Moving from DJ to label owner would seem like a natural progression. Lively UK radio personality Heidi (née Heidi Van Den Amstel) has recently embarked on this path, building upon her BBC radio show and traveling European party brand with The Jackathon, a DJ mix of exclusive material harkening back to the boompity house sounds of the Big Apple during the late '80s and early '90s, and, now, a label, Jackathon Jams, dedicated to the endeavor. Nevertheless, skill as a selector doesn't automatically translate to success in releasing artists' original work. When it comes to the former, Heidi has her pick of the litter, so to speak. She finds a great song, and she plays it. In commissioning all-new material for her first commercial mix endeavor—from a respected cast of contemporary producers, no less—she had to make do with the results, and not everything on The Jackathon lived up to the name. The mix certainly had its weak points, but so long as Heidi can maintain the ear for quality that she's used to build up her well-deserved reputation over the years, she should be able to curate more carefully moving forward. Judging from the material on the premier release for her newly minted imprint, it's already starting to happen.
Debuting with an all-female cast that includes British house maven Maya Jane Coles and veteran electro queen Miss Kittin (along with a remix of the latter from Deslat's tINI), the first installment of Heidi Presents Jackathon Jams seems to indicate that Heidi hasn't lost her ability to cherry-pick top-tier talent. Coles' "Getting Freaky" doesn't stray far from the critically adored producer's usual style. With double-time rimshots chattering over ultra-clean deep bass tones and the low-slung purr of "Betcha gettin' freaky/I wanna wreck your mind," Coles has again shown why she's cornered the market on a tasteful and potent new strain of house music. As effects-laden gospel-choir stabs spike during the track's midsection, one really gets a sense of the new-school star's postmodern interpretation of the jacking style Heidi is so focused on recreating. Vintage Chicago signifiers abound, but Coles makes them all her own.
The oversize hand claps and heavily padded drumming of "Girlz" proves Miss Kittin's reference point even more undeniable than Coles'. Given her background in French electro and her work with Felix Da Housecat, she is a jacking torchbearer and an obvious choice for a contribution here. "Girlz"'s distorted synths add layer upon layer of grit, while modulating arpeggios and throwback drum rolls give the track a catch-and-release intensity. It's '90s rave techno reborn as modern-day electro funk à la Hot Creations, just heavier.
tINI's remix of "Girlz," while offering a welcome deep excursion, fails to have as much impact as the original. Stripping down the source material makes sense—there's no need to try and outdo what Miss Kittin has already done—but one must be careful to not throw the track's personality out with the proverbial bathwater. All that's left, then, is filler, and that's what much of tINI's rerub feels like. A crisp tech-house beat shares space with toned-down padded drumming from the original; dog barking and dissected vocal snippets add some cool, colorful notes, but the track's pace is set early on and never deviates. Some might call this hypnotic, others, boring, and it's hard to deny that the tune gives the EP the same two-steps-forward, one-step-back feel that troubled Heidi's initial foray into scoping talent. It's a misstep, albeit one that doesn't derail the entire release, or the feeling that Heidi is at least moving in the right direction with her young label.