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Nicole Willis – BubbleTease Communications Classics Vol. 5 review

There are many reasons to love Maurice Fulton. Setting aside his impressive track record and ability to create genuinely far-sighted music across a range of genres, there’s something particularly impressive about his approach. The one-time American prison officer says very little in public and little more before or after DJ gigs. To outsiders he’s a cold fish, often wearing the concerned look of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Yet the music he makes is rarely less than weirdly celebratory. Whether recording low-slung disco under his given name, off-kilter house as Boof, dubwise oddness as Ladyvipb or ragging electronic wonkiness as Syclops, there’s a skewed genius and solid dancefloor pulse to everything he does.

Fulton takes the same single-minded but musically adventurous approach when it comes to running BubbleTease Communications, the digital-only label he’s used for the past few years to release his own projects and those of his nearest and dearest (most notably wife Mu, who is as outlandishly outgoing and eccentric as he is cautious and introverted). Named after his Sheffield studio, the imprint has managed to build a sizeable reputation and fan base despite steering clear of vinyl pressings. Few labels in the underground electronic music sphere – particularly in the disco, deep house and leftfield genres – manage this, although the number of high quality ‘digi only’ imprints is growing. And, of course, this is Fulton we’re talking about, a producer who has spent almost two decades building up a towering reputation.

For his latest low key release on BubbleTease, Fulton has unearthed a pair of previously unheard remixes of “Feelin’ Free”, a breezy, Motown-ish soul track from Nicole Willis’ 2006 collaboration with the Soul Investigators, Keep Reachin’ Up. Fulton has previous when it comes to Willis, otherwise known as Mrs Jimi Tenor (another maverick in the Fulton mode, though Tenor has always been more obsessed with lounge suits and European jazz). Last year, the Sheffield-based producer released his delightfully uplifting disco/soul remixes of another track from Keep Reachin’ Up, “Holding On”.

The two mixes of “Feelin’ Free” featured here offer a fuzzy flipside to those unashamedly uplifting versions of “Holding On”. Where that track built around one of Fulton’s typically rubbery electric bass riffs, his “Feeling Free” mixes wrap dub-laden soul guitars and dreamy organ chords around hefty analogue bass pulses. It’s the combination of sub-bothering analogue bass and the tight, cowbell-heavy percussion that makes these mixes – check the dub version for the full wonky disco effect. That Willis’s vocal also snugly fits Fulton’s lazy leftfield disco groove is no great surprise – he is, after all, a superb, single-minded producer.

Matt Anniss