A lot has changed for Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets in the past two years since they first send me a demo with their music. When we met in Amsterdam in 2011, they had just started their Detroit Swindle project and were making music just out of fun. They did not yet think of taking it to a more professional level. After some time, Elef got them to send me a few of their first tracks, which resulted in the “Nothing Else Matters” EP together with the now “classic” Detroit Swindle track “Jick Rames” on it. “Jick Rames” is truly a breakthrough track for the guys: it was something completely different at the time with its ultra slow tempo combined with Detroit/ Chicago-esque feel and hip hop attitude.
Along with their well received release on Huxley’s “Saints & Sonnets”, this marked the jump start of their musical career and it were these releases that marked the way the guys would take, combining the early 90’s garage styles with deeper Detroit and Chicago house influences. Their music sounded so fresh and new that you could immediately pick out a Detroit Swindle track when you heard it in the clubs. It was something about their way of building breaks and especially the rhythms that had a typical “Detroit Swindle” style with lots of shuffle and off-grid action going on.
Their tremendous rise in the house scene already got them to be noted as newcomers in the “Making a splash in 2013” section in DJ Mag and from there it just went off. They have been laying it down across the UK, Ireland and European mainland every weekend for the past 2 years, gaining much respect with both their DJ and Live sets. 2014 is going to be even busier, with tours planned in the USA, Australia, Asia and South Africa, where they have an exceptionally large fan base.
After some very successful EP’s on “Freerange”, “Tsuba”, their own label “Heist” and of course “Dirt Crew Recordings” plus numerous remixes on labels like “Greco Roman”, “Club Mod”, “Jalapeno” and “Room with a View” we all felt that now is the time for the Detroit Swindle debut album.
So here it is: “Boxed Out”. A 13 track symphony of DS flavours. It has everything you would expect from the Swindles, some slow burners with a hint of disco, some deep house, some banging club monsters and hey, even some leftfield hip hop jams.
The album opens with “B.Y.O.”, a track that balances nicely between the DS shuffle and an old school New York style block party. The track is a taste of things to come for the rest of the album, hinting towards a big party vibe, but mellow enough to make it a really interesting listen.
The one thing Detroit Swindle are known for best is their knack for picking the right vocals. For Boxed Out, they came up with some perfect partnerships. They recorded ’64 Ways’ with none other than one of America’s finest soul singers: Mayer Hawthorne. Being a fan of their sound he proposed to do a track together in return for a remix on one of his album originals to be released in 2014. “64 Ways” has a lazy shuffle, a bunch of catchy rhodes chords and few well placed layers of synths that give this track a hint of “Detroit Experiment”, wrapped up in an almost poppy house jam.
One of the other vocal tracks is “Thoughts of She”, that effortlessly samples the voice of UK soul singer Alice Russel from the track “Pushing on” by “The Quantic Soul Orchestra”. There’s also the gorgeous track ”Center of Gravity” that has Berlin based, Ghanese-Canadian soul singer Sandra Amarie on vocals. It’s particularly this track that reflects the true spirit of Detroit Swindle’s music, a mixture of soul and UK garage meets Detroit house slowed down to a sexy groove with some of their trademark pads and stabs.
They pushed themselves to explore different tempos as well, which not only resulted on some slow house burners, but also in 2 hip hop tracks. “For the Love of...” is a homage to the old school sounds of “J. Dilla”, “A tribe called Quest” and “The Pharcyde”, combining off-beat shuffles, a gritty bass line and a warm cut-up soul sample. “You, Me, Here, Now” is almost a love song, disguised in a s(w)ing-a-long down tempo type of track. It’s one of those ‘one more tune’ kinda tunes.
So there’s hip hop, there’s soulful vocals, but It just wouldn’t be a Detroit Swindle album without a few bangers on it. “Huh, What!”, “Shotgun”, “The Fat Rat” and “He’s Just This Guy, You Know?“ are all relentless dance floor monsters, pushing the tempo to match old school Chicago and New York house cuts from the late 80’s and early 90’s.
With these tracks “Boxed Out” has a great combination of gritty percussions, hot vocals and catchy chords and it is exactly this recipe that has become the much-loved trademark of Detroit Swindle’s house universe. The album has a little bit of everything in exactly the right dose, making it both a good listen, and an extremely infectious club album.
It was in 2011 that Dutch pair Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets quickly broke through in the electronic music scene. Since then they have become known for their widescreen approach to making and playing club-ready grooves.