Tones that brighten up these cold winter days, on an album filled with only the most jazzy and wonderfully considered cuts.
Seeing labels and individuals operate at crossroads always yields uncompromising and forward thinking results. A craft is certainly involved in ensuring that journeys of musical genres get to meet at confluences that divert and abstract their next phase, where records look to blend and meld new channels for flows to move into. Operating at this ever changing meeting point means that those who reside here need to have their fingers on the pulse, a vision that expands when necessary then contracts when able to create. Layers and layers of thought and musical inputs go into creating sounds that have that different edge, a new perspective placed within the context of a genre that allows it to breath a little, to mirror the creators with new appreciation and musical flexibility. As listeners, we are drawn in, invited to begin to read between the various lines and frequencies that permeate through, shine through even. We gain a new understanding of how things work and meld together, how given an opportunity genres can and will work and operate alongside each other. This is however only permitted when the passion is ignited, these blends don’t come together so naturally as one might think. It depends on the producer, the label, and how much we want to give ourselves over to it (which is usually the case).
Phuture Shock certainly operate within this little bubble, somewhere out there on the musical spectrum. Since 2010, the Bristol based label, headed by Josiah Hartley, has always offered up the slight abstract, the odd curveball, when it comes to the already tried and tested dance formulas. There’s always this ongoing intrigue, where slight tendencies to wonder off piste always result in fascinating tangents, a moment where small doors get blown off by the softest and most delicate of pushes. The label draws inspiration much from within the defined perimeters, but always encourages artists who release on the label to bring something different, something different, something subtle. Some selected highlights include Appian’s brilliant 2015 LP ‘Aprileft’, where soul meets the tender funk-synth; Simon/Off’s beaty as hell ‘Planetary Communication’ EP from 2011; Cyclonix’s deep and dubby take on IDM tinged house, 2017’s ‘Alien Drug Store’; and Sandile’s wonderful emotive house belter ‘Bella Bulla’ EP, from 2019. Not to mention the significant amount of ‘Excursion’ releases the label has put out, that showcase the wide array of talent within its family, but also highlight and demonstrate the significant spectrum of sound label mates are trying to groove out to the world. Each release always promises something that always pushes the flow forward, ensuring momentum, energy and love is passed on with each EP, making the journey through the label’s discography that more satisfying and musically fulfilling.
And now, we arrive at the label’s latest effort, the debut LP by Karmasound aka. Damian Botigue. Karmasound counts two previous efforts on the label, in the ‘Can See Thru You’ EP from 2019 and the ‘Probabilidades EP’ from 2018. Botigue looks to operate within the jazzy spectrum, but that background has merged over time into a series of beautifully composed jazz tinged house gems that align themselves with a wide array of colourful scenes and environments. His masterful key work remains the basis for it all, moving like water across the keys to signify all the other elements that remain core to his tracks. The music contained is always top notch musicality wise, and always explores the layering of synth textures and tones as a way to convey mood. Its all brilliant, so be sure to check out his previous releases! We now draw our focus to his new record, that largely builds on his vision of jazz fueled dance music, but always a pulsating tangent remains around the corner. All the tracks here guide us in new ways, looking for ways to continually engage us with their ever searching melodic drive. So lets take a dip shall we.
First up we have ‘Dando Vueltas’, that begins off proceedings in a soft, quiet place. A vocal line almost welcoming us into the record, presenting us to its friends and family, as if we have been away for an extremely long time. The track is re-familiarising itself with us, or maybe its the other way round, as the warm piano chords form the bed rock of the melodic side of things. The drums underneath create a solid groove, adding more weight to the keys through the middle, as the moogy synth line comes into play in the back. The riddim gains traction and depth, the addition of percussive elements continue to add to the melting pot. It all breaks down, revealing all the organs of the song, allowing us for a second to close our eyes in a mediative state, but no! it all comes back in so suddenly, keys, synth and drums immediately picking the groove up once again. A Zapp style vocodor vocal comes in for a split second, as the layers switch up to include more rhythmic stabs and brass notes. The four to the floor aspect comes in, as it all blurs back to the broken beeeeat. Wow, that went through all the motions, what opener. Up next comes ‘Se Tu Mismo’, that begins with the keys interlaced with a calm and collected series of synths, pads behind, lines in front. It all switches up to introduce a slowed down hip hop beat of sorts, with the piano on top once again. The beat switches up, adding urgency with every bar, moving and swinging before a break down of sorts occurs, first quite slightly then with every element working together. The synth line adds delight, before the track once again switches up into its next phase of movement. The piano remains the guiding hand through all of this, as it remains when everything else has been pushed back or cut out, signifiying the breaks, the ends. Bliss. Next comes ‘Lo Unico Que Quiero’, and to begin it off we are presented with a rhythmic workout that lies underneath some proper nice vocal work, deep interwoven and heated. The energy is switched up slightly here, with a more regulated sense of energy compared to the boundless experimentation of rhythmic from the previous tracks. The track still provides breathing space for beautiful synth work to come up from the deep, and ignite a fire in our hearts we can’t put out. It also feels tonally more together, with the sound operating more closely together to give a more beaty experience. Having this kind of musical feel provides the perfect foil to the musicality of the previous tracks, allowing a balance between dancing, thinking and feeling. Next comes ‘Constelaciones’, that begins outside with the noises of the jungle. A lone vocal calls out, as if to signify the song (i love that sense with this record), and before you know it comes out of the haze. Drum work that creates ounces of space for the rhythmic key stabs to occupy, the piano floating on top, with additional synths moving into play along the top, its all so wonderfully put together. The build up, the way it just moves like waves, silently caressing us with its tender touch, the vocal work on top. All just so sublime.
Next comes ‘Cerca Del Mar’, and the mood descends once again. Here we are greeted to a full bodied track straight from the off, the mood immediately set with a series of groovy as hell key lines, that act as the pulse of the track. Around this, the beat moves and grooves, acting on its own time and at its own pace, content to allow the keys to do their thing down the middle. The vocals come right in the middle, providing this additional dynamic that plays along to the tune, contextualising all the soft tones contained within. The little guitar works alongside this element, as other keys and lines come in and out of time. After the vocal workout, we get some beautiful waves of sound, that move gracefully and impeccably between the sequences. Its all so jammy, allowing us to feel the full force of the track to maximum effect. Next comes comes ‘Instantes’, and do we feel the rhythm once again. We move through the lines once again, the piano leading the way, as the beat then picks itself up and follows brilliantly. As per the ever changing formula, Botigue interlays some lovely synth work, that playfully moves and grooves on top of the lead piano. The drums move away, and lay bare the essence of the piano, reminding us what we are all nodding our head to. This feels very much like the modern interpretation of broken beat, with all the contemporary notions thrown in. By removing the dense layering of sound that often complimented broken beat styles of the 90s and early 2000s, here we are greeted to a more airy sensibility, one that relies more so on the movement between keys and tones to achieve maximum viability. its wonderful, and so very easy on the ear, the complexity is in the arrangement, the movement between chords that always allows additions to slot in without hindrance. Next comes ‘Se Va La Vida’, and once again we move down through the tones and experiences. We begin off with some deep deep chords, that chime away within their own little boundaries, looking to swell and begin something very special indeed. Just like that, the drums begin to come in, choppy and churny, moving this way and that, moving the track forward to a T, ensuring the boat stays nice and ship shape. We groove along, so at ease with life, that when the vocals come in we open our mind a little to hear a story about how this all came to be. The track descends from there, using the intro as a means of framing the narrative. The tune really does paint a very rosy picture indeed, one that conjures up lazy days on the rivera, where care free and at ease with oneself are on the menu. Stellar stuff. Next comes ‘Ballando Con La Luna’, and we move up once again. The track moves more up tempo, with the drums looking to guide the keys more so on this track. The keys are snappy, initiative and beautifully considered, as if the producer is reacting to the beat as he is presented with it. The track glides between the less urgent feel of the first verse of sorts, before upping the ante in the ‘chorus’, where the layering becomes more so and adds a proper sense of urgency. Not wanting to be outdone, the inbetween parts receive ore love, with the additions of snappy moogy key solos. Next comes the title track, as we move towards the final two tracks. The mood is set by the spoken words over ever growing piano underneath, which swells and swells in order to greet the pulsating drum beat. As the track hits its stride, its hard to not want to get up and groove like crazy, bouncing around in your seat as the track effortlessly moves between gears. The breakdown introduces some more soft yet soaring vocal work, as the drums move away slightly, the underneath of the track crying out to be released. The synth line just keeps building and building, teasing us with its ever growing enormity, before it fades away, with soft keys replacing it. What a tease! but what a switch up. Finally, to finish things up, we have ‘Lagrimas De Esperanza’, and this one very neatly sums up the message of this record. The intro is more keys from the gods, that then progresses through to allow the beat to open up, the movement then into the additional backing synth. The track never has to let go, it already has us in the palm of its hand, much like the record. We bask in its caress, its grace, our souls shining through so much.
If tender tones, excellent musical composition, and an eye for the surprise, not to mention an ear for groove and beat, then this record has it all. Karmasound takes us through it all, from the effortlessly groovy to the tenderly delicate, all through the spectrum of a piano, synthesiser and a series of killer drum beats. We remain mesmerised in its almost hypnotic glow, allowing ourselves to be overrun by its quiet majesty. Its the little things here that stand out, and we leave the album with all our questions answered, because the songs are structured so that we can take it all in. Top top stuff.
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