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Kim Ann Foxman - Connection (Firehouse, 2021)

On yet another display of warm blends and powerful rhythmic progressions, the US producer ups the ante with a further excursion into her intoxicating sound, with razor sharp production techniques and continual emotion gains a ever present, as always.

In this day and age, there is plenty of focus placed on the intersects between genres, spaces that feel like the current thoughts and ponderings are accommodated completely in gaps that only started to exist a few years ago, but within these new spaces we have seen some seismic leaps forward take place. Electronic Music has certainly entered a period where narratives have interwoven so profusely that from the smallest of injections comes the brightest of sparks, and there are number of producers across the audial spectrum that conjure up these kinds of moments through their ingenuity, vision and technique. It could come across through the tones that they use, or the range of beats and melodies, or simply the expansiveness that they inject into every passing release, it all boils down to the experience they wish to present us with, and that could move in all kinds of directions. Genres start to become blurred massively as a result, and instead of the continual creation of new ones we are greeted with a new interpretation of how multiple genres might sound together within a streamlined experience, such is the interconnectivity of influence that exists in the contemporary era, and that kind of approach leads to further investigation of how a sound might progress from point A to point B. Artists who operate within these spaces often find further room to express themselves through stylings and features, with each record presenting itself as a self-contained object but slotting into a wider perspective with a general easygoingness, as the purest of essences binds the discography together with a graceful poise that never feels out of fashion. It's a testament to the vision of these artists that they are able to continually draw influence from their own wide ranging sound and continue to serve up feels that interlink so very well with one another, like a natural series of events that feels very deliberate and calculated. It makes for a highly engaging story indeed, one that ebbs and flows atop the undercurrents with a general excellence which mesmerises the listener, binding us closer to the music and the meanings behind it, as we drift from one experience to the next with a confidence that the new package will be just as flavoursome as the new one. To have that anticipation burning inside of you is very special indeed, and when the expectation is placed upon how they might wow us next rather than feeling that the status quo will be maintained means that we go into proceedings with an open mind and a yearning heart. The intersections that populate Dance Music's rich network have always been ripe for the picking, such is the scope to merge differing styles and feels together, but how these liminal spaces are moulded and shaped very much remains in the eye of the beholder, and for some producers they make these areas a continual ever present in their quest to further the scope of musical experience. The forefront of the development of Dance Music relies very much on these artists to push the scope onwards and upwards, to continually find those areas to branch out into, and to continually brush along the new frontiers, eager and able to make those impassable gaps feel like tiny steps, and we feel all the more richer for it.

For some time now, musician Kim Ann Foxman has been conjuring up these kinds of moments within her records, with her expansive and highly intriguing sound always morphing ever so slightly differently as we move between them. Foxman was previously a member of the charismatic Nu-Disco group Hercules and Love Affair, who really set the stars alight during the 2010s with their uptempo feels and grooves, and it was perhaps the intriguing blend of styles found within the groups style that inspired Foxman on her solo adventure. There's plenty of frequencies to highlight within her works, with House remaining as perhaps the predominant anchor that holds things together whilst a host of other stylings worm their way into proceedings on top, such as Acid, Minimal, Breakbeat and Techno, all of which serve to further her core creative ambitions. Foxman always presents us with an ever so slightly differing experience, one that draws much from her core ideals and always finds the time and space to introduce new elements that take the breath away, as flickering lights and intriguing sounds come together in a perfect symbiosis of harmony and rhythm. Her style feels indefinitely flexible yet incredibly consistent all at the same time, as if it's elasticity could expand forever yet still retain it's shape, with passions always running high and tempos always coming around the corner to surprise you. Moving between her varying releases is always a pleasure, as you always go into the experience with fresh perspectives, the understanding being one of ever expanding horizons providing to us a soundscape that could continue to expand ever further with repeated listens. It's these ideals that make her a artist who works within these musically liminal spaces, a musician who concerns herself with finding the sweetest of spots between genres and refining her sound to within an inch of it's life, and that ensures her narrative remains so very strong going forward. Speaking of her discography, there's plenty of excellent records to highlight, starting off with the effortlessly groovy 'Return It' EP, which came out in 2012; the equally groove laden 'Can't Hurt You' record, which came out alongside Layo and Bushwacka! in 2012 also; the breezy and fun filled 'Creature' record, which came out in 2015; the deep and expansive tones found on the 'It's You That Drives Me Wild' record, which arrived in 2016; and finally, the excellent hybridised feels that wash over you on the 'Blood Moon' record, which came out last year. In all, Foxman has held in her hands a very singular audial concept that has run deep through her discography, yet that singular concept has always found room to grow and space to breath, and that all comes from the vision in which she operates. The music found within her discography is fun, vibrant and full of vitality, with plenty of ebbs and flows to discover and highlight along the way that really elevate her music to new heights, particularly in the intriguing vocal work that adds a little bit extra to the direction of the music. As a narrative it plays out super well, with plenty of excellent collaborations along the way that have helped to move her sound onwards and upwards, which is always a welcome sign and indicates her ability to further adapt to new ideas. Technique wise it comes together marvellously, with production values very high indeed across the board which help to continually propel the music into new territories, as varied frequencies drift in and out of time and space with a glorious intent. If you ever feel like you need a bit of variety in your life, or just need a little lift up, or perhaps a bit of both, then be sure to go check out her previous works, trust us when we say you definitely won't be disappointed.

And now we arrive at her latest effort, 'Connection', which lands on her Firehouse imprint, the first release on the label in 3 years, and it's certainly not one to miss out on. Her previous effort, 2020's 'Blood Moon' EP, gave us an indication of the direction in which Foxman was heading with her music, with plenty of deep expansive pads laid out over invigorating beats and sub-level key sequences doing their part in sending us into far reaching worlds and spaces, and on this new record we certainly have these feels right from the off. From the get go we are launched into a sonic universe that feels endlessly expansive, with the sky opening up and the stars flickering with an impassioned intensity, with Foxman's eye for detail seeping through all the layers of the tracks as we passively move through a world of monumental proportion. Two original cuts feature alongside remixes from the mighty Luca Lozano and Matisa, which only serve to add greater depth and dynamism to Foxman's vision, and as a package it very neatly works together to fuel our excursions into the outer reaches of possibility. So, without further delay, let's dive into this little slice of euphoria.....

Up first comes the title track, and this one begins with the melodic outlay to get us going. Far reaching pads reach out across the pan, their application light and airy with a hint of star gazing thrown into the mix, as the vocals drift across the top layer with plenty of textured elements applied to really involve us with the universe being crafted. The rolling bass then emerges from within the depths, as light percussive elements groove in and around the central tempo, and before long the drums arrive in their initial glory, as the pads move away to leave us with just the groove. The kicks come into the picture soon after to move us into the next phase of the plan, as the melodic features take their time to return, with Foxman teasing their arrival through the lightest of tonal applications, but not long after they make their welcome return in the form of a large cascading key line. The track then continues to shift through the gears in order to find further space to draw power out of, as new elements continue to add flavour and depth to proceedings, such as a growling bass line and rhythmically intoxicating percussive features, and it's around this time that Foxman brings the keys back into the mix. Lift off arrives around this time, as the euphoria continues to wash over us with an ever meaningful embrace, with one final moment allowed in the breakdown to bind us closer to the mix, as we drift through the last segment of the track with an ever pleasing feeling in our hearts. Truly spectacular, this one. Up next comes the Luca Lozano remix of the track, and this one begins with the arpeggios to get us going. Their presence is quickly added to with the drumming pattern, which mimics the original in the sense of the placement of kicks and snares but contains a number of additional pieces that help further propel the momentum onwards and upwards, with the vocals used as a forefront melodic feature. The lead key line that applies itself to the top end goes from being ever so slightly understated to full blow lift off mode, reaching for the stars before sliding down within the climax, which reveals the innards of the groove for us all to look upon with a tender feeling in our hearts. This transition provides plenty of room for growth in the drums and bass, with the vocals continuing to soar way up high above and the lead key line to work it's magic on us, as we continue to explore these perimeters in the best possible ways. The lead key line returns for one final excursion, with the track even taking a dip similar to the one made in the original cut, before one final salvo sees the cut out into the evening sky. A wonderful interpretation, this track, and one that only adds to the power of the original in all it's glorious forms.

Up next comes 'Magic Magic', which begins with the looping drumming pattern to get us going. The kicks arrive soon after to really elevate proceedings, and before long the bass comes into view alongside a chime like key line which gently indicates what the outlook will be for the next few minutes, and it's around this time that the main melodic sequence comes sliding into view, with it's whisper like application helping to further the groove onwards and upwards. The snippets of vocals add further layers into the mix, with the additional singing on top only furthering the feeling to one of trance like mental spaces, as we continue to nod along to the ever present bass and drumming loop. This track is just unstoppable, with little room given to breathing or pausing, as our hearts and minds keep us locked into a perpetual state of bliss, with all the layers expertly played out and given all the room in the world to breathe, and that only makes us crave more, more and more. Top stuff. To wrap things up, we have the Matisa remix of the previous cut, and this one begins with the kicks and the bass to get us going. The tone is more up front, with the vocal sample pushed right from the start as a momentum builder, with the hats and snares thrown in early to get the groove going on strong, with the melodic lines making an appearance soon after to get the mood moving onwards. The shifts in density help to keep things feeling fresh and exciting, with lots of time provided to the differing structures that converge with one another, with this feeling particularly strong as we enter into the breakdown, and this is when things really kick off. The hats go into overdrive as we reach the drop, and everything just slams right back into space with a furious intent, the crowd grooving and moving with such force, drifting through the rhythm without a care in the world, with the trick repeated soon after and then again to similar magical impacts, and in many ways reflects the feelings we have when we leave this record. A complete package, one that contains two excellent originals and two expertly conceived remixes that fuel the imaginations we have of the dance floor, bathed in smoke and deep red lights, as our hearts and minds converge in a beautiful display of beats and melody, and it just works so very well.

Electronic Music operates at the crossroads, in the middling grounds, and it's how certain producers choose to bottle this energy that really captures the imagination. Foxman has done a brilliant job thus far of crafting her own kind of groove and melody, and this has continued to translate into this latest record, that builds upon her recent audial excursions and then some. The two original cuts found on this record are stunning in many ways, with plenty of layers interweaving with one another but still finding lots of space to really shine on an individual level, and this is what makes the progression from point A to point B so very interesting. Foxman has a really good understanding of how her music evolves, and this record epitomises that feeling throughout, as euphoria constantly presents itself in more ways than one. The two remixes add enormously to the experience, and help to elevate and compliment the originals with their originality and depth, and as a club tool or a home listening experience, you need look no further than this beautiful package of dance music. Excellent music, all round.

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