soul clap

Album Review: EFunk - Soul Clap

Image source: Mint MagazineAlong with contemporaries Wolf + Lamb, Soul Clap's singles have become somewhat notorious for their general strength but slightly off-kilter house and funk sound. Here in long play format they seem destined to either sink or swim, the added freedom either giving them room to experiment and flourish or simply enough rope to hang themselves.

In parts they suceed but this album certainly struggles in places.. The trouble with Soul Clap is that their music conveys a sophistication that the vocals and skits occasionally betray. 'The Alezby Inn', for example, constructs a contemplative electronic funk from warm waves of synths and electro style percussion. The duo go for an Arthur Baker on 'Planet Rock' feel with vocals from The Geneven Heathen rapping about a chance encounter with a girl. It's typically Soul Clap - the vocal, which ends with the couplet "In the beginning we were all created equal. What the fuck happened to her?", seems like an unnecessary and unfortunate addition. The listener is left unsure as to whether this is a joke that isn't funny or a serious track that doesn't have any guts.

Thankfully elsewhere things are less conflicted. Rowley Cezarie's turn on 'Let It Go' is much more in keeping with the music - a raw, emotionally repressed tail of break-up, distorted and hidden within electronic body funk. There are even skits and interludes that work - 'When The Soul Claps' is blissful, Lazarus Man's beat poetry riding a wave of warm soulful electronics that, at just over a minute, is all too brief but sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Also bizarre, but this time in a good way, is the fact that Mel Blatt (yes, of All Saints fame) features on two tracks on EFunk's second half. The short 'Ecstacy' is more laid back soul and features Blatt's vocals perfectly creating a late-80s style R&B record - it's slower than most (though not all) of Soul Clap's 12" releases and it is also an impressive demonstration of their production abilities when applied to slower, pop orientated records. The second track is a cover of The Korgis' 'Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime', here re-titled 'Need Your Lovin''. It is hardly a track that needs another cover and Blatt's bluesy vocal is a little flat but still combines with a US Garage style house rhythm to make a relatively effective take on the original.

EFunk ends on a high however - whilst the album occasionally stumbles the eight-minute, two-part 'Islands In Space' is never short of magnificent. Part one consists of heavy funk drums and a ruthless back hand of sax that really just serves as an intro for the main course... A smart laidback jazz blues record featuring Greg Paulus that just happens to be made by a house production duo. EFunk has it's moments but the best of them really just show that this is the beginning - 'Islands In Space' prooves Soul Clap are certainly capable of more.

EFunk is released on 30 April on Wolf & Lamb, available to pre-order on CD and MP3 at Amazon.co.uk [affiliate links].

Album Review: Future Disco Vol. 5: Downtown Express - Various

Last year's Future Disco 4 turned out to be one of the better mix albums I heard last year. Despite coming fairly late in an ongoing series it had a really strong sense of identity and multiple classic tunes. Future Disco Vol. 5 follows the mantra of if it ain't broke, don't fix it... What you have is another collection of contemporary house tracks from the current batch of hot new things, this time packages up under the subtitle Downtown Express.

So we have another winner then, right? Sort of. The problem here is two-fold:

Firstly this doesn't have any disco. Where as volume 4 had Kaine's 'Love Saves The Day' and 'Zombie Tropicana' - classic soul vocals and experimental eclecticism that encapsulated some of the original spirit of disco this latest release really just feels like a collection of recent house releases. Because of that fact there just isn't any noticeable identity.

Secondly and more importantly the quality just ain't as high. There are a few good standout tracks but nowhere near the same caliber as on the previous release.

So if it isn't exactly a killer release or a highwater-mark for the series then what is it? Mostly just a collection of decent tunes - good but unlikely to blow you away. Miguel Campbell's 'Something Special' is a case in point - it's a nice minimal but bouncy house track but nowhere near as good as his MAM collaboration I recently reviewed, which would have been a much more 'disco' choice.

There are still a few good moments, they just aren't quite as consistently essential as volume 4's best tracks were. Tensnake once again deliver the business on Tiger & Woods filtered mix of 'Need Your Lovin' and the Pitto instrumental version of T J Kong & Nuno Dos Santos' 'Something Happened' is a great tense piece of tech-house funk. Benoit & Sergio's 'Principles' is still excellent, as Benoit & Sergio frankly always are and Maceo Plex's mix of DJ T.'s 'City Life' shows once again that no-one makes techno influenced sunshine house as well as Maceo Plex.

The album only really starts to deliver as it closes though. Joakim's 'Find A Way' is given a beautiful remix by Soul Clap - aptly entitled the Soul Clap Floating remix the result is a deliriously contemplative loved-up sensation that captures the introspective coming-of-age feeling the Joakim album from which it is lifted attempted to capture in the first place. It just might be Soul Clap's finest remix to date. Similarly the Prince Language mix of Penguin Prison's rather formulaic pop house track 'Multi Millionaire' transforms the original into a suitably climatic old Chicago house tribute.

It's a shame things don't start quite as well as they finish.

Future Disco Vol. 5 is out on February 27 on Need Want, available for pre-order from Amazon.co.uk on CD and MP3 [affiliate links].

Album Review: Heidi presents The Jackathon - Heidi

The Jackathon makes a bit of a poor first impression. Starting with an intro in the form of Derrick Carter telling us Heidi is bringing us something "you ain't never heard before” she then drops into Soul Clap's 'Incoming Bitch (Get Low)'. A problem for me on two counts - the intro smacks of self-indulgence from a DJ who doesn't have the reputation to permit it and 'Incoming Bitch' is a pretty terrible track from a usually dependable outfit - it's tasteless, two-dimensional and the combination of the vocal and high pitched squeals is frankly irritating.

It took me a while to get past this but I'm pretty glad I did - much of what follows is great. 'What The Funk' by Solomon is tasteful, minimal and, yes, subtly jacking house music in all the right ways. It feels old and new at the same time. DJ T. proves he still has something to offer on the drum-heavy dark vibes of 'High'. Featuring vocals from Nick Mauer, it gradually builds into a sweatbox of a track, a tribute to being lost inside the drugs and the music.

Juan Maclean seems to be on some sort of mission - following on from his excellent turn on DJ Kicks where he turned in a fantastic straight up house mix he helps Heidi do the same here with the inclusion of 'Love In Tatters'. It may not be rocket science but it's done very well - straight up head music, perfect for lovers of house.

Actor One delivers a heavy, dubby number on 'March Violets' that keeps things minimal and simple, shining all the brighter for it. The mix closes with Steve Bug's 'Jack is Back' followed by an outro by Derrick. Sadly this feels slightly anti-climatic - Bug's track is fine enough but it doesn't feel like an 'end' and the outro is not much better than the intro. The result feels like the warm-up DJ handing over to a headliner rather than the end of a night peak.

So a duff start and, to be honest, a few too many mentions of the word (/ name) Jack (yes, we get it, it's about jacking) but other than than Heidi hits her target here. The Jackathon is mostly pitched just right - it's a mix album for lovers of stripped back, simple house music that's perfect for a sunny day or a pre-night out warm-up.

BP x

Heidi presents The Jackathon is out now on Get Physical, available from Amazon.co.uk on CD and MP3 [affiliate links].

MP3 Download / Album Review: DJ Kicks - Various mixed by Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap

Originally Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap's DJ Kicks album was apparently due to be a 'versus' style affair but the respective duos obviously felt too much mutual love to compete and instead what we have is a four-way collaboration.

And the love here speaks volumes - this is a flirty, youthful house mix. Both Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap have been on the verge of greatness for some time - with increasingly regularity BlackPlastic will hear a lush slab of disco house somewhere only to go on to discover it is one or the other (or both) of the pair. This DJ Kicks installment seems destined to push them further into the collective consciousness.

Short-skirted and irrepressible, this is an album a little impossible to resist. It's not perfect - there are times when it feels like it's playing you for time... Just like a girl drawing out the thrill of the chase there are some spacers here - the equivalent of deliberately unanswered phone calls or text messages that never get replied to, the odd track just feels like a waste of time and the programming is so flawless it can become a little sterile. But like the heady days of a blossoming relationship the overall experience feels exciting enough to forgive the artists involved - from blissful ambience of opening intro 'My Man's Gone Now' this is a remarkably considered album.

Things are at their best when everything goes a bit twisted and paranoid. Soul Clap's 'Lonely C', featuring Charles Levine, is alienated and distraught (check out the download below) - making the huge, fat bassline of H-Foundation's 'Tonight' all the more welcome when it arrives. And this isn't a mix afraid to drop the bpm and get sleazy - Nicholas Jaar (whose album we reviewed earlier this week) seriously messes with mix album conventions on his tribal and dubby 'Don't Believe The Hype'.

Zev's 'We All', featuring Greg Paulus, is one of the real standout moments, with a collection of warm acid lines and big empty snares encircling the listener, but it is Benoit & Sergio's fairly messed up 'Walk And Talk' that steals the show. A big, warm tech-house monster - it's the most beautiful song about having a ketamine addled girlfriend BlackPlastic has ever heard. Yes, really.

Occasionally caught out by it's own attention to detail it may be, but when Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap's DJ Kicks album dares to let the chips lie where they fall, as one should with this sort of collaborative effort, it manages to hit all the right notes.

As a taster, download 'Lonely C' by Soul Clap featuring Charles Levine here [right click, save as].

BP x

Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap's DJ Kicks album is released on !K7 on 15 March, available to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].