Next up for the excellent Strut Records is a retrospective of 80s NYC imprint Celluloid Records.
The best compilations act as gateways into a world of music unknown to the listener, perhaps encouraged to investigate thanks to one stray familiar name or some eye-catching artwork. It’s possible that the art of a finely curated compilation might be in danger of being lost on a current generation brought up on the endless musical possibilities of the mix and match download culture, though 2012 showed that there are still plenty of labels willing to invest the time and knowledge neccesary.
Our list of the top ten compilations looks to capture that, drawing on a selection of established labels celebrated for their ongoing efforts in the realm alongside imprint who’ve made impressive fresh steps in this direction, with an overall diversity of musical styles that hopefully reflects our own divergent tastes. It should also be noted that the drastic decline in quality of commercially released mix CDs, no doubt caused by the over abundance of online podcasts and mixes, reached a tipping point whereby we decided to leave the format out of this year’s “best of” coverage.
Strut engage appetite whetting mode ahead of their forthcoming Cajual retrospective with a free download of an early 90s Curtis Jones classic.
By now, we should all know the story of Tony Wilson’s ultimately doomed Factory Records imprint; the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of the design-conscious Manchester imprint, excesses and all, has been written many times over. Strut’s initial FAC. DANCE compilation, curated with love by walking dance music encyclopedia Bill Brewster and released last year, also documented the label’s attempts to court the dancefloor. As that collection proved, the emerging UK club culture of the 1980s was of vital importance to Factory. In many ways, it was written into the label’s DNA. From its early post-punk years to the later dominance of dance-pop kings New Order and the Happy Mondays, the fortunes of Factory Records were intertwined with that of its partner club, the Hacienda. That both were ultimately glorious failures almost makes the Factory story more alluring.
While re-issue specialists such as Harmless, Far Out, Strut or Mr Bongo enjoy a respectable following thanks to their long-established nature and strong track record, very few new labels rooted in the world of global rhythms have managed to make waves outside of the dusty-fingered world of record collecting.
Strut Records will release a second volume of their trawl through the archives of Factory Records, with ESG, A Certain Ratio and Cabaret Voltaire all featuring on FAC DANCE 02.
Much like last year’s inaugural volume was curated by a wise head in Bill Brewster, Strut have tasked James Nice, boss of re-issue label LTM (and one-time manager of Factory Benelux, the label’s European offshoot) to put together the 24 track second collection and it looks like an inspired choice. Whilst the tracklist does include a couple of tracks familiar to Factory-watchers and post-punk heads, notably ESG’s “Moody” – produced by Factory in-house mixer Martin Hannett – and the much-played John Robie mix of “Yashar” by Cabaret Voltaire, these are surrounded by a fair few curios and not so obvious inclusions
Alongside lesser-known cuts from the likes of Quando Quango, 52 Street, A Certain Ratio (pictured above) and Section 25, you’ll find such oddities as Minny Pops’ “Blue Roses” – only ever released on Factory Benelux – and “Sommadub” by Sir Horatio, a dubplate-only 12” by members of A Certain Ratio. There’s also a chance to revisit the odd Arabic-disco of Fadela’s 1987 track “N’Sel Fik”, one of Factory’s strangest forays into the dance market.
Both the double CD and double vinyl editions come replete with extensive sleeves notes from the eminently knowledgeable Nice, who has reissued plenty of Factory material on LTM over the years, as well rare photos from the Factory archives. The digital edition, meanwhile will include two extra tracks in the shape of Kalima’s “Land Of Dreams” and Swamp Children’s “Samba Zippy part 2”.
Strut Records will release FAC DANCE 02 on September 17.
1. Cabaret Voltaire – Yashar (John Robie Mix)
2. Fadela – N’sel Fik
3. A Certain Ratio – The Fox
4. Shark Vegas – You Hurt Me
5. Quando Quango – Go Exciting (12” Mix)
6. Sir Horatio – Sommadub
7. X-O-Dus – Society
8. Minny Pops – Blue Roses
9. Thick Pigeon – Babcock + Wilcox
10. Section 25 – Sakura
11. ESG – You’re No Good
12. Durutti Column – Self Portrait
1. 52nd Street – Can’t Afford (Unorganised Mix) 10.21
2. Section 25 – Knew Noise 4.49
3. Nyam Nyam – Fate 8.08
4. Swamp Children – Softly Saying Goodbye 4.10
5. A Certain Ratio – Lucinda 3.57
6. Surprize – In Movimento 5.41
7. ESG – Moody 2.43
8. The Wake – Host 7.57
9. Royal Family And The Poor – Vaneigem Mix 6.23
10. Biting Tongues – Meat Mask Separatist 4.59
11. Anna Domino – Take That 4.12
12. Ad Infinitum – Telstar 3.12
Kalima – Land Of Dreams
Swamp Children – Samba Zippy Pt. 2
It’s not particularly tropical in the corner of London Juno Plus call home, but that won’t stop us from enjoying the blissful soca of “Vibrations Groove” from Lord Shorty.
Having previously mined the new wave vaults of Factory Records, the pioneering work of leftfield disco producer Bob Blank and the weirder fringes of New York’s post-punk club culture, Strut Records avert their gaze to the worlds of EBM and industrial. It’s a wise choice, not least because those genres – along with post-punk, proto-house and, arguably, the odder end of the disco spectrum – provided 1980s listeners with some of the most revolutionary, inspiring and downright strange music of the era.
Strut add another reason to get excited about 2012 with news that the label has tapped up well respected former Output Recordings honcho Trevor Jackson to compile his favourite industrial, post punk and EBM tracks from the 1980s for the forthcoming Metal Dance.
Arthur Russell’s legacy has remained strong long after his untimely death in 1992, most notably in recent times with the highly respected music critic Tim Lawrence unveiling his must read biography last year; this follows a documentary Wild Combination and a collection of cover versions released by Electric Minds. It is perhaps this latest musical project, presented by the good people at Strut Records, that will be of most interest to fans of Russell’s work.
Arthur’s Landing is a collective of musicians who worked with the producer and cellist throughout his varied musical career. Led by guitarist Steve Hall, the ever morphing group of musicians have made a commitment to sustaining Russell’s musical legacy and have spent the last few years touring and performing new arrangements of tracks from the Russell canon and they present twelve of them here on this enlightening album which has been produced by contemporary NYC icon Brennan Green.
As well as presenting unique takes on both well known and unheard Russell tracks – witness the shimmering beauty of their take on “Is It All Over My Face” for instance – the album sleeve notes have detailed memoirs from the members of Arthur’s Landing discussing each track, making this a truly special album. Strut surround themselves with so many great music projects you’d have to wonder what a gaping hole would be left if they weren’t around.
Strut have been long time supporters of Danny Krivit, having enlisted the Body & Soul resident to compile and mix Grass Roots, a selection of his influences as well as releasing an inaugural volume of his edits in 2003 (some time before the “edit scene” came back into vogue). Whilst that first volume was slightly populist in it’s track listing with recognisable tracks from Cymande, Diana Ross and Sly & The Family Stone amongst the ten tracks, this second volume is an altogether more exclusive affair.
Reaching deep into the Mr K archives which holds over 300 edits, Strut present a selection of ten versions that cover disco, soul and funk and includes some unreleased material. Indeed it’s the unreleased edit of Black Blood’s “Chicano” that provides one of this selection’s most enjoyable moments and highlights Krivit’s talent for editing. Reworked from the seven inch, Krivit extends the tracks by some two minutes adding some real depth to the heavily percussive groove. Elsewhere the gloriously euphoric version of Rare Pleasure and the final lolloping nine minute reworking of Chairmen Of the Board make this yet another essential release from the guys at Strut.
With the capabilities of modern technology allowing for the current deluge of disco ‘edits’, most of which do little beyond extending an intro for ease of mixing, it would have been an intriguing prospect to see what disco edit progenitor Walter Gibbons thought. Sadly because of Gibbon’s untimely death to an AIDS related illness we’ll never find out, however current edit profiteers could do worse than check out this retrospective of Walter Gibbons remixes compiled by Strut.
Nominally split between the 70s and 80s, the first CD documents the imaginative reworks of the Salsoul catalogue that helped cement Gibbon’s reputation whilst the second CD focuses on the mid Eighties period where he worked closely with Arthur Russell. Gibbons rose to fame during the height of disco’s popularity in Manhattan thanks to his expert DJing skills (a tighter variant on the proto hip-hop tablism of DJ Kool Herc) and it was a chance encounter at the Salsoul office which afforded the 22 year old an opportunity to remix Double Exposure’s “Ten Percent” which became the first commercially successful 12″ release, laying down the blueprint for a format that remains popular to this day. That 12” mix is one of seven tracks which aptly demonstrate the percussion heavy style Gibbon’s branded Jungle Music with the closing 11 minute mix of Betty LaVette perhaps the most impressive example.
The second disc provides more sonic intrigue however, starting off with a previously unreleased remix of Arthur Russell’s “See Through” which whilst short by Gibbons standard at 3 mins 40 secs delivers a sound approaching minimalist electronica, this is followed by Gibbons seminal extended prismatic take on Dinosaur L’s “Go Bang” and perhaps the masterpiece of Gibbon’s career – a nine minute remix of Strafe’s “Set It Off” which imbues the track with a deeply organic funk feel. Strut have delivered yet another superlative retrospective which will hopefully inspire people to read up on a truly compelling character from disco’s history – with Tim Lawrence’s excellent “Love Will Save The Day” a recommended starting point.
Strut take the initiative from last year’s critically lauded Inspiration Information collaboration between Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics by pairing the latter up with another engrossing figure in Lloyd Miller. Born into the pulsing environment of 1938 New Orleans and raised on a diet of jambalaya and jazz, a move to Iran in the late 50s sparked what has become a lifelong obsession with the music of Persia and Eastern Asia. Miller has previously collaborated with drummer Catto and bass player Ferguson from the Heliocentrics on the Jazzman released Lloyd Miller Trio EP and this album marks the onset of a blossoming musical relationship between all. It is “Electricone” which previously featured on that EP that opens OST in such mesmerising form with the strains of wood wind and taut percussion preparing your ears for a hypnotic journey through subtle eastern jazz arrangements tinged with a soft edge of psychedelia. Miller’s appearance behind the microphone on “Lloyd’s Diatribe” dukes it out with the pensive guitar flavour of album closer “Sunda Sunset” for the highlight of an all round impressive listen.
Review: Tony Poland