On a personal level, 2017 will remain as the year I stopped being an elite triathlon racer (my last ever race was completed in September in Barcelona). As a result I found myself with 15 to 20 hours of ‘spare’ time every week, which I can now dedicate to M.U.S.I.C. Expect to see me DJing a lot more in clubs/venues outside of the trusted BEAUTY & THE BEAT and BRILLIANT CORNERS events. Expect more from the label too, which has seen 2 releases this year but will surely take up more of my time in the coming months. Expect also a return of me fiddling around with music softwares, who knows.
Not that the past year wasn’t eventful on the music front anyway. Playing at Sapporo’s Precious Hall, discovering HUNEE (better late than never), the Houghton festival, appearances on both Resident Advisor Live and Boiler Room were all massive events for me, as was playing Mobb Deep‘s Survival of the Fittest to ecstatic and reverential dancers in the summer at a BATB party (RIP Prodigy).
Lots of music, old and new, has been (re)discovered, it’s a daily job if you want to keep up, and all the better for it. As per usual I will start with the (6) biggest, unmissable releases of the year, before moving on with a list of (most of) my personal highlights.
THE VERY BEST OF 2017
- BLACKBUSH ORCHESTRA – Sortez Les Filles (Kay Suzuki remix)
- After that gig in Precious Hall, I had the honour of being invited by the owner Satoru Ogawa for an impromptu lock-in in the 2nd room, where the sound set up is second to none. 14 KHorns, 7 Mark Levinson, ML-1 preamp, custom Pioneers turntables, Koetsu cartridges…the party space out of a dream! Satoru showed me how to use it and let me play records for a couple hours.
- On such a refined system, each imperfection, each flaw in a particular record is instantly noticeable. Even some records we adore and play great on other systems might not sound very good there. However if a record is well produced, well pressed etc, you will then hear it in its full glory, probably even better than what the original producer could even imagine.
One that stood out that night was Kay’s remix of Blackbush Orchestra. I only had the Test Pressing at the time as it wasn’t released yet, but despite having heard it 100s of time before it sounded like new there. We could hear and FEEL all the nuances in the record; sometimes the bass was moving in and out, like it was being swallowed by the speakers and back again. It is hard to find words to describe the sound when it is so different to what we know…but it was incredible. Satoru asked what it was (out of the 2 hours or so I played, he asked for only 2 or 3) and from that moment I knew we (Beauty & the Beat) were about to release a future classic. Nuff respect to Atemi and Kay on that one!
- MARK BARROTT – Cascades (François K remix)
- This one came out late in the year and had been eagerly anticipated. All I can say is that this went beyond all expectations, it is a monster production by FK on a Hypnodelic kinda form, an instant classic which sounded equally blissful at (back to back parties) Beauty & the Beat, Lucky Cloud, Groove Experience and All Our Friends (the new party baby)…FK back to his very best, yes please.
- LEONIDAS & HOBBES – Web of Intrigue
- L. & H. are good friends and have been championed at BATB in the past, especially with the track Driftin’ rocking many a parties. This year no one seemed to have enough of their new Rags of Time EP, especially for the cinematic cosmic house nugget Web Of Intrigue which seemed to be played in all the right places over the summer. The B side Heavy Weather (Balearic Acid Mix) is also a real treat. Balearic Acid indeed, what’s not to like?
- MARIA RITA – Brasileira
- Thanks goodness for John Gomez, who was the first to rave about Maria Rita via his MFM comp Outro Tempo, and for Selva Discos, the label ran by Selvagem and Optimo Music, who made this masterpiece available to everyone just before the summer. I remember playing for the first time Lamento Africano / Ríctus at Farr Festival in July and witnessing the crowd barely believing what they were listening. Heavenly music, like Alice’s. Add to this the unreal proto tribal techno of Cântico Brasileiro Nº3 (Kamaiurá) as well as A Cidade and you have an absolutely unmissable LP. Later in the year Selvagem & Carrot Green did the unthinkable and remade “Cântico Brasileiro Nº3 (Kamaiurá)” with Maria Rita Stumpf herself and Brasileira session musician Paulo Sergio dos Santos too…with success!
- VARIOUS: Pop Makossa – The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976-1984
Analog Africa outdid themselves once again, a year after that Space Echo comp which I still play all the time everywhere. This collection of disco, funk and makossa sounds from Cameroon, featuring artists such as Eko, Pasteur Lappé and others is just faultless. Makossa is one of the great dance styles of west Africa. It’s the national music of Cameroon, and was created when traditional rhythms fused with rumba and funk in the cities. The songs here still sound gloriously fresh, thanks largely to the compelling and insistent bass lines that dominate every track. Not only on the massive and ubiquitous hit that is Bill Loko‘s Nen Lambo(have to stop myself for playing it this one) but also on the anthem that is Pat N’Doye‘s More Love, the disco-funk of Pasteur Lappé‘s Sekele Movement or the incredible slow jam that is Sanaga Calypso. Soon AF’s releases will take up half of my bags!
- ALICE COLTRANE – The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turysangitananda
This is an absolutely essential collection of the deeply spiritual music Coltrane recorded at the 48-acre Sai Anantam Ashram she established in Santa Monica in the early ’80s after stepping back from the limelight to devote herself to the Vedanta (one of the six schools of orthodox Hindu philosophy).
The highpoint of living in this very special and loving environment took shape on Sundays when Alice would lead the community in a musical ceremony, mixing both gospel and Indian chant, to create a music she wholly invented – it was something extraordinarily powerful. Released on cassette and distributed privately within the community, the tracks that appear on Luaka Bop’s new collection (some previously available on a bootleg of dubious quality), dip between harp performances, small ensembles and a 24-piece choir. Culled from five tapes: ‘Turiya Sings,’ ‘Divine Songs,’ ‘Infinite Chants,’ and ‘Glorious Chants’, they capture Coltrane singing on record for the first time. To pair with the extraordinary spiritual synthesis of pianist and fellow member of the Ashram Panduranga Henderson on a new collection Ocean of Love also on Luaka Bop. Heavenly music.
- PETER HUNNINGALE – Untamed Love
I still can’t get enough of this 1986 jam which JAMWAX unearthed just in time for the summer. At first I was hooked on the monster dub on the B side. Warehouse reggae anyone? I just love some of these UK digi reggae productions from the 80s, and this one is truly massive. Tried, tested and certified in action several times. Then I warmed up to the A side which is equally irresistible. Takes me back to the incredible week-end of the Houghton festival in August, when the man like HUNEE played this during his set in the Giant Steps yurt. Memories for a lifetime.
BEST OF 2017 – 12″/10″/7″ (new and reissue)
As per tradition I will list these records not by order of preference but in a way that would make sense when listened back to back (not that this is humanely doable given the amount of music being released out there, but anyway…). Sit comfortably, it should only take a week or so…
B-B-BOOGALOO – Crest of A Wave
This cut’n paste collaboration between Growing Bin’s Basso and Brenda Ray came out too late in the year to be played on a loop by the poolside/seaside/Hackney marshes, but it sure will be in 2018. Harp (sample of Andreas Vollemweider), melodica, new age, dub and downbeat are only some of the ingredients that make this 7″ a gorgeous little balearic nugget.
ATELJE – Zephyr
Atelje aka Dan Lissvik aka a former half of the kings of Scandinavian balearica Studio, has always been a firm favourite in the house. His sound hasn’t changed much since the Studio days, it’s dubby, poppy, hypnotic while staying super musical. Zephyr is one of Dan’s best efforts, which is saying something. Makes you believe the Baltic sea is the next balearic destination.
MARK BARROTT – The Pathways Of Our Lives
Barrott, once again in full balearic mode with children chanting, African polyrhythms and 70’s Philly strings. Hands in the air on a boat party in the sunshine kind of business. This man can do no wrong.
GLEN ADAMS – A Beat For You
First into the limelight a few years ago thanks to that Invisible City Editions YT channel, this reggae soul rarity from Jamaican born, NYC based Glen Adams was finally reissued by JAMWAX and Emotional Rescue. A real coup that one for what must be one of the most beautiful “music is love” songs ever. On a par with Marvin Gaye‘s Turn On Some Music.
OLUKO IMO – Praise Jah
Another ICE find here and this time reissued on their own label, this reggae meets soca meets disco rasta ode to Jah, written by multi instrumentalist Oluko Imo after arriving in New York from Trinidad in the late ‘70s. No doubt would have been massive on the Loft’s dance-floor had Mancuso heard it. Proper trance music. Yes it’s that good.
FRANK MURILLO – What Jah Give (Androo dub)
We give praises to Jah a little longer (who wouldn’t!) with the reggae meets pop meets dub of this quirky remix by Androo of the recently rediscovered New York based artist Frank Murillo . Frank’s Letting It Rest was also one of the top records of the year, as well as Androo’s release on Second Circle, Music From Memory sub label.
MERCHANT – Tumbledown
We’re staying in the Caribbeans, or possibly at Notting Hill carnival with this killer soca meets The The‘s Giant (oui oui) by Trinidadian hero Merchant. A treasure unearthed by the ever reliable Ostra Discos, an exotic record label based in Lisbon, Portugal.
DERYA YILDIRIM & GRUP SIMSEK – Nem Kaldı
Superb EP on Les Disques Bongo Joe by the Turkish/international band led by Derya Yıldırım’s hypnotizing saz and vocals. Grup Şimşek are a group of outernational avant-garde, who embody the essence of 70s Anatolian psych-folk, playing and improvising compositions by artists such as Selda Bağcan, Barış Manço and Özdemir Erdoğan, like on the groovy lament that is Nem Kaldi and the acid organ sounds of 3,2,2,3.
ELBERNITA “TWINKIE” CLARK – Power
The gospel anthem of the year, a slow jam but oh so powerful (sic). Again provided by AOTN (after Spirit Of Love‘s He’s Alright from last year). To file next to Stand on the Word and Like A Ship. Note that the gospel-disco of A side Awake O Zion is a massive MCDE tune. Cult 7″ already!
LARS BARTKUHN – Massai (Pt II)
I’ve been a big fan of Lars’ music since his days behind Needs, the German house outfit that made some of the most musical and emotional house music in the early noughties. After a long hiatus the man is recently back in the game, notably on Alex Bradley‘s Utopia Project label, first with the excellent Nomad from last year, and now with this Massai in 2 parts, both equally deep and deserving a few listens to reward the listener with some majestic organic healing sounds. I remember my brother and I driving back to London from Aneesh’s wedding in Devon and being totally mesmerised by Massai (Pt 1) when it came out on the stereo via my tourbillon.
MWENGE JAZZ – Kizunguzungu
Norway’s Afro7 (self proclaimed “world’s biggest hub of East African 45RPMs”) have had a great year with a bunch of fantastic, em, 7″s, but also a superb LP with The Scorpios’ s/t from Sudan. This Kizunguzungu is the king of the crop though, a funky coastal groover from the Mwenge Jazz band of Tanzania. Psychedelic à souhait.
BURNING BEAT – Searching
An afro disco synth tune from 1979 out of South Africa featuring an E piano solo, nothing could be more in tune with 2017’s tastemakers hungry for vintage tropical-synth sounds. Pretty much unheard and untouched for decades, this 12″ has been rediscovered recently, championed by DJ Harvey himself and reissued by Rush Hour. With the A side just as good, this really is pure gold.
KIWI – We Are Here
One of this year’s secret weapons for me, mixing perfectly with Sortez Les Filles, this killer afro deep house chugger does the job pretty much everywhere it’s played. A real party starter, usually just when the apricot kicks in as well.
NST COPHIE’S – E Clôlo
A staple of all my sets as soon as this came out, this is irresistible, afro disco at its best, from Ivory Coast’s Ernest Koffi, recorded in Paris in 1980 and released on private press only. Luckily UK label Kalita Records stepped in and reissued it alongside the equally infectious disco funk number Bian Kou. The kind of tracks that have people dancing instantly whether they hear the record for the 1st or 10th time. Killer release for a label that also brought us Okyerema Asante‘s afro disco That’s My Girl and Iwabo‘s scarce 1985 private press reggae disco/funk single Reggae Down.
MARY GOLD – Dancing
A(nother) tune that takes me back to Hunee‘s set at Houghton, a monster private press disco number with all the right ingredients and one the best break in the history of disco music! Reissued by Winston and Joey Negro as part of their Under the Influence series. Sadly not on a full side of a 12″ though, not the best pressing, but as the original is pretty much unfindable this is for most of us as close as we can get to this masterpiece.
SENYAKA – Bayanyonyoba
One that I played a lot also, including at Farr and Houghton. It seems like all things South African like kwaito/bubblegum etc might be the next ‘new’ big thing after the zouk craze fades out, mainly thanks to DJ Okapi and labels like Rush Hour and Culture of Soul. Some of the well known names already are V.O., Chicco, Benjamin Ball and now Senyaka Kekana. While his LPs seems extremely hard to find, at least in Europe, Kekana was apparently massive in SA in his heyday during the mid 80s to mid 90s. Bayanyonyoba is slowed down house tempo in typical SA style while the B side Don’t Judge Me Bad is a more introvert electronic soul number. Both are winners.
FOCUS – Hay Hay
We stay in S.A. with another tune which hasn’t left my bag this year, this time reissued by an Australian label, Crown Ruler . Previously only released on cassette before (!) in 1983, it’s got afro, disco, (proto) house and balearic elements in it, a big crossover record which can be played in pretty much every situation. And indeed it was!
TWICE & VOLCOV – Takes Tomah (Twice rework)
One of the most underrated record of the year for me, or at least one that went way below the radar as I’ve never heard anyone else playing it. Italian producers Twice and Volcov each shared one side of wax to spread their own rework of an obscure 1979 jazz-funk workout from an unknown (to me) krautrock outfit. Twice is the winner for me with this relentless jazz-funk meets house workout. One record I saved for special occasions and refined sound systems like Precious Hall, Farr, BATB and BC (yep that was a special year).
NU GUINEA – Amore
We stay in Italy with this bijou 7″, originally coming out as a (very) limited wedding gift, but thankfully the duo from Naples decided to release it for a wider audience. Italo afro cosmic balearic, all the right touches are in this little bomb, hands down the 7″ of the year.
DJ FETT BURGER – Track One
Fett Burger, alongside his brother Sotofett, specialise in covering new territories in dance music and are definitely some of the most interesting producers in activity.. With this Track One we have one of the most original tracks of the year. The title of the mix, “Fast Slow West Coast” says it all, this is one for the most adventurous dance-floors. I have yet to find the right time to play but I will as I really love it. I can imagine how big this would have sounded at Plastic People’s Balance night!
DAZION – Be A Man
Biggest tune of the year for me in the sense that it’s the one I’ve played the most, more often than not at peak time. Big debut for Cris Kuhlen, feat Gambian musician Ebou Gaye Mada who sings and plays percussion, this is one of my most shazamed record too. Another success for Second Circle .
SIASSIA et TOKOBINA – Mama Africa
Nouvelle Ambiance is the new baby of Hugo Mendes and Emile Omar, and they kicked off the label in style with this killer reissue of some of Congolese musician’s Albert Siassia‘s best work. Recorded in the 1980s in Paris during the heyday of the African diaspora’s influence, the title track is a killer dance-floor workout (one of the highlight of my solo night at Brilliant Corners) while Pointe Noire on the B side delivers a nice chunk of Afro-disco. Read more about the Parisian laboratory of African pop here.
LORD OF THE ISLES – Sunrise 89
Now that the dance-floor’s full and screaming for more we can go a little deeper with my favorite deep house track of the year (alongside FK’s). Super deep and original, quite fast but full of textures, this Detroit influenced number will no doubt stand as a classic for years to come . On the B side we also have one of the best ambient track of the year with Parabolas of Neon. Add some stunning artwork – as always with Firecracker – to make this one of the essential 12″ of 2017.
LORD ECHO – The Sweetest Meditation (club mix)
We carry on with another Lord and a return to form for NZ’s finest. Nothing super original here, but summery deep house made to perfection. One for dancing outdoors with shades on and your favourite cocktail on the pool deck.
SHELTER – Banzawa
I’ve known Paris’ Shelter’s Alan Briand for a while now after he sent me some killer demos a couple years ago which ended up on Über (what with me being too slow to react…). Since then he’s been from strength to strength, with releases on Master Phil‘s Plaisir Partagé and even a mini LP for IFeel. We finally met in Paris for an impromptu back to back and I could get a better understanding of how talented the guy is. A graphic designer by trade (more of that later), with a hand in mastering and of course producing, the man lives and breathes music and art in general. Banzawa was made as an hommage to Kassav’s original, turning it into a modern italo-zouk beauty. Well deserved hit! And the B side is a another balearic beauty of the highest order.
PENDER STREET STEPPERS – Raining Again
From Paris to Vancouver we fly high and dance with our eyes closed on this sunset-y cosmic house number. The rain is now long gone thanks to those sweet guitar licks and boogie bassline. Super dreamy.
MICHAEL WYCOFF – Looking Up To You
What a treat to finally own this all time 2 step soul/disco classic on a 12″, thankfully reissued by the lovely chaps at Be With Records. Also with Diamond Real on the flip, though I’d preferred to have the full vocal rather than Tee Scott’s instrumental version. Sounding big nonetheless.
CEDAR SOUND WORKSHOP – You Make Me Happy (Monchan Extended Edit)
Hands-in-the-air-last-record-of-the-night kind of niceness, courtesy of DJ Monchan from NYC’s A1 Records
NICOLA CRUZ – Folha De Jurema (Xique Xique’s Dragonfruit Mix)
Luckily the night is not over yet as thankfully we have time for an encore (or 5). Big tune and big 12″ alert with this majestic release by Nicola Cruz (Ecuadorian citizen born in Limoges!) recorded in Sao Paulo with an all star cast of Arteria FM (on vocal), Salvador Araguaya (caressing the Viola Caipira) and Spaniol (stroking the Baixo). Steered by Nicola’s production prowess, the quartet delivers a masterpiece! The original is sublime enough, but the remixes take it another step further, especially Xique-Xique’s Dragonfruit Mix: a wondrous journey full of surprising leaps and bounds, alternating between hypnotic electronics and organic song structure.
Saving the best ’til last he raises the energy whilst keep the beats low and the vibes ecstatic. Massive hit at BEAUTY & THE BEAT’s NYE!!
BRAIN MACHINE – To The Stars (Rollmottle remix)
After such a high it’s time to come down a bit and we do that in style with this cosmic mid tempo beauty, reminiscing of Plaid or Boards of Canada and released on Chuggy’s Emotional Response. The remix comes courtesy of Rollmottle of Project Sandro fame (Blazer), no wonder! Sounded sublime at Spiritland.
CW–What Have We Done?
As I am a bit biased for this one I’ll just thank Frankie Valentine and quote Piccadilly Records’ review: “C-Dub treats us to the electro-harmonic brainmelt of “What Have We Done”, a consciousness expanding cut n paste boasting pulsing prog sequences, chiming guitar, dreamy harp and the occasional burst of disorienting piano. Seeming to unlock both our hips and the global consciousness, this track unites the sounds of French jazz, West African folk, Pacific guitar and German kosmische while maintaining a driving dancefloor groove. Totally psychedelic and completely different to everything else that’s out there, this is the most exciting record I’ve heard in aaaagess!”
DREAMCAST – Liquid Deep
Perfect title on this one as we’re floating real deep riding through Stokholm producer Sasac‘s laidback funk and Washington resident Davon Bryant‘s silky smooth falsetto. Reminds me of the very best of Andras & Oscar. Makes me melt literally.
HOLY GHOST – Walk On Air
Not much can be added to this record which hasn’t already been said: simply one of the most perfect and majestic record records ever made. Ultimate Loft classic. This record is a state of mind. This isn’t just a walk on air, this is a mind blowing journey with your head high up in the clouds. I’ve tripped out hundreds of times on this record and will never get tired of it. Isle of Jura has reissued it alongside another seminal Loft record, Ozo‘s Ananbra, in a year that also saw Aeo and Life of Mars being reissued. Four of the most cosmic Loft records, no less.
DON CARLOS – Inspiration EP
The Don of the most loved-up of deep house sub-genres, the Italian dream house sound, is back with this selection of overlooked gems by the Echovolt label. 3 cuts from his rare Aqua vinyl promo EP from 93, and one (Inspiration) from 2001’s The Music On My Mind LP make this piece of wax a must have for lovers of hypnotic and colourful deep house music.
NEWBORN JR – Just In Time
strong>Earth Trax & Newborn Jr aka Bartosz Kruczyński & Adam Brocki have released a split EP on the French label Les Yeux Orange. As we already knew from Bartosz’s majestic Baltic Beat LP on Growing Bin last year (check out Parco Degli Acquedotti) he’s deep into his ambient and new age textures, as you can hear on Mirage, reminiscent of MCDE and Marcus Worgull’s ambient balearica as Vermont. The highlight of this EP though for me is the aforementioned Just In Time by Newborn Jr, with its sun bleached, Isolee circa Beau Mot Plage vibes. One to dance to on the beach at sunrise.
< EARTH PATTERNS – Sunflower
We’re staying on the beach at sunrise and in dream house territory with this sublime cut,
Sunflower. Sitting perfectly alongside
Vangelis Katsoulis, Lars Bartkuhn and Soichi Terada on Alex Bradley‘s Utopia Records, “First Light” is a majestic listen from start to finish. For lovers of Dream II Science and co.
LNS & DJ SOTOFETT – Jugando Con Fuego
Every year Sotofett trusts one slot or more in my end-of-the-year charts, and this year is no different. I love his remix of Auntie Flo‘s For Mihaly too, but maybe not as much as Jugando Con Fuego, on his own Wania label, an epic, warm, and percussive sunriser, filled with dubs and drops all the way through. Sounds like old school Rhythm Is Rhythm.
KEOPE – Saltamonte
We’re getting seriously deep as we’re jamming with one of the year’s most original release, Keope‘s EP Saltamonte featuring 3 ‘songs’ cut out of extended jams. Folk, balearic, psychedelic and electronica, it’s all in there but it’s much more than the sum of its parts. The Chilean duo seems to make associations with South American shamanism and connections to dance rituals through both strange and familiar sounds, acoustic and electronic. Deep stuff.
BEST OF 2017 – LPs and COMPILATIONS
PAOLO MODUGNO: Brise d’Automne
Absolutely gorgeous new age gem unearthed by Manu Archeo. Yet another treasure from his Italian archives! Manu’s tastes are faultless. This is the perfect album to ease you into the day. Works well in the autumn and even better if the sunshine peers through the windows. One of my most listened albums of the year, and a bona fide Silvia Gin classic to boot. Some of the highlights include Danza Nell’Aqua and Il Minareto but really the album deserves to be played on a loop. As always with Manu the package is superb, and he even added a bonus 12″ containing 2 tracks previously unreleased on vinyl. A treat.
BEVERLEY GLENN-COPELAND: …Keyboard Fantasies
So good it’s been reissued twice! True it was due to politics within the now defunct , which meant that Brandon Edward Ocura re-released it on his brand new label which he now runs solo with his wife, and Alan Briand as the in house graphic designer. In fact this repress looks as gorgeous as it sounds. According to Alan we can expect a lot more of these previously-only-on-cassette holy grails to be resurrected on the label in the near future. On the strength of this LP ((check out Slow Dance or the cult Sunset Village) I really cannot wait.
VANGELIS KATSOULIS: If Not Now When
Vangelis is a big favourite around here, already mentioned above and also in for his retrospective on Into The Light. We saw him live and it was somewhat underwhelming, but his new LP sounds fantastic. The return of the Greek ambient on and new age hero is a triumph with this gorgeous LP embracing minimalism, sonic purity and meditative philosophies. Check out the haunting and emotive Zarrin for some early morning bliss, as well as Tore. Perfect soundscape to ease into the day.
MIDORI TAKADA: Through The Looking Glass
Midori’s been enjoying a nice comeback this year what with (some of )her music being rediscovered and reissued, and the Japanese master of ambient and minimalism has started touring again. Her sound is somewhat reminiscing of Steve Reich, but truly as a composer and percussionist herself she is quite unique. Through the Looking Glass, was recorded in only two days, with Takada playing an enormous range of different instruments and found objects including marimbas, reed organs, gongs, ocarinas, bells and Coca-Cola bottles, using them to create her own “band” with layers of overdubs. The overall feel is of a deep experience, not only soothing but also reflective of nature and society.
YASUAKI SHIMIZU: Kakashi
Another holy grail back on the limelight, and one that is on a class of its own. The producer of Mariah‘s Utakata No Hibi kind of used this 1982 lp as a testing ground for the fusion of saxophone, electronics and pop arrangements that would reached its peak on Mariah’s LP the following year. An oddity that will surprise you, not that it’s a difficult listen but it does deserve a few repeats as it weaves through new wave, jazz, fusion, ambient and experimental music. A real gem reissued jointly by Poker Flat and WRWTFWWR (who also did the Takada lp)
NORDSØ & THEIL: Nordsø & Theil
Possibly the best thing that came out on the ever reliable Music For Dreams this year, this is collab between 2 influential key players outta Copenhagen (having played over the years with dudes like Geroge Duke, Jan Akerman or Santana). Lots of eastern influences in there mixed with great jazz musicianship and a psychedelic edge, this is a sublime listen from start to finish. Moonboots even named it as “the best record I have heard in the last 10 Years!”. Believe the hype.
PHARAOHS: In Oeland
Hailing from LA and feat Suzanne Kraft, I have always followed the Pharaohs, be it for some of their cosmic electro pop numbers like Miraculous Feet, or more tropical/balearic offerings like Ahumbo (Another Beach version). On this mini LP for International Feel, the band was inspired by the writings of journalist Michael Kew on his travels in the South Pacific, the result being the kind of soundtrack they’d want to hear on such a tropical island. You can feel that on tracks like Oelan Gunda, the underwater landscape that is Coral Heads, and especially on the highlight of the album (and a big Silvia Gin record), the tribal and uplifting Air Kirabati. Another winner for IFeel, in a series that incluede Wolf Muller & Cass, Len Leise and Shelter.
JAN SCHULTE: Tropical Drums of Deutschland
One of the most unlikely yet successful compilations of the year, this collection of exotica from the late 80s in Germany, compiled by Jan Schulte (aka Wolf Müller) for Music For Dreams. The kind of rainforest exotica present in Schulte’s own music, who himself points to his “general fascination for music that describes places where the artists have never been. Songs about the jungle or the rainforest made by people that know the rainforest only from television and books. Somehow I think you can hear their mythical imagination and fantasy in those tracks”. We certainly hear it in the extensive use of wildlife samples on both Tagtraum Eines Elefanten by Argile and on Wuhan Wuchang by Total Art Of Percussion. Or on the repetitive and trace-inducing drum circle re-enactments of Ralf Nowy‘s Akili Mali and Bob Moses‘s Boat Song Part II. The highlight for me though is the gorgeous choral drum workout of Sanza’s Sounouh, tried, tested and approved in the magic hours of BATB last summer.
VARIOUS: Oté Maloya (The Birth Of Electric Maloya On Reunion Island 1975-1986)
After the recent trend of all things West Indies (mainly Guadeloupe and Haïti but also Martinique, Dominique and Trinidad), and after getting a first taste of the maloya on the superb 2015 compilation of Alan Peters‘ best efforts , this music style originating from the French island La Reunion has been given a much appreciated retrospective by the always inspired Strut label. Grab yourself some rhum Charette, prepare a few ti’ punch or some rhum arrangé, and listen to this comp on a loop. An incredible listen from start to finish, this would have been the comp of the year if not for the Pop Makossa. We find Peters on fine form again on La Rosée Si Feuilles Songes, alongside some jewels like Françoise Guimbert – Tantine Zaza, or Gilberte Rougemont – Serre Serre Pas. Most of these songs are, like zouk, sang in French creole though a different various from the West Indies’. The maloya hadn’t travelled so much like zouk did so heads up to Strut for stepping in. And no doubt the treasures are still aplenty.
MICKEY HART: Planet Drum
The Grateful Dead and Rhythm Devils drummer released this lp in 1991 as an exploration into different drumming styles from around the world, inviting an all star cast of percussionists and vocalists from Brazil, Nigeria, India and Puerto Rico. Hence we find cats like Airto, Zakir Hussain, Flora Purim and Babatunde Olatunji. It was re-released last year for its 25 year anniversary with 3 added tracks, and I am so grateful to Deborah Ipekel for turning me onto this at Farr Festival. The track Island Groove quickly became a weapon in my sets, as well as Lost River, while others like the stunning Mysterious Island or The Dancing Sorcerer act more like mood setters.
Big coup for Paris’ Superfly with the amazing reissue of this French afro jazz rarity. Hard to imagine how this originally came out as private press only, when you have super deep tracks like The Warras Beat or I Take You My Feeling, or clubby like on the monster club tune Congo Expressions.
Not to be missed!
MAX CILLA: La Flute Des Mornes Volume 1
Re-issued for the first time by Sofa Records and Bongo Joe Records, Martinique flutist Max Cilla‘s essential West Indies spiritual jazz album from 1981, featuring the great jazz pianist Georges-Edouard Nouel. Much respect to my man David Chouferbad for playing the deep and tribal La Flute Des Mornes at Peter’s wedding last August (my kind of wedding)! Fascinated by Cuban music and Latin rhythms, he not only built and manufactured his bamboo flutes, but also composed and played his own songs accompanied by the island’s traditional percussions. He recorded and released La Flute des Mornes Vol.1 in 1981. Check out also the superb Crépuscule Tropical.
SOUNDSPECIES and ACHE MEYI: Soundspecies & Ache Meyi
This LP is the result of a collab between BATB favourites Soundspecies and Cuba’s Ache Meyi, who met at the Manana festival in Santiago de Cuba, whose premise was to introduce local musicians to electronic artists from around the world in order to create a brand new live experience. Always in the DJ bag thanks to its B side which features the bona fide BATB classic Alina’s Calypso as well as Eguá : Mawa , a classic Henry Keen rhythm, a big favorite of mine and possibly my most IDed track of the year. Watch the story and live performance below:
VARIOUS Digital Zandoli 2
The first Digital Zandoli comp on Diggers Digest from 2016 was almost solely responsible for the zouk craze we’ve seen since then. Everyone being into zouk all of a sudden, a genre that was at best well ignored just 2 years previously; euro bin records becoming holy grail and approaching 3 figures almost overnight to the bemused look of well seasoned diggers…this can’t be a bad thing though. DZ2 might not be as strong as the first volume, but there are still a few winners in there, starting with the tropical disco funk, erm, holy grail that is Jo Star – Demaré Moin, the zouk love of Michel Alibo – Fou Jaloux , and probably the best (re)discovery on this comp by the Achard/Skliris pair with the zouk/gwoka/ragga hybrid that is Coco & Fabert‘s Ban Di Fwan.
AHEHEHINOU VINCENT: Best Woman
Analog Africa have reissued one of the rarest and funkiest releases by Vincent Ahehehinnou, his first solo LP post Benin’s kings’ Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou. Why the singer and composer had been pushed out of the musical powerhouse and Africa-wide sensation we won’t know, but all I can say is that Best Woman (“I want to make you niiiice”) is a sure fire afro funk bomb, while Wa Do Verite Ton Noumi is a deep slice of late night hypnotic trance.
LES AMAZONES D”AFRIQUE: République Amazone
This all-female collective of celebrated west African singers from different generations came together to help victims of violence against women. For that reason alone this is a milestone and worth an ear. Then you have tracks like the already classic I Play the Kora, which we’ve played at midnight on NYE and does damage (the good kind) everywhere it’s been dropped. In traditional griots families women are not allowed to play the kora, which is what this song is about. And the pure energy on the raw funk rock of Dombolo (feat Angélique Kidjo). Not the most coherent album I’d say (and a real shame about the poor sounding blue vinyl too), but a piece of history nonetheless. This inspired me and was the centrepiece of a mix I did around the them of female empowerment.
MUSHI & LAKANSYELl: Koté Ou?
Haïti definitely is one of the (culturally) richest and most musical country out there. After the Syn-ka LP of Claude Rodap, the French label Granit have reissued the beautiful rare Haitian jazz fusion LP Koté Ou? Contrary to what we (think) we know about Haïtian music, there is no kompas and no cadence in this album, but rather an overall feel of creole melancholy. Distances especially is a true jewel. One for the balearic/ambient heads out there.
ALBINOS: Santa Barbara Album
One of the big surprises of the year (though this album came out on cassette tape in 2015 I think!) with this deep house/balearic/organic deepness double LP by a mysterious French outfit. This is a beautifully crafted and atmospheric electronic album that will take you on a journey. Check out Facing the Sun or Ocean City and enjoy your travels!
OBSESSIONS / REDISCOVERIES
EXPERIENCE 7: Lanmou Sé An Danjé
As far as I’m concerned this was yet another year filled with all things Caribbean, and especially Guadeloupe, the island where my dad’s been living for 25+ years. The zouk craze is still on, it will most likely go very soon but for me that will always be part of my package. How can one resist the perfection of this beauty for example? I have the LP, I have the 12″, and I even found 3 more copies in my home town of Clermont-Ferrand. One sure thing is I couldn’t get enough of this.
ERIC BROUTA: Machine A Lanmou
I found this rather innocuous-looking LP for 2 euros in a Pointe-A-Pitre brocante, and that became one of my most played zouk records ever. Great to start the dance (like on my Boiler Room ), great to finish the night (like at the recent All Our Friends party), this is simply magnifique. Non, Lanmou Sé PA An Danjé!
RAH BAND: Messages From the Stars
I’ve been rightly obsessed with this record since I got hold of a copy earlier in the year especially because I wanted to hear it at Precious Hall. It went down a storm obviously, as it did pretty much every time I played it since…I have tried to save it for special occasions and one of them happened to be for my last solo session of the year at Brilliant Corners. I thought I had finished off the night with playing the aforementioned You Make Me Happy, but the crowd wanted more and BC’s staff agreed. I dropped this and the dancers’ reaction was absolutely insane. One of my best memories as a DJ ever.
MAC GREGOR – Nan Ye Li Kan
I do not own this record but this is the #1 holy grail on my list. A haunting, afro disco masterpiece, on a par with Bill Loko’s. I love this to bits. If anyone has any plan of treating me…that’s the one 😉