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Max Essa aims straight for the floor on his "most up-tempo release to date"

Yokohama resident Max takes things up a notch with genre-defying release

  • Patrizio Cavaliere
  • 16 March 2020
Max Essa aims straight for the floor on his "most up-tempo release to date"

Title: The Great Adventure EP
Artist: Max Essa
Label: Hell Yeah! Recordings
Release: Out now

Yokohama resident Max Essa has turned out a reliably excellent stream of musical delights since way back in the '90s – featuring a broad spectrum of sounds from house to cosmic disco on labels including Paper, Warp, Bear Funk, Not An Animal, and his own Jansen Jardin imprint. However, it's the sun-kissed sound of Balearica for which he's probably best-known, as illustrated beautifully on his recent co-curation of the 'Oto No Wa' compilation on Music For Dreams. A seasoned selector, Max can be found behind the turntables at regular residencies in Tokyo’s most beloved and vibe-rich venues – including Bonobo and Aoyama Tunnel – and continues to perform across Japan and internationally.

Here he presents his third release on the wonderfully eccentric Italian label Hell Yeah! Recordings, which includes three varied compositions. 'Fool In The Pool' is music to meditate to, ultra laid-back and, in Max's words, “ever so slightly melancholy”, and going up through the gears slightly, title track 'The Great Adventure' is a beautiful taste of sunshine, reflecting Max's “constant desire for summer skies and proximity to the ocean”. Our pick of a brilliant bunch is 'Tombolo', the most floor-friendly of the EP, and a seriously accomplished piece of work.

"The two EPs I did previously with Hell Yeah! were both very much down-tempo, with long arrangements clocking in at 12 plus minutes. This time, with the track ‘Tombolo’, I decided to push the tempo up to 120 bpm for what is, I think, my most up-tempo release to date”, Max explained to Mixmag Asia. “I was a big fan of the Italian House sound of the early 90s from labels like Heartbeat, Calypso, Irma etc. and there is some of that vibe in there, plus a bit of an old-school, late '80s feel, too”.

Gliding between genres, the track incorporates Spanish guitar licks, emotive chord stabs and dreamy synth work over throbbing bass. The music is a careful balance of atmosphere and energy, and, despite its Italo house influences, the sound is refreshingly up-to-date – thanks in part to a boldly adventurous arrangement. Nuanced, refined, and playable in a variety of settings 'Tombolo' has been thoroughly road-tested here and is certifiably spectacular.

Max Essa 'The Great Adventure EP' is out now on Hell Yeah! Recordings. You can listen and buy it here