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Herzel - Bitter Tears (Funnuvojere Records, 2022)

The latest from the Funnuvojere camp sees Macedonian producer Hezel flex his melodic muscles, and the record is yet another euphoric triumph that absorbs so much power as it plays out, and we eagerly go along with everything it lays out for us.

The beauty of some labels is knowing that when they release a new record, there's almost a hallmark attached to the music that certifies a level of quality, a benchmark that is always matched in terms of melody, feel and of course, identity. Funnuvojere has had quite the journey so far, with plenty of tones and styles accommodated under its lofty roof, but between and within each of the now 10 releases on the imprint, you feel a coming together of like minded souls who love nothing more than driving rhythms, gorgeous key lines and eye watering sonic environments. Genres that are covered include House, Techno and Italo primarily, with the classic motifs of these movements always coming together very interestingly indeed within the walls of Funnuvojere - a quiet whisper, a gigantic swell, every kind of energy is accommodated. The head of the family, Berghain resident and producer extordinaire Massimiliano Pagliara, has done a superb job at directing the construction of the label's feel, with his vision allowing for some amazing artists to come together and contribute to the Funnuvojere sound, all the while bringing something of themselves to the table. As a result of his handy work, plus the talent of the producers represented on the label, the audial identity of Funnuvojere is water tight, built upon the most solid of foundations but with fluidity up top that always provides space for new frequencies to be accommodated. We highly recommend going back and checking out their previous works, that features records from the likes of Derek Neal, Armonics, Goodbye Mirage, Reformed Society, Clarinets and Banana Moon, to name but a few. Their newest family member comes in the form of producer Aleksandar Grozdanovski, who is perhaps better known by his moniker Herzel, and if you get to know his sound a little bit you can see why he is a perfect fit for Funnuvojere.....

Herzel's discography alludes to many of the audial elements that Funnuvojere holds dear, whilst also bringing many other frequencies to the table that provide many enriching moments that explore both sides of the tempo coin. His EP work has for the most part explored the interfaces between House and Techno, his style wonderfully bold and brash, with stunning melodic sequences abounding from all angles as heavy set rhythms grind it out underneath. Each release, even at only a handful of tracks long, contains a hefty dosage of sonic character, with Herzel seemingly looking to eek out every drop of potential within his compositions, and the results are there to be witnessed by all. Enthralling, enchanting, euphoric, there's much here to ride along with and shoot for the stars with, and Herzel's control over his sound only fuels our desires to go further and dig deeper within his soundscapes. Some noteworthy EPs of his include the beautifully hazy and dreamlike 'Shades', which arrived in 2015; the gorgeous interweaving sequences found within the 'The Way U Feel' record, which also landed in 2015; and 2018's 'Forms', with the title track one of those structures that could last until the end of time. As if his EP work wasn't compelling enough, he has also released a number of Long Plays, all of which have been released in the past two years and draw a razor sharp focus to his fascination with melodics and technological sound waves. This is a distillation of his sound, the near complete removal of percussive notions to leave the listener with a series of chords and textures, and the results are simply stunning - awe inspiring, trance inducing, mind expanding kinds of feels. All three of his LP efforts, 2020's 'Subtopia', and 2021's 'Furies' and 'Exoteric' are exquisite in their own ways, and showcase his abilities in a different light, one which focuses on the pure emotion of it all, a myriad of layers feeling their way out over a sublime landscape that feels endless in its form and conception. Both strains are worth the engagement, as we fluidly groove between one sequence to the next, boldly jumping between the wavelengths as if we're floating along amongst the stars, yet hugging the ground indefinitely, the rhythms of life and love playing out in our heads. As additions to a family vibe go, Herzel seems right at home amongst the melodies and atmospheres of Funnuvojere, and we feel like he also adds so much to the label's past, present and future - a link in the chain that empowers both. If you aren't familiar with his works, we recommend going and checking them out when you can - its all pretty stunning.

And now we turn our attentions to the release in question, 'Bitter Tears', and to say this is a welcome addition to the Funnuvojere family is a bit of an understatement. Like someone who just meet but seem to have known all your life, the music found on this record slots into the flow of the label flawlessly, right from the off displaying a meteoric sense of progression and a dynamism within the layers that is so easy to become enveloped within. Herzel turns on the style beautifully throughout, his signature understanding of melodies playing a big role in propelling the momentum onwards, with a delicate touch applied to the transitions throughout. The styles shift impressively from track to track, moving from bass laden hi hat House, through to melodically driven groovers, via heavy hitting sub sonics, and finally arriving at another interweaving bass line and melody laden masterclass. As a package, it sits together so well, with passions burning feverishly as the listener is driven from point A to point B with startling effectiveness, propelled onwards by thoughts and dreams of a receding horizon line, with a new future laid out in the valley beyond. So why not join us on that journey, as we weave between the realms of sonics, melodies and dreams.....

Up first comes the title track, and this one begins with the flickering bass line to get things going. The kicks and snare arrive quite quickly to provide a hefty dosage of momentum, and the relationship that is created provides numerous fluctuations in the frequencies that play delightfully on the eardrums. A layer of hi hats slide into the mix soon after, along with additional drumming elements that fuel the momentum, and as the track takes its first dip in energy we see everything pile in, including the swells of the pads and then some serious acid action. The blend is intoxicating, absorbing the dance with its commotions and its quietly forceful nature, with a vocal sample speaking out from within to keep us from moving into the ethereal plains. Layers slide away around this point, leaving just a flute like sample dancing around in the wind alongside some solid chords, as the vocal sample continues to weave around the peripheries, content to continue guiding us along the jet streams. There's time for one final foray through the glistening sea, and we are already sold. Up next comes 'Shaking Slightly', and this one keeps the flow going on very strong indeed. The kicks set the tempo as a arpeggio to die for grooves across the horizon line, eagerly soaking up the space as it grows in volume before taking over the mid section of the track, with its dual form really taking in everything it can. After the sweep we are left with a heavy hitting beat and the arpeggio, which is joined shortly after by some mesmerising sweeping notes that flutter up above, capturing a spirit and essence that is hard to beat within dance music. Everything feels so free and yet firmly rooted at the same time, our hearts pulled in some wondrous directions as we seek out all the corners of this bountiful soundscape. Everything gets squeezed into the tiniest grain of sand before being released once again into the wild, and all the key motifs are present as we are wrapped around with ease, the fire dancing in our eyes as we slide along through this most nourishing of landscapes. This one is certainly a keeper.

'DSCN' comes next, and this one starts with the kicks and thick bass line to get things rolling. We are allowed some time with this initial mix, but the first break of the track arrives soon after to allow time for the melodics to make their presence known, and this is when the empty spaces start to get filled up with some expressive hats. The melange is enticing, with plenty left on the table as to where things might be heading next, with some flickering notes thrown in within the backdrop to provide additional flavour. Further shifts in tone occur with the wave like pads that emerge from underneath, with the transition into the percussive lite segment doing much to keep things driving onwards and upwards. The hats do return soon after to give the composition a little boost, as we wistfully glance from left to right, taking everything in, moving across the pan to absorb all that this track is throwing at us. Glorious stuff. To wrap things up, we have 'Ghosting', and this one starts with real intent. The drums are our guide, the anchor so to speak, as the lively bass line takes root, and as we drift through the mix we are greeted with some highly evocative keys, ones which immediately provide warmth through the bones and the mind. The mix continues onwards, the hats shifting away to leave us with just the key drivers up until this point, and this is when the track breaks itself down only to build itself up in the most magnificent of ways. A new series of melodic sequences drive upwards through the mist, the percussion underneath uplifting them to keep the feels going on strong, and when we arrive at the climax of this sequence, the breath is truly taken away. The dubby foundation of the track is laid bare here, compelling us to explore all the little sections that come our way, with the snares doing plenty to add dynamism to proceedings. The sax like line that comes into view is the cherry on top of an incredible sequence, with the track working overtime to shift the gears so we can leave the experience on such a high. Herzel, it seems like, wanted to leave his mark on the listener, and having already done so over the previous three tracks, he creates a final statement that would be fitting to end any house (you name it) record. The feels are uplifting to the max, the atmosphere perfected, the sequencing excellent, and the flow, the flow is just superb.

Like a great novel, some labels are hard to put down or turn away from, and Funnuvojere is certainly one of those imprints that makes turning a page an absolute joy. And that latest page just so happens to be written by Herzel, and what a yarn he has to spin. From the off we are greeted by his signature blend of melodic yet thoughtfully percussive - and progressive - dance music, with a keen eye for the way in which sequences operate with one another and how one section interactions with its neighbours. The production value is flawless in regards to spatial awareness, with aptly timed breaks in energy helping to shift engagement within the next phase and allowing the listener to continue bobbing along to a seemingly endless set of energies. Each track provides a new sense of perspective to the overall experience, with the tones utilised doing much to entrench a certain kind of mood in the listener. Thought provoking, effortlessly moving, and always pulsating, its a record that we will enjoy for months to come, and we cannot wait to see what is written next in his tome. Check this one out, for sure.

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