Switched On – De Lux: Do You Need A Release? (Innovative Leisure)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Do You Need A Release? is a highly appropriate title for our times. It is the third album from Californian band De Lux, who are principally the founding duo of Sean Guerin and Isaac Franco. However on the sessions for this album they brought their live band into the studios at Long Beach and made this set of powerful, electronically sourced pop music.

What’s the music like?

De Lux offer an invigorating album of time travelling, switching effortlessly between the past (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club and Blancmange are all palpable influences) and the present / future. Like a poppier version of The Rapture or !!!, they hit the listener right between the eyes with a set of euphoric choruses, sharply defined electro disco and highly effective power pop.

The live aspect is important and keeps the music with a quickly beating heart. They Call This Love provides a brilliant first chorus, a sign of strength for the album lying ahead. Validation has a sharper edge, nicely realised, while Some Things Never Break mines the archive for a riff that could easily have been transported in from a Telex record. The punchy guitars are a great complement here.

On And On (Till The End Of Us) has a strutting beat and a strong chorus (going on and on and on!) while by contrast The Final Breath You Take is a poignant and understated number, and rather moving with it.

Does it all work?

It does indeed – a really strong set of grooves and sentiments for our times. The only slight problem is one of length, with some tracks fulfilling a 12″ structure – but if you’re happy with that, there really are no problems.

Is it recommended?

Yes, and especially if you like any of the names mentioned above. If you do need a release, you know exactly what you should do!

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Let’s Dance – Various Artists – Future Disco: Mirrorball Motel (Future Disco)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Future Disco has proved to be an incredibly popular series over the years, presenting a number of different takes on the house-disco interface. Part of its success is down to the ability to keep fresh with its selections, and true to form Mirrorball Motel includes five new tracks.

What’s the music like?

Consistently strong and rarely generic, this is a really enjoyable set of tunes.

The new material performs strongly. Daisybelle & Tasty Lopez’s Starlight (in Future Disco Ballroom Dub form) sashays onto the floor with confidence. Boys ShortsSuburban Love Affair has a strong West Coast vibe, while Italoconnection dazzle with interlinked synths in the 1980s throwback All Over. Charlie Hepworth‘s It’s Satisfaction has an enjoyable rough edge to its tone. Best of all, arguably, is the heat-soaked You Understand from the brilliantly named Clive From Accounts, a track full of atmosphere and promise.

The other tracks are hardly fillers – not when you consider the addition of Roosevelt, Breakbot, Irfane & Yuksek and Digitalism – as well as strong contributions from the likes of Storken and EYNKA, who throws in some Bicep-friendly shimmering synths.

Does it all work?

It does – Mirrorball Motel takes you to a different place pretty much straight away, impressing with its fusion of poolside house and deep, clubby dance fodder.

Is it recommended?

Yes, enthusiastically – taking its place alongside the most successful instalments in an impressively durable series.

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Switched On – Agents Of Time: Universo (Kompakt)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Italian duo Andrea Di Ceglie and Luigi Tutolo return with their second album as Agents Of Time. Having boosted their profile with recent single Afterlife and a remix of The Weeknd’s Take My Breath, the pair return to an approach blending techno knowhow and song-based structures – with a few instrumentals thrown in for good measure.

What’s the music like?

Strong and assured. Agents Of Time are pretty consistent in their marriage of full bodied, club-based beats and song structures, and get a satisfying variety in their choice of material. The net result is a set of what can only be called ‘moody bangers’!

There is a good deal of versatility in this music. Dream Vision, for instance, makes a really strong impact with its cinematic strings, while Blu proves its worth as one of the strongest vocal tracks.

Clipped beats and moody vocals from Audrey Janssens in Fallin’ hark back to the UK garage sound at the turn of the century. Janssens reappears later on the tougher Poison. Interstellar Cowboy goes for a futuristic approach, the vocal accents balancing a solid instrumental backing.

On the instrumental front, Pulses and Ciao are both excellent in the way they channel evocative lines through driving beats with a sharper edge to the bass. Finally Dinasty signs off with no beats at all, succeeding through a trancey loop instead.

Does it all work?

Mostly. There are some curious vocal additions (The World Is Dump, for instance) but most of Universo squarely hits the mark.

Is it recommended?

It is, if you like a dose of vocal pop against melodic techno as part of your dance music experience. Expressive and cinematic, this is an album well worth trying.

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Switched On – Daphni: Cherry (Jialong)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Daphni is the alias under which Dan Snaith – also known as Caribou – lets loose and allows his musical instincts to run free in club-based music.

This is the third album he has made under this alias, and it is a no-nonsense affair of 14 tracks, wrapped up in 47 minutes. Initially Snaith was not thinking of an album, but found that the music he had been making with Daphni in mind had satisfying links and logic in their order – and so Cherry was born.

What’s the music like?

Liberating and colourful. With its roots in dance, this is an album that generates a good deal of positive, kinetic energy, becoming all about movement. Yet there are plenty of riffs and bright colours to hang on to as well, Snaith working plenty of material into his busy constructions.

The title track goes busily on its way, with a metallic glint to the percussion, Snaith employing some of the bright colours he sprinkles liberally through the album. Always There uses what feels like a twisted mariachi section, and cuts straight into the pinball synths of Crimson, which themselves blend in with a nice, piano-based loop.

Mania has some really nice spacey effects, while the urgent beats on Mona make a strong impression. Clavicle glints in the half light, while Cloudy is arguably the best of all, with a lovely, rippling piano cascaded over a clipped, glitchy beat.

Does it all work?

It does – and if anything it’s a shame Snaith doesn’t develop some of the shorter tracks. Falling especially would have made a good, clubby track, while the jagged Karplus could have been a springboard for something substantial.

Is it recommended?

Yes. This is the sound of an artist having fun in the studio, going where his instincts direct him to go, and coming up with something colourful and melodic that his fans will love.

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Let’s Dance – Various Artists: Watergate 28 mixed by Biesmans (Watergate Records)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

As the Watergate series continues its colourful journey, Belgian artist Biesmans steps up with a set made entirely of his own compositions.

He does not do this alone, working with a string of luminaries including Dusky, Mathew Jonson, Adana Twins, Kasper Bjørke, Shubostar and Mala Ika, to create a busy 80-minute mix.

What’s the music like?

This is a fine mix, make no mistake, and Biesmans wastes no time in heading for the centre of the house dancefloor. Much of the content is instrumental, but structured in such a way that the mix feels like one big piece.

Wistful entreaty let’s go on a holiday from 13:30. There are some nice, floaty big room moments at 16:04 and 21:09, then 24:39 with a reassuringly fat bass sound. Excellent 30:28 brings back memories of Let Me Show You. A big player at 51 minutes, 40 minutes excellent too. Gets a bit more old school around 61:30. 67 – 68 very good vocal from former riff from latter

Does it all work?

Pretty much. The beats may be of the solid four-to-the-floor variety, but Yamagucci is always at work within, creating interesting cross-rhythms and collections of mini hooks.

Is it recommended?

Yes, enthusiastically. Biesman hits the spot right from the start!

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