Today we shine a light on an extraordinary compilation that highlights some of the finest talents to release on the V4 imprint, with the sounds representing the epitome of early 90s soulful UK House and beyond.
The year was 1990, and the decade ahead would lead to perhaps the greatest leaps forward in terms of electronic music. The now legendary generations of Detroit Techno and Chicago house had inspired countless minds and scenes across the globe, the tantalising notions of Paradise Garage Disco had kept the groove alive, the quirkiness of Italo and New Beat had given way to endless euphoria on the dance floor, and new representations of funk and soul had captured the hearts and minds of lovers everywhere. For sure, these various stands developed numerous melting pots of influences, culture and identity, and very quickly dance music had found a new subculture, a fresh underground in which people could come together and celebrate themselves and the walks of life that revolved around the anchor that is music. From the originators in the African American and Queer communities of the Motor and Windy Cities, there would be many who heeded the call of both place's musical paradigms, with producers injecting their own personality and style into tunes that would create axises which to this day still persist as strong as ever. One genre that was curated from the fag end of the 80s was Deep House, with the genre in many ways having an immeasurable impact on the generation who entered the 90s at the peak of their creative whims and still to this day inspiring countless artists in their quest for emotive perfection. The deep tones and intricate vocal interplay that were the staple of the Warehouse and the Music Box gave way to a deeply emotive sound that focused a bit less on vocals and more so on instrumental feeling, with the drumming patterns hitting hard in a variety of ways whilst the keys on top crafted enormous levels of escapism. It was a sound which was certainly crafted in America but crept its way into many other countries, notably the UK which had imported US music to fuel dance floors from the Hacienda to the rave fields around the M25. By the turn of the decade, there were a number of labels and individuals who had devoted themselves entirely to this new set of audial rules, eager and willing to channel the essence which abounded from the US and Italian takes on Deep House, with the results consistently spectacular and timeless. The UK has a long tradition of morphology when it comes to integrating International music with originality, reflective of the multi-culturalism that has existed in the country for the best part of the 20th century, with many pioneering genres nurtured that pointed to many origins and traditions. The 80s was particularly fruitful, with genres such as Brit-Funk and Jazz Fusion making big inroads, alongside the development of UK Street Soul and Boogie, which remains one of the finest and most inventive of UK genres, which in turn had a big impact on the emerging Deep House scene that was to follow. It was just another showcase of how the UK approaches absorbing all manner of sounds and distilling it into a vibe that quickly becomes unique and influential in its own right, picking up from all kinds of tropes and genre stylings which feed into an over arching sound that works and operates on so many levels. We look back through time and still feel the era's warm embrace, from its intuitive musicality through to the rich melodies, the excellent vocal work and the tender atmospheres of adoration and loves lost, many of the period's finest cuts still pack a punch to this day and act as a reminder of the levels of creativity and ambition that flowed through many producers.
Out of the many UK Street Soul and House orientated labels that emerged from the UK during the early 90s, V4 Visions certainly stands amongst the very best in terms of its incredibly vivacious and meaningful discography. UK Street Soul stood at a confluence of influences, such as Brit Funk, Lovers Rock, Boogie and House, all of which were incorporated by the Black Inner City musical underground, with its key figures curating the vibes on pirate radio shows, house parties and clubs. A distinctly DIY genre, UK Street Soul was very much a British affair, building upon the foundations laid out by the early 80s pioneers and US second wave Funk Disco acts which in turn led to a sound forged by swinging and rich drumming patterns, rhodes like chordal arrangements and distinctive and enriching vocal performances. Its an intoxicating sound that has much going for it, and when blended with the additional tenderness of Deep House the sound becomes that little bit more enticing, and as a label its certainly the kind of vibe that V4 pushed through its incredible discography. The label, founded in London in 1990 by Alex Palmer and vocalist Trevor Ashaye, would tap into that beautiful convergence between UK Street Soul and Deep House in the most splendid of ways, engaging with the soft tenderness that exuded from both sides of the Atlantic to provide a series of sounds that leaves the mind eternally fulfilled and the heart yearning for more. The label moved between more straight up House sounds of both the Deep House and Garage House persuasion, along with records that leaned heavily into the UK Street Soul genre, with plenty of moments along the way that bridge the divide in bountiful and breathtaking ways. There's plenty of records here that chime to the rhythms of life, not just in their emotive atmospheres but in the techniques employed to ensure our dedication to the tracks is ever lasting. Going through their works, there's plenty to praise, starting off with the up tempo hip hop number 'Rhyme College' by the Fugitive Touch, that came out in 1990; the beautiful Street Soul of the 'Whats This World Coming To' by label staple Ashaye, that arrived in 91; the superb house groover 'Nowhere to Hide', also by Ashaye, that arrived also in 91; the big room sublimity of the 'Fantasy' EP, released by Insight and Ashaye, that arrived in 1992; the incredible energy found on the 'Jungle Biznizz' EP, released by V4 Visions in 92; the swinging emotion of the 'The Way We Were' record by Rohan Delano, which came out in 92 also; the garage house grooves of the self titled Paradise By Insight record, that arrived in 1993; and finally, 'I Found', 'Dreamin' and 'Realms' by Ashaye, that are all pretty incredible records and some of the finest examples of UK Street Soul going. The label certainly curated a vibe during its time, with the label heads shared love of Deep House and R'n'B helping to deliver some pretty spectacular moments that showed immeasurable levels of depth and scope. The early 90s was all about pushing the boundaries of possibility, exploring and further deepening the listener's understanding of what music is and where it could go, which came through with an abundance of quality from the time period. V4 paired two worlds together impeccably, taking in much of the new wave of music that flowed into the UK at the time and paired it with a distinctive character that shines very brightly to this day. We still revel in its intimate moments, its soft and inviting tones, its bountiful and graceful presence, all of which come through by the bucketload as we weave and dip through its incredible discography, one rich with presence and meaning that is so infectious.
And now we arrive at the subject of today's review, 'Things 2 Come', a compilation record that was the imprint's second release. The direction of where the label was going was firmly laid out in this collection of tracks, with a number of the artists involved going on to release solo EPs on V4 and beyond during the early to mid 90s. The record contains all of the tropes we will get to know and love as time marches on, with a delicious palette of tones, styles and performances on display to get your teeth into, with the genres moving between Deep House, UK street Soul, R'n'B and beyond. It would become the blueprint for things to come, and as a second release you couldn't ask for anything stronger really, with a flawless sense of progression that moves through the lines with a breezy confidence that you can continually get behind. Featuring Ashaye, Rohan Delano, Endangered Species, Julie Stapleton and V4 Visions, the core of the label is represented, and oh how do they have a journey in store for us today. So, without further delay, lets dive right into this treasure trove of delight.......
Up first comes Julie Stapleton with her track, 'Where's the love gone', which begins in the emotive of territories. The swelling synth line dominates the backdrop as the introduction goes through the notions, moving from the singular and progressing into the percussion with a remarkable flow, with the drumming pattern wonderfully complimenting the keys as they abound from underneath. Stapleton's words arrive soon after, weaving and dipping around the instrumentals, acting as a guide to the track to move between differing structures of density and melodic features, with the overall picture one of a journey from this place to the next one. The additional piano and backing vocals add weight and feel to the progression, particularly when the track breaks down through drumming sequences, breaking down the overall housey feel and moving the cut onwards. The idea of doing verses and choruses gets eradicated pretty quickly as Stapleton uses her voice as a lead instrument on top, with a call back effect operating on the top layers that create a real sense of dynamism. A beautiful opener, one that makes us dream of summer days. Up next comes Endangered Species with their track 'Ping Pong', and this one starts off with a feverish level of energy. The drumming pattern quickly evolves and then evolves some more as the drums go through the motions with such intent, as the bass line permeates through the glass ceiling underneath and the piano grooves along on top with a wicked sense of purpose, with the overall picture one of a jubilant atmosphere. The rising strings in the background create a sense of a climax coming overhead, with their presence leading into a breakdown of sorts that sees the keys continue to do their thing as the kicks move away to allow for that energy to arrive right back into the picture. The track gets back into a full swing, dipping and weaving around like nobody's business, taking one final dip to bring the swing beat back into the picture for a final hurrah, and the kicks come back into view to take us away into the night. Groove! Rohan Delano is up next with his cut 'Inflight', and this one is a real winner. The strings and chords open the windows, as light starts to stream through into the room as a women's voice whispers 'Come with me/I'll Set you free', with the whole track gently warming the walls and the soul in equal measure. Backing vocals arrive soon after, cascading down from up high to land right on top of the emerging bass line and tinkling piano, and as the strings and chords come back into view the words 'I keep dreaming' arrive, and the feeling is just utterly mesmerising. The dub section that follows provides a perfect counter balance to the rich melodic sections, and what arrives next is the soaring chordal and vocal arrangement that carries us away to the outer reaches, with its end taking us down once again into the depths of the bass line. The track builds itself up once more, the melodics now catered for with the striking piano lines and the repeating vocal line going over and over again, with the chords arriving once more before we move back into the piano lead, the transitions in this track are off the chart. We move so fluidly between differing arrangements of layers and tones, easily navigating the fields of expression to bring us up to the heavens and beyond. Lord what a cut.
Up next comes Ashaye with his cut 'Never Let You Go', and this one begins with a jazzy breaky drumming pattern leading the way. The light key line pounds away in the background, providing a light melodic touch to proceedings as his vocals wonders on top, drifting between single and multiple layers with a breezy effortlessness, moving between the lines so impeccably that we get totally lost deep within the sequencing of it all. The ingredients move between stripped back instrumental sections and full melodic areas, with Ashaye's voice doing the directing in terms of layering and direction, with the groove never letting up for one moment. Amazing stuff. Ashaye is up again next with his cut 'What's This World Coming To', which retains the breaky drumming pattern but moves the tempo down a notch. The backing melodic segments are more solid and full, with light piano lines creating a sense of diversity in the melodics as his voice arrives to complete the picture, wonderfully moving through the lines as we drift and then drift some more through the membranes of melodic excellence. The relationship that Ashaye has with the instruments he outlines underneath his vocal work is something to behold, expertly crafting a sublime relationship between the two lines of inquiry as we move through the notions at a lovingly curated pace, drifting from place to place as our mind is eased into the most blissed out of places. Gorgeous. V4 Visions come next with their track 'Nation of Islam', which begins with all manner of expressive percussive features and a series of vocal samples. The progression revolves around these two notions, and before long the Mr Fingers bass line permeates through to craft a sense of melodic momentum, with the vocal sample now stronger than ever, informing us of the Nation of Islam and the meaning behind it. Its a compelling dance track, one not afraid to wear its meaning on its arm and show to us what the religion is all about, with repeating vocal samples of 'Devil' reaching out from behind the speakers and giving us a profound sense of presence and substance. Up next comes 'The Way I Love You' by Delano once more, and this one begins with the keys setting the scene in the most delicate of ways. The twinkling singularity of the piano moves into the claps and the rising strings, with Delano speaking out to us across the plains of his love for another, his voice moving from the speaking into the gorgeous rising flow that we know and adore. The track then transitions into the most beautiful of outlays, with the bass line and additional piano chords crafting a rhythmic fusion that is unstoppable, with Delano's voice guiding the direction of the various elements in their quest to moving the soul. The chorus remains the first climax, before leading into a delightful instrumental section that highlights all of the beauty that exists within the depths of this cut. Delicate, purposeful and full of embraces, its a cut that keeps the blood pumping with its meaning and its feel. Incredible stuff! Up next comes the big one, 'Too Many Dreams' by Ashaye, and this one is just amazing. The chords signal the start of something special indeed, the piano rising and then some more, with the drumming pattern coming in just perfect on so many levels, but its the vocal work that steals the show on this one. Ashaye's voice remains on top of the world here, placing itself at the top of the clouds as it looks down upon all of us with its graceful feel, tonally moving through the notions with such elegance and flair, intwining itself with the keys underneath beautifully. Too many dreams, indeed, we aren't going to say anything else about this track, other than its utterly phenomenal, so go check it out!
Up next comes Endangered Species with their self-titled cut, and there's no messing around with this one. The piano leads the way into the dance, as the drums do the business underneath, with the hi hats crafting an infectious upbeat feel to proceedings, with the piano keeping the groove through the middle as the percussive structure keeps on morphing and moving with the times. The piano then moves in and around the surface for a bit, allowing the drums to breath and evolve, with an additional instrumental sample of sorts moving into the picture to really bind us to the groove and all it has to offer. The cut keeps on moving onwards and upwards from there, continually searching within its core for new and exciting things to show us, with the piano at the end leaving us wanting for the next dance. Sublime! And, to wrap things up, we have Julie Stapleton with her cut 'Gonna Get Some Loving', and this one begins with the strings getting us in the mood. The bass line and drums that arrive soon after have a distinctly modern feel to them, with the bass line in particular something to behold as we move in and around the groove, with Stapleton's vocal line appearing soon after to provide those climatic feels we all yearn for in House music. The outlay is impeccable, the heart is 100% (and beyond), and the overall tone is so well balanced and carried through, with the toms doing much to carry the groove onwards. Its a fitting end to a compilation record that really places you in a certain state of mind, and that is one of endless melodic and groove laden feels, within an atmosphere that is filled with adoration and joy, and its one we will always return to for a deep dive into something deeply meaningful. Beautiful isn't even the word.
To perfectly encapsulate the vibe of a record label into one compilation isn't an easy task, but V4 Visions made it look so very easy. The tunes showcase the very best in what the label had to offer, from the beautiful down tempo moments to the up beat house groovers - and everything inbetween - its a colourful and highly expressive selection of tunes that demonstrate that V4 were one of the powerhouses of the era in UK terms. The sheer level of talent, musicality and tonal understanding shine through on each cut, showcasing the very best of each producer or musician through their endlessly searching and passionate journeys from the top to the bottom. We cannot get enough of these tunes, and this is a treasure trove that you will fall in love with instantly. The best of the UK, right here.
You can purchase the digital album here:
or the vinyl here: