Let’s Dance – Defected presents House Masters: Todd Edwards (Defected)

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Various ArtistsDefected presents House Masters: Todd Edwards (Defected)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

The time is ripe for a Todd Edwards retrospective. The much-loved producer, credited as one of the founding fathers of late-90s garage, UK style, has always had a distinctive way of working his beats. With clipped percussion, cleverly-used samples, good humour and a large dose of soul, he has been a go-to man for remix and production for nigh on 30 years. Daft Punk have credited his influence, and worked with him on two albums, while a whole host of chart bothering artists, among them Moloko, Robin S, Wildchild and Wretch 32, have gone his way for a remix.

Recently Defected have taken Edwards under their wing, restoring hundreds of previously unavailable productions to the catalogue, and this double album provides a useful retrospective and a reminder of what might be in store for the collector.

What’s the music like?

Brilliant. You don’t get to be dance music royalty without making good music – and there’s no doubt Edwards makes great music for good times. His fluid grooves are sliced and diced, the clipped percussion sounds putting a skip in each beat.  The approach is largely soulful, and on grooves like God Will Be There and the landmark Edwards production Saved My Life, more than a bit spiritual.

Defected have divided the collection in two, with a set of full length original productions complemented by some excellent examples from the remix collection.  The original productions are equally represented by past and present, with You’re Sorry one of his best recent songs, and the Sinden collaboration Deeper working really well on the vocal front. All I Need is more percussive, while Dancing For Heaven is a buoyant treat and Fly Away is super cool. The Daft Punk association is well represented, with the charmer Face To Face bringing out the best in both sides, and Fragments Of Time, from the Random Access Memories album, a great track for top-down driving.

There is a smoother version of St Germain’s Alabama Blues, with a warm guitar and organ but not quite the heat soaked charm of the earlier version. Indo’s R U Sleeping fares really well, as does Moloko’s Pure Pleasure Seeker – while Zoot Woman’s Taken It All gets a shiny remix.

Does it all work?

Yes. Edwards has an effortlessly cool style and it runs throughout this collection, moving between house and garage with great ease. He always gives the vocal plenty of room, but still packs the production with all kinds of riffs, beats and soundbites, keeping the dancefloor moving at all times.

Is it recommended?

It is – but be warned, listening to this might take you down a Todd Edwards rabbit hole. With so many productions remastered and now available through Defected, it would be churlish to stop here!

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

Switched on – Celebrating Daft Punk

As of yesterday, it’s ‘au revoir’ to one of the best and most influential outfits in dance music.

Daft Punk, the duo behind massive hits Around The World, Digital Love, Get Lucky and more – not to mention three huge albums in Homework, Human After All and Random Access Memories – have decided to call it a day. The chances are this decision was made some time ago, for it is a long time since we have heard from them in a collaborative sense, their last released work being two brief cameos on The Weeknd’s Starboy album in 2016.

With Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo going their separate ways, it’s a good time to consider their impact on music and culture from the 1990s until now.

I can well remember when Da Funk came out, sneaking through the underground and on to an unexpected initial home, Glasgow label Soma Recordings. It was unusually slow for the techno label, and more guitar-laden than their roster at the time – but label heads Slam – aka Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle – spotted its potential. The instantly recognisable riff found a home in Chemical Brothers live and DJ sets, like a distorted version of Kraftwerk in the way it strutted across the dancefloor – and in the way it translated effortlessly to radio.

Daft Punk built on this with imaginative samples and utterly brilliant videos – both combining to mesmerising effect on their second UK top 10 hit, Around The World:


Homework, their first long player, appeared in many a ‘best of 1997’ list – by which time the pair had moved onto Virgin, their logo uncannily matching that of their new label. Four years later the second album, Discovery, raised them to another level, propelled by their first no.1 single, One More Time:

The breathy vocals from Romanthony (another unexpected Glasgow link) were initially divisive as they sounded exaggerated…but the longer the single loitered on the radio the bigger it became. The lead track on Discovery, it began an album of true dancefloor happiness, which reached giddy heights with Aerodynamic and Digital Love.

These were sleek, funky club cuts with a healthy slab of disco attached, and went perfectly with the robotic image Daft Punk had now created. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger – the next cut from the album – fared even better, its vocal calling card and riff picked up by Kanye West years later.

Live, Daft Punk were securing a devoted following, with winning sets at Coachella in 2006 and Hyde Park’s Wireless festival the following year. By that time album number three was on the streets. Human After All – good though it was – did not quite hit the heights of Discovery, in spite of Robot Rock and the title track.

By this time French dance music was enjoying a charmed life through the likes of Cassius and Etienne de Crécy, who worked close to Daft Punk and shared mutual influences in their work. Thomas and Guy-Manuel were enjoying success with their own collaborations, too – and we would soon see the fruit of their influence through the likes of Calvin Harris and David Guetta.

The pair’s next direction was unexpected but made total sense, realised in the Tron:Legacy film soundtrack of 2010. Again a little patience was needed on the part of the reviewers and record buying public, and sure enough after a few weeks it was confirmed to be one of the century’s leading soundtracks to date. The plethora of car adverts that still feature Tron:Legacy’s music are a testament to that, and the merging of electronica and orchestra is seamlessly achieved.

An unexpected treat was to follow in 2013, when Get Lucky surfaced – a superstar collaboration that delivered even more than it promised, with the effortless funk of Nile Rodgers’ guitar and the cool-as-California vocals from Pharrell Williams. The chart topping album Random Access Memories also delivered in this respect, though – Lose Yourself To Dance aside – it did not reach the heights of its lead single and even had an underlying melancholy towards the end.

We hardly ever saw their faces, but that was one of Daft Punk’s enduring qualities. They were friendly, robotic types, unable to make music without injecting a huge dose of funk into proceedings. Yet their soundtrack to Tron: Legacy showed there was so much more to their craft – and who knows, we may hear their work for Dario Argento‘s Occhiali Neri which was due to appear in 2020.

Even if we don’t, there is plenty with which we can treasure this duo and their lovable dance music, which makes the dancefloor a brilliant place to be when it’s on. C’est magnifique!

Playlist – Sound of Mind 8: On camera

With the curfew situation as it is in the UK, we will get to know our home surroundings in minute detail as the days go by!

In that time we are likely to watch a lot more TV than we normally do, so with that in mind, here is a playlist of music associated with the screen – which handily gives us an hour without adverts that will hopefully calm and inspire by turn.

The selection starts with my favourite piece of Thomas Newman, from The Road to Perdition, before taking in music from Clint Eastwood Jr, Hans Zimmer‘s brilliant Interstellar, Daft Punk, Hannah Peel and an excerpt from this year’s Oscar winner, Hildur Guðnadóttir, and her remarkable score for The Joker.

Later on we hear from Angelo Badalamenti‘s Twin Peaks score, Cliff Martinez‘s music for Drive, Brian Eno and finally M83 – whose Outro has played out a good many programs. Hope you enjoy the music!

Ben Hogwood