The New York party scene is relatively small these days, and many operating within its tight-knit sphere privately lament the ongoing difficulties promoters face –strict licensing laws which hark back to the Giuliani era, small budgets and a general apathy towards the city’s rich vein of DJing and production talent. Yet within this scene there are still great nights (and days) out to be had, with promoters using the lack of suitable nightclubs as an excuse to host parties in inventive locations.
Alongside Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin’s near legendary Mister Saturday Night and Mister Sunday soirees, the roving Let’s Play House parties are now firmly established as one of the city’s best. Location-wise, they couldn’t be more diverse: from the decadent surroundings of the Le Bain hotel in lower Manhattan to abandoned Williamsburg warehouses, a club hidden behind a restaurant, a boat on New York harbour and a Chinatown karaoke bar, the two men behind the parties – Jacques Renault and Nik Mercer – have proved to be quite the hosts.
Now they have now launched a Let’s Play House record label in conjunction with established imprint Throne Of Blood, with all concerned evidently buoyed by the party’s growing reputation. Appropriately, the first release comes from Runaway, the house-centric production duo of Renault and Marcos Cabral. “Indoor Pool” is probably their best deep chugger since “Brooklyn Club Jam”, and it appears on the A-Side of this release alongside a Slow Hands version that boasts some devilish piano flourishes. Brighton duo Soft Rocks meanwhile deliver a typically squelchy, drum and arpeggio-heavy revision, while Future Times darlings Beautiful Swimmers (a serendipitous choice of remixer given the track’s name) round off a faultless release with a sleazy analogue vocal version that will only enhance their growing reputation. An auspicious debut.
Jacques Renault and Marcos Cabral’s On The Prowl imprint have just announced their next two releases, which see German disco-house overlord Tensnake and his underrated compatriot DJ Kaos employed on remix duties.
Our friends at On The Prowl aka Jacques and Marcus Runaway recently joined the long list of labels to work alongside US automotive firm Scion AV, opting to release some more freestyle throwbacks from Corinne.
Since launching in early 2009, Birmingham’s Under The Shade has steadily built a reputation as a label with its finger firmly on the disco/house pulse. Thanks to a simple formula – pairing high quality original cuts from up-and-coming producers with interesting remixes from better-known talent – the JiscoMusic offshoot has rapidly become a ‘must check’ imprint. Whether releasing sparkly nu-disco or smoky deep house, Under The Shade rarely fails to impress.
For their latest offering, Under The Shade have turned to Nottingham’s Chamboche – the nearest thing the imprint has to a ‘label stalwart’ (it was he who provided the label’s first ever release). Lead cut “Closer” is an interesting concoction; a bongo-laden deep house/nu-disco fusion that quickly builds into a spiraling dancefloor headtrip. If Mark E made appregiated electronic disco, it would sound something like this. Flipside “The Show Must Go On” inhabits a similar headspace. Building the action around a chunky house groove, it utilizes some distinctly old skool Detroit synth sounds alongside the sort of touchy-feely pads that are guaranteed to give you goosebumps. It’s quietly uplifting – a bit like watching a distant sunrise from the comfort of a cozy seafront hotel.
As usual, there are a couple of remixes to tickle the tastebuds. While Moscow’s piano heavy nu-disco take on “The Show Must Go On” excites, it’s the Runaway Remix of “Closer” that really impresses. Continuing their recent forays into bumpin’ deep house territory, the New York duo offer up a bassy, retro-futurist rework that should cause serious damage on purist house dancefloors.
Before making a name for himself as one of New York’s most prolific makers of off-kilter house and disco, DFA associate Jacques Renault was something of a low-slung disco fetishist. His first releases, as one half of Runaway, were a series of oddball disco and punk-funk re-edits on Roy Dank’s Wurst Edits imprint. In an edit scene saturated with string-drenched reworks of familiar favourites, those Wurst 12”s were a revelation.
This new 12” for Hand of God sees Renault return to those roots with a pair of distinctly heavyweight disco jams. In style and feel, they sound like those early edit excursions fused with Renault’s more recent trips into organic deep house. Lead cut “Marilyn’s Gold” sounds like it was inspired by Renault’s superb remix of Midnight Magic’s “Beam Me Up”. It has a similarly prominent disco bassline, this time sitting atop some of the greatest drums ever to grace a disco record. They may not be original – anyone with a serious interest in disco will spot the source – but they still sound great. On top of this, Renault throws all manner of bizarre and brilliant loops and samples. The effect is mesmerizing. It’s not always easy listening, but it will sound formidable blasting out of a big soundsystem at five in the morning.
Compared to the A, flipside “Pleasure” offers some light relief. To these ears, it sounds like Basement Jaxx’s “Fly Life” recreated by Patrick Adams. It boasts the sort of deadly dancefloor groove that’s near impossible to dislike. Furthermore, the action all revolves around a near-perfect disco bassline. Honestly, it’s a killer. Throw in some well-timed vocal hooks and Renault’s usual late night production sheen, and you’ve got a real winner. If they’re not dancing to this in sweaty Brooklyn basements already, they soon will be.
It was perhaps inevitable that freestyle, perhaps one of the most overlooked of 1980s electronic music styles, would one day begin to get revisited. Hugely popular within New York – particularly with the city’s Hispanic communities – throughout the 1980s, the genre spawned some enormous records, most notably Shannon’s “Let The Music Play” (though many freestyle enthusiasts would cite her “Give Me Tonight” as a truer exponent of the core freestyle sound). Dig through the back catalogues of such noted New York record labels as Vanguard and Tommy Boy, and you’ll find plenty of freestyle tunes. In retrospect, any sound cheap, nasty and overly cheesy, but others still sound heavy, fresh and unbelievable futuristic.
This new release from Runaway’s On The Prowl imprint is about as freestyle as you can get. While actually a brand new track by little-known Brooklyn producer Josh Anzano, it sounds authentically vintage. All the hallmarks of true freestyle are here: stuttering, syncopated rhythms, a ludicrously heavy 808 bassline (here tweaked to oblivion to give the impression of 303 jiggery-pokery), ear-piercing electro melodies and a female vocal extolling the virtues of getting out and partying. It’s more like Alisha’s “Baby Talk” (a Shep Pettibone mixed freestyle club hit from 1985) than “Let The Music Play”, but that’s no bad thing. There’s even a choppy, Latin Rascals style flipside Dub. Honestly, it’s brilliantly produced and ticks all the right boxes – unless you knew, you’d think it was a re-release. Anzano should be applauded.
Remix wise, label bosses Runaway provide two servicable house versions (vocal and instrumental) that cleverly weave the original 80s-sounding synth melodies and vocal between retro-futurist 4/4 beats and menacing Twilo riffs. As good as they are, it’s the original and Dub versions that make the biggest impression. Seriously hot. Matt Anniss
You have to take your hat off to Runaway – they’ve certainly been keeping themselves busy. Following hot on the heels of last month’s organ-riffic Broken Man 12” – a heavyweight chunk of NYC house that wouldn’t have sounded out of place booming out of the Sound Factory speakers during Junior Vasquez’s pomp – comes this impressive remix package. The original version of “The Fire Below” first emerged in December last year, backed by a Cosmo Vitelli remix of another Runaway track, “The Poltergeist”. While Vitelli’s remix got some props, it was “The Fire Below” that tickled most DJs’ fancy. Something of a slow burner, it fused the duo’s now famous tribal-influenced deep house beats with soft-centred piano chords, drawn-out builds and some delicious, starry-eyed synths.
This time round, they’ve asked current men-of-the-moment Azari & III and The Revenge – arguably the hardest working man in Scotland – to take care of the remixes. The former provide a trippy, late night version built around the original’s spiraling synth melodies and gratuitous use of FX. The beats are a touch more crisp than Runaway’s, but the effect is at times beguiling – hypnotic and understated in equal measure.
The Revenge, on the other hand, does his best to draw out the original’s retro-futurist leanings. His version is typically playable, fixing ultra-tweaked vocal hooks onto rock-solid beats and the sort of menacing bassline that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Belgian rave track circa 1992. Into the mix are thrown snippets of the original riff, echo-laden klaxon horns and all manner of subtle piano keys. It’s the winner here by some distance. As way of a bonus, digital buyers can get their hands on The Revenge’s ‘Bassline Dub’. Arguably even better than his exemplary remix, it strips the track down to little more than a booming old skool bassline, hurried percussion and the odd reverb-laden klaxon. As DJ tools go, it’s pretty darn handy. Matt Anniss
For a duo with close links to DFA, there’s always been something reassuringly straightforward about Runaway’s music. Since their debut EP of typically off-kilter edits on friend Roy Dank’s Wurst imprint, they’ve got progressively more and more housey. For those who’ve heard Jacques Renault – the most high profile of the duo – DJ, this will come as little surprise; they seem more influenced by classic New York and New Jersey house than anything else.
Their biggest dancefloor hit, “Brooklyn Club Jam”, is a prime example of this. Blending FX-laden piano riffs with a menacing, big room backing, it sounded like Sound Factory era Vasquez or Twilo-pomp Tenaglia with a Rekids twist. “Broken Man” is similarly reverential, sounding not unlike the sort of organ-heavy house that used to emerge from the Big Apple on a weekly basis back in the 1990s – albeit with drums that sound more Salsoul than Strictly Rhythm.
Like the best US house records of old, it’s hooky and nagging in equal measure, building the action around a spiraling organ riff and a flickering, repetitive vocal sample (“broken man”). Even better, perhaps, is the accompanying ‘live’ version, which adds a killer acid B-line, some spooky loops and the sort of stripped-down beats that evoke thoughts of dark New York cellar clubs and freakish afterhours parties. It just feels more raw – something which gives the track a much more intense, late night vibe.
The package is rounded off by a solid remix by NYC nu disco don Brennan Green. He gives “Broken Man” a quick rub with his disco polish, adding some crunchy noises amongst the original’s twin riffs.
On The Prowl launch their new sub label with help from Marcos Cabral, the legendary New York house producer and label boss (alongside partner in crime Jacques Renault) . OTP Party Breaks Volume 1, which also features a collaboration between Cabral and Shux, drops two tracks of the warm, disco flavoured, deep house that is going down a treat over in the Big Apple these days.
This first release is poised to set the tone of the whole imprint, who are expected to put out distinctly NY flavoured records from the city’s favourite artists and producers. Marcos Cabral from Runaway certainly fits the bill, having also released on the likes of DFA, I’m A Cliche, Muke and Rekids, he is a true legend on the city’s house scene. He collaborates with Chinatown Records partner Brennan Green on the EP’s opening track, “Lifetime Groove,” an epic twelve minute journey through laid back and groovy disco house. It has a classic feel right from the start with a retro bassline but with Balearic overtones and a dubby, feel good sentiment.
On the flip, Cabral lays his hand to Lil Louis’ classic garage house track “Club Lonely.” It is a simple rework, using straight forward loops and samples. The chord stabs keep the club vibes strong as repetitive saxophone flurries continue to build the tension. Bringing the 90s anthem up to date, Cabral gets a mainstay of Runaway’s DJ sets on record at long last.
Jacques Renault has released on more disco and house labels than you care to mention –from New York’s DFA to French imprint I’m A Cliché; via Matt Edwards’s Rekids and Toshiya Kawasaki’sMule Musiq. Apart from being a talented musician (he’s mastered everything from the violin to the trumpet and drums), he’s also in demand as a DJ, producer and remixer. Add to that his Runaway project and new label On The Prowl, and you have a real, erm, Jacques of all trades (did we mention he was once a carpenter too?). Aaron Coultate caught up with the man himself to find out more.Read the rest of this entry »