A well deserved revisit for Billie Black's I Don't Need Another Lover, the cool electronic R&B track I featured back in June. It now has a music video and a proper release date, in the form of debut EP 000 100, out on 15 December.
Lush soft disco influenced pop from London-based, Birmgham-raised duo EKKAH. Great video, great vocal hooks, great production... It's a slinky irresistible proposition of a record, so let's dance.
The video was produced by Studio G01 and this track is lifted from EKKAH's debut EP, also named Last Chance to Dance, and out on 24 November.
Automatic Soul is billed as a companion piece to Late Night Tales' 2012 album Music For Pleasure, also mixed by (one half of Groove Armada) Tom Findlay. Where that album pulled together a fine collection of yacht rock this album is focused on the last great period of soul - 80s soul music that has had an injection of electricity... Drum machines, 808s, synths and keyboards prevail.
There are a few relatively well know tracks in here but there are also a slew of lesser known gems. Mtume's Juicy Fruit opens and elsewhere we have a few other very recognisable numbers such Rene & Angela's I'll Be Good. There are also a number of tracks better known for what they have more recently inspired... Gloria Estafan backing vocalist Donna Allen's Serious is best known as the track sampled by Strike's U Sure Do, but it sounds far better here in full. Similarly Thelma Houston's You Used To Hold Me So Tight shatters another illusion from my former years - Richard X wasn't as original as I'd thought, and his collaboration with forgotten pop star Javine, You Used To, was really just a polished cover.
Speaking of polished covers... This being a Late Night Tales album Findlay has included his own cover, as Sugardaddy, his collaboration with Tim Hutton. Together they take on Dennis Edwards' Don't Look Any Further.
Much in the same way Music For Pleasure shined in the way it resurfaced and recontextualised forgotten gems, Automatic Soul does much the same. Change's Change Of Heart is an absolute classic example of exactly what made this form of electronic soul so great - snappy, inventive and catchy as hell. You Are In My System by The System does much the same, bumpy minimal electronic rhythms wedded to soulful vocals to create something utterly of the future when it first came out. Fonda Rae's Touch Me is utterly irresistible, the well known vocal hook of "Hold me baby, drive me crazy, touch me... all night long" sure to lodge itself deep into your head and heart.
Every bit as great as Music For Pleasure, Automatic Soul's only misstep is coming two months after summer ended. Get it, treasure it and remember to get it out next July.
Eskimo used to be one of my absolute favourite labels but in recent years times have changed... Being a music label in the digital age feels more difficult, particularly when your bread and butter was focused on the kind of obscure DJ mixes that often get traded for free online these days (without having to tackle any of that pesky licensing work).
Eskimo are currently primarily focused on their series of colour inspired collections, which kicked off with The Pink Collection, which was focused on feelings in music. The press release makes no particular claim for a theme here and in reality The Green Collection feels like a direct continuation of the styles featured on the previous two albums (Blue being the other, second, release), rather than a new movement.
So The Green Collection boasts a myriad of soft-focused Scandinavia-inspired electronic pop and dance music, eschewing the eclectic styles Eskimo were famous for in favour of something far more restrained. And when it works it is wonderful... Great Things, by Horixon featuring Jacques Teal, is softly spoken warm ambient pop of the highest order. It is what Prince might sound like if he spent 34 years floating alone in space, hushed vocals rubbing up against subtly twinkling synths and dramatic pads. Satin Jackets and Patrick Baker achieve something very similar on album closer Fall Apart - a beautifully considered moment of electronic introspection that represents one of The Green Collections' exclusive tracks.
There are some interesting darker moments too. A strong sense of melancholy runs through this album, to the point that in our current autumnal setting in the northern hemisphere it set me up for a fairly introspective Monday, but you can't criticise some of the depth here. On Found My Place Alexander Skancke and HEwrote create an organic and atmospheric slow-burning folktronica record, full on this season's feelings of introverted tranquility and feelings of transition.
But The Green Collection suffers just as the Pink and Blue collections did - through a lack of consistency. For every genuinely interesting track their are two that feel like phoned-in moments of generic cosmic Ballearia. You can keep the spaced-out piano of Kraak & Smaak's Ghostnote and the chugging electronica of Duncan Gray's Beeech: there is no real life there.
Pick the five best songs from this set and you have a representation of what makes Eskimo great: they can select some terrific music. Sadly the remaining seven represent their biggest flaw: they have no real idea what the difference is between those great standout moments, and the plodding filler. When their mixes were curated by a series of known names there was perhaps more of a sense of accountability - Ivan Smagghe, Radio Slave et al had their names right their on the cover. On The Green Collection I just can't help but feel like no-one really cared enough about any of these albums.
Forgive lurches out of the dark like the opening credits to the movie Drive, all well-oiled synths and strong dark lines. And yet vocalist Lauren Pardini's vocals unfurl with artfully exposed vulnerability to create a heart-stopping electronic ballad. The confessional lyrics are hard to resist... "And I wonder if you think of me? Did you already find the girl you need?"
Check it out on Soundcloud below.
This finished version of Forgive follows on from the live demo that appeared on the LA duo's Luxury EP earlier this year. If you are in any doubt as to whether there is an amazing pop song underneath all that production, check it out: