Photo by Henning Mella
Danny Berman, known for his DJ and production work as Red Rack’em and Hot Coins, as well as his label Bergerac, is due all the adulation he receives from those who are aware of him. His productions reflect a pleasing dedication to driving yet languid house music that’s touched to its advantage by a certain London-centric sprightliness and a Germanic-sounding, artificial feel. Inaugurating his new label — which takes the same name as his enthusiastically presented regular radio show, Smuggler’s Inn — is a collection of four tracks from various, little-known artists. The tag “deep house” can be used to define a particular sound, or as a broad term to cover a huge range of house music. In the case of this EP it’s certainly a genre of its own, every track brimming with an almost-subdued pulse that is at the same time somehow penetrating and immersive.
Opening the EP is “N’oublions Pas,” an unusually Balearic-sounding track from prolific Glaswegian producer Carlos Nilmmns (also known as Ross McMillan of Solab), flowing with a terse acid line and conga rumblings, mixed in with his characteristically creased bass and sleek, metallically bright synth washes. The resulting mélange of sounds — working their way in are disco strings, distant pipes, and narcotic croons — shouldn’t mesh together so well, but it all happens to simmer nicely in a druggy haze of poolside pirouetting. Londoner Adam Cook, previously half of broken beat duo Souled, turns in the absolute highlight of the record next with “Shy Track,” the first sighting of his solo production as Tommy Rawson. Dominating the mix are the breathlessly chopped vocal elements, more akin to Akufen than Todd Edwards, which merge with muted film-score string wipes. Briskly shuffling beats and basic sub bass pulse sustain his tightly controlled and well-maneuvered buildup of many disparate elements, and the ensuing blend of subtle but structured elements is infectiously danceable — perhaps due mostly to his UK garage-influenced mastery of drum fills and end-of-bar flourishes that ramps up the adrenaline levels.
Franklin de Costa’s “Acid Test Bass” is an accomplished work of dank, dubby, thumping minimalism, with nods to Wbeeza and Funkineven. Heavily processed and filtered rasps of saw-wave bass writhe together, throbbing viscously on a simple, snare-less, almost metronomic beat. Closing the EP is Ajukaja’s “Siim Ja Part,” a woozy jam that has the feel of someone endlessly looping and tweaking a few seconds of breakdown from an Orbital track. Unsettled by its almost arrhythmic glitter of chiming synths, caught in an unsteady swell of hypnotic, sweeping strings, this is uncompromising though heavily melodic and addictive stuff. A bold, cohesive, and focused first release, free of gimmicks or borrowed styles — this is intentionally underground, emphatically deep party music, and it bodes very well for Danny Berman’s second label.