Posts Tagged 'deep house'

Redwood City EP out Now on General Release

With some great support from Amazing Beats (thanks Mark!), my first release on Deep Nota, the Redwood City EP, is now available from all good digital retailers!

Redwood City shows my love of the deeper and jazzy side of house music; from smooth electric pianos, lilting trumpets and soulful vocal accents inspired by the sounds of classic deep house to more progressive and contemporary driving basslines, chopped chords and breakbeats.


Chris Minus- Finding Spaces (Marc Cotterell’s Late Night Mix)

Released at the end of last month on UM Records, this is my choice track from the Finding Spaces EP from Danish producer Chris Minus.

This track, for me, is what deep house is all about. A simple and elegant selection of sounds, a straightforward arrangement, lacking even any real breakdown, and then you have those two filtered chords that are the substance of the track.

With those elements in place, it’s deep house business as usual. The main synth is complemented by a simple humming-like vocal line, which provides just enough interest without becoming obtrusive and dominating the mix.

I really do like this track, it is the perfect example of how, if you pick the right sounds, you don’t need to have overly complicated arrangements and complicated effects trickery to make a track interesting; although there is enough ear candy here to keep things moving along. This should be a staple of bar sets everywhere.

Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro Headphones Review

DT-880 Pros are pretty well reviewed already –they’ve been around for a while, after all- so why should you read this one? Well, first of all it’s another opinion and, secondly, as far as I can find, no-one has talked about their suitability for house music production on the road using an Apogee One as an interface. I’ll assume that you’ve read some other reviews and product descriptions, so I’ll not repeat all of the basics and just concentrate on my experience with these headphones.

DT 880 Pro: Build Quality, Comfort and Appearance

Let’s start with comfort. Despite being a bit heavier than its main competitors, the Sennheiser HD650s and the AKG K701s, these are comfortable ‘phones. There isn’t too much downward pressure on the top of your head; the inward pressure feels reassuring, with a feeling of closeness without causing any discomfort, even after long listening sessions. The material used for the padding is smooth and soft, and doesn’t make your head too sweaty, which is always a bonus.

Appearance is pretty good too. The ‘phones come in a nice foam-lined zip up case and look the part. If I have any complaints, it’s that the cradles that support the cups look like a bit of a design afterthought, and the exposed cabling looks thin and fragile, but then, these headphones are cheaper than both the AKGs and the Sennheisers.

Build quality and potential long-term functionality is where I start to have issues. First off, the cable is non-detachable, being moulded into the bottom of one of the cups, so any wiring issues are going to be complicated to resolve, with higher repair bills, as described in this review. If I’m being honest, I don’t think any phones at this price point should have moulded cables, particularly those with ‘Pro’ in the name.

I’m also not sure about running that thin little cable from one cup to the other by tucking it under the detachable headband. Those cables seem very delicate, and I’m genuinely quite concerned about them snagging on something at somepoint, having them pulling out of the cups, and expensive repair bills resulting. Not sure that this feeling of breakability inspires confidence in a pair of working headphones. Compared with my Sennheiser HD555s, which were a third of the price, this cup to cup cabling arrangement seems poor.

The size adjustment is also a bit clunky, with the cup, brackets sliding back and forth in not a particularly smooth way. This is something I expect to be doing a lot of, as, with the ‘phones fitted to my head, putting them back in the case means that the moulded cable is at quite an extreme angle, and under a lot of stress, due to the snug fit in the case, so, to minimise that, I have to push the brackets back in again. Then, every time I resize, I’m concerned I’m going to catch the cables with my fingers.

DT 880 Pro: Sound

The sound performance is where the DT 880 Pros redeem themselves. These are the best ‘phones, from an accuracy perspective, that I’ve heard. The HD650s are perhaps more exciting to listen to, with the more ‘hyped’ bass response, but for critical mix decisions, I’d feel more comfortable trusting these; everything just seems more flat, and ‘egalitarian’ in the mix. Bass is low and extended, but feels well controlled. These are exceptionally good sounding headphones for the money.

Listening through an Apogee One after allowing a good length of burn in time, playing a variety of tracks showed this to be a good, reliable performer, from Alison Krauss to Maya Jane Coles, via KT Tunstall, Teenage Fanclub, Jacqueline du Pre and The Pretenders. I enjoyed the level of detail, accurate soundstage and the depth of the mix that was presented. Great performers.

DT 880 Pro: Deep House Production

So, the real reason for using these ‘phones, those late night deep house production sessions when using monitors is out of the question. After firing up Ableton Live 8, plugin 112 dB’s excellent Redline Monitor plugin into the master effects, I got to work. I can’t remember the last time I found it this easy to dial in a good kick sound. I usually layer two or three, and filter and eq to get them working together, then compress. I had a sound I was happy with in next to no time. Balancing and eqing my layered clap and snare hits was a breeze, and before I knew where I was, I had the bass sitting comfortably in a hole and, to me at least, a reasonably complete groove going on.

As I’ve discussed in a previous post, I would rather mix on good headphones than cheap monitors in an untreated room; these ‘phones have raised the bar as to what good monitors in a good room are. I can see myself spending a lot more time mixing on these, the level of detail available to make those critical decisions and hear those little distortions is fantastic. Combined with the Redline plugin, I really do have the confidence to make mix decisions on these.

DT 880 Pro: Summary

Well, the sound is spectacular, I feel happy mixing on these, and would much rather mix on these than speakers that are getting to a less than modest price point. The issue for me really is that feeling of delicacy, and, if there is a problem, a large repair bill. Despite the protective case, I can’t picture myself travelling with these ‘phones, which is a shame as it would be fantastic not to have to waste hours remixing everything when I get back to the studio. Unfortunately, I think I’ll stick to my K271 mkIIs for the road, even with their lack of bass response, purely as they feel more robust and have a detachable cable. Oh, and their closed back so I’ll annoy fewer people in coffee shops!

More about the music…

I think, up until now, I’ve been guilty of trying to make each post a wonderful technical resource, as such, I’ve mostly completely overlooked the most important aspect: the music. So from now on, I will post regular, short reviews and opinions on the deep house tracks I like. Or don’t.

Let’s start straight away with Juan Lombardo‘s Deep Track (Original Mix). Released on Deep Nota Records -a label on which I always keep an eye- this, as I’m sure you can tell from the title, is a deep track. Some of the synth sound design comes from the more techy end of the spectrum, but the arrangement and the production mean that this is rooted firmly in deep house territory.

A percussion-led intro builds as the synth opens up, before the bass kicks in just after a minute. This, for me, is where the track sounds it’s weakest, with the bass not quite sitting happily and gelling with the drums and percussion for me. All changes though at 2.03 where, after a breakdown, the track drops and really kicks things off: the additional elements really tying everything together.

After that, the rest of the track rolls along, with several more brief breakdowns keeping everything moving. If anything, I would love an extended version, with a few more bars between the breakdowns, such is my love for this groove as it rolls along. Straight into my set list and definitely worth a listen.

The Tech End of Deep

Back in about 2003 or so, deep house was the genre that really got me into dance music, made me pick up my first pair of turntables and spend every penny I earned on building up my vinyl collection.

Before that, I was mostly a guitar guy: I liked my indie, my blues and my jazz. Then, almost overnight, I discovered a whole new group of musical heroes: to Johnny Marr, SRV and Joe Pass, I added Soularis, Johnny Fiasco and Kevin Yost, with many more to follow.

I think what appealed to me most about deep house at that time, was the underlying jazz influence. It was music you could just put your feet up and listen to. It worked in bars and restaurants as well as clubs, and even made listenable the smooth jazz tracks that were often sampled.

The tunes were full of filtered Rhodes pianos, muted trumpets and guitars playing finger-stretching jazz chords; even an occasional vibraphone for a bit of variety. These days though, I’m finding it harder to differentiate some of the songs that often make it into Beatport’s top ten deep house chart from some tech-house. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: some deep house sounds can end up a bit too smooth even for me; I’m not sure I could play them out without cringing slightly.

Maybe it’s just where I happen to live, but I wonder if there is the same type of ‘bar culture’ that used to exist 10 years ago. It seems as though a night out these days involves hitting a cheap pub to get a few in, before heading on to the club. The upscale bar with its comfortable seats, small dancefloor in the corner and a barman who knows that a martini is made with gin and not vodka doesn’t seem to be around as much anymore, at least not outside of hotel bars filled with people still in their suits after a day of meetings. For those type of bars, deep house was the perfect soundtrack. Maybe I need to get back to Clapham again…

I think the deep house sound that first hooked me was just so versatile, from late-night listening on the couch at home, to perfect bar music that let you carry on your conversation, but with your foot still tapping under the table. Maybe it’s just the passage of the years, but I miss those types of night out, but perhaps I’ve just not been finding those bars; it would be nice to rediscover that atmosphere. As Mutiny said- ‘Bliss, feels like this’.

Maybe it’s time to just kick back, put my feet up, and stick an old Bargrooves mix CD on…

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