Before writing this, I curiously asked a few house "aficionado's" about Iron Curtis. You'd be surprised at some of the answers I got; one such answer was, "that sounds like that old skool rock band, you know, Iron...something." Anyway, it's no surprise that many people, even the one's who profess to know house or techno, know very little of Iron Curtis. Johannes Paluka, (or Paluka as he is more commonly known by when he DJs) hails from Nürnberg, a city in the German state of Bavaria, about 170 km from Munich. I remember reading about him some time in early 2009 and decided to take a chance on his first release, the Solgerhood EP, on Tensnake's Mirau imprint, based solely on the track, 'Pumping Velvet', which also happened to be the title of an old 80's Yello track that I used to love immensely. Needless to say, they're not in any way similar. It was a sweet building slice of proper tech-house laden with Detroit influences that, at that point in time, was sadly lacking in a great deal of self-professed 'proper' house' or 'techno' records. Needless to say, I still do play it out whenever I can.
Not much else from the now Berlin-based, Iron Curtis, in 2009, save the There and Then EP on Morris Audio City Sport Edition, a sub-division of Swiss based label Morris Audio, known primarily for their meticulous attention to signing and putting out only the highest quality house and techno. But in the year 2010 alone, out come a slew of seven 12 inches, on labels like Sudden Drop, Hudd Trax, Retreat, Boe Recordings and Mule Electronic, just to name a few. Oh, and one on the excellent Morris Audio as well. Just the Goma EP on Kolour Recordings in 2011, and a track called 'You, On A Friday Night' on the Retreat 12 inch E.P Treats, Volume 2, which saw Johannes sharing wax space with Quarion and Session Victim.
This year will herald Iron Curtis' return to the label that started it all for him, for his first full length artist album. Due out on Mirau in mid-May, the album, called Soft Wide Waist Band, brings together 14 new works. All with that signature Iron Curtis blend of deep, elemental, Detroit and Chicago-esque house that Paluka's been honing in on over the years gone by, and quite a way more than then some.
The album opens with the introductory 'Once Around The Block'. On hindsight, I almost thought that I'd put the new Jazzanova record on instead, but, as he has been so known to do sometimes, Paluka, effortlessly, weaves a little Detroit street cred into this, just as deftly as his peers from Berlin have been so akin to as well. 'Closer', the second (but, technically the albums opening) track, takes it slow, dreamy and into deep soulful vocal territory. As I listen to this, a second time, it has all the trimmings of the Iron Curtis 'John Hancock', but shows how his sound, in essence, has matured beyond the realm of just house. Truly, madly, deeply, I am already beginning to like this album.
The deepness continues into 'Hurts', and the album's tittle track, both serving an antitheses to atypical 4-to the-floor house. Again, I will say it, I am truly enjoying the experience thus far. 'The Sun' takes it back into house, but nothing ordinary. It's a groovy, building Detroit meets Chicago excursion with vocal and 808 percussion drops in all the right places. My feet are starting to get a little restless now. The odd interjection of 'Amberg 4 A.M' sounds a little like my washing machine from a distance, as it's spin cycle slows down. Don't ask me what that means, only someone who does their laundry at 4 in the morning while listening to iron Curtis would probably know (I will explain this at some point, maybe).
The albums diversity continues with the jerky 'Just Body Left'. A mid-tempo, groovy deep and driving instrumental that somehow, takes me back to the early 90's, Chicago house with it's bumpy, jerky groovy, chug and drop feel. More culinary delights for my famished feet come next as 'Horses' takes the tempo up into more vocal blended Detroit house. This one's is fast turning out to be one of my album favorites. One thing I've noticed thus far, this album personifies the theory, 'everything in moderation' almost to perfection. Paluka just seems to drop in and combine pads, loops, melodies, vocals, atmospheric dreamy breakdown drops and unobtrusive curve-balls just as they are needed. Nothing more, and nothing less.
The aptly titled 'O'Hare' is a delightful slice of Chicago house that would leave a huge smile on Larry Heard's face if he were listening to it right now. '10 Planetarium' and 'To The Luv' take it back into non-4/4 territory, sounding almost old skool 80's electro in many respects, but with a current twist (just think along the lines of he Tom Tom Club, Whodini and Arthur Baker on acid). I'm really dancing now. 'Inner Glow', 'What If' and 'Chairs and Fireworks' round off the album in signature Iron Curtis fashion, akin to the lush, driving deep tech-house that Johannes Paluka has been so known and, in every sense of the word, loved for as well.
The final strains of 'Chairs and Fireworks' fade into oblivion, and my feet, stop moving for the moment, I realise that there's not been one dull moment here. The entire album was like a proper DJ set that warms you up, gets you groovin', gets you movin', chills you out and leaves you wanting more. The musical arrangement and production on this is second to none and if this is anything to go by, a blueprint for other house producers (who have been been comfortable with their bland and formulaic approach) to start re-building upon. Now, as I start playing the album again, that right big toe of mine is starting to twitch in delight and as the left one infectiously follows suit, I think it's dancing time again. Thank you Iron Curtis.
01. Once Around The Block
04. Soft Wide Waist Band
05. The Sun
06. Amberg 4AM
07. Just Body Left
11. To The Lv
12. Inner Glow
13. What If
14. Chairs & Fireworks
Soft Wide Waist Band will be released on 21 May 2012. Thank you to Mirau for the special preview.