Island and Holiday | Living

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I feel like we haven’t posted any filthy italo dirt in a while. This track is exactly that – a hot, jizzy italo funk injection to the nethers from 1984, replete with a nasty bassline, cheesy vocal breaks, dramatic toms and deleriously silly ‘Popcorn‘-style synth werk. Dumb italo-disco-funk for freaks who like to get stoopid from time to time, like the Dominos employee above.

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Moodcut | Space Dub

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We’ve spoken before about the boner we have for Nous Disques, a ‘much-sought-after-buy-on-sight-£200-on-discogs’ sort of label from Greece, known for grubbily downbeat and spaced out deep house cuts. ‘Space Dub’ is a track from their latest offering, an EP of contemplative yet rough-hewn house jams from mystery producer Moodcut (maybe an alias?), complete with a typically dope remix from Moon B (check his Six Axle mix here). This is our pick of the bunch, a track that sounds very much like its title suggests – spacey pads, dubby effects and rolling, hypnotic percussion with a satisfyingly tuff kick.

This post is a bit of a tease – the record was released last month and, unsurprisingly, is sold out at all the stockists I checked. There are, however, some international sellers on discogs hawking it for not entirely offensive prices.

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Six Axle Podcast 050 | Jane Fitz [Night Moves] – ‘UK Sounds from the Tech House Era’

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Whether it’s Swag or Wiggle, Presence or Pure Science, Justin David or Evil Eddie Richards, the sounds of 90s UK tech house have always held special resonance with all of us that write, edit and format Six Axle. For the 50th edition of our podcast series, it feels perfectly fitting to pay tribute to an era of British dance music that we so dearly love.

Who better to offer a retrospective of 90s UK tech house than Jane Fitz, not only perhaps the finest British Dj currently in business, but a Dj who witnessed the scene first hand, as a collector, writer, promoter and dancer.     Before we get all misty-eyed, we’ll leave the write up to Jane, who describes below, with typical passion and poise, what rendered the tech house era a unique moment in British dance music history:

In the same way that house music was originally just a term to describe the mix of records Frankie Knuckles played at the Warehouse, tech house was the term used to describe the sound of the dancefloor at Heart & Soul or Wiggle or Whoop Whoop or Subterrain or Positive or any number of underground parties in and around London and the south-east in the mid-late 90s. Tech house was the mood of sound, a dancefloor vibe, a spirit of the times. 

So, this mix isn’t meant to represent tech house as a genre – because, importantly, a lot of these tracks were made before tech house even was a genre. Every track on here is British and came out somewhere during that period. Essentially, a really fertile time for British house music. All these records are made by people who met, attended and probably DJed at those parties – inspired by those nights out – with plenty of collaborations and crossover of engineers, studios, labels, remixers and producers. It goes to show how tight that scene was.

Except for a few pockets round the UK (and later, the world) this music didn’t really break out of the London/southeast tech house scene. And I think that’s a massive shame, because if you listen back to these records now, what strikes me is how sophisticated the productions are. And how well they balance proper grooviness with a load of personality, even humour. You would never have heard all these records in one set (not just because they span quite a few years, and are all UK). At the time, DJs focused on playing upfront records across the board, whether that was breaks or acid, US deep house dubs, European techno, or records like these. Everything was in the mix, coming together on the dancefloor, that’s what tech house really was.

I think these records all stand up to the test of time so well, and I’m astonished that they didn’t receive more attention – they are definitely as good as anything that was coming out of the US at the time. I still play these records out now, mainly because I’ve never stopped playing them – they’re that good.

Six Axle Podcast 050 | Jane Fitz [Night Moves] – ‘UK Sounds from the Tech House Era’ by Six Axle on Mixcloud

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JTH | Something

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We’ve banged on about this before, but it’s a shame that ‘tech house’ has lately come to represent boring, monotonous, purely functional club music. A very special 50th edition of our guest podcast series is due this afternoon, one that exclusively contains proper tech house records from 90s era.

To write any more would be spoiling the surprise, but as any proper head should know, the dance music coming from our fair shores in the mid-late 1990s easily measures up to any supposedly Golden Age in Chicago, New York or Detroit. Artfully combining tropes and textures of house and techno, the best of UK tech house had real character and verve.

JTH’s ‘Something’, a track that people go buckwild over on Discogs nowadays, is not just functional – though people go equally wild in a club for it – but eccentric, intricate, and lovingly crafted.

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VA | Halal Prepared Vol. 3 [Boe Recordings 025]

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We’ve been quietly admiring Boe Recordings for some time now. It’s a label that’s always struck a fine balance between pushing forwards and back, reissuing top tackle from UK greats like Leigh Dickson and Jaime Read, but also serving as a platform for new-school Six Axle faves like Leif, Anaxander and Iron Curtis.

The label’s latest is a lovingly curated various artists EP, Halal Prepared Vol. 3. Where many VAs tend to be less than the sum of their parts, Boe’s hangs together with effortless cohesion, its Guidance-inflected sound carried and complimented across 4 dance tracks in various shades of light and dark.

Styrax and Baum favourite Havantepe turns in opener ‘Plane Waves’, a taut, shimmering bit of house music that slowly gathers tension, then expertly releases it after the 4 minute mark.

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Taelue, one of two talented young Chicagoans featured here, offers up ‘Desolate Dreams’, a deep, blissful house excursion, one just as suited to late drives and foggy mornings as early doors in a nightclub. Primo warm up gear.

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Chicago Deep provides vital contrast with cosmic acid bomb ‘Star Struck’. Confidently arranged, beautifully produced, it’s our individual pick of an impressive collective. It’s no surprise to us that Victor’s as skilful on an MPC as behind a pair of Technics – the vastly underrated Chi-town Dj turned in 80 minutes of similarly deep percussive jams for our podcast series last year.

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Label boss Ben Boe rounds out a strong 12″ with his appropriately named ‘Aqueous Reflection’. Among talented company, Ben’s track is perhaps the most accomplished take on Dana Kelley-era house on the EP – no mean feat considering his relative newcomer status as a producer. We can’t wait to hear his first solo release, due sometime in the new year.

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The Attendants | For The Love Of Low Top

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We love most things that Homero G turns his hand to. The legendary Inner Sunset producer has a vision of house music that few have come close to in the years since. Effortlessly incorporating various styles of house and garage with subtlety, funk and precision, his records still stand as timeless paragons of the 4/4 form.

‘For The Love Of Low Top’, one my faves from Inner Sunset’s finest 12″, masterfully plays with your expectations. Constantly twisting between deep organ-led house and something much rougher and nastier, the track shows off all the skill and intelligence that’s rendered the Inner Sunset series so highly sought after.

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S-Max | Ms Pacman

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Under his S-Max alias Manfred Koridass produced some absolute belters in the late 90s / early ‘noughties’. Many of them are pricey as fuck nowadays, but not all: I managed to get hold of his and fellow Boogizm boss Fym’s Funkatizing Galaxies EP for less than a tenner last night. Giiiidup there !

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Arthur Russell | Arm Around You

Lovers with 3-D glasses at the Palace Theatre (Infra-red), 1943.

My favourite number from the seminal Calling Out Of Context compilation of Russell’s work changes all the time, mostly because I’ve come to know it a track at a time. In the past we’ve bigged up That’s Us / Wild Combination (among other tunes) which is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the record but currently I’m in the midst of a love affair with Arm Around You.

The one of a kind artist’s unique vocal talent is in full effect but it is the visceral percussion and high frequency, hooky bass synth that I am really obsessed with right now. The LP fetches a pretty penny on the cogs but needless to say I’ll be picking up the upcoming repress.

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Cliff Lothar | Running Out Of Time

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“Might only bad feelings for the ordinary person, but feast for Sukisha… There is no blur in the hardcore attitude of Viewlexx.” 

While a google search won’t reveal much about Cliff Lothar and his discography boasts only two releases it’s still a little hard to believe that he’s a new producer. His White Savage EP, out on Viewlexx a couple of years ago, shows a very clear understanding of how to make electro-fused techno that seems too well executed to be the work of some young turk. On top of compelling arrangement and synths tuned just right his music projects a very distinctive aurora that is on the one hand dark and foreboding but on the other stirring and charged with energy.

The hyper anthemic Running Out Of Time is the stand out from the record but by no means all that it’s good for. Rather than trying to find the right words to describe it I’ll let you hear it in all it’s glory for yourself below. On a side note, be sure to check out Cliff’s own list of amusing mis-translations of reviews of this record on Japanese vinyl websites like the one quoted above.

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76 79 | Move In Close

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We gushed unashamedly about Tommy Vicari Jnr recently. The Sheffield-based wünderproducer has perfected pretty much every style and texture of 4/4 music, across a series of criminally underrated 12″s old and new.

‘Move In Close’, made with Comfortable Records boss Gunnar Viggosson, just nails percussion-led minimal house: elegantly winding its sparse, sexy vocal sample around layers of tough, nasty drum patterns. Absolute beaut.

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Seafoam | Dirty Sex

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It pisses me off when Americans think they have a trademark on house music, but then admittedly, a lot of them do it extremely well.

Under his Seafoam moniker Brian Cavender put out some deep house records that totally transcend what we now understand deep house to be. ‘Dirty Sex’ is plenty deep, without doubt, but it’s also playful, funky, super sleazy – and possessing one of the nastiest baselines in 4/4 music.

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Fonka Delix | My Life

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Top after party tackle right here from one of the Driftwood chaps’ minimal / tech house aliases.

There’s elements of ‘My Life’ that wouldn’t work so well in isolation – floaty synths in dance 12″s are not really my bag generally – but it all hangs so beautifully together. Late nite perfection.

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Mark Forshaw | Explorer EP

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We get a lot of questionable stuff sent to our contact address (do we want to review the new Borgore release? No thanks), which makes it all the more satsfying when I peep an email that delivers the goods. This new record from Liverpudlian jock Mark Forshaw was one of said emails. Previous transmissions from Mark’s studio have taken the form of canny, no-nonsense house and techno releases on Mathematics, Apartment, Ill Rivers and Tabernacle, informed by years of experience playing parties in his hometown. Check his Six Axle mix for a taste of his DJ credentials. This latest effort marks the first outing for Computer Controlled, a fledgling label hailing from Belfast, keeping it real with some natty screen-printed sleeves.

True to form, Mark serves up some deep and mean acid techno. ‘Take Off’ and ‘H1_1P’ deal in the kind of frantic reverb-laden 303 hypnosis that would make Mike Banks blush; the latter is particularly unhinged. EP highlight ‘Table Etiquette’ is just a fucking belter that needs to be heard on its own terms. Also well worth checking out is ‘Magnetic Highway’, an emotive and lush house jam that maintains the Underground Resistance influences, but also wouldn’t sound out of place on a Mood Hut record. This comes out on the 10th of November, so watch your stockists.

Take Off

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H1_1P

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Table Etiquette

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Magnetic Highway

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Raw Ten | Funny Thing EP

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The first release for Pittsburgh Track Authority’s new Raw Ten project landed in our inbox today. I can see it being a pretty divisive record; it features some tasty collaborators on two tracks that work a loopy techno vibe and vocal house theme respectively but in one instance stays true to the accepted parameters for underground electronic music and in the other breaks those same parameters in favour of a style with wider reaching appeal. The vocal mix of Funny Thing has got an Inner City vibe about it and by being centered around Lou Tanning’s vocals it breaks convention in a scene that more often than not trades in instrumentals and dubs where the human voice is rarely allowed to dominate. While it’s a little too clean cut for my taste, PTA’s production, with a helping hand from !!!’s Nic Offer, is impressive despite it bending away slightly from purer strains of house. I can definitely see that it will appeal to a lot of people but equally cause purists to feel a little uncomfortable.

No matter what you think of the A side I’m pretty sure you are going to buy the record for Church Boy Lou’s Detroit Tech Remix on the B-side. Working under a fresh alias original Slum Village member Waajeed succeeds in spinning out a piece of rolling x rated techno that couldn’t press more buttons if it tried. It’s got a nasty bassline that will hook you straight away and which reminds me of this but with a less Berghainy, more ghetto house vibe. This makes the release a pretty interesting one to talk about; on the B side you’ve got some killer dance music and on the flip something that seems intentionally crafted for greater appeal which I half like but probably wouldn’t listen to unless it was made by these dudes. While I would normally just write about the tune that I’m feeling on an Ep like this I think it’s important to acknowledge what PTA are trying to do.

I see the poppier sound they are pushing as an attempt to open this music up to a wider audience while trying not to compromise on authenticity… In my eyes any effort to draw more people to the music we all vibe off should be applauded and in that respect I think PTA are onto something. Too many heads shun outsiders and adopt an us-and-them siege mentality that ultimately achieves very little. Underground house and techno is never going to fully meet the needs of the mainstream but it can definitely reach a level where it is accepted, respected and revered for what it is by an audience of significant size, in the same way jazz is for example. Anything that goes anyway towards making that happen can only be a good thing in my eyes but for producers it’s always a fine balancing act between staying true to the art and appealing to outsiders. While I’m not 100% sure PTA nail that balance with the vocal mix of Funny Thing I’ll definitely be buying this for the killer Waajeed remix. It would be easy to slate the vocal mix for being too cheesy or for not adhering to the accepted protocol but I think that might be missing the point a bit. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about it anyway and in the meantime you can find the wax here.

Funny Thing (Vocal Mix)

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Funny Thing (Church Boy Lou’s Detroit Tech Mix)

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Slow Life | Late Dawn

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Is it a compliment to say that ‘Late Dawn’ sounds like the best Herbert tune in more than a decade? Them Slow Life lads have caused a bit of a stir in the dance music community recently, and rightly so: their record series is as essential as any dance 12″s in the past few years.

Where many producers ultimately fail in trying to create something truly ‘new’ within the fairly limited parameters of 4/4 music, Slow Life – or S.Moreira more specifically – put their influences front and centre. Lee Norris, Spencer Kincy, and particularly Matthew Herbert hang heavy over each of their releases. ‘Late Dawn’, probably our pick of the bunch thus far, nails that incredibly fine line between stripped back smoothness and late night funk that few have managed since the end of the 90s.

That’s not to denigrate the track, or producer. Many have tried and failed to draw influence from the Phono sound in the years since, and that ‘Late Dawn’ resonates with the ‘cheeky minimal’ era, while also maintaining a freshness of its own in its clean, modern sound design, suggests a properly exciting young producing talent.

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