When Peter Croce developed Rocksteady Disco in 2014 he created something more than just a record label. He established a platform where cultural influences of disco and Detroit converge to inspire progression and awareness.
Croce was raised in a musical household in an inner ring suburb of Detroit. His father was a professional drummer who encouraged Croce by age 10 to try his hand at electric bass and his mother “has funk flowing through her veins.” Moving into the city of Detroit he says “shaped my musical tastes; funk and high tech soul music is in our social fabric here.” Raised on artists such as The Gap Band, The Time, Jean-Luc Ponty and Michael Franks, the deeply rooted musical influence of the Motor City has played a formidable role on Croce.
Stylistically his DJing embodies the characteristics of Detroit mixing: gracefully precise track selection that varies on the musical spectrum.
“So many DJs and producers in Detroit are known as techno demigods overseas, and while they are prolific in that realm of music, I admire their ability to blend funk/techno/house/soul/rare groove/whatever in their sets here in Detroit,” he says. “In some ways, the bar is pretty high in this city in terms of technical proficiency and booking talent. Yes it’s true that pretty much any night of the week you can hear some DJ playing somewhere, but I think to be respected by those at the top you really need to come correct with your mixing, track selection, and cultural awareness.”
Rocksteady Disco — “mindful music for the body and soul” — came to fruition initially as a weekly happy hour at MotorCity Wine in May 2014. Due to playing out frequently, others were sending him dubplates and exclusives for his sets; in November that year he realized he had enough tracks for release and Rocksteady Disco was then formed. The label’s hardworking crew is comprised by Croce, Grand Rapid’s Matt Dandois, Pontchartrain, Topher Horn, and Lafleur. With a number of residencies allowing notable artists like Rick Wilhite and Cordell Johnson to the table, the group has since minimized their events to “focus more on quality over quantity.”
Currently Croce is producing in his spare time, but is often occupied by performing, executive production, A&R and other label business. “I’m definitely more of a social being, which makes DJing much more natural for me than producing. I have some productions under my belt, many of which are DJ-inclined re-edits. I also have been playing guitar and bass on peoples’ productions, most notably a release on Fat Finger Cosmic dropping July 2016 entitled ‘Big Kahuna.'”
Under the efforts of Lafleur, Dandois, Pontchartrain, and Topher Horn, Rocksteady Disco now has five records out, with a sixth dropping in August. Croce says he hopes the label will be known for original output, like the most recent release Rocksteady Disco All-Stars Vol. 1. “Our focus is music that is soulful and equally danceable as it is listenable, with the occasional socially conscious edit release.”
Additionally, he has recently developed and launched another label: Mr. PC Versions. White label and vinyl only, Croce will be doing limited runs of freshly edited tracks. “With so many bootleg labels I’m trying to be really conscious of how flooded the market is, and how I’m a white man re-editing (usually) black folks’ music. But some of these tracks just need to be rescued from their LP format and brought into the beautiful world of 12″ singles.”
It is clear through Rocksteady Disco’s ethos that there is an inherent drive to do more than produce music and throw a party. Croce’s personal background has developed a mission to provide a sanctuary, a place of comfort for humans to let go.
“As a selector, a DJ, a lover, a person with a Master’s of Social Work, and a Christian, I have to use my platform to make things right in any way I can. DJing, for better or worse, gives me a fair amount of power to set the tone and mood of an evening. Most every DJ has this power to use this pulpit for good or bad, and in our nation where wealth has stagnated for decades, where women are still assaulted and abused simply because of their gender, where blacks get beat down and murdered by the police rather than uplifted and supported, where my gay and trans* brothers and sisters get gunned down, where my Muslim brothers and sisters get spit at on their walk into the grocery store — how could I make what I do just about me? I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t use this platform to make people feel better for at least the night, or to raise consciousness and build a movement.” — PETER CROCE
When Rocksteady Disco throws an event, inspiration is drawn from David Mancuso. In 1970 this legendary DJ took the party out of the club setting to establish The Loft in New York City. The space played a pivotal role in creating underground parties that maintain legality. Clubs are monopolizing by nature and are not inherently designed to foster social progress. “If anything, I find they more often than not reinforce capitalist patriarchy,” Croce says. “Fortunately though, I only throw parties at places that are notoriously progressive,” hosting events at Detroit’s Temple Bar and MotorCity Wine.
“When you have a place that is not dominated by capitalist patriarchal thinking, it allows people regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation to transcend their social boxes and scripts we’re forced to live out on a day-to-day basis. When people enter these liberatory spaces something really special happens; they let their guards down, they allow their bodies to move, they allow themselves to become sexual beings without being objectifying beings, and people move to the same rhythm of people older than them or of a different race from them. This last point cannot be overstated: how many intergenerational parties can you think of? In Detroit all the good dance parties are intergenerational. Furthermore, many of the young white folks on the dance floor here were raised in the suburbs. By policy and by definition this means we were not raised around very many people of color or people in lower economic classes. So for many of us white suburban-raised folks, the deepest and earliest relationships we’ve built with people of color was on the dance floor. The fact that music can be the catalyst for this, and that I can be the person bringing the music, is a tremendous gift,” Croce says.
This sense of liberation is exactly the essence of the music that reverberates from Rocksteady Disco. Historically sound, disco as a genre has had an incredible and undeniable impact on both a musical and social level. Hey says, “Disco is liberatory music. It is inherently tied to the civil rights and gay liberation movement, which is why Disco Demolition Day happened. And the way disco DJing was done in the ’70s was completely ruleless — DJs jumped BPMs, styles, geographies (‘Soul Makossa’ being the most notable), and the major focus, aside from sex and drugs, was sound quality and elevating people through music. I just wish I could’ve been in New York the first time Walter Gibbons was beat juggling drum breaks, or when David Mancuso first dropped ‘Drums of Passion.'”
But gentrification seems to be settling into certain areas of Detroit, bringing a sense of worry to some locals. Croce started his monthly event †Sermon† at Temple Bar just a couple months before officially launching Rocksteady Disco, but he has noticed things have changed in the city in a short amount of time.
“Like most heavy issues I feel really complicated about gentrification. Part of the reason I love Detroit so much is because I believe it can be the model for how to redevelop a city in ways that doesn’t displace people, and that uplifts the voices of those who have stayed in Detroit through the gnarly times. There are literally people who have been collecting their own water and living without electricity for months in this city, keeping things moving in their own ways. Somehow, though, they can’t get bailed out but Mike Illitch’s Olympia Entertainment can get a bunch of land for $1 with no community benefits agreement. That’s not justice, that’s not democracy. That’s deplorable.”
He goes on to agree that Detroit in fact needs some cash flow for a steadier economy, requiring new restaurants and businesses, but does it need to be done so through big corporate establishment with no focus on benefits and needs for the community? Croce notes that he defines gentrification not based solely on race, but as a raising of property values which ends up displacing the poor communities. This in turn is effecting the music scene.
“Regardless of the definition, the black population continues to decline in Detroit while the white population grows. This has a variety of implications, but I’ll speak for the dance music scene. A lot of these folks moving into or partying in the city have a really disgusting entitlement problem. The way they treat incredibly talented DJs/bartenders/venue owners is unfathomable to me. So what you’re going to see is these folks taking over downtown and Midtown and some other neighborhoods as well. There’s a number of venues that the heady dance music community just won’t go to anymore because of how suburbanized they have become. I don’t want to DJ some of them either,” he says. “On the same token, a large number of white folks moving to Detroit are moving here to find their souls. So people like myself need to be careful of just writing all new people off. Shoot, I’ve only been in Detroit for 3 years after all. Many of us immediately went traversing in the underground looking for the culturally important stuff. As DJs we can be cultural ambassadors for these folks. So we should trust but verify rather than categorize new people as guilty until proven innocent.”
However, from disparity can grow beauty. The label’s namesake nods to “rocksteady music,” which derives from Jamaican reggae. That time period between first wave ska and modern reggae. Croce says, “I wasn’t in Kingston in 1966, but that summer seemed like a glorious time to be alive. Ska was slowing down and the lyrical content was becoming more soulful. The music was sexy, smooth yet raw, and yearning for some sort of connection. And that sound for yearning for love, community, and connection is precisely what we try to do with our releases and parties.”
Croce says, “My fiancée puts it best: there’s ‘vertical’ music and ‘horizontal’ music. Vertical music would best be defined as a lot of the techno coming out right now. It’s brain music, it’s upright, and it’s stiff. These characteristics aren’t bad, they just are what they are. Horizontal music would be disco, soulful house, and rocksteady reggae. People move their hips side-to-side when they dance, and it’s less individual. Both of these styles have their place, and you’ll hear me touch on all of these sounds in my sets.”
Regardless which way the groove moves, Rocksteady Disco will be there to lift you up and keep it going.
Stay tuned this week for a very exclusive Sequencer Soundcast from Peter Croce.
One of my favorite parts of about record shopping – actual, physical, getting-your-fingers-dirty record shopping – is the ability to educate myself on some of dance music’s heroes that often go overlooked. I was reflecting on that concept when I decided this week’s Wax Runoff had to feature the latest release from Savor Music, an Argentinian label that presses some of the smoothest deep house records around. SAVOR 011 comes from Gari Romalis, a Detroit don with more than 30 years in the business. Having worked for Derrick May’s legendary Transmat Records and pressed releases on labels such as Soma and Housewax, Romalis is someone I should have already been keeping tabs on, but had somehow slipped through the cracks.
The Boomerang EP gets right down to business, opening with my favorite of the release: “Q-Dig (Dam Right Mix).” Though it starts with kick I like to imagine was recorded underwater and a slightly dubby, reverb’d out synth loop, it’s when the bassline starts teasing that you know for sure that it’s destined for the club. The addition of simple piano chords elevate this track’s playability from warm up to peak hour – I can’t recommend it enough. A2 will find you getting lost in the deep and melodic “From Detroit With Luv.” At times feeling like a locked groove, this would make for a nice end of the night wind-down. Flipping the record over, you’ll find the title track of this release: “Boomerang.” This to me feels like a classic Chicago cut but slightly stripped down, perfect for in the car or warming up a room. File under: mixes well with disco. The EP closes out with “Strutt (Stretch Mix),” a dreamy, spaced out odyssey that’s driven by a thick bass groove, it’s nearly impossible to hold your head still when those hi-hats come in.
I was a bit surprised to see this was sold out in most of the online shops I checked, but if you need a copy of your own it looks like Gramaphone still has one in their online shop. While you’re digging, it’s worth checking out Savor’s site for their full list of releases plus the Savorcast, a series of mixes guaranteed to get you moving.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Colin Boardway, formerly of Chicago, is now based in Greece as the label manager for Yoruba Records. He has spent the last 10 years developing his sound by digging deep in the bins wherever records are sold.
If you so choose to explore the dimensions beyond your structural consciousness – and seek expansion of how you might define spatial extent – you will find Interdimensional Transmissions. For more than 20 years the Detroit label has been creating inspiring techno, and continues to develop a realm to truthfully reunite with music, the concept of self, and universal consciousness.
Detroit native Brendan M. Gillen, otherwise known as BMG, founded Interdimensional Transmissions in 1994.
“I was born in Detroit and raised in the dream of where the edge of the forest and the city meet, that so much of Michigan urban sprawl is based on. I grew up on Detroit radio with the likes of the Mojo and the Wizard (Jeff Mills) and Mike Halloran and Peter Werbe. That alone should get you ready for a revolution. If you add all that up, you can see it in the music we make and play,” he says. His favorite memory as a child was visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts and watching six of Marcel Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs spin around.
His creative inspiration derived from a visionary esoteric place during a trip to Europe in 1991, when he realized that techno stretched to a global level beyond Detroit. During his trip he also had an experience at Dún Aonghasa, a fort on the Aran Islands near Galway, Ireland. An individual that is both scientifically-driven and spiritual, Gillen heard voices that told him to change his life path and to start creating music. Eventually, he listened and Interdimensional Transmissions was born, named after the guiding ancient voices that seemed to permeate into his reality. The label went on to become essential to the Detroit scene as Gillen had a mission to create techno for the city itself, not just for export.
“Detroit’s history is profound, corrupt, confused, inspiring and crushing. When you move to the city of Detroit you enter into a who-dun-it. Who killed this city? Why? What factors? What confused byproducts of previous wars are left here? You’d be quite surprised at the answers.” – BMG
For several years he worked as music director at WCBN, a radio station at the University of Michigan. Erika Sherman, deemed co-conspirator of the label – joined the station’s efforts her freshman year. “We met pretty quickly through weekly music review meetings. I was spending a lot of time at the station volunteering and learning about music, and we became friends,” Sherman says.
She eventually became program director of the Ann Arbor station and in 1997 Gillen asked her to join Ectomorph. “There was a personnel change in Ectomorph and Erika seemed like a very interesting solution; she entered into the project and it was a long-term evolving education thing from which she later fully emerged as the artist you know today,” he says. The two have been creating sounds together with all analog live hardware sequencing under that name ever since.
Daughter of a famous scientist, Sherman was born and raised in a home of technology and music. At a very young age she was well-known for developing a BBS (Bulletin Board System) as well as launching erika.net – a freeform streaming online radio station.
Sherman says, “My relationship with Detroit has always been primarily about music. I started going to Detroit right around the time I joined WCBN to see bands play, go to raves, etc. — all while studying music at the radio station. During this time period I learned the most about jazz, rock and techno: music forms that are a part of Detroit’s cultural makeup. I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Detroit’s place in music history/music present.”
As both a DJ and a live performer her mission has been to gather collective human energy and transfer it through sound. The energy is palpable and can be seen above the crowd in a cloud, according to Gillen. In a means of call and response Sherman says she loves how the energy on a dance floor is “visceral and raw. At its best, it’s both pure individual expression while also a shared experience. It brings people together, forcing a group of friends, acquaintances and strangers to channel their energy into a collective moment, even when dancing by themselves. As a dancer, I like to be lost in the music, dancing by myself, but also feeling the energy of others around me having this moment with that track.”
“You can’t see it, you feel it. It exists without boundaries. It works within your mind but also on a multitude of primal levels. It connects us all, and reconnects us to things far beyond what we can see. For me it is my place of meditation of mental and personal growth, mental relaxation or mental exploration. Freedom for the mind,” Gillen says about why he loves music.
Both Sherman and Gillen perform live as well as DJs. Sherman is well-known for her rare use of The Octopus in her live PA, which is a midi-sequencer that was discontinued by genoQs Machines after the company shutdown in 2010. With her upbringing in a science-based environment, it is clear she uses that influence in her creations; as an example, her video for “North Hex” takes tones of the song which are sent to different machines including computers, a World War II submarine oscilloscope and video synths, all of which are captured with real-time modulation.
Through both of the artists productions and performances, it is clear that space exploration is a driving force for inspiration. What about this science and thought is so intriguing to these artists?
“First, that we know so little about it, so there is tons of room for speculation and contemplation. I can imagine it to be so many different ways inside nebulas, on planets, circling moons… I also like the idea that when we are looking up into space we are actually witnessing ancient history; the light that travels to Earth from the stars has taken so many millions of years to get here. So what’s going on today?” – ERIKA
Gillen continues, “We are stardust. We are the result of a random cosmic collision … We are not unique, but we should stay alone for now. We are totally responsible for what has happened here. Our culture, our achievements, our failures of past societies – that is us. The way we have treated this living organism of earth, you would hope that we never explore beyond our planet. A defining aspect of civilization is that it destroys wherever it is. When I look at the stars I don’t ask myself, ’Is there life out there?’ I already know. The answers are not in the sky, in the stars, in alien lifeforms. I am not waiting on my angel. I don’t need the cosmos to answer a mystic question. I just enjoy witnessing the endless creation, destruction and rebirth.”
In the early 2000s the sound of the scene changed, as did the environment. Minimal became hyper-prevalent and events in Detroit were being held in bars and clubs. It was that time in techno that many are familiar with, where there was a lull followed by a resurgence.
Gillen made a phone call to Derek Plaslaiko, a Detroit native, and pitched an idea to reawaken the local scene: a party that would last 12 hours. In 2007 at an abandoned bank, No Way Back was created. The party has been housed in many places but is mostly known as an after-party at Detroit’s Movement festival and is now co-produced with New York City’s The Bunker.
No Way Back is more than a party. It is an experience that is deep, contemplative and psychologically expansive. In the environment created, the dance floor is a place to transcend in the most primal and honest way. In recent years, it all takes place at Tangent Gallery and from moonlight to sunrise people are flowing in and out of the industrial blank art space building. Nearly 10 minutes from downtown Detroit – just beyond the entrance gate – the floor and the patio are packed. There is a chill room that glows in cool colors, music on the ambient side lets you flow into the space and there are chairs to sit back if you need some ease for just a moment. Past the bar, through the hallway, beyond that door, is the main room. It’s dark, and the temperature is high. Giant parachutes hang from the ceiling and military netting provides background behind the DJ; the label’s recognizable symbol of a hand can be found there as well. The environment is created to inspire certain feelings and vibrations – what you do with the experience is up to you.
In regard to No Way Back Gillen says, “We live in a world of accelerated time, where everyone is multitasking, living these 24-hour lives always pushing but so rarely in the moment. I like to think about vast concepts when you remove the gradation, like music is continuum that we divide into 12 tones, but there is so much more there when you apply different scales or look for notes in between notes. Gagaku [ancient Japanese music] uses only seven notes. Another very fun one to think about is time — how we divide up time. Like there are currently more than 14 calendars on Earth right now, in some places the year is currently 1437. The October Revolution that started too much in Russia happened in our November. Astrologers still use the Julian calendar. Yet my favorite to ponder is Eternity. The absence of time moving forward.”
“That is the space I hope you can return to at our parties where the past the present and the future all exist on the same plane, and you are experiencing that without thinking about it. Our culture robs us of so much of the tribal highlights of living, and nothing beats the dance for actually stretching out your brain and resetting yourself for daily living. So the party must be a place where the mind can go free, and we respect that and structure our parties around that. A free open space for you to be you and to reunite with music, which was our language before words,” he continues.
At No Way Back you will see performances from the likes of BMG, Erika, Carlos Souffront, Mike Servito, Patrick Russell, Scott Zacharias, Orphx, Bryan Kasenic, Derek Plaslaiko, and others. Many factors and well-thought planning are at hand to create a party that for many is inexplicably life-changing. Sherman says “with No Way Back we hope to provide a safe environment in which you can lose yourself in sound and time. How we construct the environment – with an emphasis on the quality of sound system, top-notch DJs, and immersive environments – is something we bring forth from the heydey of rave culture in Detroit. This party is an attempt by us to not look backwards, but to bring the best parts of our early rave and warehouse experiences to today’s crowds.”
We forget in the daily minutia that our innocence is there to be embraced. We deny our darkness for fear of what we’ll see. Our concept of where we are and who we are with is sometimes not as clear because we do not take the time to really be aware. Interdimensional Transmissions in its cognitive and visionary nature brings you into the depths of what it all is, what it all means. Once you get a true glimpse, there truly is no way back.
In this week’s Wax Runoff I wanted to draw attention to one of my favorite family of record labels: Firecracker Recordings. Based out of Edinburgh, Scotland, Firecracker and its two sub-labels Shevchenko and Unthank take a unique DIY approach to releasing top-tier tunes with some of the most aesthetically pleasing packaging in the business.
Recently making waves with a long awaited repress of their first four releases, Firecracker is known for their consistency in releasing deep, left-field and often melancholic tracks by the likes of Linkwood, Inkswell, Vakula and the subject of this week’s feature: Fur.
Appearing on the Unthank imprint, Fur’s Pulp is a deep and moody two tracker pressed to a limited run of 10” vinyl with a gorgeous hand screened jacket. While I personally find 10” records a little awkward both in the bag and on the platter, the depth and floor appeal of these tracks more than make up for it. Opening with mix of sounds that beg you to picture a rainy day, Fur’s original mix of “Pulp” teases you with a slow, jazzy piano line and a spaced out theremin before scattered hi-hats move you through to the track’s climax. Though it takes a bit to build, this one is destined for a late night dance floor or a smokey, dimly lit after-hours. On the flip side you’ll find my pick of this release – Linkwood’s “Pulp (Stargazer Mix).” As deep as it is spacey, this track is dripping with warm analog sounds and a few eerie but well placed vocal samples. A simple bassline and classic sounding 909 pattern keeps this one chugging along but it’s the pads that’ll have you questioning your existence, should you ever find yourself in the middle of a dance floor when someone puts this on.
Even for the casual home listener this release is a treat, and for just $10 on Discogs it’s a little hard to pass up. If you’re moved by these sounds I definitely recommend checking out Firecracker’s Bandcamp page – you’ll be able to find all of their releases (also available digitally) and I think it’s worth a look for the artwork alone.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Colin Boardway, formerly of Chicago, is now based in Greece as the label manager for Yoruba Records. He has spent the last 10 years developing his sound by digging deep in the bins wherever records are sold.
The cab makes a left down a road toward a dead end. It’s the East Side of Buffalo, N.Y. and there’s no one around. “Where is it? Do you hear anything? Maybe just up there a little bit. Oh, that’s definitely it.” Feet scamper down the road toward a warehouse where a few other souls are found milling outside the building smoking cigarettes. There’s faint light spilling out. Someone, open the door.
Although Buffalo is a Rust Belt city and a primed breeding ground for artful events, it wasn’t until Strange Allure came to fruition just last year that there has been a boost of fueled excitement to the city’s typical party scene.
A man that calls himself Alan Frank was living in Cleveland, Ohio for almost six years before moving to Buffalo about two years ago. He was born in a town south of Cedar Point, right between Cleveland and Toledo, in the middle of nowhere.
When he was just a teenager, Frank was booking and playing punk and hardcore shows. While he was in high school he would book touring bands at a clubhouse by the local reservoir. Grind and extreme music exposed him to seeing the American underground music scene. But overtime, he says, the scene became oversaturated with bands and the payoff wasn’t ideal.
“I had always flirted with electronic music and techno, but all my friends were punk and we all liked hip-hop and dub.” Techno was his guilty pleasure. But Frank grew up with knowledge about turntablism and was semi-familiar with Detroit techno; occasionally he was able to pick it up on the radio due to his proximity being in Ohio. Artists such as DJ Shadow and any of that “moody groovy weird stuff” drew him in deeper. He started hearing more and more about DIY house and techno, and simultaneously began collecting records. A self-acclaimed Craigslist hound, he scored a collection of Detroit techno and dub techno and from that point forward he was convinced. Additionally, “in a crazy stroke of fate” he was able to flip a mediocre pair of turntables for a mint pair of Technics at a price that was somewhat unimaginable.
“I started collecting techno records and there’s a really sick shop in Cleveland called Bent Crayon, which is legitimately the best record store in the country.”
Frank would pay close attention to the owner’s favorite picks that he would showcase in the shop. Additionally, the shop’s owner would throw events and Frank found himself at Regis and Veronica Vasicka. “That was probably the first techno thing I’d really gone to … it was just freaks coming out,” he says.
When Bent Crayon brought Voices From The Lake, Frank ran into previous co-worker Adam Miller and from there they “went down the wormhole” together. Frank and Miller started going to Hot Mass in Pittsburgh in 2013. “That was huge to see – how cool a party could be and how un-club like it could be.
“It was funny because I really didn’t want to go … I was tired,” he says. His interest was piqued for psilocybin, nothing serious and without a very real intention toward it. But Miller approached him – unaware of Frank’s predisposition – and said he had some mushrooms. The romantics might call it fate, regardless, they both hopped on the Interstate 76 toward Pittsburgh.
“[Hot Mass] was unlike anything I’ve ever been to. You know, just a tiny dark room with a killer system. People weren’t talking, people were dancing. You could dance with other people. Totally uninhibited.”
After Hot Mass, Miller invited him to Sustain-Release and with hesitation Frank eventually agreed. “That’s when I got my mind blown about the possibilities of the intersection of DIY culture and dance music … I was dialed in throughout the whole weekend. It’s the most cohesive, perfectly built thing I’ve ever seen. It’s insane.”
The communal vibe of Sustain-Release was a clear inspiration which has worked as the oncoming structure for Strange Allure parties.
“Just seeing all the different people that would come out. Certain people, and groups like Discwoman, using it as a platform to approach real issues and talk about things in a very punk sense, it was really cool. The thing that was cool about Sustain-Release is how represented the female talent was, that was awesome. There have been things that I’ve been to that were clubby and just fucking bros … if there’s one thing I cannot relate to, or one thing that will drive me away, it’s that.” Sustain-Release, a total void of the surface mainstream EDM, became a beacon in his mind’s eye.
“Seeing the detail and the care that all these people put into building this thing and it turning out perfect … such a cohesive idea, seen all the way through – it was really cool.” — ALAN FRANK
Sometime later, friends of his were throwing a Halloween party and asked him to DJ. “It went way better than I expected,” he says and people urged him to continue playing house and techno. In the summer of 2015 he decided to explore something new and assembled a group of 10-12 fresh air punk homegrown people. With connections in real estate he started bouncing with the idea of curating an event in the city of Buffalo.
Frank had the name Strange Allure in mind a long time ago. Inspired by Mission of Burma, a post-punk band from Boston, Mass. in the ’70s-’80s, he scribbled the name down on a dry erase board in his bedroom studio hoping to one day use it for something. Next step was to figure out who to book for the first event. While in Toronto to see Jay Daniel, by happenstance arrived in time for doors; “I was there so painfully early and nobody was there except me.”
Stuart Li, otherwise known as Basic Soul Unit, was there and the two started chatting. Li agreed to come through to play in Buffalo and the first Strange Allure party was born.
After a slight location snafu before the launch party he cold called people for five days straight and eventually landed on the East Side space where Strange Allure held it’s first party. “I was so stressed out because I did not want to cancel that show because I thought we were going to be able to ride something really cool that was happening with Western New York and all this stuff that was coming to a head,” he says. In a warehouse that functioned for powder coating and as a lumberyard in the 1920s, the collective started to turn it into something different.
“That spot was totally haphazardly thrown together. We got in there maybe two days before the show,” he says. “I had no idea how to build it up. We made everything out of stuff that was found there. The sound system, we built that little makeshift stage and all it is was are pallets and drywall. We dropped the subs in front of it and it was perfect, totally flush. The speakers fit perfectly. That bar is just an old headboard. The car seat we put in the lounge area. The table we were using at the door was already there. Everything was just in there.”
The day began at 9 a.m. to prepare the party and after loading in and loading out they cleared the warehouse by 9 a.m., a few hours after the party ended.
Prior to the launch party, the crew put together a fundraiser event at SolRise studio on Buffalo’s East Side. “It wasn’t a great turn out but the people who came out were really excited to see techno in the city,” he says. “We really tried to build it up and promote it as a community-based party and make people feel welcome and make people feel like they’re part of something.”
Working hand-in-hand to create something together, an evening of Strange Allure is one worth exploring and full of surprises.
For the next Strange Allure installation, catch Detroit’s Erika and BMG [Interdimensional Transmissions] on Saturday, June 18.
Now that the literal and figurative dust has settled from Movement it’s time for a breather. Two days after the festival I had the opportunity to check out Submerge Records. Located in the basement of a building in Detroit’s New Center, it is my new personal favorite shop in the city. The space is the spiritual home to Underground Resistance and also serves as a hub for many Detroit producers/labels to showcase their records. One of the releases that I picked up was Pontchartrain’s Hard Love Edits on Rocksteady Disco.
Pontchartrain, a Detroit native, has become one of the city’s finest disco and edits selectors. His productions over the past two years have garnered the attention of the acclaimed Whiskey Disco, Detroit’s own Rocksteady Disco, and led him to start his own label, Lovedancing. The Burnin’ EP on the latter was one of my favorite releases of 2015.
Hard Love Edits is a sublime 7″ with two tracks guaranteed to set the mood. “L&H” on Side A is an edit of “Love And Happiness” by Al Green; this tune manages to maintain every ounce of soul Al Green put into the original. The organ, funky guitars, and vocal line keep this track grounded. Right when you think you’ve found the pocket, a dub echo takes you on a trip to space. Simplicity is key with this one and boy does it deliver.
The B-side is a bassline monster. “S.I.O” is an uptempo flip of “Lets Straighten It Out” by Latimore. This one chugs along and does not let go. If your head is not nodding by the time this one’s over you may need to reevaluate some things. Even though this was a Record Store Day 2015 release you can still find copies on Discogs. Pontchartrain and Rocksteady Disco show no signs of slowing down. Next time you’re in Detroit make sure to swing by one of their parties and take a soul bath.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Alex Morrison is a Buffalo-based DJ raised on funk and soul with poor restraint in the crates.