David Magnier's ever-reliable House of Disco imprint brings another upfront slice of unashamed, finger-snapping disco grooves on the Gruff EP, served up by Dutch disco duo Fouk. The title track manages to amalgamate touches of funk into its disco tapestry—funky basslines, wide chord structures and plenty of low-end swing—with an underpinning of guitar licks and wah-wah pedal flourishes. The beauty of "Gruff" is that, although it's heavy with funk influences and disco structure, there are many bridges and distinct flavors to the cut, making it tailored towards any house-oriented dancefloor.
On the flip, the EP continues the party-leaning jams with "Freebooter" featuring a classic, mid '90s guitar-sample strum and some uplifting strings. Combined with pitched-up vocals, the whole track sounds like a direct homage to early French Touch disco, à la DJ Gregory and Bob Sinclar's Africanism project and, a bit later, Daft Punk's Homework. Big, choral string samples mix with a sharp and snapping disco structure, an unashamedly positive feel carrying through to the track’s final beats.
Fouk's third original offering, "Orchard," boasts a live drum pattern sample and gentle keys, while layers of percussion and a dusty bass line bring stomp and groove to this airy and summery disco cut. It's hazy in its production and dreamlike in its feel, with a low-slung, funked-out bassline giving it an even more gorgeous, harmonic quality atop its gentle rhythm.
Ron Basejam's remix of "Gruff " brings a hit of Afrobeat quality—its bongo samples, slowly awakening sub-bass and effects-laden vocal samples merge deep-house sexiness with hypnotic, cosmos-bending disco undertones. On the drop, cheeky piano stabs, bouncing, feel-good bass hooks and acidic oscillation coalesce around the kick drum, making for the most impressive and fun track off the collection.
Finally, it's the turn of Snacks to rework the title track; his version opens with clipped, pressurized drum hits and a lovely, wistful melody. Gently EQed guitar licks are married to trombone samples, taking key elements from the original and creating an entirely fresh track, heavy on the disco sass and sporting a big, widescreen sound. Gruff is a magnificent EP that will keep you nice 'n' toasty, even during even the bleakest month.