Vanity Press Records megapost

January 21, 2018 at 9:27 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Charles Trees: EP 12″

Vanity Press Records gets an enormous amount of love from this blog, as it consistently delivers some of the best new underground dance music from Detroit and beyond. The latest round of titles, all of which are (or will be) available digitally from Bandcamp and physically from the label’s site, is typically excellent, and pushes the label’s scope a little further than previously hinted at. On his Vanity Press debut, Ann Arbor resident Charles Trees continues to explore hip-hop-influenced house, which is surprisingly only his second vinyl release. “Feels” has rough, choppy bongo drums and brief, blippy vocal samples with a gyrating bassline surging things forward during the last couple minutes. It sounds like there might be some jazzy vibraphones tucked away in the mix, also. “Matern” is a bit more dramatic, with tense synth-strings and a percolating acid bassline. Best of all is the B-side, “Flex”, which turns an infamous Funkmaster Flex rant (the one where he tells Jay-Z “Your website is trash!”) into a fun, furious club banger. His words are often edited and repeated to emphasize particularly biting lines and hype things up with the beat, and it ends pretty viciously.

Force Placement/Val G: split 7″

Continuing with the hip-hop/house tangent is the label’s first 7″ release. Detroit’s Val G released one of Vanity Press Records’ first releases, containing edits/reworks of tracks by Aaliyah and NIN. The mysterious producer’s second release takes on a ’90s LL Cool J hit, endlessly looping and filtering the hook into a splashy pool party jam. On the other side, Los Angeles’ Force Placement provides a more relaxed cut, “Play On”. I’m not recognizing the sample, but it’s not quite as upfront as the track on the other side, it’s more of a hazy drift. This one’s still a summer record, but it’s more for relaxing and cooling off from the heat. The simple piano notes help push this into a more contemplative zone.

Expletive: EP 12″

Moving away from party-friendly house, the second release from Boston producer Expletive (properly spelled !@#$%) is one of the label’s most experimental releases yet. The A-side is taken up by “Static”, a stunning track which filters digital static into some sort of rhythmic hook, and fuses it with fast, thumpy beats and ghostly ambient synths, and some haunting voices. You wonder where it’s going while it’s happening, then when it’s over you wonder where you’ve been taken to, and where else you can go from there. On the second side, “Sorting Data” has a tech geek’s voice constantly interrupted by rapid arpeggios and electro beats. The sounds seem very basic and lo-bit, but they’re arranged into something that manages to gradually become more momentous. “Big Shift” is a continuation of “Sorting Data”, traveling the same beat but going in a more dramatic direction, turning into some sort of bubbling bitwave acid trance with a relentlessly pounding kick drum. Truly a record that does a lot with just a few simple sounds, and an exciting left-field surprise.

Color Plus: EP 12″

I’ve been admiring Color Plus for a while now (or at least what I’ve heard), so it’s exciting to hear the experimental club producer on local favorite Vanity Press Records. Five tracks of vastly forward thinking beats that shun typical rhythms or structures but still have the fire to burn up a club. “Keygen” is a constantly flowing ripple of stuttering beats, obscured vocals, and soothing synth pads; heavily trippy but also steady and club-focused. “Medical MF” is a bit more fun and cheeky, with flickering machinery and an echoed voice repeating “the prozac seems to be working.” “Powercell” is more tough, hyped-up club music, with ’80s rap scratches and a slyly fluctuating, shimmering melody. “Da Back” (featuring AceMo) is more uptempo and ghettotech-inspired, with club-prowling lyrics and punchier snares. Totally on a different level than the other tracks on the disc is “Fade 2”, a leftfield pop gem sung by VXO and produced by Color Plus. It’s a sort of U.K. garage throwback with airy synths and loads of trippy effects, and it’s the type of track you’ll feel like you’ve heard before but can’t remember where. It’s astoundingly good. This and the Expletive EP are in tight competition for my favorite Vanity Press releases so far.


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