Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank Ya, Thank Ya!!

It’s a day for giving thanks so let’s give thanks for two absolutely slammin’ jams that display gratitude in a very excellent fashion. First up is Sweet D’s absolutely banging Chicago house classic from ’86. This was the work of the legendary Chip E. — a man responsible for some early and innovative jackin’ moments — and Danny Wilson, who worked with the likes of Farley Jackmaster Funk, Victor Romeo and DJ International head Rocky Jones. For an early house jam it’s pretty well put together and has a real uplifting feel with this is not a moody, deep or acidic number, this one is brimming with bright, joyful keys and a driving bass line that could still rock a dance floor.

This one smacks of what Chicago house was all about, synthetic disco, and you need disco to synthesize in order to have the ersatz version. The disco tune that begat or inspired “Thank Ya” was Cheryl Lynn’s blinding 1978 number “You Saved My Day” from her eponymous debut album (the one which contains that Marina chick perennial “Got To Be Real”). No doubt this one was a favorite at the Music Box, The Warehouse and on the WBMX radio station. Sweet D’s imitation of Miss Lynn’s flawless soul nugget is a reminder that the soul needs to be put back in the mix. It’s good to remember r&b and soul in all its incarnations, but who’s gonna bring it back for the next phase? Hopefully one day we’ll be thanking some people for that.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New EP by Larry Heard.

Larry Heard - 25 Years From Alpha [Buy It Here]

Larry Heard has a new one out on his own Alleviated label in conjunction with Black Market in the UK. It’s a three track EP called “25 Years From Alpha” and as you can expect it’s a bit of a keeper. It was released yesterday so it should be showing up in the specialist stores pretty damned soon. On it Heard covers a range of moods, with the title track, a fifteen minute plus pulsathon and excellent dj tool, sounding like his take on Italo disco – not that his track “Stars” under the Mr, Fingers monicker didn’t do the same thing back in ’87. Track two, “Mercurian Funk,” is a kicky fusion of sleek electro, deep house and Fela sounding keyboards. And the final track, “Feathers Floating” is delicate like its title and displays the kind of subtlety that made his Sceneries Not Songs, Genesis and Alien albums so essential.

If you’ve been a fan of Larry Heard for many years then this one solidifies his reputation for creating beautiful electronic soundscapes that you can dance or chill to. Keep an eye peeled for this one as it’s a worthy addition to his already legendary canon of work.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another New Bear Funk Rekkid That's Rather Pleasant And Other Thoughts Of That Ilk!

It hasn’t been that long since I wrote about the last Bear Funk release by Italian producer Arturo Capone (and Capone has an album coming at the beginning of December). This time around the pressure comes from British musician Alex Cordiner aka Lusty Zanzibar. I imagine when his EP, For My Friends, (4 tracks on the wax, 6 tracks digital) drops on December 1st it should create quite a stir with the djs and dancers who have been getting kicks out of the stuff that the likes of Aeroplane have been putting out recently.

Once again this music is being thrust into ready made genres like Nu disco and Balearic (yeah Chris Rea and Mister Mister would sound dope next to “Pacific Air Race”) but the truth is that it is just great, well produced dance music, which happens to be melodic and nicely arranged. Melody is for airheads as minimal techno’s dearth of music and abundance of whooshy noises has sagely proven. Why bounce around to a tricky bass line with lush strings when you can stroke your chin to a two note bass line and no strings? And don't get me wrong there's a fair bit of minimal that I like, Konrad Black is the man, Heartthrob has done some nasty tracks, Dan Bell rules from on high, Kompakt can do no wrong and Will Saul is on point. It's just that there is a lot of it that's plain boring. Sorry.

I think you can almost map the direction that electronic dance music is taking: the melody of Italo, disco and Cosmic gear is being deftly absorbed into modern productions by artists like Reverso 68, Phreek Plus One and Aeroplane, and that is all set to crash into a just bubbling fixation with a diverse amount of late ‘80s and early ‘90s gear, ranging from Weatherall remixes and Balearic bombs from the likes of Sheer Taft and BBG to the NY garage nuggets which are being given the twice over.

Lusty Zanzibar’s killer EP from Steve Kotey’s Bear Funk label is another step in the right direction. It’s driving, yet extremely musical and uplifting. No pianos. but I’m sure those are just around the corner, when someone in NY gives the Baldelli chinstroking a miss for a second, puts down that Steel Mind record and picks up an FPI Project 12 inch it’ll be on like Donkey Kong. Now a prayer,

Dear Father who carts in obscene
amounts of obscure rekkids, hallowed
be thy slightly worn copy of LB Bad’s EP
on Nu Groove. Will thou send us a party
thrown by people who aren’t proprietary
and who aren’t generic with their music, and
give us rekkids with melodic synthy bits,
strings and girls singing about life affirming
stuff. You can also ditch the banging electro,
irony and no name djs from LA who can’t mix
but are real handy with traktor. You can send
some that can mix and that might be handy with
a tractor (like a John Deere peut être ).

Nice one Steve Kotey. Keep em coming, and keep on keepin’ on and on (Fears Keep On).


Thursday, November 20, 2008

New stuff, old stuff and Sideshow

Sometimes it takes me a minute to get inspired and it’s hard to be all perky when the economy is going down the drain and you’ve spent the entire decade having your self-esteem downsized, struggling under the imbecile prince. Also the very tiring fixation with the ‘80s is beginning to seriously wear thin and that includes the slavish hunting for rare boogie, Italo etc. When you’ve gone through some music like three times in your lifetime — when it was released, when it was exhumed in the ‘90s and when the carcass is finally flogged in this decade — then you know it’s time to move on.

However if you're a younger vinyl junkie then you are where we old, jaded vinyl whores have been and we enjoyed every second of it and so should you, whether you're reading blogs, checking discogs or chancing on the tunes at used stores and thrift outlets. There's worse things to be doing than scooping old toons and may all the Mid Airs, Samson & Delilahs and Assos fall into your sweaty mits like manna from heaven. Plus you'll have the joy of turning up all the tunes we missed!

Time for some new shit perhaps, or time to shift up a gear to fixate on the records that came out after the boogie, Italo and raw house. And lo and behold there are some dope new records coming out, and though they may tip their hat to the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s so what. The great thing about slavishly hunting down old records is that their ideas and the joy you feel at scooping them can be projected into making new music yourself.

If you haven’t checked the Control EP by Ecce, which I wrote about on Sunday, please do so. The more I listen to both the original and the Justus Köhncke remix, the more excited I get about this kick ass record. The same can be said of the forthcoming Sideshow record, which will be dropping in January 2009 on the impressive British label Aus Music. A full length will follow in February, and this, first, single is a wicked piece of work. It features remixes from both Chateau Flight and Appleblim & Komonazmuk, with the digital release giving you two more mixes than the wax; a dub of the original mix and an Appleblim & Komonazmuk dub.

What more can I say about this frigging fantastic record? Well the Chateau Flight dub is outstanding, it’s a minimal techno thing that isn’t boring (a rare thing indeed), is very dubby and rather dancey. Also Paul St. Hillaire aka Tikiman — who sang on all those dope Rhythm & Sound and Round records — sings on this here record, I thought I’d leave the best to last. The A & K mixes are no miss either, fast, dubby and uplifting, they’ll sound good pitched back a tad too. Keep an eye out for this, it’s definitely a keeper.


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Rapture come correct with a kick ass mix!

I’m always on the look out for a good mix cd, and to be honest they don’t come around too often. Howeverz, !K7 have just dropped a doozy in the shape of The Rapture’s Tapes mix. OK, it’s been out for a minute, well since the end of October — that explanation is for people who regard a record old if it has been out for more than four months. I think a record is old if it’s been out for more than four decades. It’s obvious that The Rapture feel the same way as the playlist touches on a number of decades, and a number of genres…thank god!

There’s a lot to be said for the non-generic mix, but a lot can be condensed down into one tried and tested truism, variety is the spice of life. It works for food, and so “If music be the food of love, play on,” to quote the great scribe. As I keep saying, generic stuff bores the knickers off me: house all night — unless it’s played by the likes of Tony Humphries —is tiring, minimal techno mind numbing and so on. And a surplus of generic retro leaves me similarly fatigued, be it boogie, disco or Italo.

Dance music is a continuum, and Djs like Humphries, Levan and Hardy knew that in the mid ‘70s. Now we have three more decades of it to cherish, program and rock. On The Rapture’s Tapes mix this passion for dance music down the ages is displayed in spades, with tracks from the ‘70s sharing space with tunes that dropped a month ago. Plus dance is viewed in a broad sense, in that genres like hip-hop and Go Go make an appearance too, showing that the essence of this mix is completely in tune with the spirit of eclecticism that gave rise to music forms like house, techno and hip-hop.

The current uber-penchant for pigeon holing yet still referring to the music as underground has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Pigeon holing, in reality, is deference to corporate label niche marketing and that is at once irritating and treacherous to the underground. Wanna keep the underground alive? Mix it up. Scoop this CD a listen to how it’s done properly. That a rock band should be showing the dj community the correct use of dance music is definitely food for thought… and deed, indeed. It’s a kick ass mix and will hopefully inspire a new wave of djs to drop the top 40 mash up shit, and mash up the club classics of the past and the present. So come and join the future!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ecce - Control EP

Sorry for the delay in posting some new material. I’ll admit it, I’ve had a block and so I spent the time compiling a humungoid mailing list from the seven years of emails that I have saved. I’ve only gotten as far as the ‘Js’ so there’s a lot more to do. However, what’s the point in having a mailing list for yer blog when there’s nothing new written? So true!

To that end let me tell ya about a new rekkid that crossed my path. It’s called the Control EP by an artist named Ecce. It’s on a label called August Day Recordings, which is a sister label of Tirk, a UK label that has given some some gorgeousful music in the past and evidently continues to do so. Ecce is a pseudonym used by Nicholas Lisher, whose music was discovered by ex-Cure keyboardist Roger O'Donnell. O’Donnell released a couple of Lisher’s tunes on his “Nothing Concrete” 99x/10 label sampler.

Lisher has been producing more material, and his music is a subtle fusion of shoegaze rock, krautrock and electronics. This new EP, out on November 24th is just that and more. Plus German minimal star Justus Köhncke provides a kicky and melodic mix of the title track. The other three tracks are lush, layered with crisp and ever so English vocals. Great stuff actually, and lyrically engaging. Can’t wait for a full length!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Spirit Catcher at Mighty this Friday, November 14th.

The more I listen to these Belgian electro types the more I like 'em, and their performances — of which there are quite a few on youtube — seem really passionate. I'm looking forward to throwing down some tunes with these guys. Once again more quality entertainment from Mighty, arguably the best club in San Fran thus far!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Pavement - Brighten The Corners Reissued/Remastered

When I’ve spent a week up to my nadulettes in dance music and dance records and thoughts about dance records etc. etc. etc., what I want to do is settle down with a nice rock record and then try to formulate some coherent thoughts about it. Incoherent thoughts can work too, but hopefully my disjointed brainwork will somehow appear in an organized fashion. It’s all I can hope for.

I also hope for promo rekkids, and today I got a nice one. On December 9th Matador Records will release a remastered and amended version of indie rock heroes Pavement’s classic 1997 album, Brighten The Corners. The two disc set is called Brighten The Corners: Nicene Creedence Ed. and it contains the original album in a remastered form plus out takes of the original recording sessions, Peel Session material, KCRW sessions, single b sides, unreleased tracks, songs from various compilations and tribute collections and cover versions of The Fall, Faust and Echo and the Bunnymen toons

Altogether it is a faboolas paskage and I will be listening to it until the cows, ducks, hens and a small number of disenchanted ponies come home. Keep ears and eyes peeled fo it. Also keep an ear and eye peeled for a new solo LP on Stones Throw from Omar Rodriguez Lopez of The Mars Volta. There will be more on that later.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Blame It On The Boogie Part 4

The New York producers took the deep, abstract, Chicago vibe, melded it with the garage classics of their beloved hometown djs and created a utopian robot disco that sprung forth from imprints like Strictly Rhythm, Nu Groove, E-Legal, Nervous, Quark and Bottom Line Records, amongst many, many others. A new era awaited, a new era awaits, and obviously some of the new players have done their homework. Let’s wait and see what comes, if the spirit and optimism of 89/90 is recreated and advanced. And don't laugh at the youtube movie at the top, this was one of the raw, early '90s tracks that really defined the sound and pointed it in the direction that house/garage took, from the sparse MAW dubs that followed to Pierre's Wild Pitch sound and the stripped down and bassy vibe of Kerri Chandler's tracks. If you're tripping on Italo and boogie, you're in no position to laugh believe me, even if you are getting messages from the stars. Ha ha!

And I know what you’re thinking, how can I be doubtful about the retro fixation around boogie yet champion the retro sounds of the early ‘90s? Well, the early ‘90s were a watershed for club music. All the innovation that had been going on since the mid-70s, through the ‘80s with the post-disco and electro –funk/modern soul/boogie sounds and out into the raw sounds of Chicago house and the robo-funk of Detroit techno somehow seemed to come to fruition in the slick sounds emanating from house producers in NY, NJ, and Miami (let’s not forget about Murk).

Another aspect of the ‘90s that separates it from the ‘80s and its raw, analog dance music was that the Europeans jumped wholesale on house and techno. The British really excelled, and the Italians, well the Italians kind of invented house music and so their take on it was as forward looking, inspirational, under publicized, and as hard to find as its Italo disco predecessor. In fact the Italian producers just kept going, and the shift from Italo disco to Italo house was almost seamless like one of Alex Neri’s or Andrea Gemolotto’s transitions on the decks. Smooth was not the word for the early ‘90s, — the late ‘90s yes — slick was the word. Watch it all roll around again!


Friday, November 7, 2008

Arturo Capone's New EP On Bear Funk

Amid all the reminiscing there is still time for some new tunes across a whole range of styles. Those gorgeousful types over at Bear Funk in the UK sent me this little doozy a coupla days ago and I have to admit it’s a keeper. This three track EP is a is a sampler for Italian producer Arturo Capone’s forthcoming album, Miocuore, and is firmly in the neo-Balearic — that’s a new sub-genre I just invented ‘cos we really need another one, no doubt — Cosmic disco ballpark. “Curcuma” and Max Essa’s mix of “Waves” really do it for me and will be receiving repeated spins. It drops on Monday the 10th of November so rush out and scoop it himmediately. Hokay?


Blame It On The Boogie Part 3

Months went by and the Virgo LP didn’t show up in my local vinyl emporiums. I was living in Galway on the west coast of Ireland and though some good US, UK and Italian imports would come through, the Virgo Four album didn’t materialize and I wasn’t flush enough with cash to do mail order from the UK. I figured if I waited it out, it would show up, being the tightwad Scotsman men that I am. The Techno 1 album I’d heard from my buddy Damian who made a timely trip to London in late summer of 89 and came back with some gems, including Model 500’s Interfearance EP on Metroplex. I liked Techno 1 a lot and I needed one for myself. Now I have a few, que shouts of "Sad bastard." Thank you!

Then one day months later — probably a wet, cold Saturday evening in January or February of 1990 while scurrying around Derry, Northern Ireland during a trip back home to the north — I stepped into Woolworth’s and while looking through their vinyl section and its sale items I found a mint Virgo Four LP for one pound sterling. Nice! I was delighted, and I still am. This is a great record, it continues with the cerebral house music that Larry Heard blueprinted with Mr. Fingers and the Amnesia album.

While the phrase deep house has been misappropriated and misunderstood — mostly by showboating new jacks who near sightedly associate all house with yuppies and jazziness — the Virgo Four and Amnesia records are the true essence of deep house, as is Baby Ford’s first LP. The sounds are still electronic and abstract however, the rough, yet endearing, corners of the early jack trax have been smoothed off, leaving a machine music that is at once robotic and utopian. This is the music that would lay the foundation for the visionary dance music that was beginning to come out of New York and New Jersey, garage as it was known. That music form fused the lush creations of the Chicago innovators with the canon of club classics that had been played by Tee Scott, Larry Levan and Bruce Forest.

To be continued


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Blame It On The Boogie Part 2

It seems that we are indeed on the cusp of a new era, but will that mean a new era of music also? There are definitely rumblings in the underground — an underground that can’t stay underground for too long these days — Balearic signals, promises of future party euphoria, and perhaps a move away from the raucous irony that has befallen us, and the bling that won’t stop.

If a wave of the type of music on the record pictured above fell on us I wouldn’t be complaining at all. Virgo Four’s album from 1989 is essentially a UK compilation of two separate EPs on the infamous Trax Records label out of Chicago. One of the EPs is credited to Virgo Four, the other to M.E., but both are by Eric Lewis and Merwyn Sanders, who moonlighted as Ace & The Sandman. Virgo Four was often confused with the Chicago project that featured Adonis, Marshall Jefferson and Vince Lawrence, and which gave us the magic EP that featured the stellar, abstract house/boogie creation "R U Hot Enough." Wrongly naming the Virgo Four album Virgo by Virgo didn't help matters either.

I read a review of this record in the fall of 1989 in an electronic keyboard magazine that also featured an interview with Derrick May and a review of the Techno 1 compilation on KMS. I was intrigued by the description of the music and also by the fact that the reviewer used the word 'electronica' to describe tracks on the Virgo Four record and Techno 1 as well, R-Tyme’s “Illusion” in particular. Electronica wasn’t a word that was in general use in 1989, 1999 maybe but not ten years prior, and even if wikipedia says it wasn't used until the early 90s in the US, it is incorrect because it is used in that review in a British magazine from 1989 and I'll wager the term was floating around in the pre house/non-dance electronic music scene from the '70s onwards.

It’s use in this article was in relation to the fact that both records featured tracks that had a dreamy mood, an ambience much like that of the heady German music of the mid to late ‘70s. To me this is the real meaning of electronica, not the bastardized version of the word that popped up in post rave America as the perfect tool to sell dodgy compilations to dotcom yuppies. Ashra, Cluster and Kraftwerk; this was the electronica that the review referred to and to place the lusher and more abstract Detroit techno and Chicago house tracks in that realm was interesting to me at the time — though everyone around me was too busy having a good time to indulge my earnest chinstrokery, and a typical reaction to any poignant thoughts by me on the subject was a salty, Irish wave of "shut up Orr, quit the pontificating and put on another record, ya bollix." Nice, huh?

To be continued


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blame It On The Boogie Part 1

Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s some kind of collective end of decade psychosis or it might just be all the economic panic that’s been happening of late, but I’m a bit out of sorts. I’ve been shaken from my work-a-day routine and pushed in the direction of some unknown future. I’ve been through some unknown futures before and faced them bravely, but perhaps I was younger then and not as bedeviled by self-doubt. I admire those who are rarely plagued by this frame of mind, but when those who show no self-doubt hit some snag or encounter some disaster I rarely want to be around for the ensuing egoist melt down. It’s just not my bag!

I’m also encountering other things that are not my bag as the decade — thankfully — fades out. One of these things is the slavish adherence to retro music styles, especially within the realm of dance music. I’ve done my fair share of frantic digging, believe you me, but the current uber fixation on disco, Italo, and in particular boogie, seems not only a little late but also a reflection of a past time, surprise, surprise!

In 1987 in London there was a similar retro fixation. It was called Rare Groove. It centered around obscure ‘70s 45s and LPs. DJs and collectors would spend silly money on the tunes, and a faithful would show up, often decked out in the then trendy '70s look (often referred to as 'radical chic'), and a lot of posing and semi dancing would ensue. Sound familiar? Even though I am up to my armpits in obscure records I have always viewed dance music as a continuum, from which you could pull some appropriate classics and mix them with stuff that was newer or brand new.

Focusing on one retro era or genre just seems redundant to me and, like London in the late ‘80s, a harbinger of the shock of the new about to hit, and what a timely day to think about this. In 1987 rare funk and hip-hop ruled the London cool dancefloors and hi energy and Euro-disco ruled clubs in general. In 2008, we have rare groove boogie and we have the high energy sound of electro, in its crunchy, glitchy, ultra white, Ed Banger derived form. In 1987 house music culture swooped down from Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Nottingham cleared all the posing, standing about, cocaine yuppie fests and bad music out of the way. And of course there was the London crew of Oakenfold, Holloway, Weatherall and Boys Own whose frequent trips to Ibiza had also shaped the musical outlook of that city's dancefloors.

Who needed to pay three hundred pounds for a funk 45 that was sampled by EPMD when you could buy a new Rhythim is Rhythim 12 inch for six quid? The new is not always good, but a glut of anything is just that, and when you’ve just lived through a decade that has been a re-run of the ‘80s do we need a last hurrah of  idolatory for that decade, and for the next one to be a re-run of the ‘90s? Maybe not, but there are some late ‘80s/early ‘90s musical attributes that might be welcome.

To be continued.