Doc Daneeka & Abigail Wyles "Toby Jug"
Drums. When discussing the music of Doc Daneeka (a.k.a. Mial Watkins), that's usually the focus of the conversation. After all, the Welsh-born producer essentially made a name for himself by crafting percussion-heavy slices of mutant house music. Sure, the excellent They!Live album dialed down the drum patterns in favor of a stark, techno-leaning sound palette, but much of that was chalked up to the producer's relocation to Berlin, if not the influence of his They!Live collaborator Benjamin Damage. So how exactly does one explain "Toby Jug," the latest Doc Daneeka single and something he produced—apart from the vocal contributions of Abigail Wyles—completely on his own? Not only does the track not contain much in the way of drums, it's not even suitable for the club.
Without question, "Toby Jug" is a bit of an unexpected curveball. In fairness, Wyles did appear on three They!Live tracks, including the serene, pop-inclined "Halo." Yet "Halo" was but a single effort on a full-length album, while "Toby Jug" is the centerpiece of a stand-alone single. It's a puzzling selection, although that doesn't mean the track isn't any good. On the contrary, it's a well-crafted piece of downtempo electronic pop, a production that's actually quite minimal. Where "Halo" bathed Wyles' vocals in a warm and fuzzy synth haze, "Toby Jug" accompanies her melodically soulful pipes with little more than a simple piano melody and some stripped-down, R&B-flavored percussion. In the wrong hands, a song like this could be absolutely dreadful, a sub-Dido number suitable for the kinds of chillout compilations that soundtrack high-end day spas. But Doc Daneeka smartly avoids any potential cliches, and simply allows the song to breathe while Wyles commands center stage.
Speaking of smart decisions, the selection of Lando Kal as a remixer on the b-side was a wise move. Like Doc Daneeka, Lando Kal is a relatively recent Berlin transplant whose output is gradually bearing more and more traces of the city's affinity for techno. His take on "Toby Jug" is a complete reinvention, a pulsing, dancefloor-oriented track that transforms Wyles' vocals into ghostly snippets that emotively harken back to the glory days of diva house. Anchored by a chunky bassline and synth melodies that are almost robotic in structure, the remix forges ahead with the diligence of a locomotive. It's retro, but never cliché. It's geared for the club, but it's also intrinsically deep. Plainly said, it's excellent, and provides the perfect antidote for any DJs put off by Doc Daneeka's stylistic wanderlust on the a-side.
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