13 Jun 2021
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House Of Downtown - Album Review: Re-Release

06 May 2021 // A review by Jamie Denton

Electronica/house music legends House of Downtown return from a near-twenty-year hiatus with a new album entitled Re-Release that revisits, remixes, remasters, and reconceptualises 2001’s critically and commercially successful debut album Release. Having been very familiar with House of Downtown during their original heyday and having spent a lot of time listening to their previous releases (the aforementioned Release and 2003’s Mutha Funkin’ Earth), I was nervously excited to check this new album out. Twenty years is a long time, and the past can be a strange place to revisit. However, any feelings of trepidation were alleviated very quickly after putting on Re-Release. The signature sound of House of Downtown was still there – that intoxicatingly fresh blend of house, soul, funk, and disco liberally peppered with strong Pacific and Aotearoa influences – and it was a genuinely new and vibrant experience in sound, not just a simple nostalgia ride.

The album kicks off with the smooth, funky, groove of Whatever Comes (Jason Eli Remix); a confident, hook-laden, and massively fun track that demands the body to move in some way. Sitting at my desk writing this, I find myself unknowingly grooving along to this track in my chair as I compose my thoughts – and in that moment of realising I am doing that, also realise that is exactly the right response to document for this track. The musical interplay between the vocal sample, the keyboard, and that big funky bassline is super-fun to listen to. There is a beautiful sense of space, with each instrument (I’m including the vocal sample as an instrument here) stepping forward and backward naturally to fill and free up space in a gentle playfulness. This is a true masterclass in the old adage of ‘the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.’

Sitting roughly mid-album is Tapa (MissB Remix) which veers towards a more trance-like approach, with the creation of a lush, luscious soundscape mid-track that wouldn’t be out of place as a soundtrack to an epic movie scene. Playing more with instrumental layers and samples, and relying less on vocal samples, Tapa (MissB Remix) lays the beat a little further back in the overall sound, allowing some of the more rhythmic elements within the instrumentation help propel the track forward in some of its quieter moments. There is a thoughtfulness within this track and a carefulness to its arrangement that I started to appreciate more and more with repeated listens.

Other highlights (for me) of this album include the more vocally driven Feel It (Phillipa’s Love Letter to NZ), the first single Rise Above (previously reviewed here), the heavy bounce of Downtown Groove (Dice_NZ Remix), and the kinetic, dynamic album-closer Feel It (Dice_NZ Broke The Beat Remix) which provides a strong natural closure to the overall experience.

The album sounds fantastic, the production is crisp and clean without being overproduced or overly slick, the songs retain that House of Downtown signature sound but are fresh and vibrant and will provide a welcome addition to a catalogue of music that left a long shadow of influence over the New Zealand electronic music scene for many years and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About House Of Downtown

NZ Electronic music pioneers since before the internet merging Funk, House, Soul & Pacific vibes. Uniquely Aotearoan.

House of Downtown are a New Zealand-based electronic music act consisting of DJs / producers Christiaan Ercolano and Emerson Todd.

They have released two well received albums on their own State House record label via Universal Music, as well as several 12-inch singles on State House and Simon Flower's 'South Exit' label.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for House Of Downtown

Releases

Re-Release
Year: 2021
Type: Album
Mutha Funkin Earth
Year: 2003
Type: Album
Release
Year: 2001
Type: Album

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