Let’s Dance – Dennis Cruz: Roots (Crosstown Rebels)

dennis-cruz

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This is the first album from established Spanish producer and DJ Dennis Cruz, who is ready to put his own spin on house music through a ten-track long player. He does this with a succession of guest artists, topped by an appearance from the late Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, but also including P. Rivas, Ian Luvig, Josh Butler, Iuliano Mambo and Leo Wood.

What’s the music like?

The propulsive rhythms of La Ratonera start the album, a signal of intent with their persuasive shimmying. The nine-minute track has plenty of room to grow, with sultry flute work and the sound of a party in the distance. This cuts to Los Tamales, an instrumental with a lovely swing to its rhythm and old-time piano riff. Later another instrumental, Bend, plays some games with a trumpet and voice imitating each other over a bouncy beat.

Ian Luvig then steps up to provide the stripped back vocal for Good Old Days, a minimal affair with quite a stark texture but a mission to hit the dancefloor hard. The same could be said for Ecua, with some flamenco flavoured brilliance added to the mix, spliced and diced by Cruz’s skilful production. The temperature stays heated for What U Doing, with Leo Wood’s sultry vocals dressing a heat hazed bed of keyboards.

Go Down will be of great interest to fans of the late Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, who fronts a busy rhythm track. This is a night piece that cuts up his voice inventively, delivering a fluid groove to go with it. It is countered nicely by the raucous trumpets of Ahora Toda Va (Dub), where Josh Butler whips up the crowd.

Te Quiero Cantar takes us back towards the pool, a really nice Mediterranean flavoured instrumental, before Back Again hooks up with Iuliano Mambo for a woozy, sun soaked jam with a big bass sound.

Does it all work?

It does. There is nothing staid or square about Dennis Cruz’s take on house music – the rhythms sway and sashay their way around the dancefloor as he applies plenty of flavour to the mix, keen to show off his Spanish heritage to the max. The vocal guests are the icing on the cake.

Is it recommended?

For sure. Cruz brings warmth to the winter with a set of grooves that prove pretty much irresistible.

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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