Review: Artists who made club-focused music tend to debut with singles or EPs, so it's something of a surprise to find that Arno's first release is a triple-vinyl album of tasty dancefloor tracks that sit somewhere between hypnotic tech-house, warm deep house and mind-altering electro missives. As debuts go, it's very impressive, with highlights dotted across all three slabs of wax. Our current favourites include the skittishly funky electro skip of "Sacre Bleu", the sparse, bass-heavy minimal techno throb of "Start Making Sense", the ghostly deep space shuffle of "Set Me Free" and the out-there wonder of "Cleopatra Jones", where oddball electronic noises rise above a deep and drowsy bed of hazy ambient chords and densely layered drums.
Review: Earthen Sea adds to the Kimochi Sound with a soulful examination of indistinct margins, suffused with dusky haze. It's a heady atmosphere and has a palpable heaviness throughout. Starting the record are the concrete reverberations of You Don't Never Know, followed by the murky ebb and flow of Fly. 13 Beat(less) is diffused ambience.
Shielding fittingly closes the record, and weaves Earthen Sea's many textures with intricate syncopation.
Review: Priku has really ramped up the output of his Atipic imprint in the last couple of years. While its past output seemed to focus on more experimental stuff by himself (as Adrian Niculae) and Vincentiulian, the last few releases by Vlad Arapasu, Arapu, Faster and Romar sees the label's sound now aimed squarely at main room dancefloors. The latest offering comes from ardb aka Bogdan Ardeleanu. ATIPIC 008 maintains the same level of quality you've come to expect from the label. On the A side we have some sublime minimal house tackle, properly tried out on the dancefloors of Bucharest's acclaimed afterhours scene - no doubt. On the flip, "008.3" is a smooth and sensual deep house groove, followed by the glacial introversion of dub techno influenced journey "008.4".
Review: Staggeringly, this tidy tech-house EP from Dan Andrei is not only the Romanian's first release of any sort for four years, but also his first vinyl single since 2011. He begins in confident mood with "SOS", a gentle, undulating affair where pulsing electronics, drowsy chords and fizzing audio glitches clamber atop of a warm, mind-altering bassline and unfussy machine drums. "In The Bass" is a darker and wonkier workout for clubs that like it dark and clandestine, while "Still Unclear" adds warming deep house chords and dusty melodies to a futuristic tech-house groove. To round things off, Andrei offers up a spot of alien tech-house chug where swirling, deep space chords and another ear-catching bassline dominate the sound space.
Review: Dutch minimal house Maestro Ion Ludwig makes a somewhat surprising yet absolutely worthy appearance on Raresh's Metereze imprint. The Deventer native's idiosyncratic sound shines on "A Better Future To Long EP", comprised of what the label describes as three "electronic mandalas". Mesmerising A side cut "140 KM/H" is reminiscent of his acclaimed live sets - a long and meandering cut that's perfect for a deeper stage of trance after hours. The title track on the flip is as rolling, bass driven and hypnotic as you like it, and introspective minimal house cut "Abstracy" with its subtle dub techno inflections calls to mind some of the material on his seminal "Ghost To Coast" LP. Killer!
Review: London's Dream Diary are back, following up EPs by Afriqua and VTR with a debut from Ruven. Recorded during a weeklong lockout at the label's newly minted Octagon studio, "Horizyn" is a three-track "space overture" inspired by science fiction, Afro-futurist comics, and Eastern spiritual practice. On the A side we have the dub-inflected minimal house deepness of the title track, followed by the low-slung boogie breaks of "Lunaplex" and the mesmerising ambient journey of "Ajna".
Review: Saktu is an alias of Sasha Kaktus, boss of the St. Petersburg-based Heisenberg label. He returns for a new EP with buddy Alex Adamov for the first time since 2016's Kacheli EP on Reshape Agency. On the A side we have a rolling and ethereal cut that is the title track - this one is certain to have major crossover appeal from fans of UK tech house to the Rominimal sound. On the flip, you are treated to the equally hypnotic futurist bounce of "Flicker" which will appeal to fans of Sublee or Piktor. It then gets a rework by Berlin-based deep house hero Maik Yells, who takes the track down a trippier and more arcane route.
Review: The SlapFunk crew have another new recruit for their mission to match minimal dance aesthetics with tough old-skool punch. Danish producer Martinez has plenty of experience having released everywhere from Guidance to Moon Harbour and Minibar, and he sounds right at home freaking the funk for the Dutch contingent. There's a straight up strut to the jacking drums on opener "Inter Species Relations", while "Aspired Commotion" slips into the kind of wriggling shuffle you'd expect from a SlapFunk release. "No Data" adopts a skippy 2-step stance with some eerie textures on top, and then "Shanty Town" finishes the record off with more swinging business peppered with delightful keys.
Review: Cartulis bounce from the essential release from Eliaz to this intriguing slab by Reade Truth, a New York techno original who was last spotted on Warm Fiction, Blkmarket Music and Path Records. His "Wires, Everywhere" album was a big release for Cartulis last year, and now he's back with further ruff n' tuff cuts that drip with Big Apple attitude. From the deep diving "Starflight" to the epic, ranging "Space Out (Expression)", you can sense Truth's hard earned swagger but it's also balanced out by subtlety, a sense of space and groove that makes each track a pleasure to sink into.
Review: Thomas Berg's Soundscape Versions presents the third instalment on sublabel Mystic Versions with four unknown cuts by different artists across the globe, produced and performed using all analogue hardware gear. Sublime dub techno experiments captured in all their glacial and cavernous intensity, from the deep minimalist groove of "A1", the thumping delay-drenched reduction of "A2" to the housey and uplifting feel good vibes of "A4" with its jazz-bar loops. It's about quality over quantity on Mystic Versions and the wait has most certainly been worth the while.
Review: Mulen's latest must-check release is a collaborative affair from experienced producer Alexis Cabrera (Raummusik, Salty Nuts, Yaji) and Jorge Saveretti (Esperanza, Visionquest, Cadenza). Given their collective history, you'll be unsurprised to learn that the "Some EP" is really rather good. They set their stall out via an impressive title track that wraps spacey but funky riffs, deep space pads and undulating acid lines around a memorable bassline and typically swinging tech-house beats). "KInda" tips a wink to the glitchy, bass-heavy sound of Romanian minimal techno and the swinging intergalactic tech-house funk of Paris's YYY label, while "Science" is a deep, woozy and wonky affair full of minor key bleeps, jazzy motifs and locked-in beats.