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Delroy Edwards - Slap Happy (L.I.E.S Records, 2020)

Edwards once again dives back into the roots of it all to serve up supreme cuts with gusto and relentless energy.

An interesting word has cropped up in recent years to describe certain producers, musicians, groups etc, and that word is guardian. Music develops through time, born from a certain place at a certain moment by a certain person or scene. From there, the first marker, we see a series of markers, people who aid in the development of a genre, a scene, as it grows legs and arms and spreads its wings. In a sense, the moment where it all began is simply, a moment in time, a significant one, but one that remains in the past. Guardians are the ones who learn the markers, they see and chart the development, their vision adapting to understand all the little moments that create giant leaps forward, or indeed look to the past for inspiration. These people are extremely significant, and serve as reminders to what has come before, the sounds of which remain the benchmark for producers today. Their importance is not only from quality content, but for guiding us down their same path of appreciation, their world view of music and the genre they have invested in becomes our vision too. The markers, as a result, resonate through time, and continue to do so. The Old masters constantly revisited, due to the appreciation we have for these new heads sending their love and respect back through the ages.

For some time now, Delroy Edwards certainly fills the shoes of a musical guardian. His apparent love of hardware, demonstrated through his heavy usage of old school drum machines and synths, feeds into this obvious adoration for the older styles of hard hitting, jackin' house. The patterns and tones have this very distinct feel to them, always delivering up cuts that hark back to the 1980s and early 90s, but also with an eye on the contemporary, the blend of which is always exemplary. His ability to pull this off in such a brilliant way is the fact that he clearly greatly admires these sounds, and through study has adapted it to suit his own view of making tunes. In some respects, his discography reads like a series of variations and experiments via this view, delving into all manner of the dance music spectrum, whilst always keeping this raw organic aesthetic that gives his music such warmth and vitality. Alongside this, a fair few of his records contain extremely short tracks, that give this almost looping hip hop feel to the whole experience, such as on his 2016 LP 'Hangin' at the Beach', where raw hard hitting beats pulsate for mere minutes and seconds before fading away. Its bold and brave, few others have wanted to achieve that sort of snapshot through their music. Other wicked releases include 2018's 'Aftershock', the 'Desert Sessions' LP from 2018 (released jointly with Dean Blunt), 'Rio Grande' from 2018, along with some more of his straight up more contemporary feeling club bangers that include; his debut EP, 2012's '4 Club Use Only', 2013's head splitting 'White Owl', the acid madness of his split EP with Funkineven, 2013's 'Untitled', the absolutely incredible (and one of this writer's favourite ever EPs) 'Can U Get With' record from 2014, and his three releases from 2019, 'Wagon Wheels', 'Dubonnet' and 'Bonanza', the latter released jointly with Benedek under their Trackstar name. All in all, one thing is always assured with Edwards; a deep dedication to aesthetic, a profound passion for what has come before, and a broad as hell vision to be able to conjure up beats and melodic ripples that just echo through their simple brilliance. We all lap it up, always so excited to receive more, to further delve into his musical universe.

His latest release, 'Slap Happy', strips it all away, as he has done many a time before. The record reads like a homage to the beat makers of old, yet with a hint more of progression that looks to blend his own styles with the old masters. The record bleeds between the fuller melodies through to the deep and steady beats, the experience winding between the pure body work outs to the layered textural cuts that work the mind to a similar degree. This balance means we really turn our attention and focus to each track, the movement between the two worlds blurred as we catch the train at breakneck speed. A furious and raw exchange, a masterclass in the art of tonal jackin', a love and passion for the craft that burns deep. Lets get the fuck into it.

First up we have the title track, and it couldn't have more of a Edwards feel if he tried. The drums drive straight through the track, the cuts created filled by a beautiful sea dwelling bass line, with a recurring series of pads setting the melodic side in motion. The opening sequence is this perfect balance, the kicks complimented with a series of percussive hats and claps, with little variations moving the track forward. When it breaks down, the stabs come into play, raining down on the track as the drums go up a notch to match the new level of intensity. The switches up are brilliant, the consistent elements still hammering away in the background, providing a steady base for all these wonderful moments of changes. This feels like a proper step in new directions in terms of composition, with all these wonderful little moments blended together to create a proto house track worthy of ending any set, of dancing the night away too, of being within that moment. The track then ends with the focus moved to the beat and the bass, damn what an opener. Next comes 'Snake Eyes', with the beats signalling the beginning of proceedings. The bass kick is hollow, with the cymbals on top set out in proper Jackin' fashion, with a singular synth key set in motion to provide that little bit of icing into proceedings. This singular melodic element creates the transitions, the movements, winding and dipping in and around the beat perfectly. The beat is content to just simply exist within its own spectrum, its creator allowing it to have a life of its own, and we imagine that when the song ends, its probably still moving forward within its own little world. Next comes 'Buckeye Beats', and the drums again curate the intro. The sound feels more filtered here, more aquatic, but definitely is a different vibe to the previous drum workout. Here, the kick is receded back, the focus placed more so on the relationship between the various claps, hi hats and cymbals that abound on top of the snares and toms. The energy, the rhythm, is intoxicating in its layering, its texture one of raw analogue sweetness. Edwards becomes one with the drum machines, his passion feeding into the machines consciousness, where both lead each other to wonderful new places. Next comes 'Nitemare House', and oh yes oh yes. The drumming style embraces old and new in equal measure, the breaks falling thick and fast, the kick drum underneath steady and true. This gets interlaced with a very slight bass line that grooves almost as one with the drums, with that proper old school vocal sample bounding around when required. Its all thrown in through this rusty dusty filter, giving the track that oh so organic feel that we have become very familiar with Edward's productions. The backing synths, ever present, remain eerie yet strangely uplifting, again demonstrating his love and admiration for the often off kilter chord progressions that were ever present in the Chicago house days. Fuck yeah.

'Rock This Place' comes next, and yeh yeh yeh lets do this. The opening doesn't mess around, not for a second, with a heavy as fuck beat filled with claps introduces this delightful uplifting series of key stabs, moving between the two chords with such meaning and purposes. The track moves between this melodic epicness to the focus of the beats and the bass, with the transitions between the two abrupt but always welcomed. The pads that dwell in the background of the melodic section give the track such depth, damn this is groovy. The track sort of encapsulates the whole feel of the record, with the transitions between beats and fullness. We always grasp onto both elements, given enough time to appreciate both aspects with equal delight. 'Just Jam' comes next, and sort of carries over from the previous cut. This time though, the feel is more distinctly catchy, more chipper and fun, the emphasis here being like 'lets facking dance!'. The beats remain stellar, the claps framing the hi hats and little bleeps, but the king here is the key work that grooves on top of things. The mix of playing horn sounding pads are interlaced with a killer set of stabs, that funnel directly into your brain and command the legs to move. The keys do all the sequencing work here, moving the beat through and giving the track all kinds of life. Next comes 'Firehouse', and we draw focus to the beat once again. Here all the elements feel considered, the sound design becoming more of a focus, each kick and sound manipulated to give you that raw, unapologetic sound we all know and love by this point. The slight melodic elements give the track a relentless vitality, developing into a real head nodder once the groove gets going. Finally, to finish things up, we have 'I am the One', and what better track to end things on. The bold bass lines underpin a more sparse beat, with a vocal sample being used to fill the space between, a proper old school trope that perhaps only Edwards can really pull off. Here we feel the placements, the perfection at which it is all pulled off. People often try to do these things, but only someone who has incorporated these stylings into their tracks for years has the ability to pull it off with such finesse. Edwards is that producer. What an ender.

We began this article discussing the roles of guardians in dance music. These figures are very important, creating bridges, and also acting as points of inspiration for those who want to develop their role within electronica. Edwards has been serving this role for years, and this record feels like an accumulation of all he has learned and discovered through his varied discography. His expert blend of old school riddims with new stylings has resulted in a record brimming with confidence, sensibilities and styles, all delivered through his signature blend of rawness and textural superiority. Every track acts as part of a larger being, each element feels beautifully considered, each note made for a reason. This is house music. This is house music as it should be done. Top Draw.

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