The veteran Italian duo celebrate their 20th anniversary with album #10
William Catalado and Flavio Romaniello, better known as Harley & Muscle, mark their 20th anniversary as a duo by releasing their 10th studio album, and pairing it with a second CD packed with Harley & Muscle classics from the late 90s and early 00s.
Often all but ignored by the mainstream dance press, yet treated almost as gods within their own musical niche, Harley & Muscle have carved out a sound that's distinctly their own: one-part deep house, one-part soulful house and one-part lounge/Balearic/downtempo. And it's a blueprint that Defenders Of The Faith doesn't deviate from much - it's telling that there's really little difference, in terms of sounds and tempo, between the new tracks on CD1, and the cuts on CD2 that are nearly 20 years old.
Yet there's a reason Harley & Muscle have remained at the forefront of their scene for so long - put simply, very few people do "deep and soulful" in quite so exquisite a fashion as these two! The Rurals, of course, made a pretty decent fist of it, so it's no great surprise to see (former Rurals singer) Marie Tweek supplying guest vox on the track Games We Play. Also featuring as collaborators on the new album are Glenn Underground (who features on Chicago House, one of the album's standout cuts) and Michael Procter (on the distinctly Jersey-fied She Said), while Robert Owens makes an appearance via the 2001 cut Inside Your Love on CD2.
If you've heard any of Harley & Muscle's previous long-players (or any of their 20-plus mix albums) and not been impressed, then it has to be said Defenders Of Justice won't be the album to change your mind. Likewise if you think "deep house" means Disclosure, Breach or Duke Dumont, you might be somewhat taken aback by the languid, jazzy, soulful sounds contained herein. But Harley & Muscle's legions of fans worldwide will lap it up, while if you're currently scratching your head and wondering "So what does 'deep house' mean, then?", this is the perfect place to start finding out...
Words: Russell Deeks
Release date: 24 February
Review Score: 8