Mark Seven – Parkwerks – Hard, Raw & Raunchy Dubs for DJ’s Volume 1 (Parkway Records, 2020)

A producer with one finger firmly on to the pulse of contemporary evocative dance music, but always finding the right moments to remind us of where it all came from.

For many producers, nods to the past crop up due to contemporary trends. The re-emergence of Italo, breakbeat, and 90s sounds in general, not to mention patches from the 80s making a big comeback, we revel in what people can magic up with a blended recipe of old timey vibes and pumped up current electronix. Sometimes it works perfectly, and as we have already touched on with other reviews, its always the producers who take enormous amounts of care, time and effort to blend in these sounds and genres into their music. As if it happened organically, you can hear the flow when old and new sound so effortlessly put together we generally can imagine it being released in 1991. Sometimes though, it comes across as a somewhat cheap novelty, a beat or synth thrown in for the sake of it, to conjure up some form of lost nostalgia, to keep the memories alive. Doing it when it is appropriate remains a challenge, and as a result of all of these, we get lost in a sea of the rights and the wrongs. It can be hard to decipher between the good and the sometimes not quite right, and that does a disservice to those who lived through it and still make tunes, or those who appropriately apply it to their music.

When first listening to Mark Seven’s music, then digging a little deeper, it all comes a little bit full circle when you release his first release came out all the way back in the early 90s. His contemporary releases just scream of someone absorbed and familiar with the sounds of the 90s, but is able to apply these feelings, emotions and notions to the contemporary scene. In many ways, his discography arrives at this latest release so organically, as Seven feeds in the endless influences that have cropped up over the years, with each release just moving forward his overall wonderful musical aesthetic. And what a discoraphy it is, it only keeps unravelling as more as you go back in time. His 90s work very much contributed to the UK interpretation of house and techno, with releases under his Lemon Sol, Point Zero and Spira aliases, with the latter two in joint collab with Michael Sershall. His spectrum of sounds fed and delved into the boundless expressionism that permeated through UK dance music at the time, when everything felt possible and many a legendary producer and scene was making their mark. He then released 5 straight up techno records during 1998, as Mark Seven, before a decade long gap would proceed his next release, 2009’s ‘Travelogue’. And oh boy did this switch thing up. A softer, more intricate beaty warmness now exuded from his music, a feel of glowiness that left the listener sound in their hearts as well as their feet. The roof felt lifted, and since then he has just rolled out some properly beautiful and thought provoking house music, with tones and beats for days that show an artist with a new vision, built by years of listening, engaging with and manipulating. Some select releases to check out include both his World Building releases, 2011’s ‘A Lesson In Love’ EP, 2014’s ‘The Call’, alongside all his excellent releases as Parkway Rhythm on his imprint Parkway Records. If you want a trip through genres that span lifetimes, experiences and emotions, then just give his stuff a go, its all pretty damn fucking good.

And now we arrive at his latest effort, ‘Hard, Raw & Raunchy Dubs for DJ’s Volume 1’. Seven here looks as much to the past here as he does for his current productions, mixing an unstoppable blend of 80s tinged house, blissed out synths, dream house, funky funk funk and protoness that you just wanna wrap your ears around for years to come. Dubbed out to the max, it feels like the sorts of tunes that were plucked from the dreams of Larry Levan and catapulted through time to be given a shiny gloss of contemporariness, but that is where the magic lies. The essence of these tunes lies in their wonderful upfront approach, one that incorporates the feels that make a club fall in love, but all the slight touches that make it a beautiful home listening experience. It explores that interface so well, a move between the lines to present an audial experience that gives over so much and wishes to be given back to. So lets get into this.

We begin things with ‘A Gift Dub’, and yep we jump straight into proceedings. A series of toms, kicks and snares underlay cymbal work, that then introduces us to a series of tinkering synth keys, before the stabs of the bass come into play. The little switches provide the transitions, as little elements come into the background. The intermingling of piano chords, that are present left right and centre then recede to give space to a series of beautiful stabs. Sitting somewhere between proto disco and soft 80s house, this track gives over so much in terms of musical depth and styles, its hard to not be drawn to its raw power. The melodies remain so strong, washing over us in waves and dispersing into the night sky. The vocal sample provides a small break, before it all descends back into play. Seven really allows the keys to breathe easy, easy in their knowledge that their tone and tempo is given all the room in the world to work their magic. Never for one second is the space filled, that adds to the overall floating majesty of the track, and allows for those transitions to move us to new and euphoric places. Damn! Next comes ‘Tranquility Dub’, that again greets us with more house leaning styles with the drums. The deep pads come into play, moving over the beat like warm butter, filling in all the grooves and cracks. Another beautifully place synth line comes into play, before the kicks signal the transition into the next chapter. The flutes! the damn flutes! the track moves into new depths, really evoking the stylings of 90s dream and deep house, creating that warmth that only is really found in some of these recordings. Seven once again lets the emotional grip of the synths take charge in regards to moving the track forward, the beat moving between the lines as the track enters new phases. The vocal sample, a male groan of sorts, adds to the tenderness of the track. Pure, direct and easy going, this one will move the bodies for nights to come.

Next comes ‘No Time Dub’, and the vibe switches up slightly here. The drumming enters the fray immediately, as stabs then chime along. They evoke moods, providing melodic rhythm to proceedings, and as the drums move away, they just beg them to come back. The bass then moves into the low ends, chopping and twisting and turning, as we move towards a more dubby disco sort of tone. High end synths then swing in, providing that little extra element to the lead synth line. The track then just takes it from there, providing sequences that blend all the elements together, remove some, take it apart, only to build it all up again. Sheer bliss. Finally, we have ‘Secret To Success Dub’, that just wraps it all up so brilliantly. Moving a notch down in tempo once more, the drums take on a more broad feel, providing space in the middle for all manner of synthy goodness to reside. A bass line to die for intermingled with spacey keys create a cosmic pool, providing the build up for a synth line from up above to come take its place. Cow bells abound, as the track picks up pace and moves through the motions. It has this swagger about it, dipping in and around, moving within its set boundaries, with the vocal samples applied at all the right times. It then descends into pure dubby goodness, as just the vocal line and the bass keys talk to each other, asking each other what happens next. Seven then builds up the track just a bit, before incorporating the vocal sample into the melody, and it just lifts off from there. Such a clever little introduction, it hits hard. All that subtlety and minor variations, build up to this moment. A little synth solo then comes into play, as the track then moves on. Forever. What an ender.

Mark Seven really does curate a vibe here, one that points to a specific time and place, but seeped in the present day. He crafts a series of tunes that hit deep, deep in their aesthetic but also in their ability to move between the lines so flawlessly and without hesitation. His great use of synths to drive forward the tracks gives them a proper emotive edge, whilst the intelligent use of vocal samples adds in those moments that help us all think just a little bit more. One for the heads, late night cruises, and early morning risers. Defo not an EP to overlook, just bathe in its radiance and excellence.

Support the troops:

https://parkwayrecords.bandcamp.com/album/parkwerks-vol-i

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