Whipnotiq

Wax Runoff: Jean-Luc Ponty [SD 18163]

Who is this scruffy dark haired man always popping up in the P’s section of the record store? That would be French-born, LA-dwelling, and crucially funky jazz violinist and songwriting savant Jean-Luc Ponty. Most people know him for his work with Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, before he stepped out on his own. Aurora follows a variety of more straight-ahead jazz and collaboration records, and is effectively Ponty’s second solo jazz fusion LP.

jean-luc ponty

SD 18163

In addition to Ponty the line-up features a young Patrice Rushen on keyboards, Darryl Stuermer on guitars, Tom Fowler on electric bass, and Norman Fearrington on drums and percussion. Save for Rushen, this fairly unknown ensemble delivers a wide array of world-class cuts, ranging from blistering and virtuosic to emotive and pensive.

The uptempo “Is Once Enough?” kicks off the record, complete with solos from Ponty, Stuermer, and Rushen on Rhodes piano. “Renaissance” follows, a track featuring Ponty on auto-harp as well as violin. This is a highlight of the record for me, and apparently for others who draw inspiration from it. Stuermer and Ponty’s almost bouzouki sounding acoustic guitar and violin harmonization is so on point that its skill and technique can accidentally be overlooked. Sit back and enjoy this one.

The title tracks begin with a semi-atonal 5/4 based groove, complete with bass fills from Fowler. Part 1 does a wonderful job of setting up the funk to come in Part 2. Stuermer and Ponty duke it out again before the rest of the band joins in for the fun, resulting in quite possibly the stankiest 7/4 groove cut to wax. Play this one for the floor and watch people get weird.

The B-side follows a similar pattern to side A, but it certainly stands on its own. It leads with the blistering jazz rock of “Passenger Of The Dark” and is followed by the goosebump inducing “Lost Forest”. Of course Ponty and Stuermer’s counterpoint stand out, but Fowler’s borderline psychedelic phased out electric bass, complete with some power chords, really add a thick element to this cut. You might need to put this one on repeat.

“Between You and Me” sounds like if Yacht Rock musicians could rip, and I mean that in the best way possible. Proper sunshine grooves. It serves as a phenomenal penultimate track, before “Waking Dream” takes us into space with a variety of synthesizers, guitars, and effected violins.

Ponty’s Aurora is over 40 years old this year, yet it continues to stand the test of time. You can snag a copy on Discogs but can also probably find it in your local record store from $2-$15. Don’t sleep on it.

Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Peter Croce is a Detroit-born and now Chicago-dwelling deejay, producer, and label boss. He owns and operates Rocksteady Disco, Mr. PC Versions, and MotorCity Wine Recordings.

Wax Runoff: Peaches [Peaches 004]

Flipping through my collection this week I wanted to find something contemporary, yet very forgotten. It’s been a while since I really shuffled the sleeves to near completion, and Mint Julep [Peaches 004] pulled ahead when it flooded my mind with fond memories of a time when this record seldom left my bag.

PEACHES 004

PEACHES 004

Peaches is a sneaky little New York label that ran 13 “official” 12” pressings between 2002 and 2008, as many of the records contain samples without any sort of permission. In fact Jager Bomb EP is banned from sale on Discogs presumably because of uncleared Prince samples.

There’s a wonderful thematic allure to Peaches. The label branding was slick with most EPs named after spirits and malt liquor, and reworking primarily hip-hop and RnB songs into rolling house were their principal mainstay. The first several releases I suspect were mostly throw away bootlegs made strictly for the club. With the recent advent of the CDJ, it was now very easy to instantly start working them into your set.

But the tracks worked, so they pressed them. Peaches 004 ended up being the most sought after release, and for good reason. It’s got 4 solid tunes that span a good diversity of house, but with a central focus on flexing basslines and attentive rhythmic layering.

The recording sets out on A1 with “Iz It Luv” by Dandruff Truckers. A jacked out shuffle of drum samples lay a sturdy foundation for smooth female vocal swoons and a much deeper 808 bassline than expected. Eventually the track breaks into a dance between warm and fuzzy triplet chords and a verse from the vocalist. It really gets moving, but has all the characteristics of a more chilled-out and deep style of house.

A2 “Slide” by J Tilla admittedly sounds out of place following the initial track and the record as a whole. It’s angrier than the other tunes, with distorted and snapping drums that remind me more of club techno than anything. The Missy Elliot verse is irresistible at times, and there’s probably a scenario where this tune would go off, but it’s just so intentionally rough that it ends up being a novelty.

The first cut on the B-side makes up for any wrongdoing on A2 with the pearl of the bunch, “Passin Me Byte” by Guided Methods. It features crowd pleasing samples from the classic Pharcyde track that the title is a play on. Combined with sharp and layered top rhythm lines and a very memorable bassline, this track always gets two thumbs up. The groove builds and drops quite effortlessly and it pairs well with almost any other track in the same key.

And on B2, “One Love” by Tahm solo rounds things out with another jackin’ Chicago-infused house bootleg. Reminiscent of where things began on A1, the drums are well-paced and wet. It’s the emergent fuzzy chords that really make the tune shine, and the rap verses that go over the core of the track can be cheesy in some circumstances, but there is a three minute groove at the back of the record if you don’t want to deal with it.

Peaches is definitely a label I try to keep an eye out for when adding to my collection. Just the factor of intrigue that people get when they hear these mainstream hip-hop artists that they are familiar with over a skillful house beat is reason enough to snatch them. All the ones I’ve found have come out of dollar bins so they’re definitely easy to hunt. As for Peaches 004, your best bet may be Discogs.

Perhaps the best place to find them may be as it says on every Peaches center label: “Get your Peaches in the Bronx.”

 

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.

Wax Runoff: Fatback [SP-1-6721]

Earlier this week as I sat in my chair at my dreadfully dreary office day job, a groovy song crept from my memory caves into my head. I strained to recall what it was as I lightly tapped my foot to the riff now endlessly looping in my brain. After about an hour of trying to figure out what it was, it finally hit me; “Hesitation” from the 1979 Spring records release Brite Lites, Big City by The Fatback Band, or more colloquially – Fatback.

SP-1-6721

I purchased this gem earlier in the year from an old funk-gangster Vietnam vet who sets up crate-after-crate of forgotten and rare funk and disco grooves every weekend at the local market. The art direction for Fatback releases was consistently superb and I had seen their albums before, but never made a purchase because I never agreed with the price. It was only because this gentleman priced this album for a single dollar.

Within minutes of popping the plate onto my platter, I was blown away for a few reasons. This record absolutely does not sound like it was produced in 1978/1979. During that time, recording engineers really weren’t using heavy compression in the studios. Most funk and soul tracks were much more organic sounding – like a live recording of a band. Furthermore, the drums would be mixed down below a sonic focal point. This record was doing the opposite: loud and compressed drums very foreboding of how house and hip-hop music would be produced 15 years later. I was so curious why these jams were so uniquely different and forward thinking than their peers of the time.

The answer was very simple: no recording engineer was used. All production credits go to the Fatback Band itself and likely many of the creative decisions were made by mastermind and front man of the band, Bill Curtis.

It wasn’t just technical originality that set this record apart for me but the unique musical theory behind each track. There is a very heavy reliance on repetition and loops, again reminding me of dance music that would come many years later. In addition, rather than having lyrics in the traditional sense, much of the vocals on the tracks are spoken word, a future trend that Curtis and his band heavily utilized before others.

In fact, it is not just “Hesitation” that has been randomly stuck in my head. Each of the six tracks on the album have an infectious groove.

The A side is more of a funk affair, though all the tracks are written in 4/4 time signature which was more common for disco at the time, and indeed there is much disco influence. “Freak The Freak The Funk (Rock)” kicks it all off with a fat distorted guitar riff and structuring similar to many of the classics made popular by George Clinton. Much like the other tunes, it is an incredible fusion of funk and disco styles. “Let Me Do It To You” comes next and stands out the most with slick guitar plucks and a tambourine line that always causes a case of the head-bobs. This one is more slanted to the disco side of things and really works for a dance floor. Then the final A cut “Brite Lites, Big City” flips the tempo down to 95 BPM with a pure funk take. Of notable mention is the ripper of a sax solo by band member Fred Demery during which Bill yells “Keep the wine flowing!” and claims he lost his voice because the party was so good.

The B-side is definitely where the disco shines through brightly. B1 “(Do The) Boogie Woogie” is a classic late ’70s jam. What makes many of the tunes from that time unplayable today, though, was how overly cheesy the horn sections and vocals could be. Fatback stays true to form while taking all the classic elements but strictly adheres to the repetitive style. “Hesitation” on B2 is an absolute jam with the 1/8 note closed hi-hats we know so well. This is the only tune that truly has lyrics but is still as sweet as the fruits and the rolling big disco bassline that plays during the bridge phrases always impresses me. The release wraps up with “Wild Dreams” on B3. Another heavy disco influenced number, but slower and most importantly – jazzy as hell. Jazz influence is actually prevalent across Fatback’s discography but it really only shows on the final cut. If it had existed at the time, I would say I hear so much lo-fi jazz sample house influence in this track. But it’s just another example of how this album was ahead of its time.

Fatback was insanely prolific. From 1972 to 1988, Fatback released 23 full-length studio albums and tons of singles. Surprisingly to me, Brite Lites, Big City was one of their least regarded albums. But if you listen to the other albums before and after this one, there is not as much of an experimentation with sound design or music theory. This album was less safe, and in turn not as popular, but from a 2017 perspective, it was massively genius. It avoids all the major pitfalls of funk and disco of that era, while pushing the envelope of innovation and achieving stunning originality.

It’s somewhat tough to snag a mint copy of this 12”, but there are certainly some options on Discogs for varying degrees of quality and price. More likely, you stumble across this record while flipping through the crates and searching for the lost grooves. Ideally, you meet an OG funk-gangster of your own who can supply you with this and countless other long lost heaters.

 

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.

DJ Minx

The year was 1988 when Jennifer Witcher, otherwise known as DJ Minx, fell in love with house music. “Although I’d heard house music on the radio often, I never liked it,” she says. Until one fateful Friday evening a few friends brought her to the Music Institute in Detroit, and everything changed.

“There was a long line to get in and that made it so I had to get in there! After a long wait, we finally got in. The crowd was dancing like there was no tomorrow! The sound system, the crowd and that badass DJ was it for me! I started going to the M.I. every week. That’s when my love came to fruition.”

DJ MINX CIRCA 1992 – PHOTO COURTESY OF DJ MINX

For three decades after that night she dove into the music world and progressively developed herself into a powerful innovator, DJ, radio host, label owner, and producer. This path to success all started with a challenge posed by Derrick May. One night at the M.I. he told her, “Don’t come over here again till you’re DJing.” And so she did.

Helping her rise to the challenge was Minx’s old friend Jerrald James who began mentoring her. “CAT! Jerry the Cat, is what we call him,” she says. “Cat knew that Derrick May ‘challenged me’ to be a DJ, so he pushed me – hard – to get into it. He helped me get turntables and a mixer and explained how to mix music. He came to my apartment with two records a week telling me to mix them.”

Undoubtedly, the more she grew as a female DJ she encountered struggle and discrimination. Her mentor was there to remind Minx to keep her head up, and never stop grinding. “When I started to feel overwhelmed by guys being disrespectful, I told Cat I was going to stop DJing. He demanded that I keep on playing, and to ignore idiots and stupid things. He pushed and pushed and pushed me to be grand. I love me some JLC (Jerry the Cat)!”

Minx mixes records with sophisticated, graceful and robust energy. In the second wave of Detroit DJs and producers, she was there hustling along with the best of them. Her moniker unfortunately encouraged unwanted advances and negativity, but Minx never let the textbook definition of her name keep her bound into some ideology of what she should be. No longer will minx solely be defined as the wily ways of a flirtatious woman. Now, Minx means a hustler with tenacious diligence paired with zero tolerance for bullshit.

Encouraging empowerment within others, she has used music as a platform to advocate and support females interested in mixing. In 1996 she founded female DJ collective Women On Wax.

“Many girls looked for support and help with ‘how to become a DJ’. A few of them had heard of me or saw me in action. I developed the collective to help female DJs (or potentials) to be more confident in their performances and in the business aspect of things. I’ve mentored and helped Magda, Jennifer Xerri and Laura Hardgrove, just to name a few.”

Ten years later that collective became a label on a mission to put out quarterly deep and soulful house tracks. Inspiration to make this next step in her music career came from Kenny Dixon Jr., otherwise known as Moodymann. He advised that she push in a new direction, and onto the next phase of her life.   

“I love music because of the way it makes me feel, and the way it makes other people feel. It’s a helluva pick-me-up when I’m down and is a motivator when it’s time for production. I don’t use drugs. My music keeps me high.” – DJ MINX

Eventually she created a sub-imprint W.O.W.B.A.M. (Women On Wax Bangin’ Ass Music). She also has her own productions and remixes out on labels such as West End Records, Third Ear Recordings, Trisomie 21, Soiree Records, Code Red, Liberate, to name a few. The track she became most known for – “A Walk in the Park” – was picked up by Richie Hawtin and released on M_nus in 2004. Initially, Hawtin and Minx were familiar while she was mentoring Magda. After hearing the track in a set by Ricardo Villalobus, Hawtin and his manager reached out to Minx and Hawtin says to her, “Anything you have with bass like that track, I want to put it out.”  
To add to her repertoire, Minx also has a prominent presence on the airwaves with two years as engineer and host of Queen Beats Radio on WGPR Detroit Deep Space Radio. On 91.5 FM Minx also hosted “Steamy Windows”, a weekly program through the University of Canada in Windsor.

As an international DJ she has performed in world-renowned clubs like Tresor and Panorama Bar in Berlin, Stackenschneider in Russia, Club Air in Japan, as well as in Paris, Toronto, Switzerland, Spain, and Belgium. Not only did she play the inaugural Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2000, but she has played throughout the United States including Hot Mass in Pittsburgh, for Sole Rehab and Signal > Noise in Rochester, Deep Sugar in Baltimore, NYC’s Output and Good Room, and more. Of course it goes without mentioning, throughout the venue circuit of Detroit where she still resides.

“What I find everywhere is that people are actually in love with this music. Doesn’t matter what language you speak or where they’re from, when folks are on the dance floor the communication flows all the same.” – DJ MINX

A pivotal venue for Minx was one in the beginning of her DJ career: a residency at Motor, an influential club for Detroit in the mid-1990s. Located in the city’s Polish neighborhood, Hamtramck, the spot was far-removed from downtown Detroit but home to the greatest local DJs with close ties to the Music Institute. Carlos Oxholm, Motor’s co-founder, put together the sound system for the Music Institute and when M.I. veteran Derrick May played Motor’s first year anniversary party the space started picking up some steam.

DJ MINX AT BOILER ROOM – PHOTO BY ALICIA GRECO

Shortly after that night, he recommended DJ Bone as a resident for Fridays, which were dedicated to techno. Following soon after, Motor brought on Mike Clark and DJ Minx for house nights on Saturday.

“Motor! Oh my god, what a club! So, I get a call one night from Linda G., who was a promoter at Motor. ‘Hey Minx, it’s Linda G! So, what are you doing every Saturday night, besides being the new resident DJ at Club Motor?’ That’s how it happened!” she says with a laugh. “She gave me some details, asked to meet with me to discuss further, and the following Saturday I was in there like swimwear! One of my fondest memories is when I opened for Derrick May – my influence in all this. He stood behind me and watched me spin. I turned around and he said, ‘I can’t believe that you got into this…and you’re so GOOD!’ I felt like a little twinkly star that night.”

She continues to shine and spread the groovy house music she has fallen so deeply in love with. Once again, catch Minx at Charivari, a small family-style festival in Detroit this weekend. “If you haven’t experienced it, it’s time to make plans to visit the D! I’ll be playing in L.A. for the first time in August, I’m excited about that! There’s also Boston, Atlanta and Paxahau’s 19th Anniversary party coming up. Outside of parties, look for my next release on Women On Wax Recordings in the fall. I also have a new label, Footwerx, debuting in the coming months.”

Eternally encouraging more women to get mixing in the clubs or the underground, or maybe start producing the presses themselves, she passes along a piece of advice for those that are just beginning.

“My advice? Don’t feel belittled by the ‘it’s a man’s world’ mentality. Instead, look at it as being your world. Work hard to achieve the success you envision. Don’t let negative people and situations hold you back. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, whether it’s support from others, pay, whatever – PHUCK THAT! Handle your business!”

Do as Minx does. Redefine your world and keep pressing on. Don’t let anyone hold you down. Do it with heart. Do it with soul. And don’t forget to always keep it funky.

Bandcamp Initiative Supports Trans Rights

In response to the current state of affairs and long-standing struggle for trans rights, Bandcamp is pushing an advocacy initiative this Friday, Aug. 4. All of Bandcamp’s revenue shares for that day will be donated to the Transgender Law Center.

As a music platform Bandcamp encourages direct support for artists and labels. The company’s platform allows artists or labels total control to sell directly to fans, with only some of the shares paid to Bandcamp. Music style on the site ranges from garage punk bands, grime, singer-songwriters, and more. Shops for underground house, techno and electronic-focused labels and artists can be found there as well. Music lovers frequent the site for digital, vinyl pressings, and other merchandise. According to the website, “Fans have paid artists $230 million using Bandcamp, and $5.2 million in the last 30 days alone.” Bandcamp makes money through revenue share on sales: 15 percent for digital and 10 percent for merch.

According to a Bandcamp representative, “When we say we’re donating our share of the sales on Friday to the Transgender Law Center we mean that we’re simply choosing to do something different with our share (this does not affect artist revenues in any way, except perhaps to increase sales on Bandcamp generally).”

Friday’s fundraiser is in support of Bandcamp’s LGBTQ+ staff members and trans artists who express their passion and work on the site. For each sale made 100 percent of Bandcamp’s shares will go to the Transgender Law Center. As a non-profit organization the TLC has a stated mission to change “law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.” The organization’s core values resonate in justice, empowerment, self-determination, integrity, and fierce compassion for the rights of individuals. It does so through action by providing policy advocacy and litigation, healthcare assistance for trans veterans, providing support for trans youth and immigrants, as well as defending incarcerated trans people from abuse within prison and detention centers.

Director of Communications Jill Marcellus spoke a bit more in depth with Sequencer about the TLC. “We were founded in 2002 and are based in Oakland, Calif. and also have an office in Atlanta, GA.
Following the election, we launched our 2017 Plan of Resistance … We scaled up a lot of the work we were already doing: legal support, community training and organizing, policy advocacy, and public education. This included the launch of our Trans Immigrant Defense Effort (TIDE), the continuation of our impact litigation like our recent victory on behalf of trans student Ash Whitaker, our leadership development and storytelling work with trans youth and with trans people living with HIV through our TRUTH and Positively Trans programs, and the launch of our Legal and Community Resistance Networks expanding volunteer opportunities with the organization so we can harness community power to meet increased community need.”

If you’re looking to help the TLC directly, she says, “In addition to donations, we are looking for volunteers with our Community Resistance Network.”

To participate simply purchase music from Bandcamp on Friday, Aug. 4 from 3 a.m. – 3 a.m. (EST) or midnight – midnight (PST). Bandcamp is also encouraging artists/labels to donate some or all individual shares on Friday directly to the TLC.

For fans, consider saving any purchases you were going to make for Friday and help support trans rights. The list is innumerable and there is so much to explore, but if you’re new to Bandcamp here are just a few of Sequencer’s favorite underground artists and labels:

L.I.E.S. Records
Octo Octa
Argot / Tasteful Nudes
Blank Slate
Honey Soundsystem
Interdimensional Transmissions
Shawn Rudiman
Make Mistakes
Ariel Zetina
Honey Dijon
The Bunker NY
Umfang
Max McFerren
Eye Teeth
Bill Converse
Rocksteady Disco
Star Creature
Wayne Snow
Austin Boogie Crew
PotionsNYC
Athens of the North
Gretta Cottage Workshop
Firecracker Recordings
Proibito
Copenhagen Underground Posse

Also, check out this Trans Lib Comp Vol. 1a collection of tracks by trans/gnc/nb artists mostly based in Chicago, Ill. such as Eris Drew, Red’s Garden, Riglow and more.

Trans rights are human rights.