From lots of repressings for old classics to excitingly fresh original releases this summer, it was honestly hard to pick a record for this week’s post. Through it all though, the 10th release from Intimate Friends, Goodbye Miss Misanthropy produced by Simba, seems to keep finding its way back onto my turntable.
Intimate Friends is known for washed out and jazzy forays into realms of house, disco, afro, and funk with plenty of leftfield influence. It is pretty original stuff coming from the imprint and remarkably groovy for how traditionally broken they aim to be at times. This particular 12″ pressed in the Netherlands has a lot of commitment to deeper, dreamy shuffles. Simba brings a great variety of vibes on the record, making it a great slab to take in your record bag when space is limited and you need four versatile tracks. That being said, it is mostly early night and mid-morning design featuring downplayed elements and spacey moods. It does a great job of remaining grand in presence while being trimmed on the sides.
First cut on the record is a solid brick-laid 4×4 journey way down at 113 bpm. “Remind Me Of Dancing” has grown on me a bit. At first the vocal samples seemed a bit corny and off-putting to me, but the low-end presence of this track coupled with the non-stop airy kick and light claps is really quite delightful over a quality system. As seems to be a theme throughout the record the drums shuffle, mixed way down below the samples and synth elements. Rather than pure rhythmic appeal, the arrangement compliments the open envelope synth sweeps sloshing around the vocals. More synthetic and hypnotic than the other cuts, but still fitting wonderfully around its siblings.
On A2 “ITB Jam” flips to a house styled number away from the dark club floor I picture when listening to A1. There’s a greater focus on interesting manipulation of samples here; if I had to guess I would say only one or two of the elements were actually recorded for the tune. Bouncy upright jazz bass carries the dancefloor push while somewhat inharmonic piano chops are very reminiscent of late ‘90s jackin’ house. As with A1, drums never intend to be the focus. They are well compressed and washed out, a perfect mix to create an after-sunrise sound. Most enjoyable are the drum changes happening on the 2/4 and 3/4 beat. There seems to be intention on having some of the samples so incredibly swung out that things seem dangerously close to offbeat, but it toes the line well and is remarkably composed.
Things switch to a more heartfelt deep sort of business on the B-side. “Love Letter” is a broken kick pattern tune saturated with different woodblocks skittering around big piano chords. There are eerie ghost synths that really cement the vibe, and the soul sample pulled for the spoken word vocals is reworked in a very delicate manner. The tune is a goosebump-giver for sure, and comes fully approved for party wrap up duties.
The final cut, “Last Time”, closes things out perfectly. Preserving the deep feel from B1, this tune is probably my favorite on the record. Looking past the extremely over-used Nina Simone sample, this is an incredibly beautiful track. The themes created on the other tracks are still present here, but the rhythm is more dancefloor focused and attentive. Friendly snaps replace clap samples to keep the vibe more cool and collected, and the bassline is again sampled from upright bass in a jazz setting. Most alluring perhaps is the exploration of the different pianos on the track – they tend to flare up in random scales and flicks of notes lend the track a very organic improvisational aspect to the music. Perfect for building vibes early in the night.
Overall, the record is remarkable for the main reason that it uses soul and jazz samples in a very interesting and engaging way. This practice is not new to house music but it is often hard to do it in a way that stands out in 2017. What’s even harder is making deep, passive tracks that rely on samples but lack the louder mixed drums to cover up frequency inconsistencies. These deeper tunes tend to be more synthesized because the need for control of the sound is paramount. Hitting the sweet spot as Simba did here was impressive and inviting to me.
Intimate Friends is still largely growing a name for itself. The first release came in 2013 and they seem to be curating very carefully to match this sort of sound they have carved out for themselves. This particular release is mostly under the radar; stocks are low on Decks if you prefer their service. Juno is still in stock as well, though, and much cheaper. And of course, there are some copies up on Discogs as well.
Regardless who you like to buy from, Intimate Friends is at the turning point that all labels eventually face when costs increase, so if you dig the tunes consider buying the record to support the label I think will give us many more gentle gifts down the road. I would also keep an eye on Simba who had an equally as impressive release on Shadeleaf Music label.