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 12/24/2012 – Beat Swap Meet Pulls Pt. 2

December 24, 2012 Leave a comment

I got busy/sick/whatever last week and didn’t update. Now I’m at my parents house and this environment here isn’t exactly conducive to writing. So there are a few records I didn’t write about that I really wanted to. So it goes. Everything should be back to normal this next weekend, but who knows. I’ve got such a backlog of records I need to write about. Records records recordsrecordsrecords

Pulled from dusty crates at Beat Swap Meet.

GQ – Two (Arista, 1980)

 Kind of weird to hear myself say this, but GQ is one of my favorite disco bands. Unlike a lot of other projects at the time, their music landed squarely on this side of too cheesy, working as a  tight group with a real knack for the dance floor coupled with some extremely sugary melodies. They’re best known for the Studio 54 classic “Disco Nights (Rock Freak),” but I think their entire catalog is pretty great. Coming up through the ’70s as The Rhythm Makers, their time together has allowed them to develop an audible camaraderie and the deep pocket groove of a veteran band.

“Lies” (above) is the clear winner for me, this is one of those tracks that made listening to the radio at night as a kid – tuning into the disco station – so rewarding. The track is an excellent example of how glitzy big money disco can be soulful and compelling; anchored by a remarkable bassline from Keith Crier, a thick synthesizer haze creeps in with jangling keys processed by what could be King Tubby himself and then the vocal come in. I really love the sound of Emanuel Raheim Leblanc’s voice, he’s got this very emotional voice that has a lot of influence in Doo Woop and early sweet Soul, but sung with the assurance and immediacy of a modern R&B star. Yes, the chorus with its blaring horns and weird lyrics are a low point, but the tight groove and phenomenal musicianship of the core track is more than worthwhile. If you want a leaner cut, go with Andres’ brilliant edit, “Change My Mind.”

Looking at the record as a whole, the upbeat dance songs sit on the A-side and the quiet storm ballads are reserved for the flip. “Standing Ovation” kicks off the record and it’s a great introduction to the slick groove GQ brings to the table. The track is at once funky but peppered with elements of Prince funk n’ roll and classic Smokey Robinson melodies. The track is fairly cheesy, but the melody is so damn good and the groove so tight you can’t help but dance and sing along. Faring much better with this formula is “Someday (In Your Life),” as the track moves forward with a quiet shuffle and jangly guitar. The bass is tight, the drums are crisp, and the synth haze is nice and thick – excellent work guys.

Now, the sound of the group is very important for me as a listener and a DJ, and there’s a reason why this record has been my most listened to item of from the trip. The clean and light guitar riffing against the rich bass is only accented further by soulful electric piano work or airy rhodes ambiance. Add to that a singer half sweet soul and half disco assertiveness. All that produced by Jimmy Simpson, an influential New York producer/early remixer who knew how to give a big nod to the DJs and dancers in discos and skate jams.  He crafts a mix that is a real delight to hear on a quality soundsystem – the bass is heavy and enhanced by a soft kick, while synth nebulae float above the silky melodies. The album ends with “Its Like That,” a piano led disco bomb that perfectly encapsulates the essence of what makes this band a step above their peers. They take a more Chic style approach here, sashaying with a strong male-female vocal hook and hefty bassline, but then they introduce a rogue synth breakdown that is absolutely mad. It totally disrupts the perfect sugary image GQ has been running with and demonstrates that this isn’t paint-by-numbers disco, this is music that is aware of its surrounding, but still capable of being forward thinking.

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Laidback – Sunshine Reggae b/w White Horse (Sire, 1983)

“White Horse” (above) is a true electro/synth-pop classic, bearing the notable distinction of having been aped by both Prince and 2 Live Crew. It’s a brilliant drum machine work out with a simple bass line and even more intuitive lyrics. This is dance music, pure and simple – dumb, fun, and pleasantly weird. The bass is heavy, the rhythm jacking and the lyrics are too simple to not sing along too – that is if you’re not laughing at them. “Sunshine Reggae” is not really my thing at all, it’s just too damn cheesy (goddamn steel drums) for my taste.

Categories: disco

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

Picks 12/8/2012

December 8, 2012 1 comment

I had an unexpectedly busy week filled with lots of drinking, late night spliffs soundtracked by Ethiopian jams, and some schmoozing with an EDM promoter who can apparently drop 20k for his Wednesday night party. Went to the Nosaj Thing listening party the other night and the only thing I really walked away with was that remixes of Burial don’t work. Beat Swap Meet is tomorrow and I’m expecting a couple of packages this week so I’m going to be stocked up through the end of the year. Nice.

Pulled from orders to All Day Records, People’s Potential Unlimited and discogs.

Theo Parrish – Solitary Flight b/w Dellwood II (Sound Signature, 2002)

This is one of my all time favorite Theo Parrish songs and I’m really glad to have been able to pick up a physical copy of it. I’ve had a low quality mp3 for some time, so its wonderful to finally hear that truly deep bass and feel the warmth of the 12″. As anyone familiar with Theo knows, he often is more concerned with vibe than making a track that is easy to dance to. His music feels like an improvised composition – an improvisation by an artist who keeps Coltrane hours and casts visions that are Mingus-big. Typically low-fi and analog, he makes house so soulful I sometimes wonder if the genre tag only gives the listener wrong expectations.

“Solitary Flight” (above) begins with a little hi-hat and a swirling rhodes – keeping the atmosphere light, yet invoking a Wizard of Oz vision of waking up in a place a bit more fantastical than you remembered. Light, soaring strings float in and cast a sense of twilight, accented with a slowly pounding kick – thick and groggy. The track is meditative and gentle, with the soft bounce of the kick and tapping of high hats really helping build the trance. The track is repetitive, but to at even 10 minutes long it feels too short. This is a great track for sunny day-time parties or even for 5 in the morning – just the perfect spot to add a little mysticism to the vibe. Also, check out the typically hilarious Youtube comments on the video, it will give you a peek to the loyalty of Parrish’ fans.

On the flip, “Delwood II” is darker, more aggressive and far more raw than its counterpart. The synth tone is thick and sci-fi, overdriven to the point of molasses chords – all brooding texture, only subtly balanced by spacy electric keys. Real raw and dripping with soul, this music is looking inward, yet skywards with a sci-fi curiosity that resembles a modern day Sun Ra. With Theo Parrish at the helm, this is Afro-futurism at it’s finest.

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Loni Gamble Band ft. Lisa Warrington – I Like the Way You Do It (PPU, 1984/2010)

People’s Potential Unlimited has some of the sickest reissue game out there. These cats pull tracks that I had no idea could even exist. Carmen’s “Time to Move” from earlier this year still kills and I have never played Westwood & Cash’s “Psycho For Your Love” and not had someone ask me about it. Whenever their webstore has a sale I count my pennies, and stock up on raw boogie funk for the cold winter months.

The mysterious Loni Gamble (possible relation to Kenny Gamble?) seems to have suffered the fate of many of the starry-eyed soul musicians that PPU digs up; the cat recorded one or two funky as hell singles and then moved on. The brilliant “I Like the Way You Do It” (above) is a real treasure completely unknown to me before this. Musically, the track is a chugging boogie/freestyle inflected post-disco stormer with a strong guitar riff and absolutely phenomenal vocals from Lisa Warrington. The vocals are submerged and sexy, Warrington perfectly performing the role of the sumptuous siren – equally loaded with sass and soul, playing a diva role that would soon become dominant in R&B. Riding underneath the exquisite vocals is Gamble’s Nile Rodgers-aping guitar riff; managing to be both funky and glamorous at the same time. This is an absolute perfect 10.

On the flip is a great Tom Noble Edit, a track that pays tribute to the grandfathers of the edit by exposing the little bit parts outside the vocal and reworking the groove around those little nuggets. The track here is more toned down, a bit more spacey in a Francois K. kind of way, but still remaining groovy sunny disco. Each side is great and will work in different situations – which means this 12″ will most likely never leave my crate. Cheers, PPU, thanks for adding another killer to my arsenal.

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Marek Hemmann – Junoka (Freude Am Tanzen, 2008)

Occasionally I will wake up in the morning after a long night of drinking and come to realize I did a bit of internet shopping. While most of the time it will be strange surprise from ebay or discogs, I do land a few good buys. I think I heard “Junoka” (above) on a mix and I found the track infectious, very romantic and groovy.

Well, the great part about buying a record solely off one track is the excitement of hearing the rest of the music. I was very pleasently surprised by the force of “Who Two,” as the track propels forward with slick use of an ultra deep bass pulse and tight rhythmic movements. The swing is really excellent, but what keeps the track on repeat for me is the use of vocal elements within the track – whether it be a phonetic noise of a melodic whistle. The affect gives the song a lot of life and for some reason reminds me of the punk element in dance music, a realm where the strangeness of Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club and Dinosaur L hold much weight. It’s a vibrant track and one that has a lot of energy – it’s big without being too big.

First off, doesn’t the intro to “Junoka” (above) sound like it was lifted for T-Minus’ work on Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools“? Anyway, it’s a beautiful way to start a track – that booming deep deep deep bass ushering in a wealth of sensation of anticipation. A garage swing steps in, followed by an excellently unintelligible vocal sample. The track moves forward at full swing, but it remains subtle and focused; cloudy and sensual. This is music for late nights, dark spaces and the smell of wine, hash and sea breeze. Very happy to see this record, I think I will put it to good use.

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TMS – Get the Feeling b/w Caprice –Candy Man (PPU, 1982/2006)

Another bomb from PPU! I’m not usually big on 7″ records, but I had to make an exception for this one here. Two sugary sweet early 80’s R&B/Synth Soul with a lovely bounce and fun vocals. Both tracks just beg to be played at a backyard party where the air smells rich and the beer is cold and abundant.

Caprice’s “Candy Man” (above) predates the Mary Jane Girls’ track of the same name (and my favorite Rick James track!) by a year, but is just as sensual and sweet. It’s mid-paced, and not very forceful, but the slow funk will work great tucked between some Debbie Deb and Chic. It’s a fun track that lingers after its gone.

TMS’ “Get the Feeling” is the heavy hitter here, with an early 80s R&B influenced vocal delivery that is charming and fun. This is the track that will have people getting down, singing along and doing a poor ass soul train line.  A wacky synth is fairly prominent in the mix, but it doesn’t really do much other than add a vague electro feel to it. Overall a very great track that I will probably find myself playing out way too often.

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Delroy Edwards – For Club Use Only (L.I.E.S., 2012)

Dark, dank, gritty, peaktime house and techno by the mysterious Delroy Edwards on the typically excellent LIES record label. Word has it Delroy Edwards is the alias for a Los Angeles veteran, and the work really does show the touch of an old head. The tracks are thick with smoke and analog dust, and sound as if they were mastered off a cassette that’s been the staple of a roadtrip mix to desert raves for the last 15 years. There’s grit, but its nice and on the right soundsytem the low-fi approach adds a dense ambiance that is hard to imagine and harder to describe.

“Bells” (above) is my favorite jam out of the bunch, sounding what a reviewer said is like (I’m paraphrasing) a lost Dance Mania acetate that’s been sitting in a dank basement for years. The track channels 90s ghettohouse in such a beautiful way; raw and funky, yet a deep melancholy sits at the base – altogether invoking a level of raunch that will undoubtedly affect all dancers. Led by a detuned marimba melody, the track swings gracefully in a way that is both uplifting and dreary. A lazy kick and persistent high hats keep the groove hot, and accentuate how the track really does a lot of damage for how simplistic it is.

Love Goes On and On” is the other big winner on here for me. It takes an aquatic Drexciyan direction, just fuzzed to death with cold sheets of synth slipping through the fog. It’s a forward kick that is simple and effective, while icy synths rise and fall, sending the traveler on a dark journey soon interrupted by a sub-crushing bass pulse. The title track is similar and equally subterranean and effective. An excellent debut single, I’m excited to hear more.

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Getachew Degefu Amhara Wedding Songs (Philips/Mitmitta/Domino, 1973/2012)

You can never have too many Ethiopian records. The music is unparalleled and inexplicable. Managing to be highly emotional, dramatic and deeply mystic, a sound that comes from not an instrument, but something much deeper. This record was originally released by Philips in 1973, it collects typical Ethiopian wedding songs. The collection offers spirited and festive tracks that are influenced by Stax or King, but remain innately Ethiopian. Constant handclaps, the wonderfully shrill “ililta,” and strong vocals keep the energy high and mood celebratory.

Most of the material is vaguely similar, r&b/rock’n’roll/jazz inflected stompers with touches of flute and guitar – the focus is predominately on the singing and lyrics.
One of the standouts is “Asha Gedawo” which features two singers and a really fun guitar-lead bounce – the celebratory nature is largely apparent. The album comes with a nice write-up and some photos of Ethiopian weddings. Very nice.

Categories: 2012, boogie, detroit, ehiopia, House, LA

Picks 12/2/2012

December 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Big week for records. Next week is Beat Swap Meet and I am STOKED! Next weeks picks will probably come on Saturday. Que te vaya bien.

Pulled from a trip to Amoeba and a purchase from ebay.

Les Shleu-Shleu – Shleu Shleu No. 1 (Haiti Record, 1969)

 It’s records like this that I really take pride in being a digger, and that really reinforce this hobby of mine. I snagged this one off ebay from a dealer in Puerto Rico, LP still sealed in the plastic. We’re talking a record that has never left the Caribbean in over 40 years, fresh as the day it arrived in the record store. And to sweeten the deal it’s an early recording from one of the best Haitian bands to make it onto wax – Les Shleu Shleu. I’ve been hunting Shleu Shleu records for years, as they were my gateway band into the Hatian scene. The group is one of the biggest in the kompas scene and clearly makes itself a valuable resource for diggers. Shleu Shleu’s records may show more polite mini-jazz numbers or romance-comaps, but you can reliably assume that each album will contain a handful of dance tracks – dark, hypnotic, other-worldly music that is immediately satisfying, yet boldly mystifying.

As a DJ I must start on the flip, per the reliable Hatian standard of placing all the heavy dance tracks on the B side. “Coeu Map Kimbe” is stunning from the start, the dark merengue vibes are strong, the afro-latin seduction not at all subtle. The saxophone and guitar work are wonderfully vibrant, but covered in an age-appropriate haze, then the group vocals come in, propelling the madness a step further towards total enchantment. This track is a great look at the powerful talent of the band, as each and every player is on perfect form, projecting the natural bouncy funk with a tight group unity that recalls the group’s jazz roots.

“Ceremonie Loa” (above) is the real treasure here, as it quickly encapsulates a party atmosphere with lots of clapping and cheering – years before either James Brown or Kenny Dixon Jr would emulate such tricks in their own studios. Aside from adding to the inescapable groove of this dazzlingly sunny track, or perhaps even adding more to it, it does well to further instill the unity of this band, a force wielding a handle on funk that few measure up to in my book. This track is a prime example of the massive skill in horn player Georges Loubert Chancy, a man whose style is influenced by the music of seatowns from across the globe, yet married to the romance of the Caribbean. The triumphant drummer Yves Arsene Appollon is particularly excellent on this track as well, displaying his unique timing and his flexible approach to the kit.

Going back to the A side, the charming “Tete Chauve A New York” opens with a bang, and must have been a hit for the group. It’s a mid-tempo vocal track with lots of group vocals and a fantastic lead vocal. It’s a little too sunny, a little too cheeky, but I can see myself playing this out if I were at the right place at the right time. “Timdite” summons the dark simmering energy of the band and they play a downbeat groove, gently bubbling and swelling, moving forward and slowly building tension. The guitarwork by Serge Rosenthal is particulalrly notable as it is murky and drenched in delay, yet moves gracefully in a way that is equally gypsy and latin, with a tinge of African psychedelia thanks to the rhythm guitar accompaniment.

It is precisely this far-reaching melding of influence that draws me most to this particular moment in musical history. In the late 60s through the late 70s, really inspiring and talented bands created a sound that took its base in a slowed down merengue rhythm, added deep lowend thanks to the invention of the Fender bass, and liberally borrowed from guitar and hornwork from all over the world, then last but not least, added a wealth of percussion players. This music is intoxicating, enriching and soul-quenching. Whether its the dance numbers, or the romantic instrumental guitar numbers – this is music that is spiritually gratifying.

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Daphni – Jiaolong (Jiaolong/Merge, 2012)

I am extremely surprised by how much I like this record. When the singles first started coming out last year I wasn’t particularly moved; “Ye Ye” was on the back of a particularly strong Four Tet record, “Ne Noya” too weird for me to play at MOLAA. But I picked it up on a whim last week and I literally have not been able to put it down. It’s on my turntables if I’m at home, or on my ipod if I’m not. While I’ll be outright and say it’s not the best album of the year for a handful of reasons, it may be one of the most listenable records of the year.

“Yes I Know” (above) starts out the record with a vaguely electro/freestyle chunky drum pattern, and right away the album centerpiece – the modular synthesizer that inspired this whole project – raises its head. The tone is unbelievable, it’s alien but so warm and familiar. It throbs, it squelches, it bubbles, but most importantly it unleashes a euphoric energy without being overly aggressive. The track moves and bumps, jumps and shakes, a perfect way to start an album. I love the samples, I love the hectic tension that builds as each element is stacked on one another and the slow release is just as satisfying. Definitely leaving the listener asking for more.

There seems to be a secret agenda of destroying classic dance tropes throughout the album, as Snaith borrows elements and/or templates from rave to ghetto house to deep techno and turns those genre tags on their head. For example, “Light” borrows elements from classic rave and acid house, but the energy is all different, the mystical synth lines and Pixar bubbles are neo psychedelia, but done in a way that is certainly tongue-in-cheek. But from my description and perhaps through attempting to describe a track like this, it only takes the listener farther away from where the song is actually going. Most times the Daphni project seems most content only when challenging the listener’s notions of what can and should be dance music. Yet, inherently this is music for movement, there is a natural propulsion that incites both elation and tranquility.

For the most part the album is a collection of singles that were released last year, inspired by a modular synthesizer Dan Snaith recently put together. The record is not necessarily a dance album, not all of these tracks would work out in a club, or a festival – but they all have the forward inertia of house music; some merely simmer quietly, or move into far left field while others simply pound. But that is no detractor, this movement away from the obvious notions of dance music, make it a more interesting listen as I’m finding myself follow the movements of the track, picking up on all  the minute elements that build the momentum, or the complicated-feeling arrangements. Apparently a lot of these cuts are first takes, but despite that knowledge the body of work feels a lot more complex than that. This album feels calculated and measured, from the amount of delay on the snares and hats to the purposeful pitfalls in the kinda-ghettohouse “Springs.” I expect this record to be a gateway for all the kids who are growing up in this “EDM” generation, once they’re ready for something more refined than Skrillex or whatever, Daphni is a high profile enough project, while being musically interesting enough to capture some of that audience. Because as mischievous as this album is, it’s inherently a fun and accessible listen.

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Anthony Naples – Mad Disrespect (Mister Saturday Night, 2012)

 I’ll admit it, I’m prone to hyperbole. But this right here might be the track of the year. Somehow it escaped me earlier this year when it first came out, but thanks to the recent Resident Advisor feature, I’m caught up. The story of Naples, and this track in particular are interesting; if not a little too perfect. A typically bohemian Brooklynite receives a laptop with a daw already installed for next to nothing, then his first tune pricks the ears of both the Mister Saturday Night crew and Four Tet. It’s a good story, but it’s a better record. Apart from the incredible title track, the two b-sides show a producer who still has plenty of room to grow, but already shows a lot of talent.

This is after all about “Mad Disrespect.” The song is infectious from the get-go; the delicate piano run, light high hats, warm kick, retro lasers, a lusty r&b samples. It’s like instant euphoria. It’s an interesting listen throughout, as the song makes use of a wealth of samples from flutters of light wah, to piano runs, ambient strings, to what may be hova. Dense is not a word that would describe the track, however, as each element seems to flow into the other seamlessly, each delicately covered in delay, fuzz and vibe.

Despite the heavy ambiance, the track does remain pleasantly dynamic, but most importantly, it commands a lot of funk. The track has an inescapable skate-jam glide, paired with relentless organic percussion work that keep the energy focused and propulsive. Managing to retain its energy throughout the breakdown,the track lends itself to being flushed out and  played from start to finish, as the journey is really a worthwhile venture.

The flip is good, but just doesn’t match the power or romance of the A-side. “Slackness” begins with what is probably a Bloc Party sample, some jangly noises and an upbeat house swing. It eventually takes a turn for dark dubbed out warehouse vibes,  while retaining a mechanical bounce that works – and again shows off Naples’ tendency to use sparse elements in an interesting way.  Returning to the sunlit day-dream vibes, “Tusk” floats gently along, occasionally weighed down by what might be an Other People Place sample, and some splashy cymbals with a kick drum so light you hardly know its there. A perfect way to conclude a strong debut, and I’m looking forward to his forthcoming output.

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V/A – Africa Boogaloo: The Latinization of West Africa (Honest Johns, 2009)

Let me put it to you like this, if you were to ask me what my favorite genre of music is, I’d just have to hand you this compilation. Whether in the Caribbean, Latin America, or West Africa, the melding of those various styles consistently results in deeply romantic late night music that swings, but in a way all of its own. I had been eyeballing this compilation since it came out, but the hefty price tag helped to defer my purchase. Amoeba had this marked down last week when I was there, so I decided to take the plunge. From what I can tell it’s not a fully licensed compilation which is a bummer, but regardless (or perhaps as a result of), the curation is impeccable – and the dreary Will Bankhead design work is wonderful as well. There are a lot of big names on here from the OK Jazz to Gnonnas Pedro to Orchestre Poly Rhythmo, but from what I can tell none of these songs have been reissued on vinyl before. Overall, a very nice view into the dusty late night dance music of 60s-late 70s West Africa.

I should start with the inclusion of Franco and the OK Jazz on this compilation – I believe this to be on of the few (if any) instances of the OK Jazz seeing reissue of any sort of vinyl, and this is greatly beneficial as most of the stuff is impossible to come by. “Ven y Ven y Ven” (above) was a staple in my early days when I still used Serato, but in the past few years its gone forgotten about. The song simply strides in, Franco’s mesmerizing guitarwork hooking you in from the start as the group works into a heavy Afro-Cuban number. The OK Jazz were one of the Congo’s greatest rhumba bands, and their supreme talent clearly shines throughout their tracks on this collection. “A Moins Que Namikoa” is an absolute stunner, with the enchanting Vicky Longomba on lead vocals, casting a emotional narrative that almost overpowers the steady swing of the group. Powerful vocals as presented by Vicky are one of my favorite elements of this music, as the singers manage to convey strong emotions paired with a natural cadence that is influenced by the swing of Spanish, but firmly planted in the rhythmic character of African languages.

The most distinct voice on this album would certainly have to go Amara Toure with the unbelievable “N’Niyo.” He croons with gravely, forlorn voice – the sound of a true griot. The style is more Mbalax than anything, and is a great rendition of the style, as the guitarwork is incredible, but it may be the horns that really do the trick for me here. Taking a more Latin approach is Laba Sosseh’s beautiful “Guantanamo,” a sultry guitar-led salsa that must have absolutely killed it from along the Colombian coast through Central America up to Miami and New York.

There are a few duds on the collection, but that is to be expected and in truth there is not a single bad track, and only few tracks that I wouldn’t eventually play out. It mostly comes from my distaste for Boogaloo, and even those tracks are rich and worthwhile. Overall, a marvelously curated compilation and I’m glad to be able to add so many new songs to my repertoire.