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Various Artists - Various Vol. 4 (Chubby!, 2021)



On their latest record, the beloved Australian Deep House imprint kicks things up a notch with a beautiful selection of original cuts and remixes from both family members and new faces, and the results are pretty extraordinary to say the least.


Here at Endless Grooves, we are all about family vibes, and when a label presents to us this kind of feeling through the records they push out, we are all for. As you look back through a label's discography, you get a sense of the directions they were aiming for at the beginning of it all, and being able to see all the records together you see how that journey mapped out and in many ways what the future might hold, and the results of this journey only come from the heads behind it all and their overall visions. There's a certain magic found within a label's works when the sound feels like a collectivised one, where like minded individuals come together to share and collaborate on releases which help to build bridges between their own sonic palette and that of the label's, and its this unity through sound and substance that really drives the momentum onwards and upwards. There's a lot to be said about how to expand and refine the sound of a label, and that comes via the careful selection of artists who seemingly share the same core values as the label, and this only helps to fuel further the ideals and boundaries of an imprint. People then start to flock to that imprint with the knowledge that what they will release will meet a certain set of criterias, where the last record sets out the template for the next, but at the same time hints at bigger and brighter things to come. Each release seems to translate over this essence that builds from one record to the next, an invisible feeling that transcends the music we hear and helps to build a audial framework in our minds, one that smacks of the label's core values but also provides all the room in the world for the producer to create their own sense of narrative. Like chapters in a novel, it's an intriguing journey to be a part of, and one that has you hooked from the moment you set eyes upon it's initial paragraphs before reeling you into a universe that has no ends, with plenty of twists and turns along the way to provide you with moments of inner satisfaction. It's an identity that shines through, a DNA of sorts that accommodates both the label and the producers, a universe that wraps itself around you and brings you ever closer, with emotion and feeling rising right to the top as the music interconnects with ourselves, and never for one second do we feel left behind or lost in it all. Family affairs are often tight knit ones, where the energies of the various members bounce off one another in providing a sequential experience which only binds the listener closer to the essence and spirit of it all, with plenty of substance, emotion and tone thrown in for good measure as a means to push onwards and upwards with positivity and meaning. It's a blessing to get to know these kinds of labels in the contemporary era, as their light shines that little bit brighter amongst a galaxy of competing light sources, and it's these sources that keep us coming back time and time again for more, like an unending well or oasis in the simmering sands.


In many ways, the music that has been released on the Chubby! imprint meets most of the things we discussed in the intro, and almost pushes the meaning of continual investment in a vibe to new heights of understanding. The label, run by Aaron Andrews and Steven Sullivan, has been a mainstay in both the Australian and International scene since it's inception back in 2018, and during the time between that point and the present day the imprint has been serving up some of the finest Deep House you could imagine, from some of the genre's most important names. The emphasis from the get go seems to have been on the art of spilt EPs, with two artists featured on both sides of the wax as a means to convey a wide reaching view of the genre, with the producers featured often complementing each other's palette impeccably as we drift from one kind of deep house to the next. Not only that, but there is also room for a number of excellent remixes to be included into the process, which only furthers the idea that having a wide reaching pool of like minded individuals to pick from remains a key aspect of the label's audial ambitions. The music found on each of the releases is top quality, not only in it's driving progressions but in the melodic outlays that make themselves known and present across the board from the get go, with the long form nature of the tracks allowing for maximum engagement and involvement from listeners. Just looking over the names that have released on the label you get a sense of who the imprint looks to seek out to release on it, and it helps to put the pieces together about what kind of identity Chubby is looking to achieve with it's music. The label really has gone from strength to strength, with each release shining incredibly brightly by itself but also giving into the over arching feeling that resonates from the label, one that only serves up the highest quality of dance music, music that serves both the mind and the body in equal measure, and that double edged sword has very much given the imprint a wide reaching audience indeed. Even though the label has released 4 records before now, all of them are very much worthy of a highlight, starting off with the debut release, 2018's 'Various Vol 1', which featured two original cuts from Trinidadian Deep and Ewan Jansen, alongside excellent remixes from Mr YT and Mike Grant, and this record very much set the ball rolling for what was to come next. 2019 saw the release of 'Various Vol 2', which again featured Trinidadian Deep alongside Javonntte, with further remixes from Patrice Scott and Vincent Floyd, and it's just as deep and moving as you would like. Also in 2019, the label released it's only solo EP, 'Signs of Life' by Jose Rico, which remains one of our favourite House EPs here at EG, and is a fine fine example of how to pair rhythm with chordal excellence. Finally, last year saw the third instalment in the 'Various Vol' series come into being, which featured original cuts from Vincent Floyd and Brad P alongside remixes from Deep88 and Derek Carr, and as ever the vibes were truly excellent. In all, there's plenty to celebrate about Chubby, from the collection of icons that have come under it's wing to the incredible music which rolls out of every release, there's a distinctiveness that runs through their releases that remains very much on point and interconnected from the last. The music envelops you in all the best ways, with effortless musicianship converging with excellent intricacies that take the breath away, with all of the artists involved residing very much on familiar wavelengths. The label lives and breathes Deep House, and the make up of their releases only suggests that the bonds being forged here will last a lifetime, and we for one are very much on board. Be sure to check out their previous works if you haven't already, it's all pretty damn amazing.


And now we arrive at their latest effort in the 'Various Vol' series, which remains their most extensive release to date. We are graced with 4 original cuts alongside 4 remixes of each one, with familiar faces such as Jose Rico and Ewan Jansen returning to the fold alongside Aleqs Notal and David Swatten to provide us with the original goodness. The vibe, as always, is impeccably balanced, with a hefty amount of swings made between differing tempos and spaces in order to understand the fullest spectrum that persists within the Chubby household, whilst the remixes only fuel the imagination with their exciting takes on the originals. The remixes come courtesy of Life Recorder, Leonid, Nail and Joey Beltran, and they all add a new dynamic into the mix, all of which compliment and contrast with the original cuts, and it only helps to push forward the ideals that the label holds dear to this point - originals met new perspectives, and this allows for the scope of the music to be pushed ever further into the beyond. It's an excellent collection of cuts, and without further delay, lets dive into this little masterpiece of house music....


Up first comes Aleqs Notal with the track 'Planetary Insanity', and this one begins with the drums to get us going. The rhythm is suitably swinging, with the kicks hitting hard underneath a collection of hats and other light percussive elements, with the first melodic elements of sort coming into the picture soon after to draw our focus to the forefront as the keys start to align on the horizon line. The pads are soft and light, complimenting the driving bass line that grooves within the rhythmic structure as flurries of hats start to drive the track onwards, with continued development occurring within the melodics up top that fuel our deepest emotions to come forth. The track swells ever so slightly before a singular pad comes in from the horizon line, which shifts the density in a delightful way, not so much a transition that remains tangible but one that you feel within you, and before long the track takes a dip in energy before launching back into a new sequence. The track then shifts from melodic soft segments through to the focus turning to the drums, with these little spaces providing time to get involved and invigorated by the energies found within, and the final dip comes when the drums move away to reveal the bass and keys. The track then lifts off once more, spreading it's wings and flying away into the early evening sky, taking in all it can as it envelops us with it's beautiful embrace, and that is one way to kick start a record. Beautiful stuff. Up next comes the Life Recorder remix, and this one starts off with the drums once again, but in slightly more up tempo fashion. The drums remain full of space for the keys to arrive into, and this occurs with the filtered feels that spread throughout the liminal spaces within the track, as the solid chord progression fills up the mid section of the cut with meaning, as further percussive elements get thrown into the mix to really supply the groove. The main chord progression then arrives up top, with plenty of meaning and feel thrown into the momentum as we move from one side of the pan to the next, taking in all we can see as we shift through the gorgeous tones that slide our way. The acid line that pushes through the bottom end of the cut transposes perfectly alongside the expansive chordal blemishes that groove around on top of the momentum, as the good vibrations keep coming our way as we shift through some ethereal tones indeed. A superb remix, that really captures the essence of the original with all the feeling in the world.


Jose Rico is up next with his track 'Agonias', and this one starts off with the kicks to get things going. These are joined by additional percussive elements that align very well with the emerging tempo, and just as we start to admire the drums in all their glory we see the chords come into view, chiming along in typical Rico fashion as our heads nod from side to side at the forthcoming melodic outline, with the bass adding some oofthm to the bottom ends as little key line intricacies swirl around the main progression. The overall blend is intoxicating to say the least, with plenty of little bits and pieces to pick up upon that just invite you to take a closer look, as the progression takes it's time in revealing all to us, and this feeling repeats itself all over again as the track deconstructs itself in order to build back up again once more, and we are all for it. The chords remain an ever present, an anchor so to speak as drumming lines come in and out of view with a beautiful sense of momentum, with plenty of emphasis placed on how each individual object within the sea does it's job in moving us to a very serene place indeed. Glorious stuff right here. Up next comes the Leonid remix of the previous cut, and this one takes proceedings into more dubbed out territories. The drums become a little bit more muddy, but this only adds to the allure of the track, as the chords slowly start to emerge over the hills in the backdrop, as additional sequences move and groove within the structure to continue the vibrations going on strong. A key sequence then holds the melodic section together as the pads retreat into the distance, but they make a comeback in the most sublime of ways, unravelling and cascading over the rhythmic foothills like water, before arriving at our feet to greet us in the most satisfying of ways. The track continues onwards in this fashion, taking the time to explore all the nooks that persist within this universe, as we float along atop the chordal progression, it's purity and feeling lifting our spirits to the highest peaks and drawing us closer to the natural frequencies that guide us all through life. The track continues onwards with it's quest, feeling out all the corners of the map as we drift from one point to the next, eager and willing to feel everything out as it gets presented to us. An incredible experience, indeed.


Up next comes Ewan Jansen with his track 'Basilica', and this one presents itself right from the off. The chordal arrangement gets things going, it's feel and tone breezing in the winds of time, leading the way towards a new tomorrow, as the drums move their way into the mix to really get things grooving along, with the kicks hitting hard underneath. The track then weaves and permeates around it's pre-defined frequency, it's momentum drawing strength from the excellent rhythmic flow that props up the melodies so very well, with plenty of focus given to how new elements drift in and out of time, as the lightest of chordal applications grooves it's way into the blend as time passes by. The bass remains so very strong throughout it all, it's progression allowed to remain permanent as all the other elements drift through varying sonic spaces, with the additional key lines that arrive up top in particular a delight to the senses. The main chord progression moves away for a moment to provide space for the other elements to really shine, and that is exactly what happens during the second half of the track, as all manner of feels and tones present themselves to us, and it's just so, so good. A pearl of a track. Up next comes the Nail interpretation of the cut, and this one again presents itself to us with fullness in mind. The drums swing, particularly with the clicks appearing on both sides of the pan, as undulating bass tones move and grind through the middle, with the lightest of arpeggios flickering around the centre point of the groove as an indication of what might come next. The melodics begin to build from here, with additional pads throwing themselves into the mix left right and centre as the layers become incredibly vibrant and enriching, with steps taken in all directions in order to fill out the spaces set between the drums. The ways in which the keys move is a real delight, with this feeling become more apparent as we take a dive into the drumless breakdown, as everything gets stripped away to reveal to us a beautiful melodic outlay indeed, and the vibrations keep on coming as the drums return to see us through into the next segment. The keys become overtly playful, with plenty of sequences swirling around one another with a feverish intensity, their intricacies playing out for all to see and experience, with plenty of audial frequencies for us to get lost deep within and feel all kinds of things. A very special remix, this one.


Finally, we have David Swatten with his track 'Wave Energy', and the opening salvo kinda takes you very much to the beach, with the water lapping amongst your toes. The deep expansive chord progression sets the stage and pulse for things to come, as swooshes and additional layers make their way into the spaces between, with the drums arriving soon after to carry us away on a wave of feeling. The little variations that persist in the spaces between the chordal placements are such a delight to be involved within, as wee key lines emerge from the transitions from one bar to the next to add such variety and colour to proceedings, like the cascading key lines or the repeating thuds of the bass, it all comes together so beautifully and majestically. We nod along the energies that the track provides, even as the drums move away to reveal a euphoric underbelly of feeling, before launching right back into a space where rhythms run free and easy, before taking one final dip into a beatless section and then moving right back into the groove. There's a real sense of sophistication to the textures and tones, with the keys never feeling too much and certainly not too little, but quite simply perfect in a arrangement and clarity sense, with the listener invited very much into the world and given a grand tour of it's many sections and points of interest, and we are all for it. Deep house at it's absolute finest. To wrap things up, we have the John Beltran remix, and like the original things start off full and open. The drums are light and airy, the keys atop spacious and full of meaning, with the drums soon multiplying to include hats and claps which help to push things onwards and upwards, with short yet incredibly sweet stabs adding flavour and groove into the mix, with sweeping chordal lines pushing through the entirety of the blend which provides that sense of movement. The overall melodic outlay is gorgeous, with density applied in a different manner to the original, but by no means less impactful, with plenty of room given to all the elements to really sing atop a rhythmic structure that moves firmly with the times and never lets go of what might come next. It's a fitting end to a record with such drive, such audial diversity, and such heart, with plenty of moments along the way that take the breath away with their emotive depth and wide reaching scale. This record is one for the ages.


Bringing like minded producers always produces some interesting results, and if their creative visions align within a certain set of parameters, the results are always superb. This is the feeling you get coursing through your veins throughout this beautiful record, with plenty of producers involved either providing original cuts or reworkings, and yet it all just flows together so beautifully, with no dull moments or passages that feel out of place, it simply moves from one soothing state of mind to the next, content in the knowledge that quality will always come before and after it. Every track on this record offers up a bit of the personality of the person behind it, with plenty of key features leaping out which take you back to a producer's own works, but seeing these in the context of others just makes the experience even more enjoyable, as we drift from one track to the next with such eagerness to see what might come through. It's a testament to Chubby for being so sure in the music they want to release, and likewise the producers they bring together and their exceptional talents to produce such beautiful music, and the result is a House record that sticks long in the memory after you finish listening. As bold as it is beautiful, daring as it is calculated, every second of this album will have you locked in, and all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the ride to steady euphoria. An absolute diamond, this record.


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