A quirky, varied Soul Selection Mix, with infusions of dance music that weave in and out between lyrical hip-hop and a soulful second half: that’s the most accurate way I can describe Night Beds’ “Strangers in Paradise Mix.” Its over 30-minute duration begins with fresh electronic pieces, intertwined by rich R&B and dense hip-hop beats. Duke Dumont’s “Street Walker” sets the mix off, then the mix manifests a Disclosure sleekness with Cyril Hahn’s “Slow.” I was most intrigued by Jacques Greene’s remix of Ciara’s “Sorry,” which elevates the mood with exotic percussion and sleepy-eyed vocals.
A third of the way through we’re presented with a few Jaylib tracks to yank us out of that sensual pool and bounce around various hip-hop snippets with static transitions, like changing the channel on different genres; the common denominator is the constant groove. “Woman” by WoodzSTHLM feat. Night Beds slows it down again halfway, tumbling into a series of romantic tracks, such as “Antidotum” by Kobana.
Ambiance draws the tide out with “Cybertrance” by Les Mes, which rumbles for minutes. It ends with a retro whisper of a song that you may recognize: “Stranger in Paradise” by Vic Damone. But the antepenultimate is what stamped this mix shut like a hot wax seal on a piece of parchment: “Ain’t Got Time” by Roy Ayers shimmies it up with jazz and powerful lyrics: “The war has just begun/the war for freedom…We ain’t got time to be tired/We got a long, long way to go.” Check out Night Beds’ latest album, Ivywild, for more.
Leon Van Les is a Latvian house wizard. On his track, “Life,” the vocalist repeats a single far-away phrase, staying true to mainly instrumental house music roots: “Do what you do with what you want out of life.” Not only is Van Les’s production trimmed and clean, but the combination of pure house and a taste of tropical left my palate cleansed of the usual tumble of genres. (Not that I don’t support the genre-less movement, because it’s awesome.) It felt refreshing to hear straight, sophisticated house music equipped with blinking female vocals, sharp strings, and a quick-to-build house beat that drops into a Kygo-esque sonic whirlpool with underwater fluorescent lights.
Leon Van Les shows another side with the track “Basics,” which has navy blue tones; it’s deeper, more Cathedral, but just as shiny as “Life.” A jabbing rhythm balls up into dark, vibrating synth that sounds like an electronic organ at Church of the Holy House Music. My favorite parts of the song are the carefully-employed drops that, instead of exploding into shards of mind-blowing bass, accentuate Van Les’s poignant elements: crisp production, suspenseful beats that gain momentum throughout, and minimalism, which seeps in through our Church of the Holy House Music’s vents. It’s the spectral simplicity, keeping with the basics if you will, that stamps this Leon Van Les track a warehouse banger. —Rachel Haney