Free Magic & JKriv Catalano EP
Even after decades of exploration by hungry producers, some styles of music somehow manage to still sound fresh. Soul-infused, disco-influenced house is one such strain, and when it's done properly, the music can be just as irresistible as it was 10, 15, or 20 years ago. Fortunately, the third record from New York's fledging Discovery label (which sprouted from the long-running party of the same name) showcases two producers largely doing it right.
Free Magic and JKriv (two of Discovery's four residents) do not appear to be sheepish about their admiration of the various genres which lie at the roots of house—funk, disco, soul, and a bit of jazz among them. All three tracks on the Catalano EP incorporate live (or at least live-sampled) elements from these genres—the title track with funky guitar and reworked vocals, "Headbands" laying down jumping piano chords and another helping of soulful voices, and the closing "Night Braces" featuring a disarming organ solo. Of course, there's also plenty of hand percussion to be heard at just about any point in each tune. In truth, the production pair comes rather close to venturing too deep into these influences, treading close enough to lounge-style kitsch that some listeners will likely be turned off. But for those willing to withstand a little cheese, the record has plenty to offer. In fact, the EP's lack of seriousness may even work to its advantage, helping distinguish it from the current crop of meditative blog-house that seems to be around every corner. Despite whatever lack of "originality" one may find on the Catalano EP, it's hard to deny both Free Magic and JKriv have a genuine house spirit coursing through their veins.
Still, beyond whatever this EP may say about the current state of NY house music (other than that some people are still clearly in it for the fun), it's worth noting that all three of its efforts are especially well crafted. Particularly good is the closing "Night Braces," a track which—if you ignore its playfully aimless organ solo—is the most modern-sounding effort on the EP, complete with a slight skip, thick bassline, and hefty chord stabs. In combination with the record's other two offerings, it nicely wraps up what is ultimately a rather inviting record.
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