After four years of copiously penning music reviews for Big Shot, Matt Oliver has moved on. Forever grateful for his vast musical knowledge and unbridled enthusiasm for music, we asked him to recap notable albums he encountered during this time. Ever the trooper, Matt was eager to comply.
Upon the warpath to the darkside where night terrors squeeze you into its clenched fist, King Cannibal’s corpse-maker Let The Night Roar bellowed as a breathless dubstep/accelerated dub contortion of metal, spewing from the most messed up recesses of the mind of someone licking blood off their fangs. Pulsating as it slides off the rails, Reso’s In Da Mix was even more cut-throat a chainsaw massacre, a breathlessly brutal dubstep pump-action born from a laboratory breakout that rounded up every single super villain and weapon-wielding baddie. Slaughter Mob’s Under the Radar was more a wait and see adjustment to night vision mode, but was no less an electrifier, skulking on the third rail and engaging dubstep in armed combat.
At the time, the sunshine embrace of Axwell’s Axtone Volume One sounded like house had finally come home; with “I Found You,” “Let It Go” and “Leave the World Behind” sounding hot. Unfortunately all such dance floor compassion would lead to the preset, riff-ruled domination of Swedish House Mafia and co as EDM took over and manipulated fewer and fewer braincells. All the while, the third installment of DJ Deep’s City to City series looked on unimpressed, its retrospective and repositioning of house integrity topping an already excellent acid-sown, Detroit to Chicago run. CJ Mackintosh’s Nervous 20 concurred, a supreme double decade anniversary of hands-up house everyone should’ve been clearing their throat for, skippered by Byron Stingily’s perennial road-blocker “Get Up.”
Modern house with values dipping back toward uptown old school and thus knowing the score from the moment the needle dives into the black, had Chris Carrier & Hector Moralez (Lotus Seven), Apollonia (Fabric 70) and Daniel Dexter (Focus On…Daniel Dexter) all carving out star-funkin’ shuffles and rump-rattlin’ beats impossible not to have a good time to as they mapped out an impressive feet-to-floor index. Maybe giving them the label of faith restorers is going too far, but both provided unrepentant proof of a universe kept real outside of EDM. Maceo Plex’s groove-stuffed Life Index was part of the Crosstown Rebels march toward deep house majesty, topped and tailed with a pair of ridiculously cool rides into and out of the sunset helping usher the heat of the party into the lounge.
Harvesting the most magical of mushrooms, Legowelt painted dreamy skies at speed with the off-rave The Paranormal Soul; on the thoughtful side of hardcore (yet still pretty hard), capable of moving any mountain, delivered as smooth as water…well, you know the rest. Deepchord’s Sommer bubbled under and bewitched as an architect of almighty deep and dubby house and techno directed to the highest plains from the lowest of vantage points. A magical mystery tour that conversely was at its best when found not to deviate. The tease of tingling euphoria running through Kris Menace’s Electric Horizon became as indispensable a part of your holiday checklist as a passport and Factor30, steadily building and flourishing into a spindly White Island essential swapping histrionics for clubbing to fall in love with and to.
Shed’s The Killer simply trampled, blackened and blazed all before it. A techno timekeeper on its own watch so as to rotate its strike rate, it packed its drums with TNT and happily leapt up and down on the plunger like it was a seesaw, without it ever being a torrent of unintelligent blows. Firing from the same trenches, Oscar Mulero’s Black Propaganda dumped speakers into post-apocalypse craters with nine tracks of trembling, troubling disdain matched by a minimal amount of fuss, and it’s worth repeating the description of “the spellbinding sound of shit about to go haywire” given to Anstam’s mega conquest Dispel Dances.
Recorded through a flickering surveillance camera, LOL’s Me Me flexed a claustrophobically oily yet engrossingly forthright exploitation of pop and dubstep using sex, lies and videotape to take it just left of center where angels fall. A harrowing best kept secret. The return of Air and their ambitious soundtrack for Le Voyage Dans La Lune breathed life into a unique, genuine antique, with music strong enough to compete with the attractive back story. Ikonika’s creamy future surveying Aerotropolis was the sound of someone who actually really knew what the 30th century might sound like, playing god on a Hyperdub triumph of geometric R&B and energized electro reimbursing from and raising the bar of multiple other genres.
At the forefront of category defiance – was it dubstep, did it come under the footwork/juke umbrella, does “bass” do it enough justice etc – and epitomizing the ilk of producers making beige weightlessness sound ferociously, phantasmically mellifluous (and tremendously danceable), was Sepalcure’s eponymous LP. Messrs Stewart and Sharma were part of the Hotflush/Holy Ghost dynasty, reaching out to a ridiculously upfront label compilation featuring a who’s who of underground sovereigns (Back and 4th, embodied by Joy Orbison’s trailblazing “Hyph Mngo”) and label head Scuba doing more of the same for a DJ-Kicks session (featuring Sigha, Boddika, Locked Groove and Peverelist) that snorted and smoothed out horsepower in one movement. Author’s re-writing of jungle jazz laid dubstep down in the penthouse suite on the equally heavyweight Tectonic, featuring an omnipresent horns player making the vibe über opulent and smartly removing Ruckspin and Jack Sparrow far from the maddening crowd. There were no uncertain terms when Fracture & Neptune dropped Retrospect and rammed ten years and nearly two hours worth of boss jungle and drum & bass into heads wanting a re-fix of splintered snare pressure, just like the rudeboys used to make.
Leading a neon-lit dance class also attended by Classixx (Hanging Gardens) and Letherette (Letherette), Miguel Campbell’s boarding of a soul plane on Back in Flight School took him through Gallic go-to grooves that out-punked Daft duos, and disco/electro encouraging a little fromage being good for your diet. Throughout, the album looks the part without forgetting how to sound like a whole lotta fun. Having fun at everyone else’s expense, the brilliantly packaged Endless House compilation on Dramatic Records wove a fictional tale of folly defining reckless super club culture decades before it even existed, while housing scarily cold synth pop and electronic new wave.
Mean mugging his way between house and techno as an unmoved ball of perpetual motion in no mood to give up his box seat, Oliver Schories bristles with attitude and gets twitchy around strangers. The German’s mission across darkened dance floor territories is ideal for when you’re behind the wheel, speeding on adrenaline to an unknown destination just for the hell of it, or clubbing with the lights blown for when your eyes are clamped to your own marching feet.
A quick follow-up to Herzensangelegenheit (Affair of the Heart), basslines loom and plunge as clubbers are packed off with miner’s helmets (“Sunset”). Voices tremble from the shadows, in awe/fear of Schories’ mean front – gruff more than hostile, crossed swords remain a bad idea on what becomes unsettlingly anthemic and wholly metronomic. A recurring pattern is to start off hard-headedly, yet allow for willowy riffs or mellowed hues to loosen defences and let you in on secrets when the time is right. “But Maybe” and the slight trance inflection to “Circles” and the title track explain, though “Go”’s riff goes the other way and burbles with clenched teeth and fists, and “Only Good For Train” roughs you up then spooks you as it hustles down. Binding musings with muscle (“Be” fits the bill for low-slung, critically cool house), Schories is a single-minded slow burner until Exit becomes a game of clubbing over hot coals.
File under: Stefny Winter, Falko Brocksieper, Philip Bader