Round 2 (you can read round 1 here)! We asked the good people on the Test Pressing forum if they fancied reviewing three more records and here we go with Joe Morris, Guy and Deep Concentration. This week we've got the lovely Italian crew Rollover DJs, Woolfy & Co under their new more succinct Projections moniker and Tonica and Dominante from those good people at Archeo.
Rollover DJs - Just A Little Bit In My Pocket (Rollover Milano Records)
Guy – The Rollover DJ’s new one ‘Just a Little Bit in My Pocket’; is another collection of hymns to a warmer season. The track from “From Puglia to Jose” is a Methenyesque guitar homage to the great man; simple, but heartfelt; gentle percussion, quietly strummed strings, and a light 303 wash, drumming the sun down into the sea. “Cigarette Please” is coffee on the terrace in the morning rays; more warm single strings and the sea in the background. Synths chiming gently against the white walls and a gentle Neu (ish) riff. “Play On” saunters along all 70’s prog; hints of Santana in the Caravanserai heat. “Start Something New” is all light and hope, and possibly the most dancefloor moment of the EP - a leftfield 80’s Club Tropicana 4x4 jaunt. I wasn’t sure to start with, but it sounds so brilliantly innocent and uncynically happy, and I think that’s part of the overall charm of the whole EP.
Joe Morris – With their Rollover Milano party series, Rollover DJs have been thrilling Milanese dance-floors and beyond for years. The party has spawned a label and edit series with an eclectic attitude, yet filtered through a keen eye for a dance-floor groove. Their next release sees them depart a club oriented selection of tracks for something altogether more emotive and contemplative. Recorded in January 2021 during Italy’s harsh second national lockdown, the EP begins with beautiful sundowner ‘From Puglia to José; an emotional homage to Jose Padilla. ‘Cigarette Please’ combines languid guitars with gentle hand drums while ‘Play On’ is the most complex song based track on the release; deeply groovy with its jazzy live guitar work and modular synths harking back to a classic cosmic 70’s funk rock style. Rounding off the release is ‘Start Something New’, inspired by the lack of motivation due to club closures, the song carries a real positive message reviving happier times with the hope of more to come. It’s upbeat tone once again marries cool guitars and analogue synths for a buoyant finish to the release.
Deep Concentration – Now as then, I’m still not all that clued in to the real Italy and it’s sound – but if the new EP from Rollover DJs is any indication, I should be. This new EP on Rollover Milano records offers three lovely seaside tracks with gentle guitar, sparse hand percussion and some delightful new-age synth textures – these won’t bang on the dancefloor, but will accompany any half-decent sunset nicely. The more I listen to them, the more I like them. The B-side offers an optimistic little slice of house-pop in “Start Something New” featuring vocalist Nic Cester. Earnestly sung, there’s something about the lyric and peppy step to it that sounds like a rom-com montage – I think I’ll stick with the first three tracks, thanks.
Projections - Original Cell (Ritual Release)
Guy – Next Up - “Original Cell”: I’d kind of forgotten about Woolfy vs. Projections & I wish I hadn’t. This (I think) is the first release from them outside of Permanent Vacation, and consists of their own original track, and a couple of remixes. Theirs is a monster of a track, kicking off with a haunting end-of-night concert hall piano crash, morphing some harpsichord (?) with heart-wrenching strings and brass stabs; halfway through a vocal drops in - a kind of life-affirming Stones style hymn to love - sweeping strings, warm piano ripples and the rest of the orchestra driving the tune to (a much more) Emotional Rescue. The Khidja Mix starts all aquatic, ambient key washes with a plucked guitar, hands sliding frets, then looped tribal drums, gradually introducing layered elements from the original; swirling, twinkling synths join the party and a swooping vocal sample segues in and out, bringing the whole thing to a sunset crescendo. The Coyote Deep State Mix treks deeper into that falling One Dove sunset, with dubby overlays and a mid-tempo step, CDM looming large, with that string sweep somehow sounding even more dramatic, and a harmonica (not sure where that came from) giving it even more atmosphere, before plunging into the warmth of a mediterranean night. Super lovely.
Joe Morris – For their first release on their own Ritual Release label, Projections drop the ‘Woolfy’ aspect of their moniker as they present one of their most blissed out productions to date with the gorgeous ‘Original Cell’. Dripping in sumptuous authentic horns and strings, this semi-ambient sun-dappled West Coast slice of loveliness is elevated further by Woolfy’s multi-tracked ethereal vocal. Accompanying the original are mixes from Khidja and Coyote; the former turning in an epic paradisiacal wonder, complete with psychedelic touches that only intensifies further while Coyote deliver a more wistful mix that chugs along rather pleasantly, adding more drama in the strings and dubbing out the vocal.
Deep Concentration – Life is full of odd coincidences, so I had to take notice when the new Projections project arrived in the ol’ inbox. Moments before, I was flipping through a box of random records and had pulled out “The Return Of Starlight” and had wandered over to Discogs to see if any of the LPs were available for reasonable prices here in the States. (Short answer: Nope) This is my type of modern Balearica – there’s so much going on that I’m not even sure how or where to start. The original mix of “Original Cell” starts with plaintive piano and then just gradually gets larger and larger – soon you’ve got full strings and synth washes and backwards-reverbed piano swells - and all that’s needed to keep it propulsive is a small shaker and some congas. Only towards the end does it hint at a vocal – we may never know for sure, but the original sounds like it might have been a massive rework of something else to begin with. The Khidja remix ups the cinematic vibes over the course of 10+ minutes – reverbed percussion gives this a dub-not-dub a half-speed throb that slowly shimmers and eventually grows into a full chug. Finally, Coyote peel all the layers off and lay the drums and synth bass bare – allowing hints of the vocal to signal the changes as the synth/string swells are re-introduced over the mix. Coyote can always be depended upon to deliver a mix that could work on a dancefloor, but isn’t so tracky and DJ focused that it becomes a chore to listen to while out on a walk. In fact, all three mixes offer something different – it almost becomes a lovely little mini-album, perfect for a small jaunt outside, into the fresh air. Maybe on the Italian Riviera – why not?
Tonica & Dominante - Tigre (Archeo Recordings)
Joe Morris – Archeo Recordings continue their flawless reputation as one of the World's most essential reissue labels with the release of 'Tigre'; the much sought after 1979 disco funk cut by Tonica & Dominate. Original copies have been spotted on the second hand market for eye watering amounts so it's a delight to see this as a 12 inch package complete with contemporary Leo Mas & Fabrice mixes. With it’s call to arms horn blasts, guitar licks and irresistible funk bass groove the original is a high point in the Neopolitan disco funk sound at the fag end of the Seventies and dawn of the Eighties, and even credited as being infuential in a new wave of Neopolitan acts such as Nu Guinea. Leo and Fabrice turn out highly respectful yet updated mixes; accentuating the guitar groove and looping out the playful hooks for a more dance-floor friendly work out. Viva Italia!
Deep Concentration – As a little kid, I was fascinated by all things Italian. Fiorucci, Ferraris, and that flag – all colorful and awesome. I wanted to be sophisticated and well-designed and cool and fast. I wasn’t any of those things, and that’s ok. I never learned the language, never visited the country, and somewhere around 10 or so, decided that saving up for a pair of Gucci sunglasses would make me, at best, a total poseur. I returned the borrowed Italian records back to the library and moved on with my life. I didn’t learn much from those records anyway – I craved sleek and slick supercar-style songs, but corny folky accordion ballads were what was in stock. This Tonica & Dominante record reminds me a little bit of the better tracks I’d hear from those borrowed records – lyrics that I couldn’t decipher, disco horns, weird “ahhh” sounds, growling men warning me about “the tigre”. It’s fun, it’s slightly funky – it sounds like it was made for a dance bit on a variety show. Disco hi-hats and congas - and that bassline! Well, here in 2021 we’re in luck because Leo Mas & Fabrice do the needful – they loop up the better parts of both tracks from the original 7, toughen up the mix, and bury the vocals, putting that bassist front-and-center. Both dubs are completely playable – muscular enough for eclectic dancefloors, without sounding Ableton-loopy. Still have no idea what they’re singing about, though.
Guy – The new 12 on Archeo Recordings showcases a couple of tunes from a 1979 lost Italian Funk 7" - Tonica & Dominanate’s Tigre & Gennario O’Sioux. Both original tracks sound properly 1970’s - all jazzy film horn licks, sexy vocals, patterned carpets and paisley curtains, coming on all soundtracky - they’d fit nicely against an episode of the Sweeney (if it was set in Naples and perhaps featured Maria Monti instead of John Thaw). It’s the remixes from Leo Mas & Fabrice that give both tunes a bit more weight and dancefloor purpose - their update of Tigre picks out the funky guitar, layering it over a more insistent 4x4 drum, the horns and percussion fills making it sound like a souped up afro-italian version of “Who Is He & What Is He to You”. The Gennario revision is similarly funky - and starts a bit closer to the original version in feel - there’s some dubby effects introduced in the second half of the track which with the guitar hook gives it a hypnotic bounce - some (not quite enough IMHO) Fela-like trumpet teases briefly and then drops out, leaving the track to boogie away itself by the speaker.
Big thanks to the chaps for reviewing these records. Guy is on the forum as Guy and also @5imian5 on Instagram. Joe is Joe Morris on the forum and @joe__morris on Instagram. Finally Deep Concentration who you can also find as Camerobo Classics on instagram.