A stalwart of London label Wolf Music, Medlar has for years now been churning out the kind of low-slung piano-driven house reminiscent of Detroit at its finest. Previous releases on Wolf have showcased his knack for nailing the dancefloor; alchemising warm, soulful backdrops; funk-ridden basslines and a playful sense of rhythm to create his own distinct flavour. Occupying the space that he does, it’s to his credit that Medlar’s tunes manage to appear above the saturated parapet and I think it’s also a testament to his skills as a DJ. I saw him at the Bussey Building in March and his grip on the floor never faltered.
Dan Shake made a serious impact a year ago becoming the first guy not associated with Detroit to be released on Moodyman’s ‘Mahogani Music’ label. Having your favourite DJ take your demo tape at a festival and release it is practically unheard of, but Moodyman? Forget about it. Still, it happened and the resulting ‘3AM Jazz Club’ was unsurprisingly a great record, embellishing a solid tune with a Jackson Pollock style splattering of diced up vocals. Following that came ‘Out Of Sight’ on Black Acres and now this.
Opener, ‘Walk’, rolls in with a real funk flavour, all staccato guitar and afro-beat drums, ridden with chopped up vocals. It’s not long before a soft synth oozes in and takes hold, while the slapped bassline drives it along sharp drop-outs and fills. The bleeps and squeaks scattered throughout, along with the busy collage of chopped up voices, keep you on your toes and round off a pretty accomplished track.
Soulphiction’s remix of ‘Walk’ is up next, removing some of the edge and sliding deeper. The vocals stay high in the mix, the drums layer up and the melody takes centre stage. The beat opens up a little more which gives the track space to breathe, allowing more textures to weave in and out. It definitely has the feel of a Philpot release, constrained yet playful and chock-full of soul.
B-side ‘I on You’ reminded me heavily of Theo Parrish’s ‘Long Walk in Your Sun’ played at 45 (try it, it will level you). Praise doesn’t come much higher than that and it’s the highlight of the record no question. Lounge-jazz keys flit and flutter over the tumbling hook, threatening to take flight, while the drums ratchet up intensity and bring it down again, swing-signature hats to bowling 4-4 kicks and back again. The bassline oozes groove and the vocals, again, are undeniable. Killer.
This is a good effort from two producers that really complement each other. Dan Shake has a real knack for doing interesting things with vocal tracks and there’s barely a snippet here that doesn’t add something to the track. Put together with Medlar’s natural sense of groove the result is a strong record. There’s plenty to admire here and enough versatility to make it well worth picking up.
Words: Theo Kotz