Drivetrain: Tragedy Park

Andy Vaz has shown an uncanny ear and unerring taste in the roster selections he's made for his Yore imprint, and does so again in adding Drivetrain's name to the stable. Drivetrain's the nom de plume for Derrick Thompson, a DJ and producer who heads up Soiree Records International, a label with a house, techno, and downtempo focus. Like Yore label-mate Rick Wade, Thompson seems to have a soft spot in his heart for the rich production values of ‘70s Philly soul producers such as Gamble & Huff and Thom Bell. That kinship comes through loud and clear in the EP's second cut, “The Rain,” when Thompson sweetens the tune's brisk rhythms with triangle, electric piano, alto sax, flute, acoustic bass, and a gravelly “Make love (in the rain)” command that sounds like it's oozing from the lips of a late-night DJ.

But, tasty as it is, “The Rain” is trumped by the A-side's “Angel (Serenity Mix),” which opens with a sinuous house thrust and then heats up with a tight, jacking groove that Thompson soulfully embellishes with synthesizer flourishes and a smooth vocal refrain of the song's title. The vibe is lush and soulful in the extreme, with the vocals alternating between a soft murmur and robust declamation while the percolating, dub-inflected house pulse pushes determinedly forward underneath. Interestingly, the EP's title track, which is closer in spirit to a stomping techno raver that's had a smidgen of acid thrown in for extra flavour, is the least captivating of the three tracks, even if it is perhaps the most club-ready. Nevertheless, the release more than earns its recommendation on the first two tracks alone.

August 2009