Nine years have elapsed since the Community LP was released on NRK, and in the ensuing decade, Mazi (aka Audio Soul Project) has constructed an atomic bomb. Hip Shake Heartache isn’t just the best LP I’ve been sent this month – I think this is the best dance music album I’ve heard in the last five years.
Within the confines of 10 tracks, Mazi has managed to both reinvigorate the past as well as sketch in fine lines a blueprint for House Music’s future. “Mnemosyne” starts the journey with some dubby modern Deep House – impeccably produced, as is the rest of the album, by one of the best in the business. “Have It All Dub” is my personal favorite, with tech elements inspired by the source material from Chicago and Detroit’s dark hearts rather than the Ibiza-bred shlock passing itself off as cutting-edge electro today. What’s the difference? For one thing, it’s more than just a bit of brainless cotton candy: while there’s a killer hook, it’s meshed with a rhythm that’s primal by nature and utterly unrelenting.
Flipping ahead, “Good Inside” is something that should – must – make its way through the underground disco world like a lumbering beast drunk on its own power. “My Bluff” (featuring vocals by Alexander East) is a foray into throwback soul with beats and electric piano that would do Booker T., the MGs and the rest of the Stax Records house band proud. But it’s “Song for Fred” – which I reviewed in an earlier version – that is the most emotive on this extremely emotive album. At the time, I noted that this was the second recent track from Chicago’s House Music scene dedicated to Chairman Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers (the other is Vick Lavender’s “The Chase”), murdered by the Chicago Police in 1969 as he lay sleeping in his bed. This isn’t simply laying a speech over a beat track in the style of “Preacher Man” but a moving tribute to one of the most inspiring leaders Chicago has ever known.
I wrote above that I think this is the best dance album I’ve heard in the last five years. And five years from now, I think I’ll still be able to stand by that statement. I’ve heard a lot of music lately that’s a conscious homage to the past, and some that aims to push House Music forward. None have attempted to do both at the same time. I spent about six hours looping Hip Shake Heartache over and over again when the promo first arrived, and two weeks later I’m still discovering new vistas and moments of audio enlightenment that are worth raving about.