Tag Archives: electronic music

Album of the Day: Powerdance, “The Lost Art of Getting Down”

The contributions of Luke Solomon to house music culture worldwide since he started DJing in 1990 could fill books. His connections to U.S. heroes like Derrick Carter (they founded Classic Recordings together) kept the U.K. scene anchored in the roots of club culture, and to this day he easily spans deep underground and mainstream dance culture through his A&R role at Defected.

After so many years and so many shifts in the scene, it’s impressive that he hasn’t become jaded. His Powerdance project crackles with undimmed love of the whole ritual of nightlife in all its technicolor glory. The Lost Art of Getting Down is, very simply, a fusion of early house music with disco at its giddiest heights. Every song is about dancing and clubbing, and rides a steady four-to-the-floor pulse. But within that is so much depth and variety. Most significantly, the deeper roots of disco—in LGBT culture, in gospel, in psychedelia—are celebrated at every turn.

The lyrics likewise both serve immediate function as exhortations to dance, and reach out to something more universal. References to the club as “A Safe and Happy Place,” and the plea “let’s love like innocents, let’s sing” are reminders that dancing can be a sacrament, a social glue, a savior for those who otherwise struggle to find their place in the world. This isn’t hippy-dippy hey-wow-let’s-come-together rhetoric—the deeply-rooted psychedelic high camp edge makes sure of that. It’s hard-won wisdom by and for people who really understand the power and value of the groove.

Joe Muggs 

The Ten Best House Records of 2017 So Far

Best House

Illustration by Braulio Amado.

House music in 2017 feels like it is, once again, open to all influences. It is soulful and vocal or fucked-up and dark. It’s reduced to perfectly infectious loops, or supersized to abrasive effect. Reissues and classic sounds are still as popular as ever, sure, but new music feels refreshingly free from a single overarching narrative. That’s a welcome change from recent years in which, after the rise of dubstep, new producers took that sound’s low-end heft to make bass-driven house, then garage house, then pseudo-deep house.

After that, house music crossed over into the mainstream once more, and enjoyed a period of chart success akin to the early ‘90s heyday of second-wave pioneers like Masters at Work and Armand Van Helden. Nowadays, mainstream artists like Duke Dumont, Gorgon City, and Bondax might not fit into the underground scene, but they were the big names who—for better or worse—took house out of sweaty basements and into supersize Ibiza clubs via the top of the U.K. charts.

But now, it feels like house music’s moment in the sun has passed: the big, catchy vocals, organ stabs, and polished kicks are gone, and it is back to being the soundtrack to smaller back rooms—raw, and driven by real emotion, rather than simple hooks and obvious basslines. As such, grime has seemingly taken up the mantel as the genre du jour: not only did the hashtag #grime4Corbyn get young voters involved in the 2017 U.K. election—such is the influence of the genre—but artists like Skepta and Giggs have started to make waves Stateside thanks in part to the fact that Drake invited them to collaborate on his latest album.

A look at the names on major festival lineups (from Richie Hawtin and The Belleville Three at Coachella to Seth Troxler at Glastonbury via the continued dominance of Marco Carola’s Music On party in Ibiza) confirms that big room techno, too, has become more popular than ever. Last year, in fact, it overtook tech house as the highest selling genre on Beatport. All this means that house music, if not under siege, is certainly in the back seat.

But 2017 has already served up many highlights from a wide range of producers located all over the world, from lo-fi and fuzzy to jazzed-up and deep, to majestically instrumental. Importantly, nothing really ties them together but for an impossible-to-articulate mix of soul and rhythm that always feels a bit more organic and human than the machine-made, future-facing styles of techno.

With that in mind, and in no particular order, here are the ten best house releases that made it onto Bandcamp in the first half of this year.

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Session Victim are the Pinball Wizards of Dance Music

Session Victim

Photo by Schaaly.

Hauke Freer and Matthias Reiling of Session Victim have had much in common since their shared teenage years searching for satisfying rave action in rural Germany. They first met in 1997, and embarked on a musical journey that moved from playing local drum & bass nights to their current, soul-filled club DJ sets; they’ve also developed a killer live show that combines bass guitar with synths and samples, while leaving plenty of room for improvisation.

Freer and Reiling have spent decades amassing a huge collection of disco, house, soul, and funk records. Some of their finds turn up in their flawless, vinyl-only DJ sets at clubs ranging from London’s mammoth Printworks to the tiniest backroom bars of Berlin; the rest are hidden in plain sight throughout their own music. In the studio, the pair build their irresistible jams on a bedrock of obscure samples, applying their own distinctive, classy take on decades of dance music.

This peerless skill has never been better utilized than on Listen To Your Heart, their third LP, which was partially recorded in San Francisco. Following previous LPs The Haunted House of House and the slightly darker See You When You Get There, Listen To Your Heart sees the pair further loosening their tight groove and affording themselves well-earned moments of breezy, coastal euphoria. This is thanks in part to fruitful collaborations with cult German composer and guitarist, Carsten “Erobique” Meyer.

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The Many Hats of Wah Wah 45s’ Adam Scrimshire 

Wah Wah 45

“Music was the outlet but it was also the cause and the illness and the reason,” says Adam Scrimshire, reflecting on the last 10 years of his career. A London-based artist, he wears many musical hats. He’s a left field soul songwriter and producer as Scrimshire, one half of electronic duo Modified Man, and co-owns and runs two labels: leading U.K. contemporary soul indie, Wah Wah 45s, and fledgling new experimental and largely instrumental collective, Albert’s Favourites.

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Dub Phizix: A Rebel With A Cause

Dub Phizix

Manchester drum & bass artist Dub Phizix is feeling refreshed and energetic. In the last six months, he’s released two remarkable EPs on Metalheadz and Exit Records, which show more breadth and musicality than all of his previous work put together. From the jazzy flurries of Spotlight / Rotate last December, to the grunting halftime lollops of “Hack” on this month’s Rebel Spirit EP (his first in three years on dBridge’s Exit Records label), Dub Phizix’s already broad palette has expanded widely.

Talking to Dub Phizix (real name George Ovens), you feel that same energy; his perennial quest to build on his reputation for unique takes on drum & bass has led to a complete reconfiguration of his creative and technical approach. It hasn’t been the easiest transition. In his own words, if he wants “to make something that genuinely sounds new and different, then it should feel different making it, too.” Continue reading