2016 will forever be remembered as a year to…forget ! Much has been said about the passing of David Mancuso and as far as I’m concerned it felt like losing a family member. I had come to the point where I thought David was immortal (as some people should be, really) and that he would always be around to guide us…well I guess he will, though not physically any more. With David’s passing, I for one have learned about my own mortality all too suddenly, and this came as a shock. I wasn’t prepared – no one was. However, if anything this has reinforced even further our essential need of dancing with friends, as often as can possibly be. Love is the message and music is our way of life, let’s never forget.
As if that wasn’t enough we lost other luminaries like Prince (whose music I will forever be playing and carrying around with me – starting with CREAM at the gong of midnight this past NYE), David Bowie, George Michael, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, and too many more…and that gave us a really shitty year…which became officially one the worst year of my generation as we witnessed the Brexit, Trump and the rise of populism and xenophobia across the world. These times we are living they ain’t easy. Sometimes I wish I could just be transported to that first Loft party on Valentine’s day 1970 on Broadway, NYC, and just stay on that magic carpet ride to eternity…
However we still have a life to live, and we might as well bounce off and fight back…and party more ! In terms of musical output at least, 2016 was a vintage as good as any, be it for new music or quality reissues of timeless music. A lot less edits these days it seems, as people prefer to put out straight reissues, which can only be a good thing. As always I will try to compile my own personal favourites of these last 12 months. There are still many reasons to stay positive and look forward to better days. I’ll start with the best of the best releases, the ones that really were unmissable this year, before listing most of my personal highlights.
THE VERY BEST OF 2016
- V/A – Digital Zandoli (Heavenly Sweetness)
The summer of 2016 has seen an unlikely revival of zouk music outta Guadeloupe, thanks largely to this compilation courtesy of Heavenly Sweetness, a true labor of love compiled by Julien Achard and Niko Skliris. However for the most part this is not zouk as we know it, the diggers having mainly focused their attention on rare B sides and little known experimental releases from that scene. The whole comp is exceptional and really was a big coup for the label. Who would have thought ?! Zouk not zouk, the first comp of its kind. Soundtrack of the summer for me. Just listen to Puzzle Pulsion – Mwoin Ka Songe or Eddy La Viny – Indiano and do believe the hype ! Also worth of note by the same label, the retrospective of Les Vikings De La Guadeloupe – Best Of Les Vikings De La Guadeloupe 1966-2016, one of the seminal bands of the island who played everything from biguine to compas to latin and even invented zouk. Forza Gwada !
- Music From Memory
This label can do no wrong and the fact that I own all 15 releases they put out so far surely means everything. No other label can turn you on such a vast collection of incredible music yet totally unknown to almost everyone. We have to thank the ears, relentless passion and digging prowess of Abel Nagengast, Jamie Tiller and Tako Reyenga for unearthing these treasures. Ambient, new age, soul, balearic, cosmic, these guys have impeccable tastes. After Gigi Masin (now having become something of a star in the ambient world) this year they introduced us to the majestic world of Suso Sáiz – (check The Guardian), the lost Balearic classic that is Dip In The Pool – On Retinae, the dubby experiments of Workdub (check Caravan Revisited), and even released an album of new material by BATB favorite Wolf Müller & Cass. (check Miyazaki). The kind of label you buy every release from without even listening. Next is a John Gomez curated comp of Brazilian rarities. Can’t go wrong ! And I haven’t even mentioned Second Circle yet, their sublabel (see later in this post).
- Wilson Tanner – 69 (Growing Bin)
Growing Bin is another label whose ears we can trust, run by Basso out of Hamburg, Germany, a man who in the vein of Tako and co is another one of those extra passionate collector/digger/record dealer turned label owner and purveyor of music of the highest order. In 2013 we had the Metheny-esque beauty of the Merge lp (a favorite at after hours Brilliant Corners sessions) and in 2014 we had the sublime dreamscape that is the Overworld lp by A.R.T. Wilson, an album I cherish and even bought a copy of for my mum. In 2016 Andras was back, this time with John Tanner, with an album of warm ambient atmospheric bliss. Usually the first thing I play at home in the morning. I only need to hear the first few notes of “The Sun Room” to set me up for the day. Quite simply a masterpiece. No wonder I started Dream Scene(s), my extended ambient/cosmic mix of 2016 with that track.
Kruangbin – People Everywhere (Maribou State Re-Edit)
Undoubtedly one of the most ubiquitous “hit” this year, this sounded great everywhere, indoors, outdoors, in the sun, at 3am at Brilliant Corners, at peak time on NYE. The original was great already but Maribou State added a nice psychedelic touch and slightly darker vibe to this irresistible groove and melody. It’s a winner all the way !
- DJ Sotofett – Current 82 (12 Mix) and DJ Sotofett Meets Abu Sayah – “Houran (DJ Sotofett‘s Percussion Mix)
After squatting the top of the charts of my very own essential records these past 2 years (with the album Drippin’ For A Tripp (Tripp A Dubb Mix in 2015 and his remix of Denaji‘s Wuhti in 2014) Sotofett has done it again with not one but two masterpieces this year. Current 82 is deep trancey (as in music for trance) techno for 5am shenanigans, and it really is as good as it gets. Not an easy one to play as it’s a long and rather dark intro, but in the right context this will take you there and back and there again.
At the beginning of the year Sotofett had already graced us with another totally unique and out there composition. Even more so than Current 82 this is certainly not an easy one, you wouldn’t play that in the background or in some dodgy DJ dive, but if you have the right system at home or in the club this will be one of the most unusual trance workout you will be likely to experience this side of North Africa.
- International Soleil Band – Ta Lassa
One of my most played record of the year and already a bona fide classic at Beauty & the Beat, peak time afro disco bomb from Guinea. This got one of the biggest applause when played at our NYE party. I could have seen this being played at the Loft, David would have loved it for sure, it’s got that kind of magic. One wonders why this hadn’t been reissued before (once again Soundway got there first).
- Steaua De Mare – Babadag (Khidja Remix)
Steaua De Mare are this Romanian psychedelic manele fusion band from Bucharest who put out a superb debut album a few years ago. As a result they got quite well known on the balearic scene and Chuggy Leath from Emotional Especial enrolled 2 of his favorite remixers (namely Khidja and Mehmet Aslan) to rework some of their tracks. Khidja‘s remix of Babadag is the winner here, a sublime journey in itself, sounding warm and psychedelic and big and dubby, one for the 6am crew (you know who you are). “A beach spliff Sunday joint” according to Khidja themselves !
- African Vibration – Hinde
This was arguably one of the biggest coup this year, courtesy of Soundway again (who else!). This 7″ was apparently big in Kenya and much sought after everywhere else, going for crazy money on ebay etc. Now it is available to everyone on the Kenya Special: Volume Two (Selected East African Recordings From The 1970s & ’80s) comp, and the hype really was to be trusted. This is a unique, rather simple and voodoo like rendition of a traditional folk song, but with a modern twist (synth heavy drum programming) which makes this sound almost like a South African production, albeit sung in a Kenyan dialect. This is music for clubs and has to be played LOUD. Hinde ! Let’s Go !
Various – Space Echo – The Mystery Behind The Cosmic Sound Of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed!
Soundway has had a massive year but the best compilation alongside the Zandoli one was released by Analog Africa, another big favorite here and a specialist digger whose ears we can trust blindly (sic). Still what a surprise with this collection of cosmic, electronic, synth heavy dance floor grooves from Cape Verde circa late 70s early 80s. Apparently a ship full of all sorts of synthesizers had landed on the island almost by magic, the instruments staying untouched for a few years until a new generation schooled themselves with these treasures and fused the traditional rhythms of the island with some cosmic synth heavy grooves, creating a local cosmic funk scene that is as unique as it is unexpected! Apart from the inclusion of Abel Lima E Les Sofas – Corre Riba Corre Baixo which had been reissued as a 7″ by Sofrito a couple years ago (and a BATB classic since then), nothing from that scene had really filtered outside, and it sounds almost too good to be true. A compiler/reissuer’s dream right there ! Just listen to tunes like António Dos Santos – Djal Bai Si Camin or one of my most played tracks of the year (always in my bag!) Dionisio Maio – Dia Já Manché and let the starship get off !
2016 IN THE LIFE OF CEDRIC WOO – 12″s (NEW and REISSUES)
As per tradition I will list these records not by order of preference but in a way that should make sense when listened back to back. Sit comfortably, it should only take a week or so .
- Dennis Ayler – Smoke
This superb lil’ ambient dreamer tune closes in style a three tracker from Dennis Ayler, on what is possibly my favorite 7″ of the year. The man has obviously a lot of jazz in his roots, South London style. Deep and heady and soulful, this is one to follow without a doubt.
- House of Dad – Stereo Dunnies
We can’t have end-of-the year charts without featuring the man Andrew Wilson aka Andras Fox aka A.R.T. Wilson aka one half of Wilson Tanner…a modern day genius. This House of Dad moniker is actually a tribute EP to his plumber father, and indeed you can hear toilet flushes and garden hoses etc, but most importantly this shows yet again another facet of the man. All 6 tracks sound different and all are interesting, but for me it was the instrumental downbeat dopeness of Stereo Dunnies that really killed me (and Silvia, especially as the last-track-before-going-to-bed-at-9am). This man can do it all ! This track and Roof Metal Corrosion can both be found on my Dream Scene(s) mix
- The Swan & The Lake – Soft Brainfreeze
Music For Dreams has been somewhat revitalised this year with an impressive string of releases of both new material and (slightly) older favourites (the faultless Sunset Sessions compilations – of which the track DJ Pippi & Kenneth Bager – Never Stop Dreaming was one of my secret weapons this year – but released in 2015). They also released the debut LP by The Swan & The Lake, Moments, a rather impressive collection of soundscapes, new age age and ambient vignettes that sounds like the epitome of the balearic sunset obsession (in a good way). One highlight is the marimba led and tropical bliss of Moments of Lost Swans, as well as my personal favorite, Soft Brainfreeze (listen above – this one’s not on the album, it’s on the comp), which once again at the right time and with the right sound system (did I mention tube amps ?) will absolutely blow your mind. Even in Clapton beach.
- Jonny Nash – Cristina And Carolina
Lovely 7″ here on Jonny’s very own Melody As Truth, split with his label mate Suzanne Kraft. One can always rely on Jonny for the late late morning sessions or the early sunrise, depending on what you’ve been up to. Either way Christina and Carolina have got Jonny a bit more upbeat than usual, though obviously we are still in dreamy soundscape territory – I could easily have seen this on the Paris Texas soundtrack. Sounding big as well !
- Gamayun – Wind Shaped Tunes
This one I don’t know much about…but I really like it ! Hailing out of Russia apparently, this could be a cousin of Vakula. This piece is a nice lil’ journey in itself, full of warmth, great for driving in the morning in a frosty countryside.
- Saagan – Nu Vaknen
For the second time W&LL have let some of their favourite producers interpret some Swedish folk music. As with last year’s first instalment this has given us some really cool and unexpected results, starting with this otherworldly Nu Vaknen. Big on the klipschorns at 7am !
- Prins Thomas – Bobletekno (Bugge Wesseltoft Yamaha SK-15 version)
I have always been a huge fan of Bugge Wesseltoft since his first New Conception of Jazz albums, Silvia has even included Yellow Is the Colour as the soundtrack to our escapade in Norway last summer. On this collaboration with Prins Thomas, the Yamaha SK-15 is the star, with Bugge letting loose on the synth sounds and giving us some hypnotic northern beauty.
- Joe Morris – Bahia
Stunning release on Andy Pye‘s Balearic Social, this is balearic territory all the way, one to listen to mostly horizontally except for its title track, Bahia, a deep tropical house number where nature sounds and steel drums make this an early evening dance floor warmer. The Tommy Awards’ Sessions II 49 minute cosmic jam on the same label is also well worth a dig.
- Shelter – Water Plain
On a similar tip to the above Bahia EP, this is a beautiful and well rounded 5 tracker of sunny balearic grooves to be enjoyed in the hammoc with waves crushing in the background…taking life easy. Superb production as well from French man Alan Briand who also released a winner on Master Phil‘s balearic label Plaisir Partagé (Shelter Island) and a cool pair of edits too ! For the record Alan had contacted me late last year asking if we’d be interested to release his tracks on our Beauty & the Beat label…and yes we were…but I replied too late and Über got there first. Partie remise 🙂
- Tornado Wallace – Falling Sun
Tornado’s Circadia was one of the deepest tracks of 2014 and one of my highlights from that year. In 2016 he is back with this 12″ on Second Circle (Music From Memory sub label) and with the spacey tribal groove of Falling Sun he has once again created the perfect tune to listen to on some remote south east Asian island at sunrise. No less. On the flip Kakadu, named after a national Park in Australia’s Northern Territory, is a deep hypnotic tribal house groove made for the crazy hours of a Beauty & the Beat party. Sublime.
- Carrot Green & Selvagem – Ossain
It’s been a good year for Brazilian producer Carrot Green, starting with a nice split 12″ on Disco Halal, on which per Halal tradition he blends obscure source material with original music and production. The treat is Ossain, a tropical sunrise nugget that seems to come straight out of the Amazonian jungle – this one drives Silvia crazy and I will never tire watching her reaction when the vocals kick in. Magic. Carrot Green also released this Marruero tune on The Magic Movement label, which seems to have gone largely unnoticed but it was big at mine, reminding me of the best of what Plaid can offer.
- Peter Visti – Oba Oba
I always liked this tune since the day it came out, a nice little afro balearic nugget I found, and played it a few times. However I had a revelation after eating an apricot and hearing this circa 1pm on NYD 2017 – this is actually an insane 2nd bardo type of record, dripping psychedlic juice from all its pores. Another coup for Music For Dreams.
- B.B. Seaton – Dancing In The Moonlight
Much welcome reissue from Jamwax of this forgotten jam by B.B. Seaton. Lifting the groove from Land of Hunger by The Earons, this is one of the best example of mid 80s digital reggae. A joy to dance to, especially under the moonlights of Brilliant Corners during an unforgettable Freedom Suite party at the start of 2016.
- Agrupación Ilegal Los Imparciales – Cumbia Con Sabor
Another one of my party staples in 2016, I played this absolutely everywhere. Psychedelic reggae cumbia ? I couldn’t get enough of this, and clocking at 2:43 it is indeed criminally too short ! More of that please Names We Can Trust.
- Giuliano Sorgini – Ultima Caccia
Once a holy grail going for crazy money, this rare Italian soundtrack for an obscure Italian movie about animals going crazy when caged (Zoo Folle) has been lovingly reissued and remastered by the good chaps at Four Flies Records, with new liner notes by Sorgini himself. One of those soundtracks that are so impressive no one remembers or has even seen the movie ! Anyway the choice cut here is Ultima Caccia, a Guem like percussion track that is simply perfect. The sonics are just unbelievable. Kay Suzuki even had a revelation when I played this at Brilliant Corners, which is saying something !
- Dexter Story Featuring Kamasi Washington – Wejene Aola
Soundway the label has been focusing more and more on putting out new music recently. They got a winner with this fierce piece of rumbling electro Ethiopian funk which provides the platform for an intense and powerful interplay between Washington on tenor sax and Todd Simon on trumpet. Sounds big and fresh ! On the flip Eastern Prayer is equally good, a sublime and atmospheric collaboration between Nia Andrews and Dexter Story, both in soulful and spiritual mode.
- Gordon Henderson & U Convention – The Highest Bidder
Gordon Henderson is the leader and founder of Exile One, a legendary band from the 1970s, originally from La Dominique but based in Guadeloupe. Gwada, the promised land ! Together they created the cadence-lypso style which was huge all over the French west indies. The Higgest Bidder however is a long-time rare groove classic, recorded in the early 80s and now available on a killer 7″ thanks to Sofrito. The amount of treasures coming out of these islands is unbelievable.
- V.O. – Mashisa (Dub Mix)
Three years after that Penny Penny reissue, the digital sound of early/mid 90s South African dance floors has been brought back to modern dance floors everywhere thanks to this superb reissue by the ever excellent Invisible City Editions. Like the Shaka Bundu track this is a feel good, happy feeling tune that is impossible to resist. A sure fire winner everywhere, any time.
- Eko – Ndolo Embe Mulem
Fly By Night have weirdly reissued only three select cuts of Eko’s Funky Disco Music lp, together with a Riccio rerub of the title track. Whatever the reasons for not offering the full reissue treatment, this seems to be a legit operation, the sound is rather good, and most importantly it includes the TUNE Ndolo Embe Mulem (“darling don’t have pain in your heart”), an afro disco makossa jewel from late 70s Cameroon. As cool as can be, and a joy to dance to !
- Benjamin Ball – Flash A Flashlight
Irresistible reggae synth boogie straight out of early 80s South Africa, nicely reissued by Cultures of Soul and made available in its original form as well as two Gerd Janson edits. Whichever version you play this is a sure fire party starter, an invitation for a long stint on the dance-floor.
- Alma Negra – Mageko
Absolutely massive this one, the kind of record that must have been made especially for Beauty & the Beat ! In terms of crazy afro psychedelic madness in 2015 we had Mutado Puntado‘s Michelle (Acid Arab Feat Shanbezadeh Ensemble Remix), and so this year it was Mageko. When I feel that the room is “ready” for it I can even play these two back to back…Peak time BATB madness.
- Eric Cosaque – Flan’m Cho
Back in Guadeloupe with a reissue of a killer Erick Cosaque E.P. by the ever so inspired Sofrito. This time we are in for some heavy gwo ka workout from the late 80s, sounding quite traditional except with some added killer drum machines. We were in Gwada in November and a must do is the traditional gwo ka concert headed by Akiyo et Fanswa Ladrezeau near the Place de La Victoire in Pointe à Pitre every Saturday from noon top 3pm. Gwo ka, ti punch, sunshine, it’s the soul of Guadeloupe right there.
- Raja Zahr – Drum Sequence
Mad Lebanese synth percussion ? Yes please ! Fortuna Records out of Tel Aviv (my mate Ariel Tagar being part of that) are specialising in reissuing soulful, frenetic and psychedelic beats from their digs in vintage Israeli and Middle Eastern sounds. The three tracks on this Drums of Lebanon 12″ are all killer ! Beauty and the Beat stamp of approval all the way !
- Gilles Peterson’s Havana Cultura Band – The Rumba Experiment (Motor City Drum Ensemble Remix)
By far the best of the crop of remixes for Gilles’ Havana Cultura Band Project, with MCDE hitting all the right keys and offering us a masterclass in rawness and earthiness. Something Sam Floating Points would have been proud of without a doubt. Records like this make me wish Plastic People was still around as it sounds like this was created for that room…
- Kasra V – The Window EP
A rather unique and exciting sound here, from London based Iranian born Kasra V. The obvious cut is Myth remixed by Ben Senac aka Dream 2 Science, one of my favorite electro/deep house producers, delivering yet another late night beauty, but I also love equally the rather more personal and experimental Fantasy, where breakbeats and old school rave culture meet King Crimson’s Elephant Talk. A real fantasy which I’d love to hear outdoors on a big scale. Massive !
- Mr. Fingers – Mr Fingers 2016
Larry Heard revived the Mr Fingers moniker for the first time in about a decade, and that was to produce one of the best 12″s of the year. 4 killer tracks of Fingers’ dopeness, from the deep acid opening of Outer Acid to the afro house deepness of Nodyahed, to the drifting dreamscape of Aether. The true masterpiece though is Qwazars, a deep intergalactic journey with some vintage Fingers melodies and even a sample from a lecture by the famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson ! As classy as can be ! Larry is back at the top of his game.
- Manuel Göttsching / Ashra & Daniele Baldelli – Volcano Extravaganza
Fond memories of playing this towards the end of BATB’s 11th b’day party back in June, sandwiched between Fire in My Heart and Whistle Bump. Baldelli reworking Ashra and Göttsching’s classic, it really cannot get any more cosmic. Adding a phat funk beat, some additional synth magic and a whole load of chugging expertise, they have created an Afro-cosmic bomb.
- Shiny Boots & KrLow – “Join us!” (Shiny Boots & KrLow edit)
Big record here with this subtle edit of Alzo And Udine – C’mon And Join Us. “Take a lot of people, Put Them Together, Everybody feel it…” This brought some much needed feel good, positive, get together vibes in this very grim 2016 year. A bit of an anthem at BATB.
- The Power Of One – He’s Alright
Athens Of The North have literally flooded the modern soul / obscure soul reissue market this year, but it has to be said they have impeccable taste ! This 7″ was much in demand thanks to Power Of Your Love being the last record ever played at Plastic People (by Floating Points) but no one seemed to care much about the B side, a funky gospel tune which is the true gem for me. Another big favourite on AOTN for me this year was Fruit‘s If You Feel It, Say Yeah / Say It
- Mary Clark – Take Me I’m Yours
This is Patrick Adams at the top of his game, and if you know the producer’s history that means A LOT. As the original was previously insanely rare and expensive this means this reissue has pleased a lot of people and must have angered a few others…Me I’m happy ! In any case this is a proven dance-floor killer, as close to reggae/soul/disco perfection as can be. Truly irresistible.
- E.T Webster – My Music (Pt2)
Reggae disco at its best here with this reissue of little known Jamaican artist E.T. Webster thanks to Waxist Selecta and SOL Discos, a sublabel of Favourite Recordings, themselves longtime purveyors of quality Caribbean grooves. The title song is a beauty in its own right, but flip it over and you’ll be treated with a tasty dub version that gets better and better as it goes along. On a similar island dub disco tip we also got a fantastic rework on T.K. Disco of this bona fide classic King Sporty‘s “Get On Down”
- Citizen – Maybe U Can
As much as the A side, monster rework of Mandrill‘s “Having A Love Attack” by Cazbee must the choice cut for most DJs here, starting with DJ Harvey (and I can see why !), the real deal for me is the mad off-the-wall gem that is Maybe U Can on the B side. Some kind of tripped out reggae-ish/new wave version of Kash‘s Percussion Sundance. Stoner tune, my kind of shit ! Big coup for Dennis “Citizen” Kane !
- Anna – Systems Breaking Down
I played this recently during an after party at mine and it sounded absolutely incredible. How do you even think of making music like this ? I wasn’t aware of it before this reissue by Be With Records, but from now on it shall be a staple of my late night/early morning gatherings.
- The Pilotwings – Une Nuit Au Boxboys
After the Molitor 71 EP in 2015, already in my charts, the boys from Lyon have come up with not one but two LPs this year. On the Une Nuit Au Boxboys mini LP they seem to have been heavily influenced by Japanese house a la Soichi Terada or Yellow Magic Orchestra, and of course this can only be a good thing. Check out Une Nuit Au Boxboys or Dracafeu and be amazed. The scene in Lyon at the moment seems to be bubbling nicely !
- Claude Rodap – Zouklove
2016 was the year Guadeloupe’s music came back to light, the year I went back to Gwada for the 1st time in 4 years to celebrate my 40th b’day watching gwo ka drummers, and also the year Claude Rodap’s music re-appeared out of nowhere. Not only his only album, Syn-Ka got beautifully reissued by a new French label, Granit Records, but also 3 tracks recorded at the turn of the century and previously only available digitally got unearther by Rush Hour. All 3 of them are killers and sound like nothing else. Claude Rodap’s signature is his mixture of Caribbean rhythms (gwo ka, biguine, bel air) with more synthetic sounds. Syn-ka then. Exactly up my strasse.
- Angela Bofill – Under The Moon and Over the Sky
Andrew Pirie’s ever excellent Groove Line Records reissue imprint has paired up two of Bofill’s most well known cuts – 2 masterpieces that is – on a trademark top quality 45 rpm remastered version. This is, quite simply, majestic.
- Sputnik – Mumakata
This edit of the Codona track is very close to my heart as well as close to home since it was made by my man Kay Suzuki, and the original Don Cherry/Naná Vasconcelos had become a staple of my early morning selections over the last couple years (see my “Obsessions” section from last year’s review). How do you even think of making an edit of such a masterpiece ? Mr Suzuki is the man, staying truthful and respectful to the original while bringing his own touch nonetheless. A marriage made in heaven. I played it after Rude Movements at the end of a Beauty & the Beat party, and it held its own next to an untouchable classic. That good.
- Ethimm – Late
No doubt these guys must have been fed with a lot of Mark Ernestus and Moriz Von Oswald in their formative years (me too !), as not only pay tribute to Rhythm & Sound with a cover (Why) but they also seem heavily influenced by the deep dub rootical B lines and dreamy atmospherics of the German duo. We also have the surprise of finding the man Lexx on vocal duties on the sexy, late night and hopelessly romantic Late. A bit like a slowed down version of this all time classic that is Round Two – New Day
- ToCo – Sweet Elisa
One of the deepest tracks of 2016, so deep nobody seemed to have even noticed, except Kay Suzuki and myself. I played this in 2 separate after parties at mine and both times Kay asked if he could take a pic of the cover so that he could remember it 😉 To me this Tobi Neumann and Marco Unzip production is a modern cosmic classic. The space within the music and soundscape on this record is a work of art.
- Matt Sewell’s A Crushing Glow Presents Anuradha Paudwal & Kavita Paudwal – The Gayatari Mantra
A hindi mantra repeated 108 times (!),accompanied by tablas and not much more over the best of 50 minutes, that is how we worshiped the sun this year. If you don’t feel enlightened by the end of it, you never will.
BEST OF ALBUMS and COMPILATIONS
- Wolf Müller & Cass. – Miyazaki
Another year, another vintage for the Ibiza based International Feel label, on a roll for a few years now. The CFCF album was also a highlight, but my favorite was this new age / tropical dreamscape that is the collaboration between Cass and Jan Schulte, still busy with all sorts of drums and percussions though not aimed at the dance floor this time. This is new age for the new balearic generation, we’ve had a bit of a revival lately, and all the better for it. You can just listen to the whole album in one go and be elevated in your very own dream world. As peaceful and soothing as it gets, we’ve had this on repeat at home all year.
- Lord of the Isles – In Waves
Our favourite Lord is back with his first LP, thanks in part to Lovefingers who helped him sort through dozens of tracks, finished or just started, in order to create this album for ESP Institute. Free from any dance-floor duties, this is an electronic journey through acid boogie, balearic excursions, ambient scores, as well as some of the blissful cosmic deep house he is mostly well known for (Yanomami). One for driving at night across an empty metropolis.
- Josè Manuel – Excursion Africanism
Afro is the theme here, Josè Manuel taking us on this visionary journey through deeply percussive tribal grooves, raw voodoo rhythms, African chanting and spiritual voices. ‘Excursion Africanism Part 3’ is the big one here, a heavy and futuristic drums workout. Proper trance music. Macumba is another highlight, spaced out and tribal à souhait. On a similar tip José also released a 12″ on Optimo Trax, Safari where you can find 2 more deep cuts of afro futuristic trance music, Ritual and Folklore.
Sad City – Shapes In Formation
After two remarkable 12″s on Phonica, Scottish producer Sad City hasn’t gone unnoticed, and both Meda Fury and Emotional Response joined forces to ensure a big release for his debut album, Shapes in Formation. And indeed it’s a winner, one of the most rewarding listen of the year.The centrepiece is Steady Jam, an 11 minute hypnotic jam that wouldn’t be out of place on Theo Parrish’s Sound Signature. As always with Sad City, it’s a very atmospheric, emotional, and powerful one, the perfect soundtrack to a rainy Sunday (Rain Call, Water).
BCUC – Our Truth
Although South Africa’s modern musical scene has always been on the radar thanks mostly to its thriving deep house scene and international stars like Black Coffee and Culoe de Song, but although the country’s roots and history with jazz, soul and funk has been well documented, we don’t seem to know much about its heirs. At least I don’t. I bought this album on the faith of a good Mr Bongo review, along with a reissue of Gil Scott Heron’s Winter In America and I have to say this was a pretty happy coincidence as I can hear strong connections and links between these two albums, recorded some 40 years apart ! Like its elders, Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness sees its music as a hedonistic trance, but also as a weapon of political and spiritual liberation. Artistic heirs to Philip “Malombo” Tabane and Batsumi, they seek to give a contemporary voice to the ancestral traditions of indigenous peoples. Jazz sounds of 1970s productions have been assimilated and mixed with hip-hop influences and a punk-rock energy. There is a real urgency in this music and the richness of this record is truly impressive.
Vitto Ricci – A Symphony For Amiga (hear The Lotus Leaf Floats On The Lake
This one was released late in 2016, but having spent the previous months discovering Vitto via the Music From Memory retrospective from 2015, I knew I had to get this, his first new material in 30 years! Believe it or not, this whole project was made using a Commodore Amiga running Laurie Spiegel’s Music Mouse pioneering software from the mid 80s ! Apart from one or two tracks you wouldn’t tell though, as this is a beautiful and deep collection of digital experiments and analog textures, in turns playful and dreamy and dark and atmospheric, pretty much like the music Vitto was making back then. Perfect to put Silvia back to sleep/daydream on the sofa after waking up too early once again. Note that this was commissioned by Sanna Almajedi and Gary Abugan (of Invisible City Editions fame), and that we should have more to expect from these two.
Ryota OPP – Pale Lux
My man Ryota has gone a long way since I first met him in Tokyo during the summer of 2012. We had a gig together at Shamim and not only Ryota was the sweetest guy and a true master behind the decks, but it turned out he was also a producer as he handed me a self released CD of his own music. When I got back to London I played his track Voice of the Tide on my Deep Frequency show. We then met again in Tokyo then in London where I directed him towards Nick Williams, head of Meda Fury. They got on pretty well (!) as Nick released first Future Life EP last year and then Pale Lux in 2016, OPP first official LP. We can hear how Ryota has grown musically and expanded his reach. From soundscapes to abstract hip hop to psychedelic bliss (Summer Synth) to Larry Heardesque deep house (Wood) to the atmospheric ethnic vibes of Origin, this album has OPP’s personality written all over it. A journey into the soul of a man.
Mind Lotion – Altitude Attitudes
Nice summery vibes here from antipodean Mic Newman (of Fantastic Man fame) on the ever exciting French label Antinote. Japanese house, gamelan (see Astro Girl), cosmic disco, dreamscapes (see Dreamscapes -sic-), this is a superb listen from start to finish, one that will make you dream of oh lazy summer days by the lake. Off the same label we also had a great (if slightly darker) album by Leonardo Martelli (see the sublime Leggende Metropolitane). Big year for the Antinote crew !
Mushrooms Project – Rivea Corymbosa
This Italian duo have been on my radar for a while, I have a bunch of their stuff and it’s always nice, especially the African Obsession 12″ on Über, but they always sounded a bit dark and claustrophobic. This time they opened up and really delivered something unique and personal that will last more than a few listens. This is the cosmic, psychedelic yet still sunny end of balearica, one to listen to with a drop of Dr H or a bunch of mushrooms (indeed !) rather than the usual cocktails of the beach bar. The whole album really is a trip, flowing fluidly and reaching deep. Rio Paraiba Do Sul and Dubby Bolas are 2 pieces of psychedelic heaven.
Hope Sandoval and Warm Intentions– Until The Hunter
I remember the first time I heard Mazzy Star like it was yesterday. The French radio France Inter had a show called C’est Lenoir that was cult for my generation, and that must have been 1993 when Bernard Lenoir played Fade Into You. Needless to say how big an impact this song had on a 16 year old me, and listening to it even today still makes me melt like a boy. One of the best love songs ever, period. Obviously Hope Sandoval was a bit of a teenage crush, you can change the world with a voice like that…20 + years on she is still on top, now with The Warm Inventions, her voice and delivery as sultry as ever, with an album filled with warm melancholy and a notch of psychedelia. Kurt Vile of Baby’Arms fame makes an appearance on the duet Let Me Get There which is only one of the many highlights of this slightly retro yet unmissable beauty.
Philippe Chany – Rive Gauche
Dark Entries must be praised for having have reissued this previously quite rare synth pop/smooth jazz/French chanson album from 1983. Much sought after on the balearic scene for tracks like Aimez-Moi, La Mystique du Mal and Cairo Connection. Interesting facts: Philippe Chany was a well known producer and friend of Alain Chabat for whom he composed the music of the TV show Les Nuls (!), also the producer and instrumentalist behind Caroline Loeb – C’est La Ouate (!!), and in Hong Kong Syndikat – Too Much, as well as Love International – Dance on the Groove (And do the Funk) !
- Shadow – Sweet Sweet Dreams
So good it was reissued twice, almost simultaneously (!), by both Analog Africa and Jamwax. From what I understand they both bought non exclusive rights to the album and both went along…A.A. have changed the original listing, adding D’Hardest as a bonus track but taking out Dreaming, while D’Hardest is supposedly going to be released as a 12″ by Invisible City Editions later on this year. Confusing ? It seems getting the Jamwax reissue and the ICE 12″ later might be the solution here. One sure thing is that this album is a must for all the tropical heads out there, with a cut like Let’s Get It Together being worth the price on its own.
Pedro Santos – Krishnanda
Mr Bongo has continued its mission of reissuing hard to impossible to find holy grails of Brazilian music. As they’ve been in the game for longer than pretty much everyone, their ears can always be trusted. This compact, intense, rich, spiritual, psychedelic Brazilian masterpiece is a perfect example. Originally released in 1968 on CBS, the album touches folk, samba, afro-brazilian and psychedelia plus added effects, with a lyrical depth and diversity to match. Pedro Santos was a highly spiritual man regarded as a philosopher by many, and also an inventor of instruments like the ‘Tamba’ (electrified bamboo drum) and the mouth berimbau whistle. Busy man !
The Brazil45 reissue series has also kept on going from strength to strength. We’re on number 62 now and there ain’t many I don’t own. Imagine that everyone can now own a copy of Almir Ricardi – To Parado Na Tu (a killer Brazilian funk number and secret weapon of mine…until now) and the double A side that is Arthur Verocai – Sylvia / Na Boca do Sol for just over a fiver !
Lifetones – For A Reason
Much welcomed reissue of this 1983 dub/krautrock experimentations by ex (art punk band) This Heat guitarist/vocalist Charles Bullen and drummer Julius Samuel. As well documented in Tim Lawrence‘s book Life and Death on the New York dance-floor 1980-1983, bands fusing dance elements like dub, disco, punk, ethic, etc were numerous, be it in NYC with the Talking Heads and the Ze label in NYC for instance, or across the pond with The Clash, Jah Wobble etc. Lifetones’ debut (and only) effort had largely been forgotten save for a few heads. Now we can rediscover this fantastic album thanks to a lush Light in the Attic reissue. All tracks are dope, Good Side being possibly the most futuristic, but the big favorite of mine here is Travelling, included on my ‘road trip’ mix I did for travelling across Greece last June (hear part 1 and part 2)
Aleke Kanonu – Aleke / Ahmed Fakroun – Mots D’Amour / Aleke Kanonu Meets Tolbert, The Miracle Man / Nwanne, Nwanne, Nwanne, Harry Mosco / Country Boy
I’ve put all these fantastic albums together because they have all been reissued by the infamous PMG Audio.cd, along about 50 others (all in 2016), most of them being holy grails and extremely hard to find…leading to speculations of some serious bootleging organisation right there ! However I don’t have the authority to give a definite answer, and these records sound ok I might say…maybe the results of some good quality vinyl ripp off…Frank Gossner (of Academy Records fame) even claims that PMG is owned by a neo-nazi...Did you say WTF ? I really hope it’s not, not least because Love Words was possibly my most played record of the year…
Shy Layers – Shy Layers
2nd Growing Bin LP here, and we have moved from the ambient bliss of antipodeans Wilson Tanner to the cosy yet eclectic synth pop of Brooklyn resident Shy Layers. All of sudden we’re back in 1997 and vocoder has become cool again. But rather surprisingly and contrary to Air and co, we also have some highlife on the menu (Too Far Out and Bees and Bamboo), both these tracks perfect pieces of leftfied pop music.However, Stabilized Waves is the reason I bought this album though, a breezy majestic Silvia Gin certified balearic number. Perhaps even the most balearic moment of 2016 !
OBSESSIONS / REDISCOVERIES
- Patrick Saint-Eloi – Si Se Oui
Guadeloupe. Again. Patrick Saint-Eloi of Kassav fame was a megastar there (sadly passed away a few years ago), the first to sing love in creole (tradionaly a language reserved to complaints as locals use it to communicate without the white men understanding). I simply cannot get enough of this song, the kind of song I can play on a loop forever.
- Pitty Mello – Beira Mar
I have been obsessed with this since blagging a copy for a decent price earlier this year. Despite having included it on my most listened to mix of the year (the road-trip-to-the-sun mix that is Love Chain Reaction) and played it to voluptuous reactions in all the right places., this tune is so magnificent that I am forcing myself NOT to play it too much. It is like a (lost) Loft record, one that you cherish and save for the right time and place.
- Jorge Ben – Energia Bom Bom
Jorge Ben is one of my all time favourite artists, I never go anywhere without at least 2 records of his (usually Força Bruta and Bem-Vinda Amizade, but the options are plenty). Atemi turned me into this tune a couple years ago during a really special after party at his, it took me a while to track it down but I eventually got myself a copy…which I now play and bring everywhere. Jorge Ben at his most cosmic, this grabs the floor like only a few records can. Bom !
- Cesaria Evora – Bia Lulucha
Very happy to find that one, Cesaria’s first album, for a decent price in Portugal back in June, this hasn’t left my bag since and I have played it everywhere. Everyone with ears loves this; if you don’t dance you are dead.
- Emilio Santiago – Dentro De Vocé
One for Aneesh. He is obsessed with it (ask him the lyrics).
- King Errisson – Space Queen
Late night dancing machine. I’ve had this record for many many years but for some reasons I have played it at every opportunity this year. A special one.
- BAN – Num Filme Sempre Pop
I call this a guilty pleasure but in fact it is not, at least not in the traditional sense – I love this record and I don’t need to hide it…except when I go and play in Lisbon that is, or in front of Portuguese friends ! On a trip to Lisbon last year I’d asked my friend Mario to find me a copy of the LP, and he did, without commenting any further. We had a gig together at Lounge and I got very close to play it but somehow I didn’t – good move apparently as I was told off afterwards for liking BAN, not for the music but because of the band’s singer João Loureiro having turned dodgy entrepreneur after his career as a new wave singer, and being likened to a “Portuguese Bernard Tapie”. Phew. I won’t play this in Portugal then, but truth be told I LOVE this song, and I’ll play it just about everywhere else. In my head it is like Portuguese football but in reverse: you can only like BAN if you are not Portuguese 😉
NB: months later Mario came over to London and played Heróis Do Mar – Amor, also a Portuguese synth pop classic, but of better taste so I’m told 😉 Luckily a copy of the 12″ was found at Lucky 7 (sic) in Stokey, and I have now 2 killer Portuguese synth pop new wave to play out. Just have to make sure where I play which !