A lot has happened in house music over the past 20 years. At the genre’s broadest level, there’s been an evolution through everything from hip house to disco house, progressive house, big-room house, and future house—and that’s not to mention the micro-categories. Each, understandably, has its own distinct noises, feel, and energy—and each is style is dated.
Over the course of its history, Nordic Trax has made it an imperative not to bow to trends. Scenes and sounds have never been important to founder Luke McKeehan, and unlike other labels that might specialise in a particular niche, the imprint’s mandate is to look for tracks that are just, at base, good.
It comes as little surprise, then, that Nordic Trax’s 20-year anniversary album is engagingly timeless. Featuring tracks from its expansive vaults as well as exclusive new releases from label stalwarts Nacho Marco, Jon Delerious, and local boy Gavin Froome, the record dives through deep, funky, and classic sounds without ever seeming incohesive.
Standouts from the catalogue include Cristoph’s “Big H”, a deep, bassline-driven track with a glockenspiel-esque melody and soulful vocal line, and the shape-shifting “Guidance Internal” by Gavin Boyce, artfully mixing harpsichord and claves. DJ Harri and The Revenge’s “Slackjaw” deserves a nod for its ability to tastefully layer guitar stabs with erotic sighs—trust us, it’s sexy—as does T.O.S’s “Only When I’m Late”, with its captivating, funky bassline.
The record’s best new material comes in the form of compilation opener “Believe En Me” by Alexander East, reworked by label staple Mark Farina and Homero Espinosa to transform the original’s fidgety melodies into a funky, loungy feel: a worthy update of the best-selling original. Nacho Marco’s “Northern Spirit” comes in at a close second, adroitly teaming garage-esque piano chords with moving melancholic synths.
20 Years of Nordic Trax doesn’t follow a chronological order—no good DJ, after all, would prioritize date over vibe—but house’s progression through two decades can be felt as tracks dip a toe into various influences. True to the label’s ethos, it’s not the top performing releases that have made the cut, but rather those which add to the genre—a tenet that Luke McKeehan has perfected.
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