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Maxmillion Dunbar – Polo (versions) review

Maryland-based producer Andrew Field-Pickering seems to exist in a gloriously technicolour world of his own. Ever since he dropped his first Maxmillion Dunbar single – the synths and abstract hip-hop jam “Outrageous Soulz” – back in 2008, he’s turned his hand to numerous musical styles without ever seeming to quite fit in with any of them. 2011 debut album Cool Water (one of several releases on Ramp Recordings) saw him flit between off-kilter downtempo synthscapes, dub-laden 80s drum workouts, shimmering house-not-house and the sort of wonky beatscapes preferred by Glasgow’s Numbers crowd. While it was something of a mixed bag – both in terms of quality and production styles – almost every track was characterised by vivid, pin-sharp synths and gorgeous, head-soothing melodies. While he’d not found his niche, he was already cultivating an impressing sonic palette.

As the year wore on, he began to refine his sound. Crucially, he also began applying his love of texture, melody and atmosphere to house – though it wasn’t like any kind of house you’d heard before – via both his own productions and those as one half of the Beautiful Swimmers alongside Ari Goldman. The solo Max Tracks For World Peace EP, featuring a trio of Elysian compositions with a genuine dancefloor pulse, confirmed his arrival as a producer with genuine talent. Suddenly, he was making music that not only ticked the right boxes, but also sounded fantastic to boot.

The stand out track from that EP was a rainbow-tinted fusion of old-world ambience, contemporary deep house and shimmering, synth-wave goodness called “Polo”. Although superb, it seemed to be rather overlooked at the time, perhaps because its kaleidoscopic melodies, spacious grooves and eyes-wide-shut feel didn’t quite fit in with contemporary dancefloor values. Pleasingly, Live At Robert Johnson have decided to give it a much-deserved single release, with two brand new versions for Dunbar fans to drool over.

And drool you will. Field-Pickering has provided a brand new extended version, with stretches out the six-minute original into ten minutes of crystalline gorgeousness. Sounding not unlike an unlikely cover version of “Sueno Latino” by Pal Joey, The Orb (circa Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld) and original Nu Groover Lamont Booker/LB Bad, it gorgeously ebbs and flows, slowly shuffling towards the dancefloor and then back the sofa in one easy movement. It’s a sublime piece of electronic music, and worth every second of its 10-minute duration.

Arto Mwambe man Phillip Lauer – a Live At Robert Johnson regular whose debut album will drop on Running Back later this spring – provides the remix. It’s a smart choice from the LARJ camp, because Lauer is no stranger to melodic, soundscape deep house. His remix keeps many of Field-Pickering’s original elements, carefully placing them over a synth-heavy, retro deep house groove. He adds some wonderful new melodic elements of his own, too. The resultant swirling synth-house bubbler sounds not unlike early Bobby Konders and LB Bad given a 21st century makeover; an enticing proposition for anyone who enjoys the more musically ambitious and sophisticated end of deep house.

Matt Anniss