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Shaka - The Jazz Bar Next Door (Vibes And Grooves, 2020)

Jazz house reaches new heights on this super groovy release from the producer at the top of his game.

To maintain longevity within music is to be able to respond and reflect the various flows that dictate the directions of genres. Remaining within the forward thinking side of things, grasping at the core essences of the sound and being able to incorporate new elements is essential, and we many producers who have constantly delivered high quality records due to this. Not content to rest on their laurels and be happy with their past glories, instead musicians reinvent, discover and experiment with varying styles, looking to reposition themselves within newly formed scenes and genres. For those who began their journeys in the 90s, its perhaps more comfortable in regards to attitude, as many within this time period spent enormous amounts of energy to integrate themselves into as many genres as possible. As a result, when looking back through producers discographies, you see a road map of varying crossroads, styles and atmospheres, a rabbit hole of delight that gives over so much to those willing to traverse it. Its wonderful to be able to delve into careers and see how people reacted and drew inspiration from different places, immersing themselves in the styles of the time but always looking, always listening, to what might follow, keeping their fingers on the pulse in terms of self-evolution. So many who remained in the industry have achieved this, their origins very much a contrast to their current outputs, but that remains as an exciting and enjoyable reminder of their past achievements. It often makes their later releases seem all the more remarkable, and a respect is established in that people appreciate their talents in not just one genre but in many.

Kurt Spichiger is certainly one of those musicians who has evolved in leaps and bounds throughout his illustrious career, with the music found within a rich and colourful representation of the full spectrum of dance music. Since 1989, the Swiss producer has flowed through a variety of genres, soaking up the big and bountiful sounds of 2nd wave Techno initially, before moving into the realms of minimal and tech house, before the latest incarnation that has seen a string of highly celebrated house records being released, ones that reflect the current combining of jazz and groove with the tendencies of deep house. To go back and experience these transitions between sounds and styles is a wonderful thing, helping us to get to know the man and his passions a little better, and perhaps it is no surprise that his varied musical journey has been resulting in currently records that have a boundless perimeter and dense complex layers. Spichiger has largely released music under his Shaka alias, but has also branched out as S-Mode and under his own name. Looking back through his discography, there are a few highlights, and something really for everyone, but a few of our favourites include the Acid fuelled 'Untitled' EP from 1995; the 'Screen' EP from 2004, that showcased a more minimal approach; the full and bountiful 'Smooth Sailing' record from 2008; the superb 'Laying in My Bed' EP from 2010; the super silky 'Urbanatural' EP from 2015; the equally fantastic 'A Chance To Dance' record from 2016; and both of his 2019 EPs are well worth it too, the first releases on his new label Vibes and Grooves. All three of his releases as S-Mode are well worth checking out if you enjoy high quality minimal techno too. All in all, exploring and getting to know his discography is a real treat, where the good feelings extend over all his work, be it music that is cut for the club or tracks that could soundtrack the most vibrant of Saturday afternoons, there's little treasures that any music fan could get involved in. Its certainly worth your time getting to know Shaka and his music, for sure.

And now, we arrive at his latest effort, his new EP on Vibes and Grooves, 'The Jazz Bar Next Door'. Whilst Shaka has incorporated jazzy vibrations on his previous EPs on his own imprint, we now see the fruits of those incorporations grow at an exceedingly quick level, with each cut on this record displaying a wonderful feel of live instrumentation and groove. The combo of piano keys with pulsating bass lines, all spread over long tracks, come together effortlessly on a record that must be considered as a career highlight. So lets take a dip.

Up first we have the title track, and we begin with the drumming patterns setting the tone. The percussive elements lightly chime underneath a busy series of conversation, the intensity of interaction matching the building instrumentation. Soft key stabs groove under long drawn out pads, swelling as the drums begin to pick up their intensity ever so slightly. The drums have this real sound to them, their swinging groove and beautiful sense of balance really making an impression, as the key work on top is equally flowing and vibrant. The melodies move between fullness and lightness at a moments notice, with piano solos left to breath on their own, responding so brilliantly to the sounds and textures grooving underneath. The continual evolutions that occur within this track are staggering, the tune always on the move, never for one minute standing still, just continuing on in true jazz style. The warmth that resonates is off the chains, added to by the soaring key and xylophone solos that sing so much to each other. This is a living, breathing world, the absolute blueprint for good quality jazz house. Fucking marvellous, a track you can completely let go to, and by the time the acidic line comes through, you let go one final time. The sound so complete, the vibe so wholesome and integrated, the experience one of immense delight. Ace. Up next comes 'Journey Through Time', and we are greeted by the drums once more. This time though, we are already locked into the environment from the title track, so the drums begin alone, grooving along with a lovely skip in their step. Before long, they are joined by the deep piano chords, alongside the bass line that bubbles underneath. The vocal sample then swings into view, softly talking over the enveloping goodness that continues to roll within the track, as chordal stabs groove into the picture. The beat then picks itself up, powered by its new melodic elements, with all kinds of variations and drumming patterns continuing to add to proceedings. The keys grow and groove, becoming more full by the minute, as the track keeps its steady momentum continually moving forward. The vocal sample then returns, this time in the form of a proper old school fast paced singular element, adding further variety to the track. Whilst the overall vibe is certainly more classic house leaning, the jazzy vibes shine through constantly, be it the nature of the stabbing chords, the swelling lines that move throughout the backdrop, or just the general swing that the track exudes so effortlessly. It makes for phenomenal listening pleasure, where we are transported very much into the tracks world and environment, one brimming with vitality and audial depth.

To finish things up, we have 'Straight to The Core'. The drums once more kick off proceedings, grooving away to the rhythms of life, before giving way to one final melodic exploration. Here, the chiming stabs in the middle lie on top of all manner of swirling chords that reside behind, setting the scene beautifully. The track then flows through into a impeccable groove, the bass line abounding underneath with all the charm and character in the world. The key solo that surfaces soon after brings the jazz vibes into the picture, gently floating along as the beats keep the ship steady. Another solo flows from here, its breezy hues adding further depth to this melodic masterclass, the track continually building and evolving through many structures and layers. Its quite the ender, a triumphant expression that bookends an EP that epitomises the very best ideals and values of contemporary jazz tinged house and dance music.

A record that will forever keep on giving, and a further evolution to the sounds that Shaka has been crafting since last year. A strong identity is beginning to emerge, another chapter in a career that has seen so many variations and styles emerge, but this part might be the most exciting. The music within is brilliantly collated, composed beautifully and considered to within an inch of its life, the spaces for us to get immersed in constantly appear. This release will continue to inspire and nurture for years to come.

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