Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
With a strong emphasis on house music (for no other reason than this is what has been floating my boat recently), this month’s reviews section is full of deep dancefloor grooves. We have the smooth melodies of Robag Wruhme, the disco flecked eclecticism of Benjamin Fröhlich, Anthony Naples’ dark and gritty jams, the club friendly pop of Hot Chip, some deep techno pulses from Kölsch, and lots more. By JOHN BITTLES
So, get your dancing sandals ready, and let us begin…
Eight years after the minimal delights of Thora Vukk, Robag Wruhme returns to the album format this summer with the meticulously produced Venq Tolep. Out now on Pampa Records, fans of label head DJ Koze will be delighted with the record’s oddball house excursions. The twinkling loveliness of Advent Feat. Lysann Zander gets things off to a fantastic start, gentle pianos mixing with hushed beats and playful synths to create a song which washes over the listener like a cool summer breeze. Stunningly beautiful, my only complaint about this song is that at three minutes fifty-two seconds it is far too short. Westfal continues the air of wistfulness, its melodic ambiance helping it resemble a lost Francis Harris track. From here Iklahx is exquisite, the ghost of a beat urging us by the hand towards the dancefloor, Volta Copy (Ambient Version) is both peaceful and shockingly good, Komalh will induce a wave of euphoria in any crowd, while the warm, melancholic house of the title track is worth the price of admission alone. Available for a limited time with a free 7”, this is dance music with the warmest of hearts. 9.5/10.
Those of you who like their dance music deep and dubby will no doubt already be familiar with the name Anthony Naples. Over the years, releases on Proibito, The Trilogy Tapes and ANS have helped cement his reputation as an artist you can trust, while the excellent Body Pill album proved to be one of the stand-out releases of 2015. This month sees the New York based producer expand his repertoire even further with the dusty house and bumpin’ techno of his new full-length, Fog FM. Full of deep, minimal tracks which will work equally well on the dancefloor as they do on the stereo at home, Fog FM is the type of album I could happily listen to on repeat for days. After the echo laden A.I.R. opens proceedings in style, the minimal tech house stylings of the title track will have anyone salivating at the prospects of what’s to come. The rest of the album doesn’t disappoint! We have the deep acid throb of Purple Iris, the head-mangling techno of Benefit, the bass heavy squelch of Lucy’s and the emotional synths of I’ll Follow You. With every track a winner, Fog FM is a record full of lived-in grooves. 9/10.
After opening their new mix project with a surprisingly polite selection by Bonobo, London institution Fabric had to up their game for their next release. Luckily, handing the reins to Danish techno/trance artist Kölsch proves to be an inspired choice. Giving us ten new and unreleased tracks full of melodic grandeur and slow burn dancefloor moments of peaks and troughs Fabric Presents Kölsch is close to sublime. Starting off slow and atmospheric, US1873 ably sets the mood, before the gorgeous melodies and rising trance motifs of LH479 start pulling you towards the dancefloor. Further in, SK1550 is deep, bass heavy affair with a lush, melancholic heart, EZY865 resembles a vintage Paul Van Dyk track from back in the day, VY3517 contains a gloriously hypnotic groove, while EI3227 is tailor made for dancing with your eyes closed. Designed to be listened to as one glorious whole, Fabric Presents Kölsch is hard to beat. 9/10.
Over the last 13 years Munich based record label Permanent Vacation has become synonymous with rich, melodic house music. Releases by the likes of John Talabot, Mano Le Tough, Tensnake and Bostro Pesopeo have helped establish the imprint as buy on sight for DJs and music lovers everywhere. This May saw co-founder Benjamin Fröhlich finally bow to public pressure with the release of his debut LP. Amiata is available now and contains nine funk-laden tracks which touch on ambiance, techno, house and more. Opener Forty Trees gets things off to a great start, Jamaican dub flourishes merging with a spacious groove to send heads on a trip they will never forget. Next up, the Italo disco swell of Secret Alphabet bring us back to the label’s early days when they played a huge part in establishing the cosmic disco scene. Other picks include the mid-tempo house lushness of The Big Sun, the deliciously woozy stirrings of Pompeii Raiders, Cicada Dub’s Solomun style thump, while the soundtrack inspired Italo of Saturnian brings things to a thoroughly satisfying close. In short, Amiata is as richly varied and exciting a house album as you will hear all year. 8.5/10.
UK act Hot Chip are one of those bands who divide opinion on a regular basis. People who only like their bread with butter can get confused by their output. Is it indie, dance, pop, or what? The beauty of a Hot Chip record is that it is all these things and more. So it is with their brand spanking new LP. The cheekily titled A Bath Full Of Ecstasy is out now on Domino and see the band work with producers Rodaidh McDonald and the now sadly departed Philippe Zdar to create a fresh and funky aural stew. More dancefloor focused than 2015’s Why Make Sense?, A Bath Full Of Ecstasy finds Alexis Taylor and co in grand form. The gospel inspired optimism of opener Melody Of Love is sure to put a smile on anybody’s face, uplifting vocals and joyful synths combining to create four minutes of bittersweet euphoria. In contrast, Spell is a dark, bass heavy groove made for grotty basements and dingy bedsits. Also be sure to check the laid-back loveliness of the title track, piano house anthem Hungry Child and the 80s synth pop swoon of Why Does My Mind. While A Bath Full Of Ecstasy is unlikely to win the band a legion of new fans, it is full of moments of pure pop joy which will keep those with an open mind very happy indeed. 8/10.
Finally, for anyone out there wishing for some tranquillity rather than bangin’ beats Jacob Long’s Earthen Sea project is here to save the day. After the dub heavy soundscapes of previous releases An Act Of Love and Mirage Jacob dives fully into ambiance with new LP Grass And Trees. Deep and spacious, the record’s seven heady tracks make the perfect score to those moments when you want to close your eyes and wish the world away. Sounding not unlike Khotin’s wonderful Beautiful You, the album was created “in response to living in a fairly hectic city, and at a very hectic time for the world at large”. Gorgeously sedate, songs such as Existing Closer Or Deeper In Space and Spatial Ambiguity gently drift into your consciousness, never having to resort to screaming to let you know they’re there. The result is an album which takes its time luring you in, fully confident in its own ability to win your heart. 8/10.
A special mention must also go to: Self (Part 1) by Sophia Saze – Out on cassette this June on Francis Harris’ excellent Kingdoms imprint, part one of this two-part conceptual album contains 14 short but haunting songs which stay with you long after the tape has come to an end, 9/10, Grand Illusions by Daniel Dubb – The DV8 label head’s debut album is a short, bittersweet set of melodic house and emotive ambiance, 8.5/10, Various 01 by V/A – Celebrating their 10th anniversary, Nice label Electropical Records’ comp is full of rich, melodic techno sounds, 8.5/10, Persuasion System by Com Truise – Gorgeously laid-back and relaxed, these synth heavy sketches are deliciously hazy, 8/10, Excerpts by Alex Albrecht Pres. Melquíades – Three lush mid-tempo deep house gems and a jazz-flecked remix from Patrice Scott make up the latest killer EP on Scissor & Thread, 8/10, Awakening Spirits by Tropikal Camel – Berlin based producer Roi Assayag’s new LP is psychedelic, raw and an awful lot of fun, 8/10, Support Alien Invasion by Matias Aguayo – Deep and heady, these techno and house experiments genuinely sound like nobody else out there, 8/10, Echo by Brandt Brauer Frick – With a distinctly organic feel, the trio’s latest LP is full of tightly knit grooves, 8/10 and Body Language Vol. 21 by Djuma Soundsystem – Get Physical’s long-running mix series returns with a deep, melodious mix full of Djuma Soundsystem’s own productions, 8/10.