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  • Filed under: Review
  • 11/22/2011

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MikeQ Let It All Out

When XLR8R took a closer look at modern ballroom and vogue house earlier this year, the music appeared prime to break out in a major way. Largely built upon raw, upfront drum sounds, recycled snippets of hip-hop and R&B, and, most importantly, the ever-present "Ha" (itself a repurposed Masters at Work sample), vogue house seemingly offered the sort of sound that tastemaking and blog-reading DJs would snap up with aplomb. Hell, even Diplo championed the ballroom scene. Yet, for whatever reason, the expected vogue-house explosion hasn't really happened. While a handful of non-ballroom producers and DJs (most coming from the world of bass music) have experimented with the genre, the music essentially continues to hum along in the underground.

So what does this mean for Let It All Out? The seven-track EP is the first "official" release from New Jersey's MikeQ, one of the unquestioned leaders of the current vogue-house scene, and follows in the wake of a slew of self-released tunes he's dropped over the past few years. Let It All Out is also the second record on Kingdom's Fade to Mind imprint, which has already received mountains of praise despite its short discography. Given the EP's high level of quality, the acclaim is unlikely to cease in the near future. Eschewing obvious hip-hop/pop/R&B samples and employing a greatly refined approach, it appears that MikeQ has made the proverbial "leap" as an artist.

Early ballroom adopters might initially groan at the inclusion of the title track, which has been the closest thing to a vogue-house crossover anthem in 2011. That said, the song, produced in collaboration with MikeQ's best friend/nemesis Angel X, is undoubtedly still new to most of the electronic-music world. Furthermore, the "2012 Version" included on the EP does change things up from the prior versions of the song that have been circulating on the web. The track keeps the potent Ha drops front and center, but MikeQ switches up the drum patterns while adding in some jacking, ravey synth stabs. In all honesty, "Let It All Out" sounds better, and, yes, more polished than than ever. That sort of tactic isn't often encouraged on XLR8R, but given the blown-out, ultra-raw sound MikeQ was offering up less than a year ago, this kind of growth is a very good thing.

To its benefit, the entire EP displays that same polish. Opening cut "The Master Blaster" is undoubtedly MikeQ's most accomplished work to date, a big-room house tune punctuated by sleek, angular synths that swiftly fly through the song. It's obvious that MikeQ has been taking production notes from the rest of the Fade to Mind crew, making these productions equally suitable for the basement, the ball, and the club. "The Ha Dub Rewerk'd" is another potent and remarkably mature effort, as the producer delivers a nearly nine-minute track that liberally reformats Masters at Work's "The Ha Dance" without losing steam or growing stagnant. Those craving something a little edgier can find solace in "Feels Like," a hard, attitude-soaked tune dominated by a fierce MC turn from Philadelphia's Kevin Jz Prodigy. It's not subtle, but the song bangs harder than anything else on the EP.

The release is rounded out by a trio of remixes, the best of which is the Jersey club rework by the up-and-coming DJ Sliink. The Newark-based artist takes "The Ha Dub Rewerk'd" and gives it the club treatment, giving the percussion some serious stutter and infectiously repeating the MAW samples again and again. The closing remix from Nadus flips "The Master Blaster" in a similar fashion, only utilizing footwork as a baseline instead of club music. The only ballroom-styled remix comes from one of MikeQ's fellow vogue-house heavyweights, Vjuan Allure, who interestingly sidesteps the Ha and transforms "The Master Blaster" into a hyperactive house monster loaded with swooshing synths and a seemingly endless series of crashes.

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