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Lea Lisa - Keys Of Life (Karakul, 2021)



On this new release from the Phonica sub label, French producer Lea Lisa reminds us all of her special talents with a blinding original cut alongside two exquisite mixes from House legend Glenn Underground.


House music has had a long association with the concept of remixes sitting alongside original cuts, and in many ways it helps to further the credentials of the original mix and help to provide a differing sense of place to proceedings. It's a tradition that has held true pretty much since the genre's inception back in Chicago during the 80s, where remixes and edits were all the range in order to craft those special moments on the dance floor, with alternative cuts offering up dubby or instrumental versions to great effect. The 90s saw this tradition maximised with original cuts sitting alongside 3 to 4 (or even more in some cases) versions for listeners to sink their teeth into, all of which helped to transplant the track from one singular space and adapt it to suit multiple moods and points in the set. House is an inherently uplifting genre, an emotional and physical experience that rushes through you as the 4 to the flour hits the soul and the pads wash over the mind to great effect, and in many ways maximising out this feeling with numerous editions of tracks can only be a good thing. The approach offers up differing perspectives, showcasing a like minded approach to crafting music that strengthens bonds through sonics and creative practises, and helps to further the genre through the notion of cross-pollination of styles and tones. Many artists have paired original output with remixes throughout their discographies, and it always provides that additional spin on proceedings that sees the minds of listeners continually invigorated, pooling together talents and creative juices to give over music that touches the soul. House as a genre is one that has always been open to expansion, moving beyond it's four walls and exuding outwards into the wider audial landscape, touching upon other genres in order to keep feeding into it's continual development. Innovation and momentum are incredibly important in keeping a genre feeling fresh, it's meaning kept intact by certain producers who always have an eye to expand and morph their own stye. Fresh perspectives often arrive with more meaning from within an EP setting, where we can continue to play over the original tracks right alongside the interesting angles of the remixes, applying both to contexts in which we find ourselves, searching for the appropriate time and space in which to explore the furthest reaches of the sound. It's a feeling that gets captured time and time again within House music, the essence pours over us as the music presents itself in the most organic and ever impressive manner, our hearts in it for the long run as we move within the many layers that present themselves to us, the dance floor feeling that much closer as a result. We zone out and engage with a feeling that could last a lifetime, emerging from all corners of the spectrum to provide us with an uplifting notion which merges our life force with those that appear all around, never for one moment standing still or reflecting too much, just endlessly unravelling to the point of steady euphoria. Many producers release house music, but only a certain few capture the heart of it all, their vibe one of celebration of life itself as we steadily groove along to the rhythms that bind us all, an invisible force that remains nameless yet we all recognise it in the neurones. House is a feeling, and when it gets captured in it's many shapes and forms, either via originals or the remixes which sit alongside it, we cannot help ourselves but celebrate, our lifeforce feeling invigorated with every passing bar and new chordal arrangement which slides into view.



For some time now, French producer Lea Lisa has been exuding these kind of wondrous vibes, either through her emphatic DJ sets or her exquisite productions, and as House music goes it's the strain that makes you want to feel and dance again. Lisa has been active in the scene since the 90s, and after a career overseeing some of the most significant movements in the genre's history, she has channelled all she has collected and played out into her own sound, with the results something to behold indeed. The House which Lisa has built is one of incredibly sturdy foundations, with the drums and bass lines capable of moving as well as reinforcing mountains, whilst the melodics that lie on top are incredible to the ears, with a delightful blend of soft chordal lines interlaced with plenty of gorgeous key solos a la that classic 90s style. The resulting blend progressively reaches across the plains to create a soundscape that is filled to the brim with detail and heart, it's study structure wrapping around the mind and the body as we get carried away within a sea of rhythm and feeling. Her small but incredibly meaningful discography is all killer and absolutely no filler, with her original productions sitting alongside some incredible remixes from the likes of Kerri Chandler, DJ Rocco and Agnès, with their additional pieces helping to amplify the original cuts in all their glory. Not only is there a consistency between each of the releases, but Lisa made sure to expand her horizons on each record, with each collection of track exploring a differing frequency or direction, with the differential usually occurring most evidently in the melodic applications on top of proceedings. This only helps to bind listeners closer to her works, as we can approach her records with a sense of progression and momentum, each new piece adding further to the journey which she is taking us on, and within any genre of music that is always a wonderful thing. All of her previous records are worthy of a mention, starting off with the grooving tonal masterclass that unravels on her debut single, 'Twenty Four', that arrived in 2017; the uptempo and indefinitely groovy 'Walking La Mona' record, which was released alongside Rich Medina in 2018; the incredible feels that unravel from the euphoric dance floor shaker 'The Legacy', which arrived in 2019; and finally, the endlessly entertaining feels found on the 'Here Comes The Night' record, which arrived in 2019 also. Moving between her records is a masterclass in how to thread a discography together, with Lisa spending a significant amount of time exploring how these invisible strands help to interlink movements and grooves together, whilst staying true to the ideals of branching out and exploring new facets of her sound. It's an incredible compact audial array that features some very strong moments indeed, with the boundless momentum of it all continually impressing as we slide through so many shades of House's bountiful spectrum. The production value is top notch, the feels ever lasting, and most importantly, it makes you feel once again, setting off the release valves in the mind as we blissfully float along to grooves that could last a lifetime and never begin to age or grow tiresome. It's House music that encourages you to get involved, to look around and oversee it's many internal developments, to grow accustomed to the tonal arrays and it's deeply emotive outlines. If you like your House music to be multi-faceted, deeply joyous and infectious to the 9th degree, then be sure to check out Lea Lisa's previous works, trust us when we say you won't be disappointed.


And now we arrive at her latest offering, the aptly named 'Keys Of Life' EP, which lands via Phonica sub label Karakul. Like with much of her music, this latest record is exceedingly uplifting, filled to the brim with honest emotions laid bare through the gorgeous piano chordal progressions and intoxicating rhythm, with the now standard keyboard solo to really get you going. We are lifted along from the off in a sea of exquisite feeling that crafts deep swells within us, be it the overall artistry of the music being portrayed to us or the deepness being explored on every level, it all just works together so very well. And, as if the good vibrations couldn't get any better, we have none other than Chicago House icon Glenn Underground on the flip to provide two absolutely stellar reworkings of the title track, which simply elevate the record to wondrous levels of feel and flair. So, without further delay, lets dive right into this sublime piece of house magic....


Up first comes the title track in all it's original glory, the 'Original Piano Mix', and this one begins with the swinging drum beat to get us going. The percussion is crisp and light to the ears, involving us within it's many strata as the bars flow by, and as the momentum picks up a bit we start to see the bass line emerge, it's subtle weaving into the track leaving us with our heads in the clouds as we groove onwards and upwards. The chords arrive soon after, and they are simply gorgeous to the ears, drifting higher and higher as we ease through their sequence with the lightest of breezes, meandering along to the rhythm like our life depended on it, with this feeling only reinforced by the piano that joins in with the progression. The use of percussive features to help move the track onwards is very impressive indeed, with this being used to introduce further elements like the vocals and the light rhythmic key lines, with the track taking a dip in energy before releasing us into the key solo we all knew was coming. The deep expansive vocal sample calls out to us from across the plains, as the keys soar then soar some more as time passes by, instinctively moving across the plains in a more virtuoso movement before aligning with the core foundations as the track takes another dip downwards. This kick-less segment provides the listener with all the time in the world to look around and admire the scenery, the feels on display completely engrossing, and as the kicks arrive once more we see additional strings just adding that little bit extra to the majesty of it all. What a gorgeous track. Up next we have the first of two Glenn Underground mixes, with this one being named the 'Esoteric Chicago Mix', and this one starts off with the extended drumming sequence to get us going. The structure of the percussion is more swinging and spacious, with their placement giving all the room in the world for the melodics to start moving into view, which is done in a very calculated way as to provide a continuous stream of arrivals, the layers working alongside each other beautifully. Glenn adds in a number of new sequences into the mix, much of which is extremely playful and does much to add further intrigue to proceedings, with all the new features added in crafting a brilliant sense of texture to the track. The track continues onwards with a structured intensity, with background chords adding further to the momentum as time passes by at a wonderful pace, our hearts and minds allowed to soak up every single last piece of excellence that flows our way. The cut feels like one long continuous set of swells, as varying features continue to craft all manner of melodic structures that morph into one another so effortlessly, and in many ways it's the kind of progression that Glenn has become so revered over. Truly breathtaking stuff!


To wrap things up, we have the 'Esoteric Chicago Dub' version, and this one begins at a slightly higher tempo than the previous cut. The drums move from the kicks and hats and into a squelchy acid bass line that worms it's way through the mid section of the track, providing an anchor point for all manner of other elements to come into the mix, such as the hi hat, further bass lines and brilliantly considered sonic features. The track continues to morph and groove as time passes by, providing an intriguing audial narrative for us to get lost deep within via simply the use of groove and tone, and before long we start to see the chordal line move into view, it's placement added very subtly but to great effect, with it's presence seeing the track move into a proper full on four to the floor percussive structure. The solid chord line helps to keep the fire burning within all of us, as little sequences help to add further scope alongside the 'Come on!' vocal sample, which leads us directly into the breakdown, and oh boy is it an expansive one. The pool in which we look into is monstrous in size, with so many sparkling features for us to look at, all of which presents to us something of real meaning and feel, and before long the drums return in triumphant fashion to see us out the door on a journey filled with magic and inventiveness. It's a fitting end to a record that has so much to offer, in both the original piece and the two remixes, and as an overall experience you will be dancing, thinking and imagining long after the needle stops.


House music comes in many shapes and forms, and to be presented with an EP that conjures up so much about what makes the genre special is really a gift that keeps on giving. Lea Lisa has forged a wonderful sound throughout her discography, with the music always progressing in all the right ways and moving us in all the most positive directions, and her original piece here is no different. Right from the off you know the mood is set to dance, and as the chords arrive we simply close our eyes, smile and picture ourself deep in the set, grinning alongside the other dancers in the heat of the moment, our minds firmly fixated on where the track might take us next. The structure and instrumentation is wonderful, from the arrangement through to the fantastic key solo, and these features are mirrored perfectly in both of the Glenn Underground mixes, who takes the ingredients of a brilliant cut and puts his own personal spin on things impeccably. As House records go, this one is a keeper, and like the title suggests the keys in this really do give you all the life you could ever want. A real winner, through and through.


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