Nu releases for nu dancefloors

Nuspirit Helsinki
Nuspirit Helsinki
Guidance Recordings

Guidance’s motto is “music is our spiritual guide through life,” and if they continue with albums like this, they could definitely fill that role well. Nuspirit Helsinki’s debut album is a smooth blend of nu-jazz that finds them in a slightly different mood than before, but is still a great-sounding release that harkens back more to the early ’90s acid jazz renaissance than the broken beats of recent releases.

Who ever thought Finns could be so musically down? This funk-jazz collective not only includes its core based in Helsinki, but also Americans such as vocalists Nicole Willis and Chuck Perkins, who add a distinctive flavor to the mix, though sometimes one wishes we could do without Americans on an album for once.

The jazz dancefloor is still as open as ever with the breakbeat-driven “Trying,” the spiritual “Orson” with its varied percussion, and the more upbeat “Skydive,” but it’s the quieter moments that are the most rewarding on this record. The opener “Honest” is jazz vocals with some of its best expression, and “Hard As A Rock” uses minimal but sweeping dub productions and gentle vocals.

With tracks like “Subzero” and others the comparisons are inevitable between Nuspirit and Berlin’s Jazzanova, and while they share many similarities and have collaborated, Nuspirit’s sound as a whole is definitely a lot less manic and eclectic. Tracks like “Circular Motion,” “Silent Steps,” and “I Wonder (2:14 AM)” (featuring Perkins) have a smoky downhome effect that makes you wonder what’s going down in Helsinki. Nuspirit even gets Brazilian with “Seis Por Ocho” that compares with the best ’70s jazz-funk, and feels almost appropriate, as Nuspirit attempts to uniquely meld sounds both past and present.

The Strike Boys
Grapefruit Flavoured Green Tea Time

Stereo Deluxe Records

Hmm, sounds good, doesn’t it? Stereo Deluxe brings you some more feel good vibes from Germany, with The Strike Boys’ second full-length, which features plenty of soulful and atmospheric funky house to give you chills.

The Nuremberg-based duo feed us musical nourishment even better than promised in the title, with the laid-back down home funk of “Run,” the techno-dub of “Music In The Air,” and the Brazilian-tinged “Vida la Revolucion,” which topped charts when released last year as a single. Their eclecticism even makes the album work as a whole, as it goes up and down in rifts, from the heavy basslines of “Mother” to the upbeat vocals of “Without Soul” to the slinky guitar loops and disco horns of “Dope” and the overwhelming Moog synths of “Idols.”

“Sundowner” was also released as a single and features some electro filters and broken beats, while “Go Back Home” slows it down a notch with its St. Germain-esque groove. Those looking for essential funky house tracks need look no further than “Rising” and “Don’t Stop The Music,” even if the latter’s vocoder gets a bit out of control at times. Still, this is an impressive album as a whole, in a genre where albums usually have little meaning.

Planet E Records

The story about Recloose’s musical path is the stuff of legend that will surely be told over and over. Matthew Chicoine was a University of Michigan grad working in a sandwich shop (what else would you expect) when techno don Carl Craig makes an order, and in a flurry of excitement, Chicoine slips one of his DJ mixtapes into his sandwich. Genuinely surprised by the tactic, Craig has a listen, and needless to say, liked it very much.

Similar to Craig, Chicoine started off doing hip-hop DJing, though with initially a more closed stance. Soon enough, however, he was beyond the hype and discovering that the musical divide between hip-hoppers and ravers as well as all other music was just an illusion created by a couple mirrors, a mango, and some masking tape.

Recloose has certainly learned fast and come a long way from his deli meat-handling days. His first full-length offers crosses the boundaries between techno and house (or tech-house if you prefer), as well as soul and downtempo music. “Kapiti Dream” sounds like one of the best dreams anyone has ever had, while “Can’t Take It” is some solid vocal minimal house with techno influences.

“Ain’t Changin'” and “Up And Up” are sure to rock some dancefloors with funky keyboards and rhythm lines, as well as “Ghost Stories,” which is Detroit techno with a more housey feel.

Things get even more eclectic with the abstract beats of “Procession” followed by “Permutations” and “Get There Tonight” combining Afro-Cuban jazz licks with techno production. Finally, be prepared to get lowdown and funky with the last three tracks on the record, with the neo-soul of “M.I.A.,” the sleepy soul instrumental “Absence Of One,” and the sing-along nu-funk of “Cardiology,” rounding out a grab bag of goodies where everything is Skittles and no Tootsie Rolls are involved.