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Dance producer Matt Walker may be from Bristol but his long-awaited debut album released under the moniker Julio Bashmore sounds more like a compilation of mid-nineties house rarities. It’s a record full of sub-genres and variations, where songs such as Juliet Roberts’ storming ‘Caught in the Middle’ could be heard on the floor of London’s Queer Nation on Sunday night and the Radio 1 Breakfast Show the following morning. Julio Bashmore has a knack of identifying that beautiful point where the underground and the commercial merge which has resulted in Knockin’ Boots having unforced pop credentials by the handful.
Immediately the title track serves as a modest introduction which quickly establishes pretty much all you need to know about Julio Bashmore’s direction here and his influences too. Hi-hats, house beats and disco embellishments from the late 70s that incorporated live instrumentation and string parts underscore the chopped and looped vocal line ‘we danced all night’ from the 1980 The Jones Girls track ‘Dance Turned into a Romance’. Tracks like this one, which are largely instrumental bar some crucial vintage vocal samples, provide essential support to the more dominant melodies that feature on the album’s frequent show-stopping house tracks.
Sam Dew provides an aching and by turns uplifting vocal turn on Knockin’ Boots‘ best track and biggest dancer ‘Holding On’. Matt Walker has incorporated a minuscule portion of the Jocelyn Brown-featuring ‘Make It Last Forever’ track by Inner Life, sped it up and made it the basis of an amazing pop tune much like Spiller’s ‘Groovejet’ did with its sample of the little known ‘Love is You’ by Carol Williams in 2000. A little disco, but nothing too obvious, some house beats and a tremendous vocal singing a faultless melody are things both tracks have in common. The track does this while never reverting to lazy, retro pastiche or mimicry of a period that is clearly understood by Walker but frequently moulded anew.
‘Let Me be Your Weakness’ has a tough synth-line that guides an effortless groove and falsetto vocals by Bixby reminiscent of 80s’ Chicago-based male group Ten City and ‘Rhythm of Auld’ features a gospel sample and a funk- soul shrug that is pure gold dust.
‘What’s Mine is Mine’ treads on the painted toes of bitch house classics and reads like a dub version of the iconic spoken-vocal breakdown featured on (and sampled countless times) Ralphi Rosario’s ‘You Used to Hold Me’.
‘Bark’ and ‘Umuntu’, which features rapper Okamalumkoolkat, are more committed to a sound that is representative of 2015 with the frantic but sparse ‘Bark’ essentially being a bass track that makes creative uses of an unanswered phone and the word ‘work’.
Bixby features again on the smooth and soulful ‘Kong’ as sumptuous house beats scatter beneath him, a swirling synth melody makes its nod to the Salsoul Orchestra’s seminal ‘Oooh I Love It (Love Break)’.
Album closer ‘You & Me’ is a lovely deep house vocal track with J. Danna given full opportunity to shine and she relishes and deserves the moment totally. As with similar artists such as Hercules & Love Affair, Hot Chip and Roisin Murphy, Julio Bashmore represents dance music with its rich and messy heritage and cultures of years gone by while incorporating new tricks and ideas that remain compellingly contemporary.
Knockin’ Boots sounds like a packed and delirious dance floor, one that may have passed you by or one that you’re yet to step up onto.