Never Dull – Secret Stash EPs

45turns writer Hugh Helmore picks apart the recent output of lo-fi producer Never Dull. 

Throughout his two Secret Stash EPs, Never Dull has certainly lived up to his namesake in producing a catalogue of delightfully jazzy grooves. Released in May, Volume 1 is a veritable treasure trove of early summer classics, making use of fantastic clean cut sounds blended neatly with a low fidelity brush. Volume 2, on the other hand, focuses more on the live element, bringing a plethora of samples to create massive, invigorating tracks.
The most enticing bit of Never Dull’s production is without a doubt the use of live samples. Melodies with flourishes, human imperfections and soul can often be hard to produce with, due to their stark difference in feeling to drum machines and electronically generated instruments. When pulled off well, however, a live sample can bring a startling amount of volume, complexity and emotion. ‘Friday Night Special’ from Volume 1 is a perfect example, featuring an improvised jazz melody that weaves its way through the song. It’s clear that Never Dull has taken extra care to blend the saxophone with the beat and synthesiser melodies, playing with the mixes over the course of the track to ensure they create a perfectly synchronised sound.
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Designing instrumentation to emphasise and subtly influence a prominent lead aspect is a talent in its own, and it requires a unique problem solving perspective on composition as well as a dense knowledge on the influence of the chosen style. Despite lo-fi house picking up somewhat of a derogatory meaning recently, it’s the genre that Never Dull is most associated with and he uses the usual aspects of the genre as a tool in the macro aspects of production. The tactical use of large amounts of compression, ambience and reverb gently blends melody and beat together, resulting in a compact yet sophisticated approach to dance music.
‘It’s You’ and ‘Saxyness’ are both driven by this aspect in their irresistibly blended grooves. ‘Saxyness’ in particular brings with it some satisfying features, including large string stabs and a heavily emphasised bass which are eased in with fuzzy compression at the edges. On the other hand, ‘It’s You’, has a more lo-fi feel with small breaks of clarity, creating an easy going funk when put next to it’s larger, more orchestral counterpart.
Another advantage of this style is that the bass and drums can be spotlighted without impeaching on the melodic parts of the track. On Volume 1 especially, the sound of the EP feels driven by beat and bass line, keeping some of the more repetitive compositions from feeling dull. Instead, songs such as ‘In My Soul’ sound like hypnotic house party anthems;,utilising subtle synthesisers and vocal samples that blend into the tribal drums. ‘Got Me Good’ is another great example of a rhythmically exceptional track, bringing up the low end with a deep, bouncing bass that seems to permeate the whole track with a sweetened late night summer atmosphere.
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By comparison, Volume 2 has a much greater focus on melody driven tracks, exhibiting a wider variety of instrumentation and a much heavier use of sampling. Both ‘Willie the Man’ and “Take Me Higher’ are closer to disco than lo-fi house with their use of electric guitars, brass and classic string stabs. Every so often, the beat peeks through the dense canopy of harmonies, working as a momentary break from form rather than a prime characteristic. It’s as if the rhythmic sections are working for the melody, rather than alongside it. This is a potential criticism of the second volume. Within the context of Volume 1, however these tracks are a dexterous variation on the expected style.
The neat transition across the EPs from late night funk to 80s beach party is incredibly pleasing, not least because the styles feel like inverses of each other: one features deep beats blended with a low key melody and the other has a vibrant melody driven rhythm. This variety of style is certainly the main reason that these two records stand out so much within Never Dull’s discography and, arguably, the genre as a whole.
In his previous work, Never Dull has gravitated towards smooth, down-played production with the intervention of long vocal samples and energetic instrumental breaks. This approach is present in the Secret Stash EPs, but it’s distorted, with the focus shifting towards creating a descriptive jazz and funk fuelled sound, rooted in the bread and butter of his discography while re-presenting itself as a clear evolution.
Overall, the catalogue of both records combined is refreshing and delicately familiar, a mix of equal parts dusty soul and a bright, jazzy sound. Never Dull has hit upon that magic sweet spot between relaxed groove and euphoric drive, meaning that his compositions are fit for almost any situation. These EPs are essential pre-party playlist material, reminding me – at least – of long summer days spent crowded round a slightly broken speaker somewhere in rural England, skating on that mythical balance between hard hitting beats and soft rolling funk.

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Benedek – Earlyman Dance EP [Second Circle]

Benedek supplies the tenth outing on Music From Memory’s more shuffle orientated counterpart, Second Circle. 

Hailed as the progenitor of ‘balearic funk’, Benedek has forged a name with standout releases on Peoples Potential Unlimited and Leaving Records. This next release on Second Circle is another step in the right direction for the LA-based DJ and producer.
‘Sub Terra’ is a giant robot guzzling humans at the crack of dawn on the streets of Koreatown, LA. The Uplift mix, which covers the rest of side A, strips the tune down, honing in on that springy bassline and building things back up with soft, delay-soaked percussion.
Over on the flip ‘Maca’ is cheeky undulating fun with flecks of acid around the sides, while ‘Timbalito’ introduces a spaced-out vibe workout to the sordid tones of synth bass and trumpet. Final track ‘Nucid’ slows things down with a subdued space romp more reminiscent of an outing on sister imprint Music From Memory. Overall, peaceful and meditative stuff that could also work in a club or festival setting.
Pick up Earlyman Dance at Remember to like 45turns on Facebook to stay in the loop on the best new balearic, funk, disco, house and world releases on vinyl and beyond. 

Watch Benedek’s live session on Resident Advisor, performing ‘Earlyman Dance’, which would later become ‘Sub Terra’:

Earthboogie – Human Call [Leng Records]

Earthboogie pull out an assorted bag of playful exotica, disco jazz and Chicago-tinged afro house.

Since the appearance of 2017’s Mr Mystery EP, we’ve been getting excited about Earthboogie’s debut full-length, Human Call. Earthboogie are an East London-based two-piece who derive influence from the latest of parties and the sunniest of far-flung islands, and, having previously been remixed by the likes of Mushrooms Project, they dropped their first full-length this May.

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Human Call is composed around a set of influences nothing short of eclectic; it combines Mediterranean guitar with loungey, broken beat musings on ‘The Getaway’, showcases bebop style brass solos on ‘Stargazin’’  and explores echoes of afrobeat on standout track ‘Silken Moon’, which features Nina Miranda on vocal/chant duties.

Opening track ‘Overground’ is an off-kilter menagerie of jittery percussion, African chants and a ruminating bassline that could have been pulled out of a Chicago house track. Indeed, throughout the record you find that Earthboogie emerge from a place where all the sensibilities of house producers are infused with a passion for the exotic, experimental and esoteric. That’s not to say that Human Call is an inaccessible record; on the contrary, all eight songs on this LP are immediate dancefloor weapons in their own right.

In reinterpreting African and tropical influences into a more psychedelic dancefloor experience, Human Call is somewhat reminiscent of Maajo’s debut LP from our Top Ten LPs of 2017. Earthboogie dab their fingers in tribal paint before touching on all the corners of modern electronic music, and the result is enthralling. Worth the wait.

You can pick up ‘Human Call’ on vinyl and digi at the Leng Records Bandcamp page. I would advise to do so. 

James Dole – Ex EP [Bergerac]

Feel the shimmering waves of James Dole’s Ex EP on Bergerac. 
At the beginning of May, Berlin-based Jens Dohle (humorously Anglicised as James Dole) dropped his ‘Ex EP’ on Bergerac, a local label headed up by Red Rack’em,
Unafraid to push the limits of what might be acceptable in a club environment, title track ‘Ex’ stomps through in majestic euphoria, stirring up four minutes of layered lo-fi percussion and industrial techno sensibilities before an anthemic synth pad work-out for the ages.
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‘Ex’ covers the whole of side A, and by the time you’ve flipped over you’re deep in the throes of balearic madness. ‘Fantasia’ is an exercise in sample riding that invites an immersion of the more personal kind. Dole creates a deep house fabric from which majestic chords seep through, drenching it in perspiration. This is heavy, heads-down lunacy with an introspective touch – you may well feel like you’ve done something wrong.
Third and final track ‘Grande’ takes a softer approach while retaining that angry metallic bass sound that we hear throughout the EP. There’s also subtle nods to broken beat in a breakdown flanked by echoscaoes and meandering moog.
Outsider music at its most accessible: James Dole is creeping in around the edges. For the deepest of Berlin basements.
Ex EP is out now on 12″. Pick it up at Juno

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Marc Bianco – Serious Mass EP [Moonrise Hill Material]

Gritty, jazz-inflected deep house from French producer Marc Bianco. 
Moonrise Hill Material have cultivated a reputation for earthy lo-fi/deep house releases from the likes of Ethyene and co-owner Folamour (including his first physical release full-length, Umami, late last year). February saw the label release the Serious Mass EP by Marc Blanco, another French producer crafting intelligent and highly soulful house music.
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After a cosmic intro, the woozy house chugger ‘Joy Steel’ and the high-octane jazz/breaks workout of ‘Interlude’, Bianco finishes out the EP with a hypnotic dirty piano house groove (Fête National) and finally Harland Jam, a titan of a track where sleazy jazz piano flirts with sample-box style percussion and a monstrous, meandering bass sound. It’s immersive stuff, and Bianco crafts sounds that pull you inside the production. It’s like taking a shower in dripping hot double bass vibrations and analogue bubbles of sound. Warmth.
Marc Bianco’s Serious Mass EP is out now on 12″ – you can buy it at Phonica

Koji Ono – Incognito EP [Chuwanga]

Koji Ono weaves balearic, deep house and boogie influences into a sensual poolside tapestry fit for the laziest of afternoons and headiest of sunsets. For fans of classy, jazz-inflected house stylings.

Four tracks that roll along with a soft breeze and easy lilt. Pitch it down a little and you’ll see what I mean. Sea-soaked synthesiser pads ring out over crisp claps. A record that I can’t help but describe via excessive alliteration. Stunning bass work that sounds anything but synthesised- there’s a real emphasis on ’natural’ feeling sounds used to create a set of deeply immersive mid-tempo cuts.

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Breezy and slightly cosmic, the 45turns way.

Incognito EP is available on digital and 12″ vinyl at Bandcamp

FYI Chris – Home Alone (Church)

FYI Chris are a small collective of producers taking Londinium by storm with a string of well-received deep house releases over the last three years. Following efforts on South London’s Rhythm Section and Bristol’s Banoffee Pies, they’ve taken to Church for their latest outing.
Opener ‘Home Alone’ stands out for its reverb-soaked trumpet musings that soar over lo-fi breakbeat drums and hints of strings, a siren call at twilight to take to the streets.

The starry, pulsating interludes of  ‘House Dog’ circle like smoke, and B2, ‘Courtyard’, is a voyage through the vast territories of space with a silken touch.

Go get it now: ‘Home Alone’ is a deep, expertly-produced EP with a galactic touch, working like magic in solitary pursuits and togetherness.
Home Alone is available on vinyl at Juno, or the Church bandcamp page for mp3. Alternatively, support your local discerning vinyl dealer.