I could have filled this entire list with selections from RH, but with apologies to them, Mojuba G.O.D., the afore-mentioned Running Back, Styrax Leaves, Clone Classic Cuts, Delsin, Prescription Classics, Downwards, Alleviated and all the other labels that have been schooling me, you and anyone else too young, too ignorant or too poor to check these on the OG pressing, here’s an essential five.
Now that the world has caught up with the music of Nebraska, we felt it was time to invite the man behind the moniker, Ali Gibbs, to answer a few questions and contribute a mix for our 53rd exclusive podcast.
LWE’s Curator’s Cuts podcast series features our reviewing staff mixing together recent favorites and providing explanations for their selections. Contributing writer Peder Clark mixed together Curator’s Cuts 07.
Dial’s core aesthetic of chic but understated deep house remains present on 2010, with contributions from label founders Lawrence, Pantha du Prince and Efdemin that stay true, occasionally too much so, to the label’s sound when it was first birthed in Hamburg 10 years ago.
Running Back is one of the most consistent labels about. Only in terms of quality, mind. Consistency doesn’t equal homogeneity, and frankly Running Back can be all over the shop stylistically. Ravey, wildpitch house from Radio Slave one release, Robert Dietz’s desiccated Mannheim funk the next, Running Back is unafraid to thumb its nose at genre purists. For a busy man, the label’s owner Gerd Janson is exceptionally generous with his time, and it was a pleasure to shoot the shit with him for a couple hours about the eternal vinyl versus mp3 debate, Walter Benjamin, British dub soundsystems, and what we can expect next from the least predictable of labels.
“A lot of people have to work. You gotta go home, you take a bath. A lot of people, you go home and fuck your wife. A lot of people go home, you cut your grass. I go home, and I fuck that motherfuckin’ MPC all fuckin’ night.” I was thinking about Kenny Dixon Jr’s recent eruditions on domesticity and art while listening to Fudge Fingas’ “It’s About Time.” It deals with the quotidian problems of part-time music making; what if when you get home from a hard day at the office, you’re are just too worn out, or lack the inspiration, to “fuck your MPC,” or for that matter, your significant other?
When I think of adjectives to describe acid (the music), words spring to mind that could just as easily describe acid (the solution): “Harsh,” “coruscating” or “abrasive,” all words I associate with the fierce 303s of Phuture, Sleezy D’s “I’ve Lost Control,” Mike Ink, Dr Walker, Unit Mobeius or more recently, Legowelt and Bunker Records. Rare is the track written with a 303 drum-machine that merits the descriptive tag “beautiful” or “graceful.” Marshall Jefferson and Larry Heard are among the talented few who have achieved this (the latter with the peerless mega-hit “Sun Can’’t Compare” a couple years ago), and now Tevo Howard joins their illustrious company with his latest doublepack Crystal Republic on the Rush Hour sub-label Hour House Is Your Rush.
One of the positive aspects of living in a reissue culture is that people who didn’t get their props first time round do so on the rebound. Merwyn Sanders and Eric Lewis are two such guys. They released only three records in their short-lived career, but those first two (under the names M.E. and Virgo Four, released on Chicago’s legendary Trax label), were compiled into their eponymous album Virgo. They were kind enough to give us their thoughts on the reissue, how a dog was responsible for their record deal, and why their school discos were considerably cooler than yours.
Among the trio of friends — Lawrence, Carsten Jost, Pawel — who founded the Dial label in Hamburg 10 years ago, the latter, Paul Kominek has probably kept the lowest profile, despite being the more senior in terms of release history. Recording as Turner for the defunct Ladomat 2000 since 1998, he received remixes from the likes of Robert Hood, Isolée and Freaks, as well as recording four albums worth of curate’s eggs: Lukin Orgel, Disappearing Brother, A Pack Of Lies and 2005’s Slow Abuse. While Turner albums are characterised by often effete vocals and a home-listening aesthetic, Pawel is the first long-player recorded by Kominek for his dance floor alias.
City Shuffle is the second EP by Warren Brown, better known as Wbeeza, to proudly declare “THIS IS THE HOUSE SOUND OF LONDON” on its sleeve. Oh, that it were true. London’s clubs are currently soundtracked by Phonica-approved, nutrient-deprived, pseudo-deep house, but anyhow, let’s leave the negativity (or truthspeak) to Dope Jams, and accentuate the positive. This is the third EP for Third Ear by the young, Bermondsey, South London resident, and shows his sound maturing from the rough style of the New Skank or Heavy Stuff EPs. “Maturing” in music critic language usually translates to some variant on “dull,” “bland” or “smoother,” but while Wbeeza’s new stuff is certainly more polished, there’s enough bite here to avoid it being lumped in with the aforementioned dross.
When reviewing Anthony “Shake” Shakir’s first release in four years last April, I quoted an interview in which Shakir described himself as “the forgotten man of techno.” I wonder how he feels about that statement now. The record reviewed, “Levitate Venice” ended up in any year-end list worth reading (including LWE’s), and was widely played and supported by artists and DJs from across the electronic music world, from Ben UFO to Ben Klock. Following up this renewal of interest in Shake’s work, and perhaps conscious of the inflated prices his music was beginning to fetch on the second-hard market, comes this full-fat retrospective from the good folk at Rush Hour. In the past, the Dutch label have given the anthology treatment to Rick Wade, Daniel Wang and Kenny Larkin amongst others, but never before in such exhaustive fashion.
House and politics, and indeed music in general, are a funny mix. For every Bob Dylan you have a Bono, and for every Big Strick you have a Sascha Dive. We’ll leave Dive’s ill-advised Black Panther references for now, but the cousin of Omar-S’s “A Walk Down Linwood” powerfully proved politics in house doesn’t end with Moodymann or MLK speeches laid over “Can You Feel It?”. All this is by way of introduction to the A2 on I.F.M.’s “Back In The Days” EP.
When contributors to LWE were discussing end of year lists amongst ourselves, a colleague commented that “this past year has seemed so exciting to me, it’s amazing how much of what’s got me revved up has been compilations and reissues.” I found myself agreeing with him — It might have been a pointed comment about the perceived weakness of much of this year’s output, but it might just as easily be read as praise for the huge quantity of impressive reissues, represses and other re-presentations that have been released this year. For that reason, this list is far from exhaustive and merely offers a personal perspective on what has been a fantastic year for house and techno historians.
There’s been a lot of talk on LWE recently about people stealing or, uh, creatively sampling other artists’ work. Melodic themes (Rodriguez Jr.) and even whole tracks (Joe Louis) being appropriated without due credit to the originators seems to equal pissed off producers and fans alike. So how would you feel if one of your favorite records of all time (and a worldwide hit and bona fide classic to boot) had its bass line jacked wholesale without so much as a “by your leave”? This is the situation I was faced with a few weeks back. Having popped into one of London’s Music and Video Exchanges, done my usual trawl of the racks, and come out delighted with a Nu Groove record for a mere £2, I put the needle to the wax of Major Problem’s “The Effects Can Last Forever.” After thirty seconds of fuzzy beats and John Lennon intoning, “take this, brother, may it serve you well”, the familiar dungh-dungh-dungh-durr-dungh of “No Way Back” comes crashing through. Did I feel ripped off at Adonis being ripped off?
Last time LWE checked in with Delano Smith, he was making probably the only decent record of 2008 that namechecked “Detroit.” Smith’s “Something For Myself,” off the “Sunrise EP,” vocalized what many people might have forgotten about the Motor City: “There’s so many sounds, it’s limitless.” The likes of Reggie Dokes, Theo Parrish, Andrés or “Shake” Shakir have all backed up that claim this year with a bewildering variety of music that has been anything but predictable, and defied any preconceived notions about what the term “Detroit techno” might define. Smith’s own uniformly excellent releases this year, however, have been markedly less avant-garde than say, Theo’s wilder 2009 moments. Smith, having labored under the tutelage of the legendary Ken Collier in his formative years, has a far more classicist bent than some of his peers; nonetheless, “Midnite” may surprise a few people who have more conservative expectations of the D.