Michoacan - The Knights Are Cold (Imogen Records, 2020)
Updated: Jun 19
The sun sets in all kinds of ways on this shimmering celebration of the groove, the keyboard and the master behind it.
Colourful, expressive music comes in many shades, and for those who seek to harness it, it can be a bountiful source of continued inspiration. These kinds of music makers seek the finer things when it comes to expressionism through sonics, where tracks exude an easy going flow that provides a foundation for all manner of chordal arrangements and quirky yet enriching feels to leap from. In many ways, the laid back feel of proceedings puts us at ease, our journey laid out seemingly to allow for every element to be witnessed at a glance, not a detail left out or spared. But this cosiness crafts a new side to the progression, where out of no where we are greeted with surprise upon surprise, our comfort expanded out to include all manner of new elements for which we can begin to get to know a bit better. Rather than taking the song at face value, which is the case with many a track, we weave our way through the many stories and feels that a producer wants to get across, their narrative one of vibrancy, exuding depth and warmth at every turn. We see not just the colours that persist on the surface, but we feel the many sides to the character of the music, These kinds of rhythms and sounds have always captured the imagination in numerous and varied ways, and that perhaps is the idea behind that notion of dance music. Throughout the course of electronica, and indeed beyond, we have seen the varied and flavoured sides of dance music delving deep into the clashing of audial fundamentals, the ignition of the unknown blurred with realism, the concepts morphing into the visualised and then sliding back into the depths. Occupying a number of high, middle and low grounds, colourful and vibrant ideals and grooves have seeped into all facets of listening contexts, be it the laid back lounge, the back seat of a car, or in the darkest corners of the most cutting edge club; those who inhibit this world always have a lot to say and a whole manner of ways of saying it. The extension of themselves begins to form within the music, their oneness with the tools at their disposal leading to the crafting of tunes that excite and surprise in equal measure, our fondness for the ingredients found within never ever tiring.
Michoacan is certainly one of those artists who have been exploring these characteristics of dance music for quite some time now. His music always speaks volumes, in a way that feels quite unique and intrinsic to the man who makes it, as we get this constant sense of renewal and reinvention that weaves and flows through his discography. Michoacan, who's real name is Fernando Miranda Rios, has dabbled with a variety of styles and genres through his near 20 year career, with features appearing on each release that keep the threads going, but ultimately there are these over arching defining elements that help to keep his musical world constantly expanding. Its the varied and texturally rich approach to keys, the movements around of beat structures that switch tempo and mood, and the its the creative manner in which songs move and flow between structures and compositions. By looking to engage with a wide variety of styles and feels, we see Michoacan's story play out with such excitement and energy, his passions channelling into his work with enthusiasm and vibrancy, and as a result we have a body of work that is as bold as it is emotionally connecting. From dubbed out house, through to melodically rich electro, to deep and emotive disco inspired numbers, theres a wonderful presence within his music, one that exudes a sense of direction and passion, where the visions for the music never run out. Its all pulled off with skill and finesse, as his skills with arrangement and layering really help to hammer home the vibe he wants to pull off with each release.
From such a wide and varied discography, there is much goodness to pick from, with our favourites include his debut, 2002's 'Amorelectrico'; the superb 'Dancefloor Destruction' EP from 2005; the groovy and intense 'Basshead' record from 2006; the dance floor burner that is 'Play Your Part', from the same year; the compelling stylings of the 'Oplate Opus' EP from 2008; and the excellent 'The Kingdom Of Heaven' record from 2013. No matter where you dip into his previous works, you are always in for a treat with Michoacan, with his music always delivering this compelling narrative told to us via the melodies and construction. And this guy always has a story worth telling. So go on, have a go, its worth your time.
And now we arrive at his latest offering, 'The Knights Are Cold EP', out on the always impressive Imogen Recs. A sultry, silky smooth ride through the annuals of 80s flavour funk and modern soul, both tracks sing enormously in regards to their composition, sound and vibe, with the key work and layering something to truly marvel at. The tempo comes way down, allowing us to go at a cater rather than a fast pace, which gives us all the time in the world to get to know these two brilliant tracks just a little bit better. So, lets take a dip.
Up first comes the title track, and we begin with the steady beat getting us in the groove with a gentle sway. The drums accommodate these little bleepy notes, that begin to set the tone of the melodies to come, with the track quickly gaining traction with the intro of layers of sultry keys. The progressions switch between dense sequences before switching to more loose informal arrangements, with the intensity and depth in sound remaining consistent across the board. The flows between the two couldn't have been pulled off with any more skill, the switch between the two is razor sharp and intuitive, and there lies the most compelling and fundamental aspect of this track. As we write, all manner of sequences begin to intertwine, their various sonic levels merging into this beautiful marvel, where we continually turn our heads to see what might pop up next. Its quite something, and Michoacan pulls it off with such imagination. The vividness shines through from the top to the bottom of this track, the tones of each pad, synth and key line just adding up to a orchestral feel that is both ingenious and spelling binding at once. We reach in to the world that opens up to us in front of our eyes, and its extremely hard to not just jump in and inhibit this world filled with colour and essence. Perfect. Up next comes the B side, appropriately named 'B Side Me' and we begin off with the boogie leaning drums to kick things off. As like before, the melodies display a certain off kilter feel, their tone and arrangement enticing us to wait around a bit to see how this might all play out. And just like with the title track, we become transfixed as the varying chord lines move into play, the harmonies on display between the various key layers is once more pulled off with brilliance. The sequencing between arrangements remains more consistent from a rhythm and drumming point of view, but its on top where all the movements occur. The laid back feel of the track allows us to really dip our toe into the bountiful amount of key work on offer, with all the layers working alongside each other to craft the most compelling narrative possible, and oh how it works beautifully. Not only do these layers all work so superbly together, but you feel compelled to just keep on listening again and again, in order to take in absolutely everything that occurs within this track. If side A was all about the flows, and a demonstration of the quirky joyous side of things, then Side B is all about the power of layered and enriching harmonies - when these two are put together, it makes for a very powerful listening experience indeed. Reflective and compelling in equal measure, even the track names feed into this idea of a spectrum of emotion that can be harnessed within these two cuts, and we are all for it.
Rios may have taken some time away from his Michoacan alias, but how has he reminded us of his skills on this record. A release that gives over so much in terms of playful immersion, with our hearts and minds catered for in equal measure. Where each turning of a corner could mean anything, but its all composed together with memorable and mesmerising key lines and sequences that you feel could roll on forever and ever. Truly one of this year's great displays of melody driven instrumentals, with all manner of things to marvel at and get to know. Go on, spend a bit of time to get to know this little gem of a record.
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