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Steve Marie - HO! (Philoxenia, 2020)

The newly formed Philoxena label welcome producer Steve Marie into the mix with a brilliantly eclectic melting pot of underground sounds that will place you firmly in the midst of the dance.

Music has a real ability to transport hearts and minds to certain places and contexts, sometimes in less obvious ways but more often to a specific place in time, perhaps beyond our own lifetime and into a distance space where the rhythms and moods flowed a little differently. In recent years, there has been a renewed focus on the sounds that swirl around the annuals of dance music history, in that so much music got released and in many cases the inspired sounds never made it beyond certain cities and scenes, with many records never reaching certain music enthusiasts simply due to geography and a lack of internet presence. There was so much excellence and inspiration that swirled around that it makes a lot of sense for current producers to look to these times as a sense of shaping their own audial journeys, with little bits and pieces from here and there interwoven into a unravelling narrative that is part foot in the past but a huge eye for the present and the future. These kinds of artists clearly have a real passion and investment for this era of music, and along with a naturally exploratory nature have continually sought to craft music that acknowledges the roots of it all whilst still commanding a sense of the contemporary. If you are also invested in these time periods, you begin to hear particular drumming patterns, deep panning key lines, or a general overall feel that rings true in the 90s orientated part of our minds. In some ways, it comes across as utilising the music as a kind of axis, a reference which bounds and guides the music into a new system or style, and then the results often craft a sound that joins the dots between the old, the new, and the many differing networks that exist very much in a spiritual plain of existence. When blended just right, these sounds feel extremely fresh and invigorating, utilising the tools of the past as a means to define not only what a singular producer is trying to push in a sound, but also contributes significantly to the contemporary discourse and goings on. The ebbs and flows of the dance floor are extremely varied, awe inspiring and fascinating, and throughout the eras scenes and genres have tapped into this feeling of moving between the lines and times to nurture the souls of those who have come for a new side of proceedings. Producers who care deeply about their origins and what sparked their journey in the first place but also have a fundamental understanding of the music they make and what it means to make that music. The kind of sound that channels into that inner feeling we all have when we think of the dance, but also containing a wonderful spectrum that spans multiple times, multiple spaces and listening moods, an intrinsically rich audial experience that pairs established trends with new identities and places. These producers do so much to further the sounds of the contemporary musical landscape, where possibilities open up where there didn't seem to be before, and with a vividness that allows us to dream of certain places once more.

Within a sea of contemporary producers doing much to further the ideals of established genres, Steve Marie has done much to forge out his own unique voice in relation to sonics and feel. The Corsican native has quickly honed his craft via a intense grounding in the techno and house genres, with his passions developing into production which has seen significant records arrive on some of Europe's most forward thinking labels of the past few years. His style remains very much within the existence of present day stylings whilst being heavily informed of the notions that guided previous producers during the 90s era, with a heavy emphasis on finding a excellence balance between the two but ensuring spaces for which his own identity can be heard within the underbelly of the sound. Its very clear that Marie has spent a significant amount of time developing his musical identity, which contains numerous features and feels that continually surprise and delight in equal measure, an inherently energetic sound that keeps the pulses fluctuating til the break of dawn. It also ensures that the music has an almost contextless feel, in that of course it remains very much aimed for dance floor listening but due to its densely layered nature, alongside having many delicate features and transitions, it means that when played at home you simply revel in the amount of brilliance going on, appreciating the craftsmanship for all that it looks to showcase to us. The music very much remains a love letter to the past times, but with a keen ear for all that binds the dance floor and its energies within the present day, an eternally morphing audial space that relies on producers like Marie to continually carve out sonically enriching narratives for us to all follow in the dance. In many ways, Marie's music brings the futurism that inhibited many older genre stylings and incorporates it fully into his own visions for creating music, with such a delicate line being crafted that operates along the merged lines of the past and the present. Its a difficult thing to pull off, but Marie does it in some style, always able to blend his own musical identity into proceedings that has resulted in a body of work that is simply irresistible at times, a discography that will certainly have you imagining a dance floor somewhere in the deep crevasses of your mind. Some select records from his works include the intensely groovy house vibes that flow from his debut, the 'Voice EP', that arrived in 2015; the joint EP with Luis Malon, 'The Resistance', that further showcased Marie's rich and engaging sound, that arrived in 2018; the powerful technologic messages found on the succulent 'Outrance EP', that landed last year; and the excellent and omnipresent energy found on the joint 'Psy Galaxy' record with Astral Body, that also arrived last year. Be sure to check out both the 'Signal' and 'Transgression' records, that feature Marie and his fellow OPAQ label members crafting some brilliant house and techno cuts that do much to further the contemporary narrative. In all, Marie certainly adapted his passions for music into a sound that nurtures the connections we all envisage and perceive which bind the current way of thinking into the contemporary discourse. A inherent feeling that the music has a lot to convey but always pulls it off in surprisingly brilliant ways which will have you eyes closed and mouth smiling due to its intensely layered manner and all encompassing emotional tone. If you have a moment, we highly recommend you go back in time and check out some of his earlier works, they are certainly worth it for their vividness alone. Excellent stuff.

And now, we arrive at his latest offering, 'HO!', which arrives via the newly formed Philoxenia imprint, with the label being formed by Cocktail d’Amore resident Luigi Di Venere and Neu Verboten. Perhaps more so now than ever, Marie really delves into the furtherest innards of his wide and varied sound, with the incredible balance found on the EP surfing between EBM, breakbeat, New Beat, progressive house, techno and trance, all of which is remarkably covered in four cuts with superb technicality and creative application. You really move and groove with the changes in tempo and mood, a perfectly all encompassing experience that takes in the very best of the dance, with the cuts applying themselves into any kind of mood you wish, a meandering journey through multiple decades, places and contexts. And its all here, brilliantly recreated from the finger tips of a truly extraordinary producer. So, without further delay, lets get into it....

Up first comes the title track, and we start as we mean to go on with this one, as the bass line flows immediately before the breaks come rolling into view. The intensity is palpable, the structure of the track superbly balanced to provide a gracious flow but also to hook you in right from the off, as the initial arrangement quickly morphs into a percussively complex affair with hi hats and a housey undertone giving the track a compulsive sense of rhythm. Not for one minute does the forward momentum get lost on us, as the mini vocal break leads into a acid leaning sequence that sees the drums respond in kind, the two joining forces as we become hypnotised by the dance laden sounds on display. The vocal line leads back into the initial composition, with the breaks leading the line under a singular chord stab, before leading back into the complex mid section with all kinds of intriguing sounds flashing before our eyes, as the track then flows right back into its main driving feel, and like that we are left to continually play out the rhythms in our heads. What an opener. Up next comes 'Devil Inside', and this one begins in similar rhythm surroundings, but with a slightly differing feel. The bass line is heavily influenced by EBM/Italo sequences, with the structure allowed to flow in through time and space, its incredibly deep sound pulsating through our minds and bodies with extraordinary success, with little light melodic touches finding their way into the top ends of the tracks flow. This then leads right into the first hook, with the chords chiming upwards before leading into the lead line, a high octane chord change that leads the energy levels up to feverish levels, with the vocal line then leading the track into an intensely pumpin' mood. The track is now in full force, transitioning its way expertly from point A to point B, with our heads spinning at just how well Marie pulled off those movements between the lines, and that feeling continues for some time yet as he moves quickly to join the dots between the structures with much success indeed. The track plays off its core themes, evolving quickly between numerous chains of thought that do much to further the excellent narrative that inhabits this space in time we find ourselves within, as the bass line binds the tune together with all its comings and goings superbly. An experience you won't forget in a long while yet.

'Romanée Conti' arrives next, and the tempo comes down a little bit for this one, but the tone remains just as compelling as the previous cuts. The soundscape opens up with the light key line operating in a semi-ethereal world, whilst the bass line keeps our feet firmly on the ground, as our minds look to align ourselves with the space between that begins to fill itself with all manner of intoxicating percussive features and elements. The track gains traction as it moves between the gears and into the main rhythmic drivers, with skipping hi hats interwoven with toms and kicks giving the track a very engaging feel moving forward indeed, as the melodic elements quickly develop in complexity as eerie floating keys and cosmic space age sounds abound from the top right down to the bottom of the flow. An initial climax occurs as the technologic bass laden sequence comes up to meet the rapidly hitting snares, in a moment that really perks your attention as the track moves into its next phase. The chords return, before moving back into a dubbed out existence, as the vocal samples call out to us from within the sea of continually evolving sound, ourselves being given over to all the comings and goings that exude from this excellent track. The cosmic laden key line has one final moment in the sun before fading away into the distance, the track showcasing its brilliant rhythm section one final time as the vocals say goodbye to us, as we wave back to the outer atmospheres. To wrap things up, we have 'Trancia', and as the name suggests, we are in for one hell of a final ride. The chiming fast paced synths that greet us straight out of the gate indicate an extremely high tempo affair, and like that we arrive right into a progressive house/goa style trance epic that remains as inviting as it does throughly energetic. The trip is intense, with the reverbing acid line swirling within the fast paced rhythms, with a number of layers working alongside to craft a tonally rich track that also operates on a very interesting sonic level, with swirling chords panning from left to right like water flowing from its closest source. The intensity is upped as the lead chord line comings smashing into view with all the gusto and bravado in the world, activating a deep primal urge to get up and dance til the morning light takes its first breath. The sound is intoxicating, an entrancing sequence that does a lot of intelligent things in order to provide a maximum level of satisfaction in relation to the transitions and forward momentum. The track is one final dynamic thrown into the mix, another context, another place and time, in which we can loose ourselves within one final time. A firm nod to the future, with a look back to the past, a pairing that comes together in perfect harmony on this stunning display of energy.

You close your eyes at times during this record and imagine some kind of dance occurring somewhere, some place, at some point in time, and yet you only really imagine yourself at one of Steve Marie's gigs. Only by having the utmost control of your craft can you allow your music to reside in many places at one time, but here Marie simply demonstrates his abilities to infuse and further his style via the vibrations that bind the past and the present together. There's a wonderful display of genres and styles thrown into the mix that keep things invigorating and exciting as time marches on, with a constant flow of engaging rhythms and deep set melodies to enjoy and free your mind to. As debuts for labels go, you can't get much stronger, and for Marie its simply another day at the office making excellence. What more can we say? just put it on, and let your mind wonder. And maybe, your body might too. Power and grace never sounded so good together.

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