Top Five Releases || June

S.O.N.S ‎– Shimokitazawa One Night Stand

To call S.O.N.S enigmatic would be an understatement. A musical wild-goose chase the supposedly South Korea based DJ/Producer(s) seem to enjoy throwing curveballs. Three EPs in three years all named after districts in Tokyo, a brilliantly backdated sound championing breakbeat, acid, electro, techno, deep house, atmospheric samples and a website entitled ‘’ add further hay to the stack. It’s a refreshing approach, largely faceless, largely nameless S.O.N.S are perhaps most easily recognised from the iconic Tokyonese districts that make up the title of their EPs; Shibuya, Shinjuku and most recently Shimokitazawa. Ultimately, the focus is simply on good quality music while the anonymity is a sideshow, but not a distracting one.

I would argue that S.O.N.S, over the course of three EPs and eleven songs, are guilty of not producing a bad track. They are progressive and eclectic, without a comfort zone whileclaiming recognisability from their emphasis on the atmospheric. Debut EP Shibuya One Night Stand is half slamming percussion, classic deep house synth lines and half experimental; interrupted by an erratic, warped vocal electro interlude and a DJ tool locked groove on the B2. Unspecific, significant-seeming titles and clever sampling maintain ethereality in an otherwise dark and heavy endeavour- it’s an unlikely pairing, common themes in the outfit’s production. The follow up Shinjuku is different, elongated, techno leaning, trance oriented, jungle dabbling it’s an expansive and immersive workout and over the course of six tracks the release covers substantial ground.

Enter Shimokitazawa. The most recent, shortest EP opens with close to a three minute introduction made up of bird calls, tweets and screeches, cricket clicks, acoustic percussion and ambient, breezy melodies which support a rising acid building bassline arpeggio. It’s a refreshing opening that requires patience. Indeed, it’s a reassuring change of pace considering the sometimes rapid gratification, rinse and repeat based formula of dance music. In this instance patience is rewarded as a strong reverberating drum kick signposts the track’s beginning in full. The opening melodies & bassline are joined by rattling breakbeat, driving synths, the satisfaction of acid allusion and light hi-end percussion work. The result is euphoric, a track for anytime it’s instantly familiar and aptly titled ‘A New Life’. The B-side ‘Reversed Skies’ checks the boxes the A doesn’t. Darker, frantic, cosmic, aquatic or arctic it has a mesmeric quality while delivering a punch ‘A New Life’ doesn’t. Shimokitazawa One Night Stand ironically is well-rounded and complete (see its title),  the two tracks easily traverse their almost 20 minute duration without breaking stride and amidst the expanse of recent quality release the EP manages to hold its head firmly above the parapet.

Buy: Vinyl

Various Artists - Limited Series 005 [Banoffee Pies]

Certified exquisite summer lounging goodness from the ever dependent Bristol Banoffee Pies boys. With the label now nearing its third birthday, their mantra of championing the music rather than the individual driving force behind it never ceases to please, and, becomes more and more admirable in this day and age.

The whole EP reeks of light percussion paired with floating brass sections: Chaos in the CBD’s (quite literal) brother from another mother, Jon Sable, delivers the goods with added venom in the opening ‘Light Transportation’. Seb Wildblood completes the A-Side doing exactly what he does best - simple drum elements doused in sunshine and melodic overtones transporting you to a bed of palm trees and far beyond your Glastonbury comedown.

If the first half of the record is what gets you moving at the pool party, flip it over and you have three downtempo numbers to soundtrack the end to your evening and melt away in the long summer nights. ‘The Theme’ dotes on the verge of a delicious, Nujables esque, Japanese hip-hop instrumental and Tell’s ‘A Tipping Whispering’ is a particular gem for its hazy aura and sublime muted trumpet.

Buy: Vinyl

Denis Horvat - Bruto [Afterlife]

Launched just over a year ago, Tale of Us’ Afterlife record label has established its niche sound for eerie, melodic and synth techno, a style epitomised by the German duo’s own performances. 

Denis Horvat’s track ‘Bruto’, released on June 16th as part of the Real of Consciousness Pt. II compilation, is no exception to that rule. A killer of a track that Afterlife can thank him for, played as unreleased material for months prior to its release by the likes of Dixon, Âme, Tale of Us, and more. As a producer, Croatian born and Danish bred Denis Horvat’s talent is now unquestionable – releases on Innervisions, Exit Strategy, Aeon, and now Afterlife have propelled him to the front of the ambient and synth techno scene. Each release is now hyped with anticipation, and we’re expecting big things from this man going forwards.

Buy: Vinyl / Digital

Pete Herbert & Martin Denev - Made In The Shade [Nang]

British House and Disco wizard Pete Herbert has teamed up in the studio with Bulgarian jazz pianist Martin Denev to produce his first album in well over a decade Made in Shade

Pete really needs no introduction. He started his working life in many of London’s record stores such as Daddy Kools before running one of his own, Atlas Records. Pete used this time to practice and improve his skills behind the decks and as a result is in high demand to this day. His reputation as a producer really kicked off following his work with Phil Collins under the name of Reverso 68 on Eskimo Recordings. Pete will answer to many names as he is not short of musical collaborations; Reverso 68, LSB, Challenge and Disco Deviance to name a few. He also runs his own label Maxi – Discs, as well as putting on his own radio show ‘Music for Swimming Pools.’

Martin Denev is well respected in the Jazz scene as a concert/studio musician as well as a DJ. His real passion is for Nu-Jazz, Nu-Soul, funk and groove driven music. He grew up in Bulgaria where he underwent a classical music education and since then has performed at festivals globally, sharing his music with ranges in style; from Latin to electronic. 

The album itself Made in Shade was released in mid-June and showcases the influences and musical direction of both Herbert and Denev extremely well. Pete’s friendly harmonic synths and bass friendly rhythm is everywhere on the record. An underlying Balearic feel combined with Denev’s piano based chords and melodies creates an upbeat album made for the dance floor. Robert Owens was given the job of vocalist on one of the tracks called ‘Pass Me By’. Owens is majorly associated with the late 80’s era of Chicago house. He grew up singing in church, but years later he was DJ-ing in 1985 in Chicago where he met Larry Heard and formed ‘Fingers Inc.’ The three artists have done a sterling job on this record, let’s hope they go into partnership again soon.    

Buy: Vinyl / Digital

Audiojack – Spirit EP [Last Night On Earth]

Audiojack like to keep it up to date and fresh as they are acutely aware of the ever-changing industry they find themselves in. This EP is a prime example of how the Ibiza based duo are doing just that with two tech-house roof raisers and a remix from Fort Romeau.

‘Spirit’, the title track of the EP, opens with a warm beginning that gradually moves into a hard-hitting, synthy baseline which certainly catches your ear on the dance floor and is easy to point the finger at Audiojack. Fort Romeau’s remix is less club focused, instead, the Londoner has focused more on twisting and turning the pretty synth work of Audiojack. The final track ‘Equilibrium’ is a progressive number with some epic chords in the middle that really set an atmosphere. Hats off to Audiojack!

Buy: Digital

Chosen by Hugo B, Marcus P, Hugo P, Alex M & Barney C