VA: Kumasi Music Volume 1
Kumasi Music

Kumasi Music's first-ever compilation is a thoroughly polished collection of deep house body-shakers. Those with an appetite for club-focused material heavy on richly textured design and pulsating bass lines should find much to like about the label's generously stuffed set. Russian producer S.K.A.M.'s set-opening “Enter the Void” is representative of the collection in one way in particular: though the track starts unassumingly, sounding not terribly unlike a standard house jam, elements gradually emerge to distinguish it, and the listener's attention grows progressively more engaged as the track's true character reveals itself. In this case, it's the one-two punch of a thick synth-bass melody and funky bass pulse that gives the already driving cut added kick.

As arresting an example is No Artificial Colours' “Release,” which initially defines itself as a classic vocal-based riff on soulful deep house but then surreptitiously sneaks in a subtle undercurrent of military snares to amplify the slink of its hypnotic groove. Nasty Funk Records owner Eric Christiansen pushes the concept even further on “Do it 2 U”—certainly one of the collection's peak moments—by more prominently emphasizing the martial snare patterns in an artful arrangement that otherwise turns heads for its android-styled beat and dramatic vocal croon; the mid-song instrumental break that sees the snares colliding with a heavy robo-funk groove also makes a strong case for Christiansen's contribution. Softcash's “Twisted Fatty” likewise works unusual detail into its slow jack, with the Greek producer surrounding its cowbell-accented pulse with nightmarish growls and disembodied voice fragments.

On the rawer tip is Upstroke & SION's “Knockout,” which pairs the cryptic drawl of an MC's chant to a stalker-styled arrangement of zoned-out synths and jacking house beats, while jacked-up frenzy is the order of the day for Jonny Cade's “Wells,” which rides a high-rolling 2-step for all its worth. In addition, the baritone delivery on Tapesh's pumping club anthem “Fantasy” sounds a bit like Michael McDonald's dropped by for the session, and Rotkraft's “Mumbai,” arriving fifteen cuts in, re-energizes the compilation with six luscious minutes of glitterball swagger. Closing out the collection is the set's sole remix, a wAFF overhaul of Mike Gill's “In the Midst,” which proudly asserts its house roots by featuring a predictably soulful vocal by Robert Owens. Kreature & Sizeup (“She Freaks”), Matt Fear (the string-stabbed “Times” and electro-spiked “Senseless”), and Newbie Nerdz (“The Way You Look”) also make strong showings that fit seamlessly into the compilation's overall concept. In spots, the lyrics verge on cheesy (Christiansen's “I'm gonna do all things for you that a girl wants a man to do,” for example), but that's a small price to pay for a collection that, on the whole, hits hard and offers an abundance of splendid moments.

May 2013