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Peter Raou - Skagboys House (RJWMACHINES, 2020)

The second release of the year from RJWMACHINES sees the enigmatic producer Peter Raou serve up two excessively organic house cuts that are as enriching as they are bold.

House was always a genre of high end expressionism, be it the manner that the emotive and melodic features stab and flicker, or the hearty vocal lines that slam through the dance floor, to the drumming patterns that lift the heart rates up to euphoric levels. The introduction of machines and synths into the hands of budding production enthusiasts in the 1980s in Chicago, coupled with the incredible richness of the sounds and people that surrounding the fledging house scene in the city at the time, lead to the creation of a genre that would take over the world, but it would see many evolutions from the early 80s until the present day. The original sound focused on the tapestry of hi hats, up tempo kicks, snares and toms, and gorgeous vocal and melodic work that veered from the dubbed out to the highly transcendental. It was a time of joining spirits and melting minds on the dance floor, a community that birthed one of dance music's foundational genres, its sound encapsulated in its rich history and heritage that still stands so very tall to this day. Even though house grew arms and legs around the introduction of the 90s, and as a result has seen so many evolutions since then, many purists still align themselves the most with the sounds of the original scene, and to this day plenty of producers craft music using the same tools and practises that defined the Windy City at the time. The rolling hats, the shuffling bass lines, the sprinkling of acid sequences that crop up here and there, and an overall tone that extends from the very top to the deepest bottom of proceedings, its a style that remains pretty recognisable and yet retains so much space for producers to imprint their own values and styles into proceedings. Its one of those styles that originally held so much variety, which was borne out of a desire to be bold, be brash and be inventive, to capture the hearts and minds of the floor through increasingly daring and groovy tunes, all of which reflected the cocktail of styles that flowed through Chicago's underground scene at the time. As a base reference, it has endless potential, and for those presently engaged with replicating to an extent those audial ideals the results are still overtly intriguing, as they look to blend contemporary sensibilities with the expressiveness that permeates through still from the past. Its an elegant pairing, a meandering through the times that presents a modern day sounding musical package yet pays homage and channels so much of the past that remains important, and for the devotees it remains highly important to maintain these traditions. And along the way, we welcome into the fold some stunning music indeed, created by deft hands who express their passions in the music they release and curate, connecting us to the sights and sounds indefinitely.

Flowing on from those sentiments, you need look no further for your fix of 707 goodness than the enigmatic Alessio Corni, who's enriching musical universe seems to be growing at an increasing rate with each release. A student of the house artform, Corni has dedicated himself to the drum machine and the synthesiser, a passion that resonates from his music with all the warmth in the world, a stunning blend of older stylings infused with a modern twist that bridges the divide between worlds with ease. Its house music at its most pure, its most soothing and intrinsic, tapping into a deep pool of knowledge and influence to spew forth magical feels and tones, a style that Corni has made his own and showcased to the world via a series of phenomenal releases. Expressive, meaningful and deep, its house music at its most organic, with Corni utilising his extensive collection of analogue hardware to record tunes that feel like the result of someone really connecting with their machines, a blend of imprinting an identity into the hardware and in some ways getting a feeling back in response, a symbiotic relationship that only strengthens over time. Corni's musical outputs have spread themselves out over a number of aliases and variations, including Raoh and Raoul, alongside being a member of the Módna House Crew, with each release bringing yet another side to the sounds that populate his musical universe. Such releases include the brilliant '424 Live' tape that arrived in late 2019, that showed Raoul on a real purest trip, with nods to deep and dream house appearing across the four expertly considered cuts; and the wickedly brilliant 'RJWM' tape from earlier this year, that simply furthered the sounds with 2 sides showcasing a real flair in regards to production and also style, with hints of course to deep house but also to the heat of the rave. Corni also featured with the Modna House Crew on the 2018 'Underground Is The New Upperclass' EP, and the 'Underground Sound Of Italia' EP from 2019 with fellow member Katsuto. In all, Corni has masterminded a very particular sound, and its an intoxicating one at that, with a purity and flow that will have anyone nodding their head along to the infectious rhythms and tenderly woven melodic features, with the two elements working so gracefully alongside each other to provide the ultimate in house driven experiences. Given Corni's outlook in spreading out releases to differing names, his latest record comes out under a new name, Peter Raou, with the name and the release seeped in mystique. With the alias seemingly a nod to the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name, 'SkagBoys House' is a gleaming meandering through the deep and darker side of house, one where mysterious key changes and bubbling arpeggios spread themselves out over expertly conceived percussive structures, with the melodic sequences bringing a real foreboding atmosphere into the mix as we are transported right into Raou's world and its late night bridge encounters. Over two cuts, we are transfixed by the narrative, the encounter that birthed the latest 10" on the label, a couple of extraordinary house tunes that might just be Corni's best work to date, with their highly accomplished production values matched by the musical content. Its a house sound that gives over not just life but a much deeper meaning, one that inherently aligns itself with the mind and all its projective power as we undertake some deep wonderings through the outer reaches of both this world and the adjoining, a journey soundtracked by some of the most effortless and intriguing house music you will hear all year. So, without further delay, lets get into it......

Up first comes 'Tokyo Poly (Acid)', and the intro is typically up tempo and filled to the brim with grooving elements. The percussive features skip and dip around the main pulse, in this case the pounding bass line that keeps the clock ticking over, as all manner of new drum features align themselves within the momentum, such as the expressive hats and the fast paced groupings of snares, as little key lines and melodic sequences flicker in the not so far away distance. The song breaks down for a moment to introduce the first main melodic hook, in the form of delicate stabs that reside somewhere in the backdrop, providing a bed rock for which the other features on top can really shine. There's a wonderful sense of groove and flow to proceedings, with the drums underneath it all creating a rising and falling sense of swell, where the energies are focused between the bars moving forwards as they continually move and sway with the times, keeping our intrigue at a very high level indeed. The acid line emerges around the three minute mark, which wraps itself around the core thread of the track, which then sees the cut move into its next breakdown, where the varying melodic nodes interact with one another beautifully, a vigorous undercurrent of considered keys and chords that chime along together in perfect harmony. The drums return, but not for long as the track then moves into its second breakdown, which draws the focus to the acid sequence and its continually growing presence in the track, with its narrative taking the lead role as the drums come swinging right back into view. The cut now enters back into its full flight mode, the percussion acting overtime to draw us right into the dance, with the melodic structures on top taking turns to switch in and out of the ongoing notions, again tying into this wonderful sense of swing and flow. The keys remove themselves entirely for the back end of the cut, as the acid line is given an extended period of time with the drums in order for us to witness its full power, and the results are electrifying, with our minds firmly along for whatever ride this journey might take us on. Into the mists and mystiques of time, we descend, and the narrative isn't quite ready to let go just yet.

On side B we find 'Space Cake ("High" Mix)', and this one begins in very clear cut territory indeed. The drumming sequence greets us right from the off, its perfect feel and tone crafting a brilliance sense of forward momentum and a sign of things to come, with that presumption arriving in the introduction of the lightest of bass lines that begins to permeate underneath. The drums welcome this new arrival with all the enthusiasm in the world, taking the time to bring the song to a soft pause as the kicks move away before ascending right into the mix once more, as additional percussive elements align themselves in the top ends of the track. This is exactly when the melodic sequences come into view, and oh boy is it something else, as a liquid like arpeggio of light and colour transcend across the audial plain with such meaning and rhythm, crafting a textural contrast to the crystal clear beats that reside below. Its a totality in sound, a wonderful warmth that lights up our cold walk home, pointing to the energies of urbanity as the cold descends within the night air, a sound that is incredibly vivid yet provokes so much mental journeying in the listener. The sequence moves on for a wee while, allowing us to soak up every single last piece of goodness, and before long the kicks move away to showcase some additional synths that light up the progression, first with the chordal line that gently adds to the rhythmic density and secondly with the slightly acid tinged current that meanders through the very soul of the track. All the while we are becoming infatuated with the comings and goings of the melodic layering, the drumming is really picking up steam, with all manner of percussive expressionism going off left right and centre, in a display that only comes from the finger tips of a producer who aligns its sounds with their heart. The track climaxes with the melodic layering moving away to just showcase the acid line and the core foundation of the drums, but we don't linger here for long as the original arpeggio sequence comes slamming back in, and just like that we are whipped up once again by the sublimity of it all. We dart and dash between the strata, looking for places in which to reside, a home within the layers with a view of the wondrous soundscape that envelops our senses and visions. Truly a work of art, this cut.

There might be only two cuts on this record, but the depth and scope of these two pieces of music is simply astonishing, and this remains a testament to the talents of the man behind it all. Corni doesn't just show up to showcase what he's all about, he smashes it out of the park with all the flair, ease and talent in the world, demonstrating his talents behind a drum machine and synthesiser but perhaps more importantly he crafts two worlds that highlight just how far his sound can go and what it can achieve with its boundless limits. Soaring through the outer realms of spaced out house, we vividly imagine the interactivity of life and all its comings and goings, soundtracked by two brilliantly curated house cuts that sing true in pushing a sound that feels very much like Corni's own. At times overflowing, during others subtle and foreboding, but always keeping its finger on the pulse, you will simply fall in love with the absolute art that is found within this release. It's a modern day classique, for sure.

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