It seems that Hotflush boss Scuba may have found something of a kindred spirit in Belgian producer Tim Van de Meutter (a.k.a Locked Groove). With Heritage—his most substantial release to date—Van de Meutter has created a double EP that feels like a spiritual follow-up to Scuba's gear-shifting 2011 single, Adrenalin. Just as Scuba did with that release and, to some extent, the better moments of last year's Personality, Heritage finds Van de Meutter confronting the sounds of big-room dance music head on whilst, for the most part, keeping the subtle nuances and rhythmic complexity of his earlier work intact. It may not be first time that Locked Groove has displayed a fondness for arena-ready sounds—the a-sides to each of his previous Hotflush releases, Keep It Simple and Rooted, were both built around a framework of meaty 4x4 kicks and rave-friendly synth lines—but Heritage undoubtedly sounds like the most confident and self-assured thing that Van de Meutter has ever released, and it's a sound that really suits him.
Opener "Do It Anyway" sets the tone of the EP perfectly; it's a slow-building and subtly melodic tune constructed out of the no-nonsense building blocks of classic house and techno. Van de Meutter builds a beat out of strong 4x4 kicks, vintage claps, and old-fashioned tamborine loops and uses it as a base on which to build eight minutes of late-night melodic house with joyously retro synths and crudely chopped vocal samples. Similarly, "Wear It Well" is an unashamedly nostalgic homage to classic East Coast house, complete with shuffling NY garage hi-hats and an unconvincing horn riff.
Heritage's best moments come, however, when Van de Meutter playfully embraces the sounds of classic '90s rave music. "Firefall" is built around a chugging old-school tech-house bassline that sounds like it's been designed with dingy warehouse parties in mind, while "Nighttime at the Garage" is a patchwork of bouncy analog bass and filtered synth lines. Taking a slightly different path, the EP's nine-minute closing track, "Lost," evokes the moods of vintage German techno with its incomprehensible spoken-word vocal and ghostly synth melodies. Yet it's "Dream Within A Dream," a full-on work of heart-wrenchingly melodic trance arpeggios and drawn-out bass hits, that proves to be the record's highlight. It's an example of Van de Meutter at his very best; he takes classic, almost cheesy sounds and shapes them into a hugely cinematic piece of slow-building, endlessly emotive dance music.
There's every chance that Heritage will see Locked Groove losing fans as well as gaining them; as his label boss knows all too well, stepping out of the underground and experimenting with the sounds of the mainstream can be like playing with fire. That said, it takes a huge amount of compositional dexterity to be able to take such obvious influences and make something unique with them. Here, Van de Meutter manages to be playfully nostalgic while maintaining a forward-thinking outlook, and the end result is an EP of confident, classic-sounding dance music that sets him head and shoulders above many of his peers.
Stream Locked Groove's Heritage in full, here.