For anyone who has ever slouched out of a nightclub in the inhospitable hours of the new day, wondering what on earth they were thinking, Manchester producer Anz’ All Hours offers ample justification that it was all worthwhile. Her debut EP for London independent powerhouse Ninja Tune pays jubilant homage to clubbing and club music with enough genuine joy that it’s enough to make you want to do it all over again, no matter the ringing ears and pounding headache.
Anz is fully qualified to tackle this Herculean task of rejuvenation. Not only is she from Manchester—arguably the cradle of the UK’s dance culture—but Anz has also proved herself to be the perfect bridge between dance music’s past, present, and future, a producer (much like India Jordan) who understands dance history without being in thrall to it, capable of producing both turbo hardcore throwbacks (like “Rave Casual”) and dazzling experiments in rhythm (2020’s “Gary Mission”).
The nightlife concept behind All Hours is explicit but not overbearing. Anz calls the EP “dance music for people who are up all hours,” and the record’s opening and closing tracks—“Decisions (AM Intro)” and “Quest Select (AM Outro)”—reflect their positioning in the theoretical small hours. The EP’s six songs surge and relax as the record traces the course of 24 hours in clubland, building from the contemplative welcome of “Decisions (AM Intro)” to the brutalist rave frenzy of “Last Before Lights,” and finally mellowing off into the nervous energy of “Quest Select,” a song that suggests tired, twitching feet and brain waves hovering between retreat and attack.
Within this loose framework Anz offers a freewheeling—and very entertaining—callback to the club styles of the last four decades. The giddy “You Could Be,” featuring George Riley, takes the listener back to the early days of Madonna’s career, when she was riding high on the New York electro-funk style of Jellybean Benitez; “Real Enough to Feel Good” nods to G-funk, UK garage, and Baltimore club, while “Inna Circle'' splits the difference by introducing Mantronix-style electro to Baltimore breakbeats. “Last Before Lights,” meanwhile, is a tribute to pretty much everything, throwing Beltram hoover sounds, staccato trance riffs, a chest-bursting bassline, and rousing Italo pianos at a track intended to capture that last, glorious surge of energy before the club lights come on.
While this genre pick ’n’ mix is not exactly standard practice for electronic producers, All Hours is notably less experimental than Anz’ 2020 EP for Hessle Audio, Loos In Twos (NRG). With the possible exception of “Real Enough to Feel Good,” the music on All Hours walks with a straight back and winning smile quite different from that EP’s wobbly strut. The production is bright and welcoming, like an unexpectedly friendly pat-down from security.
More importantly, All Hours brings to the forefront a melodic tendency that Anz has only hinted at in her previous work. The piano intro to “Decisions (AM Intro)” teases the kind of ambiguous emotional journey you might expect of a particularly winsome movie soundtrack, while “You Could Be” is simply a wonderful pop song, shining with romantic sass. The way that the EP’s six songs flow into each other, with sonic elements artfully bridging the divide between tracks, evokes a well-crafted DJ set. The twisting synth riff that connects “Decisions (AM Intro)” and “You Could Be” brings a smile to my face every time, a perfect sleight of hand that never seems to tire.
Like the very best nights out, this EP is simultaneously fleeting and impactful, a brief moment of joy that promises to resonate for years. All Hours feels like an effortless step up to the major leagues for a producer who can find magic in the murkiest nightclub corner.
Buy: Rough Trade
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