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Harry Wolfman - Always 3 (Dirt Crew Recordings, 2020)

Delicate sensibilities become one with soft subtle energies on this gorgeous and musically varied EP.

House music seemingly, has come full circle. The manner of the genres rise to global domination was a quick occurrence, and whilst much of the genre made waves through its more bland, repetitive and overall shallow nature, much of the underground noise of the 90s rings so very true to this day. The injection of jazz, soulful blends, soft tonal chords, and swinging yet complex drumming became a wonderful hallmark of the deep house movement, with an element of surprise always around the corner. The likes of Theo Parrish, Moodymann, Chris Grey, Glenn Underground, Dreamscape, Paul Johnston, Ron Trent and many more curated and nurtured a sound that was as deep as it was soulful, and demonstrated what house is very much capable of. This world that was curated by individuals and scenes allowed for the soul of House to remain alive and kicking, never to be completely taken away to be commercialised and consumed passively. Nah, these guys ensured that the 90s remain perhaps House music's most important decade in terms of its development, when Chicago styles were blended with new thoughts and ideals, to produce moments that are constantly revisited. Today's scene, particularly those flying the flag high for jazz infused, tonally emotional, intelligently produced house music, really embody the enthusiasm and creativity of the 90s house scene, taking bits from here and there and applying their own, new creative contemporary twist. These guys really do bring out the very best in the genre, what makes it special, the vibes that make it tick, the soundtrack to walkin', talkin' and enjoying it all.

Harry Wolfman is certainly one of the new breed that are churning out infectiously groovy chunes, many of which hark back to the very best values of all the house that has come before. His releases, all excellent in their compositional value alone, display a knack for creating atmospheres that relate to listeners on both an emotional level and within the body. Its a blend of warmth and smoothness that encapsulates his work, and with every release he looks to shake it up, just a bit, in order to keep the ball rolling. Perhaps as well is his constant search to find space for other instruments that are not as well used in house music as they probably could be, such as guitars, horns and the like. This again just fuels the intrigue around every release he does, with some selected highlights including the excellent 'Downstream' EP (2017), the heart string tugging 'Ulibis' EP (2017), the groove a tronic 'Portal Gun' EP (2018), and his previous outing on Phonica's sub label Karakul, 'The Ritual' (2019). Every release delights, constantly feeding you a series of moments that reflect so wonderfully onto us. The tempo always on point, the feelings always sky high, yet there is always something in the middle that catches your ear, that little additional element that really captures your attention. The flows and progressions always mean something in this guys tracks.

And now we arrive at his latest effort, the 'Always' EP on Dirt Crew Recordings. The record offers up some new flavours for long time fans, exploring new reaches and musical areas, with the EP touching on elements of electro and mellow jungle, alongside Wolfman's already signature deep house sounds. It all just morphs so beautifully, with the producer certainly at ease with his sound, comfortable in its continued expanse in order to allow for new complimentary styles to further increase the experience. So lets dip into it.

First up comes 'A Way You Come Home to Me', featuring vocalist Christian Crow. It all begins with this frantic background energy, the voids and empty spaces left by chordal work quickly eaten up by the junglist riddims. The chord work then becomes more full, with classique style vocal samples abounding all over. When Crow's vocal comes into play, his style fits in perfectly, kind of combining classic garage styles with a West Coast vibe, a delicate light shining through a track that just exudes energy and character. The layering is superb, with the drums keeping the pulse, that allows for all sorts of sequences to occur on top. The break in the middle serves up the first moment of the record, giving time for a flute to lightly grace us with its presence, before the track just brings it all back in once again. Its a proper opener, dazzling us with its heart and soul, along with its beaty undertone. Superb stuff. Up next comes 'Step By Step', and now we move back into the realms of hoozy goodness. The soft beat is calm and collected, tight and leaving plenty of room for things to occupy. As the track moves along, the spaces are filled up, with keys and synth lines working along to fill the gaps and create the layered sense of density we all know and love. The track gets filtered, dubbed out, before slamming it home with a cheeky vocal sample that adds flavour to the proceedings. The track continues on in this style, content in its ability to get the heads nodding all night long. Up next comes 'Speaking Raman', and we continue the good vibrations. Sweet tinkering keys lie on a bed of proper deep beats, interlaced with vocal samples and pummelling chords. Its a wonderful set up, the intensity of the beats lining up against the warm piano, its a proper dynamic. It all slows for a minute, to allow for the keys to grab the centre stage, before it all comes back in, the beat really ramping up the intensity, building the dance and the emotional feels for an epic ending.

Next up we have the title track, and the tone takes a deep dive. In what feels like another dip into the unknown, here we are greeted to a much more expansive feel, the dubby techno feels all over this one. Toned back chords in the backdrop give way to a series of key lines that drive through the middle, with lush harmonies abounding. The track is very much a pure interpretation of swelling, harnessing the systems of natural energies and channelling it into a series of scenes and landscapes that divide the sky and shape the ground. Its a joy to hear it all unravel, and provides such a different energy to what came before. Finally, to end things up, we have 'Green Trees'. And with this, we complete the spectrum of sounds that occur on this record, the splatter of the electro beats interlaced with the groove of the keys, one final throw of the dice. The drums are wicked, with lots of motions around them giving this relenting sense of energy to them, allowing for the space between to be filled with all manner of cosmic sounds. Before we know, the deep chords come in, and the beat switches up with a hi hat line that just makes us all move. From this point, all manner of wonderfulness occurs in terms of melodies, Wolfman here really showing us what he is capable of. The blend of key lines, tiny touches in dynamics across the board, the placement of chords, it all just seamlessly blends together so effortlessly. If his previous productions were anything to go by, this isn't a surprise, but here, within a different genre of sorts, its a real fucking joy to experience. Bravooooo.

Here is an EP for everyone. The causal listener, the deep thinker, the passionate, the caring. Wolfman not only furthers his art in terms of building upon his previous works, but brings forth so much more to his armoury. He blends electro, jungle and vocal heavy house into a series of tracks that will not disappoint, and will also delight, in equal measure. A true statement of intent, and a foundation for very exciting things to come from the producer.

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