Jason Berto aka Yola of Grand Ancestor had a big 2015, hosting some great events and putting out some great wax. Below are his top 10s of the year!
Grand Ancestor 003 – Adam Prescott feat. Dan Man (Gideon Time / Dubwise)
Finding its way to #1 in my chart, the first 7” release on Grand Ancestor, inna proper vocal / version style. Reggae Roast boss man Adam Prescott cooks up a riddim inna year 3,000 style. Iration Steppa’s own, Dan Man, provides some insight into this Gideon Time. A lot of hard work goes into releasing vinyl and I’m extremely happy we were able to release both a 12” and a 7” record in 2015. GA004 coming January 15th, 2016.
Partial 10007 – The Rootsman (Fittest of Fit / Only Jah)
For me, it’s all about the “When the Eyes Open” cut on this 10” treasure. The riddim somehow manages to be spiritual yet bone-crushing. This contrast left me speechless and this one never leaves my bag. True steppers anthem.
System 009 – Vivek (Square Off / Slippin)
Drive by music. Two long time Vivek dubplates and staples in his live sets finally saw the light of day in 2015. I personally had been waiting for these to see a release for quite some time and was hovering over the system website minutes before presales went live. Earth shattering bass lines with enough space to find yourself, this release is a must have and I’m sure its value will sky rocket over time. System music for system people.
Khaliphonic 004 – Peaman (War / Horns of War)
From the US based Zam Zam camp, Peaman gives us war! For me, it’s all about the ‘Horns of War’ cut on this plate. Ruffneck steppas that’s cool and deadly brightened up by some masterful horn work. This one should stay in rotation for any sound system operator in case of clash.
Conscious Sounds DK706 – Solo Banton (Outa Control)
This one is for the digikal steppas. Dougie Wardrop on the buttons and Solo Banton on the mic, a recipe for success. Classic Conscious Sounds styling here, computerized skank with conscious lyrics. Listen up to Solo as he hits you with the truth.
Peng Sound 007 – Gorgon Sound Remixes
Scoop food. Plain and simple. Play these on a system. These cuts were on dubplate rotation for sometime in the Gorgon Sound / O.B.F. camps before Peng Sound decided to release them to the public. Proper DIY style on this release from top to bottom. Reaching out to the stepper and dubwise crews dem.
Colonel Mustard 001 – Daddy Freddy (Long Way)
The inaugural release for Jahtari’s new 7” imprint features the riddim work of New Zealand’s Naram mixed down by German madman, Disrupt. On vocals we have former neighbor of Jacbor Miller and Ranking Joe, Daddy Freddy, letting us know we have a long long way to go. Digikal vibes, conscious lyrics.
Tuff Scout 157 – Don Logan (Politricky)
The lyrical stylings of Don Logan deliver a powerful message, never more pertinent than in 2015. The London powerhouse, Tuff Scout, construct a rootsman steppas riddim to serve as a vehicle for the message. Proper system music, the version does not mess around.
Astar Artes 029 – AMJ meets RSD (Heartbeat / Blue Mountain)
The legendary Rob Smith joins forces with the AMJ collective to bring us dub inna soulful style. The AMJ collective is made up of musicians from the UK, Columbia, and Cuba with a refreshing take on dub. The instrumentation on these releases is fantastic and should get through to anyone, dubist or not. This one uplifts the spirit!
Grand Ancestor 002 – The Illuminated Versions
Because I’m not above putting my label on my Top 10 list…twice. GA002 marked the first release in 2015 for Grand Ancestor and sees two tunes versioned by The Illuminated from the Netherlands. The dub trio offer a refreshing take on ‘Peace Man Time’ on the A side, picking up the pace and steppin’ outta Babylon. On the B side, Keith and Tex’s 1967 classic, ‘Tonight,’ is given the treatment and crowned with a new bass-line fit for a king!
The Top 10 Vinyl House tracks from 2015 keep coming in…this time from Nav.
IRON CURTIS Care EP Hudd Traxx
I got put on to Iron Curtis back around 2010 when my dude Godfather Sage showed me the “Just Us And Them” EP on Jackoff Records. The tracks on there were exactly what I needed to help rejuvenate my stale collection at the time, which was admittedly entirely digital club house tunes and rinsed UK garage. This was the way forward/out/whatever for me. I played the cuts off that record at his birthday and I just got that look of approval like, hell yeah…. Anyway Iron Curtis’s sound is deep and has a swagger like out of Chicago to a point that you couldn’t tell this dude was German. The “Thoughts On” EP on 4Lux came out in 2012 and its pretty much a no-brainer now for me to always listen to what this producer has cooking. This was all around the time when Iron Curtis, Ethyl & Flori, Huxley, Agnes, James Johnston and Alex Agore were all on the come-up and all really pushing things forward and vibing. Some have since slowed down while some have found fame, but Curtis aka Johannes Paluka has. while staying underground, remained relevant and continues to write great house music of the deeper variety. It’s not weird or minimal deep house, its danceable and the Care EP shows-off Iron Curtis’s production with driving house beats and bassline mastery. Parts of this record are a little more ethereal than I usually mess with though highlighting grand pianos and pad-atmospheric melodies giving you more of a Euro feel but the underground fundamentals are still here particularly on tracks “Shouting & Screaming” and “Lasga’s Return” Quality and vibrancy all while keeping you deeply rooted; Hudd Traxx does not play around.
CASEY TUCKER Affirmative Action (Simoncino remixes) Love Notes
I remember hearing the masters of this release when I was up in Brooklyn, October 2014 to visit my mate Nathaniel Jay of Love Revolution records. He was like, “hey man let me play the new stuff…” I was a little taken a-back. New stuff? I was still fucking with his previous label and the strictly deep garage vibe that it portrayed so well. Was I really ready for new stuff? Well, Nat was moving on to new sounds regardless. This dude is a label A&R with damn vision because he was all set with this fabulous first release, on a vibe so far from his previous label yet so perfect for the market that was to spring up as the 2014 underground 90’s NY/NJ rush gave way to 2015 techno and darker & deeper Chicago/Detroit house, (much to my chagrin). This particular record is the first entry on the Love Notes label that has been going from strength to strength this year and features Casey Tucker’s song Affirmative Action with remixes from the production maestro Nick Anthony Simoncino. The original mix is a great early morning hours deep house groover and the remixes add a really nice take on it with Simoncino producing magic on the flute mix like its Chicago after-hours, circa ‘91.
JUNKTION Hot & Bothered EP Razor-N-Tape
Oh lord let me tell you how happy I am with this nu-disco revolution. I’m calling it a revolution because I really only stepped into it in like 2013/2014 with Melbourne Deepcast and Andy Hart and Fantastic Man. I started checkin’ the disco-styled joints that Kolour/Undertones put out with Dead Rose Music Company, Fantastic Man again and even Alex Agore producing such vibes that I had to be like “where have you been all my life?” Then along comes Outernational, Foto, all the SoundStream records, Secret Squirrel, Disco Deviance and…. Razor n Tape. Granted, again, this stuff has been around long before I stumbled upon it but it was all like an avalanche of disco-balls and medallions to me, it just kept flowing. Then this year Junktion shows up and I am floored by the fact that I can confidently say I own a record where EVERY cut is hot. Dripping with a level of sexuality that no techno, 90s or “new” deep house record is ever going to be able to give you. These records need to be celebrated and given space in a collection because in my opinion they bring balance. Emotion and expression in music is so important and this record has such warmth and heart, oh and did I mention sex appeal? Junktion to me is the stand-out producer of the year because I bought 2 or 3 other Junktion releases and that is just absurd! Actually, I think I know why. Turns out that Junktion is one half of the producer team Fouk who also had an outstanding year in 2015. These guys are certainly on fire from a nu-disco standpoint and I can’t see them slowing down any in 2016.
THE NATHANIEL X PROJECT Last Supplement Part 1 Undertones US
This may well be my favorite house record this year because you know what? I can actually put it on and LISTEN TO IT. All of it. It’s part of a 3 LP album (which I wish came out as one 3xLP) and contains the most emotive, expressive, underground musicality that I have heard on wax in a minute. I really respect Mike at Kolour/Undertones for essentially providing a conduit for Nathaniel X to be heard by so many. Just as Jeremy Fichon (Underground Paris) provided that conduit through the MLIU label and the Resurrexion EP to reach us back in 2012. With this part of the album my dude Nate fuses hiphop and jazz elements with his trademark house sound (btw, his mixdown is better than yours will ever be) and has given us something that stands apart from the rest of the hundreds of standard deep and 90s house records out there that try yet never grasp the essence of the vibe (and plenty of which I still bought!). For goodness sake he included a re-do of “Get Up” which appeared on the certified classic “E.P” on Music Station. This re-fix shows exactly what is meant by ‘often imitated never duplicated’. So many of us love this classic 90s sound, so few of us can get it right and then fewer still are able to move it forward. The Nathaniel X Project credo from the opening few minutes of The Resurrexion EP continues to be true and should be held dear by all young underground house djs and producers for the rest of time! Listen to this record then go back to MLIU, Music Station and then explore Island Noyze Records and you’ll begin to get the scope of the expressiveness that this man has always brought to the game. “Deep jazz chords and a smooth bassline with a danceable rhythm!”
NICHOLAS feat MADAFI PIERRE Catch The Sun 4 Lux Holland
Thank god somebody had the balls to write some classy vocal tracks in 2015 and of course it would be my man Nicholas. I’ve been checking for the Italian underground king for quite some time now and after he came to DC to smash up 930 Club’s Back Bar TWICE in 2013/2014 I can attribute the productions to an actual personality. I really like that. 4lux is a hot label also and boasts such a great roster of producers including heavy hitters from prior years that you should know about like Chesus, The Organ Grinder, Enrico Mantini, Kaspar, Arttu. There’s something for every underground digger on this label but most will likely be sold out at this point, so do yourself a favor and keep an eye out for future Nicholas and/or 4lux releases because you are assured quality on vinyl.
JANERET Heat EP Rutilance
I’m going to have to crown Janeret as the most slept on producer for 2015 if not the past few years. And that is by no means a slight at the Parisian but simply that the people don’t know what they are missing. Now, Janeret has been producing music for a while so the fact that this appears to be his first 4-tracker on wax is super surprising. He appears on multiple V/A releases on heavy underground platforms such as Love Revolution and Shane Linehan’s Basic Grooves imprint at the upswing of the 90s underground house revival. Prior to that he was releasing great deep house music digitally and I think I first heard tracks like L’Arc on High Seven Records through Lucas RawCulture’s podcast which kept me informed back then. You really ought to go through his digital catalog as well as these 12”s. This new vinyl release, the “Heat EP” on boss man DJ Steaw’s Ruitilance label is precisely that; straight Heat. Heat because the 3 deep house cuts. while they are certainly DEEP, are by no means lacking in energy and vitality. These are the type of deep house tracks that you find the super human strength to dance to all night and you have no idea where it came from but you know it was from somewhere within you. These deep house cuts and the kind of tracks that take the casual listener and will force them to become connoisseurs simply by pressing play and then asking for more of where that came from! It does that, it delivers and oh by the way there is a fucking drum and bass track on here. If you follow Janeret’s facebook you’ll know that the man likes to dabble in a bit of the liquid dnb sound and while I can’t claim to be that knowledgeable, it sounds very good to me, especially considering his signed output is almost exclusively deep house. He even received plaudits from LTJ Bukem and that, I do know, is something to skank about.
RENATO P Untitled EP Must Have US
Aaahhh this entire record is so smooth and swingin’. The funk basses, sparse beats and percussion and swirling pads give this record a very interesting atmosphere. It is different, proud and so refreshing to me but at the same time its familiar. My description doesn’t do this record justice so please just listen to it, sorry if that’s a cop-out but frankly you have to hear this to realize what the difference is compared to everything else that is popular in clubs right now. The synths say “funk!”, the Rhodes say “jazz”, and there’s something very FM about it all. This combination is what I would imagine if SEGA remade the game ‘Outrun’ and Hiroshi Kawaguchi teamed up with Steve Spacek and Dam Funk to work on new music for the game in 2015. If you know, you know, my 8-bit friends.!
DJ AAKMAEL Alternate Takes Kolour Limited
Really, what more do I need to say about DJ Aakmael this year that the man himself hasn’t already expressed through his prolific catalog? I don’t want to sound lazy here, I’m the one that’s supposed to be giving you the insight after all, but simply type “DJ Aakmael” into the Juno search and see what comes up. If you are into your oldskool house and garage you might be surprised to find in that list is a record that the Richmond, VA producer extraordinaire put out on a label called Bumpin’ City. BC is a label you really need to be familiar with because it is chock full of such raw garage and disco-looped house music, run by Greg Cash. Check out Aakmael’s offering there as a starting point, now fast-forward to 2015 and “Alternate Takes” shows the evolution of that raw energy into a deeply refined melodic and melancholy piece of wax. I guess all the self-released titles on his imprint “UnXpozd Records” may have assisted with that. It’s not every day that you come across a producer with his own label with actual quality music in this kind of vein. It’s dusty, warm, and vibrant. The only others I can think of would be like Fred P and his label Soul People Music or Kai Alce and his NDATL Muzik. These gents are all cut from the same Chicago/Detroit deep house cloth but for some reason I feel that Aakmael deserves more, much more love than I see out there. Heck he’s local (as far as I’m concerned) and that’s all I need to know. Just sit back and listen to the man play keys and get real intimate on the Alternate Takes EP. Enjoy.
Brawther & Alixkun Present Once Upon A Time In Japan Les Disques Mystiques/Jazzy Couscous
This is truly a very thoughtful Christmas gift for anyone’s collection. I mean look at this artwork! Ok, so you don’t judge a book by its cover and all that, but I can tell that plenty of care was put into this production. Brawther and Alixkun have presented here, on 3xLP, an assorted collection of incredibly emotive and truly deep house music from the island nation of Japan, seemingly from years gone by. I’m not very familiar with the house traditions in Japan and how the sound was so faithfully reproduced with guys like Yoshito Maeda getting music signed to Strictly Rhythm but it’s almost as if the producers on this compilation were in a basement in Brooklyn during the heyday of the NYC afterhours house sound. Pads, pianos, synth basses? They are all in here and arranged expertly. What these two curators have done is seriously something to appreciate and be thankful for. They have done all the digging, all the research and the coordination to provide us with this gift so that all we have to do is pony up the dollars and sit back and listen to afterhours magic unfold. It’s a special compilation and you will feel it. There’s an interesting interview with Brawther at Ransome Note where he talks about digging and coming across some hot vinyl finds. He talked about a track called “Samba de Howa Howa” by Hiroshi Matsui and when I heard it I had the biggest freaking grin on my face!. Partly from the sweet story that built it up but then just the quirky composition that is really fun and so dancey. Then I had a theory about how this was all possible coming out of Japan. For a country that, for a time, made it illegal to dance, they certainly have a thriving club culture. Only by being within that environment and visualizing dancers getting down under the threat of persecution could an end result like Hiroshi’s track, in my opinion, be possible. Unfortunately, that track doesn’t appear on this compilation but, honestly, kudos to all the Japanese artists on here and to Brawther and Alixkun for this presentation. It makes me wonder what other countries have contributed some amazing, authentic dance music that we will never hear about.
PLAYIN’ 4 THE CITY Backfire EP Plastik People Recordings
If you are like me and have furiously started buying up a bunch of Playin’ 4 The City records and rediscovering a beautiful era of French deep house that blossomed from the late nineties to the early 2000’s, well, you can thank Mr. Marc Cotterall and his Plastik People record label for that! Responsible for some great V/A releases, he also pressed up some new and some old music from French deep house vanguard Olivier Portal aka Playin’ 4 The City. This record contains two cuts that came out on the “Backshop EP” in 2002 on Tropism records called “Backside” and “Backfire” respectively. It is missing the third track from the original release which was called “Backlash” but instead contains new material with a song called “Minor Track” which I believe is the standout track on the release. I must say that this one track is probably my favorite and most played track this year. The ideas contained in this song are so dope. SO dope. I always shake my head when I listen to P4TC’s music because I cannot half comprehend how one man can be so original on content and near-perfect in execution yet receive little to no mass acclaim. “Minor Track” pretty much works every time for me because of the chunky swinging drums, interesting chords and vocal elements. It just slams while also being fairly minimal, yet it manages retain a whole heap of soul. At first glance this record might be written off by some deep house aficionados as being more lounge or bar grooves style of deep, but they would be snobs. If you like deep music with actual soul to it while remaining danceable at all times well, grab a copy of this and just groove out. And then buy up as much Olivier Portal and Straight Up Recordings back catalog as you can get access to!
Brian aka Rogue State heads up DC’s own, internationally recognized DnB label Translation Recordings. They had a great year this year and hold down a monthly radio show on the second Thursday at Bump ‘n Grind.
He was kind enough to present us with his top 10’s for 2015…
Here they are!
In no particular order…
DAAT – Fridge (Overlook Remix) – Detuned Transmissions
Overlook takes the original even further into the depths, delivering a massive, cavernous vibe.
Source Direct – Black Rose – Nonplus
Re-issue of a classic. Precision drum work over tense, moody strings – absolute darkness!
Aspect & Gremlinz – Kilo (Ruffhouse Remix) / Overlook & Gremlinz – Dream Logic – UVB-76 Music
Debut release of a new label by Ruffhouse and Gremlinz that hits you hard on the A-side with a massive remix of Kilo, and eases up on the flip with some deep and meditative tribal riddims.
Sam KDC & The Untouchables – Alliance – 457
457 go for a more experimental dub vibe on this long awaited 7” cut of Sam KDC and The Untouchables on the collab.
Moresounds – Reality Tune – Astrophonica
Dazzling capture of that classic old-school feel, with all the right hooks in all the right places, backed by Moresounds’ footwork-inspired drums.
Stray – Paradise EP – Exit Records
Stray proves once again he can go the distance stylistically. ‘Without U’ was an absolute summer jam for me – a soulful hip-hop beat that shuffles along lazily to warm rhodes keys.
Danny Scrilla – True Sight EP – Cosmic Bridge
Another equally versatile release that traverses the 85/170 tempo range – hard to pick a favorite on this one, but it would be either ‘Rigel 7’ or ‘Jello” – the latter is a monster on a sound system.
The Erised – Desire EP – Med School
Hidden Element’s debut as part of the live ensemble, The Erised, is a breath of fresh air that seamlessly incorporating acoustic and electronic sounds with the lush vocals of lead singer Sonya Sukorukova – ‘Pray’ really stands out for me on this release, I especially love the live cut.
Bop x Synkro – Telescope – Microfunk
Another artist debuting a label – this time it’s Russian producer Bop with his Microfunk imprint, and his collab with Synkro is simply stunning. Really looking forward to hearing more from this camp in 2016!
Nuage – Cloud Maps LP – Vinyl Backers
This was a crowd-sourced campaign organized by Vinyl Backers to press a 3×12” LP of Nuage tracks that were previously digital-only with the sole purpose of getting the music out direct to the listener. All revenues went to producing/shipping the product, which featured two tunes from the Translation back catalog, and they sound even better in physical form thanks to Enei’s re-master.