Phyzikal Flex - Phyzikal Flex (Magic Carpet, 2020)
Magic Carpet kick off their newly founded label with a truly excellent hybridised EP that draws from the musical riches of the golden era of rave, techno and everything in between.
For those who weren't there to experience the second summer of love, records that seek to emulate and capture its varying sounds do enough to help us imagine that we were indeed there at the beginning. It was truly a remarkable period of musical invention, creativity and experimentation, a time when thousands gathered together through the power of counter-culture, the need to escape the ills of the 1980s, and of course the multitude of substances that fuelled musical stylings for a whole generation, all of which became soundtracked by electronic music from Detroit, Chicago and Europe. It became a moment when people's eyes were open to new concepts, becoming encouraged to discover and pair genres together, the ideals of the rave coming into the studio via the richness of share experiences and opened eyes, where everything seemed possible if you had the right idealistic mindset. The UK in particular would take the meaning of this to heart, with rave culture exploding during the late 80s due to many of the factors mentioned previously, and with it came the creation of so many genres that many hold dear to this day. The garage link ups, the M25 circle, meeting friends in fields and not leaving til Monday morning, it became very much an escapism for many, a place in which like minds could meet with the knowledge of being surrounded by good vibes and smiling faces, shoulder to shoulder with your brothers and sisters in the dance. It was a revolutionary movement, liberating to those who bought into it and served as a constant source of musical inspiration for people then, and still to this day for those who look back in time for a deep pool to draw from. The 90s revival has been alive and kicking for quite a while now, with many producers and labels looking to this era for new and fresh ideas, perhaps due to the fact that a lot of music from this period was so vastly overlooked and now confined to the never ending virtual shelves of discogs, awaiting the next music lover to pick it up and give its sounds another go. Truth is, whilst for some the 90s will forever remain some kind of novelty to pick and choose when needed, many have completely dedicated themselves to understanding the subtle complexities that persist on so many releases from this period of time, a desire to pick apart and learn from those who were so influenced by a scene that seems distant but very much alive. The fact that many older producers still release old DAT tape records today very much indicates how much music still remains from that era which never saw the light of day, and these records play an important narrative in the contemporary musical landscape, in that it just shows how ahead of their time that many of these records where, their morphing nature something that still dazzles and delights even after all this time. Records born for the dance or ones designed to blow your mind will never really go out of fashion, it just depends on which thread you wish to explore the most throughly, and that in itself will keep us engaged for some time still to come.
If someone can encapsulate these kinds of windows, doors and channels between now and then, Phyzikal Flex is certainly the person to get you into a trance that you fall in love with immediately. Their music comes at you with all the freshness and energy you would expect from the golden age of rave, with the dynamic interplay between varying genres, rhythms and styles really engaging with what the moniker was all about - freeing your mind through a gentle assault of all things euphoric and groovy. The music is instantly recognisable in its feel, a style in which has informed so much yet remains inherently linked to its original timeframe, but like many great treasures from the past, if the music is so perfectly formed it really can transcend time and space, its relevance never waning despite its original context becoming a distant dream. Flex's tracks have that sense of immediacy about them, a instant connection to the listener about its heritage but also a sense of pulse and melodic development that allows it to be placed into any contemporary set with real ease, its simply that engaging and musically rich to be cast aside as irrelevant. This kind of feel is apparent on their recently reissued mixtape, 'Keeping It Real Since 92', which represented a collection of the groups works between 1992 and 1996, and is a truly remarkable piece of music, not just within the realms of rave but also within the fields of electronic music in general. The tunes are bound together by a timeless sense of energy, with each cut flowing seamlessly like a stream of consciousness, the varying melodic sequences interlaying within the beat structures with such meaning and purpose, crafting a mix of music that is not only undeniably danceable but deeply interesting to boot. It requires continual listening to get to the bottom of it all, the essence that is laid bare in the tunes often having multiple levels to wrap your head around. Its pretty magical, and as reissued records go its pretty far up there as one of the most important in recent years, as it helps to contextualise the current breakbeat revival, demonstrating the full power of the rave movement and the music found within it. This year sees the release of two new records from the Flex camp, with the 'Phyzikal Flex EP' arriving earlier this year, which includes two reworkings of cuts from their mixtape alongside two unreleased pieces that further add to their ever expanding world. Its fast, heavy and deep, with all the trimmings intact from their mixtape, and ensures the fire keeps burning with additional intensity. If you love your vibe to be within the spectrum of dark warehouses, on fire bodies, and smiles all round, then look no further than the Flex back catalogue, it will get your blood really pumping. Trust us, its a good vibe to be within.
And now we arrive at their latest offering, the 'Phyzikal Flex' record, that arrives via the newly formed Lisbon label Magic Carpet. On this release of new material, Flex offers up some truly brilliant hybrid productions, utilising undertones of breakbeat and rave orientated sounds as a base to work from but implementing some beautiful soaring chords and melodic features in a perfect coupling of past and present. Each cut offers up another side to the story, with the threads that link it all together remaining unspoken, with the music allowed to speak for itself. Deep, thought provoking and moving at the same time, you will be as much in your head as much as your feet, moving and swaying to the perfection that is found on this gorgeous piece of wax. So, without further delay, lets get into it.
Up first we have 'Better Reality', and we begin with the drumming patterns and jumping chord getting the blood pumping. The percussive structure is clean and layered exceptionally well, giving over a sense of depth but also space and time to accommodate new features and elements, and as a little key sequence begins to flutter around we sense a change coming into view. Before long, the dynamics of the track is filled with vitality, as the two chord sequence perfectly aligns itself with the body of the track, its groove and flow now in full effect. The bass line then slides into view to complete the maximum level of impact, and when its all in view its quite the sight indeed, and the track moves through a period of bringing the chords in and out of view, with a view of balancing between sonic sounds and full on euphoria. The manner in which the track moves between these moments of bass driven exploration before moving back into the heartfelt tender aspects is really something to behold and enjoy for all its worth, with the guiding lights moving along on our journey to inner bliss. The extended melodic sequence towards the middle of the track really hammers this home, before the track looks to engage one final time with us on the bass laden bottom ends, its groove still as effect as the first time it reared its head. What an opener. Up next comes 'Seventh Heaven', and oh boy do we land in full on rave feels right here. The track opens up with the vocal snippet providing the narrative and context to the whole picture, before the leading key line aligns itself within the track, and its quite the belter. The tempo is slowed down to really emphasise the groove that oozes from this track, the chordal arrangement moving between two rhythmic outlines - the first being more slowed and steady and the second hitting more fast paced, creating a hypnotic feel that keeps on swirling and swirling some more. That's not all, as Flex looks to tinker with the delivery, tone, texture and pitch of the lead melodic line, taking all its worth in relation to moving the track forward in time, with the focus never moving away from its infectious melodic tone. The bass line and drumming pattern look to fill some of the spaces, and do a wonderful job at progressing the track forward into some very exciting territories indeed, whilst the filtered 90s esq vocal line do much to add further intrigue to a very compelling track indeed. A superb looping chord line, a series of textural progressions to die for, its old age music done in a new way, and we can't get enough of it. Superb shit.
Up next comes the B side, with 'Solitude' arriving first, and the feels that begin to exude reach a new level. The four chord progression fills the backdrop in true old school fashion, its rising nature swelling to the point of explosion, its constant nature wrapping the track in a beautiful warm embrace, leading us to new plains of tonal melodic excellence. Moving away from the lush chords, the underneath sees some really interesting developments indeed, the drumming pattern (we believe it was sampled from that oh so famous Raze tune) is constantly moving, providing an energetic base for the track to keep on grooving and moving with the times, with the bass line emerging not too soon after. The manner of progression has been set by this point, with the additional stab chords adding further to the swirling hypnotic feel, our minds firmly placed within the heart of the track, trying to take in all the incredible moods as we can. Flex then firmly focuses on the truly remarkable break section, as the chords float away to lay bare the excellent percussive rhythms that persist underneath, the additional breakbeat element that comes in adds further texture and feel. The track then reverts back to its original formation, with an added backdrop synth that further adds emotive weight to the tune, the mood transfixed and the pulse immediate. Flex brings it all around one final time for our benefit, as the track saunters into the night sky, to occupy the vibe of some underground club, intent to help dancers groove away their worries. To finish up, we have 'Pandora's Box', and the emotive plains get unravelled from the onset with this one. The expanding chordal pattern really sets the tone, crafting an ethereal context for which to allow the listener to swim within, with little textured keys and drumming patterns adding so much to the expanse. The electro swing beat that emerges is something to behold, acting as a framing device to all the gorgeous electronics that persist on top, crafting yet another superb groove for us to get completely lost within, with the bass line further adding weight and depth. The drums drop out for a moment, before coming straight back into it, only this time with friends in the form of beautifully considered high end keys that send the track to new places, as the bass break sequence comes in soon after, Flux once more demonstrating their knack for progressions and flows between varying structures. The drums cut out once more, with the filtered vocal sample lying above a bed of simmering keys and chords, before flowing through the breaks once more and finally arriving back into the bliss that is the full on chordal expression. Its masterful, its full of beauty and sonics, just amazing in every sense of the word. Truly a tune to remember.
There's a lot to commend this record on, both in terms of its variety, depth of sound and mood, but perhaps most importantly its the vibe that remains so strong across all the tracks. The flows and progressions do an excellent job at threading varying musical structures together, allowing the listener to flow through different interpretations of the many layers that operate so well in each track. The emotional pull of each track remains so very strong, with the chords hitting the sweet spot between euphoria and emotive soul searching, and the supporting cast of drums and bass lines are so inspired, crafting a foundation for it all to operate on so masterfully. Flux has a real knack for setting the vibe and the tone within their music, something which immediately presents itself but never falters at providing endless enjoyment. A record to remember, and one that will be on many people's best of 2020 lists this year for sure.
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