The debut Peacefrog album from Kenny Dixon Jr. aka Moodymann originally released in 1998 is an album of truly epic proportions, a must have for any and all collectors and lovers of house music. Utilising soul, funk, gospel, and even hip-hop production techniques and alternating from mellowed-out disco dubs like “Mahogany Brown” and “Stoneodenjoe” to more raw and dirty tech-house tracks like “Me and My People’s Eyes.” Mahogany Brown delivers a slice of Black American music that affirms Kenny’s reputation as a major influence on house music today.
Perhaps Luke Slater’s best known alias, Planetary Assault Systems, debuted on Peacefrog in the early 1990’s with the superb Planetary Funk series of 12” making Luke and his PAS moniker synonymous with Peacefrog and the techno clubs of the day. The popularity of the series lead to Planetary Assault System’s first full length album; the masterful Electric Funk Machine released in 1997.
Planetary Assault Systems compelling mix of techno from Detroit and Europe blessed The Electric Funk Machine with a wide variety of styles and sounds covered through it’s nine tracks; Fast paced melodies, uplifting synth stabs, pounding peak time bangers and darker monotonous grooves sit side by side with lush soulful dreamy Detroit infused journeys. Timeless gems that every self-respcting techno head should own.
Originally released way back in 1994 The Silicon Dawn was one of the first full lengths released on Peacefrog during a period which turned out to be remarkably fruitful for techno. Tracks such as Parallel and Population 2 kissed the same patch of sky as Black Dog or “Icon” -era Derek May but Dan’s unique ability to mix melodies, harmonic layers around complex percussion proved to be a compelling innovation from the techno norm. Richly harmonic, expressionist techno in the grandest Detroit style from Dan Curtin.
John Beltran first emerged in the techno scene 1991 with the Aquatic 12” on Carl Craig and Damon Bookers rare and seminal Retroactive label. The tones and shapes on Aquatic and his follow up for R&S Earth & Nightfall suggested an individual take on modern electronics as shades of jazz, classical and Latin whispered through Beltran’s productions. Ten Days Of Blue (1996) built on the successes of its predecessors with sharp rhythms and pure digital sounds flooding through dreamy sequences and subtle chord shapes. The title track and the plaintive Soft Summer sounded like Tangerine Dream injected with jazz bass or Kraftwerk mainlining on heartbreak. Beltran seemed to have perfected the art of painting tones and rhythms across canvasses that were almost unbearably delicate and pretty. Over 20 years on and Ten Days Of Blue is still considered a masterpiece of delicate textures and heart stopping romance for those in the know. Essential!
Born and raised in the birthplace of House Music, Paul Johnson has released a vast amount of music for some of the most consistently underground dance labels before hooking up with Peacefrog.
12” releases on the likes of Cajual / Relief and Dance Mania led to his debut album release Bump Talkin in 1995. His remix work for Stacy Kidd, Joey Beltram, Green Velvet, Armando, CC Penniston, Ron Trent, K-Alexi, and Steve Poindexter amongst many others have made their way into all the big DJ’s boxes, many of which remain there to this day. Paul’s breakthrough moment arrived in 1999 with his international hit “Get Down” which is still heard in clubs and on the radio to this day.
Paul Johnsons second Peacefrog album originally released in 1996 is a 90s house music masterpiece. Containing some of the classiest house to hail from the Windy City. Classics including “A Little Suntin Suntin,” “Summer Heat” and “I Wonder Why” will have you smiling while you’re jackin’.
Growing up in Atlanta, Chris Brann discovered house and electronic music by the somewhat longwinded way of getting sent tapes from Europe. He began assembling a home studio but it wasn’t until 1994 that he began his music career in earnest and formed Wamdue Kids with DJs Deep C, and Udoh.
In 1995 they released the classic Higher on the Acacia label, which led to the Wamdue Kids signing to Peacefrog and the release of their seminal debut album These Branching Moments. Following the success of this the next year Chris released his first solo album Deep Fall, reflecting a different direction to that of his productions with Wamdue.
Deep Fall originally released in 1997 is delicious collection of deep tech-house. Stand outs are the aptly named title track with beautiful synth washes and a single mournful modulated violin at its centre and the emotional Journey To The Centre which if it doesn’t move you then nothing will.
Few producers in Detroit (or anywhere else in the world) can rival the pure levels of soul that genius Kenny Dixon, Jr. has committed to vinyl. This might make Silence in the Secret Garden somewhat of a surprise or letdown for fans of his earlier works. Most obsessive fans of the KDJ gospel will already have many of these songs on vinyl, either from his own imprints or other labels. The first thing immediately noticeable is the lack of trademark banter that opens a Moodymann record — no insults to anyone from the Detroit suburbs, no answering-machine message from a destitute relative, and no seven-minute searches through the Detroit radio dial. Instead it’s replaced by an intro jam session that leads into a rework of his Innerzone Orchestra remix of the classic “People Make the World Go Round,” originally issued on Planet E. The album tends to drift and meander for a bit until it hits a bit of a stride with a beautiful hi-tech funk track allegedly from a live recording back in 1998. The shuffle-laden and polyrhythmic “Yesterday’s Party” also makes for a bright moment in the Dixon catalog, sounding a bit like “Shades of Jae” had it been reworked by Akufen. The rest of the album drives to a climax with the minimal tech/acid house title track and the brief Detroit electro-techno “On My Way Home” and ends curiously with Pitch Black City’s soulful “Sweet Yesterday,” which could have easily been on any of his earlier full-length projects, and the trademark field recordings of conversation. The album’s not as groundbreaking as Silent Introduction or Mahogany Brown, but to hold anyone to accomplish that feat consistently is a bit unfair. Silence in the Secret Garden may show more versatility in songwriting style, but that doesn’t necessarily result in startling work, and levels of enjoyment will vary from listener to listener, depending on what your reasons are for liking Moodymann in the first place.
Kenny Dixon Jr’s ‘Forevernevermore’ was his third album and is perhaps his definitive opus – a pure, deep, late night Detroit classic that has birthed countless immitations since its release in 2000. It really is pretty definitive – and it holds up beautifully almost 20 years later, from his take on Chic’s ‘Don’t you want my love’ to ‘The thief that stole my sad days’ – there are just too many certified classics here to mention. Quite apart from anything else, Forevernevermore manages to sound experimental, sophisticated, fucked and joyous all at once – making reference to classic Piano House one moment, and deepest Techno the next, his vocal narrative offsetting pure euphoria with a sharp dose of Motor City realism. In terms of classic House music, few have come close to anything you’ll find on this album – a perfect distillation of light and shade from one of Detroit’s greatest ever.