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Mark Kinchen/Omar S – Given/Sarah review

2011 is proving to be a year of irresistible quirkiness over at FXHE. First there was the shimmering anthem “Here’s Your Trance Now Dance” from label boss Omar S, described by the man himself as so catchy it was “ringtone worthy”. Soon to come on the label will be a surprise appearance from Shadow Ray – we say surprise because the producer has spent the past few years holed up at Ryan Correctional Facility in Michigan. So the story goes, Alex Smith (aka Omar S) made a presentation to the facility’s parole board to commission a remix of “Here’s Your Trance Now Dance” as part of Ray’s work release program – and was successful. Before that, however, the second 12” of the year on the label throws up another surprise, with an (almost) forgotten Mark Kinchen gem from 1993 dusted off and given some love alongside a new Omar S offering.

Although Todd Edwards is routinely the first name mentioned breathlessly whenever the US garage sound comes up in conversation, Kinchen (perhaps more recognisable to house heads simply as MK) is not always held in the same lofty esteem – although Edwards himself is quick to credit him as a major influence in most interviews. Yet only a matter of weeks ago another MK classic, “4 You” (also produced under the 4th Measure Men moniker) was reissued by Defected – a label millions of miles away from FXHE in the underground stakes. Defected called on tech house producer du jour Maya Jane Coles among others to remix the track, a move that served to showcase the breadth of his influence and enduring appeal in certain quarters, despite some questionable career moves in later years (remixing Celine Dion anyone?)

The dub version of “Given”, which appears on this FXHE release and first saw release on Kinchen’s Area 10 imprint some 18 years ago,  is a perfect example of his production style; wonderfully chopped vocals riding above a meaty bassline, sweet melody and those euphoric brass sections so favoured by mid 90s house producers. It’s release in 2011 is a shrewd piece of A&R by Omar S, coming at a time when many producers – including the aforementioned Maya Jane Coles – are (re)discovering the sound of vintage NY and New Jersey house and garage.

On the flip, the Omar S track “Sarah” opens with a quote from The Toxic Avenger (a celebratory image of the movie also adorns the vinyl), proving that the Detroit don is just as happy sampling cheesy 80s horror flicks as he is Motown classics. The track quickly locks into a solid groove with shuffling 808 hats and a deep, chuggy bassline. Although Omar S is clearly enjoying throwing down the odd curveball at the moment, “Sarah” – a wonderful slice of stripped back house – is a timely reminder that with FXHE there are certain things you can always rely on.

Aaron Coultate