Internasjonal, one of the labels spearheaded by Prins Thomas, aims at quality house and has recently hit the target twice with splendid releases. First there’s “Tembezi” by Ackin’ featuring M. Akamatsu. I must admit I don’t know a thing about the artists but the original track is simply gorgeous. It’s a deep house tune with a typical afro house beat, warm layers of sound, an African chant and lovely, elaborated pieces of jazz piano on top. Upon hearing it the first time, I was glad this kind of very musical house is still being made with conviction.
The Norwegian disco prince himself made a remix that is slower and more dreamlike. While he kept the piano parts he also added a live guitar and live bass. As a side note, a few weeks ago an odd Norwegian national obsession got media coverage all over the world: the ‘National Firewood Night’ celebrated the art of making a fire with wood with a twelve-hour long theme night on television. No less than twenty percent of the population watched it. Only, the show brought forth a discussion about whether barks should be placed face-up or face-down and because it truly is an important matter to most Norwegians, it kind of divided the country. Whatever the nature of that debate, I can perfectly imagine sitting with a group of friends around a fireplace in a cosy setting while communally enjoying this version of Prins Thomas. Marcellus Pittman on the other hand puts in some of his trademark impassionate synth drones and makes “Tembezi” sound deeper than Sognefjord.
This cherishable record was followed by an ep by the Australian duo Bell Towers, on which you’ll find two original songs as well as remixes by Idjut Boys of the title track “Tonight I’m Flying”. The latter has some good elements such as the wobbly disco slabs and the overall space disco mood but lacks a good structure that keeps one’s attention all the way. The London-based, famed freak disco dons Idjut Boys do what they do best: their “Bell End Dub” is a slow-paced trip, induced with auditory hallucinogens while the “Idjut Boys Seepage” is another kind of a dub where parts of the original ooze through to form a most ecstatic listening experience – brilliant!
Further, I’d like to dwell on a current evolution in electronic dance music. That is, for some people house music – and especially its deepest variant – has returned in full glory though others will claim that it never vanished. One can anyway argue that a younger generation has learned to love it and started producing top house tracks at that. Some do this in a manner that adds a few interesting elements to the already existing basics while there are also producers that seem to go for an identical duplication of earlier house styles.
The fact is that this is actually neither new nor limited to dance music. For instance there are at this moment quite a few rock bands that reproduce the late 1960s, early 1970s hard rock and doom genres. There’s a slight difference in production and the same mainly goes for all electronic ‘retro’ waves. Here, it is substantially a rather important distinction since software emulates the hardware from around the beginning of the 1990s so that it is relatively easy to produce the same kind of house from that period.
Personally I never held much to the idea of newness in contemporary arts. Not that I’m utterly pessimistic about culture in our day and age but since the first decades of the twentieth century, with the introduction of the ready-made and found sounds, everything goes and up to this point almost everything has been used in creative processes. In my opinion, this doesn’t mean that artists cannot use the same building elements in a creatively fresh way. But somehow I think one can always make references to older forms when considering present-day cultural expressions.
As for these retro sounds, I reckon they come into existence because of multiple reasons. For example, a young artist may discover an old genre, takes a liking to it and will try to copy it – which is a valid part of an artistic learning process. Or it might be that someone feels a certain genre has been forgotten for too long which as such is a basically nostalgic move.
It may even be that a younger artist is partly or more or less oblivious to previous sounds that resemble their own; I recall an interview with twenty-something dj and producer Maya Jane Coles in relation to her podcast for the website Resident Advisor, where she is asked about a possible influence by MK and the early 1990s house sound and where she states: “To be honest I wouldn’t say MK was a specific influence as I was only familiar with a couple of tracks of his [..]. Obviously after the comments I checked out more of his stuff I can see why people would make the link. I respect his work a lot and can see that he’s definitely carved a strong sound in early house. […] Even though I’ve never been a hardcore follower of ’90s house music, (mainly because it was just a little before my time) I’ve always liked and respected the early sounds of house. I appreciate the simplicity yet effectiveness of early dance music […]”. Negatively, copying previous work or genres can simply stem from a lack of inspiration.
In any case it is quite hard to evaluate such exploits without knowing the motivation of the artist but I do not deem them less valuable per se. And to make this debate concrete I’d like to put forward a release by a young producer from Munich called Lionne. His latest ep “Composure” on Filigran Records features music that is clearly inspired by and copied from the New Jersey house sound of for instance David Camacho, 95 North and Mood II Swing. Coincidentally Lionne is a drummer just like John Ciafone, which is obvious from his beat patterns and rhythmic approach. His music is a flourishing, warm variant of garage.
But apart from that, there’s a more pertinent reference to New Jersey house. That is, the track “In And Out Of My Life” includes a vocal line of the same-titled track by Adeva from 1988, which is a true classic. As a consequence the sample is immediately recognisable but of course that’s not problematic at all; it has been used in several other songs as well, for instance one by Eric Prydz. Unfortunately I can’t help hearing the line going out of sync a bit after a short time, which spoils an otherwise fine track. In “Composure” Adeva’s voice appears again but cut in a different manner and integrated better. Turkish producer Ave Astra reworked this piece of full-on party garage into a deep dub wherein the use of the vocal is sparser. “Anytime” is Lionne’s best effort in my ears. It has a very catchy cadence and is better balanced production-wise. The whole ep is a good take on the said genre and proves that Lionne has potential but I only hope he’ll continue working on his own mode.
Ackin’ feat. M.Akamatsu – “Tembezi” is out since March 4th
2. Tembezi (Prins Thomas Version)
3. Tembezi (Marcellus Pittman Remix)
Bell Towers – “Tonight I’m Flying” is out since March 18th
1. Tonight I’m Flying (Original Mix)
2. Theme From Bamboo Musik (Original Mix)
3. Tonight I’m Flying (Idjut Boys Seepage)
4. Tonight I’m Flying (Idjut Boys Bell End Dub)
Lionne – “Composure” will be out on March 29th
1. Composure (Original Mix)
2. Composure (Ave Astra Remix)
3. In And Out Of My Life (Original Mix)
4. Anytime (Original Mix)