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Sonar Kollektiv Orchester: Guaranteed Niceness [Sonar Kollektiv]

Sonar Kollektiv really know how to celebrate because here’s another way to celebrate 10 years in business: yes, it continues into 2008. They got 15 label artists and friends, led by Volker Meitz, to create the Sonar Kollektiv Orchester. This was another good excuse to go through the back catalogue and produce some cracking new versions of the anthems we all know and love, so giving them a new breath of life. Tracks that got me hooked on the first few plays were the covers of Meitz’s "Africa", Thief’s "Atlantic" and of course the five Jazzanova tracks. Volker has done himself proud, but, with such good material, he was never going to fail. Whilst you’re waiting for the official release, do check out this wonderful video of their live session at the Tabe Club Festival: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3jtw8_tabe-club-festival-sk-orchester-200_music

Aaron Jerome: Time to Rearrange [BBE Music]

This seems like it’s taken ages to be released but I think that is due to hearing that Aaron was signed to BBE such a long time ago. I’ve been really looking forward to hearing it. Aaron has been around for a while now and has been producing some ace tracks/remixes over the last few years. Next year should see his profile explode with this cracking debut album. Some of the vocalists maybe unknown to the masses but most people in the scene will know all about Bajka, Kathrin deBoer from Belleruche, Mozez, Andreya Triana, Yungun and Simphiwe Dana, and boy do they sound good on all their tracks. There is no real point in highlighting any one tune because they are all something special and fans of the Cinematic Orchestra and 4Hero will enjoy Aaron taking things to another level. Essential!!

Speeka: Bonfire [Wah Wah 45s]

Matt Smooth and Rob Mac are back with their second album under the alias Speeka and it makes me wonder how they have time with all the other projects they’ve got under their belt. With the guys known more for their hip-hop roots than their jazz or funk, they take all those influences and turn them into a wonderful folk style album. This is a beautiful album that will have you wanting more after each play. My copy arrived in the middle of the postal strike, so I was able to give this album the attention it deserves. One of the catchiest tracks I’ve heard this year is "Better Inside", which has all the elements of a hit, if only the nation wasn’t so obsessed with reality TV music shows. With a good balance of instrumentals and vocal productions, this will more than keep you happy through the dark winter months. Yet another excellent release from Wah Wah 45s.

Me&You: Floating Heavy [Tru Thoughts Recordings]

2007 is turning out to be the year of the cover song, with numerous raggae, jazz, funk and house versions doing the rounds on radio stations and dancefloors. One track I’ve not played for many years is Roni Size’s “Brown Paper Bag”: a classic, yes, but every time a certain Mr Peterson plays in Leeds, he plays this track without fail. I’ve never worked out why but maybe he’ll explain one day. You&Me aka co-owner of Tru Thoughts Rob Luis and TM Juke have produced a reggae verison that has bought life back into “Brown Paper Bag”. “Floating Heavy” is a cracking album that really mixes up the styles. From drum & bass, soul, broken beat, jazz, raggae, disco, dubstep through to break beats, this will keep me happy with anthems for the rest of 2007 and beyond.

Kira Neris: Behind Closed Doors [Futuristica Music]

Even though Myspace gets bad press at times, it is still a great way to get your music out there to the masses and I know that was how Simon S, the man behind Futuristica, found Kira Neris aka Herve Poudoulec. Herve is based in Strasbourg and was brought up musically on radio and had a passion for many styles of music including jazz, rock and house. In 1999 Cinematic Orchestra’s “Motion” album was released, which affected us all but caused a radical change in Herve’s productions. He has so far compiled a vast library of samples, and “Behind Closed Doors” is the beautiful result of his work. This is simply a stunning album based around exceptional arrangements, samples and beats. This might just be 2007’s summer soundtrack.

Various Artists: Witness Future Vintage Vol.2 [Kindred Spirits]

Kindred Spirits is an exceptional record label, who always release quality but on ocasions can be quite difficult to hunt down, but with their easy to use website, we’ve got no excuse now. Volume Two of this series gives you more insight into their diversity and great artists based around the world. Included are Rednose Distrikt with a track from their forthcoming album with ace vocals from U-Gene. There’s the understated Jazzanova remix of Heavy’s “Wonderlove”, Kid Sublime with Heavy’s vocalists Nicky Guiland and broken business from Meikbar. Beat fanatics get a preview of Kindred’s sub-label Nod Navigator with tracks from I.N.T, Tom Trago and Mwesles. Plus there’s tracks from Build an Ark, Chico Mann, Rich Media, Jneiro Jarel and Nomo.

The Bamboos: Rawville [Tru Thoughts Recordings]

The Bamboos are back with more of the same i.e. good quality funk for the 21st centuary. Vocalists this time include Alice Russell, Tyra Hammond, Kylie Auldist, Fallan Williams and Ohmega Watts who sound perfect with the deep organ based funk productions. "Get In The Scene" should already be an anthem on the clued-up dancefloors. If you enjoyed "Step It Up", you’ll love this. If you missed that, well it’s time to wake up.

1 Luv: Neophilia [Sonar Kollektiv]

The internet has been great for previewing tracks before buying, making life so much easier that queueing up in a record shop each week, whilst you wait for a wanna-be scratch pervert, or even for working out what you want to buy before entering a shop. I listened to “Neophilia” when it was released in Japan in 2006 but the sixty second previews did not give this album justice. I really should have known after their “Black Sunshine”. The highlight of this album are the songs with Amalia Townsend, who’s been getting us all in a tizz with Opolopo and gaining a name for herself in Vancouver’s jazz scene. This is a really nice album and like all Sonar releases, you need to give this a listen.

Various Artists: This is Oyster Music + This Is Oyster Music ‘Club Mixes’ [Oyster Music]

These two compilations are essentially a selection of best of tracks and remixes from Shaun Escoffery, Geoffery Williams, Blood and Driza. I thought I had just about everything on Oyster, like Jazzanova’s blinding remix of “Let It Go” which once heard will be stuck in your head for days. The good news is that they’ve been holding some treasures back, like 4Hero’s remix of “Let It Go”, DJ Spinna’s remix of “Space Rider” plus Karizma and Spen’s remix of “Days Like This”. Others have been released as singles, but it’s great to have them spread over two cds. It must have been a pleasure going back through the Oyster Music catalogue to put these together. I’ve heard on the grapevine there’s even more to be un-released stuff, so hopefully that will see the light of day soon. What a great label.

Various Artists: Brownswood Bubblers Two [Brownswood Recordings]

Volume One was full of real quality but the problem for me was that I had bought most of the tracks on there. Volume Two is somewhat different: yes there are a few tracks that I have, but if you don’t they are essential, like tracks by Marcina Arnold, Nicola Kramer and Grand Union. The other thirteen artists were mostly unknown to me until recently and myspace has been great getting more information. It’s so good to see the excellent “Tea Leaf Dancers” by Flying Lotus with beautiful vocals by Andreya Triana finally see the light of day because it’s been on most peoples’ wants list for months. You also need to hear tracks by Boomclap Bachelors, Matsi, Middlewood Sessions, Sarah Ann Webb and Daisuke Tanabe’s remix of Elan Mehler. Truly essential.

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