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NUNORTHERN SOUL

Over the last few years, NuNorthern Soul has established a number of traditions, most notably annual releases that provide a snapshot of the label’s output while also considering their suitability for certain seasons. Perhaps the most popular is founder Phil Cooper’s Summer Selections series, which each year showcases warm and sunny gems mined from a range of forthcoming releases.

The 2021 edition of the sampler, the third in total, may well be the best yet. Six tracks deep and as subtly varied as you’d expect, the entertaining set features tracks from a mixture of exciting newcomers, experienced producers and long-time members of the NuNorthern Soul family.

To kick things off, Cooper introduces us to Marshall Watson, an American producer who later in the year will release two five-track EPs on the label. ‘A Door To The Sky’, which will feature on the Sunsets On Larkin Part 1 EP, is sumptuously sun-kissed, with delay-laden electric guitar textures and sparkling electronics reclining over a tactile electronic groove.

LOVA’s ‘Echoes of Memories’, the track that follows, recalls the atmospheric, synthesizer-sporting new age Balearica popularised by Quiet Force in the late 1980s. The Italian producer was signed after bringing a USB stick of productions to one of Phil Cooper’s gigs in Ibiza; his Gypsophilia EP will be one to check when it drops later in the year.

Gusk’s ‘Sketch #4 - Anafi Nights’ is seductive and exotic. It’s a crackling and atmospheric musical painting that daubs starry stabs and yearning melodies atop a bubbly, lo-fi drum machine beat. It provides a perfect snapshot of the Greek musician’s Mediterranean Sketches EP, which gathers together home recordings made between 1997 and 2003.

Arguably even more immersive and enveloping is ‘Aqua Blancas Sunrise’ by Tambores En Benirras, the musical project of Cumbrian selector DJ Gripper. A slow-burning delight full of intricate musical flourishes –think drifting female vocalizations, Indian-influenced percussion, twinkling pianos and haunting clarinet motifs the track is one of the many highlights on the Barrow in Furness based producer’s forthcoming debut album for NuNorthern Soul.

To round things off, Cooper has chosen to offer-up cuts from two very experienced artists. George Solar (real name Georg Boskamp) is an Ibiza-based German producer who has been collaborating and releasing music since the late 1980s. ‘Infrared’, his contribution to Summer Selections 3, is a languid and glassy-eyed slab of slow-motion Balearic dub. His Los Ra-yos Del Sol EP will be one to look out for later in the year and is his debut solo release.

The sampler’s final missive fittingly comes from long-time friend of the family B.J Smith, a regular contributor to NuNorthern Soul releases who has reunited with Huw Costin – a vocalist he previously worked with on Smith & Mudd releases for Claremont 56 for a double A side single due later in 2021. ‘Sun When You Come’ is as warming and hazy as you’d expect and features Costin’s emotive, reverb-laden vocals and mazy electric piano solos rising above a suitably horizontal groove. It provides a stunning, sunset-ready conclusion to another superb set of Summer Selections.


TRACK LISTING

A1. Marshall Watson - A Door In The Sky
A2. LOVA - Echoes Of Memories
A3. Gusk - Sketch #4 Anafi Nights
B1. Tambores En Benirras - Aguas Blancas Sunrise
B2. George Solar – Infrared
B3. B.J. Smith & Huw Costin - Sun When You Come

Dario Aiello’s first EP for NuNorthern Soul as My Friend Dario, Cosmic Sailing, was one of the label’s most inspired releases of 2020 – a six-track musical voyage into the unknown that cannily combined elements of Balearic disco, ambient, turn-of-the-90s Italian dream house, horizontal jazz-funk and colourful synth-boogie.

With such strong musical motifs and instrumentation to work with, NuNorthern Soul boss Phil Cooper decided to ask some well-established producers and friends-of-the family to put their own spin on the Sicilian producer’s EP. The result is Cosmic Sailing Remixed, a four-track set of reworks that takes Aiello’s mesmerising, atmospheric and enveloping cuts to whole new musical places.

Crazy P’s Chris Todd dons his now familiar Hot Toddy guise for an EP-opening revision of ‘Neve Su Acireale’. Todd makes the most of Aiello’s Pat Metheny style jazz guitar motifs, teasing the track in via an ambient intro that recalls both the Orb’s earliest singles and Steve Reich classic ‘Electric Counterpoint’. After building tension through loose-limbed, progressively more intense drum fills, Todd unleashes a glorious Balearic disco groove that carries the track forwards towards a blissful conclusion.

Sometime Music For Dreams, Hell Yeah recordings and Leng contributor Willie Graff steps up next, brilliantly re-imagining ‘Fenice’ as a hypnotic and bass-heavy chunk of Balearic dub disco rich in layered, samba-style percussion, glistening electric guitar motifs and fluid synthesizer flourishes. Later in the track, Graff introduces more elements from Aiello’s original track – twinkling pianos and dream house style aural textures for starters – before adding touches of tape delay to emphasize the track’s dubby dancefloor mood.

Those seeking extremely immersive, mood-enhancing music will be thrilled by Blair French’s tactile, sunrise-ready take on ‘Malvisa’. The Detroit-based musician and soundtrack composer draws heavily on the kaleidoscopic but mellow synthesizer textures of Aiello’s original version while continually adding new layers of percussion and electronic melodies. The result is a swirling, calming remix that should delight home listeners and slow-motion dancers alike.

To round off the EP, Balearic synth-pop specialist James Bright puts his creative stamp on ‘Storm’. In keeping with the warm, tactile and synthesizer-heavy sound of his superb debut album on !K7, Headroom, Bright re-frames the most atmospheric cut on Aiello’s EP and a yearning, heart-aching journey through slow-motion acid lines, twinkling pianos, huggable synth-pop grooves and the kind of sustained chords that feel like they’re wrapping your body in a toasty blanket made of the finest cashmere. It provides a poignant, jaw-dropping conclusion to a high-quality set of imaginative and kaleidoscopic remixes.

TRACK LISTING

A1 Neve Su Acireale - Hot Toddy Remix
A2 Malvasia - Blair French Remix
B1 Fenice - Willie Graff Remix
B2 Storm - James Bright Remix

Those who pay close attention to DJ Harvey’s sets should already be familiar with NuNorthern Soul’s next single, a fully licensed reissue of a sought-after 1980 promotional seven-inch from legendary Spanish Flamenco singer Manuel Mancheño Peña, better known as El Turronero (‘The Nougat’).

Both ‘Las Penas’ and ‘Si Yo Volviera A Nacer’ have long been secret weapons in the sets of dusty-fingered Balearic DJs, with Harvey regularly dropping the tracks during his sessions at Pikes Hotel on the White Isle.

Both tracks first appeared on Pena’s 1980 album New Hondo, a set that updated the then veteran Flamenco artist’s sound for the disco era. Whereas most of his previous albums were more traditional Flamenco affairs, New Hondo combined his throaty, effervescent Flamenco singing style with the driving grooves, swooping orchestration and spacey synthesizer sounds of European disco.

To promote the album, Spanish label DB Belter pressed up a promotional “45” featuring two of the most club-friendly cuts on the album. It’s this release that is being reissued for the very first time by NuNorthern Soul.

A-side ‘Las Penas’ is undoubtedly an off-kilter, late-night disco classic. Built around a flanged, action-packed disco-funk bassline, metronomic beats. soaring and layered female backing vocals, intergalactic synth sounds and stirring strings, the track steps up a level when ‘El Turronero’ takes to the microphone to belt out an infectious, energetic vocal in his trademark Flamenco style. It’s the kind of cut that’s as haunting and intoxicating as it is funky and floor friendly.

Flipside ‘Si You Volviera A Nacer’, another of New Hendo’s most sought-after tracks, is another unique and righteous concoction. Looser, groovier and warmer in tone, it sees another sublime, Flamenco style lead vocal from Pena accompanied by even funkier bass, spiralling ’70s synthesizer sounds, sweaty drums and some seriously exotic instrumental flourishes (think sitar and kalimba). It’s every bit as alluring as the more driving A-side, and equally as playable.

Both tracks may be unusual in comparison to the artist’s other releases, but they expertly capture a moment in time, when disco dominated dancefloors all over the world and inspired even the most traditional and historic of European musical styles. Quite a number of flamenco-disco records were made in Spain during the late ’70s and early ’80s, but very few are quite as magical as these.


TRACK LISTING

A1. Las Penas
B1. Si Yo Volviera A Nacer

Since first emerging as part of Crazy P in the late 1990s, James Baron has released a lot of great music. However, he’s previously put out very little quite like the Falling That You Know EP, his first solo outing as JIM on NuNorthern Soul.

As those who’ve followed his career closely will tell you, Baron has worked on a number of lauded projects outside of Crazy P, including Ron Basejam (his nu-disco focused solo alias), Secret Stealth (a sample-heavy collaboration with Nottingham stalwart Bob Sadler) and White Elephant (a Balearic-minded outfit featuring Crazy P partner Chris Todd and old friend Benjamin Smith).


The Falling That You Know EP sees Baron exploring an explicitly stripped-back, sensatory and soft-focus sound. It features a quartet of hazy home recordings created using little more than an acoustic guitar, piano, keyboard and some toy instruments belonging to his children. The music stretched across the EP is warming, wide-eyed and picturesque, with Baron showcasing his rarely heard singing voice as well as a finger-picking guitar style he’s spent the best part of 18 months perfecting.

Those with a wide-ranging musical palette will spot subtle sonic references to some of Baron’s lesser-known musical inspirations, including singer-songwriters Ned Doheny and Nick Drake. There’s a folksy, homespun charm to the camp-fire-ready bliss of loved-up opener ‘Falling That You Know’, where Baron delivers his own thoughtful lyrics atop shuffling shaker percussion, layered acoustic guitar, smooth bass, synth-strings and sustained piano chords.

Arguably even more impressive is ‘Phoenix’, a swelling, simmering and sweeping semi-acoustic cover of The Cult track of the same name featuring backing vocals from Crazy P chanteuse Danielle Moore. Magical and mesmerizing, Baron’s version takes the goth-rock classic in a stunning, sunset-ready new direction.

Baron’s dedication to the finger-picking style long associated with British and American folk music comes to the fore on ‘Whisper in the Wind’, a future early evening singalong that gently builds across six spellbinding minutes. From a delicate and pared-back start, Baron layers up instrumentation including additional guitar by White Elephant’s Benjamin Smith, drums courtesy of Crazy P sticks-man Matt Klose, and his own mazy, spacey synth lines.

Then there’s closing cut ‘You Know What To Say’, an effortlessly emotive, tactile and atmospheric affair that cannily distils all that is good about Baron’s latest solo venture into three magical minutes. It offers a near perfect end to an EP of rare pastoral beauty.


TRACK LISTING

A1. Falling That You Know
A2. Pheonix
B1. Whisper In The Wind
B2. You Know What To Say

Based in the Sicilian coastal city of Catania, Dario Aiello has plenty of chances to longingly stare into the endless deep blue of the Ionian Sea. It should therefore come as no surprise that his debut EP for NuNorthern Soul, Cosmic Sailing, is a six-track musical daydream about a kaleidoscopic sea voyage into the unknown.

Although his recording career as My Friend Dario is still in its infancy, Aiello has already made an impact. He won plaudits from Balearic-minded Bandcamp diggers for a string of self-released singles, before offering up a handful of inspired remixes and tracks on a number of releases on the admirably saucer-eyed Hell Yeah! Recordings imprint. Even so, his NuNorthern Soul debut is a big development, portraying him as an accomplished producer and musician with a gift for crafting colourful and inventive musical fusions.

Across the course of six tracks, Aiello perfectly sets out his mellow, warming, spacious and mind-soothing approach, smoothly navigating cosmic waters. Opener ‘Fenice’ sets the tone, with the Sicilian producer cloaking rising and falling synthesizer arpeggio lines in twinkling piano motifs, simmering chords and colourful electronic motifs. He channels the spirits of Italy’s turn-of-the-90s dream house movement and horizontal Balearic disco on the impeccable ‘Malvasia’, while ‘Mr Mellow’ sees him mix-up post-electro beats, pots-and-pans percussion and starry electronics to great effect.

Aiello’s varied inspirations come to the fore across the reminder of the EP. Check, for example, the rubbery and undeniably intergalactic 21st century boogie bounce of ‘Neve Su Acireale’, where Pat Metheny style jazz guitar flourishes, sparkling synth riffs and elastic slap-bass notes dance around a snappy, early ‘80s drum machine groove.

‘Campagna 2’ goes further, with the Italian smothering a deliciously crunchy drumbeat with warming chords and looped sax samples, while ‘Storm’ sees him calming choppy waters via fluid, slow-motion piano solos, sleepy beats, enveloping musical textures and a handful of atmospheric samples. It’s a breath-taking end to an EP chock full of evocative, ear-pleasing aural treats.

TRACK LISTING

A1. Fenice
A2. Malvasia
A3. Mr Mellow
B1. Neve Su Acireale
B2. Campagna 2
B3. Storm

NuNorthern Soul proudly presents Dimun, an overlooked neo-classical / ambient fusion track by Faroe Islands-based producer Kristan Blak’s Yggdrasil project. Label boss ‘Phat’ Phil Cooper was playing G! festival on the Faroe Islands in 2019 and as part of the experience the delegates, artists and DJs where invited to see and experience some of the cultural spots and institutions of the Faroe Islands. One of those was Tutl records owned by Kristian Blak. Tutl records is a wonderful record store and label representing the wealth of amazing Faroese recording talent and has been around for years.

Kristian invited a few people to his house and he played the piano line of Dimun, Phil recorded it on his phone and could not stop watching it… He eventually contacted Kristian to ask about the music which led to it being licensed for this release.

Mike Salta* steps up with studio partner Marty ‘Mortale’ to create an epic 12 minute version with a nod to the heritage and sounds of Cafe Del Mar circa 1998 and with added new flavours of Ibiza al la Mark Barrott / International Feel. The flip sees UK producer & DJ, Chris Coco** take the helm with his dreamy New Age version chilled to the perfect temperature for lost La Torre sunset moments. Finally we have the original version and to quote David from One Million Sunsets "This is ace, all three versions, you could put them together to make one long track. New Age finally making a proper comeback."

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: In its original form, "Dimun" is a neoclassical gem, easily as beautiful as anything messers Frahm or Arndalds have released - and the remixes are on point too, Chris Coco harnessing Vangelis in Blade Runner mode and Mike Salta & Mortale translating the track into a Padilla-style serenade.

TRACK LISTING

A1. Dimun (Mike Salta & Mortale Remix)
B1. Dimun (Chris Coco A Las Estrellas Remix)
B2. Dimun (Original)

Blair French

Patio Pastel EP

    Blair French continues his second wind with another sun-kissed selection of tracks for NuNorthern Soul. Just in time for the warmer climes with a laid back and relaxed mood, these tracks sashay across the beach with a divine flair.

    Drowsy organs, glistening pedal steel and undulating hand percussion characterize opener, "Patio Pastel". The Serge Gainsbourg style chanson-goes-tropical bliss of "La Playa De Tercipelo", which features some deliciously breathy vocals from Stephanie Lyon, comes next. Then there's "Morning Sail", a sumptuously evocative soundscape rich in toasty, dub disco bass, shuffling percussion and lilting, Jonny Nash style guitar solos (see also the effortlessly horizontal "Lounsbury Gardens"), and the kaleidoscopic, saucer-eyed Balearic pop brilliance of ; "Human Make Human", where new age synthesizer melodies and the fuzzy vocal refrain of Kasi Seguin gently dances above an Afro-flecked, mid-tempo groove.

    Throughout the EP, French mixes electronic and acoustic instrumentation, drawing together musical elements from myriad styles to create sumptuous new fusions. It's particularly evident on superb closer "Belle Isle Sunsets", where colourful synth motifs, eyes-closed guitar riffs and Mediterranean-warm chords wrap themselves around a gently pulsating, impressively layered groove.

    Now excuse me as I empty the sand from inside my trainers...


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Matt says: Ah Summer's here!! Dreamy music time. Blair French keeps us laid back and blissed out on this sublime offering.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Patio Pastel
    2. La Playa De Tercipelo
    3. Morning Sail
    4. Lounsbury Gardens
    5. Human Make Human
    6. Belle Isle Sunsets

    BJ Smith

    Between Ship And Shore Part Two - Inc. A Man Called Adam Remix

    The first missive in BJ Smith's "Between Ship And Shore" series surfed a wave of excitement like a message in a bottle, landing softly in our hearts with its horizontal beauty. Now we're graced with more mellow magic and majesty via the second instalment, which comes complete with a remix from A Man Called Adam. JJ Cale, Terry Callier and John Martyn all influence and inspire Ben, and this is apparent in his subtle yet powerful tales. "Stars Festoon" sees the songwriter transport the listener to a bygone era with a meandering, jolly jaunt day trip to the beach, gently bobbing about in small wooden boats, as beach fires and the smell of fish and chips with salt and vinegar wafting through the air. Balearic pioneers and longstanding laid back music evangelists, A Man Called Adam add their deft touch to "Stars Festoon" and take it down a slightly off beat track between the sand dunes with electronic glitches, pops and bass sounds. Stripping it back to bare bones and isolating vocal parts to give it a slightly haunted feel, A Man Called Adam deliver a stunning revision perfect for a late night / early morning beach walk soundtrack. "If Only Sometimes" once again delivers, with its wonderful piano led opening and gentle guitar pickings allowing Ben to soothe and gently ease the listener in before enveloping them with warm harmonies and uplifting vocals, enhanced by the euphoric string section that then gives way to wonderful brass stabs and the crescendo. It's time to drift away again.

    TRACK LISTING

    A1. Starts Festoon
    A2. If Only Sometimes
    B1. Starts Festoon (A Man Called Adam Mix)

    Captain Sunshine

    The Ocean Inside

      Captain Sunshine is the alias of Jon Tye, one half of revered cosmic quakers Seahawks. The style shares many of Seahawks deep space aquatic vibes but is if anything even more salt washed and faded, spaced and misted. The Ocean Inside was recorded alone during a particularly long and dark winter voyage. A dose of flu helped create a deep dream state, sometimes unsettling at others blissfully narcotic. The analog tape recordings were later cut and spliced together with occasional overdubs of guitar and vocal to form a collection of celestial tone poems that at times recall early Eno, Vangelis, Joe Meek’s ‘I Hear A New World’ or even Aphex Twin’s selected ambient works. Deep and meditative, warm and enveloping, this is a great album to put on of a clear evening as you stare at the stars, watch the distant ships bobbing on the waves or simply zone out in your favourite place. 
      The digital download that accompanies the cassette also includes some exclusive tracks and bonus content plus all the individual tracks.


      TRACK LISTING

      A1. The Ocean Inside
      A2. The Ocean Inside Pt 2
      A3. Celestial Dubs
      B1. Silver Scene
      B2. Moon Mist
      B3. Ice Fur Ice
      B4. Sunset Shadows
      B5. Wind Blows


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