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Joey G II - The Ghost EP (Orphan Records, 2019)

Memories of urban centres and musical upbringings join forces on this undeniably invigorating EP.

Exploring the blend between the machines and the instruments can always lead to interesting results. More so than ever before, we are experiencing producers exploring the idea that guitars, basses and drums combined with synths and otherworldy sounds can create environments filled with rich textures and tones. It creates surprise, intrigue and engagement when we hear the two crafted together, both elements working alongside each other, complimenting one another on a job well done. It always crosses over well to producers who are well versed in experimenting with their sound, looking to create parameters and boundaries that perhaps didn't exist within their sound or genre before. It leaves gaps to be nurtured, expanded upon, an embrace of their musical interests that manifests itself within compelling listening experiences.

Orphan Records has always nurtured this notion, at least the second part anyway. The music that has been coming out of the label always leans on the abstract, the view of dance music as a tool to see things differently. The tunes always have added weight and dynamism to them, with layers of dense bass and drums interlaced with vocals contrasted with tender moments, that speak to the soul. Orphan is one of a few labels currently deconstructing genres such as broken beat, UKG, dubstep, and UK bass, with producers really pushing these genres to their conceptual and musical limits. This certainly rings true in both of Yasha's brilliant releases on the label, 'Landing in SW9' and 'Max 95, Donnin', which both show a deep understanding for the perimeters of bass music and how to push just a little bit further for everyone's benefit. Klein Zage's 'Womanhood' EP, that came out earlier this year, continues on with this notion, with an excellent collection of sounds that combine the softly spoken with the down right dubby and dirty. The label is based in both New York and Berlin, and given that both Joey G II and Klein Zage lived in London, perhaps give the artists within the label an interesting angle on approaching their take on UK sounds. Being in a different context and environment always helps to add extra layers of sonic goodness, a mixture of the two, so to speak. The label has crafted this real unique take on the genres mentioned, and it can only go one way forward. Joey G II's debut EP, 'The Ghost', is the latest in a fantastic collection of records, and what we will be looking at today. An ode to the Rickenbacker, combined with dubby garage and UK beats. I am in heaven.

The first track, '2003, South London', just sets the tone perfectly. Immediately we are transported there, to a underground club, the park, the street corner. The tune starts off with audience applause, before descending into a garage beat from the gods, perfectly filtered and poised. The chimed pads come in next, and we have lift off. Giving this tune such a backdrop, we welcome the bass keys in next, just to continue adding to the London vibe. The tune feels like a love letter on so many levels, to Joey's youth and, as mentioned previously, his Rickenbacker. And, as it all falls away, the guitar swings in fully, a beautiful jazz tinged solo that just flickers like the bright lights from Greenwich Park, that floats underneath the UK sounds beneath. It is a wonderful interlude, as nostalgia and emotion pore from it, we truly connect with the artist behind the music, his love and appreciation of his past memories. This is such a rare thing for dance tunes, where without lyrics we often fill in the narrative ourselves. Here, it is all laid bare for us, like a tome, we just dive in and immerse ourselves in it all. Perfection. Up next we have 'Working Aspirations' featuring label affiliate Klein Zage. Working on the garage vibe again, the beat has a aquatic feel to it, the drums and cymbals dripping, heavy and mesmerising. The light chords add in that little extra, their solid state contrasting nicely with the dippy swinging beat. Zage's vocals once again add to the weight of the track, giving us a more obvious narrative, as she repeats 'the women of my dreams' over and over. We get all the feels from this one, and of course we are treated to more delightful spaces for the guitar to do its thing. Joey really considered the sound and tone of the guitar, very light and airy, never overpowering, just filled up the spaces between beats beautifully.

Next comes the title track. This one ups the ante a little bit, filling the room with lush airy guitar chords, with the beat downplayed just a tad to give over to a more groovy feel. The guitar plays a huge part on this one, adding in layers of groove on top of the deep drums, that swing away in the background. The incoming bongos intricately move around the kicks, as the reverb pads occupy the middle ground. What a fantastic mash up, a sort of off kilter disco tinge mixed in with this deep off beat garage groove. Simply amazing. 'Ridgewood B' comes next, that features Alessandra. The guitar drips into play from afar, playing a series of distorted jazz chords, providing a weird yet comforting melody. The computer vocals only add to the discourse that flows around us, the beats again working hard to make it as far down there as possible. The song fluctuates from the intricately layers to the straight up groove, the beat moving steadily along as it awaits its companions. The additional chord coming in around the 2 minute mark is an especially beautiful touch, signifying the beginning of a beat excursion. The chord work here is fantastic, floating high above, and we just jump in straight first into the middle of the beat. This song sings, hard. Finally, we are treated to a remix of 'Ridgewood B', courtesy of Reckonwrong. This one starts off with all this little elements setting the scene, deep bass keys dipping in and out of an evolving beat. The snares keep on coming, the song building up in a proper broken jazz manner, as it steadies to introduce us to deep pads and a piano line that slots in perfectly (weirdly).This song is truly mesmersing, simply through composition alone, not even considering the broad range of instruments and tones thrown in for good measure. This track really encapsulates the fantastic vibe that permeates from this brilliant EP. Experimentation at its core, memories in its heart, we just wanna wrap ourselves around this record.

Joey G II conceived this record as a love letter to his guitar and his teenage years, and it speaks volumes of his abilities that the record allows us to connect to this, but at the same time does so much fucking more. On one level, we feel attuned to South London, where genres have swirled around each other for some time, and feel as if we are walking down some leafy suburban street. We immediately connect to the musical content, its unique blend of UKG, bass and the like placing us in the heart of the city. Joey and the label clearly have an immense soft spot for these genres, and it shows hard. Not only that, but he pushes these genres to the limit, with a deft touch in terms of composition and transition. But we also connect to the story found within this record. We feel the emotion tied to the city, his experiences and relationships, and his profound affection for his guitar. Its all so wonderful. Rarely does a record do both so supremely. Hats off.

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