Wax Runoff: NYC Loft Records [NYC108]

It can sometimes be difficult for compilation-only labels to pick up and maintain momentum over the course of many releases and years. The art form is a bit different than solo artist EPs and the scrutiny is heavier from potential supporters. There are still a few though which seem to repeatedly be on the money and NYC Loft Records is definitely one of them. The latest, I Wanna See All My Friends at Once Vol. 2, is currently out now on vinyl only.

Starting with a compilation of six early ‘90s dubs last year, people have been scooping the NYC Loft releases faster than ever. All of which feature that very distinct brand of New York house. Many have a focus on hardware, warmth, and the recreation of subtle inaccuracies in the sound that resulted from making music before computers. The art has bounced around a little bit, but a handful of releases feature photos of modern swanky living room lounges – the sort of place you’d want to have a party with all your closest friends.

NYC Loft Records

NYC108

Things get kicked off strong on A1 “Dance to the Dub” – a thumper of a track by Kick That Funk. A sample heavy and looped out the tune features fat kicks and lo-fi chords behind filter delayed vocal rips. It’s a rhythmically focused track, and a perfect little slice of house music.

The next cut, Bonjour’s “Fondant (Creamy Disco Dub)”, is also an expertly chopped up sample number. Rolling tape drum loops keep a very sturdy rhythm but the big synth patches that bounce around halfway through are the stars here. It can be hard to have old samples and new synths sit well in the mix together; this track is a solid reminder that it’s not impossible.

A3, Subtle Approach’s “Holdin You Close” takes a step back for a more simple and funky West Coast influenced piece. The tune honestly feels like it could have been released on Westbound or Siesta during the heyday of those labels. Live bass notes and up front filters create a hypnotizing groove, perfect for an early night party starter.

Flipping to the B-side, Dubrazil lends “Sunshine In My Life (Deeper Dub)” to the batch. Very Chicago and masterfully engineered, the bass is loud and chunky. There are plenty of long-decay tape delays to compliment the triplet chord stabs. In true Chicago house fashion, the clicks from the vinyl that the drums were sampled from are still in the mix. The whole tune has a perfect airy sound that sits atop the incredibly rich synthesizers.

“Melodies of Dub” on B2 comes courtesy of Blackdub with a super pared down tribal feel to it. Supple hand drums and snareless drum loops drive along a lazy sax sampling. It’s a wonderful flavor to a compilation that already has reached Neapolitan status.

To wrap things up, Australia’s DJ Freestyle brings the focus back to rhythmic classic New York-styled house with his touch on Pascal Cordoba’s “Comblnaca”. Jazzy piano splices that never seem to get old accompany faster drums creating an energetic yet calm tune that will surely get party goers’ backs off the wall.

What’s great about this record is that all the tracks sound really great on their own, but as a group and all on one plate, they’re an amazing tribute to the first city that really started to define it’s own sound in the wake of the initial house music boom of the mid to late ‘80s. These are the sorts of tracks I constantly try to hunt down in sketchy corners of used record stores all over the country. The early ‘90s in New York was a source of more amazing records than anyone knew what to do with. I can say with confidence that the tunes on this record sound as if they are straight out of a Masters At Work set 25 years ago.

This record was released in mid-March, but it’s still kicking around some locations. In true spirit of the love for New York, I suggest you buy your copy from longstanding NYC house slingers Downtown304. These folks have been in the game a long time and only continue to do so through people supporting their more off the radar shop. I would scoop this record up now and keep your eyes peeled in 2017 for more NYC Loft Trax series because I don’t expect them to be slowing down.

Currently these tracks are available only on vinyl, but you can listen to some snips of the tracks here.

Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Nick States, of Boston, bought his first vinyl record in 2010 and has been hooked ever since. The record shop tends to be his first stop in an any city he visits.

Boots Boogie

Bruce Bailey

He is a hustler. He uses music as his platform to inspire, bring growth and spread knowledge. If you have ever seen him play records you will see among the crowd a solid core of community friends up front and center. Bruce Bailey is a true Detroiter.

Being born and raised in Detroit directly developed his love for music, he says. “After all, from Motown to techno, us ‘Motor Citians’ have some substantial musical roots. Detroit is known for hard working individuals and I guess that really rubbed off on me.” Initially entering the scene as a promoter he decided to delve deeper into mixing records as he became witness to the inexplicable energy created by the music, the DJ, and the crowd.

His story’s trajectory truly demonstrates how versatile, grinding effort and an attitude that won’t quit can help you achieve your dreams. Bailey is a DJ, a promoter, a music lover and a businessman. Through various avenues and vessels he has established himself by taking opportunities as they come and perpetuating progress. He says, “It’s like working on my craft 24 hours a day is normal or something. I wouldn’t be able to stay relevant today without that instilled work ethic.”

It stretches back to his time spent as an undergraduate student at Western Michigan University. Centrally located between Detroit and Chicago, Bailey (with a foundation of music history from his hometown) started to become increasingly more exposed to Chicago house music. He and his friends were playing vinyl and at the time he says “the record purchasing craze was unbelievable.” They were able to tune into house music on numerous radio stations picked up with his roommate’s high frequency antenna. “I remember many a night (sometimes day) we would sit in the dorm room with sounds blasting, writing down what we thought were the names of new music we had never heard. On weekends we would drive down to the Windy City and purchase vinyl or send word to the Detroit buyers to grab some of this new music we’ve heard.”

Bruce Bailey at Charivari 2016. Photo by Alicia Greco.

As he started to become more established within the scene, Bailey and his partner Vern English worked together to found Tandem Entertainment Company. They both had been spinning since college. “We were getting booked individually at a ridiculous clip. One day we collectively decided that we needed to emerge from the underground way of doing business. So, we added eight or so additional DJs, sound techs and personalities to the team to help cover the plethora of events we couldn’t keep up with beforehand. It not only helped us to totally legitimize the steady stream of revenue but also assist us in multiple tax related ways,” he says. “Over the years ‘The Tandem Brand’ has covered a diverse number of events as our DJ services became mandatory from numerous corporate and underground bookings. To this day The Tandem is the most utilized DJ company in Metro Detroit.”

Throughout Detroit he has held residencies in the city’s most reputable spots. Bailey’s first was at Cheeks, a legendary establishment where Jeff Mills’ Wizard persona came to fruition. The spot was also home to moments like the debut of Inner City’s “Good Life”. In 1991 Bailey went on to become head promoter and resident DJ at Club 246 where he stayed for seven years. It was during this time that DJ Minx got her start, Delano Smith got back behind the decks, and the stage saw the likes of so many local favorites like Norm Talley, Moodymann, Al Ester, and Terrence Parker.

“This is arguably the most historic club in Detroit history and the stories from this era are nothing less than amazing. Probably the most memorable was – well let me set the stage first…” he says. “Club 246 was located on the street level of The Madison Hotel in the thick of Downtown Detroit. The night I was given to run was a Thursday. In the early ‘90s you couldn’t get a continuous weekend night to promote house music at any venue downtown, hence the Thursday night sets began. So, I’d say halfway through my seven year run (on a Sunday if I recall properly) I got a call from the owner saying there was a fire in the building. Now keep in mind all the other businesses within the hotel (including the hotel rooms themselves) were defunct except the ordinarily designed Club 246 and it’s adequately sized walkout patio.”

Club 246 detroit

Club 246, Detroit

He continues, “So as you’d guess I’m in limbo regarding this situation as Thursdays were definitely the hottest thing going in Detroit at this time, house music wise. The fire department came out and extinguished the fire and it was a mess throughout the building. I knew we’d be closed for some time with a good possibility of never reopening. To my surprise a few days later I got a call saying that we were gonna try and move forward with opening up – I couldn’t believe it.  Somehow we opened and it was super successful. Outta the disaster we got an upgraded sound system (so needed) and for maybe a week or two you could smell faint remnants of smoke, but unbelievably not even for one week did it deter the capacity crowds from supporting.”

After Club 246 closed he moved on to a restaurant called Lola’s in 2002. This residency lasted him about five years which he says “catapulted my brand and solidified a switch, as a week later I became the first resident DJ at TV Lounge.” At the time Bailey’s friend, Tree Graves, was the owner. Formerly called Half Past 3 (now frequently called TV Bar) this venue remains one of the strongest Detroit spots. “You see, Half Past 3 was more so the cool spot for the cities jet setters before transforming into the house/techno mega club that it is today. Sport players and dignitaries flooded the venue on Fridays and the Salsa community filled the joint every Saturday.”

The list of residencies and artists that have performed either inside, on the patio or down the alley at TV Bar is innumerable. With a welcoming atmosphere the club’s energy continues strong longevity to this day for locals and visitors alike. Bailey says, “TV Lounge is a family and I’d like to think I did my share of work in elevating it to the worldwide iconic status it receives today.”

There is an undeniable uniqueness to the Detroit hustle. It is grassroots, unrelenting and if you have seen it before you know there is a genuine confidence embodied in the energy. This is why you see (in many Detroit DJs and producers) this particular attitude which makes their presence so special. Especially during the time before technology, there was a limited accessibility in sharing sounds. It took, as Bailey and so many others did, pushing out hundreds of cassette mixtapes. Speaking to people face-to-face and developing real-time connections was the only accessible avenue anyone had to make their name known. In Bailey’s mind it’s how you set yourself apart.

“Here in Detroit you’d never solely make it in the DJ business if you sat back and waited for clients to contact you. If you excelled here in The D, you must be liked, have a solid game plan and also the intellect to overcome obstacles – hell, I always say if it was easy everyone would be doing it (successfully),” he says. When you see Bailey play on home turf it is so apparent that he has developed and maintained relationships throughout the years. Keeping those personal connections alive is a foundation for success is just about anything.

“Certain things you do dictate your character and I believe that represented mine in the best fashion.  Of course my original saying had to go on this sign as marketing waits for no one – ‘the brand don’t build itself.’” – BRUCE BAILEY

There is plenty on the horizon for Bailey starting this spring with the release of his latest EP The Detroit Room through Open Bar Music. He says, “This two track release has been simmering for quite a few months. Additional production by Oscar P and Delano Smith make this a sure fire underground hit for the deep house music fan.”

Additionally, you can also look forward to a two-day boutique festival in Detroit during the last weekend of June at TV Lounge. With efforts from Bailey, the venue’s staff, Josh Guerin and Delano Smith, talent is booked and “people can expect the official announcement sometime early May. Collectively we couldn’t be more excited about our first stab at a local festival.”

Within Bailey is a deeply motivated passion to create and build. He blends together his entrepreneurial spirit and his love for music in a way that is tasteful, genuine and inspiring. The name Bruce Bailey, is more than just a name. “Music for me is a collection of emotions. I love it for the way it brings people together and how it unites communities. Without music there would definitely be a void in my life. I look forward to spreading my love of music around more this year as I have road shows in China, New York, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, North Carolina, Los Angeles and Virginia already set for this year. Yup, I love music…”

Catch Bruce Saturday night in Rochester for Signal > Noise.

Wax Runoff: Chas Jankel [SP-12044]

Back in the beginning of DJing as an art form, everything was an egg hunt. That’s why it was very fitting that I recently exhumed a record I’ve been hunting for a long time, Chas Jankel’s Glad to Know You, from a local dollar bin littered with filler.

Aside from a possible disco section, dance tracks really didn’t have a place on the racks yet, and it would be decades before the Internet was fast enough to download a wav. file in an acceptable amount of time. It was the job of these early ’80s DJs to find tracks that moved dance floors but many times weren’t designed for mixing or club play. It was a very exciting time – the recently updated Technics 1200 turntable had just replaced the somewhat restrictive rotary pitch knob with a pitch fader capable of stretching  +/- 8%, creating a new world of mix possibilities. Additionally, drum machines would begin to fairly ubiquitously replace live drummers, creating the opportunity for a long mix.

Chas Jankel

SP-12044

And perhaps most importantly, dedicated clubs began popping up in America to accommodate this burgeoning underground culture. None are perhaps more famous than the fabled Paradise Garage in New York City. Indeed, how I came to find out about this incredible record was in researching the patron saint of the club, Larry Levan. Thanks to those hardened hunters like Larry, a scarcely available and unknown 1980 import shot to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Disco charts after A&M released a 12” version in 1981 where it remained for seven weeks. Interestingly, those charts at the time were not made based on commercial success, but rather from reporting club DJs from various cities around the country. This structure really let underground sounds shine and pointed dance DJs in the right direction.

A&M released the record with three cuts, the first of which – “Glad to Know You” – is probably the best-known track. With lyrics from Jankel’s old Blockheads band mate Ian Dury, the song is a wonderful fusion of disco vibes with the tools of a forthcoming electro era. The funk inspired bassline is undeniably groovy, and the soul-centric organ riff never gets old. There is experimentation with tape delay and sampling, saturated reverb, and synthesizer manipulation. Even 36 years later, this tune would set a club off.

The most futuristic track, however, was of course on the B-side. “3,000,000 Synths” is a true examination of the powers within the Oberheim synthesizers that would become commonplace in the later part of the decade as Miami bass and electro styles began to take off. Those famously wet filters on Oberheim machines were put to the test with massive sweeping resonant pads that pan across the soundscape. Mind melting lines constantly modulate up and down scales and at times there is almost too much noise. The tune is saved from being labeled experimental by a nice and chunky funk bassline with organ stabs and a heavy electro bass arpeggio. There are no lyrics this time around, but instead indecipherable spoken word samples in the background, a stylistic choice still heard in many dance tracks today.

The original 1980 Japanese 7” release only contained the first two tunes, but I’m willing to wager that A&M thought the record was originally too risky for wide success. So the 1981 12” U.S. release contained B2, “Ai No Corrida” much more closely followed the established disco formula. The drum machines and samples were traded for a band and drummer. There are still artifacts of Chaz’s forward thinking style in the notable synth work, but the track is less exciting and in comparison to the other two, feels very safe.

We owe a lot to these early years of people messing about with synthesizers and drum machines. The work from this period jettisoned dance music out of its glitzy disco cage and into a new era that was experimental, different, and welcoming of people belonging to the other. Disco had become chic and commercialized. The exciting music being played at spots like Paradise Garage was paving a way for house music to be born and creating the pillars of acceptance and unconditional love that are held so dear in dance music culture. You’re unlikely to ever find that coveted 7” Japanese import, but there are U.S. copies floating around Discogs that won’t break the bank.

It is so important this music is not forgotten, partly because it’s just as enjoyable and relative today as it was so many years ago. Many thanks due to the beloved Larry Levan and all the other DJs throughout history and today who have pushed the envelope of creativity and artistry and continue to do so.

 

 

Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Nick States, of Boston, bought his first vinyl record in 2010 and has been hooked ever since. The record shop tends to be his first stop in an any city he visits.