Afternoons in Stereo’s latest album, Retrospective, was released July 21st on the Greek nu-funk and disco label Timewarp Music. As the title suggests, Retrospective is a compilation of previous releases by Hamilton, Ontario-based producer Greg Vickers. Rather than following the clichéd “greatest hits” format, however, Vickers instead selected electronic and dance-floor inspired jams from his extensive catalogue. The result is a groovy summer soundtrack perfect for sipping martinis at an upscale lounge or cruising the Mediterranean on a star-filled August night.
The opening song “Galaxina” ─ one of two unreleased tracks on the album ─ has plenty of disco influence. Vintage-sounding organs, and funky guitar riffs and horn stabs bring back warm memories of 70s movie soundtracks, and indeed the video unashamedly steals scenes from a film loaded with blonds in short skirts and moustachioed hipsters (including a Star Wars-era Billy Dee Williams) dancing in an elegant nightclub. Vickers updates the disco style with tech-house synthesizers and a slamming bassline, making the track accessible to both vintage disco purists and fans of modern house music.
Just when I thought Retrospective was yet another attempt to cash in on the nu-disco craze, Retrospective goes deep with “Shadows,” a smooth, jazz-laced drum and bass tune. Full of massive horn rhythms and chilled-out organs, “Shadows” shows Vickers’ vast knowledge of contemporary electronic music while giving a nod to underground sounds. Another drum and bass tune, “Asteroid Field Guide,” further explores the outer reaches of experimental, jazzy electronic music. There are some undeniably cheesy elements appearing in Retrospective, such as electric guitar solos and saxophones (I’ve never been a fan of the sax), but Vickers makes up for this with excellent musicianship and production skills.
My pick of the album is the soulful and cinematic down-tempo number “Soul Sugar.” Drenched with deep organs and laid-back grooves, this is where Afternoons in Stereo is at its best. I could imagine this tune rocking equally on a sweaty nightclub dancefloor or at a hip, urban jazz festival. The video again samples sexy retro movies, which is obviously the vision for the whole Afternoons in Stereo project.
The strength of Afternoons in Stereo is Vickers’ organic and musical style of production. Although Retrospective is eclectic, touching on nu-disco, house, drum and bass, and downtempo, the glue that holds the album together is his use of natural sounding instruments to make modern electronic music: deep, funky basslines, dreamy organs and strings, and jazz flute. Although this is not a new concept, it’s Vickers’ experience and talent as a musician that sets him apart from other electronic music producers. Recommended for your next stylish evening on a terrace .
Written by Rob Coles
*edited by Kate Erickson