Smallville and their associated artists have been churning out quaint deep house cuts for years, honing a unique approach to house music that's as much influence by classic German labels like Dial and Playhouse as they are by people like Theo Parrish and Mike Huckaby. It's this fusion of restrained German minimalism and Detroit soul that has so warmed people to their sound. RVDS' amazing release of sweet, introspective acidic house Moon On Milky Way was one of the highlights of last year, and they've already started 2014 with a fantastic album by STL that I previously discussed here. One of the most prominent artists related to this label is Christopher Rau who's released two albums on the Hamburg based label. He's built a career out of roughed up, soulful house music that's as satisfying for home listening as it is for a sweaty packed club. He starts 2014 off with a release for the young Office label, marking their third release.
Listening to Christopher Rau's release Broke you wouldn't think it's the middle of winter. As I'm writing this the weather is breaking through the number 453 bus outside my window and pouring into my lounge, smothering me with delicious sunlight vibes. I'm halfway through the first cut Mehris Groove and I'm starting to think bees are swarming around my imaginary Pimms. It has a metronomic bounce and tough drum track that completely locks you in, using similar techniques of repetition and hypnotism that most techno capitalizes on. It's got similar vibe to the harder edged tunes that someone like Motor City Drum Ensemble has been putting out. A surprisingly upfront main chord breaks into a jazzy lick half way through in a way that changes the feel of the beat underneath, turning the song into a swirling roller. It's a stand out moment and one that shows the level of understanding that Rau has over house rhythms. The other two cuts on the release go into stranger territory. Title track Broke is a chugging number with licks that threatens to break into something bigger but instead stays restrained to the background. Complete with Parrish-ian hats and a deep, encompassing bass, it shows a more introspective side to Rau's work. The last cut Im Sumpf is a muddy, organic number with distant vocal samples and synthetic bird cries that's a more than satisfying closer to this release.