After last week's indulgences in the Bristol canon, we're back again taking a look at the latest offering from Rhythm Section International, a label I admittedly haven't followed as closely as I now wish I had. Attempting to provide a dour counterpart to the jazz house of Earth People x Newborn Jr.'s "Sax Track b/w Flute Track," perennial favorite Huerco S. takes something of a left turn in his return to the 4/4 grid he seemed to have outgrown, turning in a downright joyous remix of Olin's incredibly shitty "From Iceland" release (seriously, I loathe the original, but we'll get into that.)
Growing out of the popular South London dance of the same name, Boiler Head mascot Bradley Zero's Rhythm Section International imprint has been crazy busy since starting in 2014, keeping a fervent pace in releasing backwards-looking house jams that borrow heavily from halcyon 90s midwestern house torchbearers like Ron Trent and Gemini while retaining a downright charming British sensibility. This well-informed nostalgia is on full display in the label's latest offering, the double helping of "Sax Track" and "Flute Track" courtesy of Earth Trax x Newborn Jr. Simply put, the release serves as an MDMA-coated gateway to Balearic house sounds from a time when Ibiza didn't suck. A low-slung breakbeat redolent of decades of UK and US house music opens "Sax Track" alongside an unexpected but charming monotonal sixteenth notes that gives the track a certain Afro bounce. By the time the foundational elements have been pressed into a humid bedding, pneumatic hi-hats provide the rhythmic propulsion for the titular saxophone to wind its way into the mix. Unlike a lot of jazz house retreads, the producers here succeed at capturing the ever-shifting nature of an actual jam session, the rainforest of groove and soul established at the outset serving as the perfect backdrop for a considered yet ripping sax solo. And despite its clear rooting in the swinging drum patterns of UK Garage, it's hard not to feel like this track would feel right at home in the middle of a tribal house set at NYC's famed Body & Soul parties. And in the process, it transcends its local origins to become the kind of track that frankly makes younger heads like myself a tad nervous that we don't know our Prescription or Cajual catalogs well enough to notice what more well-listened heads would condemn as an obvious pastiche at work. Oh well, I dig it.
"Flute Track" keeps the 90s in clear sight, starting off with a hazy Balearic workout replete with clave hits and woven woodwind arpeggiations that soon cascade into a driving bassline seemingly ripped straight from Underworld's "Halcyon On and On." But as with the former track, despite the many touchstones that come to mind while delving into "Flute Track's" deep end, the titular flute brings a frank sincerity into the mix that makes it extremely tough to dismiss Rhythm Section International's retro leanings as calculated posturing. When a boat cruise into the house jungles is as freewheeling and fun as it is on both sides here, it's almost easy to forget that the quality of production is such to back up the overarching homage while becoming something much more.
If Rhythm Section International embodies the holistic, granola-crunchy side of contemporary house, Huerco S. and peers like Anthony Naples, DJ Wey, and Bookworms tend to rep the dingy, outpatient program side of things. Which makes Huerco being all the more unlikely a pick for the post-Kompakt romanaticisms of the Giegling label, which admittedly I've been less than enthusiastic about for reasons similar to why some heads might not dig the above cuts from Rhythm Section International. The Weimer-based label tends to play it too close to its Germanic chest for my tastes, which made Olin's "From Iceland" release a bit of an outlier for the label with its flagrant sampling and bawdy attitude. Unfortunately, the release itself didn't cut the mustard so to speak, with the title track essentially a glorified and uninspired edit of post-rock also-rans (whom I adore) The Mercury Program's "To/From Iceland." While this release was definitely a different flavor for the often austere label, it just struck me as lazy.
Well, I'm at least happy to be wrong about Giegling's latest release Huerco S., per usual, has guided the ship back on course. Having released one the albums of the year in ambient masterclass "For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have,)" he's back to the narcotic 4/4 that he first made his name on. Like an old Red Rider wagon full of toys falling down the stairs, Huerco's remix of "People Fix" grounds the original's libidinal lacerations in a rattling beat while seemingly random dub chords slice through the bubbles every four beats. While it at first appears like he's building up to some big reveal, the producer rather digs in his heels and makes his initial rumblings a bit more appealing, carving out a dub space where he lets his varied elements intermingle with one another in imperfect harmony.
As sturdy as the A-side is, Huerco saves the real treat for the B as he offers up another remix of "People Fix," wisely choosing to avoid "From Iceland" altogether. Stripping the original Stylistics' sample of all recognition, a plodding dub house intro suddenly giving way to a filtered-within-an-inch-of-its-life sample that truly kicks things into gear. As the sample amps up the energy, the track actually starts to feels like it's outstripping its own time grid as it locks into its central dubbed-out filter house motif, ratcheting up the energy with each pass through the loop. Similar to the A-side, Huerco dives headfirst into the tension and stays there, holding it for half of the song before really turning things up in the track's second half. At this point, the track is pumping on all engines as the remixer stumbles onto a groove more reminiscent of New World Aquarium than Bossa Nova Civic Club. While the original "From Iceland" 12" is easily one of my most disliked (and derivative) releases of the year, the remixes at the hands of Huerco S. is nothing short of revelatory for a producer who rarely cracks a grin, let alone the full-toothed smile on hand here.
Note: The Huerco S. remix 12" actually offers up two remixes of "People's Fix" on both sides, not a remix of "From Iceland" on the B as widely reported.