Release Date: Jul 10, 2015
Record label: N/A
Four years on from achieving mass communication with 'Battle For Middle You', a track so all-pervading it almost singlehandedly spearheaded the house music renaissance, Julio Bashmore's long gestated debut album finally drops. And so familiar has the oeuvre of the flame-haired house hero become these last four years, 'Knockin' Boots' is more a case of what Bashmore did next than an initial statement of intent. Thankfully, what Bashmore did next is make a bloody good album, showcasing a decidedly more soulful side to his output than we might have seen before.
Since coming to notice as Julio Bashmore in 2009, Bristol producer and DJ Matt Walker has released a number of high-impact singles, including 2012 Ibiza floorfiller Au Sève, but it’s taken him until now to deliver his debut album. His reticence is understandable – house music often marries unhappily with the album format – but this diverse, engaging and immensely likable collection plays at least as well on headphones as on the dancefloor. It opens with a feelgood blast – the soulful title track – and maintains a euphoric energy throughout even when the mood darkens (on Umuntu) or gets silly (Bark).
For his debut full-length, Bristol-born producer Julio Bashmore has shrugged off the face-chewing “bangers” that now boom out of your nearest New Look and gone back to his boyhood influences, such as Daft Punk and Cassius. Holding On skewers squeaky-shiny disco samples with a skip’n’ shuffle beat and vocals so smooth you want to drink them in; Rhythm of Auld is as soulful as Strictly Rhythm’s output, but warped by Bashmore’s ear for quirk; She Ain’t and What’s Mine Is Mine nod to NYC ballroom house; and fans of Jessie Ware will appreciate breathy Balearic track Simple Love, its hi-hats crisper than a carrot baton. There’s a springy left turn on Umuntu, too, which updates early-90s garage-house with help from South African rapper Okmalumkoolkat.
A lot of grown-up club kids have felt gratified—vindicated, even—watching vintage house music finding large crossover audiences thanks to the efforts of Disclosure, Jamie xx, and a small army of lesser-known producers doing their best to channel the sounds and energy of the Warehouse and Paradise Garage. While this wave of revivalists has been good about citing their sources and highlighting the original artists in their DJ sets, their actual music occasionally suffers from an overabundance of respect. House music was born out of a hacker mindset, and treating it with kid gloves, instead of finding a way to innovate on the old sounds, robs the music of one of its most vital elements.
Signed to London dance label PMR – who release the chart-topping breakout album ‘Settle’ by his friends and frequent touring buddies Disclosure in 2013 – Matt Walker has spent the last few years cultivating a reputation for making club bangers as Julio Bashmore. Coming up from Bristol’s underground, the 25-year-old ignored the city’s associations with bass and trip-hop to embrace the more accessible melodies of house. After a string of low-key releases came 2012 breakthrough ‘Au Seve’, a monster hit that consumed Ibiza for a whole summer and has amassed seven million YouTube plays.
The road traveled from 2009 through 2015 by Mathew Walker, the dance music producer known as Julio Bashmore, was full of surprises, some bumps, and a few thrills. Among Walker's greater achievements during this period were "Au Seve" (an unexpected underground hit), "Battle for Middle You" (a Mass Production-sampling synthesis of classic house and Bristol bass), and a handful of tracks he either produced or co-produced for Jessie Ware's Mercury Prize-nominated Devotion. Walker came off as a middlebrow recontextualist of assorted past and contemporary underground dance music styles.
Bristol producer Matt Walker has been on an unlikely path to stardom. First he blew through the club scene with "Battle For Middle You" and "Au Seve." Then, with his Jessie Ware collaborations, he knocked on the pop world's door, leading to a deal with PMR and his own label, Broadwalk. His short few interviews give the sense that none of this was on purpose: "Au Seve" was a surprise hit, while the work with Jessie Ware pre-dated his wider recognition by several years.
Title tracks are so often the sprawling opus that distils an album and its themes into a handful of minutes. Knockin’ Boots’ title track is unfortunately representative of the worst parts of the album, introducing it with a tame four to the floor beat which carries above it a lifeless vocal ironically proclaiming that “we dance, dance, danced”, as if these two elements were engaged in some strange funeral procession of modern dance music clichés. For a guy who made a name for himself with a sound which seemed indelibly imprinted with his own louche groove, there are a surprising amount of these anonymous moments on Knockin’ Boots.