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Horatio Luna - Yes Doctor (La Sape, 2020)

Organic House of the highest order that delves far and wide, from the 30/70 affiliate.

House music always needs moments. Moments that in time harness the power of other genres, that move it away from the four to the floor, and into scenes and chapters that blend and delve into our emotional responses. Little sounds and tones that do enormous amounts to register in the backwaters of our emotional reactions, to keep us wanting to delve further and deeper into what is possible within a genre that is as famous now as it ever will be. Those who look to bind themselves to it often fall into the trap of placing something on top of a kick and just moving in and around from there. We indulge it, but often feel as if something lacks from the experience. Sure, in a club it might conjure up the feels we have become so used to, but as before, we want records that do and dare in equal measure. They are sensory, they are in depth, passionate and crafted, all roads traversed on their journey to rhythmic and sonic excellence. Producers look to stake their claim within its very varied and rich tapestry, but some often make their presence known more than others.

Its feels somewhat weird to place Horatio Luna’s debut album in the house spectrum, such as it is so musically diverse, but like the man himself said, this record is a place where he just wants to push himself to the absolute limit of what his musical vision was capable of. Luna, aka Henry Hicks, has a pretty ludicrous pedigree when it comes to creating beautiul tonal tunes, starting off with his involvement with Melbourne’s 30/70 collective. Since 2014, the group, made up of some of the city’s finest jazz, fusion and soul musicians, the group has released 4 LPs, of which, 2017’s ‘Elevate’ and ‘Fluid Motion’, both released on South London’s Rythmn Section, confirmed them as force to be reckoned with, their signature blend of considered modern soul flickered with all kinds of electronic references that as a whole leaves you with one god damn beautiful fuzzy feeling. From under the Luna side project, he has created two mesmerising EPs, 2018’s ‘Cultural Warriors’, and ‘Print it, Run It, Send it’ from 2019, along with a mini album, 2017’s ‘Local Honey’, all of which looked to the funk spectrum for inspiration, and oh damn how good were they.

Now, Luna creates his love letter to House music. The beauty of this record is the manner in which it moves so fluidly between the notions of, on the surface at least, improvisation, the live feeling captured by the live band who were drafted in to record on the LP. They move between that fantastic live energy and into the rhythmic rigidity we all know and love, the two seamlessly blended together to conjure up a house album filled with personality, personal exploration, and moments of pure, pure magic. Luna wanted to push his own notions of house to the limit, and what we have received from him is unlike anything you will hear for a long long time. An album to draws from a castellation of sources, lights in time, all wrapped up into a series of audial delights that illuminate every colour in the house nation. Yet the pulse remains always the same, craving to achieve a level of excellence that is usually, always, gained. So lets take a dive.

Up first we have ‘Some Like It Hot’, that features vocals from Throne Boy. We begin off in this comic dub soup, Throne’s vocals verberbing all around a tripped out series of tones and riddims. This one certainly falls within the trip hop realms, showcasing almost the perimeters of what the rest of the album is going to demonstrate. We have the deep chuggy lows, the beautiful loose drumming patterns, the boundless enthusiasm that seeps through so effortlessly. As openers go, it really just hooks you in. ‘Yes Doctor’ arrives next, and it begins as the previous tracks tone ended. The beat is more fast paced, cruising hi hats occupy the middle ground, but its gotta be all about that tonally fucking amazing chord sequence. A combo of tenderly placed pads pair up with soft guitar work, the two working in tandem. Just when you have closed your eyes, taking in all the flavours of the intro, the drums smack it up a notch, going double time, with a jazz injection from the gods above. This amazing break keeps the track going, floating all the way down as the chord line comes back into play more prominently. Then, the song moves forward once again, a pumpin' bass line sees the intro of a singular backing synth pad, as the keys also up their intensity. It feels like that drum beat was designed to occupy this excellent level of funk intensity, just keeping it steady for that wonderful moment of expression. As a wee filler, we have the blissed out key work of ‘Mango and Setwun’, that ends as soon as it begins, but only, ONLY! To be picked up in ‘Luna Landing’. Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Well, the deepness sets in, the reverb means the intro carries slightly more intrigue to it, as it descends into full on house goodness. The top synth line introduces the loop, as it is then followed by a series of stabs and guitar chimes. As progressions go, its certainly up there with some of the most compellingly groovy. A little delicate line moves into play at the front, and as the song moves forward, it then pauses for a moment to introduce some really beautiful keys, keys that transcend the track to some really special places. Places we conjure up in our dreams. House music as pure as can be. In this little trio of tunes that interlink, we have ‘Your Love’, that simply follows the energy. Picking up keys from the previous track, its just so brilliant how its all just unravelled. From that moment of funk vision, into something that is just as deep as it gets. Sublime

‘Bubbly’ comes next, and a singular chime keeps the fire burning from the previous tune. The drums move up a notch, swinging between the hazy backing harmonics. The keys add momentum to proceedings, a mix of smooth stabs blended with soft lucid guitar work, and to top it off deep background tings. The track breaks down to reveal the guitar work, coupled together with the keys. The drums drop away, then awaiting their moment to bring it all back together. The track sort of lives up to its name, the liquidness of it all transcending senses, the blends of tones and key style working together so beautifully. The bass underneath it all is just the icing on the cake. Next comes ‘Golden’, that begins once again within the filter, before erupting into life. The funk takes over at the beginning, its fusion vibes lasting a life time, as it goes through a couple of movements before descending into a cowbell, with little soft key lines joining in above. From this little place, the song then builds around these two elements, simply grabbing other instruments to come along for the ride. The kicks come into play, as the smooth funky riffs come in from the back. The keys do their part as the main attraction, it sort of heralds back to the times of Chicago, that lead piano doing all the solo work as the rest of the track keeps the pace going underneath. The track builds and builds and builds, before dropping slightly, then from the deep, come the pads. You can hear them slowly moving through the layers, through the density. The kick then starts to poke its head from underneath, and we are in full fucking swing. This track has fucking everything. On reflection, this album incorporates not just a blended majestic vision of house music, but the vibe of mixtapes, of mixing tracks live, it has this undeniable energy about it. Everything just seems so incredibly considered.

Towards the business end now. ‘Northern Beaches’ comes next, with only what we are expecting by now. The soft cymbals and drum work give way to some smooth smooth smooth keys, bass and guitar. All blended together into some kind of ecstasy inducing softness, this track shows the innards of this guys sound, the carefully placed fuzzed out funk that we are all overly familiar with by this point. Next comes ‘Brunswick Massive’, that kicks things off with some delicate piano that then gets interlaced with some proper heavy duty liquid drum and bass drumming patterns. This kind of track only arrives at our doorstep through an organic approach, one where enthusiasm overtakes musical sensibilities and allows for styles and genres to be melded together. The bass line in this is killer. Finally, to wrap up this unreal gem of a record, we have part two of ‘Brunswick Massive’. And like that, we arrive at the final bookend of an album filled with such magic. Dubbed out styles move between the lines, joining the dots as we conclude this most enriching of journeys on a short but definitely sweet note.

Well, there we go. 2020 is barely 2 months old, and we already have one of its moments. Luna channels everything he knows into this, along with things that challenged him, and we are left with a record that can last a lifetime. A simply stunning collection of tunes that switch up so many things we come to expect from the house spectrum, all done through a vacuum of musicians who really let themselves live in the moment. The directed energies and pulses that jump at you from this record will not be forgotten, the kind of statement that will move throughout the ages. A defining moment, a record of unparalleled brilliance. Take a fucking bow.

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