After a flurry activity in the early teens, Locked Groove has kept a low profile in recent years. Building his activity back up, last year he appeared on the 96th Speicher release alongside Christian Nielsen, and early this year he returned to his own Locked Groove Records. He recently put out a release on Italian label Just This, and next week he’s returning to his own imprint for the Zillion EP. The title track begins as an unassuming, straightforward techno cut in the making. After two minutes of steady build, a blistering syncopated riff kicks in, reminiscent of the harsh synthetic trance stabs of the late ‘90s. If Heritage, his largest (and best) release to date evoked the warm swells of mid-’90s Jam & Spoon, “Zillion” takes it to Northern England, to clubs like Gatecrasher. These glacial minor melodies are reminiscent of Matt Darey’s finest work, or Tiësto before he went full stadium trance. It’s a real fist-pump anthem with a warm, hefty kick at its core. “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea”, surprisingly enough, is deeper. Its impulse and origins are similar, however, with gated riffs opening up under repeated steam engine synth patterns. A wider wash introduces an unsettling air, while cranked machinery tries to run away from the track’s steady tempo. A peppering of ghostly vocals pushes it into the realm of parody, just like the buzz-saw synths of “Zillion”, but they’re used sparingly enough so as not to distract from the dark and sinister mood.
Seattle label Jungle Gym Records has found its niche in the type of soothing deep house that seems to come organically to artists like Mateis E. Aqir. The first official EP from the producer (having previously self-released a live performance recording), Geography of Nowhere, explores dreamlike sceneries to evocative effect. Opening track “Chimbo Ra” is a bird’s eye view of this unfolding landscape, with sparse, floating rhythms that send you soaring through parting clouds cinematically. There’s a dreamy calm to the airy percussion and drifting melodies. “You Have to Live” picks up the pace with a more steady, determined beat. Featuring serene synth lines that seem to yearn and plead, there’s an inescapable emotionality to the track. Shifting through landscapes, “Ever Fruit” presents carefree island breeziness while “Turaco Crystalls” dwells beneath a forest canopy. Despite conjuring natural imagery, there’s an otherworldliness to the atmospheres Mateis E. Aqir creates, as if existing in someone’s daydream rather than reality. “Keinguao” sails through diverse instrumentation on a changing tide, highlighting the record’s influences. The aptly named “Dreamy Prophet” is especially surreal, with an aqueous quality reminiscent of falling asleep on a slowly rocking boat. Sun-drenched and between dreams, Geography of Nowhere is a relaxing musical vacation for the restless mind.
New Berlin label Ecke Records announces itself with a four-track various artists compilation as their first release. A limited vinyl-only run, The Tee Up takes aim at the wonkier, jovial departments of dance-floor cuts, supported by deeper elements to keep it all together. With artists hailing from all around Europe, ECK001 is a mixed bag of delights. Twelon’s opener “Quad” sets the stage nicely, easing its half-time kicks into a psychotic groove provided by its minimalist percussion, before climaxing with a psychoactive drone. Xantrax’s contribution flaunts its order of chaos with flair as a simple hook is given serious legs by unpredictable arrangement. “In Your Shadow” by TLK offers a journey into deep house which rewards us with a playful synth line and a warm, intermittent bass line in response. The pick of the bunch, however, is that of Nollern Records’ Dan Beaven and Eff_Ell, who come through with an absolute, slamming electro cut straight from the depths of subwoofer heaven. This glitched out number keeps its foot down for the whole ride, led gracefully by an undulating pad and its fair share of beaks. Promising stuff from the Ecke Records camp!
Words by Aidan Hanratty, Taylor Trostle and Jena Sivakuma.