Mood Hut: A Beginner’s Guide

20.03.15

Hailing from the laidback ‘Canadian Riviera’ of Vancouver, Mood Hut have, in just a few years, established themselves as the go-to label for good vibes and hazy house. Though label affiliates Cloudface, House of Doors, and the Pender Street Steppers boys each create their own distinct productions, collectively the Mood Hut sound is one epitomised by laidback new age sounds and primitive house grooves. It is one that conjures up images of long summer days spent lying in parks and driving along coastal routes as the sun begins to set. Were such an image ever to become reality, one imagines the trip would be taken aboard a red '80s convertible, with the top down and the tape deck blaring.

For a label that, in its infancy, released much of its material in cassette format, such invocations seem particularly appropriate. Their sound is one that encompasses much of the electronic music coming out of Vancouver at the moment, which in a scene where small independent labels rub shoulders, co-creating music and working together, is hardly surprising. With new labels and record stores cropping up all over the city, it appears from the outside that Vancouver is experiencing somewhat of dance music renaissance.

Relaxed, sun-dipped and unrushed, their productions bring together everything from hardware driven techno to wind chimes and birdsong, '80s disco and early house rhythms. Dip in below for a guide to the finest moments from one of the best underground labels going right now.

Cloudface Devonian Garden

Significant insofar as this EP marked Mood Hut’s first official release, Devonian Garden is a track that has gone on to define the label. Although a much chunkier, kick-heavy track than others that have followed it, the hazy lo-fi house sound of Devonian Garden is one that has become synonymous with Mood Hut. The track begins with a stomping, isolated kick drum and soft snare backed by glowing ethereal pads, building into an infectious blend of warm descending synths, hi-hats, and the occasional bongo drum. For a dreamier cut, check out the EP's b-side, 2N, a brilliantly warm and nostalgic track full of swirling minor synths.

Pender Street Steppers Openin’ Up

From the release that defined the Mood Hut sound to the release that solidified it. A collaborative release with PPU, Openin’ Up was perhaps the first track to bring the Mood Hut sound to a wider audience. Soon after the record dropped, Mood Hut landed its first set on Boiler Room and quickly began picking up fans across the world. The track’s fluttering, thick, smoky vocal sounds and bongo drums instantly grab your attention. It hardly seems surprising that it went on to do so much for the label. 

Jack J Looking Forward To You

The release that really served to bring Mood Hut to the fore, Looking Forward To You exists on a higher plain of funkiness. Released alongside the equally brilliant Something On My Mind b-side, the track sees Jack Jutson – one half of the Mood Hut group Pender Street Steppers – break away with his own take of funk-laden house. Sun-tinged synths and an infectious slice of sax glide over an incredibly groovy bass-line as the track begins to build momentum. An entire year’s wages could be bartered on the fact that you’ll be lost in rapturous dance by the time the first drum roll hits.

Hashman Deejay & Pender Street Steppers at Boiler Room x Dekmantel

One of the best Boiler Room sets of 2014, the Mood Hut guys pulled out a showstopper of a set that got the entire crowd moving in a matter of minutes, which – as the YouTube community regularly laments – is a rare thing indeed. An hour and a half of tracks from Mood Hut and friends, many of which still remain unreleased, this is as good an introduction as any to the Mood Hut vibe, and what better setting than a sun-basked festival.

Pender Street Steppers Life In The Zone (Street Side)

As with all early Mood Hut releases, this mix came out in the form of a cassette. Proof of how fantastic it is can be found in the many cries of ‘track ID?!!’ on Soundcloud. It’s yet another example of the Mood Hut mentality, a tape of unreleased tunes with no tracklist and no forthcoming dates anywhere. Everything, it seems, is done at its own pace.

Jack J The Babylon Nightclub Demos

A resoundingly perfect 42 minutes and 32 seconds of balmy music from Jack J and the C’est Life band, the mixtape leaves you floating somewhere above the space between lying back and dancing. It brings to mind a still summer evening spent sitting on a rooftop somewhere. If you ever find yourself in such a scenario, this is the one to stick on.

Pender Street Steppers Bubble World

Despite its name, Bubble World, with its thick, throbbing bass melody and metallic percussion, is a glimpse into the infrequently seen darker side of Mood Hut. With its catchy vocal stabs, the track is still no less funky than any other release on the label, but it hints that perhaps there are darker shades to come. Held together by the popping sounds that run throughout, the breakdown subverts expectations. The bubble bursts as the soft synths are left behind and a bass-heavy melody picks up the slack.

Mood Hut Mix 004

Listen here

Little exists on the Internet with regards to the existence of mixes 001, 002, and 003 nor, for that matter, anything else but 009 and 010. The mix can be found at libramix.org, a site that hosts a number of mixes from Mood Hut family members and friends in Vancouver. Its highlight comes at 35 minutes and 12 seconds, in the form of Jack J’s emotional tune Girlfriend, a track you’ll be hard pushed to find anywhere else but on a handful of tapes.

All of the uploads on the site are very much in keeping with the ‘Riviera sound’ that Mood Hut has come to represent – if you run out of new Mood Hut listens, head here to widen your horizons. Just uploadeded is Mood Hut 010, which contains yet more fresh material from the label.

Mood Hut & friends Pacific Rhythm Opening Party

Pacific Rhythm started out as an online store that allowed North American record collectors to source European vinyls without the hefty shipping fees. Within a year the store had gone on to host a number of parties and set up its own label. Their inaugural release featured tracks from various fellow Vancouverites, including Lnrdcroy of closely affiliated label 1080p and Mood Hut artists Hashman Deejay and Cloudface.

In order to give the city’s increasingly assimilated music scene somewhere to stand around drinking beer while listening to records, Pacific Rhythm opened a brick and mortar store in Vancouver at the beginning of February this year. The store set up shop in Vancouver’s Chinatown – also home to the Mood Hut studios – and christened its birth with a mammoth day set featuring Hashman Deejay and Jack J, among others.

Kinetic Electronix Mood Hut NTS TAKEOVA

A mix that captures the celestial, hazy essence that runs throughout all of Mood Hut’s releases to date. The two-hour show, bereft of any conversation, begins rather typically in a bath of birdsong and chimes. Kinetic Electronix then takes the listener on a journey through the Mood Hut back catalogue, dropping plenty of excellent unidentifiable bangers along the way. As always, things are allowed to move along at their own pace, leaving the listener caught up in visions of long summer days.

With soft percussion and synths slinking along groove-laden bass lines throughout, the mix typifies the hazy, loungin'-in-the-sun sound that has become so synonymous with the label. In their productions to date, the Mood Hut gang has managed to capture a sound as carefree and relaxed as the city that they call home, not to mention its liberal drug laws.

Follow Fergus Ewbank at On That Side.