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Green Velvet – Unshakable [Album Review]

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2013 has been quite the year for Curtis Jones, the multifaceted Midwesterner known variably as Green Velvet and Cajmere. As if having standout reworks of his hit single “Bigger Than Prince” become the respective anthems of Ibiza and Amsterdam Dance Event wasn’t enough, Jones recently delivered his first Green Velvet album in nearly four years on his Relief Records imprint. Rather than representing a cohesive conceptual whole, Unshakable is an unapologetic assortment of club-ready collaborations with some of the brightest names in the techno business.

The dystopian “Robots” with Riva Starr opens the album in style, a thumping number whose Blade Runner influences extend beyond the content of its disaffected spoken word vocals to sweeping Vangelis-styled synthesizer breakdowns and next-millennium modular flourishes. The intensity is immediately ratcheted up by the chugging “Stronger,” an unrelenting warehouse rumbler with Scottish luminary Gary Beck that features artfully delayed vocals over stuttered 909 snare builds.

On the subterranean “Paradise,” Jones teams up with Australian analog whiz Craig Williams to plumb techno’s deeper depths with the aid of a modulated Moog bass and sedate vocal stylings. Jones later reunites with fellow laser-beam-flinger Harvard Bass on the dueling synths of “Sinkhole” before finishing strong with the same futuristic flair he opened with, joining venerated Irish artist Phil Kieran on the album’s experimental finale “Free Yourself.”

The final track’s vocal line urges the listener not to sacrifice their souls should they want to be free. It’s clear that Green Velvet has taken his own advice to heart on the aptly named Unshakable. For a lesser producer, an album consisting entirely of collaborations might hint at artistic insecurity. Not so for Jones. Unshakable finds the Chicago veteran at his best, exploring new sonic ground with his talented contemporaries, while ensuring his own artistic hand can be heard in every one of his album’s 13 tracks.

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