Friday, 5 December 2008

Daniel Wang - Disco Marmite

Let’s get straight to the point - I think Daniel Wang is one of THE best DJs in the world. But the Berlin based American is not everyone’s cup tea. In fact, whereas I love his DJing, some other people can’t stand it. And I don’t mean dubstep ruffnecks and indie kids don’t get him, I mean there’s plenty of dyed in the wool house heads and beardy nu-disco fans who aren’t feeling the Wang.

On the face of it, this may seem strange, given that house is essentially a continuation of disco and nu-disco is, err, disco. But I can actually understand why some people don’t like Daniel Wang.

These days disco has been kinda sanitised for the house generation. Not only are simple to programme tracks like Gino Soccio ‘Dancer’ are ubiquitous but edits are abound and remove the ‘cheesy bits’ like camp vocals (Cellophane ‘Super Queen’), guitar solos (Chilly ‘For Your Love’) and operatic breakdowns (Sylvester 'Band of Gold'), leaving the elements that have become the basis of so many sample laden house tracks and as such, the elements to which today’s clubbers’ ears are attuned. And all of this is played by DJs in a house context. If a DJ plays Chicago ‘Street Player’ people will love it because they all know the Bucketheads tracks that liberally sampled it. If a DJ plays Boystown Gang 'Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You' then 99% of dance floors shit themselves.

Wang takes it back to its roots, playing what was essentially gay dance music for gay men to dance to. The song and the melody are the primary focus rather than the incessant 4/4 beat, beat mixing takes a back seat, often used but not ruling his sets, and all those bits that are often filtered out for modern ears are left in, maybe even emphasised, along with that sense of drama that once lit up the floors of The Saint, the Garage, Better Days, etc.

In fact, he has a natural penchant for drama. I heard him play at massive Faith/Secret Sundaze party at the tail end of 2007, with people like Chateau Flight and Timmy Regisford spinning in the other rooms, on huge sounds systems, with giant lighting rigs, to literally thousands of people. Daniel was downstairs in a relatively small room on the way to the cloakroom, with maybe a hundred dancers. At one point he plunged the room into virtual darkness, the only light being a small table lamp wrapped in red plastic, which he started to switch on and off strobe style, before dropping Amanda Lear ‘New York’, a haunting, dark disco ballad at clocks in at about 3bpm. It sounds a bit shit but it wasn’t. It was the most amazingly house moment of the night, blowing away all the big rig, big room stuff going on upstairs - and he had the room in the palm of his hand for the rest of the night. That set was actually the DJ highlight of the year for me. A proper disco DJ playing proper disco the way it was made to be played.

More power to the Wang!

With thanks to Nick Ensing for the pictures

Progressive - a dirty word?

First coined by Dominic Philips to pigeon hole an emerging genre during his days reviewing for Mixmag Update in the very early 90s, progressive has gone on to become a byword for boring, convoluted house music. And yes, even if you put aside Sasha, Digweed and Lawler’s mind numbing take on the genre later in the decade, it’s still easy to knock the first wave of progressive house now as it quickly became a parody of itself – music for long haired blokes on drugs made by long haired blokes on drugs. BUT it’s also easy to forget there was actually some very exciting music being made at the beginning.

It was a reaction to the times. Cooler London clubs were playing slickly produced house and garage sounds of New York, New Jersey, Rome and Rimini, movement 98 was just a recent memory, and the harder edged sounds we had grown used to the early days of acid house had been become the property of rave DJs and ravers. Early progressive house producers, like D.O.P, started to reclaim these rawer sounds, set them in a house context the right side of rave and forge a distinctive English sound, that wasn’t just a rip off of what the Americans or Italians were doing.

And in most clubs you’d be unlucky to be subjected to night of Fabi Paras b-sides, because this music was getting mixed up with early Wild Pitch, Instinct and Murk stuff from the States and new sounds from northern Europe like early Jam and Spoon, R&S, early Eye Q and Harthouse stuff (anyone remember intelligent techno?!) and things like SIL and Wonka Beats.

Hard as may be to imagine now, it was fresh and it was exciting. I remember being at an early Puscha, when it was still good (the Salvidor Dali one by the Tate and Lyle refinery), and hearing Smokin’ Jo drop Acorn Arts and Gat Décor alongside Weatherall dropping Wonka classic The Traveller ‘Father and Son Shine’. It felt like the future.

The reason Leftfield were so popular was because what they were doing sounded so original and many artists you don’t think of as being progressive were part of it all – Andrew Weatherall and early Sabres releases like Secret Knowledge and SYT (Shave Your Tongue), Slam/Soma, Junior Boys Own acts like Underworld/Lemon Interrupt, Outrage, and even X-Press 2.

It was an exciting and musically creative time, the influence of which reached across the Atlantic, where Junior Vasquez was hugely influenced by the X-Press 2 sound and even used to play Guerrilla releases like Two Shiny Heads ‘Dub Disco House’ at the Sound Factory.

Unfortunately, back on this side of the pond, people with little or no musical talent quickly got to grip with the basic elements of the sound and there we were soon buried under a deluge of really boring bongo/timbale records - Cowboy Records, in particular, were terrible for putting out this crap.

I think there are actually a number of parallels to be drawn with the recent surge in minimal house – a few pioneering, innovative producers, making groundbreaking music and quickly followed by a load of talentless imitators out to make a fast euro. They do say we can learn lessons from history, don’t they?!

Anyway, I liked the early days of progressive house. I liked it a lot. And so did many other people who may deny it now. I recently read that Dom Philips has said of his coining of the genre, “It was meant to refer to progressive rock in that it would all become overlong and sound the same and be pretentious... which is just what happened."

I think that Dom is either talking with the benefit of hindsight, using a touch of journalistic license or is a great big fibber. I'm pretty sure the review in question would have been around about 1991/1992 during the very early days of the sound, and it didn’t become overlong and pretentious until the Digweed/Sasha era years later, when it had become pretty much a completely different genre of music.

If Mr Philips really did know that in its second incarnation it really would turn the prog rock of house, can some one give me his telephone number? I need to know what next weekend's racing results are!

Progressive Not Progressive 10

1- Jambo ‘Drum Attack’ (Wonka)
2 - SIL ‘Windows’ (Work)
3 - Original Rockers ‘Push Push’ (Cake)
4 - Secret Knowledge ‘Ohh Baby’ (Sabres of Paradise)
5 - Future Sound of London ‘Papa New Guinea’ (Jumpin’ & Pumpin’)
6 - The Traveller ‘Father & Son Shine’ (Wonka)
7 - Slam ‘Eterna’ (Soma)
8 - Techno Grooves Mach 5 ‘You Got Me Running’ (Stealth)
9 - Age of Love ‘Age of Love’ (React)
10 - C.J. Bolland ‘Camargue’ (R&S)

Progressive ‘You Probably Had to be There’ 10

1 - Tonto’s Drum ‘Eagles Prey’ (White)
2 - Lemon Interupt ‘Dirty’ (Junior Boys Own)
3 - Acorn Arts ‘Silence’ (X-Gate)
4 - Spooky ‘Don’t Panic’ (Guerrilla)
5 - Djum Djum ’Difference’ (Outer Rhythm)
6 - The Disco Evangelists ‘De Nero’ (Black Sunshine)
7 - React 2 Rhythm ‘I Know You Like It’ (Guerrilla)
8 - Sound Clash Republic ‘Sack the Drummer’ (Junk Rock)
9 - Alabama 3 ‘I Shall Be Released’ (Strictly4Groovers)
10 - Megatonk ‘Belgium’ (Kai Tonk)

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The Greatest House Record of ALL TIME?

Earlier this year, the good folk at Radio 2 ran a poll to decide the GREATEST DANCE RECORD of all time. 20 records were nominated by a panel of ‘expert’ DJs and then the masses had an opportunity to vote for the nominated record they thought was the greatest tune to ever rock the dance floor.

In the end, rather predictably, Michael Jackson’s ‘Billy Jean’ came out on top, even though it isn’t the greatest record Jacko ever made (everyone knows that was ‘Ben‘) let alone the greatest dance record of all time. Radio 2 announced it, Zoe Ball trotted out a tired anecdote about how it took the roof off rubbish Brighton big beat club, the Boutique (which isn’t a surprise seeing as it must have been welcome relief for all the dancers not to have to listen to watered down hip hop made by white students for a few minutes), and everybody went about their business.

Whilst the result didn’t cause that much of a stir, the nominations had internet forums across the land buzzing with discussions about whether they merited inclusion on the short list or not. Over on, being a house music forum, we were particularly interested in the house records that made the cut and given that house luminaries Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway, Mike Pickering and Trevor Fung were on the nominating panel, we all expected some choice selections.

But a lot of people were not happy about all the records they picked.

Some argued Alison Limerick’s ‘Where Love Lives’ was more annoying than great or that Inner City’s ‘Big Fun’ wasn’t even the best Inner City record, let alone Kevin Saunderson production. Others felt that Rhythim Is Rhythim’s ‘Strings of Life’ was a populist choice or that it was impossible to pick one track from the body of work produced by Larry Heard. While others still, said that 'Pump up the Volume' and 'The Theme from S-Express' were just no very good records. And of course there was almost endless debate about the artists and tracks that had been omitted.

So, I decided to try and put these arguments to bed once and for all, by organising a poll to find the GREATEST HOUSE RECORD OF ALL TIME.

A few weeks later, after more than 50 pages of debate, during which almost 150 forum members nominated 226 records, we finally whittled it down to what we believe are the top 10 house records of all time and then from those, voted for the GREATEST HOUSE RECORD OF ALL TIME. Here are the results (in reverse order):

10 - Kings of Tomorrow – Finally (Distance, 2001) Bit of a funny one to start with because, if we’re honest, it shouldn’t be in the top 10. Yes, it’s a great record, yes there were some great mixes, notably on the original French double pack and then later from Danny Tenaglia, but do they make it one of the greatest of all time? Probably not. But maybe that's a little unfair, because this is also the youngest record in the chart, and most accurate measure of the greatness of a record is how it stands the test of time. Maybe 10 years from now, if it still stands up, I’ll have to revise my opinion.
>>listen - youtube<<

9 - X-press 2 - London Xpress (Junior Boys Own, 1993) It’s easy to forget the impact the early Xpress 2 records had at the time they came out, not just in Britain where they were understandably big club a records, but also across the Atlantic in New York. Sometimes people talk about Xpress 2 aping American house but at the time, it felt more like they took elements from the US and fused them with tougher British sounds, before exporting their new hybrid back to the States, where they ruled on the dance floor at places like the Sound Factory. In fact, Xpress 2 records were getting played there before the Sound Factory sound (Tribal, Sex mania, Wildpitch, etc) actually came into being. So were Xpress 2 influenced or did they influence? Draw your own conclusions. Oh and ‘London Xpress’ is the best record they ever made!
>>listen - youtube<<

7 = Lil Louis - French Kiss (Diamond, 1989) Lil Louis is the frikkin’ daddy. Maybe not a lauded as Ron Hardy or Frankie Knuckles over here but in Chicago his Bismark Hotel parties are legendary. That said, he did have more individual records nominated in the poll then any other artist, so we must like him a bit! ‘French Kiss’ is slightly overplayed and not as completely out there as something like ’Video Clash’, but it is definitely a great record. It originally appeared on Louis’ own Diamond Records, before being licensed to FFRR, who despite commissioning the worst video in the history of music (wind up toys?!!) managed to take it number 2 in the British charts. Which for what is essentially a tracky underground house tune from Chicago, is amazing. And to this day, that hand clap still does me in.
>>listen - youtube<<

7 = Rhythim is Rhythim - Nude Photo (Transmat, 1987) During the poll, I’m not sure any records gave rise to more debate then Derrick May’s, mainly because quite a lot of people thought they were techno records and shouldn’t be in the poll at all. Well Derrick himself said that the Belleville 3 were just trying to make house records in the beginning and this record is from the beginning. Maybe not as well known as ‘String of Life’ but this is perfect machine music and as raw an acid house record as you could ever hope to imagine. Even the artwork by Alan Oldham is spot on. And more than 20 years on, it still sounds like music from another planet. On the flipside of this record you will find the almost as good 'The Dance', so how it ended up as low at #7 in this list, I will never know!
>>listen - youtube<<

6 - Frankie Knuckles pres. Satoshi Tomie – Tears (FFRR, 1989) I love Frankie Knuckles, I love Satoshi Tomie and I really, really love Robert Owens, who provided the vocal on this record, but I have a confession to make - I can’t stand this record. This may single me out as the equivalent of a witch in houseland, but I really can’t bear it. I’m not quite sure why, but it might have something to do with the “I’m dripping ’n’ dropping ‘n‘ dripping ’n’ dropping” vocals, which, let’s face it, are bloody dreadful. And to think this got in ahead of ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’, HAS THE WORLD GONE MAD?! This is the only record in the 10 I don’t own. In fact, I even passed on a two quid copy a few weeks ago and gave the money to a Big Issue seller instead… but pretty much everyone else I know loves it though, so maybe I have got cloth ears after all. Oh and there are some questions about how much Knuckles had to do with the production, but more of that later.
>>listen - youtube<<

5 - Ten City - That's The Way Love Is (Atlantic, 1989) Now this is a house record. The vocal talents of Byron Stingly teamed with the production talents of Marshell Jefferson, what more could you ask for? Well I tell you what more, a remix from Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley that absolutely kills it. Just the right side of tough, it’s one of those ‘go to’ records you have in your bag when all else fails, because it never does. Still getting plays all over the shop, my favourite memory of this is hearing Laurent Garnier drop it at a tiny private party in Ibiza, and the 100 hundred mainly Spanish dancers in the room going mad. That acidic bassline is the sound of 1989 to me, yet it still sounds as relevant as ever today. An awesome record.
>>listen - youtube<<

4 - Guy Called Gerald - Voodoo Ray (Rham, 1988) This is the highest polling British produced house record in the list, and I think that’s right, because it probably is the greatest British acid house record ever. Again, this is an ever popular internet debate, but inevitably the consensus is always that Gerald Simpson’s timeless masterpiece is indeed the best house record ever produced on these isles. Like most of the other records in this list, despite being 20 years old it has stood the test of time well and sits comfortably within the context of a modern house set. Personally, it reminds me of driving around the deserted parts of south London in the early hours of the morning, in search of the rave. It seemed a fitting sound track to the lamp lit grey urban landscape of concrete council blocks, disused industrial spaces and derelict buildings that seemed to make up that part of London at the end of Thatcher‘s 80s, and few pieces of music epitomise feeling of that time more than ‘Voodoo Ray’. A bona fide house classic. And it didn’t even make the Radio 2 short list. Go figure.
>>listen - youtube<<

3 - Jamie Principle/Frankie Knuckles - Your Love (Trax, 1987) Not a controversial entry in this list, as this one of the most recognisable house records of all time, but this record most definitely has a controversial history. Originally released by Jamie Principle on the small Chicago independent label, Persona, the basis of this track is actually appropriated from the Italo disco classic, ‘Feels Good’ by Electra. Trax records re-released it a year later, cashing in on Frankie Knuckles' name by crediting at ‘Frankie Knuckles Presents’, although they failed to mention that it was Jamie Principle he was presenting. They also failed to credit Jamie’s vocals, although they were kind enough to give him a writing credit. By the time it hit these shores, Frankie wasn’t even presenting anymore, it was just credited as his tune, so unsurprisingly, most people know this a Knuckles production rather than one of Principle’s. Well, maybe. The truth is most people probably recognise it more readily as the backing track to Candi Staton’s ‘You Got the Love’ mash-up, that originally appeared in 1990 and has charted several times since. From the Chicago underground to the soundtrack of a million wedding receptions in a few short years! That, however, should not detract from the power of the original, which was truly astounding record - Jamie’s haunting vocals, superbly complimented by moody, atmospheric, yet uplifting melody. Truly great house music in its purist form.
>>listen - youtube<<

2 - The Nightwriters - Let the Music Use You (Danica, 1987) Now we’re at the business end of the list and for me, this entry is the biggest bone of contention, because IT SHOULD BE NUMBER 1! Originally released on Chicago label Danica Records (named after the owner’s daughter, and home to Gallifre’s first release and Knuckles mix of Hypnotic Tango, fact fans) before being signed to Jack Trax in the UK, it’s the third Frankie Knuckles production in the top ten (possibly the only one he actually did!), and a masterpiece of understated house music. Rather than smashing you in the face with a big piano line or something, it slowly builds, hypnotically, working the cow bell, that killer bassline, the swirling synths and piano hook, all held together by the glue of Ricky Dillard’s stunning vocal performance, and then just when you think you’ve heard all you’re going to get, it rises and takes you to another euphoric level, as Ricky implores you to let “Music take control, of mind body and soul, everybody, get on your feet and use your body to the beat” literally just before the record ends. Listening to it still sends electric shivers through my body, gooseflesh, hairs standing up all over, and I’ve heard it a thousand times before. It was played at Rampling’s (non)retirement party and was the record of the night, 20 years after it’s release. It’s music you can never tire of. It’s music that made us think we could change the world. As Ricky’s sings, “this song is from my heart”, and it will always have special place in mine. House music perfection.
>>listen - youtube<<

1 - Mr Fingers - Can You Feel It (Trax, 1986) So here we have it, the GREATEST HOUSE RECORD OF ALL TIME . Produced by Larry Heard and released on Trax under his Mr Fingers moniker in 1986, I think this was his second ever release, so a fairly decent way to get your career off the ground! The whole EP was really strong, with the other tracks being ‘Beyond the Clouds’ and the acid classic ‘Washing Machine’. ’Can You Feel It’ is a wonderfully emotive piece of music - simple yet enthralling. Much as I have deep feelings for The Nightwriters, I guess this is still a pretty worthy winner. Unfortunately, by the time a UK record company got hold of it, they decided to stick a vocal on top of it and you are probably familiar with all "In the beginning, there was Jack, Jack had a Groove, Jack gives you the key to the wriggly worm” nonsense that vocal contained. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time but unlike the backing track, it sounds horribly dated now. Minus 10 house points. And good as ‘Can You Feel It’ is, the other slight problem I have with it being at number one, is I believe Larry Heard produced better records that just aren’t as well known. ‘Distant Planet’ for a start, along with the more experimental sounds of his Gherkin Jerks releases, and pretty much all of his Alleviated output. The man is undoubtedly a genius, and I really mean IS, because he is one of the few original Chicago legends who is still making fantastic house music today, as his massive club hit from 2007/08, ‘The Sun Can’t Compare’ and his recent ‘25 Years From Alpha’ release bear testament. Going back to ‘Can You Feel It’ for a moment, as well as being our number 1, it’s also the only track from our top 10 to also feature in the Radio 2 top 10, where it reached the giddy heights of number 7, just behind… wait for it… Alison Limerick! Which kind of proves what we knew all along - Radio 2 listeners need their ears syringing.
>>listen - youtube<<

The 12 runners-up:

- Adonis - No Way Back (Trax)
- Aztec Mystic - Knights Of The Jaguar (Underground Resistance)
- Bobby Konders - The Poem/ Nervous Acid (Nu-Groove)
- Ce Ce Rogers – Someday (Atlantic)
- Choice - Acid Eiffel (FNAC)
- Don Carlos – Alone (Calypso)
- Future Sound of London - Papua New Guinea (Jumpin’ & Pumpin’)
- Photon Inc - Generate Power (Strictly Rhythm)
- Phuture - Acid Trax (Trax)
- Robert Owens - I’ll Be Your Friend (RCA)
- Ron Trent - Altered States (Warehouse)
- Round Two - New Day (Main Street)

And 200+ honourable mentions…

51 Days-Paper Moon/808 State-Pacific State/Age Of Love-The Age Of Love/Alison Limerick -Where Love Lives/Andre Harris-I Can't Take It/Angel Moraes-Welcome to the Factory/Angel Moraes-The Cure/Armando-Land of Confusion/Arnold Jarvis-Take Some Time Out/Arnold Jarvis & Kerri Chandler-Inspiration/Baaba Maal-Gorel/Bang the Party-Bang Bang You’re Mine/Bang the Party-Release Your Body/Basic Channel-Phlyps Trak/Beth Orton-Central Reservation (Joe Clausell mix)/Black Science Orchestra-New Jersey Deep/Black Science Orchestra-Where Were You/Blaze -Breathe/Blaze-Fantasy/Blaze-How deep Is Your Love (Shelter vocal)/Blaze-Wishing You Were Here/Braxton Holmes & Ron Trent-12 Inches of pleasure/Cajmere feat. Dajae-Brighter Days (mixes)/Carl Craig -Sandstorms/Cassio Ware -Makin’ Love/Cesaria Evora-Angola (c2 Mix)/Charles B-Lack of Love/Chez Damier-Can You Feel It/Chris Cuevez-Hip Hop (MAW Dub)/Coco Steel and Lovebomb-Feel It/Corporation of One-Real Life/Dannell Dixon-Dance Dance/Danny Tenaglia-Bottom Heavy/Davina-Don’t You Want It/Dionne-Come get My Lovin'/DJ Gregory-Attend 1/DJ Gregory-Elle/DJ Oji and Una-We Lift Our Hands In The Sanctuary/Dr Mouthquake-Love on Love/DSK-What Would We Do (Steve Silk Hurley mix)/DSK-What Would We Do (8 Minutes of Madness mix)/Dubtribe Sound System-Equitoreal/Dubtribe Soundsystem -Do It Now/Earth People-Reach Up to Mars/Elastic Reality-Cassa De X/ESP -It’s You/Fast Eddie-Let's Go/Ferrer and Sydenham Inc-Sandcastles/Fingers Inc-Never No More Lonely/Fingers Inc-Bring Down The Walls/Fingers Inc-Mystery of Love/FPI project-Rich in Paradise/Francois K -Hypnodelic/Frankie Knuckles-Only The Strong Survive/Future Sound Of London-1 in 8/Galaxy 2 Galaxy -Hi Tech Jazz/Galaxy 2 Galaxy-Journey Of The Dragons/Global Communications-The Way The Deep/Happyhead -Digital Love Thing (MK mix)/Hardfloor-Hardtrance Acperience/Hardrive-Deep Inside/Herbert-Thinking of You/Ian Pooley-Chord Memory (daft punk mix)/Inner City-Good Life/Inner City-Pennies from Heaven/Iz and Diz-Mouth/Jack Frost-Shout/Jamie Principle-Baby Wants to Ride/Jaydee-Plastic Dreams/Jeff Mills-Now Is The Time/Jimi Polo-Better Days/Joe Clausell-Je Ka Jo/Joe Smooth-Promised Land/Joey Beltram-Energy Flash/Josh One-Contemplation/K Hand-Come on Now Baby/Kariya-Let Me Love You For Tonight/KC Flight-Voices/Kechia Jenkins-I Need Somebody/Kem-Love calls/Kerri Chandler-Atmosphere/Kevin Irving-Ride the Rhythm/Kim English-Learn To Luv (Mood II Swing)/Land of Plenty-Kids Aura/Laurent Garnier-The Man With The Red Face/Laurent X-Machines/LB Bad-New Age House/Leftfield-Song For Life/Lil Louis-Video Clash/Lil Louis-Blackout/Lil Louis-How I Feel/Lil Louis & The World-Do U Luv Me/Lil Louis & The World-I Called You/Loni Clark-Searchin (Mood II Swing Dub)/Luna Project-I Wanna Be Free/Maritian, The-Search Your Feelings/Marshall Jefferson-House Music Anthem/Marshall Jefferson-Open Your Eyes/Martian, The-Sex in Zero Gravity/Masters at Work-Odyssey/Masters at Work-The Bounce/MD X-Spress-God Made Me Phunky/Me'Shell NdegeOcello-Who Is He And What Is He To You? (DT's NYDC Mix)/Michael Proctor-Deliver Me/Michael Watford -Holdin On/Mike Dunn-Magic Feet/Mindreaders-Living My Life Underground/Mixmasters-In the Mix/Mondo Grosso -Star Suite (Shelter Mix)/Mood II Swing-Do it Your Way/Mood II Swing-When the Funk Hits the Fan/Moody Man-Shades of Jae/Mr Fingers-What About This Love/Mr Fingers-Stars/Mr Fingers-Washing Machine/Mr Lee-I Can’t Forget/New Blakk Society-Just Another Lonely Day/New Order-Fine Time (Steve Hurley Mix)/Noni-Be My/Nu Colors-Desire (MAW mix)/Nu Yorican Soul-Nervous Track/Octave One-Blackwater/On The House-Pleasure Control/Osunlade-Beloved/Osunlade-Pride/Outta Limits-Mission Control/Paperclip People-Throw/Paul Rutherford-Get Real/Pepe Braddock-Deep Burnt/Pepe Braddock-Life/Phase II-Reachin’/Phortune-String Free/Phuture-Rise From Your Grave/Phuture-We Are Phuture/Phuturescope-What is House Muzik/Pierres Phantasy Club-Phantasy Girl/PM Dawn-A Watchers Point Of View (Todd Terry Mix)/Presence-Better Day/Primal Scream-Don’t fight it, Feel it (Scat mix)/Quentin Harris-Let’s Be Young/R-Tyme -R-Theme/R-Tyme-Use Me (c2 R Tyme Groove)/Ragtyme-I Can’t Stay Away/Raze-Break for Love/Rhythim is Rhythim-It Is What It Is/Rhythim is Rhythim-The Dance/Rhythim Is Rhythim-Icon/Rhythim is Rhythim-Strings of Life/Richie Rich-Salsa House/Rickster-Night Moves/Risque III-Essence Of A Dream/Roberta Flack-Uh-Oh Ooh-Ooh Look Out/Romanthony-Let Me Show You Love/Round One -I'm your Brother/Round Three-Acting Crazy/Roy Davis Jnr-House Inferno/Roy Davis Jnr -People from Mars (Original Earth Mix)/Royal House-Can You Party?/Sabres Of Paradise-Smokebelch II/Safire -Taste The Bass/Saint Germain-What’s New/Scott Grooves-The Journey/Seduction-True Love/Sha-lor -I’m in Love/Shirley Murdock-Let There Be Love (Frankie Knuckles remix)/Simon-Free at Last/Slow Supreme-Granada/South Street Players-Who Keeps Changing Your Mind?/St Etienne-Only Love Can Break Your Heart (MAW Dub)/Stardust-Music Sounds Better with You/Sterling Void-It’s Alright/Steve Poindexter-Computer Madness/Steve Silk Hurley-Jack Your Body/Steve Silk Hurley-The Word is Love/Subculture feat Marcus-The Voyage E.P./Sueno Latino-Sueno Latino (original & Derrick May mix)/T-Coy-Carino/Tammy Banks-My Life/Ten City-My Piece of Heaven/Ten City-Right Back to You/The Believers-Who Dares To Believe In Me/The Fog-Been a Long Time/The Source feat Candi Staton-You Got the Love (Eren’s bootleg mix)/Theo Parrish-Capritarious No.7/Todd Terry Project-Bango/Trent/Josua/Abacus/Damier-Abacus EP/Turntable Orchestra-You’re Gonna Miss Me/Two Lone Swordsmen-Glide By ShootingUBQ Project-When I Fell in Love/Umoja-Unity/Underground Inc-Black Magic/Urban Soul-Alright/Urban Soul-He’s Always/Victor Romero -Love Will Find a Way/Virgo-R U Hot Enough/Virgo-In a Vision/Virgo 4-Do You Know Who You Are/Virgo 4-Take Me Higher/West Bam-Hold Me Back/X-press 2-Muzik Express/Yellow Sox-Flim Flam.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Controllata @ Horse Meat Disco

As some of you will already know, aside from my sporadic blog writing, I do occasionally play a few records as part of the DJ trio, Controllata, with my good friends Scottie Johnson and Jimmy P. We have been fortunate enough to DJ at loads of great places all over London and beyond, but our absolute favourite party to play ever, ever, ever, is the now legendary, Horse Meat Disco.

Horse Meat started life in the basement of a Soho pub in 2003 and now takes place every single Sunday of the year in deepest, darkest Vauxhall in a blacked out pub-come-club. Whilst being most definitely a gay party, it's not overly cruisey, and is straight friendly without diluting its homosexual identity. And as the name suggests, it's also very much a disco club with residents Jim Stanton, James Hillard, Severino and Luke Moore a consistent musical standard, assisted by a multitude of stella guests from Danielle Badelli to Derrick Carter to Maruice Fulton to I-F to Lady Miss Kier to Daniel Wang to just about any DJ of a disco persuasion worth their salt. It's a music policy that has become more and more common across London Town, but Horse Meat really blazed a trail in re-establishing disco on the dance floors of the city.

As well as regularly booking the likes of Rug’n’Tug, Prins Thomas, the Idjuts and various Italian Cosmic legends, the Horse Meat crew have been kind enough to ask little ol' us to DJ for them twice - and they have both been amazing experiences. A really responsive dance floor that love not just the disco anthems we all know and love but also obscure music from the dark and freakier corners of disco's history. A proper music crowd that really want to party.

Highlights included… getting our picture in the gay press… turning the music off to let The Ones do a PA… spontaneous vogue offs on the dance floor… arms being held aloft through the smoke to the strains of Disco Dream and the Androids 'Disco Dream'… a little drama as the floor plunged into (semi) darkness to the opening moments of Frances Joli 'Come to Me', then the cheers as the drums and lazer kicked in… the lazer generally… getting told off for caning the lazer… Jimmy and Scottie owning the stage… Joan Dairy Queen getting all militant and demanded some Amanda Lear… appeasing her with Queen Samantha… the dance floor rocking at 3am on a Monday morning…

These are a few of the records I played down there: C.J.& Co 'Devil's Gun' // Sinnamon 'Thanks to You' // Strafe 'Set of Off' // Martin Brew 'Galatico' (Greg Wilson mix) // Luv You Madly Orchestra ' Moon Maiden' // Vaughan Mason and Butch Dayo 'You Can Do It' (dub) // B.W.H. 'Livin' Up' // Chilly 'For Your Love' // Tempest Trio 'Do You Like the Way That it Feels' // Daddy Dewdrop 'Nanu, Nanu' // Slick 'Sexy Cream' // R.V. Cock 'Get A Head' // Boystown Gang ' Can't Take my Eyes off of You' (Reprise) // Sylvester 'Band of Gold' (dub) // Kryptonite 'Baby I Don't Know' // Class Action 'Weekend' // Geraldine Hunt 'Can't Fake the Feeling' // Carol Jiani 'Hit N Run Lover' // Kat Mandu 'The Break' // In Flangranti 'It's all Rubbish' // Tantra 'Hills of Katmandu' (P.Cowley mix) // Sylvester 'I Need You' // Kano 'It's a War' (Santiago edit) // Patrick Cowley 'Menergy' // Machine 'There but for the Grace of God' // Evelyn 'Champagne' King 'Shame' // Fever 'Beat of the Night' // Boystown Gang 'Disco Kicks' // Jackie Moore ‘This Time Baby’ //Disco Dream and the Androids ‘Disco Dream’ // Debbie Jacobs 'High on Your Love' // France Joli ‘Come to Me’ // Kasso ‘I Love the Piano’ // First Choice ‘Doctor Love’ (Pettibone Dub) // Lime ‘On the Grid’ (M&M remix) // Shirley Lites ‘Melt Down’ // Queen Samantha ‘Take a Chance’

Here are some pics of our time down there, courtesy of Nick Ensing (check out his work at: )

Horse Meat Disco takes place every Sunday 8pm-3am, at The Eagle, 349 Kennington Lane, Vauxhall. It’s guaranteed to be rocking and the boys have always got loads of ace stuff lined up - you can find out more here:

Friday, 14 November 2008

Autumn Chart

1 - Lowtec ‘Workshop 06’ (Workshop) – Lowtec were responsible for the debut single on Workshop, another one of those lovely German deep-house Hardwax related labels with hand stamped artwork. Almost 2 years later they are back with the labels sixth release and deliver superbly atmospheric, moody deep tech bomb, that sounds a lot like it was recorded in a submarine. It’s one of those records that makes just stick the needles back to the beginning every time ends – everything house music should be about 2008. Listen to a clip >>here<<

2 - D-Flex ‘Waltz’ (Tiny Sticks) – Man of the moment Dave Aju turns in a remix on one side of this 12, which is nice enough but for me it’s all about Alex Storrer’s Kawabata remix on the flip. Hypnotic deep house laden with beautiful but subtle pianos. Sounds a bit like a lost track from the Grand Lodge of Luxor (Thebes) EP on Prescription – it’s that good. >>clip<<

3 - Dan Curtin ‘Interstellar Perception’ (Metamorphic) - Dusted this one off recently and was really pleasantly surprised at how fresh it feels. From Dan Curtin’s debut EP ‘Space’ it sounds a bit like a cross between a R-Tyme and a Red Planet record, frantic beats, quick fire snares, spacey synths and legions of androids on strings. This is the sort of shit that would have made Philip K.Dick dream of electric sheep and Alvin Toffler mess his pants - a gtheme tune for the Third Wave. Unfortunately, the Third Wave neglected to put a sound clip on the web, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

4 - Ray Okpara ‘Loving Moonbuah’ (Drumpoet Commuity) - This is the latest offering from the ever reliable Drumpoet Community label out of Switzerland. The original mix is okay but nothing to write home about unlike the absolutely stonking Nekes remix on the other side. Don’t really know who Nekes is but this mix kills it, throbbing yet bouncy with looped up vocal snippets, this is the sound of being lost in the music at 5am. >>clip<<

5 - Ron Trent ‘It’s Hot’ (Future Vision) - Ron Trent has be one of the greatest house producers of all time. He is just so good and whereas some other producers fade with time, run out of ideas or get stuck in a rut, Ron gets stucjk in the groove and just keeps on giving. This track has so many layers but doesn’t disappear up its own arse. A sophisticated sound that still retains an element of rawness, it would work in pretty much any house set you could imagine. A master class. Oh and the A-side’s not too shabby either! >>clip<<

6 - Mandolay ‘La Flavour’ (Sweet City) - This record probably slightly incongruous with the rest of this chart because it’s so bloody different. I think the best way to describe it is freestyle disco, kinda latin but not latin but outta Cleveland Ohio, rather than somewhere like Miami. The production is really choppy and make sit sound a bit like an edit but the best thing about this record, other than the sleeve which is pure disco, are the drums, which I’m fairly sure SWAG nicked for their re-rub of BSO ’New Jersey Deep’. Check out the full track on >>youtube<<

7 - Reggie Dokes ‘Love’ (Philpott) – Tune alert! The whole Rain Redemptive Love EP is really strong but the A side ‘Love’ is a mad jackin’ mash up of sounds – rough drums, strings, pianos, but all slightly off kilter. The modern house sound of Detroit via Germany. The sound of now!>>clip<<

8 - K.A.Posse ‘Our Love Stops and Goes’ (Pheerce Citi) - A relatively obscure K Alexi production on a relatively obscure KMS sub label, this is hidden little acid gem from 1989. Rough as fuck, 303s, and backward strings it came out just as acid was passing from fashion, so maybe isn’t remembered with the fondness it really should be. Play it now though and it you WILL separate the men from the boys. Makes you want to turn on a smoke machine for an hour. Check it >>on youtube<< And ‘Tell Alexi’ on the flip is pretty solid too >>youtube<<

9 - Prosumer ‘Brownstone’ (Running Back) – This record is actually a year old now. Whilst I’ve been aware of Panorama Bar resident abilities as DJ for a while now I hadn’t paid too much attention to his production until recently. My friend, Dave Stenton, recently interviewed the man for Faith Fanzine and in the article he recommended this record as one of the essential Prosumer productions. And who I am I to disagree, it’s a corker – a powerful sound that I can only imagine destroying dance floors at disused power stations across East Germany. Schlagende techno Musik, ja?! >>clip<<

10 - Koxo ‘Step by Step’ (Zafiro) - Brilliant old Italo tune (although I’ve got Spanish pressing), catchy as fuck with an absolutely cracking piano break, cheesy vocals and a woman oo-eh-oo-eh. What more do you want, eh? Also was recently picked up on one of them Disco Spectrum comps, which was disappointing for me but great for you CD lovers out there, you lucky, lucky bastards. >>youtube<<

11 - Move-D ‘Heidelberg Gals’ (Running) - Move-D is one of the hottest producers of the last couple of years and this show why everyone loves him, simple yet effective hooky house music. When you can listen to music this good who the hell needs Babs Tucker nobwash?! >>clip<<

12 - Watanabe ‘Odoru‘ (Clubhouse) - Another one pulled form the vaults at Beyond the Stars Towers (aka the shelves n my bedroom) this is pure mentalist. On Clubhouse, which has to be THE most underrated Chicago house label of all time, this is one of those tracks that makes you want to go out and get on it every time you hear it. I just looked on Discogs and it is 4.1 out of 5, which is madness! This is a 6 out of 5 record. SLAMMIN! >>youtube<<

Friday, 26 September 2008

Italian House Obsession

Back in at the very start of the 1990s I had a problem. An addiction even. It wasn't anything cool or rock chic like hard liquor, smack or even glue, but… Italian house records!

I used go get paid weekly, in cash, on a Thursday evening and every Saturday I’d make the pilgrimage into Soho to what was the Mecca of piano driven continental house stormers, Trax Records on Greek Street.

Trax is still there but it’s become a bit of a niche gay music shop, specialising in the hard house. It always sold music for the gay scene but for a few years around 1990-92, when musical taste of straight, gay and mixed clubs was much less polarised than it is now, it was the place for everyone to buy their European house records in London.

This was a time before the advent of the internet and armchair record shopping, so if you wanted those hot tracks that you’d hear Rampling play at Pure Sexy on a Wednesday, you had to be there, at the shop, on a Saturday, before the handful of copies that were in the country sold out. And if you went on holiday for a fortnight, that was it, you may never the records that came out while you were away again!

This was also a time before listening posts in record shops, so it would be 4 or 5 deep at the counter of Trax, and you would be vying for spot near the front of the ruck of pony-tailed geezers, checking the weekly whiteboard chart and trying to catch the eye of Craig or Oscar, as they spun new tune after new tune to the assembled throng, hoping you'd secure the records you desired so and not be left with the gut wrenching disappointment of the spotty ted next to getting the last copy!

Fortunately, my dedication to the cause meant that after a while I got a knowing nod when I walked in and asked if I wanted copy before they all went. Well I think it was my dedication. It might have been the amount of dough I was blowing, because I often I left the shop without enough money to go out that night and on more than one occasion, without enough money to buy proper food the following week - so a diet of baked beans on toast and piano solos beckoned…

So what happened to all these precious, had to have 'em, couldn’t live without 'em, records? Well a couple of years ago I had a big clear out of records when I moved house, pruning back about a thousand unwanted platters that didn't matter - including a lot of the old Italian house. It was wrench to chuck records I had gone hungry for but some of it was so terribly dated, they just had to go. Not dated in a good way either, dated in a ‘what was I thinking’ way. There's only so many pigeon English raps a man can take!

Not all of it though. Some of it is still bloody good and will always be bloody good. And it isn’t all pianos either, those Italians could turn their hands to a variety of styles and really ruled the London house scene for those two years.

So this is it, my top 50 Italian house records from the very early '90s that I'm well pleased I hung onto.

The sound of Soho, at time when long haired geezers in leather trousers roamed the streets, clubs Flying, Pure and Yellow Book were the places to be be, and Danny Rampling was our king.
(in no particular order)

1. Olympia 'You Want My Love' (Discomagic)
2. Nexy Lanton 'You Too' (Discomagic)
3. Mechanix Enterprise 'Let's Get Down' (Mighty Quinn)
4. Data Bass 'Piano in the Night' (w['dvblju(:)])
5. Josette Martail 'Woi Mama' (D&W)
6. J.T. Project 'Bulgaria' (BHF)
7. Precinct 13 'Listen to your Heartbeat' (LBDN)
8. Pako 'Pakito Lindo' (Italian Boy) >>youtube link<<
9. The Redmen 'You're My Way' (w['dvblju(:)])
10. Velvet 'Hold Me' (DFC) >>youtube link<<
11. Johnny Parker 'Love it Forever' (C.B.R.) >>youtube link<<
12. Soft House Company 'A Little Piano' (Irma) >>youtube link<<
13. Be Noir 'Give Me Your Love' (Irma) >>youtube link<<
14. Dilemma 'In Spirit' (Energy) >>youtube link<<
15. La Banderita 'Mediterranea' (In-Lite)
16. Raimunda Navarro 'Jungle Fever' (Discomagic)
17. M.C.J. feat. Sima 'Sexitivity' (Energy)
18. Adonte 'Feel It - Remixes' (Flying)
19. FPI Project ‘Feel It’ (Paradise Project)
20. CRo2 'Work!!' (Flying)
21. Seechi 'Keep on Jammin'' (Energy)
22. Ominverse 'Never Get Enough' (Antima) >>youtube link<<
23. Smallage 'Together' (Irma) >>youtube link<<
24. Alex Lee 'Take It' (Mighty Quinn)
25. Arkanoid 'Limit' (Hi Tec Music) >>youtube link<<
26. Baffa 'Piano On' (Energy) >>youtube link<<
27. Seechi 'I Say Yeah/Flute On' (Energy) >>youtube link<<
28. Claps 'My Love' (Inside) >>youtube link<<
29. Kwanzaa Posse 'Wicked Funk' (Flying)
30. Chico Seechi Project 'Whip of Rhythm' (Creative)
31. Nightlife City Rama 'Running So Hard' (Mighty Quinn)
32. Gong 'Masterblaster' (D&W)
33. Rap Delight 'Back Again' (Italian Style)
34. SBAM 'Take Me Away Now' (Rare) >>youtube link<<
35. J.T. Company 'Don't Deal with Us' (JT Comp) >>youtube link<<
36. Aqua Regia 'NYC Smile On Me' (DFC) >>youtube link<<
37. Funk Machine feat. Loose Bruce 'N.O.I.D.' (Flying)
38. Fidelfati 'Groovin' (New Music)
39. DJ Power 'Everybody Pump' (Pan Pot) >>youtube link<<
40. Valli Melody 'Party Time' (Hot)
41. A.S.H.A. ‘J.J. Tribute’ (Beat Club) >>youtube link<<
42. Roy the Boy ‘French Paradise’ (Endless Wave)
43. Afrika Bambaataa ‘Just Get Up & Dance (DFC) >>youtube link<<
44. F.Zappalà & D.J. Professor ‘We Gotta Do It’ (Media) >>youtube link<<
45. 4 For Money ‘B.D.J. (Disco Magic)
46. Atomosphere ‘Atm-oz-fear’ (Beat Club) >>youtube link<<
47. Frank K ‘Everybody Let Somebody Love’ (Unknown)
48. D-Rail ‘Bring it On Down’ (DDD) >>youtube link<<
49. Ava Cherry ‘Fever’ (Bull and Butcher)
50. Sueno Latino ‘La Puerta Del Sol’ (DFC)

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Mitchbal Records (inc. a minimix)

In the long history of house there are few labels whose records as hard or expensive to obtain as those put out by the small but hugely influential Mitchbal Records.

An obscure independent label hailing from 300 W. North Aveneue, Chicago, it originally acted as a vehicle for soul 7”s produced by Nemiah Mitchell Jr (Mitch) and David Baldwin (Bal) in the early 80s. However, unbeknown to Nemiah, there was a severe dose of right time, right place waiting just around the corner.

Nemaih had a son, a son called Vince Lawrence, who along with his good friend and aspiring DJ Jesse Saunders, was fully immersed in the underground disco scene in Chicago at that time, dancing the night away to Frankie Knuckles at the Warehouse or Powerplant, and Ron Hardy’s Music Box where the style of music being played was getting coined, by local record shops, ‘house’ after the Warehouse.

At the time this was a style rather than a genre, taking in all sorts of sounds - tracky edits, druggy disco, Italo imports, new wave oddities and classics from New York and Philadelphia. But this was all about change with the release of a handful of records.

Legend has it that the first proper 'house' record ever released on vinyl was Jesse’s 1984 remake of Mach’s disco medley/mash up ‘On and On’, a record co-penned by Vince and possibly even funded by his Dad, Nemiah. But around the same time Vince and his father did release their first Mitchbal house effort, ‘Fast Cars’ under the name Z-Factor.

The actual date of release is a bit of a mystery. The label says 1983, which would make it the first ever house record, but as ‘On and On’ is universally acclaimed as setting this milestone in 1984, there might have been a little bit of foul play to try a steal that accolade when the labels went to print! We’ll probably never know but the record itself is a bit of an odd one. The A-side has a truly awful spoken word, vocal about having sex in Ferraris and is best avoided, but the SFX Mix on flip comes on like Chicago style blueprint for Visnadi’s ‘Racing Tracks’ . In recent years it’s been championed on CBS (I-F’s internet radio station) and the, somewhat inevitably, bootlegged as part of the Automan series.

This release was promptly followed up by ‘Fantasy’, which was produced in partnership with Jesse Saunders, and had a real Italo feel to it, appropriated the bass line Vince and Jesse used for ‘On and On’ (if it ain’t broke!). However, it too was marred by another dreadful vocal, so head straight to the instrumental mix.

Before 1984 was out, Nemiah, Vince and Jesse had also released ‘The DJ’ and the so rare it’s almost mythical, Z-Factor ‘Dance Party LP’, which featured all of the tracks mentioned above 3 more.

The following year ‘The DJ’ was remixed into ‘I’m the DJ’ and in the shape of the ‘Jazzy mix', which again ditched the dodgy vocal, a more mature sound, more readily recognisable as house as we know it today emerged.

Save for a couple of lame efforts by McGhee (who?) and Mr Lee, no more house really appeared on Mitchbal after 1985, although the label’s offshoot, ‘Chicago Connection’, went on to release the all-time house classic ‘Shake Your Body’ by Jeanette Thomas and Frankie Knuckles’ corking cover of Omni’s disco bomb ‘It’s Out of Our Hands’, under the name Unfinished Business, before that too signalled its departure from the scene with another rubbish Mr Lee release.

Vince went on to team up with Adonis and form Trax’s house supergroup Virgo, Jesse went on to tell everyone who would listen he invented house music, and Nemiah still produces his music (God knows what it sounds like though).

If you want to hear these Mitchbal records to today, you have a small number of choices. You can pick up the repressed Dance Party LP (available via discogs), you can weigh out between £50-£100 a shot for the 12”s, or take the easy option, and listen to this mini-mix I’ve done of the 12”s of Fantasy, Fast Cars, and I’m the DJ.

Just hit 'play' below - and don’t say I don’t look after you!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Summer(ish) Chart

These records have been big round mine this summer. They're not all new by any stretch of the imagination (if you want that sort of thing, just go into Phonica and ask) but they all feel relevant in one way or another right now. I've dug out a soundclip or even the whole track on youtube of pretty much all of them, so you can tell if I'm talking shit or not!

1 - Proper Vs Boogie 'Magnificent Speech Funk – Laurent Garniner edit' (Rush Hour)
Proper sums this up well. The track is built around a vocal sample, originally released last year on one of the Amsterdam Family series EPs, it's had now had an edit by Garnier that really tightens it up and turns it a jackin' monster. Initially released as part of Rush Hour's LTD series (only 150 copies pressed) it's due a full release soon with additional mixes. It's gonna be MASSIVE! Check a sound clip >>here<<

2 - Chicago Music Syndrome 'Work It' (Dance-Sing)
I managed to pick up a deadstock of this for a fiver. Amazing, basic, raw house music from 1985 that still sounds rough as. Fairly obscure too, so it ain't played out. Check the whole track >>here<<

3 - S.L.Y. 'I Need a Freak' (Elite)
I've had this on a tape a of last night of Pure Sexy for about 15 years and never known what it was, then a few weeks ago I was playing a pile of interesting old Chicago records and found it AT LAST! Produced by Frankie "Hollywood" Rodriguez and Julian "Jumpin" Perez out of Chicago in 1988, it appropriates large chunks of 'Love Hangover' but just houses it up big time. It is the wrong mix (the Black Freak mix is the one) but there's a version >>here<<

4 -Tribe 'Livin' in a New Day – c2 remix' (Community Project/Planet-E)
Carl Craig is basically a fucking god. And this is the best mix he's done this year, moving away from the big room sound to produce something that would make you knees go weak if you heard it in your kitchen. This was actually a pretty pony jazz track before Mr Craig reworked it too. Awesome. >>clip<<

5 - Project Democracy 'Is This Dream for Real? – Pyschedub' (Underdog)
Mental, dark, scary shit from mind of Marcus Mixx circa '87, that's right, 21 YEARS AGO! Music from another world. Full track >>here<<

6 - Omni 'Out of Our Hands' (Fountain)
Fantatsic little independent disco hit on the tiny Chicago based Fountain Records label in 1981. Actually massive on the esarly house scene, so massive that Frankie Knuckles covered it as Unfinished Business. Well, I say covered, it sounds like EXACTLY the same record, note for note, with a big machine kick drum stuck under it, the cheeky git! Anyway, the Omni rules. Clip >>here<< and the full length Knuckles cover/rip-off version >>over here<<

7 - Sten 'Way to the Stars' (Dial)
I first got turned onto Sten by his 2004 LP 'Leaving the Frantic'. Listening back to that now, it's sounds very much of its time and would sit well alongside Mobilee and Poker Flat records of the same era. His latest offering demonstrates his sound has matured and now has more of a flavour of Detroit than Berlin. Lovely stuff. Clip >>here<<

8 - Circle City Band 'Magic' (Circle City)
Killer, killer but hard to find disco (dare, I say boogie). Not that much else ay to say about this other than check that bassline – OOOOF!!! Full track >>here<<

9 - Unknown Artist - Try To Find Me Vol.1 (Golf Channel)
Following up on the success of R+B Drunkie and Ghost Note, both mainly from the hand of Mark E, underground New York label release this EP of edits. Well I think they're edits. They definitely sample (Chic Flashback for a start) if they don't edit but they're bad boy disco cuts that really hit the spot. Only 100 copies around at the mo and no idea who the artist is, but sure more copies will hit the street soon. A-side clip >>here<< and B-side clip >>here<<
10 - Alma Faye 'It's Over' (Casablanca)
I actually bought this record for the other side then played this side and realised it was a trillion times better. Proper original disco sleaze, that MUST have been big on the balcony of The Saint (if you know what I mean). Makes you want to oil up and throw yourself to the boys… full song >>here<<

11 - JC Freaks 'The Rock – Oracy Mix' (Wandering)
This is a bit of a weird one on new Mojuba off-shoot, Wandering. Weird because if you listen to the soundclip it really doesn't sound all that. Same goes for flicking through it in a record shop. But listen to the whole track though (like you're meant to) and the groove slowly burrows deep into your brain and before you know it, you're hooked, you don't want it to stop and realise Oracy have worked their magic on another brilliant, subtle piece of house music. >>Clip<<

12 - Trinidadian Deep 'What Is It – Ron Trent mix' (Future Vision)
Ron Trent has been a busy, busy boy in the last couple of months – re-releasing Altered States, putting out some of his Cinematic Travels on vinyl, 'unearthing' a few old Prescription gems in a warehouse (hmmmm), and putting out about 50 (okay, 4) records on his revitalised Future Vision label. All of these records are decent (definitely check the collaboration with Robert Owens and the dub of 'Look Beyond') but his mix of 'What It Is' on the Caribbean Logic EP is the pick of the bunch, replacing all the noodle with bounce. >>Clip<<

Monday, 15 September 2008

Those Obscure Objects of Desire (pt.1) – Mojuba Box Set

This is the first in a occasional series of rambles about stuff that will definitely improve my quality of life (well maybe) and in all likelihood, probably can't afford. Kicking things off, I am currently lusting after something I definitely can't afford, the super limited edition Mojuba Records Box Set
Mojuba are one of the new wave of German house labels operating out of Berlin, eschewing the more minimal sound associated with that part of the world, for a fuller deep house sound. Deep house, you say? That's kind of boring… Well not in this case, it's an updated and thoroughly modern take on the sound, with the undoubted jewel in the label's crown being the utterly fantastic Oracy, whose 'Hold Me' is one of the best house tracks of 2008.

To add to the mystique and appeal to the train spotter in every record collector, each release is first available on very limited coloured vinyl, before becoming more widely available on normal vinyl but with each of the paper sleeves of these initial runs adorned with a small hand cut fabric patch. Later runs just have a sleeve stamp.

This sort of thing shouldn't make me excited but it does!

Then to make matters worse, they've only gone and released a lush, super limited box set, bringing the first 9 releases together with a special limited edition disc that is otherwise only available from the label itself. The box set is pressed up on clear vinyl with all the original label stamps, and gorgeous packaging.

And it's not just a pretty box, the music is outstanding. I've got many of the records included, but not all of them and if I'm honest, the pretty box sealed the deal. Unfortunately, they only made 111 copies, they were only available through Mojuba direct sale… and I didn't get one.

Hey-ho. Here's a few short clips to give you idea of what I'm on about - click on the track you want to play:

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The Sound Factory, New York, 1992

When I flew out to New York for the first in November 1992, I had one DJ and one club in my thoughts and they were Tony Humphries and Zanzibar. London was in the thrall the Hump, having recently witnessed the Rampling’s ‘Voluptuous’ party where the great and the good of London clubland packed into a warehouse to hear (and see, as there was a lot of DJ watching that night) one of the true house heavy weights showcase his talents. My friend Steve, who had moved out there year before, had even whetted my appetite with some tapes of his weekly Kiss mix show.

However, upon my arrival Steve seriously dampened my London centric enthusiasm by telling me that ”No one in New York is really into Humphries right now”. He went on to explain that the real buzz was centred around some bloke called Junior Vasquez, who I vaguely remembered reading about in Disc Jockey magazine a year or two before, and his club, the Sound Factory.

The first Saturday of the trip arrived I remained unconvinced, but Steve allayed my concerns with the promise that if I didn’t like the Factory we’d head out to New Jersey the following week, so I agreed to give it a go.

We met up with more friends, including a gay stylist called Roberto, a guy who worked for Area 10 Records and their mate, Chez Damier, then got involved in some serious fag lad action round Roberto’s apartment that saw me leave for the night’s proceedings with my Balearic barnet in a French plat and wearing full on eye make-up… so I spent my first night at the Factory looking like a (rough) bird!

The Factory didn’t get going until the early hours, so we got in the mood by visiting the Roxy to hear Frankie Knuckles spin. It really did feel like a ghost of a club. The décor seemed faded and old, and a few forlorn looking roller skaters on the mostly empty dancefloor, around which people sat uninterested drinking in booths and Frankie played loads of his own records whilst dry humping some young skinny lad in the booth! This alone was mildly entertaining, we didn’t hang around and we were soon heading uptown to 27th street and the Sound Factory.

I don’t remember much about the queue, there was a door picker, but the people we were with ensured we breezed in (maybe the eye liner helped too). The club itself was much as I would have imagined the Paradise Garage to look like - a fairly cavernous warehouse type space with old round steel pillars, with the DJ booth was built up high in the wall at one end. There were 4 large speaker stacks which seemed to be built into the floor in the 4 corners of the dance floor and the lighting system was built around a vast Secret Sundaze shaming disco ball suspended above the middle of the floor. There was drinking fountain on the way in, an alcohol free juice bar over on one side of the room and the entrance to a chill out room on the other. The whole place was spotless too and they even had cleaners walking around throughout the night sweeping any fag ends that made it onto the floor!

The crowd was fairly mixed ethnically but mainly black hispanic and almost exclusively gay, though there wasn’t a cruisey vibe, they vwere definitely there to dance and you could almost feel the energy on the dance floor. A lot of people were rocking the banji boy, vest and baggy jeans look, but there were muscle marys, club kids and the most fabulous gorgeous drag queens that had you thinking ”maybe”, too! On each of the speaker stacks there was a naked, oiled, muscle bound go-go dancer, whose only props were small hand towels used to hide their dignity from the crowd. However, they weren’t gay, as one of the oily bastards tried to cop of with my missus during his break!

Junior played all night from midnight to midday, so he really had the opportunity to build and shape the music throughout the night. By 3am it was really just starting to get going, with it really going off around 6 or 7am. The music wasn’t just that Sex Trax sound we’ve come to associate with the Factory, it was more of a mix of slighter harder edged US stuff like the Coral Way Chiefs ‘Release Myself’and Liberty City ‘Get Some Loving’ on Murk, 4th Measure Men ‘4 You/Just a Dream’, early wild pitch stuff, UK tracks like X-Press 2 ‘London Xpress’ and the Farley and Heller mix of Happy Mondays ‘Stinkin’ Thinkin’’ and DSK and more traditional US house, like Aly-us.

But it wasn’t just the music, it was the way it was put together. Junior knew his records, he knew his crowd, he knew his system and he worked them all expertly. The system was fantastic – really loud and so clear you could talk on the dance floor. Junior would play jet plane noises that swept from one side of the club to the other and the sound was so sharp it felt like it cut through your body. He used FX like that and the light system, which was in perfect sync with the music, to build the tension on the dance floor. At one point he left us listening to and Gregorian monks chanting! And another we heard the sound of rain gradually fading up into the music then slowly taking over as the club sank into pitch darkness. The rain turned into a thunder storm with lightening streaking across the ceiling courtesy of strategically placed strobes, I stood there in the dark clapping and screaming my head off along with 1,000 sweat soaked queens, as the tension just built and built, then eventually, after what seemed like forever, we heard the words “It’s gonna be a lovely day, for you and me” (from that S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M record) and BANG every single light in the club hits a massive disco ball so it feels like the sun has actually dropped onto the dancefloor, night had turned into day and the whole place erupts like nothing I’d ever seen in a club erupt before. Amazing.

Another highlight was the Sound of Blackness ‘The Pressure’. I remember reading Danny Rampling’s chart in DJ Mag and him commenting next to that entry “6am at the Sound Factory” and me thinking “Yeah, it’s no Gat Decor though” or something like that. Then I found myself standing on the dance floor of the Sound Factory at 6am as that accapella intro came in and suddenly, it all made perfect sense. It’s probably the most beautiful record I’ve heard in a club by the time it was played, it was like he’d built up ‘the pressure’ so much on the dance floor this was the release. And what a release! The geezer from Area 10 records started to cry when he played it! And when it finally kicked in the place went ballistic. To this day when I hear that intro it gives goose flesh.

As the crowd started to thin a little after 7am the drag queens and trannies took over one side of the club, working an imaginary cat walk along the side the dance floor, throwing shade and generally trying to out do each other. They weren’t like your English ‘builder in a dress’ trannies either, they were actually slim, pretty, well preened and dare I say, quite fit! To a long haired 22 year from London it was like another world and I could have just sat back and watched them for hours…but the music was too good to sit down to!

I know it’s a DJ cliche these days but I really did feel like we went on a musical journey that night. It was almost like a religious experience. I remember standing on the dance floor, blown away by it all, thinking “When I get back to London I’m going to sell my turntables because I’ll never be able to play like this and even if could, I wouldn’t be playing at the Sound Factory and there isn’t any point DJing anywhere else!”

I think we finally stumbled out into the New York daylight around 10am. I never made it to Zanzibar on that trip because while I was there I only wanted to go one place on a Saturday! People seem quick to knock Junior these days, saying he can’t mix, his music is/was boring but at that moment in time, in that that space, with that crowd, he was perfect and no matter what anyone says, I’ll always have those memories.