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Sofatalk - South Side Remixes (Broken District, 2022)

Building off the success of his much lauded 'South Side' mini-album, Sofatalk is given the remix treatment by four brilliant producers, who all bring wonderful flavours and inventive ideas to the table in a edit album for the ages.

There's always something to be gained from differing interpretations, particularly when an artist is asked to read between the lines of another's work and bring forth a new perspective for listeners to take in. It provides a new dimension to be explored, a soaking up of the essence but a reimagining of the parameters, a reworking that engages the mind and allows for positive viewpoints to flow forth and flourish. We are of course talking about remixes, redits, touch ups, call it what you wish, but the artform has been around for a long time now, and as a tradition it has allowed some truly special albums to become elevated to greatness, or in the form of a remix album or EP, a body of work now has a companion which it can chime along with until the end of days. Remixes provide a positive contrast, the flip side of the coin, a new ray of light and colour within the spectrum of vibrancy, a alternative space to the one we know which invites us to draw new conclusions from the offerings being made. Remixes also showcase the power of synthesis that is very much prevalent within Dance Music, where the style and tonal contents of the original is extracted and placed within another artist's creative sphere, the result of which pulls at the foundations of the original in an instance of rebuilding from the bottom up, and this attention allows for a totality in difference but also similarity to come forth. The process is as much about respecting the original content as it is about creating something new, and as a result of this we have seen some absolutely groundbreaking remixes taking place over the past few years. You have the truly out there remixes, ones which take the smallest of elements and expand them over a series of barnstorming stanzas, or you have the in depth interpretations which translate multiple layers from within the original and place them within a new spatial structure that has you smiling all over again. A good remix, in our eyes, can portray both of these feels at the same time - creating space for new elements to flourish, but being creative in the application and structuring of the original elements, and when this all comes into place you have something truly magical in your hands.

All of these feels, and more, land hard and heavy on the 'South Side Remixes' album, which sees four remixes of tracks from Sofatalk's wonderful 'South Side Album', with both records landing on the ever impressive Broken District imprint. As the main creative outlet of producer Piero Paolinelli, the Sofatalk name has become associated with breezy, jazzy and indefinitely groovy house music, with plenty of emphasis placed on harmonic quality and how the drums swing within and outside their complex polyrhythms. Each record released under the name has its own intrinsic quality to it, be it either within the new aspects that put a smile on our face, or the similarities that we have come to know and adore, there's no end of creative application from Paolinelli, who's wizardry at the keys guides us along to a perfected state of musical nirvana. Some of our favourite records by him include the progressively smooth 'Beyond the Stars' (2015), the snazzy and deeply hypnotic 'Echoes From The Southern Place' (2017), 'Scissors and Shapes' (2018), and the gorgeous 'White Pt. V' record which was released alongside Last Nubian in 2021. In all, his work as Sofatalk resonates within the listener in so many ways, channelling into that interface between Jazz and House that has been so prevalent in recent years, but he always finds a way to make his music sound fresh and unique. The motifs that infiltrate his work are the signs of a producer who feels at ease with his style and always open to understanding how the vibe can grow and evolve in numerous directions. Many of these feels can be found within his sole LP effort to date, 'South Side', which landed on Broken District in 2019, and its safe to say that the music found here really did put Sofatalk on the map. The album is very inkeeping with the Broken District style, a sultry and richly groove laden affair that showcased Paolinelli at his most exploratory, his mind eager to explore the vast potential of his enriching sound. Not one genre takes centre stage for the entirety of the record, instead House, Broken Beat and Jazz laden rhythms all take turns in crafting a foundation for a beautiful palette of melodies and bass lines to move along to, and to sit through the experience is simply a joy.

And. now, this exceptional album has an equally impressive remix record to go along with it. Picking out 4 cuts from the original to work with, Broken District invited Tour-Maubourg, Contours, Warren Xclnce and Jus Jam to provide their alternative takes on the vibe found within 'South Side', and proceedings do not disappoint. Each track is beautifully insightful, crafting a bridge between the originals and the new pieces of work that helps to join the two bodies of work together at the hip. The contrasts and new ideas are helmed very well indeed, and underneath it all lies a boldness that helps to keep the identities separate to a degree, but always together in essence. Even 4 years after its initial release, 'South Side' shines very brightly indeed, and with these new reworkings, it gives us more reason to appreciate it alongside these fabulous new cuts that reshape the dynamics and recontextualise the moods. So, without further delay, lets dive into this proper beauty....

Up first comes the reworking of 'Ella', courtesy of Tour-Maubourg, and this one begins in true Tour fashion as a sweetly deep affair. The kicks land true through the middle as soft percussive elements abound through the middle, with the most delicate of keys feeling their way amongst the mist, and before long the sax that was so prevalent in the original reverb their way into life. Intelligent introductions are made in the form of hats and snares, along with gorgeous new melodic additions and a light acid line that moves its way through the space with ease and rhythm. The horns are carefully blended into the chordal outlay, never dominating but merely chiming along to the waves, and as a collection of sounds it works flawlessly. The track takes a dip in energy before launching itself back into life, with additional piano work accompanying an increased density of sax sounds as the track works itself towards the ending slide, and as an experience there are plenty of positives to take away. A superb reworking, and one that carefully considered how one element of the track could be used as the anchor for everything else to flow off of. A remix of 'No Frills' comes next, with this one coming from the finger tips of Contours, and this track comes out of the gate very quickly indeed. On what was a densely layered percussive affair on the original, Contours strips things back at the beginning to focus purely on the intense chord structure, which allows itself to be rolled onwards but as time passes the drums make themselves known, and the jazz leaning feel is very much alive and kicking here. The chords begin to take a little journey as time passes by, and as we arrive within the first breakdown we see a signature Contours break down in the layers, with new lines being injected into the mix as we look to achieve liftoff. This sequence is expanded upon as time passes by, with plenty of flair added to craft forward momentum as we look all across the board and see majesty manifest itself in all forms. Contours teases us with further excursions into the depths before slamming everything back home with the return of the drums in their totality, as the acid line abounds with brilliance through the middle, doing much to add flavour to the groove. Its an impressive reconsideration of the original, with plenty of thought placed upon how the extension of the original can be squeezed out to maximise the emotional gains, and that emphasis works brilliantly.

Up next comes the reworking of 'Raw Ivy', with this reimagining coming from Warren Xclnce, one half of the excellent Kassian duo, and this one flutters into life with some very soothing tones indeed. The chatter breaks the ice, and before long we are joined by a floating chord line and the hats, which quickly develops with a percussive structure to match, that grows from the background noise and establishes itself firmly within the immediacy. The resultant sound is intensely groovy, with plenty of little blemishes here and there adding greatly to the melodic character of the piece, which seems content to move the chords from side to side with a real sense of intent. The track's first breakdown sees the listener absorbed into a deep set well of quiet beauty, with elements unravelling with such precision and fever all around, and before long the bass line emerges as the key driver for the next phase. This creates a wicked contrast with the previous stanza, which emphasised a lucid layering system to convey mood, whereas here the elements align with one another to really place momentum in the hands of the groove, and it works oh so very well. This remix translate the groove of the original, whilst working out a new outlay entirely for the melody, and its a hazy one at that - glorious across the board. To wrap things up, we have the Jus Jam 'Only Cuts' reworking of the title track, and this one begins with the chordal flows to get things going. Jam keeps the textural quality of the keys that are present in the original, but here he focuses primarily on the singular to get the groove rolling, and as this chord reverbs through the mid section the drums start to grow organically around the pulse. A delightful bass line moves into view from across the horizon line, which encourages new key features to slide into view, and as this relationship begins to blossom we arrive within the most delicate of breakdowns. Every element is given room to breath, from the expressive organ sequences through to the hard hitting bass notes, everything here is set up to entice the mind to push further into the mists, and as the drums return we are reminded of the glorious set up and how it has developed further within the mix. What a wonderful ender, and what a final reminder of the excellent reconstructions that went on within this record. Four supreme remixes, each building upon the last in terms of creativity, scope and passion - exactly the feels you want from a record of this kind.

Remix records offer up alternatives to the norm, a new angle or series of angles that allow the listener to further explore the spaces and elements of a record or track via the prism of another's eyes and ears. Sofatalk's bountiful work has long been heralded for its groove and key work, and now we see those feels extended into four differing vibes on this new remix record. Each track reflects the visions of the producer behind it, but always finds the time to engage with the interface between the originals and their own take, and this means everything falls into place very organically indeed. We are moved by the thought and the flow, engaged to the utmost as we swing from one distinctiveness to the next, eager to understand what might be hiding around the corner, and what is hiding round there is always very exciting indeed. Broken District have smashed it out of the park once again, and with this new record of theirs we see so many new possibilities open themselves up in the future. Bravo, all round.

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