Wax Runoff: Fitzzgerald [TGE1211]

Coming up on the end of September, I rounded up my favorite releases of this past month to find the destined pick for this week’s Wax Runoff. Overall a wonderful month for excellent tunes, but there is one record that I have consistently been coming back to.

tugboat edits

TGE1211

Fitzzgerald was a new name to me. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to learn that his recent 12” on Tugboat Edits is actually his first release. In truth, Tugboat Edits Vol. 11 sounds as if it had come from a much more decorated veteran. It’s a deeply jazz-infused carpet ride through sexy house loops and gourmet samples that vary in flavor for diverse hours and moments.

A1 “Starfruit” is a precipitant introduction to the record. Lo-fi jazz licks and warm pads accompany a classic disco bass guitar line while a Rhodes piano goes on seemingly endless G# scale tangents. The drums are forward; a jackhammer 4/4 kick rhythm gives an undeniably groovy feel to it, but that’s not to discredit the hand drums solo around the five-minute mark. Ultimately this jam comes off polished and tight, ready for a sunny terrace near you. This track sounds like how a Mister Saturday Night party feels.

The second cut on the front, “On Your Side”, takes things a bit farther left from center. Slowed down and with a noticeable bossa nova influence this one features some great marimba scales. It takes about four minutes, but eventually a more house-centric rhythm does start to command things as  memorable disco strings create a wonderful classy vintage type vibe. While maybe not for the prime time hours of the night, this is still an amazing piece of music that certainly has its time and place.

Someone once told me the best tracks are always on the B-side. That superstition seems to be true as my favorite tune by a long shot is “Mysterious World”.  It’s essentially a really done house re-work of the title track off MFSB’s 1980 jazz-fusion release Mysteries of the World. Devastating for me because I actually had sampled my copy of that 12” earlier in the year and was halfway through an edit of my own when I bought this record. This re-work seems better than I could likely do, with just the right amount of delicate percussion and an extra funky synth line that was written for this edit. Serious party stuff when the vibe calls for it.

The clean-up spot on the roster belongs to “Shaka Joe”; a nice mix of tribal and deep house, it’s less experimental for sure and yet still easily avoids being forgettable. As with the other three tunes, there are plenty of punchy and improvised jazz scales, this time coming from an unidentified organ synth. It sounds great with lots of loop layering variation, along with points where the mix clears out making this one a favorite that creeps onto your table more as you begin to wear out the other three.

All in all this record is a must have if you are really into the jazzy lo-fi house that is popularized by well-known taste maker labels Razor N Tape or Mister Saturday Night. And I would say a nice record to have if you like really solid and well-mixed house and disco tracks that carefully measure to never venture into the realm of over-production. This slab would be particularly valuable in a bag for early morning after parties and late afternoon BBQs in my opinion.

I encourage you to scoop this great record straight from the responsible party. There are of course is Discogs  and the usual main online competitors: Juno, Deejay, Redeye, etc. If you want to support a smaller online retailer who have a great team and really care about this music on a personal level, I recommend grabbing a copy from Downtown304. The press is limited, and if you were going to buy new from retail, I would act fast before this release is comfortably sitting in other people’s record collections the world over.

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: Chez Damier [mojuba g.o.d.2]

While at my local record shop recently I was flipping through the new arrivals when a paper sleeve Mojuba stamped 12” caught my eye. It appeared to be a re-press of the 2009 deep house smasher Time Visions 2 by Chez Damier. I handsomely paid the clerk and headed home to enjoy the sweet sounds.

chez damier

mojuba g.o.d.2

When I checked the Internet later, sure enough I couldn’t find much on this mysterious release. Discogs only has the various 2009 releases listed, and a google search yielded essentially one result at a Russian online record store where it appears to be sold out. I started to become a bit more skeptical now, but when I placed the record on the platter and set the needle to it, instantly it was clear that this was a high quality, top notch repressing that if not official is one of the best bootlegs I’ve come across.

The record is soaked in creamy deep house goodness from beginning to end. The A side “Why (D’s Deep Mix)” is a marvelous 10 minute slugger that loops and swerves way down at 113 BPM. This is classic Chez, with a glowing and pulsing chord loop setting the mood and never falling from the mix as bongos and tight bass blips repeat bar over bar. Eventually, a legitimately groovy harmonica solo cuts through that’s not hard to love.

On the flip side “Help Myself (Unreleased Reshape)” stylistically brings things back to popular ’90s house fare. Fitting as it’s Carl Craigs unreleased edit of the classic KMS tune. A 16 bar live drum sample sequenced rhythm with resonant synth melody loops with perhaps the most tasty upright jazz bass samples. Something about the crash cymbal ending phrases in classic house tunes just feels so right. The tune is atmospheric while remaining organic and would burn down any 21st century dancefloor.

The record closes with what is probably the crowd favorite of the trio, “Soul Minimal” on B2. As the name suggests, it’s a fairly stripped back soulful house number, but there’s a bit less depth compared to the other two jams. This one is more strictly party material with the main feature being a fat and round bass synth that bounces up on swung out 16th notes. The sharp reverbed pads behind everything start to mix with sax samples and a lively bongo line. The tune works quite well in 2017, as it’s structured in a way where the core of percussion never leaves the mix. In so doing, it lends itself well to the driving syncopated rhythmic adventures popular in minimal and house right now.

I wish I could tell you how to find this record. While I’ve never owned any of the previous presses, the sound quality is excellent on this one. Even the website for the store I bought it at never listed it online. Keep your eyes peeled for the all-text red stamp center label seen in our picture here. If you do fancy the slab and want to purchase a 2009 copy from Discogs it trades at a pretty agreeable price depending on which version you’re after (the limited red translucent press will cost you). However you come across it – repress or not – this piece comes highly recommended. It’s thoughtful, heady, and just the right mix of tech and deep; new and old.

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: 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.

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.

 

Wax Runoff: Simba [MATE 010]

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.

MATE 010

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.

Wax Runoff: Bobb Deep [JSPRO-01]

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.

JSPRO-01

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.

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: Royer [NUDES005]

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.

Royer, Nudes005, Tasteful Nudes

NUDES005

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.

Wax Runoff: Dietrich Schoenemann [TEN 1003]

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.

TEN 1003

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.

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.