Clone’s Royal Oak offshoot has barely put a foot wrong since launching in 2009, providing open-minded deep house/disco/electro-funk heads with quality material from the likes of Space Dimension Controller, Reggie Dokes and the hotly tipped Genius of Time. Here they give a Royal Oak debut to Holland’s Morning Factory, a relatively unknown production partnership who have already released a string of strong EPs on Yore and 2020 Vision.
This two-tracker, though, is noticeably different to those previous outings. Their two Yore EPs, in particular, were full of thick, quietly melodic cuts that owed just as much stylistically to vintage US deep house as European house and techno. In particular, Jean-Pierre van der Leeuw and Jozef Lemmens’ swirling, jackin’-in-space sound owes much to American house titans Chez Damier and Ron Trent – and we’re not just talking about their production moniker (in case you’ve not spotted the reference, they’re named after one of Chez & Trent’s finest releases). While you can still hear a distinct Ron Trent influence on “Fantasy Check”, it’s much more musically complex and stylistically refined than any of their previous outings. Where those occasionally tickled the senses, “Fantasy Check” overpowers them all at once.
It’s something of a slow-burning delight – an emotion-rich soup of gently cascading jazz pianos, dream sequence chords, simmering strings and filtered electric bass – all atop beats that could have come straight from an old Moodymann 12”. It’s a terrific piece of music, and one that should be played on a loop to anyone who says house records lack emotion, feeling or musical worth. Flipside “Diane’s Love” is perhaps a little nearer what we’ve come to expect from van der Leeuw and Lemmens, but it’s still far more finely-sculpted than anything in their back catalogue. There’s more percussive pressure and typically heavy low-end – think Theo, Rick Wilhite etc – but they still find space in the mix for oddly cut-up strings and synths. There’s also a delightful female spoken word vocal that helps give focus and emotional resonance to a track that’s simply brimming with inventiveness. Royal Oak rarely misses the mark, and this is no different. It’s one of the label’s best releases to date, and certainly Morning Factory’s best work.