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Picks 5/12/2013

May 12, 2013 Leave a comment

My old receiver was literally the bane of my existence and so I upgraded to a little $25 amp from China. Best move. Can’t wait to give the old one the Office Space treatment. I’ve been having really good record luck recently. I don’t know what it is, but I love it. TIME2MOVE on Friday was great. Despite some heavy competition (stacked house show down the street / stacked lineup at Rhonda) a lot of people showed up and we had a good ass time. Stay up, its just about summer.

Pulled from the wellsprings that are: Amoeba, Chemical-Records and Discogs.

Brandy – Brandy (Atlantic, 1994)

As I’ve said before, I’m deep in an R&B state of mind. The R&B 12″s section of the record store has been a consistent first stop for me in the last few months. This record came with a particularly amazing comeuppance of modern R&B LPs, Beyonce and Brandy, Jessie Ware and Cassie still sealed in the shrink. Still working through the stack, but this has been the instant winner right here.

Largely produced by Keith Crouch, Brandy’s first album serves as a precursor to the burgeoning neo-soul movement. More soulful than new jack swing, harder than a Babyface production, the record shares that sense of warmness that comes from real instruments and analog production. Listen to the unbelievable “I Wanna Be Down” and tell me that D’Angelo and Erykah Badu weren’t vibin. The warmth and emotion, the vocal delivery, the lyrics are all perfect. She’s able to convey so much emotion, so much conviction in a way that seems effortless. That beat just shuffling along, holding down the groove but giving plenty of space to the star. It’s a timeless track that sounds good almost twenty years later and will still sound good in another twenty.

Brandy is just unstoppable throughout the record as her vocal style is unique, passionate and so pleasant to the ear. Moving between ballads, party starters, diva jams and weirdo 90s r&b, the record is cohesive, although a little long. Of course I have a preference to the funky tracks, the groovers with that 90s swing. “Baby” (above) appears early on in the tracklist and its appeal is immediately felt. The beat is breezy and funky with Brandy absolutely killing it on the mic, sounding vibrant and powerful like a seasoned veteran delivering a hook that just wont quit. The track also serves as an excellent example of her use of overdubbed vocals. Layered vocals was a formula that Brandy used frequently and gives her vocal delivery an dynamic nature that is unparalleled, and really, can you have too much of a good thing?

The low slung “Best Friend” is another Keith Crouch win. Effortlessly sounding like two or three singers within the frame of one song, Brandy has the ability to make every simple phrase brim with melody, overflow with that golden tone of her voice. The other production team on deck is Somethin’ For the People and their blend of hip hop and soul sensibilities works almost as well as Crouch’s work. On “Sunny Day,” the vibe shines bright as a rhodes drenched shuffling instrumental makes enough noise to easily pass for a missing Q-Tip beat. The harder boombap of Somethin’s productions foreshadows the direction she would ultimately spend her career chasing.

Absolutely excellent record, I know this is going to get a lot of play this summer. “Baby” has already done an excellent job rocking a few parties. My only complaint is that like a lot of records from this time when CDs were the greater focus, it was pressed as a single LP and at 28 minutes of music on each side the record kinda sounds like shit. Oh well, that’s why they make mp3s, right?

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Girl Unit / Morri$ – Night Slugs Allstars Vol. 2 Sampler (Night Slugs, 2013)

This is something else I’ve been trying to pick up for a while. Nobody has had it for a price I like so I bit the bullet yesterday and picked it up Amoeba for $15. I’m a big fan of the Night Slugs label, those cats are really pushing forward a different style of music, borrowing from all over the place to piece together a grime/ghettohouse/trap/ballroom/whatever concoction. Their shit knocks, and although I don’t buy every release, I will gladly admit that each 12″ or LP is never anything but forward looking music. Combined with their sister Fade to Mind crew, we have the future of club music right here.

It was initially Girl Unit’s “Double Take (Part 2)”  that instilled the lust in me. “Double Take” initially appeared on his Club Rez EP from last year and it always bummed me out that the euphoric mellow part didn’t stick around long enough. I was even considering trying to piece together an edit just when I heard a long version of the track on Kingdom’s 1xtra mix. It’s a really wonderful track, but I’ve gotta say Morri$’ “White Hood” (above) takes the cake on this one. It’s like a hood symphony up in here. The accordion sample is absolutely killer, slightly menacing, but overwhelmingly catchy. The atmosphere is thick with sound, fat 808s rock against samples of marbles in a wooden box, with chimes and hazy synth tones all up in the mix. Bok Bok’s dub mix takes away the clutter and leaves for a functional rhythm track, but the winner is definitely the original.

Morri$ is in town Thursday, playing the opening party for the homies Low Limit and Sodapop’s new venture Household.

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Zomby – Dedication (4AD, 2011)

Not sure why it took me so long to pick this up, I’ve got a lot of his early stuff and I really love Where Were U in ’92. For the last few months I have literally been craving the sound of Zomby; his grimey, neon tones coupled with deep rhythmic palettes ranging from grime to funky, house to juke. After a few trips to record stores and not being able to find this record I took to the trusty fallback, Discogs.

As much as people talk about Zomby’s music, they talk about his persona more. He’s notorious for being outlandish, a shit talker and pretty self-involved. His twitter feed is absolutely hilarious. Perhaps his biggest his, “Natalia’s Song” (above) came out in controversy last year, revealing that the producer took a sample or segment of a track from another artist and didn’t credit him. Regardless, the song is beautiful, a perfectly hazy, melancholy garage track with bits of glimmering melody at every step of the way. It’s obviously an ode to the work of Burial, and although not executed with the same expertise, it still conjures the same emotional depth.

Much of the record is characterized by bright ravey synth tones, echoing both jungle and grime, but implemented in a way that manages to sound fresh. “Riding With Death” enters with some old school dubbed out subbass, then carried along by a shuffling beat and a rolling muted organ. The atmosphere is thick and the groove is insatiable. When the first tracks from this album began to leak it took everyone by surprise that most of the songs just seemed to end without any logical conclusion. But in typical Zomby fashion, he seems to have had the grander vision of a cohesive album journey in mind. Often when one track ends it’ll dive straight into another, like a raucous mix in the club or a party mix on the radio – all accentuated with gunshot samples and airhorns. It works to great effect when the rolling rave rhythm of “Lucifer” morphs into the thumping “Digital Rain“.

This album works well, it balances brooding dark atmosphere and percussion with those bright synths that creep in like lasers through the haze. My favorite track on the record, “A Devil Lay Here” moves along patiently, heavily focused on that groovey bassline and some heavily romanticized Ruff Sqwad worship. All in all a great buy. I’m amped for his new album next month.

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Kenny Dope Presents The Bucketheads – The Bomb! (Henry Street/Decks Classix, 1994)

As I had no prior knowledge of this song, maybe I internalized it when hearing it on the radio or seeing it on MTV as a kid (I honestly have no memory of either), but when I heard a 45 second clip of this on the Chemical-Records new arrivals section I did a backflip. Something about the track instilled a sense of longing and nostalgia aka I had to buy it immediately. Funny enough, that same week I found two copies of it in the Amoeba used bin for $2-4 and then I read an interview with the Black Madonna who gave it a shout out.

The Bomb” (full version) has been in my possession for over a month now and I can’t help but give the full 14+ minutes of it a listen pretty much everyday. I love how the rolling tribal rhythm peppered with raucous organ stabs sheds its tough exterior to reveal a beautifully soulful disco-house track. The horns are the definition of alluring, the chopped vocals catchy and nonsensical in the way that only Dope can do it. I really love every moment of this track. Everytime I start to mix records at home it inevitably ends up getting played. I think the Black Madonna sums up my feelings for this record pretty well: “It’s one of those records that ate the world because it was just so good.”

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Categories: 1994, 2011, 2013, diva, House, LDN, NY, video Tags: ,

Pulls. The last two months of my life seem frozen.

April 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Okay, so I guess I took a little break from the blog. Life gets in the way sometimes right? Gotta reassert myself, music first everything else second. I originally wrote this entry two months ago, but these records are too good to not talk about. Today I added the Cassie write up and added some notes to the original blurbs. Pearson Sound and Bok Bok are coming to town next week. Gonna be a rager. OH and make sure you watch the “Body Party” video. I pray to it like three times a day.

Pulled from Amoeba, All Day Records and Dat Piff.

inc. – no world (4AD, 2013)

I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now. I was first struck when 4AD quietly released “The Place” (above) and announced a full length on the way. You know I have an inclination towards the deep and sensual, so inc sat well with me almost immediately. My subtle hype turned ecstatic when I saw them at the Boiler Room the other night, the vibe was thick with soul and the band was on point. I was really impressed by how their sound translated live, it was just as intimate and groovy, introspective, but dialogic. Winter is the time to be dormant, to explore within your own den, and I have taken this time to listen to a whole lot of slow-burning soul and r&b.

The album has a pronounced introverted character to it, and I assume that this is the reason why some of my friends don’t dig the record. There aren’t any huge hooks, lavish vocals, or club tracks; the lyrics are cryptic messages to lovers, friends, or no one in particular, and the vocals rarely rise above a hushed whisper. Instead, the grooves swell, bubbling with the assured funk of a veteran (the brothers that make up the group were avid session musicians, having worked with Pharrell, Beck, Raphael Saadiq, etc), and a music head whose got a deep love for spiritual soul music.

Although the vibe is constantly peaked at “late-night bedroom soul,” the group explores the full pantheon of sepia toned r&b taking influence from Babyface, Blood Orange, and Illangelo’s productions for the Weeknd, but still remaining completely unique. The brothers Aged are exquisite players who have a deep appreciation for the organic groove of live musicians, as heard of the lovely “Lifetime” or “Trust (Hell Below)“. Contemporary production methods are also a huge influence as well, usually drawing cues from the seductive contrast of sharp, precise drum programming and layers of atmospheric haze that nod towards Illangelo or Nicolas Jaar. The use of both live elements and “in the box” methods on tracks like “Angel” or “5 Days” are extremely rewarding, especially in how organic the blend sounds. Sometimes the mix is a little too smokey, and the vocals are somewhat buried, but I assume that considering the group, they are more focused on vibe rather than singalong lyrics. As the record ends one more time, I’m going to flip it and start all over. Totally beautiful, I can’t wait to hear some of this stuff on a big soundsystem.

4/28: It’s been two months since I first wrote this and I’m still in love with this record. It’s absolutely beautiful and has a healing quality to it – it’s the best record for when I’m hungover, sad, or just have a nasty case of the Mondays. Oh and it sounds great on a big soundsytem. Since first picking this up I haven’t been able to play a show without dropping “5 Days” or “The Place.” Record of the year? We’ll see.

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Cassie – RoackaByeBaby (Self released/Badboy, 2013)

I guess I’ve always loved Cassie. “Me & U” was all over the radio the summer I was on tour with This Flood Covers the Earth. We would be in the most backwoods/backwards ass county tucked up in the bible belt, but the pop station would keep the diva on lock. For me it was a perfect song for that moment in time. In the last year or so I’ve really fallen for r&b, quickly growing from a small portion of my record collection to stacks of Brandy, Sade and Aaliyah 12″s sitting in front of my 1200s. Like a lot of people, the unofficial Cassie “Trilogy” reignited my interest with the gorgeous woman who seems to get more buzz for being Puff Daddy’s sidepiece. Her output isn’t exactly full of hits, but when it works, it really works. Cassie’s trademark soft coo is astoundingly aesthetically pleasing, which makes up for her lack of singing talents; truly, I can listen to this girl say anything on repeat for the rest of my life. Her tone is excellent, and as I’ve stated before, vocals are usually a deterrent for me, as I prefer to view the voice as an instrument within the ensemble. Cassie excels when she is thick in the mix, tucked into a smokey late night r&b instrumental.

Cassie’s 2006 self-titled debut was one of the first records to push the modern late-night bedroom aesthetic that has become a dominating force within the genre. She capitalizes on this post Weeknd/Future style of urban pop by enlisting the right people (Mike Will, Rob Holladay) to make dark, sensual instrumentals that match her delicate vocals. I have to wonder how much control Puff had over the project, as it forms a very cohesive, focused record, and at 13 tracks it feels more like an actual album than a scattershot mixtape. Regardless, it’s very well done and quite likely to show up on some end of year lists.

“Numb” (above) is still my favorite track off the record, taking cues from Clams Casino on the production, by offering an LA sunset vibe to Cassie’s soft rap. The Rick Ross feature isn’t great, but it doesn’t detract from the overall aesthetic of the track. Weirdly enough, most of the throwaway features on the record are often paired with either a poor instrumental and/or a subpar performance from Cassie. Yet, I’m at the stage where I’ve listened to the record so many times, and have come to use it as functional, day-to-day music that the the French Montana EDM track doesn’t get skipped and I’ll even give Meek Mill the time of day.

But the highs are high; the Jeremih featuring “Sound of Love” is pure pop genius and if the world was just it’d be #1 on the radio. One of the strongest cuts is “I Love it” featuring an excellent delivery from Fabolous over a creepy, hard beat that could have easily come from Kingdom’s arsenal. Throughout the mixtape Cassie is base, her lyrics mostly written by Jeremih and focused on hypersexualized standard themes of her beautiful body and good sex. As stated before, her delivery is the real star, and alongside her smooth coo she demonstrates her ability to rap, and rap well. It’s surprising how competent an emcee she is, her flow is assured and dripping with swagger. This may be the first release that features rapping from her and I hope it’s something she continues to develop. In fact, her delivery throughout is quite strong, she’s gotten comfortable with her voice and knows how to use it. Big ups Cassie, holla at me when you get over Diddy.

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Terekke – Damn b/w Pf Pf Pass (L.I.E.S. 2011/2013)

Even though there is currently a repress out, the going rate for the OG 12″ runs about $45 on discogs. This one came to me on the excellent American Noise compilation I wrote about a while back. Terekke is a completely new name to me and he has quickly become an almost daily listen, especially with that deep Soundcloud of his. He has a sound that comes off like a chopped and screwed PPU release; exploring a real talent for small, weirdly hummable melodies and loose, playful percussion.

I first heard “Damn” Saturday afternoon, spliffed with the beautiful Long Beach breeze coming through my window and a California brew in my hand. I’ve gotta say that it may have been the most perfect introduction. This is a deep, Larry Heard aping Chicago bomber, rubbed with grain and smoked to a deep gray. This track would be fun to play in the club because it would just work, a simple bass groove keeping the energy up while those ghostly cymbals sputter.

It’s interesting to read that I had previously described “Pf Pf Pass” (above) by the way the “kick drum crumbles,” and  I feel that it was an astute observation. The kick is steady, but is hardly prominent, allowing the synth loop to drive the momentum while adding a lot of color. This one is going to be in my crate for a long time.

4/28: Yep, this record has refused to leave my crate. Both tracks really work, having tested them out in the club and at the house party. “Damn” for the win.

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Theo Parrish – Handmade (Running Back, 2012)

I saw somebody play “Black Mist” (above) recently and it totally blew my mind. It’s incredible how much of a difference hearing music on an appropriate soundsystem can really change the way you perceive music. The bass is unbelievably deep, so deep in fact, I had to adjust the tone arm on my 1200s just so the needle doesn’t skip all over the record from those lovely low frequencies. The track is fairly straight forward, there’s some mangled modular synth stuff going, and heavy lysergic funk that is a subconscious nod to the demented forefather himself, George Clinton. Parrish’s masterful rhythmic work propels the track, hihats and woodblocks primed and full of color, making this an ideal gateway track whether in a sweaty club or as a jawdropper during a backyard bbq.

On the flip, the jangly “Pop Off” struts with a stuttering gutbucket funk groove that could easily be the timer for some sort of cartoonish explosion. The relentless loopy forward momentum reminds me of the recent jazz-indebted work of Joe. “Wild Out” concludes the ep and is carried by some zombie fax machine sounds and underground explosions. It’s probably the most difficult to imagine throwing into a set, but I can see how this track would absolutely kill in a place like Panorama Bar right about 4am. Theo, you’ve done it again, my man.

4/28: BLACK MIST. THAT BASS. THAT BASS.

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Categories: 2011, 2013, boogie, detroit, diva, House, LA, NY, soul

Picks 1/20/13

January 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Weird week. I like the weather though.

Pulled from the digi stacks of All Day Records, Chemical-Records and Soundcloud.

V/A – American Noise Vol. 1 (L.I.E.S., 2012)

Yes, I am firmly and fully on the LIES bandwagon. There’s a lot of hype around this label coming from all corners of the internet including Pitchfork, FACT, Spin and Resident Advisor. The label’s output is far-reaching and is often given the term “outsider” house/techno or low-fi, but these descriptors hardly allow any insight into the real magic contained on the limited slabs of vinyl. Styles range from new age ambient to crunchy techno, surfer house to burnout boogie, acid house to synth explorations – yet all the music can be characterized by a sense of warmth, an analog or tape feel. No huge names sit on the roster, and that’s precisely what has made the label so impressive, they continually turn out records that are surprising. Delroy Edwards and Xosar, two of my favorite producers in 2012, have had their debut release on LIES, so the label truly carries weight with me.

This is the first CD  I’ve bought in years, probably 5+years. A lot of this stuff on the compilation is new to me, as I only have a handful of LIES records, and most of those were left off this compilation. It’s a 2-CD set, and the first disc compiles some of the more rare/desirable releases. Bookworms’ “African Rhythms” (above) is the clear gem on here, the meditative percussion moving along at its gentle bounce, nestled in soft foggy synths. It has a really wonderful Theo Parrish vibe to it, very focused and spiritual. Terekke’s “Pf Pf Pass” was a wonderful surprise on this disc as he rides along in a blunted boogie groove, heavy in thick analog dust and sloppily cut samples. The groove is really immersive, drawing you into a sunny worn VHS dreamscpae where the kick drum crumbles and the hi-hats splinter. “Asidis” also finds Terekke in extremely strong form, keeping his sunny disposition, but picking up the tempo to proper pool party vibes. These two tracks remind me of what I loved so much about Nite Jewel’s early work – it was lowfi, fun and funky.

Moving on to my two favorite LIES alumni, Delroy Edwards’ remix of Xosar’s “Tropical Cruize” is truly a gift to me from the universe. The track beautifully melds Xosar’s tendencies toward exotic melodies and romantic melancholy, with Delroy’s fridgid focus on the dancefloor. Icy and infectuous, the “Don’t talk, just listen” loop is intoxicating. Xosar’s orignal track here, “Sansovtime” under her Bonquiqui alias takes a harder approach to the Trackman Lafonte and Bonquiqui project, coming much closer to the paranoid electro funk on “Nite Jam“. What I love most about Xosar is how fresh she makes everything sound – I mean, synth flutes? Yeah it’s so good.

The compilation really does cover a wide range of music, but it’s tracked very well and truly works front-to-back as a unified album. Placing the minimal techno groove of Marcos Cabral’s “24 Hour Flight” with the dreamy analog funk of Legowelt’s “Sark Island Acid” may not necessarily seem like a logical move, but it exemplifies the grander vision of dance music that ties together the LIES family. I’m really excited to see where this label is going to be going in 2013.

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Delroy Edwards –Heart and Soul  b/w Sprk Tha Dust (L.I.E.S., 2012)

This record snuck out right after Christmas as a limited black label release and without a second of hesitation I swooped it up. I’m a big fan of Delroy’s crunchy Detroit influenced house/techno as well as his propulsive ghetto house DJ sets. Fortunately for me, he displays both affections on this 12.

“Heart and Soul” (above) was the prize at the end of his recent Juno Plus Podcast, and was something that I was really hoping would see an official release. The track is reminiscent of his 4 Club Use Only debut, and specifically the cold, downcast techno of “Love Goes On and On” with the icy synth lines and ghetto rhythms. The track is further colored by his somber voice endlessly intoning the phrase, “I gave you my heart, I gave you my soul” – which happens to be a perfect refrain for a special Christmas release, right? It is this sense of melancholy that draws me to Delroy, no matter how hard or playful the rhythms are (and on this track the claps, kick and hats are primed for destruction), a haze of frustration and bitterness shroud his music. But don’t get me wrong, this is not “emo” music at all, this is propulsive dance music with an outright human quality to it. I may have to pick up another copy of this record because I intend to play this track out as often as possible.

I was pretty freaked when I first flipped the record and dropped the needle; I was beyond lit, chillin in the semi-dark of my studio about ready to go to bed, but wanted to give the new Delroy a quick spin – then BAM BAM BAM BAMBAMBAM. The track title doesn’t lie, “Sprk tha Dust” is the musical equivalent of hitting a sherm stick. Reworking one of 2012’s better moments in mainstream rap, Delroy flips “Bandz a Make Her Dance” by pitching down Weezy’s mumblings and dropping in a thundering overdriven kick. A horrifying haze and banshee synths are an appropriate nod to Three 6 Mafia tropes, but this track is far beyond the level of a demented remix as the laggy layered vocal samples and disorienting everything about the track make for a very heady experience. Listen to this one on headphones while walking somewhere at night, I dare you.

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Kingdom – Diplo & Friends BBC 1Xtra Mix 1/06/2013 (BBC Radio 1/1Xtra, 2013)

Kingdom is my current favorite DJ. His mixes are essential listening and his Fade to Mind parties are not to be missed. The owner of the company I work for is a jazz musician, so he has a basic understanding of the music world, but he caught me off guard the other day when he asked me why anyone would ever follow a DJ, as he was looking to ascertain the artistry of being a DJ. He’s from the oldschool and when he thinks of a DJ, he’s thinking a jock who announces each track in a Top 40 countdown. I explained to him the concept of edits, exclusives, dubplates, and the artistry behind the different approaches to a mix. I’m not sure he fully understood where I was coming from, and I suppose you do have to have a certain level of immersion in this world to truly understand the qualities that make a DJ a really great one. Listening to Kingdom mix records is like watching an athlete at the top of his game, or listening to a jazz band with real chops running through a set of standards – you may know what to expect, but every experience offers a fresh take, an improvisational quality that is singular to the artist.

For the most part, Kingdom’s mix for Diplo’s show on 1Xtra is full of exclusives from the Fade to Mind/Night Slugs family and this is a large part of the reason why I am so partial to the man’s work. Beyonce remixes, lifted Little Dragon acapellas, Missy Elliot features, and Girl Unit outtakes, all become tools that he uses to not only offer an incredibly unique sonic experience, but a floor focused one. Kingdom is consistent in his vibe, and I once described his sound as similar to what my dreams are like – equal parts sexual and paranoid. The tones are dark, heavy with brooding synths and pummeling drums, covered with a haze thick from smoke, but carried by precise doses of R&B divas. One of my favorite moments is Kingdom’s edit of a Kowton remix, where he deftly drops in a sample of Mariah hitting a high note, to both an ecstatic and haunting effect. The voice is so easily recognizable as Mariah, but so out of context that it truly creates a completely new experience of the material. Girl Unit’s “Double Take Pt 2” is an excellent inclusion and really lightens up the mood, but it is singularly impressive in how Kingdom uses it as a tool to move from a pitch-black jacking vogue workout into an edit of the dreamy Mike Will produced Future/Kelly Rowland jam “Neva End.” Coming to the end, Kingdom wraps things up in proper Fade to Mind form by laying out Fatima al Qadiri’s digi-industurial-horror “Oil Well” and dropping in a strong acapella (or is it a commissioned verse?) from my favorite Three 6 Mafia member, Gangsta Boo. This whole mix is absolutely brilliant and I liken it to eating a great meal or seeing great fashion, it just makes me want to step my own game up. Big ups to Kingdom and the Fade to Mind crew, 2013 is gonna be your year.

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Burial – Burial (Hyperdub, 2006)

I’ve been meaning to pick this one up for ages now, but I had a 20% off coupon for Chemical-Records recently and I decided to take the plunge. I had never really heard this album at all, so I have had a really great time getting acquainted with the early material of one of the most important artists of the 21st century. I have a lot of respect for this man, and I’ve come to build a deep relationship with his music. This music is just so powerful, so human. It’s music that soundtracks my everyday experience; whether it’s my commute to the industrial landscape of my workplace, or the dark, dirty streets and alleys of my neighborhood, or perhaps the cold, smokey nights in my studio apartment.

I had never really heard the Burial dubstep material, and I was immediately drawn to the opening track “Wounder” with that lonely siren-synth, the menacingly still atmosphere and hard drum programming assuring its status as a classic. The back cover says the material is drawn from 2001-2006, so it’s interesting to see how some of these tracks were crafted in the very early days of dubstep, still moving in that middle ground between garage and dub. “Gutted” (above) is the standout for on the halfstep tracks, as the tell-tale Burial emotive touches really get me everytime. He also begins to show some of true artistry and dexterity that he would later master, ss exemplified in the dubby cut “Broken Home.” I’m not sure where that original sample came from or what it is supposed to say, but the realignment of sound is really wonderful.

Stepping back and viewing the span of his career is also revealing in how a cut like “Pirates” foreshadows a lot of the same tones and themes he covered in his 2012 releases, Kindred and Truant. The track features the basic bass swell and gray tones, but it experiences a shuttering start-stop in the beginning, and as seen on his two latest eps, it is a nod to the days of dusty cassette tape recorded pirate radio. I love the idea that he has followed through on this vision, a meta-narrative involving the physical sustainability of his music, coupled with all the markers of a fabled and romanticized memory of music past.

Categories: 2012, 2013, House, LA, LDN, mix

2013 shows so far…

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Got a few gigs coming up…

– Jan 11th – True World Order @ Que Sera w/ Melzia Dia x NiceguyxVinny, Dez Yusuf, The Natives

– Jan 17th – En La Noche @ MOLAA w/ Cloforila (Nortec Collective)

– Feb 8th – Ritual @ Que Sera w/ Low Limit, Sodapop

 

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Categories: hip hop, House

Picks 1/6/2013

January 6, 2013 Leave a comment

I feel like I’m lying when I say I’ve been busy, but I guess I have been. I still have a huge stack of records (that will grow this week, I’m sure) to get through, but I have some of the choicest material ready for y’all. To those not in the know, I’m putting together a new monthly underground dance night in Long Beach with my man David Valdez. Our first night is February 8th @ the Que Sera and I just confirmed our special guests! More info late this week…

Pulled from the bins of Amoeba, Fingerprints and Chemical-Records.

Geeeman – Bang’t (Jack For Daze/Clone, 2012)

 The term “DJ tool” just doesn’t apply for this one – this is a straight up DJ weapon. Both sides are heavy bangers in the Dance Mania style, which as I’ve said before, is a nice break from all the MK/Kerri Chandler aping going on. This record made it onto a lot of year end lists, and it reminded me that I had heard it throughout the year, and that it really was a killer. A quick scour of the internet stores resulted with no luck, but I vaguely remembered seeing a copy at Amoeba. As luck would have it, I ended up at Amoeba a few days later with my buddy Sean and sure enough there was one sealed copy hiding for me in the House section.

“Bang’t” (above) hardly needs any explanation. Simple and effective, repetitive and memorable. It’s a deep jackin track that works really well for a multiple reasons: 1) that organ riff is pretty fucking dope, hard to deny that 2) the vocal, “balls are bangin” nuff said 3) the percussion is fairly complex and always 100% primed at making your ass shake. I can not wait to play this out at the kick off party next month…

On the flip, “Fire Extinguisher” is an acid drenched stormer, a real barnburner. The track isn’t as memorable as the flip, but that’s what makes it so appealing – it’s a track that can be molded into your set as a bridge track. Again Geeeman/Gerd is absolutely masterful on the rhythms. He pays a lot of attention to detail when arranging, but also feels like he has a lot of fun doing it. For some reason, all I can think is that I’d love to hear this on a boat.

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V/A – Romeo Must Die (Blackground, 2000)

Well, yeah, you guessed it, I am currently obsessed with Aaliyah. When I think of Aaliyah I remember being 12/13 and discovering MTV and TRL – with “Try Again” being a very clear memory of that time. I didn’t really have older people around me showing me music as I was growing up so I just kinda blindly wandered out into the world. But that particular video and song are very clear, I remember how beautiful Aaliyah looked and just how intense the whole video was with all the dancing and kung fu. I wish I had bought this soundtrack when it came out, but I’m sure I appreciate it more in 2012.

I want to start with the Destiny’s Child track, “Perfect Man.” This is ALL Beyonce on here, and at 19 years old, we only catch a glimpse of the complete force she was beginning to become. Her voice is assertive and confident, riding the beat very well and playing the role of diva as if she were born for it. The beat is really interesting to follow as well, the xylophone tones are particularly memorable and this one has been getting a lot of play in my home.

On the hip hop tip, BG absolutely kills it on “Rollin’ Raw” over a funky Mannie Fresh beat. BG’s flow is syrupy and monotone, the hazy beat being the perfect match. However, looking at Timbaland & Magoo’s “At it Again” we find a much more complicated affair. The video is totally worth watching for the Aaliyah and Missy cameos, but it also magnifies the strange turn that this song takes. In my book, Timbaland is an incredible visionary, a producer unique and unparalleled, but really, homeboy’s track record isn’t exactly clean – his sense of humor doesn’t always translate well through the music. About 3 minutes into “At it Again” the track steps into halftime and the video takes a rap-rock approach. As a stand-alone beat I can definitely see Three 6 Mafia rapping over the dark crunk rhythm, but in the context of Timbaland, it’s just a headscratcher. Another example is Aaliyah’s kinda banger “Are You Feelin’ Me” which Timbaland again drops into halftime and then plays hypeman to himself with a whole bunch of “are you feeling this yo?” and “who is the best at making the beats” chants. Timbaland expected my confusion and cuts the track with the statement, “You never saw this coming.”

As of right now, “I Don’t Wanna” is easily my favorite Aaliyah track, and I’ve been playing it nonstop as I’m working on dance steps in my room. Yep. Peep the live video from TRL on Spring Break or something up top (above), Aaliyah brings so much energy from the start. I  really wish I would have been able to see her live. Over the track her cadence is absolutely incredible, she’s got a natural swing to her voice that if represented visually it would look like her thin hips swaying. “I don’t wanna be… I don’t wanna live… I don’t wanna go… Shit, I don’t wanna be alone.” A track for those cold and lonely winter nights.

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Stanton Davis’ Ghetto/Mysticism – Brighter Days (Outrageous/Cultures of Soul, 1977/2011)

Brighter Days is a mythic album in record nerd circles, it’s whispered about with great hyperbole, descriptions sound like Chick Hearn giving a play-by-play. Oh and to top it off, it’s one of Madlib’s favorite jazz records. All I could ever take away from the different blogs, interviews and conversations, was that I would like it and it was guaranteed to be funky. With mythic records like this, I prefer to just dive in and listen to the whole thing front to back like it was meant to be, so I rarely allow myself the pleasures of Youtube teasers. I’ve had this record for a few weeks now and it’s partially the reason why I’m so backlogged; this record is incredibly confounding, yet it is just as compelling. The range from epic spiritual jams like “Play Sleep” (above) to hard funk like “Things Cannot Stop Forever” is incredible, but it’s worth noting that the band was primarily a club band aimed at getting people to boogie.

To be honest, not all of the tracks on here are winners, or perhaps not all of them are as life-changing as I had hoped for. There’s a lot of cheesy vocals on here, taking on a Lonnie Liston Smith or Gary Bartz kind of vibe, best exemplified in a track like “Brighter Days/Brighter Daze.” The instrumental jam is great, but the vocals are just too damn distracting, or rather they fail to offer anymore than the music.

Unquestionably, it’s the instrumentals that do it for me, whether it’s the languid spiritual vibes of “Play Sleep” (above) or the slightly more CTI sounds of “Nida,” the group works well in a jazz setting. Taking the jazz element and adding elements of funk and fusion, tracks like “Space-a-Nova” and “Space-a-Nova Pt 2” are tracks that could work at a dance, while maintaining plenty to offer for the heads as both tracks are bizarre explorations of a samba rhythm, layered in synth fog and atmosphere. Big record overall.

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Moodymann – KDJ 16 (KDJ, 2004)

This is a somewhat mysterious record. Two untitled tracks on single sided vinyl, apparently a lost record from ’97 or ’98. In the youtube posting above the tracks are cut together when there is actually a definite pause break on the record. The first track is an incredible gospel edit, it’s fiery and funky and probably something I will play out a little too often. The second track is more typical KDJ latenight funk – hazy, heavy bass, and strangely seductive. A guitar sample creeps in towards the backhalf of the track and it’s really familiar sounding, but I can’t place it. Another of many masterful, wonderful releases from one of my favorite people making music. I’m stoked to be seeing him next week at the Lift’s 3rd Birthday party.

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Dabrye – Selections: One/Three (Ghostly, 2001)

Dabrye doesn’t get enough respect, the man has been doing his machinefunk hip hop for quite some time, and has been mining techno and other electronic influences before it was cool to do so. And really, he’s had such a tremendous influence on where avant hip hop is today that he should be so much bigger. I’ve been meaning to pick this one up for some time now and I’m really glad it fell into my hands.

The big track is “Hyped Up Plus Tax” and I guess it was used in some phone commercial. It’s a great track, with beautiful string samples and a swagger that still sounds fresh today. It’s one of those tracks that sounds so dope as an instrumental but is begging for a cat like Danny Brown to add some extra murk to it. “Smoking the Edge” steps it up just a bit and that beat is just so fucking hard. Dabrye handles the rhythm really well, breaking it down on a controller or maybe even in the box, but making it sound like he’s juggling it like a DMC champ. Boy got so much swag.

On the flip, “With a Professional” takes the tone back down and offers a bit of sunlight. It’s a very mellow track, handled very well, but still a little dirty and glitchy. For my money, “So Scientific” (above) is the one. The track is funky and hard, all done with a deep bleep influence. Dabrye handles his percussive elements really well and incorporates dense polyrhythmic structures that are wonderful to breakdown and even better to groove to. It’s a complex track that is thoroughly enjoyable for your head or feet. Another one of my favorites from the D.

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Beneath – Illusions (Keysound, 2012)

Beneath was one of my favorite producers to pop up in 2012 (along with Xosar) and this end of the year release on London’s Keysound label was highly anticipated. He has crafted a unique and well-defined sonic identity where the vibe is equal parts UK Funky, Dark Garage and old school Dubstep; a sound characterized by precise percussion, fat swelling bass, eerie atmosphere, and accentuated by pure primal functionality. I’ve been sneaking Beneath into all sorts of sets throughout 2012 and people always dance.

The record kicks off with the eerie industrial gloom of “Prangin‘” which although is a fully-functioning dance track, it has qualities that make it accessible off the dancefloor. It’s atmospheric with a cinematic quality to it, fully-functional and bass heavy, yet it works best as the soundtrack to my bus ride into work on these cold gray mornings. The sample intoning “It comes from the heart” offers a shade of light, and perhaps a view into the very human artistic expression that Beneath is looking to evoke. On the flip, “Wonz” follows suit with a few horror movie piano samples thrown in for good measure.

Illusions” is on side C, and this track is precisely the reason that made Beneath my favorite producer in 2012. While hard and funky, hes incredible at using space and silence as an instrument in of itself. He feels fully comfortable in dropping all sound for a few bars, before bringing that spartan snare back in, that tribal drum derived from a sampler preset or generic plug-in, but when isolated and placed in a thick web of black gauze, draped by fat globs of bass, and a little music box melody coming out of nowhere – all is perfect.

The big track, and the track that has had me salivating from the start is his remix of “Concrete Jungle” (above) which was by far the highlight of his incredible mixes for FACT and Boiler Room. Which, to sidetrack myself, reminds me that I absolutely love Beneath as a DJ. As in, I’ve got his FACT and Daily Street mixes on my 4GB ipod right now. Anyway, what more can I say about “Concrete Jungle” other than I can’t wait to play this out? Big release, looking forward to Beneath’s output in 2013.

Categories: 2000, 2001, 2012, detroit, diva, fusion, hip hop, House, LDN

Picks 12/30/2012

December 30, 2012 Leave a comment

2013 just might be my year. Anything can happen right? My week was pretty good, while I was out with my folks in Phoenix I did a little record shopping which I’ll write about next week. Also came home to a stack of shit I bought at Amoeba before I left plus two packages. Records, man. Excited about the future, excited to share it with y’all.

Pulled from the internet crates of Hyperdub, FXHE, and Discogs.

Burial – Truant b/w Sleeper (Hyperdub, 2012)

I’m really glad Google led me to this particular uploading of Burial’s latest single, Truant, as in the comments section someone remarked that he’d be afraid to walk around London in the dark with this on his headphones. Just last night I was walking home a little chiefed, vibing the cool night air and digging the new Burial, falling into the dense soundscapes, immersed in the subbass, tape dust, rain sounds, and horror synths as a big guy who looked a little sketchy was passing me. A sound half gunshot, half cracking wood rang in the left channel and I jumped and looked back at the guy expecting him to be holding a smoking gun.

Burial has been somewhat active in the last year or so, this being his third single under his name, alongside two with Four Tet (also Thom Yorke on one), plus a thing with Massive Attack. This year’s Kindred was a big surprise, both because it showed Burial using trancey synths to add shades of color behind his usual thick gray fog, but also as the record was structurally challenging – the beat would drop out, and when it returned it was changed, as if the song got tired of being itself.

Burial moves forward and evolves these elements, taking the idea into two side-long tracks. When Hyperdub announced the digital release I decided to spend the $2.48 and buy it, then order the vinyl later (which I did last night). So I’ve had the record for about two weeks now and I have to say I still haven’t quite figured it out. I’ve listened to multiple times a day since then, and it still sounds new to me at every listen – I’m constantly surprised and amazed within a track’s journey. I think that this is not only the best record of the year, but also Burial’s most inspired and generally impressive work to date. Despite the non-linear, start-stop movement of the music, this is Burial at his most intimate, most human, and most accessible. This is music you turn on loud and just listen to, this is music to take you out of your head as you sit on the bus, music for the sake of being what music should be. I view the release as a more personal approach than just crafting two long, difficult tracks, but rather a discourse in the form of a mix or performance; in that, perhaps the bulk of these tracks were recorded live in the studio, or maybe the pieces were intricately built then put together like a DJ set captured on a worn C30 cassette off a pirate radio show – signal interruptions, grainy tape hiss and all.

Truant” begins slowly, wandering in gracefully through the thick gray mist that surrounds Burial’s work. The song stutters and stumbles, picks up again slightly changed each time, as if in an ongoing dream during a restless night’s sleep. A ghostly voice makes an attempt to speak and finally is able to utter the haunting line “I fell in love with you” twice, before slipping back into the darkness. At about five minutes the groove finally makes its way to the forefront and begins to stick in, the percussion gaining momentum and the gentle suggestion of swing becoming enhanced by a mesmerizing synth melody so fragile it hardly feels present at all. About 8:30 the song abruptly halts and what sounds like an alarm buzzes, waking the listener from this dream. Dropping into darker territory, the atmosphere thickens with a downpour of black rain, and in the last minute a bass melody is suggested, but quickly disappears with just the vaguest recollection of it ever being there.

“Rough Sleeper” (above) is the one, the better track on the record, but also the track that could Burial’s defining moment. For all captivating 14 minutes of the track he flexes his ability to craft unique melodies and a sense of pop in such deep, dark music. The track is heavy with vocal samples, washed in silky synth lines and carries forward a gentle groove. It’s a journey that is marvelous and rewarding, but its more than just a statement about duration of time or an experience with synesthesia; when the bells come in halfway through like sunshine in a dark room, it becomes fully apparent that Burial, like Coltrane or DJ Shadow, is pushing the boundaries of “music” in order to fully utilize  the medium as an outlet for his direct voice, vision, and soul. Maybe this isn’t Burial’s A Love Supreme, but he’s found his classic quartet and there can only be greater things to come.

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Fit featuring Gunnar Wendel – Roll Out (FXHE, 2012)

As much as I am addicted to records, I’m addicted to Omar S’ FXHE record label, and the raw otherworldy Detroit Techno institution is easily in my top 3 labels of the year (big ups LIES and Night Slugs). Whenever any new releases suddenly appear the website I send my man in the 313 an e-mail right away. 2012 has been a good year for a lot of music, but Aaron “Fit” Siegal has had a great time moving from record mogul to hit maker, teaming up with Omar S for two defining singles on FXHE in “SEX” and “Tonite” (below), plus alternate mixes of Tonite on his own imprint (this one next week). Meanwhile, Gunnar Wendel is the given name to German house weirdo Kassem Mosse, who provides beats for the productions on the 12″. Of course Omar S has a hand in every single release on the label and he’s credited for doing the mix, which does sound typically excellent.

“Enter the Fog” (above) is really the one for me, this is the sound I have come to know and love from FXHE, melodic deep techno that is a complete delight to listen to. Fit really is skilled on the keys, playing some lines that don’t sound too far from Ahmad Jamal’s work for Impulse, elegant, yet alive and filled with soul. Wendel really holds up on his end of the deal, using a really raw and crunchy drum kit with a suggestive bounce to it, but it’s the fine details like the light fingersnaps, the oscillating feedback, and the pitched down hit hats, that take this so far apart from a lot of other projects out there today. A wonderful, epic listen.

The A-side, “Roll Out” is the stomper here, opening with a twinkly melody, a crunchy kick and a sluggish hi hat. Once the bassline comes in, however, you realize there is no hope of turning back. This sounds really fucking good loud – the bass really rumbles and jacks, whereas Fit’s work on the Prophet is completely mesmerizing and quietly ecstatic, but more interestingly is how the lightweight synths just seem to float in the air as your feet are drawn to that obscene kick drum. Excellent 12″, thanks again FXHE!

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Chez Damier – Close (Substance, 1997)

How could I not love this? Jazzy, soulful, deep-slung house that makes anytime feel like late nights and burning incense. While the remixes from JT offer more functional takes, the Chez original is the one. His singing is really excellent, sounding soulful and slyly seductive in a Luther Vandross sort of way. I’m really not typically one to enjoy vocal house,  especially male vocals, but Chez really kills it here. Coming into it, the groove is impossible to avoid; the bassline slinking along, the strong kick keeping you bobbing, and the airy keys adding a soft atmosphere to the track. This is midnight music, 5:15am music – satin sheets, champagne and smoke in the air. This one is going to be in my crates for a while.

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Moodymann – Dem Young Sconies b/w The Third Track (Decks Classix, 1996, 1997, 2010)

Oh KDJ, how much I love you man. I’m so stoked that he’s playing the Lift 3rd Birthday Party next month. I was a little disappointed when I saw Moody at Rhonda earlier this year, the sound at the club was  pretty awful, although he did play a great set. I think things will be a bit better this time around.

“The Third Track” (above) is another one of my favorite Moodymann moments, and it was on a lazy stoned afternoon listening to Silent Introduction I realized that I needed to immediately acquire this soulful disco slammer. This is classic Moody here – masterfully used soul samples, clanging keys and some fuzzed out strings all lying on top of a bouncy kick. I don’t get tired of this one ever, I had a day at work recently where I played it about 10-15 times in a row.

“Dem Young Sconies” is a totally different vibe here, trading soul for funk and moving into grimy Detroit electro. The rhythm is eerie and hard jacking – it bounces, starts and stops as like a piston, as a sonar blip and high pitched synth tone waver ominously in the air. A dark track befitting a dark image of Detroit.

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Omar S Presents Aaron “Fit” Siegel ft L’Renee – Tonite (FXHE, 2012)

I slept on this one when it came out earlier this year and I really feel like I did wait too long before picking it up. This is aforementioned AOL at work here, and I really hope this unit continues to make more of their soulful timeless music. Fortunately, when Omar S is in the world, anything seems possible.

I have to start with the “Detroit Mix” (above) because really this track is just so huge, but it also plays an interesting role in the resurgence of classic house music. While most producers are busy aping Kerri Chandler, MK or (more interestingly) Dance Mania tropes, the remix stays true to the gritty machinefunk tradition of the 313. The sawtooth harmonica melody is completely out of this world, reminiscent of early Underground Resistance and Derrick May, balanced by uplifting ivories and L’Renee’s gentle coos and suggestions of what may lay in store “tonite.” It’s an interesting approach to take, and the product is really stunning. This classic sounding homage to a tradition almost thirty years old now is fresh and much needed in a time when too many records just sound the same – and trust, there’s no way you’d miss this record if you heard it in a set.

Interestingly enough, I just did a little snooping around and on the “Original Mix” of this track, Mike Banks is credited as 038, for playing Rhodes. How small the world seems to be in the D. The original mix is a laidback affair, a gently bubbling house track, equipped with an excellent Omar S bassline and an impressive delivery from L’Renee. It’s a good track, but the clear winner is the stomper on the flip.

Categories: chicago, detroit, House, soul

Picks 12/16/2012 – Beat Swap Meet Pt. 1

December 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Great trip to Beat Swap Meet last week, I’m doing the pulls in two updates – one today, one Wednesday. Elsewhere in my week I played what is definitely the worst set I have ever played, but thankfully it was for a group of senior citizens who would have probably been happier if there was no music playing at all. And Friday was Julio Bashmore’s debut LA appearance with a gig at the typically nutty Rhonda. Despite massive crowds, I had a good ass time: Delroy Edwards played an all vinyl set of powerful ghetto house, Samo Soundboy and Total Freedom were doing a B2B thing and Bashmore was predictably populist and fun. I got to fist-bump Delroy and utter a few awkward fanboy words, and spotted the beautiful Jessie Ware up in the booth with Bashmore. Good week.

Pulled from a trip to the Beat Swap Meet.

Moodymann – I Can’t Kick This Feeling When It Hits (After Midnight, 1997)

 This rare Dutch pressing of Kenny Dixon Jr’s Detroit classic was the crown jewel of my Beat Swap Meet trip. I didn’t spend more than $10 on a single record the whole day – that is, until I found this bad boy. I had one of those moments where I’m digging and I see the record, flip past it and immediately double-back, wound up by disbelief. Wrapped in plastic, I had the guy open it up for me and he acknowledged it came from his personal collection and it just sat unplayed on his shelf for the last fifteen years. Maaaaaaan, you’ve gotta be a digger to know what I mean when I say that this shit sparkled in the waning sunlight.

After Midnight managed to issue a few KDJ tracks in the late ’90s, and Moodymann offered up both an extended mix of “I Can’t Kick This Feeling When It Hits” (above) and two mixes for “Music People.” Now, the extended mix of “I Cant” stretches the track for four more minutes, and really who would complain about that? Moody’s brand of funk is absolutely perfect, he masterfully balances the r&b and soul of his city’s history with the machine funk of his contemporaries. His tracks are elegant, loaded with atmosphere, and laced with a dark sense of romance. Not ever giving consolations to the dancefloor, “I Can’t” starts and stops a handful of times, which really just makes it a total pleasure for home listening. The groove is upbeat and funky, but is subtle enough to lure in the uninitiated. A true masterpiece in the vast discography of classics from Moodymann,

“Music People” is sooooo dope. It doesn’t take long to get started and once that disco shuffle drops and that funky bassline brought in, the dancefloor will be on fire. This is uplifting, soulful music that grew from the hypnotic romance brought by the godfathers of the disco edit, and then balanced by the hard kick of drum machines and a sample bank only a ’90s record nerd could bust. The (Unreleased Mix) of Music People drops the disco affiliation and is pure hard machine funk. Led by the dreamy synth-bell sample at the front of the original, Moody drops the listener into a hard jacking rhythm whose only release is that euphoric sample that refuses to stick around long enough. It’s a dark warehouse track, simply music made to unite the body’s rhythm. Pure loveliness by one of my favorite producers.

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DJ Quik – Murda 1 Case b/w Trouble (Remix Pt. 3) (Bungalo, 2002)

 Dj Quik is probably one of the most underrated rappers/producers in the game, often overshadowed by his more outlandish or commercial peers. Quik worked as both ghostwriter and producer for Deathrow, lending his hand to projects by Snoop Dogg and 2Pac, seemingly satisfied to get paid just for the sake of making beats. Whether crafting beats for himself or for Jay Z, the man has been going strong for over two decades now and his sound in ’91, ’01, or ’11 is consistently fresh, and forward thinking, yet reliably focused on classic Southern California backyard party funk.

Murda 1 Case” is great, but for me it’s all about this remix of “Trouble” (above) on the b-side. This remix is a totally different take than the track on Under Tha Influence – the guitar sample is still the centerpoint of the instrumental, but Quik has given a new voicing and enlisted Chuky Makabee for a hook and both Suga Free and Beanie Sigel for verses. Quik takes the first verse and you can pretty much call it a day after that – his flow is dexterous and fluid, smooth enunciation helps you grab each and every word, but he also bends lines, verbally pitching a flow into half time –  a stunning trick that today sees Kendrick Lamar both biting and perfecting. After Beanie’s mediocre verse, Suga Free comes in and absolutely murders – whipping about raunchy ladies and serving up a fat R Kelly diss. On the instrumental, Quik toned down the vibe a tad bit, giving the track more of a swing than a stomp. This a beautiful, classic Southern California party track. Word up to the 562, 310, 213, 626, 714, 818. “What’s life without a dream?”

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Duke Ellington and John Coltrane – Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (Impulse, 1963)

It doesn’t take a sleuth to figure out that I’m a huge Coltrane nut and I’m as surprised as you are that this one wasn’t in my collection already. When Creed Taylor left Impulse records shortly after signing John Coltrane in 1961, Bob Thiele took over the imprint and eventually led it to be one of the most enduring jazz labels of all time. Thiele was a big band man and so he A&R’d a handful of records that pulled out veteran jazzmen and showcased them for a modern audience. Some of the records landed, some didn’t. Thinking about the legacies of both Ellington and Coltrane, this record could have been a lot stronger, should have been a lot stronger, but instead we receive just a small taste of what this project could have been.

As with a lot of jazz record dates of the time, this was predominately a blowing session, Coltrane and Ellington each brought their rhythm sections and they had a go at a handful of (Ellington) standards. Had Ellington written charts, or Coltrane allowed more time to immerse himself in the vibe of the group, we could have had a masterpiece on the scale of Coltrane’s work with Monk, or Dolphy’s work with Mingus, but alas this is simply stunning Coltrane in front of a solid quartet. The A-side is pretty weak, but the ubiquitous “In A Sentimental Mood” is very welcome with the wonderful twinkling piano from Ellington and Coltrane’s cool blowing. The side-winning track is definitely “Stevie” (above) as it fully demonstrates the confidence of the work with Coltrane’s classic quartet, but is weighed down slightly by Ellington’s continued sentimental playing.

The flip is more focused on ballad work, and in this mode the pairing is much more fruitful. Ellington has a way of remaining dynamically interesting and vibrant when acting as accompaniment, adding little touches of color to Coltrane’s horn-spoken love story – as heard on “My Little Brown Book.” On “Angelica” the true star is Elvin Jones, who outplays both leaders by a mile, offering up a twisted bossa beat with a funky bounce on the toms that keeps switching up and never skipping a beat. Overall, a great buy and a welcome addition to the ever-expanding Coltrane section on my shelf.

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One on One – You’re My Type (Make Your Body Move) (Virgin, 1989)

I frequently pick up old school house records for $1-2 without having heard it first, just totally hoping it wont be fucking awful cheeseball bullshit. One on One was a short-lived project by Juan Atkins with vocalist Rona Johnson, possibly put together as an answer to Kevin Saunderson’s successful Inner City project. The record features four different mixes by Atkins and one from Master Reese himself, and its this inclusion from Saunderson that sold me on the record. Although I’ve got a lot of love for Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May (as this update shows), I typically find Juan Atikins to be too cornball or dated for my taste. While Atkin’s freestyle-techno hyrbrid isn’t bad (and really, the frigid Detroit R&B of the “Urban Mix” is especially powerful), Saunderson’s mix is the real heat on here.

When I think of Kevin Saunderson the first things that come to mind are ravey ivories and a  knack for crafting really great, big memorable tracks. His mix does not disappoint at all as he turns the track into an electro infused house banger, compelte with huge 808s, stadium claps, a mischievous dose of Kraftwerk, effective use of vocals and an ill synth bassline that will not stop looping in my head. Despite the bass weight, this track is summery and feel-good, captivating and euphoric. Even though its over 20 years old it still sounds fresh and it will undoubtedly make your body move. Tip!

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 Rhythim is Rhythim – Nude Photo (Transmat, 1987)

This is classic Detroit techno from one of the pioneers, and I was stoked to see this (repress) very conveniently priced. Derrick May doesn’t have his name to a whole lot of records, but each one is a classic. This three-track record from ’87 is a prime example of the Detroit sound as it bangs with lots of blocky metallic tones, and washed in epic, pensive grays. It’s a picture of post-industrialism, a black and white photo of a city coping with and moving on from deep depression. This is dark, moody sci-fi dance music that is at once funky and soulful, yet completely alien.

Move It,” over on the B-side, is an industrial jacking track with heavy emphasis on precise percussion and curiously entertaining vocal samples. “The Dance” is the winner on the B-side though, as it manages to balance a fully functional stomp with a sense of loneliness fit for space. This is eyes-down, dark warehouse music that is powerful, but approachable. Despite the moody nature, it feels very inclusive – this is not angry or harsh, it is nurturing body music.

Where the B-side is downcast and tired, “Nude Photo” (above) has life, energy, and a sense of hope. Using the same blocky synths, May crafts a real banger that has a light-in the dark sense to it. It’s not a particularly sunny track, but the synths have color to them, and the vocal snippet of a girl giggling is incredibly welcome. The tension between the darkness and light is constant and May masterfully keeps a sense of gleeful anxiety. What I love most about the track is how involved it is, in that there was a real process of artistic expression involved in its construction, especially in that both Juan Atkins and Thomas Barnett are credited as contributors. With so many elements going into the mix, May deftly toys with the track, giving it a real sense of human spirit behind the kit. A classic cut from one of the originators, much love for the 313!

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Joe Zawinul – Zawinul (Atlantic, 1971)

This is one of those records that has been on my wantlist for years without me having ever heard a note. Diggers hold this record in high esteem, and looking at the lineup it’s hard to disagree: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Miroslav Vituous, Woody Shaw, Hubert Laws, Jack DeJohnette, Billy Hart, Joe Chambers, etc. I suppose it’s because of the reputation of this record that it took a few listens for me to actually hear it. I expected something funky, something wild, somewhere between the experimentation of the Weather Report and the gut-bucket funk of Cannonball Adderly. But noticing the year, I should have been well aware that this period in jazz (’69-’72) was heavily influenced by Miles’ In A Silent Way (on which Hanock, Zawinul, and Shorter appear) and the music became very spacey and atmospheric, more focused on vibe than showing off chops.

It’s immediately apparent that Zawinul is a fantastic composer with a strong vision of what he is trying to achieve. The tracks take their time, the mood is defined by softly bubbling rhythms, soft electronics, gentle piano, and sedate, breathy horns. The group’s rendition of “In A Silent Way” is really excellent, although George Davis gets dangerously close to smooth-jazz territory. Stronger still is “His Last Journey” which comes together with a pastoral image due to the bowed bass and twinkling piano, but what really gets me is when the mood darkens, as the synth bells covet further weight, and the spacey electric piano sidles up front to turn a sunny track into something much more serious, as it invokes a sense of deep anxiety.This evolution from twilight to dark is also heard on lead track, “Doctor Honoris Causa” (which is dedicated to my man Herbie Hancock), as it builds up a light rhythm and eerie horn lines then descends into some dark jazz territory. Woody Shaw is exceptional on the track as he lets his voice be heard, a voice not entirely departed from the school of Miles, but on its way.

By far my favorite track on the album is the strange “Arrival In New York” (above) which lumbers slowly, leaden with blunted percussion, atmospheric synths and processed bowed bass. For its time, it’s a deeply experimental track that is astoundingly beautiful despite such a short run time. One can say the same for the album as a whole, as it does have it’s truly perfect moments that not only sound sonically dark but feel dark. Yet, this isn’t a painful free-jazz exploration nor is it a self-absorbed introversion, this is Zawinul expressing his deepest sense of self to you.

Categories: 1971, detroit, hip hop, House, jazz, LA