The past two months have seen a slew of sublime new 12” dance releases. Here, we celebrate the independent labels and artists pushing the boundaries in club music, providing premium dancefloor soundtracks for the masses. From shamanistic L.A. club heat and Malian football anthems to raw Midwestern house jams and bone crushing small town hardcore, there’s something for ravers, club kids, and two-steppers of almost every persuasion.
Good Times EP
Aroop Roy returns with a killer release of original productions after a string of wildly popular edits on his own Kamapana and Vive La Musique imprints. The Good Times EP is contemporary deep house at its finest. The title track’s bassline provides a level of funk rarely found in house music these days, bubbling away under Roy’s jacking drums, jumping chords, and chopped-up vocal samples. All three tracks juggle both sophisticated production and instrumentation while remaining riotously fun and avoiding cheese (no mean feat, especially when one song includes a sexy saxophone solo). “People All Over The World” will most likely be the dancefloor favorite, with its stripped-back, driving nature, busy percussion loops, and a tantilizing drop.
Following recent releases on First Second and Glacial Industries, Glisten is something of a departure for ELLLL. On this EP, she switches hats, going from merciless, bass-driven techno titan to cinematic tunesmith, setting beautiful orchestral samples against ethereal instruments. While noticeably lighter and more emotive than her previous work, “Flowers” and “Ride” most definitely remain club tracks, with throbbing kicks and saturated drum machines punctuating the otherwise elegant harmonic backdrop and creating a sense of urgency and unease. The beatless final track, “Glisten,” uses similar timbres to create a haunting palette cleanser, ideal for resetting the tone between sets, or supplying the soundtrack to an unsettling journey home before sunrise.
Fast rising Melbourne producer Midnight Tenderness delivers four explorations into funk, dub, and vintage synthpop for the maiden release on ILIO, a label whose mission statement is to provide music “made for those who aim to dig a little deeper and dance a little longer.” “Selva” kicks off the proceedings with classic freestyle drum programming, a Zapp-esque bassline, and a suggestive digi-flute riff, perfectly setting the tone. “Laguna” and “Lago” both delve further into the world of ’80s machine funk, complete with cowbells galore and quivering chord stabs. But it’s “Cascada” that is possibly the standout, sounding like Dâm-Funk recording at the Bahamas’ legendary Compass Point studios.
Detroit’s hometown hero Javonntte continues his prolific streak with one of his most interesting releases of the past few years courtesy of Waella’s Choice. As the title suggests, “Drumma” is centerd around an intricate snare pattern, interleaved with a wriggling lead line, swirling vocal chops, and backed by a thundering kick. “Jazzpianodance” is a more delicate number, with Javonntte’s signature vocal style darting in and out of a daringly syncopated double-bass groove. London’s Romaal Kultan and Melbourne’s Winters deliver massively contrasting remixes of “Jazzpianodance,” with Winters’s version erring on the side of dusty slow-mo funk (and featuring an incredibly well executed and subtle tempo change), while Romaal Kultan’s acid-tinged “Across The Pond Mix” is a masterclass in diced, rugged breaks.
Body Music Vol. 1
EVM128 and James Rudie have been two of the torchbearers for the new wave of brokenbeat artists emerging over the last few years, with releases on labels like Studio Rockers, WotNot, and Co-Op Presents. Their new label, Dance Regular aims to defy traditional genre tags and solely release “good music that makes your body move.” Their first outing, Body Music Vol. 1, features a cast of new artists who, although widely associated with the brokenbeat sound, experiment with a variety of dance disciplines. The styles range from Xtra Brux’s snappy two-step jam “Somebody,” to Szajna’s half-time monster “Break In My Back,” and James Rudie’s own nicely swung, sample-heavy “Good Fry Up.” Perhaps the standout track however is the debut offering from Trev, whose “For You Around Me” is a true odyssey, complete with enough rhythmic and harmonic switch-ups to keep the attention of dancers and musos alike.
With a career spanning more than three decades, Alton Miller has been a key part of Detroit’s musical legacy, with releases on legendary Motor City dance labels like Sound Signature, Peacefrog, Planet E, and more. Here, he steps up for Local Talk’s 96th release with three tracks bursting full of his trademark soulful musicality. Miller takes a slightly more hard-bodied approach than some of his previous releases. Both “Afro Grey” and “One Way Back” are particularly percussion-heavy, with punchy, jagged rhythms relentlessly propelling the tracks’ floating synth lines and chords in forward motion. “By The Way She Moves” is sure to be a sunset favorite this summer, with its undulating pads and soaring melodies providing the perfect soundtrack to the sun dipping into the sea.
Hardcore Live Forever
Like his previous releases, Stratton’s Hardcore Live Forever is not for the faint of heart. Stratton gets straight down to business on his second effort for Of Paradise with four unforgiving warehouse weapons. The Swindon native kicks things off with “Coming,” a blood-curdling 4/4 stomper built around an endless dusty break, classic rave synths, and a tip of the hat to the sounds of the early ‘90s with a sample of Kicks Like a Mule’s “The Bouncer.” Things only get heavier as the EP progresses and Stratton increases both the sonic intensity and tempo until reaching the closer, “Gettin’ Out (Unhappy Hardcore Remix).” Clocking in at 166bpm, the track sounds like a collaboration between classic U.K. hardcore act Run Tings and breakcore eccentric Venetian Snares.
In addition to being a remarkable club record, Neba Solo’s “Can 2002” is probably the greatest sporting anthem of all time. Originally recorded in 1999, “Can 2002” has been a fixture at nightclubs and athletic events across Francophone West Africa for almost 20 years, before seeing its first official release here on the Marseille-based Secousse label. Balafon virtuoso Neba Solo was inspired to write and record “Can 2002” when he heard that his home country of Mali would host the Africa Cup of Nations in 2002. The result is a slice of beautifully playful balafon riffs accompanied by some life-affirming, call-and-response vocals and a pounding kick-clap combo to boot. Already being toted by the likes of Antal, Motor City Drum Ensemble, and Palms Trax as one of the festival hits this summer, “Can 2002” is set to be a smash for at least another two decades to come.
Subreal’s inaugural release comes in the form of four left-leaning club workouts from L.A.-based label co-founder and producer Amazondotcom. Despite being from the city known for its blunted beats, gangster rap, and lofty jazz heads, Mirror River is more akin to what has come to be referred to as deconstructed club music, more associated with cities like London and Berlin. This is perhaps most apparent on “A Drum To Ward Off Language,” with its broken drum programming and paranoid lead line that hints at the Gliding Square synth preset popularized by producers like Wiley in the early days of grime. While the majority of the EP is expertly stripped back and minimal, “Priestess” climaxes into an overpowering, pulsing cacophony of feedback, distortion, and noise. Over the course of the release, Amazondotcom splices and manipulates a variety of lost and found sounds with twisted synths, frenetic drum patterns, and a sprinkling of eskibeat.
Luv & Possibilities
DJ Aakmael has been making waves with his own brand of sample-based house music since his debut on Chicago’s Bumpin’ City Records back in 2004. His most recent release, brought to us thanks to a collaborative effort from labels Flumo and ANMA, is something of a natural progression. His finely spliced sample work is interlaced with rich synth noodlings that are seemingly improvised and nonchalant, but stay well clear of coming across as self-indulgent. On the A-side, Aakmael flips delicate flutes and strings into two gloriously bouncy bangers with hazardously infectious basslines, while on the B-side, “Possibilities” cools things off slightly with both the original mix and the luscious breaks driven remix from NIAN.