As acts like Apollonia or Premiesku have proven, sometimes three really is the magic number. The latest trio of house artists looking to combine their individual sounds into an amplified whole is Mandar, a group of DJ-producers with a significant underground following.
Most famous is the Parisian Lazare Hoche (real name Charlie Naffah), who has gained a reputation for dancefloor geared, deeper-than-deep-house records and reissues of classic, underappreciated French house 12"s through his eponymous label.
Though his tunes are aimed squarely at clubs, they’re detailed, hypnotic and atmospheric too, a rare blend that allies him with a long line of Gallic dance producers.
He also co-runs the Oscillat Music label with his two partners in Mandar, Amsterdam’s Malin Genie (Nick Putman), and Copenhagen’s S.A.M (Samuel Andre Madsen), who’ve each built reputations of their own with respected releases and labels Vigenère and Delaphine.
Together, they synthesise their skills and tastes into a beguiling blend that’s more suitable for headphone listening than you might expect. Opening cut "Canary" is all hopeful, enveloping pads and deep resonant bass tones, a snapping breakbeat and twinkling bleeps eventually giving way to a heavy house kick. When everything clicks into a place, it’s an exciting, irresistible combination.
More surprising is "Ascend," a stop-start, tumbling ambient breakbeat piece that sounds closer to a downtempo Detroit tune from the early '90s, or an early Warp record. It’s sublime. "Sequence 25," too, departs from type, a synth experiment wherein they’ve taken delight in programming their presumably analog gear into a wiggy, squiggling sequence like something from a 1980s public information film.
For those craving some 4/4, don’t worry: Mandar has plenty of that too. "FFF3" is an uptempo techno cut, of looping, trippy organ and swung hats ‘n’ snares, gorgeous pads opening out the groove as it progresses. "Else" is a stripped bare, skeletal rhythm track with deep sub-bass, those encroaching pads providing a sense of musicality while your motor brain concentrates on the rhythm. "Another Joint," meanwhile, is a heavy deep house cut of the sort Lazare Hoche fans might be expecting, its funk bass reminiscent of an early Alex Gopher or Chateau Flight number, before acid squelches and offbeat drum hits add interest.
There’s a significant portion of ambient music on Mandar, too, with "Dawn’" a celestial exercise in synth manipulation you might expect in a Mixmaster Morris DJ set, and "Balls and Dices" reminiscent again of early '90s IDM.
The overall sense is of a group cementing their unified identity, with an urge to create an album for listening rather than simply a parade of club tracks. It’s an album as albums should be: an engrossing listen rather than a succession of 'bangers.' Still, the group are mindful of their club roots and vinyl DJs are well catered for: the album is available as a five-record box set, or as three EPs with alternate club mixes, as well as in the typical CD and download formats. All in all, Mandar is a considered, deeply impressive listen that any house music aficionado would go head over heels for.
B. "Another Joint"
D. "Lawed Mack"
F. "La Bocca"
G2. "Balls ’N’ Dices"
I1. "Deep Fried Shrim"
I2. "Sequence 25"
Mandar is due out on September 30.