Various Artists - FTD 4X401 (Feel The Drive, 2020)
Updated: Sep 10
The renowned party starters draw their focus to their debut EP release, with four cuts that drip Italo, EBM and New Beat excellence from some of the scenes very best.
Throwing nights is a good way to begin a legacy, one forged by a collective love of sounds and records, and a way in which to endear people to the kinds of experiences you wish to conjure up. The heat of the moment, the feel of the crowd, nodding along in approval of the direction of the mix, the floor and ceiling reverberating to the rhythms of the past and the present, crafted together to forge some semblance of what the future might hold. Its a brilliant place indeed not only for the people who frequent them, but a place for the people behind them to get a feel for the next steps they wish to make, which more often than not leads to the odd record or two coming our way via a new imprint forged from the dance. Records that surface from these places always represent the identity of the night they have been birthed from, a wonderful reminder for those who go to the nights, and a insight for those who haven't been yet, a window into the deep night where the pulses are flowing hard, but imaginative blending always remains around the corner. The cuts that often arrive on these records seem to represent the brilliant peaks that light up the night, their ingredients often far reaching and diverse but always feeding into the over arching vibe that starts to shine through in the music, the threads found within certain elements holding the flow together. If you close your eyes for a moment, you feel very much immersed in the goings on of the night, the energies found within stirring up emotions inside us, a clear and coherent image of unending joy and delight, a visceral feeling to dip your toe into. We see all kinds of club nights putting out their own records, and its always a beautiful melting pot of styles and experiences, with each night putting out their own interpretation of the dance, and the music found on these releases always a coherent reflection of what you might come across during a night spent in the hands of highly capable taste makers. Moments and times to really loose yourself, a swirling fever that amounts to dancing the night away, surrounded by like minded individuals who share in the collective atmosphere, one of lush tones and all round sonic excellence. Its always a wonderful thing to see the spirit of these parties imprinted onto wax, with the connections made between the two adding a further level of expressionism which we can all get behind.
This gap has been bridged recently by Szymek Lawik and Martin Lefter, with the debut release on their label, Feel The Drive. The duo, who started Djing together in 2014, have a shared passion for digging through the crates to find the finest in Italo, EBM and New Beat music, a trio of genres that have allowed many to become endeared to their sound, via the duo's knack for excellence when it comes to the mix. The pair have blended throwing their own parties with production work and radio, with their shows a cornerstone for people invested in anything Italo tinged or related. Constantly striving for sonic diversity, listening through to their radio shows really takes you to a place, with all the cuts emphasising the big feel mood and melodic brilliance which those genres are most celebrated for, with our minds imagining exactly what their DJ sets in the club must feel like. Our closest experience would indeed be their NTS radio shows, with our favourites including the 11th January 2019 mix, with a focus on a wide range of old skool excellence, and their most recent (from yesterday!), which shone a light on a lot of more recent sounding productions, alongside some select cuts off their new record. Its always the sign of excellent selectors when they take the time to meander through time and space, crafting together a narrative that flows with the ebbs of musical history, opening doors but also nurturing connections between the past, the present and the dance floor. Their production work has the feel of being so closely connected to their radio sets and shared adorations, with the trio of creative outputs so strongly representing the pair, their identity spread out over everything they do, which does wonders in crafting meaningful connections with music listeners. Its always wonderful to see these kinds of threads being nurtured, in that you really get a sense for the vibe that people look to craft in their music and whilst playing out, and if the bond between these two are strong, you feel invited into their world just a little bit more. Their production outputs to date include contributing a remix to the 2018 The Soviet Union record, 'Emptyhead', off the Night Noise Music imprint; a sizzling euphoric hands-in-the-air track, 'Galatic Gaucho', from the 2019 Eclectics comp 'Love Vol.1, that is a wonderfully melodic cut with all the flow and grace in the world; and finally, a gorgeous nod to contemporary Italo in the form of the cut 'Below', which featured on the Red Lazer Records comp 'EP No. 10'. All three cuts are different and intriguing in their own way, each with a fair amount to say and convey in the ways in which the tracks swerve and sway, crafting little worlds of passing lights to get involved and immersed in. The windows and doors into their musical worlds feel that little bit more ajar as a result, based on a foundation thats set up to keep giving us exceptional records for years to come, and who knows exactly how far the boundaries will continue to be set.
Following on from these successes, the pair have now bought into life their new label, Feel The Drive, with a stunning debut record, 'FTD 4X401', that invites artists from around the world who share in the duos ideals for warm and beaty stunners of the Italo EBM kind. The four tracker is incredibly diverse, acting almost like a sampler to their music collections and radio sets, with each cut offering up a differing view of the core genres of the pair, with the music flowing from huge warm italo numbers, through to quirky EBM infused crackers, right through to the leftfield moments of sheer bliss, there's a lot to unpack and delve within with this one. The artists featured include Lawik and Lefter under their Ondata name, alongside fellow synth cosmo pilgrims Franz Scala (a big favourite of ours here at Endless Grooves), Greek music maker Aggelos Baltas aka Anatolian Weapons, and finally the duo of Viky O and Ric Piccolo, who operate under the Furor Exotica name, and the result of bringing together such wonderfully diverse artists has resulted in an incredibly strong debut showing indeed. Prepare to exit your mind for a little while, as your body takes over to be commanded by the narratives that begin to flow intensely from the music, with all the groove and melodic freedoms you could dare to imagine. So, without further delay, lets get into it.
Up first is Franz Scala with his track, 'Sabrina', and the grooves are in full effect as we descend into the chugs of the bass. The drums are upbeat and jubilant, providing a pulse alongside the never ending bass line that is incredibly hard to deny, the two elements whipping us up into a storm of epic proportions, and after taking a bit of time to throw some variety in there with the kicks, the guitar line looms large, and from that point on the melodic feel of the track enters into a full on spectrum. The layering of keys and synths is particularly wonderful, with the vocal line 'Sexy Girl' reverbing around the room on top of the ever shifting melodic lines, with the sequence that follows the first vocal input really something to get lost in. The main crux of the melodies consists of the rising feel, with the solo key line adding such force and meaning, a real crest of the wave that washes over the dance, and the swells in feels just keep on coming and coming, locking us into a beautiful series of emotion fuelled landscapes that we really don't want to stop. The vocal line comes back in, adding another layer of dialogue to keep driving the the song forward, as the guitar riff rises to prominence to match, and after it ends we descend into the the breakdown, where the energy takes time to recuperate after that explosion of feels. The bass line continues to chug with the drums, as the guitar makes sporadic appearances, with Scala looking to build up the wave once more, but this time it feels more drawn out, to ease us back into the groove. The vocal aspect becomes more heavy, crafting a new and dynamic pulse that keeps the interest perked up very high indeed, as we move forward with the knowledge that we got a chance to fucking enjoy that song. What. A. Track. cooor! Anatolian Weapons come next with their track 'Ela', and the vibe descends down just a bit into more slowed down territories. The slinging strings at the beginning then moves into the most breezy and dubby of beats, swaying to the vibrations of life itself, as the soft rhythmic keys begin to lay themselves on top of the engrossing beats, moving along at the steadiest of paces. The sultry key line then aligns itself with the track, as deep swelling vocals add further intrigue to proceedings underneath, before both fall away to give way to the main vocal drive, and its appropriately sultry. The vocals go through a few lines, in a proper Balearic kind of tone, before swapping places with the main melodic drive, the two elements acting as joint leads. The short but exceptionally sweet strings solo then gives way once more to the vocals, again delivering on the seduction front, before once more giving way to the wonderfully deep and layered melodic structures, something which is a real pleasure to get deep lost within. The track then continues on in this vein, taking every new element in its stride, paving the way for nights where you truly close your eyes and just take off to new and imagined pastures. A real winner right here.
Furor Exotica come on next with their track 'Fat Training', and as the beat comes in you get the feeling you won't be standing still at all during this one. The kick that start things off is underpinned by a aptly charged bass line, which sets the tone for what is to transpire, with the additional synths doing much to further the cause and progressions. The vocal line comes next, appropriately asking the listener to 'Work It', giving cheeky commands for us all to follow, and when the instructions are over, we get to experience the main melodic drive of the track, a beautifully conceived and perfectly placed lead synth line that adds so much to the progressions of the track, before we revert back to the vocals once more. The kicks and bass do much to keep the momentum going, with no breakdown in sight, as lots of little elements keep shifting and moving to maximum impact as the track moves onwards and upwards. The swelling pads that come into play then move the track to some real euphoric places, capitalising on the swift rhythm to drive the listener to some new heights, with the track eager to continue on with its energy right into the deep of the night. To finish up this incredible sequence of tunes, we have Ondata with their cut, 'Kolossos', and the tempo remains up there from the previous cut. The kicks and bass are represented right from the off, with light touches and dynamics adding further to the progression, as the vocal sample does its thing before signalling the introduction of the snare, with the track now shifting up a gear into supreme overtime. The vocal sample rings out over the track, which crafts a real underbelly of sound for us to get lost in, the groove incredibly hard to deny, as little percussive features sweep through to occupy all the spaces left between. Around the half way mark, a little textural change hints at a new phase, and lo and behold the break down emerges, which gives way to that transition we never knew we needed, but how effective it is. The chuggy bass line descends and then ascends within the sea of groove, its feel one that wraps itself around the listener as it swirls and explores into the inner reaches of the human imagination. A perfect end to a record that suits any time, any place, any where, whatever your context or mood, there is something here to lift you up or help you escape. And we really wouldn't expect anything less.
The best label records are often diverse, representative, dynamic and, perhaps most importantly, inkeeping with the essence of the label and those behind it. This record does all these things and more, crafting a series of cuts that are wonderfully expressive, not just in terms of mood and feel but also in the messages they convey, be it with helping you to loose yourself on the dance floor or just traverse through the cosmos or the city at night, you just can't help yourself but smile and throw your hands in the air. Each track a brilliant slice of the core values that Lawik and Lefter hold dear, a contemporary walk through how all these 80s driven genres still inspire talented musicians to make wonderfully deep and groovy music, the stuff that hits the sweet spot when we need it. As debuts go, its a real stunner, and who knows what brilliance will make it through the Feel The Drive door next.
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