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Ash Lauryn - Truth (FWM, 2021)

Following on from her stellar contribution to the Stefan Ringer produced 'Expressions' record, Ash Lauryn strikes out on her own on this incredible solo EP, which celebrates all the varying strands of House music in truly extraordinary fashion.

Modern Dance Music continues to grow and evolve, just like any genre, and at the forefront of its development are artists who speak from the heart through diverse styles and meaningful applications of tone. At the heart of it all, the movement has always spoken to both the soul and the body, maintaining a close relationship with the ways in which our feet move, along with the broadening smiles or closed eyes that emerge on our faces, be it on the dance floor or in our living rooms. Its an umbrella term that includes many celebrations of life, feeling, serenity and passion, with rhythm intersected with emotive keys and synths that speak enormously through tonal exploration, as listeners become ensnared within the forward momentum that binds it all together. To have such an open book in terms of showcasing this relationship, there has been an enormity of representations from across the globe, from the origin points of Chicago and Detroit through to the rest of the world, there has always been a selection of producers kicking about who have provided meaningful contributions that help to maintain Dance music in its many forms. From this top layer of perpetual motion you see the innovations start to take hold, where the sound of a producer or collection of producers channels into a collective mindset that yearns for something new, invigorating and passionate, and its a layer of goodness that never ceases to amaze. It's amazing to get to know and understand many of the producers who operate within these realms, who spend time understanding and deeply caring for its rich heritage alongside coming up with engaging sounds of their own, and whilst some cater for a particular thread, there are a select few who seem able to represent Dance Music's various threads with a real sense of purpose. Within their overall sound we see the spectrum represented to its fullest, from the jackin' style through to the soulful embrace of vocalised melodies and rhythms, from the explosive drums through to the soft and tender beats, we lie waiting for these kinds of artists who understand above all else where the movement has come from, where it is now and where it is heading in the future. Dynamism is a core value of this approach, the cornerstone of an ability to read between the lines and come up with something fresh yet something that operates firmly within the crossroads, a sound that picks up on the little things in order to make the overall picture really shine. We as listeners simply lap it up, amazed at the things that slide our way from these artists, willing and waiting with baited breath for the next slice of excellence to come our way, and they never seem to disappoint.

If there was ever someone to embody many of these ideals, then it would be Atlanta based writer, DJ, curator Ash Lauryn, who has championed the past and the present via a plethora of creative outlets. Originally from Detroit, Lauryn would discover her passion for music in the city, and after moving to her current city of Atlanta, she was inspired to start djing by such illuminaries as Kai Alce and Vicki Powell. She has hosted a monthly radio show on NTS since 2018, 'Underground & Black', which is also the name of her excellent online blog, which champions contemporary Black artists whilst also highlighting the importance of Black historical roots and originators within dance music. She has also interviewed a number of icons for online publications like RA, curated panels for Red Bull Academy and is curating a stage at an upcoming Boiler Room festival. Lauryn's passion for music certainly shines through in all of her endeavours, be it writing, performing or interviewing, and this has really seen her stock rise over the past few years. Her DJ sets are truly excellent, with a beautiful balance being struck being rhythm and melody within the mix, as the two layers simply intertwine around one another as we get carried away into sheer bliss. Underground remains the word of the day, with her selections featuring plenty of old school classics contextualised alongside new talent, and the sequencing of tunes couldn't be any more effective. Some mixes we recommend checking out include her 'Club Quarantine' mix from last year; the superb grooves that flow out of her 2019 'Nowadays' mix; and finally, the sheer good feels that resonate from the Red Bull Radio Choice Mix from 2019 also. All three of these mixes showcase Lauryn's abilities as a selector, as someone who really delves into the many strands of House in particular and is able to represent the genre in so many differing ways, and we for one are always excited when a new show or mix of hers comes around. For someone with a firmly rooted vision within Dance Music, production felt like a natural step forward for Lauryn, who first featured on the 'Expressions EP' on vocal duties alongside her partner Stefan Ringer, another firm favourite here at Endless Grooves. The record consists of four cuts that channel Ringer's own wide reaching style, with a mixture of tempos and melodic blends being worked up on each track, with Lauryn's voice brilliantly moving between the lines, like a guide within the groove, a voice that channels wisdom and passion, just like she does in all of her other musical pursuits. Its a wonderful record that highlights both producers and their visions, with the ways in which the tracks swing from one point of reference to the next meaning that no matter where you find yourself, be it the club or at home, there's plenty here to investigate and nod along to, with a big smile on your face and a sense of urgency running through your feet. In all, Lauryn has showcased her unquenchable thirst for all things dance music related for some time now, and with her you really get the full package in regards to experience - radio, writing, interviewing, production - and this kind of approach to not just making music but experiencing it is incredibly refreshing, and really helps to elevate our own engagements and passions for the medium. Lauryn occupies an incredibly important role within dance music, not just as an advocate and champion of contemporary Black music but also of its past, with her website an invaluable tool and voice for individuals who might not have received their just dues in the past, and this coverage only leads us down new paths of exploration. Her commitment to music is obvious, her enthusiasm highly infectious, and her passion for performing and playing just makes you want to experience it all, and that really is the sign of an individual who has it all. Be sure to check out her radio shows, mixes and that 'Expressions' record, if you haven't already!

In many ways, the record was a brilliant first step for Lauryn in her production career, and a full length EP seemed to be right round the corner, and we are very happy to say that we are now blessed with that EP, 'Truth', which arrives via Stefan Ringer's FWM imprint, who contributed additional vocals and production to the record. From the off we see many points of reference to Lauryn's Dj sets and radio shows, with a fine line being toed between life affirming melodic soars and rolling deepness, with the mixture of keys and vocals (provided by both Lauryn and Ringer) keeping us incredibly involved as the time passes. Its the balance between the styles that also impresses, with the differing treads that jump out of each track helping to keep the momentum going on strong from one energy to the next, and as a listening experience its incredibly enjoyable to be involved within. There's plenty of inspired moments, such as when the two are singing alongside each other, calling out to each other within an imagined world of colour and rhythm, or the inspired key board solos that channel right into the soul, and finally the excellent remix from one of Lauryn's inspirations, Kai Alce, which just rounds off the package in a nice little bow. In all, its a dance music record that harps along to the melodies of life, its inner workings and possibilities, whilst also point to the past, the present and indeed the future, and there isn't much more you could ask for really. So, on that note, lets dive right into this gorgeous piece of music.....

Up first comes 'Life is Back (Original Mix)', and this one begins with the kicks and additional percussive elements to get things going. Further clicks and hats emerge to add further weight to the already impressive outlay, with the keys sliding into view at the perfect moment to really help push things forward, with Ringer and Lauryn's voice chiming in around this time to draw the listener in further. 'Life is back, and it feels like bliss' are the first words uttered in Lauryn's first verse, as Ringer quietly agrees within the backdrop, and this too and froing provides a little insight into their relationship, and its wonderful to see, with the backdrop seeing all kind of flourishes occurring within the choruses. The movements back into the verses see more life affirming words coming from Lauryn, her voice riding the crest of the melodies and rhythm to great effect, with the breakdown that slides into view allowing for the track to dust itself down and lead from the line once more. The bass, which before mingled quite subtly within the drumming pattern, is given much more room to breath here, and this helps to add further dynamism to the mix. Before long the key solo emerges to really get the track up and running once again, and as it reaches its climax we see the kicks return in all their glory, our hearts and minds moving along to the momentum with all the belief and feeling in the world, as we see the track out into the night sky, forever grateful for the warmth and positivity it has bought into our lives. Brilliant stuff. Up next comes the Kai Alce 'Life is Sweet Interpretation' remix of the last cut, and this one progresses just as smoothly. The kicks and hats point to energetic places, with additional layers aligning themselves to the momentum eagerly, and as we get acquainted with the groove we are greeted with those sweet sweet chords, the bass line also chiming in quietly underneath. The dual vocal performance comes into view, moving in and out of time at all the right times, as Alce creates these wonderful spaces within the track, as if he has stretched the elements out atop the rhythm in order for us to see them all for what they truly are. The swerves between the choruses and the verses are expertly timed, our minds swaying to the flows as we delve deeper into density, with hovering synth lines holding their own in the backdrop, as we continue onwards into the excellence. The tonal application goes up a notch around the half way mark, as more heavy hitting chordal lines start to fill up the spaces alongside some inspired key lines which float in the gentle breeze, showcasing Alce's chops on the keys to the absolute. The little dips in energy, along with the interspersed vocal lines, is inspired, and makes this remix a worthy sibling to the original - I mean, it is Kai Alce, after all. Wondrous stuff for the soul, this one.

Up next comes 'Truth', and this one begins with filtered ENERGY. The drums are uptempo to a wild degree, filled to the brim with layers and elements, all of which are applied with a crunchy texture, as a repeating bass line meanders in and out of time on the left hand side of the pan. The distant kicks remove themselves before coming right back into the mix in a double time fashion, and this pushes the vocal lines right up to the front, as the bass line now feels the moment is right to maintain its presence. The flows that exude from this track is incredible, with some snare action thrown in to really hammer home the old school vibe, and the vision is complete as the distant keys call out to us from deep within the rhythm. Additional melodic features come into the picture in the form of an aquatic like lead line, which helps to bring the emotion to the front lines, but like that we continue into a breakdown but explode back into life soon after. The drums remain intent on overloading our senses in the best possible way, as the calming synths gently tip top through the middle section, never contrasting the energy of the drums but complimenting them with their soft embrace, as the mind and the body continues to be fed the finest of audial foods. 'Speak your truth' rings out across the incredible expanse, and we are all for it. Top notch. To wrap things up, we have 'Dancin In The D', and this one begins with the bass sequence to get us going. The notes harp along to the rhythms of the soul, hitting you inside in all the right places, with their pulsating energy capitalised upon by the kicks, hats and additional bass line, as the floor opens up in front of us. Lauryn's voice then comes into the frame, guiding us in the dance as we swerve and sway with the beat, its joyous celebration of being with like minded individuals something to cherish as clubs welcome us home. With tracks like this, you just have to close your eyes and you'll be transported there, to your favourite place, with your favourite people, and everything feels alright. The track's vibe is one final vibe that Lauryn throws into the mix, a track that encapsulates that mid section of the night, where the warm up has charged everyone up to a climax, and now is the time to release it all. This record really is something else, capturing a whole lotta excellence in three cuts, and that is something we can hold on to for a long, long time.

The past, the present and the future will always present themselves in differing ways, but its rare that someone is able to capture all of these differing time frames with such passion, intelligence and meaning. Ash Lauryn remains an integral voice within dance music, as someone who champions Black music past and present, be it via her radio shows, interviews or her blog, and in many ways you can feel a lot of what she does channel itself into this record. There's the gloriously melodic, the wonderfully deep and beaty, and the unbeatable feeling of the dance floor in full swing, with plenty of inspired key work and vocal deliveries found along the way that add so much to the overall experience. The diversity of styles is bought together by this last aspect, with Lauryn's voice acting as a guide throughout, keeping all the elements in check whilst encouraging them to bring the experience into its next phase. Dynamic, engaging and joyous to the extreme, its a record that's big on exploring the edge between human experience and musical expression, whilst also riding the interfaces between differing points in time, and all of this is achieved so brilliantly. We cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

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