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Jay Shepheard & Matthew Burton – Retrofit #5 review

Since launching last spring, Jay Shepheard’s Retrofit label has earned a reputation as a sure bet for high quality deep house. The label’s success has largely been down to Shepheard himself, who seems to have enjoyed a new lease of life since moving back to the UK from spells in Berlin and Poland. Whereas his early work was notable for its fusion of rock-solid, late night deep house and stylish nu-disco elements, his Retrofit excursions have offered a more organic approach to deep house, with neat use of live instrumentation. His progression has been impressive.

This fifth instalment in the series sees Shepheard team up with pal Matthew Burton – the man responsible for the first cut on Sammy Dee’s new imprint Ultrastretch –  for four more decidedly organic excursions. Lead track “Liberal Zee” is outstanding in its combination of floor-friendly deep house groovyness and addictive late night funk. With live electric bass, deep keys and brilliantly layered percussion to the fore, it’s sparse but exquisite.

“Just You”, meanwhile, goes deeper still, crafting an hypnotic afterhours groove from the rawest of elements. There’s little more than an organ, beats, a straightforward bassline and the simplest of spaced-out vocal loops, but it works wonderfully. “Merked” treads a similar path, but is noticeably “bigger” in its sound – a reflection of the use of loose-wristed jazz percussion (hi-hats to the fore) and more pads, chords and melodic elements.

The EP is rounded off by a decent remix of “Just You” by Matt N Kate – aka Burton and regular Shepheard chanteuse Kate Rathod. It comes on like a megamix of elements from all three tracks – an “everything but the kitchen sink” rub that somehow manages to retain an atmospheric deep house feel. Like the rest of the EP, it’s superb.

Matt Anniss