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Armonics - Starlight Keeper (Funnuvojere Records, 2020)

The latest offering from Funnuvojere sees Armonics deliver a record filled with passionate and progressive cuts of the highest order.

Dance music can always give us the feels, but it always depends on your emotional connection to it, or its ability to make us dance. It could be the deft blend of chords, drums and patterns, or simply the mood it wants to create, the room it craves to fill. Everybody has their own relationship with music, but dance music is slightly different, in that no vocals mean we often have to discover our own trains of thought when listening to tunes. Sometimes we miss the mark, and perhaps the track does not register with us on an intuitive or emotive level. However, the best dance music conveys its messages through sequences of thought and textural feel that means we don't need words, we just need a connection. The manner in which more progressive tracks register is that due to their unravelling nature, their story feels like point A to point B, a beginning and an end. The inbetween is a mixture of surprise, delights and grooves, that give the listener a fulfilling experience, and create long lasting memories on the dance floor. The stories are our own, soundtracked by excellent dance music that makes us want to keep exploring and exploring, to get to the essence of it all.

Funnuvojere Records have been blessing us with these kinds of tracks ever since their debut back in 2019 with James Booth's 'Bath Time' EP. The label focuses on the intrinsic, the wholeness that echoes through dance music through the blending of emotive tones and deep driving beaty goodness. Be it taking more from the warmthness of deep house, the sombre intricacies of soft techno, or the lush summeriness of Italo, everything that comes forth from the label displays the very best of it all, merged into a series of beautiful little packages. We have seen this spring forth from each EP since the labels inception, with each release building and delving around this core. Every time, each artist moves one way and the next, maintaining the labels identity through a consistent steam of consciousness. Founded by Berghain resident Massimiliano Pagliara, the label has nurtured a sound that is interlinked, warmth personified, and dripping with character. All their releases, from the debut, through to Jules Etienne's 'Biscotte' EP, to Rotciv's 'Awakening' record, and Derek Neal's excellent debut last year, 'Reason Machine', we are blessed through the records to see evolutions and deviations, but always feeding back into the label's ideals about the nature, structure and depth of sound. Its always a joy to explore what they have in store when a new record hits, and to experience what kind of narratives and new connections we experience through these tunes.

We arrive now at their latest offering, Armonics' 'Starlight Keeper' EP. The producer, who has also released on Slow Motion Records, adds another feather to the already impressive cap that the label proudly wears, as the density of sound takes another turn. Here, we are greeted to a series of tracks that are rich, vibrant and texturally smooth, fullness and personality abound within the four cuts. Integrated both a Italo vibe, along with harnessing the energy of progressive deep house, through to chordal work outs reminiscent of Detroit Techno, it might be the most genre expansive EP yet for the label. Yet, as always, it always feeds back in. The sublime transitions, the effortless production, and seamless emotional touches make up for a wonderful record that will keep you nice and fulfilled during this trying times. So lets take a dip.

First off we have the title track, and there is no messing about from the off. We are blessed with the introduction of straight to the core bass kicks, with overlapping cymbals on top. The depth of the production indicates proper movements between the highs and the lows, and before we know it we are introduced to a deep set but ever lasting synth chord, one that chimes true above the drums. Underneath that chord we see all manner of little intros and lines, such as acidic squelches, vocoder lines, and a series of synth stabs that just underpin the regimented pad so well. Its this contrast between the singular and the in-depth that just move the track forward, feed into its energies and its purpose. Before we know it, the synth chord comes back into the centre stage, but then moves towards a arpeggio of keys, that moves between the highs and the mids perfectly, a wonderfully graceful element that is highlighted so well by the driving drums. Proper stuff right there. Up next comes the track 'Twenty Two', and we begin once again with the densely layered drums setting up things very nicely indeed. As we move through the bars, this warm Italo sounding synth rings true and high above, that begins to catalyse everything within the track. A backing pad moves into play, residing just behind the synth line, as the bass line pumps underneath. The smoothness of the blend is amazing, and really runs through your whole body, as from the layering comes in the introductions of continued synth lines and an acidic melody that will become the key focus as we move through the track. The drums fall away for a minute, to give you a second to soak it all up all the melodic highs and lows, the solid chords, the chuggy acid, the underpinning depths, and the kick lifts us off again. For the most part, the track has added consistent elements, tones and textures all adding towards a cohesive whole, but now we see the track start to morph and grow. Namely the acid line, that has now taken on a life of its own, leading the way, groovin' right into our hearts. Additional soaring pads lift and grow around, with the track now really moving stratospheres and bringing the heavens down to earth. Real shit.

'Living Waves' comes next, which follows in the blueprint of the record in having a solid as hell groove beginning proceedings. Armonics starts the track off in a proper Italo/New Wave direction, the pulsating synth line taking the lead with the harmonies, that is quickly joined by the bass line that worms its away into proceedings. He certainly has a delicate touch to progressions, using both drums and synths as a means to subtly switch things up, to add or take away. The deep pads then come into play, providing a rich vastness to the track, that is then proceeded by soft little key lines, both acting together to really create emotion and depth. Its a tear jerker, the chords simple yet utterly compelling, making the bodies move but the hearts moving perhaps even more. The track just continues on its merry way, weaving between chordal touches and soft keys, all the while slight variations in the acid line and beat continue to add to the overall composition. The track slips into this proper 90s throwback of a style, the off kilter chords backing up the acid line, which is an awesome transition from the deep house mood of the introduction part. To conjure up both feels in one track is quite simple, astounding. Finally, to finish up, we have 'Portal', perhaps this writers favourite of the record. The beat at the start is a little bit less dense, space exists, but is quickly filled up by cymbals and hi hats, very quickly indeed. After giving the beats enough time to really grow, the bass pounds away underneath, before the most dramatic of chords are introduced. A four chord sequence that could move mountains, underneath little key lines draw attention but also call to the fact that those chords are just so fucking good. The track breaks down then transitions into a chord less bit, where the key lines does its thing, before it all just comes back together for a few more sequences. Its all just so wonderful.

The record is one where progressiveness is paramount. The fluidity that allows for changes and transitions is of the highest quality, Armonics certainly very much in control of his creative vision but also in terms of his understanding of how tracks should move and groove. Here we reveal in the moments where slight touches mean the biggest shifts in emotional tone, the grooves from the gods, and chords that remain in your head even when the track has long finish. What an EP, and who knows where Funnuvojere will go next in their eternal quest for deep excellence.

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