“Just because you can release something without a record label, which is now as simple as putting it on the internet, doesn’t mean you should. If you take it seriously, take some time to learn the art.” Pertinent words, especially when they come from someone who’s been in the game as long as Brennan Green. The New York based artist came to prevalence in the early 2000s, working closely with Daniel Wang and his Balihu imprint, before forging a close association with the Scandinavian axis of nu-disco a couple of years later.
There’s been an analogue rumbling emanating from the north of England of late, with its ruminations reaching as far as Chicago before rippling back across the rest of the world. In terms of electronic music, Liverpool doesn’t have the same steady stream of artists that neighbouring Manchester or more southern cities have. Legendary club nights such as Voodoo still remain a part of 90s techno folklore, but the scene has tended to draft in its talent from elsewhere instead of nurturing locals, leaving the ‘Pool somewhat under-represented.
Fine Art Recordings chief Nitzan Hermon clearly has a sharp eye for concepts. One of his most intriguing ideas to date was the 2009 MVSICA project – pronounced ‘musica’ – a CD compilation of downtempo music from producers known primarily for their 4/4 techno output. The CD, a collaboration with Sawdust studio, was released on a special ‘scratch off’ surface on hard laminated paper, meaning that the cover would evolve over time – much like the music contained within. Those who bought one of the 200 copies made could either keep it in pristine condition or subject it to the rigours of regular use and thus earn something genuinely unique.
Those who have followed German imprint Workshop Records will already be well aware of the label’s strong visual and musical aesthetic. Built around a core of artists – chiefly label bosses Even Tuell and Lowtec alongside Move D and Kassem Mosse among others – the Workshop sound touches on melodic, dusty and raw house and techno. The label was launched in 2006 shortly after Lowtec (aka Jens Kuhn) folded his Out To Lunch imprint. Every release since then has been imbued with the deepest of grooves, from the woozy narcosis of Lowtec’s Workshop 6 to Move D’s disco-sampling jam on Workshop 4 and the epic B-Side of Mosse’s recent Workshop 12 release.
A distribution hook-up with Germany’s home of discerning dancefloor music, Hardwax, gave Workshop the platform it deserved, and it has flourished. Given the attention to detail that accompanies every Workshop release – it’s the little things that stand out, like shrink wrapping, hand stamped vinyl and embossed text – it should be of no surprise to learn that one half of the label runs a boutique fashion label, with Even Tuell (real name Paul-David) having launched Airbag Craftworks back in 1995. Juno Plus editor Aaron Coultate caught up with Kassem and Even prior to the recent Workshop Records showcase hosted by London club types Electric Minds.
For those with an open-minded approach to electronic music, the output of Chicago’s Mathematics label has always been essential listening. While clearly steeped in the traditions of the Windy City’s famous house scene and the far-sighted electronic pulse of Detroit techno, Mathematics is just as likely to release something off-the-wall and interesting as straight-up jack or murky dancefloor bounce. Much credit should go to label boss Jamal Moss, better known as Hieroglyphic Being.
Despite operating around the fringes of the Chi-town scene for some 15 years, Mathematics compilations are few and far between. Sure, there have been the essential Music From Mathematics CDs, but little else. In fact, this non-stop live vinyl session from fellow Chicagoan Daryl Cura is in fact the label’s first official mix CD. That it’s something of a delight isn’t much of a surprise. Cura wisely uses the opportunity to touch on many of Mathematics’ disparate themes, and over the course of a spellbinding hour, picks and blends some real highlights from the label catalogue. There’s the bittersweet downtempo piano vibes of Bocca Grande, the future space-disco of Les Aeroplanes, a dash of Metro Area on Smack (Audio Atlas’ brilliant “Alaska”), touchy-feely techno and tech-house from Alessandro Izzo and Marcello Napoletano, sprightly synthscapes from Vagin Brei, and even a clutch of far-sighted floorfillers (the brilliance of Liverpudlian newcomer John Heckle). Oh, and indispensible space-jazz from Gentl3man.
It’s in parts delightfully melodic, achingly melancholic, indescribably heavy, thrillingly futuristic and unashamedly backward looking – everything great electronic music should be, basically. Cura’s mix is impeccable, and perfectly encapsulates what Mathematics is about. If you’ve yet to discover the label, it’s the perfect place to start.
Cosmin Nicolae is a producer who debunks the notion that musical styles are specific to certain locations. Cosmin’s breakthrough single “Put You Down”/”Broken Hearts” launched Ben UFO, Ramadanman and Pangaea’s Hessle Audio imprint in 2007, an outlet that has since become inextricably linked with contemporary UK bass music. That release, particularly the ethereal, post–hardcore vocals of “Broken Hearts”, sound like they were inspired by the early morning vista from a council tower block in Hackney rather than downtown Bucharest.
A perfect time to reappraise a titan of deep, jacking Stateside house, Kerri Chandler’s Trionisphere gets a full digital release from King Street Sound. A man as spiritual as he is groovy, he put Jersey on the house music map and thoroughly blesses every single song he makes with a huge amount of soul and sheer positivity. An influence on the great Todd Edwards amongst others, Trionisphere nicely collates all the tricks learned over a career that began back in ‘91.
The album was originally recorded at Tokyo’s Space Lab Yellow club in 2003, with Chandler deep in the mix using two turntables, a Final Scratch system and a DAT machine. The digital version is available in both unmixed format and as a continuous mix (which also features Kerri talking, singing and playing his Korg Trinity keyboard live over the top).
Without any pandering or over-bloated intros, “Tribe Of The Night” throws you straight into a hypnotic sweat from the get go, thanks to granite hard kicks and some spellbinding chopped accapella shots. The funk really flows at points – “Something Deeper” for example uses a laidback jazz-fusion loop as the sound bed for a furious alto sax solo, heavily played with dub delay. The same goes for “Yellow”, which keeps itself silky and chilled in a Donald Byrd vibe, while more solos are fired off around the track. There’s also more soulful, gospel-tinged house nuggets than you could possibly hope for spread over the album – “Heal My Heart” for example features Treasa Diva Fennie and intertwines vocals and strings to perfection, while “Faithful” goes out on a garage tangent with some precision hats and deep, multi-layered male vocals. “Faithful” very clearly shows Chandler’s religion spilling into his beats, as does the Rhodes-speckled “Let Him In”.
“Ye Yo Ma” shows off yet another string in Chandler’s bow, mixing up Afro-Latin rhythms and choruses around an itchy, modern funky beat. With a wide-range of percussion and some jazzy guitar, it’s one of the album’s stand-outs, as are the sharp funky snares of the tropical worker, “Coro”. With so many superb arrangements and sounds from across the spectrum of house music, this album can’t fail to impress.
London based producer Benjamin Sun follows up his sterling efforts on the first two Voyeurhythm 12”s with this delicious slice of mid tempo house bliss. Shuffling percussion and a warm, low slung bassline herald the introduction to “Salty Tears”, and a full two minutes tick by before a sparkling piano melody rises up from the bowels of the track for maximum effect. This is underpinned by a lovely vocal, astutely plucked from the breakdown of a disco classic, pitched down and chopped into a sultry moan. Simply put, this is one of those tunes that will have people rushing over to the DJ booth to find out what the hell it is every time it gets played.
Sun’s effort is complemented nicely by “Speedway 75” from mysterious duo Monte Carlo Interchange. A more subtle beast, it takes the listener on a spacey house odyssey containing just the right mix of analogue bleeps, claps and synth squiggles. Now with three 12”s under their belt, the Voyeurhythm crew remain relatively unknown outside an inner circle of disco and house music cognoscenti – Juju & Jordash, San Soda, The Revenge, Bill Brewster and Jacques Renault are all confirmed fans – but this won’t remain the case for much longer.
The latest 12 inch from WPH offshoot Lany Recordings sees Luv Jam and Matomic each drop two cuts of dance music for twisted minds and bodies. We got a bit excited by Luv Jam’s auspicious debut for WPH and he adds to his reputation with the two tracks that sit on the A Side. “Pike” is a stripped back exercise in rusted techno abstractions which is contrasted nicely by the more immediate sounds of “Big Tent” where the Wrexham based producer casts haunting synth lines across a dark groove that bubbles with menacing intent.
Matomic aka Matthias Cleenewerck was of course responsible for the inaugural Lany release and he demonstrates his maturing talent on “Flash Travel” which melds future abstract Detroit melodies with a twisted almost UK funky variant on drum programming. The peak time sonic progressions of closing track “Shadows” are a suitably fine ending to an EP which showcases the talents of two rising producers.
Vintage Italo disco’s greatest moments (and some of its lesser ones) have been covered across many a compilation and 12 inch in recent times. Gomma do the smart thing then and throw the focus on contemporary Italian producers with this compilation of exclusive new tracks curated by Munk aka Gomma founder Matias Modica. Any one with a passing interest in current disco tinged house music will be familiar with most of the names present, as the compilation kicks off with the brilliant “Red Onions” from Bottin. A shimmering fuzz of organ and thumping bass drum are soon engulfed by the sleaziest of basslines and shuffling percussion. The mid section point where synths pulse and kick drums begin to pierce make for one of Bottin’s most engaging productions.
Horse Meat Disco’s Severino follows and displays a hitherto unknown talent for crafting brilliant retro acid jack on “Bounce” which is matched in the high-energy stakes by Hard Ton’s collaboration with The Barking Dogs. Elsewhere Telespazio indulge in some vintage up tempo Italo flex on the splendid “Odeon” that contrasts nicely with the shuddering melancholics of Gomma newcomers Cecile. Rodion and newcomer Alan1 break up the instrumental monopoly with some much-needed vocal tracks whilst Italo space cadets Ajello impress the most with the brilliantly cavernous excursion into throbbing mutant disco that is “Crystal Babe”.
Rush Hour – undoubtedly the vintage Detroit/Chicago reissue kings of 2010 – return with a collection of rare gems from Rick Wilhite, one of Detroit’s most respected purveyors of all things underground. The Godson & Soul Edge compilation showcases the material Wilhite released on Kenny Dixon Jr aka Moodymann’s KDJ Records in the 90s. Although he has never been as lauded as his 3 Chairs cohorts Theo Parrish and Dixon Jr (partly due to a comparative paucity in solo work), Wilhite is nonetheless an important piece in the Detroit electronic music puzzle, thanks to both his productions and his work as a record buyer and dealer.
There are three versions of the inimitable “What Do You See”, which samples a line from Carolyn Crawford’s 1978 burner “Coming On Strong” and builds a track around it with a killer drum roll and analogue blat. There are also three different versions of “Drum Patterns & Memories” – one from Rick himself and two from Moodymann. Theo Parrish’s ‘late’ dub of “Get On Up” is perhaps the highlight here, and anyone who has heard this on a decent soundsystem will know how good those chunky old school kick drums sound when given a workout. Urban Tribe’s remix of “Good Kiss” is a slow burning dub techno bomb, and there’s also a hitherto unreleased track by Rick entitled “30 Days Later” to round things off. What ‘s most impressive is how playable all of these tracks still sound – everything here was first released on 12” back in the 90s, yet it still outshines the vast majority of house music being made in 2010.
Does Jamie Principle get the recognition he deserves? In short, no. The man essentially paved the way for two generations of producers from Chicago with “Your Love”, now seen as the blueprint for the genre. Officially released in 1986, it had a lasting impact on the Chicago club scene long before that, with Jamie handing a tape recording to Warehouse DJ Frankie Knuckles in ‘84. “I thought he was a millionaire in Europe somewhere, I didn’t know he was a kid in his bedroom somewhere,” reflects Marshall Jefferson on Principle. “That shit was bumpin,” adds Derrick May.
Two years after the release of “Your Love” came “Bad Boy” (“Baby Wants To Ride” was sandwiched in between), which preceded an extended spell in the shadows for Principle. Here we see this hidden gem get a reissue from Dutch imprint Rush Hour, who have clearly made it their mission in life to dig out and repress all manner of rarities from the Windy City. It’s the unreleased mix that makes for the most fascinating listening, a totally sleazy cut that sounds as if it’s been ripped from the same shoddy vinyl as Trax pressed it on all those years ago. And, in a weird way, that’s part of the charm: Jamie’s sultry moans of “well you make call me a queer, you may call me a freak” are all but lost in a haze of jacking 808s and synths which are deftly manoeuvred to create a melody that sounds as startlingly fresh and catchy as it did 20 years ago. The unreleased version is accompanied by the cleaner original, with a longer intro and better sound quality making it more suitable for club plays.
Also appearing is Principle’s “It’s A Cold World”, first released by Atlantic in 1989, which sees Jamie’s falsetto singing voice backed by analogue bassline and a mono synth line that excels because of its simplicity. It’s essentially house noir – a moody and intense piece of music. Alongside these three sits “Let Your Body Talk”, a relatively unknown effort from Ace & The Sandman. It’s comprised of shuffling synth melodies, tumbling piano lines and smooth vocals lifted from of Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Chicago house textbook – unsurprising for a production team who, under their Virgo moniker, produced one of the most respected EPs in the history of house music (also reissued by RH earlier this year).
Review: Aaron Coultate
Dan Snaith is impossible to second guess; since his emergence on the Leaf label as Manitoba with Start Breaking My Heart in 2001, every subsequent release has veered in differing musical directions, with a craft and mastering of music that has gained him an ever increasing fan base. That debut is perhaps one of the more revered albums in the over stuffed genre that is the dreaded IDM.
This gave no clue as to the nature of his 2003 follow up, Up In Flames, which was a splendid explosion of Vitamin D-infused psychedelia and heavily percussive cosmiche grooves with the added bonus of vocals from Stones Throw veteran Koushnik.
2005′s The Milk Of Human Kindness under the legally enforced name change of Caribou took on an organic approach to hip-hop grooves and heavily percussive distorted funk outs. Andorra, Snaith’s 2007 album saw his song writing come to the fore combined with the natty sampling with the end product sounding like a forgotten masterpiece from the acid pop of the 1960s.
Flash forward three years and Snaith presents Swim his fifth, and perhaps best, album to date. “Odessa”, the album’s opening track will be familiar to most as City Slang released it as a free download earlier this year to give a taster of what to expect. For those that missed it, “Odessa” is the culmination of what happens when you throw together a mid nineties piano house line, some vocals remarkably reminiscent of Erlend Oye, a suitably bouncy bass-line and the sound of a chicken being strangled.
What follows is that most strange of things, a consistently brilliant dance album from a producer you would not normally associate with house and minimal techno. Previous interviews with Snaith have seen him disclose a love for Border Community boss James Holden, and that much is in evidence throughout, most notably on “Sun”, where crashing jazz percussion melds into an amazing throb of techno bliss. Indeed, the chime filled “Bowls” has already been earmarked for a remix by the amusingly coiffured Holden
It’s easy to focus on the music, brilliant as it is, and not pay attention to the vocals, for the most part sung by Snaith himself in that familiar Oye-esque voice and focusing mostly on the dynamics of relationship, most notably on “Odessa” and “Leave Home”. It’s only on album closer “Jamelia” that Snaith relinquishes vocal duties with Born Ruffians front man Luke Lalonde in what mutates sonically several times in the space of four minutes.
Swim is a brilliant album which will either grab you immediately or lodge itself in your cerebral cortex over time and is certainly one of the best releases to date this year.
Review: Tony Poland
The 2 Bears are Joe Goddard and Raf Rundell. They look like they could be brothers. They also kind of look like bears. Best of all, they’ve teamed up to make some killer house tracks on Southern Fried, and, to celebrate, we’ve got them to name their top tunes of the month for our latest featured DJ Chart…
Thomas Koch, known to the record buying public as DJ T., drew many pats on the back in 2009 with The Inner Jukebox, an album which showed tech house pretenders how things should be done. This year he’s followed that up with the 51st instalment of the Fabric mix series. It’s a big task, not just becasue of his own superlative mixes in the past (most notably the 2006 Body Language compilation), but also because the previous Fabric mix, curated by Dutch producer Martyn, was widely hailed as the most groundbreaking Fabric CD in years. Flora Wong spoke to the Get Physical boss about his disparate musical influences, the pitfalls of running a label and how touring the world inspired his new mix.
Washington native Worthy is now an intergral part of the fabric of San Francisco’s dance scene, having co-created Dirtybird Records with house cohorts Christian Martin, Justin Martin and Claude VonStroke upon moving to the West Coast almost a decade ago. Since then he’s dabbled in numerous productions on labels including Leftroom, Curfew, OM, Utensil and also set up his very own imprint, Anabatic. We caught up with the man himself to find out a bit about his top tunes of the moment.
Why has DJ Harvey been hot property for the best part of two decades? Is it his effusive and laid back manner, his eclectic sets, his decision to leave the UK for pastures new? Having just released the much-hyped Locussolus EP on International Feel, and a remix of Dirty Jesus classic “Don’t Fuck With My Shit” on Juno Records, Harvey’s showing no signs of slowing down (or speeding up, for that matter). Oh, and he’s got a brand new Green Card. We spoke to him from his Los Angeles home about his return to Blighty, working with Rwandan refugees and remixing indie bands.