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John Digweed – Quattro II (Bedrock)

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‘Quattro II‘ is the second ‘Quattro‘ album from John Digweed comprising four traditional CD-length mixes. 

John needs no introduction, having been at the forefront of electronic music for over 30 years as a DJ, producer and Bedrock Records boss. The pandemic zeitgeist has had a seismic impact on music and events, and artists themselves, with some virtually disappearing yet others adapting with the times and thriving with unprecedented output. Digweed is the latter, having religiously delivered 40 ‘Bunker’ sessions from his home whilst also continuing his weekly ‘Transitions’ radio show throughout the pandemic.

Both ‘Quattro‘ compilations are in many ways extended studio versions of a bunker session, typically starting off with slick downtempo electronic grooves seamlessly blended together, showcasing a level of creativity that would not often be afforded by impatient dancers wanting to get their rave on, captivating the listener and building a mesmerising journey of electronica into more traditional dancefloor friendly material. The four mixes on ‘Quattro II’ are once again titled ‘Soundscape’, ‘Tempo’, ‘Redux‘ and ‘Juxtaposition’, following the successful pattern of the first instalment. 

The ‘Quattro II’ collection starts off with the ‘Soundscape’ mix in a similar vein to the now infamous bunker sessions. Anticipation builds with cinematic synth-laden soundscapes; the clue was in the title after all. The first mix includes a number of familiar contributors from the Bedrock family as well as some re-worked ‘Bunker’ favourites from the past 12 months. The opening scene is provided by Acid Rockers with ‘Exploring Delta Dub‘, deep and evolving arpeggiated rhythms accompanied by a low synth lead, setting the scene for the journey. Stelios Vassiloudis, a regular on the Bedrock imprint, continues with ‘Alone’, lightening the mood with a beachy ambient piece complete with a sensual breath, conjuring up distant memories of daydreaming on a sun lounger.

One of 2020’s highlights follows in a reworked beatless form of Betical’s ‘Icon’, retaining the pained vocal and melody but losing the percussion from the original. Itself a bunker favourite from the French duo that Digweed opened a rare set away from the bunker with during the height of the pandemic.

Lush warm acidic bassline and melodies by Berlin synth maestro Hannes Bieger are accompanied by Juan Hansen’s haunting vocal in ‘Burn Your Love‘, followed by an ambient mix of Satoshi Fumi & Ian O’Donovan’s ‘Rising’, itself a Bedrock release in 2020 in its original form.

‘New Years Day Acid (Beat-less reprise)’ by Josh Wink is as described, beatless, acidic bouncy vibes that continue into ‘My Golden Cage’ by Guy Mantzur & Khen, once again void of kick drum with ‘Kasper Koman’s 6AM Reprise’ but hinting at moving out of first gear with the first appearance of hats and shakers and even a few claps.

Another favourite from 2020 gets a downtempo rework, Satoshi Fumi’s ‘Manis’, one of the stand-out tracks on Quattro I with a beautifully worked chord sequence and arpeggios to match. Frisson material in both its original guise and this, the ‘Firmament mix’.

Lopezhouse, again part of the Bedrock family having released an excellent Sunburst EP in late 2020 contribute ‘Long Rain‘ to the Soundscape mix; finally a kick drum makes an appearance anchoring a trippy, pitched down sounding piece of ambient electronica.

Prolific Bedrock artist Luke Brancaccio makes his first of three appearances on ‘Quattro II’, returning with regular collaborators Gai Barone and Kiki Cave, who appeared together with ‘Monster’ on ‘Quattro I’. The Dub Mix of ‘We Live Electric’ includes a sci-fi sounding affair complete with retro synth lead and a scattering of a gated filtered vocal reminiscent of One Dove’s classic ‘Fallen’.

Luke Brancaccio

Embrace by Dave Walker brings back a kick drum with a slow broken beat and beautiful almost Enya-style floating vocal, simple piano chords, occasional horns and some mesmerising arpeggios.

Luke Branccacio is back next, this time collaborating with T_Mo on a downtempo remix of Colorsound’s ‘Fly With Me’ a short yet uplifting call to action. The first mix closes with ‘Nothing New to Feel’ – a beatless mix by another Bedrock favourite Quivver, a rhythmic rolling soft bassline is accompanied by a filtered vocal and some cinematic futuristic sounds. 

Redux is the second mix in the collection, a more traditional 4/4 mix topped and tailed with broken beats.

Firstly Stelios Vassiloudis’ breaks mix of ‘Rust’, a gentle atmospheric track that is mixed into breaks that mean business with Kohra’s remix of John Digweed and Nick Muir’sForge‘. Tracks from Kohra’s 2020 LP featuring varied and original sounding broken beat electronica were featured in multiple Bunker sessions, paving the way for this remix, a solid piece of dancefloor-oriented breaks with plenty of energy and a modest amount of dirt.

With comparable energy and a familiar name to most, Bushwacka with his remix of ‘Beautiful Thang’ by Tigerhook featuring Randall Jones tells us all to “wake up – we are beautiful, beauty is seeing what you have, seeing what you are” – echoing spoken words combined with the first sign of a hypnotic 4/4 kick drum, bound to have an impact on dancefloors… Soon, surely? Continuing echoing words, this time in a mystical language whose origin is unknown, allegedly even by the original artists Danny Howells and Dick Trevor aka Science Dept. 21 year old ‘Persuasion’ has been reworked by Chris Fortier for this mix retaining the playful retro-sounding funky bass loop.

Lost Desert’s signature warm organic sounds make an appearance next, pitched from his usual tempo to fit in nicely with his remix of Beautiful Strange. The first sign of a mini break lasts only a few seconds before the return of ‘My Golden Cage’, but this time it’s Kasper Koman’s 6AM Remix with decidedly more energy, a full bassline and percussion, the recognisable melody from Guy Mantzur & Khen shining back through with a beautiful break into a happy synth melody.

Almost into 4th gear now, Digweed steps it up another level bringing Lopezhouse back with their remix of Nick Muir’s ‘Stand Still’ – an ironic title obviously, as this one is for marching on the dancefloor, complete with the biggest break yet… breakdown and build up with a dirty rock band bass and accompanying synth to really get things going.

So far the range of electronic music has been varied and spread across several genres but we’re entering into traditional progressive house territory now with Ian O’Donovan’s remix of ‘Tracer’ by Emerson, Digweed, Muir a track that continues to build gently, eventually breaking with sweeping euphoric chords lightening the mood and justifying the Dawn Mix title.

Quivver is back next with his remix of Nick Muir’s ‘Raise’, a slightly darker affair after the previous highs with a huge, slightly dissonant dancing bass leading the way. A staggering fourth remix in a row of Bedrock legend Nick Muir’s music is up next, Satoshi Fumi bringing his characteristically warm melodic tinge to Muir’sSatellite’ with beautifully sequenced chords and arpeggios and an emotional synth string section during the break. The final act of the 2nd part sees the return of John Graham and his ‘Don’t Say Anything’ Quivver track, this time under his Skanna moniker – the darker more breakbeat-oriented alter-ego. Stark contrast from the beatless version in the Soundscape mix, this is dirty dancefloor-oriented breaks material that closes off the set with energy that wouldn’t feel out of place at a Stanton Warriors gig. Quattro II has been a varied adventure so far. 

Tempo is the third mix (and final mix by Digweed) on Quattro II. Finally Nick Muir gets an original track in, with Digweed and Muir’s Stand Still in its original guise. Given the mix title, you might have been excused for thinking we’d be flying straight onto the dancefloor. However Stand Still is more of a traditional intro with evolving beatless arpeggios, mixed into Buraki’s ‘Green Lake’, a light and airy melodic breaks affair.

Having seen a resurgence in the past year or so and the presence of broken beats in plenty Bunker sessions, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear more with ‘Morning Flight‘ by EdOne featuring Martin Herrs & Santanamusique, stepping things up ever so slightly with additional percussion, building the set nicely with anticipation. Hypnotic, repetitive chord sequences follow with Remcord’s ‘Soul Plane’ and the first sign of a 4/4 kick drum, driving the listener into 3rd gear with increased tempo.

Dino Lenny makes his first appearance with ‘Sweet Paranoia’ and a vocal that progresses from spoken word to a lazily sung chorus breaking into an energetic second half accompanied by some warm and uplifting pads. ‘Exploring Delta Nine’, a beatless version of which opened the Soundscape mix, returns in full-fat form, bubbling along with the same mesmerising repetitive melody as the dub mix, this time with full percussion and additional synths.

The aptly named ‘Space Bass’ by Mono Electric Orchestra (an alias of veteran electronic music producer Barry Jamieson) continues the journey with a bouncing bassline, mixed into Dino Lenny’s second track with ‘Dance the Blues’, an altogether darker affair. Lenny’s penchant for unusual vocals evident once again with sinister spoken words from Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ albeit filtered to the point they’re barely recognisable.

A stomping squelchy acidic number follows with ‘Saat’ by blaktone and Florian Kruse. Bedrock favourite Luke Brancaccio is back with a third collaboration, this time with Nolan, with a different mix of Coloursound’s ‘Fly With Me’ a flat out dancefloor banger with the recognisable vocal accompanied by soft euphoric pulsating pads – lift off!

There is no let-up in pace with ‘Aster’ by Jim Rivers, a rolling bassline maintaining momentum, building the pressure until we get to ‘Hard’ by Aubrey Fry. A dancing acidic, almost dissonant synth lead captures the attention with a retro sound; ‘Hard’ by name and hard by most standards if played at its native 134bpm but pitched down slightly, softened just enough to maintain the groove. As if a baton was required to be passed between mixes, Digweed closes out Tempo with ‘Ani’; big echoing synths in a hypnotic, dubby techno finale from Robert Babicz, who himself closes out the compilation with a special mix of his own tracks. 

The final mix in the compilation is Juxtaposition by Polish modular synth marvel Robert Babicz, playing his own material in what is described in the sleeve notes as “Futuristic electronica and ambient textures” and really there isn’t anything to question about that. A wandering cinematic score of sorts, filled with atmospheric big synths and lush pads throughout the mix take the listener on a beautiful journey of ambient deep electronica for the first 40 minutes or so. Some percussion threatens to drop with ‘Love Tree’, but instead keeps the listener in suspense until ‘Future City’s’ broken beat kick drum finally arrives and continues with more delicious synths and breaks in ‘World of Distance’. ‘Violett Nights’ provides a final tickle to the auditory cortex; a beatless finale dripping with emotion, a beautifully slow descending chord sequence of soft keys balanced by a big shiny synth lead. The end credits are rolling and you’re left contemplating the journey you’ve just completed. 

John Digweed has been an electronic music pioneer throughout his whole career. The establishment of the new Quattro format was not without risk, with about half of the listening time being void of a kick drum. One could look at the pandemic and assume that the reduction in events, dancefloor activity and regular gigs led to this format, however you can be assured that the first Quattro was in planning a long time before Covid-19 affected us all. By design, a listening experience for enjoyment of electronic music at its very best.

It really is a musical journey for electronic music aficionados. Go get it, put some time aside, and escape into the world of Quattro II. 

9/10

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