Polyswitch - Praise The Sun

  • The Casablanca jazz and funk lothario's debut LP is a kaleidoscope of broken beats and smoky house music.
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  • On Moroccan label Casa Voyager's breakout compilation, Mouhcine Zouitina was the odd man out, culling from a whole different set of references from the label's usual house and electro. I don't mean this in a bad way—"CSV Shuffle" was just more wake-and-bake Sunday morning and less afterparty hedonism. Falling somewhere between early Slow Life and CoOp, the track was rich with lush instrumentation and skittering drums. Since then, Zouitina's releases have gotten even deeper, rightly earning him the nickname "the Moroccan Glenn Underground." On Praise The Sun, his debut LP featuring the likes of Byron The Aquarius and Glenn Astro, he mixes house and broken beat with live instruments and sounds borrowed from the smoothest of the adult contemporary world. To call Praise The Sun a house album isn't entirely true, but it's also not wrong. Buried underneath the pipe tobacco-scented horn line on "Endeavor 212" there's a meaty kick drum, something Byron The Aquarius foregrounds on his percussive-heavy remix. Likewise, "Better Days" is pure driving-with-the-top-down, nowhere-to-go deep house luxury. As the song's languorous piano chords and occasional bass squelches crescendo into a horn symphony, it's a time machine right back to the summer of 2014 when terms like "new groove" were being thrown around to describe people like Jack J and Max Graef. Things get even funkier when Zouitina draws from broken beat, like on "All You Need," where clipped snares dance underneath a modulating bassline and muted Rhodes chords. Zouitina also borrows liberally from jazz, R&B, funk and soul. On a track like "Things Change," a collaboration with fellow Casablanca polymath Saib, the pair mellow the melodrama of the sax and guitar with a bit of hip-hop drum programming. The uplifting chords and piano line on "The Great Conjunction," made with Kiwi legend Mark de Clive-Lowe, could be lifted straight from Breezin'-era George Benson. With each of these forays into the rich repertoire of AM radio sounds, Zouitina approaches his source material with utter sincerity—just listen to him let loose on that harp on "Until We Meet Again (Invisible Ladders)." Squeezing all these ideas into Praise The Sun is a natural extension for a producer who has never been afraid to put as many ideas as possible onto wax. The two 12-inches that preceded this album on Zouitina's Astrofever records were packed with short snippets of songs, filling up the limited real estate of an EP. On Praise The Sun, we get even more of these sketches: five of the album's 13 tracks are south of the three-minute mark. The variety is eclipsed only by the quality—there's everything from dubby country ("Freedom And You") to horn jam sessions with Glenn Astro to sinister downtempo ("Aziza (The Hereafter)"), all of which make for tantalizing snippets. Still, it's a little disappointing that they were never worked out into full songs. The title track sounds like Harvey Sutherland remixing Random Access Memories, and I would have been happy for it to go on twice as long. By the time the LP finishes, Zouitina leaves us wanting more, which is as much a good feeling as it is a frustrating one. Praise The Sun brims with potential and personality, and it's impressive how we we never lose sight of who Zouitina's distinctive voice even with the heavy-hitting guest stars. In fact, the album's back half—largely Zouitina by himself—is the stronger section, as he really hits his Rhodes chords and brushed snare stride. Praise The Sun is the first step in Zouitina's ascension to the upper echelons of jazz and funk-influenced house producers like the kind featured on his album.
  • Tracklist
      01. In Good Spirits feat. Glenn Astro 02. Better Days feat. Jazzy James 03. Things Change (Face Everything And Rise) feat. Saib 04. Endeavor 212 05. Endeavor 212 (Byron The Aquarius Remix) 06. The Great Conjunction feat. Mark De Clive-Lowe 07. Praise The Sun (Wrong To Be Right) 08. All You Need 09. The Believer 10. Aziza (The Hereafter) 11. Until We Meet Again 12. Freedom And You 13. Zeitgeist 21 (Bonus)