 20th edition. Cologne’s finest label refuses to rest on its laurels, mind, delivering a set of old and new music, best enjoyed horizontally.

What’s the music like?

Blissful. Kompakt have not been doing this sort of compilation for 20 years without reward – they know the quick routes to peace of body and mind, as made possible in music.

There is a pleasing mix of familiar and relatively new names here. In the former camp sit Thomas Fehlmann and the bubbling textures of Liebesperlen, Raumschmiere‘s brooding Notre-Dame and two Andrew Thomas contributions, Song 9 and Sleep Fall.

Into the latter group come the easy paced guitar instrumental from Urquell, who also contributes Alles Bleibt Anders. On a similar plain is Gen Pop‘s Iron Woman and early Kompakt contributor Klimek‘s All The Little Horses, though the same producer’s Requiem For A Butterfly offers darker, widescreen strings. For even deeper ambience Yui Onodera offers the incredibly calming Cromo 4, while Joachim Spieth is even more immersive on Meteor.

The ambience deepens still further through the thick, soothing blanket of Markus Guentner‘s Clade.

Does it all work?

Yes. The ebb and flow of the tracks is ideally judged, and the high ratio of exclusives and new tracks make the 20th edition of this series as collectable as ever.

Is it recommended?

Without hesitation. Pop Ambient has a reassuringly regular place in the calendar of down tempo music, and this is it’s best collection for some time. On a personal level, with the world experiencing such stress and change at present, this is just the sort of music required to counteract it!

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