- Bubbly house spritzers just in time for summer.
- From the title to the grinning self-portrait on the cover, Phil Evans' debut solo album is full of cheerful house tracks that sparkle with a carefree optimism. Evans, alongside Markus Sommer, runs Frankfurt's Pager Records, a label that, judging from its fruit-themed apparel and tongue-in-cheek artwork, doesn't take itself too seriously. Pager's back catalogue is full of house tracks with extra bounce. If you follow other Offenbach-Frankfurt area crews like HardWorkSoftDrink or Traffic, you'll know what to expect here: a double-LP of wonky house tracks primed for parties that stretch into the daytime hours.
S-Mile doesn't bother with brooding intros or ambient interludes. Having taken a break from releasing under his own name since 2017, Evans returns to remind us just how fun house can sound. Listen to the melody buried in the drums on "Skippy Toes." How can that little piano line, twinkling along with the pads, not make you smile? When you add in the lazy bassline, "Skippy Toes" pops like a lime wedge squeezed into your seltzer.
The closed hi-hats and darting pings of "Dat Ting" make it my pick, especially when you throw in a synth crescendo that sounds like burping out helium bubbles. "Keep It Reel" gives it a run for its money, though, with clipped chords offering a wonky, microhouse feel. There's a little touch of menace in the minor chords of "Tek Cheez," though the squishy bass counters it with a sly wink.
Even amid all the fun there are still some overcast sounds on the album. "Cloudy Head" sounds as you'd expect: lush pads and a delicate arpeggio with a bit of squeak on the bass that hits like the final remnants of a hangover you can't quite shake. The D-side has a few moments where we even approach melancholy. "S-Mile" and "N8 Ride" are slower and more inward-looking, though the title track's melody is flecked with sunshine and the deep house chords of "N8 Ride" make it more sexy than sullen.
I often think there's a tendency to consider "fun" songs as being more frivolous or somehow less worthy than their darker, perhaps more "serious" counterparts. What Evans does here is emphasize the seriousness of having fun. Each one of these tracks is custom-made for the warm and bassy speakers of your favorite intimate dance floor. Evans is making some of the classiest and sunniest house music around.
A1 1 Long Sip
A2 Cloudy Head
B1 Dat Ting
B2 Keep It Reel
C1 Skippy Toes
C2 Tek Cheez
D2 N8 Ride