I’ve noted before that dance music albums are hard to get right, but we’ve recently been treated to several great examples of melodic/progressive producers turning in great debut long-players, with Guy Mantzur’s ‘Moments’ and Paul Hazendonk’s ‘Adapt’ in particular being triumphs. Continuing this encouraging trend is the debut long-player from veteran progressive house and techno producer, Deepfunk.
Released on his own SIXTYSEVENSUNS label, which has been his main venue for his own output for the past two years, ‘Imagination Creates Reality’ shows a level of ambition, creativity, and diversity that even fans of Deepfunk’s singles over the seven years he has been releasing are likely to find impressive. The opening three tracks are among the strongest on the album, and set the tone perfectly. Opener ‘Escape’ is all chiming elegance and atmospheric sweeps, while ‘A Happy Tale’ (track 2) lets gentle plucked melodies and soaring strings ring out over a skittish breakbeat and a bassline that reminded me of Jondi & Spesh’s classic ‘We Are Connected’, leading to a lovely long outro. ‘Magic’ (track 3) is better still, and provides one of the absolute highlights. Featuring the first floor-to-the-floor rhythm on the album, Deepfunk keeps the tempo low and the timings unusual here, layering up moody metallic chimes and spacey countermelodies. The richness of the track only becomes fully apparent during the achingly beautiful breakdown, which features amazingly trippy instrumentation, before the different elements of the track come together really well for the climax and shimmering outro.
The first club-oriented track is ‘Obscure Intelligence’ (track 8), which kicks off with a abstract hook rising over a simple off-beat bassline. The track climbs to a stunning breakdown, with interlocking melodies wrapped in a haze of fizzing distortion, then unleashing a great climax as sparkling synths come to the fore over the more abstract melodies. ‘Drifting Away’ (track 10) sees Deepfunk drop the tempo again, with a sparse kickdrum and rapidly oscillating bassline soon lifted by bold melodies and key changes, subtle acid licks, and deftly-handled vocal samples. The finale of the track is an expression of pure joy, and it’s deeply infectious.
You’d expect Deepfunk to have something special planned for ‘Sixtyseventh Sun’ (track 11), given the title’s nod to his record label. You’d be right; this is the best track on the album by a mile, and I say that without meaning to slight them of course. An intensely moody intro creates a huge sense of space and tremendous beauty, while the body of the track has Deepfunk’s Kraftwerk and Vangelis influences on display in their purest form. Despite that, it still sounds fresh and futuristic; it’s the supremely gorgeous soundtrack to a sci-fi movie not yet made. Closing out the album, we have ‘Nostalgia’ (track 15), which features Amelia Hope’s vocal over a soundscape reminicient of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’. I have to admit, I wasn’t especially keen on the vocals on this one, but the instrumentation in the track builds throughout the track, leading to a mesmerizing finale, complete with acidic squelches, brittle chimes, and swelling synths.
The album’s best moments typically involve Deepfunk offering a firm nod to his influences, Vangelis in particular, while allowing himself to take those roots and develop them into something surprising and unique. This is a strong debut album from Deepfunk, and it’s scope and quality reveals him as a producer ready to compete with those at the very top of their game – he should be very proud of what he’s imagined and created here. 8.5/10