Catz N Dogz, Iron Curtis
The word "Retrofit" has its origins in the 1950s, as the rapidly industrializing world needed a convenient way to combine the concepts of "retroactive" (focused in the past) and "refit" (modernized with an eye to the present and future). The word conjures up images of powerful machinery, smoky factories, and the willpower of many sweat-drenched men and women laboring to push civilization forward. Jay Shepheard, main-man of the label with this hefty moniker, embraces this ethos, and his latest release, "Retrofit 8," is a wonderfully designed journey through past and future dancefloor sounds.
First up is a remix of Shepheard's "Add Arp." Shepheard's original was the first release on Retrofit back in 2010, and quickly garnered praise both for him and his label. A deliciously evocative and daring groover, it combined the best elements of house's softer chords and pads with techno's relentless synth stabs and percussion. Retro-fitting this piece of music for the modern dance music landscape is a task expertly performed by Catz N Dogz, who deliver a dark and emotional track that stays true to the original. From the start, the track builds with a Moog-esque bassline, with a low pad rumbling the subwoofers and providing the foundation for quirkier synths and triangle hits. When the claps kick in at 1:30, the track is already in full gear, with a brilliant shuffle and tom loop propelling all the dancefloor-minded. After another minute of intense build, the bassline shows its true colors with a simple but powerful progression that drops into a breakdown. Out of the echoing, murky soup emerges a single trumpet, blaring a melody that could bring a floor to its knees. With the sun in our eyes, hands in the air, and bodies in motion, we get plunged back into the meat of the tune as the kick and bass return to take the track into the home stretch. This is a winner on many fronts, as Catz N Dogz deliver a sublime slice of peak-time house.
Next up is a remix of Shepheard's "String Theory" from swiftly rising Iron Curtis. Curtis maintains a notoriously low profile, letting his music speak for itself, and this track does not disappoint. This outing could be summed up as follows: Iron Curtis takes Jay Shepheard to Detroit. The sounds of the Motor City (and Curtis' own Berlin) resonate in the muffled kick drum and vague stabs as the track slowly unfolds. The louder synthy bass of the original is passed up in favor of a chugging drive, with raw percussive elements. The drum programming and choice of sounds is so authentic that the track feels as though it's floating in time. It could have been made two decades ago on analog equipment or this year with samples...we'll never know. The strings for which the track is named drive it to a frenzy, collapsing into a breakdown around the four-minute mark. Textures abound and short samples of violins bubble to the surface before being quickly sucked back in. Warm pads issuing minor chords push the song forward as it drops into the last couple of minutes of detroit techno/house bliss (or as Iron Curtis might label it, "house not house").
This EP is a brilliant listen in the studio, and a sublime experience on the dancefloor (or warehouse, as the case may be). Jay Shepheard's pioneering influence on earlier outings is indeed "retrofit" with the techy minds of Catz N Dogz and the Detroit-influenced flavor of Iron Curtis. Get this on vinyl right now.
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