A down-tempo collection of funky and deep house tracks, Supa House showcases an impressive pool of local producers. The best cuts on the album combine the effortless jazzy urbanity of French house with the swish and swagger of township rhythms. The emphasis of most tracks is on naturalistic drum samples, warm strings and ethereal vocals cut through with cold clear lines of synth.
While the production values of the compilation are consistently high, the most impressive aspect is the quality of the original melodies. It shows an encouraging tendency for our local producers to carve out their own destinies instead of apeing their European counterparts. In fact the entire mood of Supa House is against the global grain. Deep house is hardly fashionable at the moment and the charts are dominated by high-octane sample soaked house like Push the Button the latest offering from The Chemical Brothers. As delicious as these hits may be, it's good to know our local lads and ladies have their own agenda.
That's not to say the collection is without problems. Most of the tracks take far too long to get going, and many go on far longer than they should. A 30 second intro is fine, particularly on a deep house cut, but a minute and a half build-up on a six minute track is just self indulgent twiddling. It's also common for producers to fall in love with the cute little melody they've cooked up, but they need to resist the urge to push their luck. No one wants to listen to the same riff for eight minutes - no matter how lovely it is.
The gem of the album is undoubtedly "Steelworks" by All Star DJ Cleo. This beautifully balanced little track is stuffed full of warm funk that bounces playfully alongside an irresistible township two step. "Be There Way" by Centric Elements is a close second, counterpointing frantic drums with a mournful piano riff in a combination that is at as uplifting as it is poignant.
Supa House isn't for everyone. Despite its relaxed approach, it doesn't have the comforting familiarity of pop, or even mainstream house. But it is fresh, original and full of local flavour, which a lot more than can be said for most compilations.
- Alistair Fairweather
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