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 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.
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.
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.
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:
Argot / Tasteful Nudes
The Bunker NY
Austin Boogie Crew
Athens of the North
Gretta Cottage Workshop
Copenhagen Underground Posse
Also, check out this Trans Lib Comp Vol. 1, a 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.
From lots of repressings for old classics to excitingly fresh original releases this summer, it was honestly hard to pick a record for this week’s post. Through it all though, the 10th release from Intimate Friends, Goodbye Miss Misanthropy produced by Simba, seems to keep finding its way back onto my turntable.
Intimate Friends is known for washed out and jazzy forays into realms of house, disco, afro, and funk with plenty of leftfield influence. It is pretty original stuff coming from the imprint and remarkably groovy for how traditionally broken they aim to be at times. This particular 12″ pressed in the Netherlands has a lot of commitment to deeper, dreamy shuffles. Simba brings a great variety of vibes on the record, making it a great slab to take in your record bag when space is limited and you need four versatile tracks. That being said, it is mostly early night and mid-morning design featuring downplayed elements and spacey moods. It does a great job of remaining grand in presence while being trimmed on the sides.
First cut on the record is a solid brick-laid 4×4 journey way down at 113 bpm. “Remind Me Of Dancing” has grown on me a bit. At first the vocal samples seemed a bit corny and off-putting to me, but the low-end presence of this track coupled with the non-stop airy kick and light claps is really quite delightful over a quality system. As seems to be a theme throughout the record the drums shuffle, mixed way down below the samples and synth elements. Rather than pure rhythmic appeal, the arrangement compliments the open envelope synth sweeps sloshing around the vocals. More synthetic and hypnotic than the other cuts, but still fitting wonderfully around its siblings.
On A2 “ITB Jam” flips to a house styled number away from the dark club floor I picture when listening to A1. There’s a greater focus on interesting manipulation of samples here; if I had to guess I would say only one or two of the elements were actually recorded for the tune. Bouncy upright jazz bass carries the dancefloor push while somewhat inharmonic piano chops are very reminiscent of late ‘90s jackin’ house. As with A1, drums never intend to be the focus. They are well compressed and washed out, a perfect mix to create an after-sunrise sound. Most enjoyable are the drum changes happening on the 2/4 and 3/4 beat. There seems to be intention on having some of the samples so incredibly swung out that things seem dangerously close to offbeat, but it toes the line well and is remarkably composed.
Things switch to a more heartfelt deep sort of business on the B-side. “Love Letter” is a broken kick pattern tune saturated with different woodblocks skittering around big piano chords. There are eerie ghost synths that really cement the vibe, and the soul sample pulled for the spoken word vocals is reworked in a very delicate manner. The tune is a goosebump-giver for sure, and comes fully approved for party wrap up duties.
The final cut, “Last Time”, closes things out perfectly. Preserving the deep feel from B1, this tune is probably my favorite on the record. Looking past the extremely over-used Nina Simone sample, this is an incredibly beautiful track. The themes created on the other tracks are still present here, but the rhythm is more dancefloor focused and attentive. Friendly snaps replace clap samples to keep the vibe more cool and collected, and the bassline is again sampled from upright bass in a jazz setting. Most alluring perhaps is the exploration of the different pianos on the track – they tend to flare up in random scales and flicks of notes lend the track a very organic improvisational aspect to the music. Perfect for building vibes early in the night.
Overall, the record is remarkable for the main reason that it uses soul and jazz samples in a very interesting and engaging way. This practice is not new to house music but it is often hard to do it in a way that stands out in 2017. What’s even harder is making deep, passive tracks that rely on samples but lack the louder mixed drums to cover up frequency inconsistencies. These deeper tunes tend to be more synthesized because the need for control of the sound is paramount. Hitting the sweet spot as Simba did here was impressive and inviting to me.
Intimate Friends is still largely growing a name for itself. The first release came in 2013 and they seem to be curating very carefully to match this sort of sound they have carved out for themselves. This particular release is mostly under the radar; stocks are low on Decks if you prefer their service. Juno is still in stock as well, though, and much cheaper. And of course, there are some copies up on Discogs as well.
Regardless who you like to buy from, Intimate Friends is at the turning point that all labels eventually face when costs increase, so if you dig the tunes consider buying the record to support the label I think will give us many more gentle gifts down the road. I would also keep an eye on Simba who had an equally as impressive release on Shadeleaf Music label.
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.
After the unfortunate loss of Prodigy on June 20 I’ve been thinking a lot of Mobb Deep’s grand contributions to music and vinyl culture. Prodigy’s counterpart, Havoc, learned the art of MPC sampling around 1993 with help from infamous Q-Tip. In 1995 – smack dab in the middle of the golden age of hip-hop – The Infamous was released to major critical acclaim.
The genius behind the sampling was true to New York City form and undeniably classic. Growing up in New York during this time, it was hard to escape the now classic style cemented in legendary albums like the aforementioned, Nas’ Illmatic, and Notorious B.IG.’s Ready to Die. The producers behind these albums were masters of re-purposing old vinyl tracks for new life in rap, and I can recall it being some of the first impetus to buy vinyl at the flea markets in Chinatown.
As MPCs began to get traded in for Pro Tools, the essence and allure of hip-hop started to be diminished and eventually the golden era came to an end around the turn of the century; many people who were interested in the vinyl aspect of this music lost interest.
But those individuals and artists who are dedicated to a craft, and vinyl culture via production have dipped below the radar. Mixtapes played a major role in the underground music scene in New York during that time, and the ubiquity and ease of burning CDs expanded their reach from corners in Brooklyn to bodega counters across all boroughs. Big record execs with swollen dollar signs for pupils were unwilling to give “old” style mainstream exposure, and mixtapes became the main route of delivery for vinyl sampled music art.
Though I started to explore other genres, these mixtapes always made me smile, reminding me of some of the initial reasons I became infatuated with records and vinyl collecting. In 2005 I came across an unassuming mixtape CD in a West Bronx neighborhood that immediately piqued my interest. The artist credit read Bobb Deep in an identical font that I had seen on Mobb Deep sleeves prior. I brought Queensbridge Meets Kingston home with me and was instantly impressed with the creativity of the samples, and the depth of the drums that are hard to match without sampling vinyl.
The actual engineer behind this project was boom-bap saint DJ Swindle. He took most of the tracks from the heavily pressed and circulated Bob Marley Greatest Hits 12” Legend, and spliced it up to exist around Mobb Deep verses. I played the absolute hell out of this CD, and lost track of where it ended up by the end of high school. But the amazing sound on the record had forged an unforgettable niche in my brain.
Fast-forward to 2017 when I found myself at a rare and odd record fair searching out forgotten disco and funk. I came across a man from Chicago who specialized in impossible to find Japanese releases in mint condition. Flipping through his crate and scoffing at the prices, I was about to move on when I saw it. Bright green cover with the yellow lettering – how could I ever forget? I couldn’t believe it, but someone in Japan had commissioned an off-label pressing of Queensbridge Meets Kingston. Even though it was a tight groove LP (5 tracks on each side!) I had to have it. I managed to convince the Midwestern gentleman to let me have it for $50 and I was off racing back home to turn my amp up and melt into nostalgia.
While admittedly a couple of the tracks are in a way uninteresting, the greater core of the record sounded just as deep, rich, and full as I imagined. The titles of the tracks retained some of the best and most memorable Mobb Deep originals. The true aspect that made me fall in love with this record was how far the re-imagined compositions tended to exist from the originals. From the small guitar scale snippet on “Survival of the Fittest” to the drum ‘n’ bass structure of “Gangstaz Roll”, the record is a beautiful example of the place vinyl has in not only presentation, but also creation. The fact that someone in Japan felt the need to press a run of this record two years after it was released is a testament to how powerful the format can be for the people who can appreciate this music.
This record is essentially non-existent. It has never been sold on Discogs and prior to that record fair, I was unaware it even existed. There are three two-track singles that were released the same year of the CD via AV8, but I couldn’t imagine not enjoying this record from track as it was fully intended. Even so, these singles seem to be the only instances of Bobb Deep circulating on the internet.
The music world lost a great contributor and pioneer when Prodigy passed away last month. However, the inspiration he and Havoc left on youth and music producers resonates strongly. If they had never championed the vinyl sample sound, I don’t think DJ Swindle would have ever engaged in this project. But thanks to him, this stupid-rare gem will be out in the world, floating around, waiting to spellbind another music lover who refuses to dig anywhere except the deepest of crates.
Sometime last week I began the task of properly organizing and cataloging my record collection. Among a handful of those records that truly inspire me, I wanted to draw attention to NUDES005, a 12” that is rounding the corner on three years of not leaving my bag, seriously.
Comfortably nested under Chicago-based parent label Argot, the Tasteful Nudes sub-label takes an international focus and boasts output from Anaxander, Janis, and the artist behind this week’s Wax Runoff: Royer.
A Parisian known for his ability to cleverly flip samples, Royer’s steady hand in production has earned him releases on Material Image, Lobster Theremin, and Moomin’s Closer label. Though admittedly I’ve tracked down most of his work, 2014’s Tough Questions is a highlight.
The record opens up with the title track, a bright and summery day starter built on filtered down samples and a smooth organ loop. The hi-hat patterns here give movement to the track without getting ahead of themselves.
A2 follows up with “Us”, a textbook Chicago-influenced deep house cut. Classic 909 rhythms mixed with a slowly building organ line and a moody, almost call-and-answer bassline make this perfect for a late night wind down.
On the B-side and generally understood to be the stand out track from this release, “Morning Thea” is a head-bob-inducing, sample-heavy house groove. The filtering on this track adds just the right amount of haziness and allows the crisp, punchy snare to cut through the mix. With the addition of a few choice snippets from The Ahmad Jamal Trio’s “Dolphin Dance”, this one checks all of my boxes. I just wish I could pick up on that vocal sample.
Rounding out the EP on the B-Side is “Grid Like”, a spaced-out dance floor cut that begs for late night air time.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Colin Boardway, of Chicago, is 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.
Normally the records I feature on Wax Runoff are pretty squarely centered around house and techno, but the crates are endless, and sometimes the best records in a collection can be the less obvious ones.
When I first started discovering the world of dance music, I was primarily going to large raves and club promoted events that featured DJ sets normally no longer than 90 minutes. It wasn’t until I went to more intimate all night parties and underground events that featured longer, extended DJ sets that I discovered the art of the ambient and downtempo records.
In many ways ambient tracks are the antithesis of a party. They rarely feature rhythmic elements and therefore there is great skill involved in having them work for a crowd of people. The beginning and end of nights are usually when these choices are most applicable, but there are moments at the after-party when they shine, and of course the rare peak hour hypnosis can be caught from time to time as well.
In the early ‘90s as psychedelia as ramping up in the club scene, many small record labels put out amazing ambient and downtempo records that largely were never repressed and forgotten with time. One of my favorite records in this group is a 1994 12” by techno master Dietrich Schoenemann. Pluto-Circuits was released by Rancho Relaxo – an ambient off shoot of the respected Tension record label. It features three cuts of deep, dark, and bassy soundscapes that transfix the mind and soul.
“Pluto 1” on the A-side is my favorite of the record and almost always gets a spin at those moments when the after-party has been going for well over 12 hours. The crown feature is a massive subby bass that bubbles underneath very harmonious patches I would describe as angelic whispers. These sounds work quite well with the echoed blips and klangs that bookmark the ends of the soundscape elements. The reason it works so well is because of how much it translates the emotion behind the eventual end of the after-party and closing ceremony. It is a tune to get lost in, reflect on, cry with, and fall asleep to. It does grow to be pretty busy, but is an amazing example of strict sound arrangement.
Flipping over to the other side presents darker and less emotional cuts. “Pluto 2” on B1 is pure ambient succulence that embodies the true hypnotic allure of the genre. Dietrich enlists the help of some very grand synthesizer patches that wildly modulate in pulse width and filter cutoff. However, the changes are slow, gradual, and sneaky. Those more evolving pad and string elements come and go while an initial pad sequence loops endlessly the entire time. This creates an incredibly sophisticated interpretation of call and response theory. You have to wait for the juice, but in so doing, he has grasped the art of having you forget how long you’ve been crushing the grapes. Much like A1, this track expertly creates the atmospheric context around complex sounds, but is better suited for late-night early-morning party wrap-up moments.
The final track “Pluto 3” is markedly different in that it features drums, coming in the form of a simple and well-compressed downtempo 909 licks for which Dietrich is famously fond of. Drum kicks and snares swirl around synthesizer burps, though, for only a few minutes of the piece. The true beauty of the track is when the drums are not yet there and the long sequence of bass oscillations and noise filters begin to grow and evolve to create a mystic realm within the ether. Perfect for early on in the night as it has drums traditionally used to blend with other downtempo tracks. The sound is best described as mechanical and inviting, more curious than it is downright dark in comparison to the other two.
I’m always on the lookout for these obscure early and mid ‘90s ambient records because they are so amazingly explorative in their approach. For many, this sort of music doesn’t click until it’s heard at exactly the right moment in a DJ set that makes sense. I wasn’t even aware Dietrich had made records like this and there’s endless more examples of situations like this that I have yet to discover.
Getting your hands on this record is tough, but there looks to be two copies in good shape on Discogs that you may be able to grab if I don’t buy a new copy to replace my scratched one first. Whether with other people or alone, this record and other ones like it always light up my mind with delicate distractions from outside stimulus. It’s unbelievably easy to get lost in the sound.
Similar to the interlaced fabric that the title encourages, MESH is a new queer party contributing to the creative network of Pittsburgh’s dance community. Deeply inspired by Hot Mass at home and other queer parties abroad, Chad Beisner and Michael Fischer established their event to provide another safe place for music and freedom of expression.
They met during the very beginning of their college years at film school. Fischer says, “We met in freshman orientation at Point Park University and I skipped out to go out to a club and dance and came back the next morning covered in glitter and a total mess, so he walked up to me and the rest is history.”
As Pittsburgh natives they both share a passion for music and an appreciation for places that encourage creativity. Fischer says he has “always had a deep love for music, dancing, and positive creative spaces in general! I grew up listening to all different types of music from disco to punk and my love for dance music derived from that.”
Beisner, who also DJs as ChadKid, started exploring dance music in high school. “I eventually bought a controller for my laptop and started DJing at my friends’ high school parties. At the time I wasn’t really exposed to techno music at all and was playing R&B edits and disco. When I first started to go out when I was in college, Hot Mass was one of the first places Micheal ever dragged me to. That place really sparked my interest in techno and more underground electronic music. Without them I don’t know what I even be doing right now.”
Pittsburgh’s local dance scene has been growing significantly over the past several years. Although ripe with events at Hot Mass, they still have a small scene comparatively to other cities. Too many promoters in these environments can cause a competitive atmosphere and a dilution of quality, but MESH is on more of a symbiotic mission.
“Our city as a whole has been growing like crazy lately. And after being in our amazing scene and community of queers and music heads we have here in Pittsburgh, I’ve been able to see it grow as well over the past couple years. Michael and I have been wanting to start our own party for a while now, and we’ve done a couple of smaller things in the past that went well,” Besiner says. “But now the city is at a point where we have room for more than one queer techno party without it seeming like competition, so we figured now would be the perfect time to step in. It’s been great to be able to book and showcase artists that I love and give them a space to show off their talents to the rest of this amazing city.”
Fischer adds that the creation of MESH is to provide another safe place for queer freedom and visibility. With Hot Mass and some local bars there are certainly spaces already established, he says, “but there can never be enough.”
It’s also important to note that their party differs from Hot Mass in many ways. MESH is not an after hours party, which has a prominent impact on the overall atmosphere. Besiner explains, “I think there’s a lot that’s fundamentally different about our party from Mass for sure. And not that Mass/Honcho is doing anything wrong, quite the opposite, but we just wanted to create a different kind of queer party. Our parties aren’t all nighters and there’s no spaces for sex. Not that those are bad things but they can definitely create a different kind of dance floor vibe at a party. After traveling some last summer and going to parties like In Training in Cleveland and Jarvi’s Acid Daddy parties in Chicago, I was inspired to create a party with a similar vibe to those.”
Liberation through dress, dance and sound that can be found at these parties and within Club Pittsburgh is also welcomed for those who attend MESH. “Hot Mass is like a second home for me, I’m so grateful that I can be part of this amazing community and be a part of amazing events. MESH is very much inspired by the community Hot Mass has created. Hot Mass is a space where anyone can be who they are,” Fischer says. “Trust me I’ve worn some crazy shit there and all I got was love. MESH is another one of those spaces where we want everyone to express their true selves and showcase artistry of all queer people no matter where they came from or where they are going. Like I said before, there can never be too many queer spaces.”
Often adorned in mesh fabric, Beisner and Fischer developed a signature look. They decided to title their party after their favorite breathable dancing material, only to find the poetic parallels revealed as the event transpired. “As we thought about it more the better and better it worked. Mesh is breathable and unisex fabric and we like to think of our party as breathable and unisex too. Comfortable and accessible to everyone from all areas of the queer spectrum,” Beisner says.
Queer parties play such an important role in the music scene on a global level. These parties collectively work to not only shape the scene at large but also have a major impact for local communities by providing a space of acceptance where there is freedom to just be yourself.
“I think queer focus and visibility is important in any scene. Often times trans, non-binary, and just queer people in general are pushed out of scenes which sucks because there are so many amazing artists that can’t showcase their work. One of the main goals of MESH is to showcase these amazing artists.” – MICHAEL FISCHER
Beisner adds, “Queers throw the best parties! I think all the queer people I know in our music scene are doing the most interesting things. And a good queer party will draw in people who might not be too into the music and turn them into someone obsessing over it. I know several people that Honcho has done that for, including myself. I’m sure all these other amazing parties have done the same for many others.”
MESH launched on April 28 at Cattivo, a bar and venue in Lawrenceville. Beisner provided opening duties prior to headliner Shane Christian, who DJs as Kiernan Laveaux. Not only is she an advocate for queer and trans rights, and co-creator of Cleveland’s In Training parties, but she is a growing name in the techno community, especially after her performance during this year’s Club Toilet and Industry Brunch parties in Detroit.
They both share responsibilities for the event. Beisner focuses on booking and wrangling the music and lighting equipment while Fischer handles budgeting, venue and space decoration. When the night of the event arrives their friends collaborate to lend helping hands. “It does overlap and we work together to find great spaces and artists. We are also lucky enough to have amazing friends that jump at the opportunity to help set up, work the door, and much more. It would be impossible without them,” Fischer says.
Barring the space being just a little too big, the evening was a success. Fischer says, “Our event at Cattivo was great! The turnout was lovely. The only downside was that the space was huge! It’s hard to fill a room that big. The staff at Cattivo was very accommodating and great! They welcomed us techno weirdos with open arms. Shane’s set was amazing! She is such a talented DJ and it was such a honor to have her play our first party!” Beisner agrees that their first event went smoothly and free of any problems. Venue hunting is tough in Pittsburgh, especially when looking for an underground spot that is also the perfect energy for a queer friendly environment. Fischer continues, “Finding a space is difficult no matter where you are, I find. Pittsburgh has very strict liquor laws and that can be a bit of a challenge especially with after hours parties. For now, having a non-after hours party is great. People are often intimidated by after hours so while we build a following, this is perfect. We would love to find a space to settle in monthly but for now we are still on the search!”
“We want to build a very strong sense of community and a good vibe of queer friends dressing up and having a good drunken time on the dance floor together to music they love. That’s what we are hoping to bring to Pittsburgh with this party.” – CHAD BEISNER
Beisner agrees on the difficulty found while scouting locations. “It has definitely been the hardest part of organizing this party. All the existing gay/queer spaces are not fit for any kind of party like this, and some of the spaces that are aren’t necessarily the safest places for queer people … We aren’t opposed to staying in one place, but definitely are always on the lookout for new and interesting places. We wanna keep it fresh and expose people to new spaces in the city as well. Also we really wanna do a poolside day party, so if anyone has any leads on that please contact us,” he says with a laugh.
Finding The Glitter Box Theater for their next installation of MESH is a dream come true space, they say. Hailing from Chicago on June 30 will be Jarvi, and opening will be a live set from local duo A&L. Beisner says, “This time the space is gonna be perfect I think. Glitterbox is this multi-use queer art space that just opened recently, it’s the perfect size for us and it will be great to have it in an actual queer owned space instead of a bar. We are bringing in Mike Masai’s amazing sound system that is gonna fill this space perfectly. And on top of everything this space is BYOB so it will be easy and cheap for everyone to get drunk and get dancing.”
Jarvi is a non-binary artist prominently known in Chicago’s underground queer house and techno scene. Among the Naughty Bad Fun Collective crew they can be found putting on parties at Smartbar for Planet Chicago, and also on their own endeavor hosting Acid Daddy’s Haus of Diesel at Berlin Nightclub. Opening the evening will be Pittsburgh’s A&L, a live collaborative performance of raw techno from Alexis Icon and Andre.
“We are so excited for Jarvi! The Glitterbox Theater is more of an art space while Cattivo was a bar. The set-up of Glitterbox is a little more our style and it’s BYOB which is always great,” Fischer adds. “As usual people can expect dancing, techno and lots of mesh.”
Eventually, the last track will play and the lights will come up and after everyone has gone home, Beisner and Fischer will be planning another event. Although anyone who throws parties does so for their own unique drive, there is always a common reason to do so: community.
Fischer says he throws parties because it allows him to “see my friends and community come together and just have an amazing time is enough cause to do it. Seeing people dance and show off their music, fashion, art, makeup, etc. is so amazing to me. I really just love to have a good time!”
Beisner adds, “Ultimately I just wanna throw a party where everyone can have a good time, feel safe, get exposed to some new music, and simultaneously create a space where my favorite DJs can play in my city. I wanted to expand on our already amazing scene here and create a place to dance that is welcoming to everyone. To look out at the crowd during a party and seeing everyone have a good time and dancing is the reason I do it. Putting an event together is more stressful than you imagine before you do it, but the end result is always worth it. We will also be donating proceeds to different organizations as often as we can. We donated all our proceeds from our first party to Planned Parenthood of Western PA. It’s nice to be able to make this party give back to the community.”
Keep a close eye on MESH as they continue to develop and grow in Pittsburgh.
June is in full swing and thousands of us are still glowing after a stupendous Memorial Day weekend in Detroit. The sounds and atmospheres created at the various clubs and venues around the city continue to inspire and delight music lovers from all around the world. I heard so many amazing records; there were beloved classics, new heat, and tons of obscure beauties time would have forgotten if not for the amazing curation and selection from some of Detroit’s best DJs. Indeed Detroit has not (and hopefully never will) change.
In coming back and flipping through my newest finds and purchases I initially was searching for a new, fresh off the press record to focus on after an entire month of Detroit related material. But as I was flipping through, I stumbled across a 12” that has two of my favorite tracks ever put out by a little, old Detroit label by the name of Moods & Grooves. This label is another staple of the Motor City scene, responsible for almost perfectly consistent releases that span from deep and minimal to soulful and energetic. A simple two track release issued in a plain white sleeve, this record doesn’t exactly grab your attention up front, but the work from Andres and Mr. G give it a status that I would consider imperative for any house music lover’s collection.
The A-side of Moods & Grooves Classics V1 belongs to none other than Detroit’s house sample master, Andres. Everything about “Out In The Open” is expertly crafted with his unmatched subtle style. Straight from the gate, the kick drum is on a completely swung and broken pattern while the crispy stiff snare cuts on a perfect 4/4 pattern. Coupled triplet hi-hats and delicate ride taps gives the entire track a rolling feeling that is incredibly friendly for the dance floor, yet laid back as it slithers through the speakers. It wouldn’t be an Andres track though without the perfect sample treatment. A hearty ballad with a female vocalist – sped up massively – was recruited for use here, though I’m not sure where the sample comes from originally. The only thing that can be said for Andres’ artistry is that this man truly understands how to filter sound, when to soften it with reverb and slip it into a gorgeous quilt of sonic presence. Every small detail ends up being immaculate in the final mix – each noise complimenting its neighbor. This is one of those tracks that you can close your eyes while flowing through its essence and open them six minutes later without being sure whether a second or an hour of time has passed. This track is ready to go for any of those early party starting nights, or tea on the balcony Sunday morning.
On the other side of the slab, vibes totally change up for a more direct hit, designed to keep the party going while it’s at the apex of sweatiness. “The Struggle Of My People (Mr. G’s There’s Hope Mix)” begins with high energy on a full drum break filtered with delicious resonance and looped every four bars. A single transposed string sample descends over and over again while the drums begin to gain eighth note hi-hats and sixteenth note shakers. This is repetition done in the most infectious way. Whereas everything on the A-side fit perfectly around one another, each element on Mr. G’s tune fit perfectly on one another. The cutoff on the filter for the strings opens at times creating this feeling of a wave of sound washing around the dance floor. All the drums pull out of the mix at two separate times just to let a single synth and the strings coalesce around a spoken word sample from Maya Angelou’s poem, “And Still I Rise”. I have never seen this track not light a dance floor on fire. Again we have here a tune that is expertly made and so delightfully warm, the aural result is magnificent if played on any halfway decent sound system.
Although these tracks are so heavily played (my copy has gotten 100 spins, at least) they personify the idea of well-grounded, timeless house music. Some might say they are too safe, or even perhaps cliché, but hearing “Out In The Open” played by Andres himself over the excellent Void soundsystem at Marble Bar during the Sampled Detroit party over the Memorial Day weekend reminded me of how spectacular this record is. It was only fitting to write about it after that truly infinite moment.
Because this record is a 2013 press of two widely sought after early 2000s tracks, I would consider it a great deal. The 12” is trading on Discogs for about $13 stateside. It’s one record I personally could not live without. The two tracks have such wildly different personalities but still resolve themselves to be near perfect examples of all the things we love about house music. The unrelenting nature of the drums and structure truly mirror the undying love and support that true fans of house music display, and to which the massive turnout in Detroit for Movement is a testament to. And if there’s one thing I was reassured of in Detroit, it’s the same thing that is etched into the runout groove on MG-046: “Technology may move forwards, but vinyl will never die…”
This past week some friends and I took a road trip and on the way we revisited some Melbourne Deepcast mixes to pass the time. I recognized the name Arcarsenal, a group I hadn’t stayed caught up with since their first few EPs.
The car was filled with soulful and sparse percussive passages, deftly mixed. Not surprising, seeing as Alan Mathias and Etienne Dauta have been making deep house, dub techno cuts, and ambient stretches since their Brotherhood EP in 2012, released on their own Bass Cadet Records. They’ve put out eight 12”s in five years, on labels including Rue De Plaisance, Inner Balance, and Funhaus, been supported by heavy hitters like Fred P and Ben UFO, and their label’s Orbit series has had two stellar showings of choice takes by Ron Trent and Jenifa Mayanja. More than mere hobbyists, these two French natives run the Bass Cadet shop and eponymous label, while keeping their fingers in the crates and their productions increasingly thoughtful and foreword thinking. I picked up FH:03, my favorite EP of theirs and the third release from Germany’s Finest Hour Records. It may be around three years old, but it is as serene and appealing as it was on first listen, and is a great document of a group finding their sound together while pushing to stretch their limits in subtle ways.
FH:03 pays such close attention to its use of space and energy. Each song is between six and seven minutes and designed for a prolonged mix. No element here is jumpy or distracting, everything is meant to drive the floor but leave room for interpretation at both ends of the tracks. With pads both thick and thin flying over dubby percussion and skittering hats, the loosely hugging low end holds the bottom with two tired hands. Duata and Mathias let their pieces meander on the floor, only to hypnotically increase tension. Bass sinks into the mix as the loose wrist of the hi-hats tighten, revealing the slight and stepping rhythm at its core. Arcarsenal has a knack for seemingly simple production that bubbles and crowds upon repeated listens. Steady concentration and familiarity reaps the benefit of anticipation. The layers of shaved and icy percussion keep the whole affair from aimlessness. These four songs could equally fill a long car ride or the early hours in a dark club, where music is best suited to evoke moments of isolation and introspection before you reach your destination.
The opener – “Perpetual Workout” – is initially focused on flexing the core kit’s voice. Before an understated vocal sample and splashes of detuned keys drift into view, Arcarsenal gives the percussion room to breathe. The vibe is roomy and chilled, a good indication of things to come. A classic sounding dub rim claps and waves in a haze. Hats both crisp and fuzzy flick over a solid sub line that does its best to corner the bass drum’s flopping roll. At moments the cymbals slow almost to a halt as their edges are rounded and sharpened simultaneously. The male vocal sample begins by saying “I am quite aware…” in an assured tone, and it’s no wonder. “Perpetual Workout” is a great example of world building in music, where elements familiar and alien align to create a foundation for a cohesive sound across two sides.
After A1 sets the stage, earnest pads lead the way as the progression rises in “Ancient Language”. A chatty synth stutters its way around delayed chunks of thin drum fills while distant rims and bells ring out in soft slaps. The most meditative and personally affecting of the four, chunky clips of hi-hats propel the heartbeat rhythm over a sampled piano loop, caught on a note somewhere between somber and hopeful.
The B side opens with a more direct electro swagger that bolsters the most floor-ready cut on the EP. Anchored by a bouncy bass line that stalks the shoulder clapping kit “Quoth” growls but never shows its teeth. Still a heady serving, horizon length pads and some standard hi-hat work are punctuated by stuttering accents spun into distorted highs. It’s not a particularly slamming track by any means, but its disparate elements accentuate the more driving moments without veering too far from the album’s wide, swaying energy.
A determined bass line keeps the EP’s closer rolling to the end while the shining and slinky major pads of “Like Leftovers” fill the room, sticking to the edges and dripping down the walls. Soft stabs of breathy highs and a tight, cutting kit makes for a calming warmth and a perfect bookend to an EP that lets the flames flicker and lick in its dryer times, but smolders with little grit and no smoke.
So much of this album seems to spend its time in the middle of itself. The pads make the landscape; the drums, a path. You are free to walk through, taking in differing elements and briefly considering them before moving on. Like the car ride where I rediscovered this album, Arcarsenal’s FH:03 is streamlined and free of collision or rough patches. When I listen to this album now I can’t help but think of driving on the highway. When you look out the window the buildings move so slowly in the distance, the sky is flat on the horizon. The cars seem to slow next to you, matching your speed, and in that moment it seems that they stop moving completely. You can’t feel the whipping wind or see the end of the road. It’s the same in a dark crowded dance floor, in those moments where elbows are tucked but loose, hands are free, and eyes are closed. You look around, no end in sight, far from the beginning, moving so much that you almost feel completely still.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Josh Gruder lives in Buffalo with no cats or dogs. Buying records gives him such joy, while moving boxes of records into cramped apartments haunts his dreams.