ALBUM REVIEW: Various Artists – Selva Selects: Thunder Claps: a year in Quantic’s superb new imprint



AND LO! Quantic, aka Will Holland, the eclectic, mindful, genre-roaming British musician and producer, who’s released so many superb albums and singles down through the 21st century, had a vision. And the vision was this.

Once he’d moved to New York after his productive sojourn in Colombia, he knew he needed a creative space to shake ideas down in. Set to thinking with his partner, Aziza Ali, he thought it might be a recording space and studio, flooded with natural light – no heavy 2am bulb-lit vibe.

It would have the proper carpentry and finish and sonic warmth of a classic studio of the past, and it would be properly appointed with his massive collection of vintage studio equipment. It would be roomy; roomy enough, in fact, to house the kind of record collections mortals such as us can only dream of and drool at. Oh, and not forgetting the instruments, too.

Ah, but it would also be much more; it could be a full production facility under one roof, wherein writing, recording, mixing, even vinyl mastering could take place. There could even be a label …

And the studio-production space was built, in Brooklyn. It was named Selva, as was the label it begat. 

And Will saw that it was good.

Selva the label was launched unto the world only in March, with the lovingly packaged 7” from Favorite People, “Wading Out”/ “Shell Island”; since when the label has issued a new message every few weeks – not too many, not too few – spanning lush disco, Colombian polyrhythm, library-music laboratory Moog tackle. Rather a lovely aesthetic, looking set to be one of those labels you can buy on trust; sorta a Ninja Tune/Mo’Wax/Basic Channel imprimatur of curated quality.

And to celebrate the first year of Selva, Will’s putting out a year-end résumé of the label so far, on November 13th: Selva Selects: Thunder Claps. Ten tracks on digital and limited cassette format. It’s a highly sexy compilation. Let’s take a peramble through.

Will Holland, aka Quantic, at the decks

Quantic, as is his right, opens the show with the intelligent seduction of “Degeneration”: an open filmic electroscape, insistent, Mitteleuropan, which suddenly shifts up through the gears through a curious and inviting melody, partly informed, I’d wager, by that crate-dug easy listening orchestral funk which has once more fallen waay out of favour – people like John Schroeder and Johnny Harris; even maybe Roy Budd. It dies, away, sighs, away – only to redouble and hitcha straight in the dance feels, hooks you hard, concludingly strips away to a sparse shuffle. Welcome.

The second dose comes courtesy Los Miticos del Ritmo’s “El Mezcalero”: it’s the kinda gear shift you’ve come to know and love (and frankly, have to expect) from a Quantic curation. It’s a beautiful cumbia from a band put together specifically to cut some sides for Selva; Will himself leads on the accordion, wrapped in a sunshiney, polyrhythmic magic from an assembled collective of Colombian percussionists. 

It was Favourite People who had the honouring of notching SELVA 001 in the catalogue, and both sides of that seminal 7″ feature here. “Shell Island” is up first, a luxuriously twangy exercise in lounge-psych, crisply cut 60s’ suits a la Tarantino or The Thievery Corporation (speaking sartorially, strickly). wordless backing vocals, on-point production glimmer. It’s the sorta track you hear a DJ drop at your favourite retro club, and mouth wtf? to your companion with a wide-eyed grin when it drops. The flip, “Wading Out”, drops a little later as the penultimate track: it’s a deeper, sweltering shimmer of overdriven guitar vibrato, the scent of hot valves and hotter tarmac, big-finned gas guzzlers six lanes deep. 

“Noche de Amor”, by Juan Vargos con Ondatrópica, was actually originally improvised into being at the sessions in Medellin for the Ondatrópica album back in 2012. It features Quantic alongside the legendary Colombian big band supremo and Mario Galeano; Will kept the masters and cut this incredible out-take across two sides of vinyl for Selva 003. It has so much atmosphere, talent, beautiful piano. It clocks at seven and a half minutes, bar some loose change, and one benefit of the compilation is you don’t have to flip such a deeply flowing track at the midpoint; sit back and let it envelop you.

And we stay firmly in the territory of sound odyssey for Quantic’s “Nineteen Eighty Five” – or rather, should that be Wings’, since Will has unearthed this particular nugget from 1973 globe-dominator Band On The Run. This is the flip of the most recent release on Selva, and the first 12”. And in which direction doth he reimagine it? Well, he stays pretty faithful, actually; there’s no Macca vocals, it’s purely instrumental; maybe he just nudges the bpm a little, applies a cloth and some percussion, reifies it as the glam-vamping disco groover it’s chomped at the bit to be all along.

Teletronix, another Will nom-de-musique, chill things a little, take us somewhere a little more homespun, on “Metropolitan”. Herein Will gets bitten by the 8-bit, grafts his trademark polyrhythms onto a retro-synth setting, coming over all gorgeously lo-fi electro a la 1979. It’s a quirky sketch of a groove with a little bit of Money Mark, a little bit of Tom Tom Club’s “Wordy Rapping Hood”, a pinch of  Pierre Henry,  and a barrel load of hipswing and fun. (What the compilation does omit is the flip, “Assorted Dub Sirens”, a little set of DJ tools, like the A-side conceived and created using Teenage Engineering’s OP-1 mini-synth. It’s little droplets of pure Delia Derbyshire radiophonics – get y’self over to the Selva Bandcamp page for that, but you can see why it would tear up the flow here).

“Theme For Selva” sets out a manifesto in a nailed-on, orchestral disco funk odyssey that demands a parched landscape of freeways and glass towers, possibly filmed from a chopper (and certainly not a helicopter), wearing some Ray-Bans. It’s delightful and it’s the theme to every ‘70s TV drama you wanted to star in in your reveries.

And of course it wouldn’t be a Quantic-overseen album without a superb vocal collaboration, which comes here in the shape of the easy ice-cool of “Nowhere”, in tandem with Denitia.

They’re a tricky thing, a label compilation; they follow a subtly different set of rules. Think of label comps you may own or have loved: Doing It For The Kids, Stax-O’-Soul, Pillows & Prayers, Royalties Overdue, Funkjazztical Tricknology. They seem to have this kind of recipe: four or five absolute essentials from the period spanned (but always maybe short of just that one that would it make perfect); an alternate take, maybe a remix, a demo or two; some deep catalogue, and perhaps a couple of new acts that the label’s just testing the water with. Maybe some piece of deep craziness. That’s all okay; that’s the nature of the beast, it’s a voyage of discovery.

Aside from its obvious strength as the year’s releases summated, Selva Selects: Thunder Claps wins big in touching on so many tangents in the world of music, da funk, da disco, Latin, electro; it’s so eclectic, but it all works because Will is like a dowsing rod for a great tune. He’s the constant, the overseer, the constant thread, and this compilation is the absolute mustard. Year-end podium position tackle.

Let’s wish Selva a bright 2021.

Selva Selects: Thunder Claps will be released by Selva on digital and limited cassette formats on November 13th. To order yours, which comes highly recommended, visit the Selva Bandcamp page.

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