Monday, May 2, 2011
It's been almost nine years since Audio Soul Project released a full-length album, but it isn't like man-behind-the-moniker Mazi Namvar hasn't been busy. Easily one of Chicago's prolific producers, Namvar teamed up with fellow Windy City regular Justin Long to form Wasted Chicago Youth and released a glut of tracks and remixes over the last couple of years. But in finally putting out a follow-up to 2002's Community, Namvar turns his back from the tech-leaning directions he's explored of late, returning to the deeper feel of his earlier productions.
With barely perceptible vocal samples and a hypnotic rhythm, the record kicks off with "Mnemosyne," a feel good track with just enough urgency to turn things over and get the engine started. "Have It All Dub" packs a little more punch, with a killer house groove and R&B-tinged vocals that push to the front during the breakdown.
Vocals play a prominent role on Hip Shake Heartache, putting different finishes on Namvar's solid production—whether powerfully belted out on the unexpected disco strains of "Good Inside," or Alexander East's trademarked breathy croon in soulfulness (laid perfectly over Richard Gow's jazzy piano noodling) on "My Bluff," or even the relative flatness and sensitive delivery of Namvar's Fresh Meat cohort Nathan Drew Larsen (House Of Black Dress). But the album closer "Call Of Grace" has the biggest vocal payoff, with Ron Carroll urging listeners to "raise your hands if you feel it..." as just the right amount of funk in a subtle bassline keeps it buoyantly bouncing along.
There's a lot to like about the instrumental tracks too, with "Dig Up" showcasing the saxophone abilities of Richard Gow and Jimmy Tripp's electric piano working together, as the beat gallops along at a confident mid-tempo jog. "Asha," meanwhile, is the LP's most obvious floor mover—albeit subtle and in-check with the rest of the album—with a R&B-tinged feel, and just a touch of that songbird chirping down the echoing hallway of a churning, floor-friendly 125 BPMs.
At its best, Hip Shake Heartache manages to rise above a mere exercise to showcase Namvar's 15 years of production experience in Audio Soul Project (plus a few more as a DJ). Yes, the varied cuts, styles and influences shine through each and every track, but there is also a certain cohesiveness that blesses Hip Shake Heartache with rare and complete LP listenability from a house artist. Audio Soul Project isn't reinventing the wheel, but give credit to Namvar for putting together a complete album that clearly credits classic house but doesn't come off as some tired and forced homage built for cred.
Artist: Audio Soul Project
Title: Hip Shake Heartache
Label: Fresh Meat Records
Format: Vinyl 12", Digital File
Released: December 2010
Featuring Ron Carroll on vocals
Audio Soul official web
Audio Soul Project Myspace
Audio Soul Projecgt on Discogs
Release review on RA