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Makèz redefines the idea of a contemporary dance album with debut City of All

Amsterdam-based duo Makèz have been making waves in the local club scene for quite some years. As DJs, Kees and Jan-Willem ventured through and expanded their musical landscape, exploring disco-tinged, straight-forward house and other sounds from the crates. After various releases on Dam Swindle's Heist Recordings, their journey now culminates in the debut album City of All: a diverse dance album with a narrative.

Writing and composing an instrumental dance album with a narrative often has an awkward feel to it. Although the jazz greats did manage to do so in past times, in the contemporary age the driving force behind narrative is mainly language. Additionally, the intention of dance music might differ, as the name implies: it is meant to make you move, preferably in a club. Musicians and producers are more inclined to assemble an album consisting of various smashing dance tunes in somewhat incoherent fashion. Just an EEP: extended extended play.

Subverting the pitfall

Avoiding this pitfall, Makèz took the time to plan out the narrative of 'City of All'. The album reflects a city trip through Amsterdam, with inside knowledge about certain spots, yet with accidental encounters between diverging figures. A day trip through Amsterdam converging into a club night.

The Entrance opens the journey with an uptempo groove, skipping rimshots, drum fills and bouncing synths. Effortlessly, the joint transitions in Not So Different and subsequently into the title track of the album– which arguably draws inspiration from Louie Vega and Josh Milan, colored with a more groove-oriented disco aesthetic.

Musical tangents

From here, the album diverts from 4-on-the-floor house as Makèz submerge themselves in their concept of accidental encounters and expanded musical insights. The BPM descends and the musicality increases. Sonder has to be my personal favorite on the album. Organic drums and phased Rhodes guide you on a little tangent. Super interesting is the use of what sounds like an Indian sample dwindling in the background of the cut.

To further incite the album's narrative, Makèz enlists Melbourne 30/70 crew member and vocalist Allysha Joy and Amsterdam wonderboy LYMA. Looking Up and Humming Harmonies instill serenity to the album with downtempo rhythms and souled out harmonies.

But before getting sidetracked by this interesting road, the album takes you right back to the crux of the album. Makèz weave together a concoction of soulful electro with Returning. The energetic apotheosis of the album has to be Bent With Funk. The narrative of the album has now taken you to the early morning 4AM club night where the banging drums and repetitive b-line are met with the signature style of synths, stabs and other jazz chords you've encountered throughout the album so far.

City of All essentially does what a dance album should do: make you dance. Yet, the powerful club tracks are underlined and even highlighted by the production insights and qitty arrangements by Makèz. The duo doesn't shy away from tangents informed by their love for funk, jazz and disco. This makes the album a perfect fit for Heist Recordings, who've been on that wave for years now. City of All showcases Makèz' remarkable talent for writing an album that goes to so many different places, but most of all, just really feels like home.


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James Brown
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