Brothers Ben and Louis Helliker-Hales form Chaos in the CBD. Originally from New Zealand they had been based in Peckham of south-east London inspiring their 2015 EP release on Rhythm Section International. Midnight in Peckham is a record that is contemplative and moving. House music heavily influenced by jazz, this has become one of my most beloved albums in my little collection.
On A1 “Trust is Key” is a romantic slow-driver. It opens up with a solid kick drum and the sound of a chattering crowd. The bassline brings a very mellow groove. Gentle and steady piano riffs begin to pace the track and the cymbal patterns that follow along are crisp and have such a delightful energy. “We trust each other” the vocals reverberate. Near the end of the track there’s a bit of echoing chirps that bring a real atmospheric layer to it all that I just love.
“Observe” starts out with melodic synthesized strings, jazzy hi-hats and some piano that make this one perfect for having a chat with a friend or maybe while you’re cooking dinner. The piano starts to make the track jump and when it cuts out the strings resurface. Both of the sounds tag each other perfectly throughout and then in the background a voice starts panning – humming and howling a little tune. Throw this one on if you want to take a moment to space out.
Flipping the record over to the B-side you’ll find “Midnight in Peckham” – the title track and by far my favorite on this record. When the trumpet comes in I get chills. That drum kick always seems to go right along with the pace of my own heart and there’s something quite comforting in that. No matter where I am or what I’m doing I will always let this song play out. It’s just beautiful, in the truest sense of the word. With such fluid elements but a steady kick this is the perfect track to ease down some high energy and would be a great closer. The horn on this one is credited to Isaac Aesili, a musician from New Zealand, who absolutely deserves recognition. He takes the wonderful structure of the tune and brings such bright introspective movement into it.
For B2 “Luxury Motivation” opens with vocals of a man speaking about a stirring, higher life of cars and money. The piano lick in this one is jazzy and stays steady throughout for the most part. When the hi-hat comes in, oh my. With a deep and subtle bassline and tight cymbals, this one I would say is the most loopy on the record and can get a nice little dance going. In addition to some really great percussion, this track is my second favorite.
This entire record is meditative, soothing and just downright gorgeous. Chaos in the CBD brought elements and samples into their production that make this EP one that you will always want to listen to from beginning to the very delectable end. If you like what you hear, there are plenty of copies available on Discogs.
Alicia Greco is the founder and editor of Sequencer in Buffalo. She’s a dedicated speaker freaker and loves sifting through crates. She’s often found enjoying the sounds of a spinning record through a sound system on the dance floor or the music shrine in her bedroom.
Eric Cloutier fell in love with techno at an early age and over the past 20 years has developed into an esteemed selector and curator. Born in Birmingham, Mich. he was first exposed to the culture of the scene while flipping channels and stumbling upon “The New Dance Show,” a low-budget Detroit version of “Soul Train.” As Cloutier grew older he became increasingly more drawn to the techno sound and scene in the city of Detroit.
Moved and moulded by Richie Hawtin’s moniker Plastikman, the 1994 album Musik was “damn near flawless” for Cloutier. In the beginning he moved to Detroit and started working at Oslo on Woodward Avenue, now known as the Whiskey Disco, for resident parties by way of Hawtin and Stacey Pullen. But Cloutier could be found playing or just spending his spare time in the dark backroom pit of The Works.
“Just growing up in Detroit was enough of a pedigree. You’re constantly immersed in exceptionally good and – at that time – groundbreaking music, so it’s near impossible to not have some level of inspiration come at you from all angles,” he says. “Going to raves and such in the late ’90s was a proper blessing. And just on those nights out alone, I think I learned more than I have in the last few years.”
By 2009 he became an official resident of The Bunker, a New York City-based party who have hosted an innumerable amount of incredible DJs. Cloutier first played in 2006 and just a month or so after made the move to the city. He reunited with Mike Servito and Derek Plaslaiko, formerly of Detroit who became Bunker residents as well. The liveliness of New York and the output of music there was an inspirational pool for Cloutier. There was something unique – it was ever-changing.
“Music is my life. It honestly gives me energy in the day, helps me through bad times, pushes me when I’m uninspired, and keeps me calm when I’m on travels, amongst other things. I honestly don’t know what I’d do besides working in music – it’s just what speaks to me the most,” he says. As his career grew Cloutier began landing gigs and exploring the European scene. He picked up his things once again and for the past three years he has been living in Berlin, another city rich in history during the birth of techno. Although he can be found playing clubs throughout Europe, Labyrinth in Japan and performing for thousands at festivals in places like the Netherlands, Barcelona, Russia, Montreal and more, Cloutier still understands the significance of his roots. Born into the concentrated dancefloors of Detroit, he nods to the importance of parties in small cities, and the role they play in the grander scene.
“If it weren’t for the smaller cities none of this would have really pushed boundaries. It’s so easy to rest on your laurels when you’re in a larger city, but when you’re the runt of the pack in a tiny corner of the Earth, you really have to do something profound to be heard and I think it’s exceptionally important for the little scenes to find their voice amongst the masses. All the most interesting stuff comes from the strangest places.”
The most unsuspecting cities, particularly in the Northeast, are establishing strong communities for house and techno. Cloutier says, “Without a doubt the tiny cites go off harder than the big ones, simply because it’s a luxury for an outside guest to come through and they make the most of it. You can tell people schedule their nights out around those once-in-a-while events, and it’s super important to them to get it while they can before it’s gone again.”
During his sets Cloutier demonstrates expert track selection and navigates the crowd, leaving them lost in time and space. His dedication to the music, whether as an opening DJ or headlining, has provided him a platform and a background for growth. For years Cloutier has explored the art and technical skill of DJing and it wasn’t until the last few years in his long career that he became more involved in producing. Although Cloutier releases will be relatively limited as he focuses on quality over quantity.
What’s next for the intrepid traveler? “Not totally sure where life will take me in the next few years. While the missus and I do enjoy Berlin, I can’t see it being the end point for my life travels…but who knows! As far as where to next, I’m always down to move to Amsterdam or the south of France, but…we’ll see!”
He kickstarted the techno scene for the debut Signal > Noise event in Rochester, N.Y. and now Cloutier returns to Western New York tonight for the next installation of Strange Allure in Buffalo, N.Y.
Born and raised in Michigan, the youthful Chuck Hampton (otherwise known as Gay Marvine) could be found turning the dial to explore all that Detroit radio had to offer. Driving his family crazy by constantly tuning into disco stations, he fell in love. From that point forward he used his finely tuned ear and spent his creative energy to share that love with the rest of the world.
What is it about that disco sound? “The bass! The beat! I loved the repetition of the groove. These things all spoke to me, and I couldn’t understand how some people didn’t get it,” he says.
The genre, which was generationally pivotal, had some historically dark times. During an infamous baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers on July 12, 1979, disco arguably became a scapegoat for sexual and racial discrimination. Disco Demolition Night was meant to be a promotional event put on by the Chicago team at Comiskey Park. During the rally attendees brought a record to the game and during the doubleheaders intermission the vinyl was destroyed by an explosion on the field. There were 50,000 people in attendance that day and a riot ensued. More than 5,000 people took to the field to set fire to the records.
Yet, disco prevailed and remained a foundation for music thereon in. Hampton reminisced about his early clubbing days which took place shortly after that time. “Detroit area gay clubs played such great music in the ’80s,” he says. During which he said he would hear alternative sounds such as Ministry, Siouxsie and the Banshees, in addition to popular hits and Hi-NRG tracks. “Then house and techno happened. It changed everything! We had the greats – Ken Collier, Derrick May, D-Wynn, Richie Hawtin – and so many more. They took it all to a higher level. All of this rich variety influenced me as a DJ and how I hear music.”
“For me, editing is all about mining for the funk, and trimming the fat off. Some things that were in the old disco records were superfluous, and distracted from the wicked groove that was happening underneath. Also, I was heavily influenced by disco house records of the ’90s. I love how repetitive they were, but sometimes I wanted just a little more of the original in there and a little less of what was added. I’d say the most evocative of my edits is ‘Anxiety Into Ecstasy’.” — GAY MARVINE
According to the label, “Bath House Etiquette is a manual on how to handle Gay Discos. Everyone needs a little inside information. Follow the stairs to the basement, wait on your knees by the sling and wait for Mr. Marvine (to you) for further instructions.”
There is a raw and visceral energy that takes place in a bathhouse that can definitely emanate through Hampton’s tracks and the sets he puts out. Hampton says, “I think bathhouses represent hedonism. Unbridled sexuality, sensuality.” Beneath a bathhouse in downtown Pittsburgh, Penn. you will find after-hours venue Hot Mass. Aaron Clark booked Hampton as the very first guest for Honcho, a monthly gay party held at that venue, in February 2013.
According to Clark, Hampton is now deemed an unofficial Honcho resident. “We’ve done a lot of parties with him already and plan to do a lot more this year,” he says. “The Honcho sound is pretty diverse, it can disco just as well as it can whip the club into acid house and techno. Chuck really nails all of those sounds. He’s the guest DJ that always feels the most at home with us.”
Beyond the bathhouse and deeper into the music, Gay Marvine helps provide a place that is unlike any other. What makes his set special is “the energy and the celebratory vibe of the music. Even if it’s tougher sounds, it’s always happy. It sounds like family, and the club feels like family,” Clark says.
This environment is a beautiful place that prevails through dark times and embraces positivity. Disco, house and techno inherently inspire energy, liberation and fearless expression. For Hampton, “[music] heals my soul, it brings me joy, it gives me solace, it soothes me, it makes me want to fuck, it makes me dance!”
When Peter Croce developed Rocksteady Disco in 2014 he created something more than just a record label. He established a platform where cultural influences of disco and Detroit converge to inspire progression and awareness.
Croce was raised in a musical household in an inner ring suburb of Detroit. His father was a professional drummer who encouraged Croce by age 10 to try his hand at electric bass and his mother “has funk flowing through her veins.” Moving into the city of Detroit he says “shaped my musical tastes; funk and high tech soul music is in our social fabric here.” Raised on artists such as The Gap Band, The Time, Jean-Luc Ponty and Michael Franks, the deeply rooted musical influence of the Motor City has played a formidable role on Croce.
Stylistically his DJing embodies the characteristics of Detroit mixing: gracefully precise track selection that varies on the musical spectrum.
“So many DJs and producers in Detroit are known as techno demigods overseas, and while they are prolific in that realm of music, I admire their ability to blend funk/techno/house/soul/rare groove/whatever in their sets here in Detroit,” he says. “In some ways, the bar is pretty high in this city in terms of technical proficiency and booking talent. Yes it’s true that pretty much any night of the week you can hear some DJ playing somewhere, but I think to be respected by those at the top you really need to come correct with your mixing, track selection, and cultural awareness.”
Rocksteady Disco — “mindful music for the body and soul” — came to fruition initially as a weekly happy hour at MotorCity Wine in May 2014. Due to playing out frequently, others were sending him dubplates and exclusives for his sets; in November that year he realized he had enough tracks for release and Rocksteady Disco was then formed. The label’s hardworking crew is comprised by Croce, Grand Rapid’s Matt Dandois, Pontchartrain, Topher Horn, and Lafleur. With a number of residencies allowing notable artists like Rick Wilhite and Cordell Johnson to the table, the group has since minimized their events to “focus more on quality over quantity.”
Currently Croce is producing in his spare time, but is often occupied by performing, executive production, A&R and other label business. “I’m definitely more of a social being, which makes DJing much more natural for me than producing. I have some productions under my belt, many of which are DJ-inclined re-edits. I also have been playing guitar and bass on peoples’ productions, most notably a release on Fat Finger Cosmic dropping July 2016 entitled ‘Big Kahuna.'”
Under the efforts of Lafleur, Dandois, Pontchartrain, and Topher Horn, Rocksteady Disco now has five records out, with a sixth dropping in August. Croce says he hopes the label will be known for original output, like the most recent release Rocksteady Disco All-Stars Vol. 1. “Our focus is music that is soulful and equally danceable as it is listenable, with the occasional socially conscious edit release.”
Additionally, he has recently developed and launched another label: Mr. PC Versions. White label and vinyl only, Croce will be doing limited runs of freshly edited tracks. “With so many bootleg labels I’m trying to be really conscious of how flooded the market is, and how I’m a white man re-editing (usually) black folks’ music. But some of these tracks just need to be rescued from their LP format and brought into the beautiful world of 12″ singles.”
It is clear through Rocksteady Disco’s ethos that there is an inherent drive to do more than produce music and throw a party. Croce’s personal background has developed a mission to provide a sanctuary, a place of comfort for humans to let go.
“As a selector, a DJ, a lover, a person with a Master’s of Social Work, and a Christian, I have to use my platform to make things right in any way I can. DJing, for better or worse, gives me a fair amount of power to set the tone and mood of an evening. Most every DJ has this power to use this pulpit for good or bad, and in our nation where wealth has stagnated for decades, where women are still assaulted and abused simply because of their gender, where blacks get beat down and murdered by the police rather than uplifted and supported, where my gay and trans* brothers and sisters get gunned down, where my Muslim brothers and sisters get spit at on their walk into the grocery store — how could I make what I do just about me? I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t use this platform to make people feel better for at least the night, or to raise consciousness and build a movement.” — PETER CROCE
When Rocksteady Disco throws an event, inspiration is drawn from David Mancuso. In 1970 this legendary DJ took the party out of the club setting to establish The Loft in New York City. The space played a pivotal role in creating underground parties that maintain legality. Clubs are monopolizing by nature and are not inherently designed to foster social progress. “If anything, I find they more often than not reinforce capitalist patriarchy,” Croce says. “Fortunately though, I only throw parties at places that are notoriously progressive,” hosting events at Detroit’s Temple Bar and MotorCity Wine.
“When you have a place that is not dominated by capitalist patriarchal thinking, it allows people regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation to transcend their social boxes and scripts we’re forced to live out on a day-to-day basis. When people enter these liberatory spaces something really special happens; they let their guards down, they allow their bodies to move, they allow themselves to become sexual beings without being objectifying beings, and people move to the same rhythm of people older than them or of a different race from them. This last point cannot be overstated: how many intergenerational parties can you think of? In Detroit all the good dance parties are intergenerational. Furthermore, many of the young white folks on the dance floor here were raised in the suburbs. By policy and by definition this means we were not raised around very many people of color or people in lower economic classes. So for many of us white suburban-raised folks, the deepest and earliest relationships we’ve built with people of color was on the dance floor. The fact that music can be the catalyst for this, and that I can be the person bringing the music, is a tremendous gift,” Croce says.
This sense of liberation is exactly the essence of the music that reverberates from Rocksteady Disco. Historically sound, disco as a genre has had an incredible and undeniable impact on both a musical and social level. Hey says, “Disco is liberatory music. It is inherently tied to the civil rights and gay liberation movement, which is why Disco Demolition Day happened. And the way disco DJing was done in the ’70s was completely ruleless — DJs jumped BPMs, styles, geographies (‘Soul Makossa’ being the most notable), and the major focus, aside from sex and drugs, was sound quality and elevating people through music. I just wish I could’ve been in New York the first time Walter Gibbons was beat juggling drum breaks, or when David Mancuso first dropped ‘Drums of Passion.'”
But gentrification seems to be settling into certain areas of Detroit, bringing a sense of worry to some locals. Croce started his monthly event †Sermon† at Temple Bar just a couple months before officially launching Rocksteady Disco, but he has noticed things have changed in the city in a short amount of time.
“Like most heavy issues I feel really complicated about gentrification. Part of the reason I love Detroit so much is because I believe it can be the model for how to redevelop a city in ways that doesn’t displace people, and that uplifts the voices of those who have stayed in Detroit through the gnarly times. There are literally people who have been collecting their own water and living without electricity for months in this city, keeping things moving in their own ways. Somehow, though, they can’t get bailed out but Mike Illitch’s Olympia Entertainment can get a bunch of land for $1 with no community benefits agreement. That’s not justice, that’s not democracy. That’s deplorable.”
He goes on to agree that Detroit in fact needs some cash flow for a steadier economy, requiring new restaurants and businesses, but does it need to be done so through big corporate establishment with no focus on benefits and needs for the community? Croce notes that he defines gentrification not based solely on race, but as a raising of property values which ends up displacing the poor communities. This in turn is effecting the music scene.
“Regardless of the definition, the black population continues to decline in Detroit while the white population grows. This has a variety of implications, but I’ll speak for the dance music scene. A lot of these folks moving into or partying in the city have a really disgusting entitlement problem. The way they treat incredibly talented DJs/bartenders/venue owners is unfathomable to me. So what you’re going to see is these folks taking over downtown and Midtown and some other neighborhoods as well. There’s a number of venues that the heady dance music community just won’t go to anymore because of how suburbanized they have become. I don’t want to DJ some of them either,” he says. “On the same token, a large number of white folks moving to Detroit are moving here to find their souls. So people like myself need to be careful of just writing all new people off. Shoot, I’ve only been in Detroit for 3 years after all. Many of us immediately went traversing in the underground looking for the culturally important stuff. As DJs we can be cultural ambassadors for these folks. So we should trust but verify rather than categorize new people as guilty until proven innocent.”
However, from disparity can grow beauty. The label’s namesake nods to “rocksteady music,” which derives from Jamaican reggae. That time period between first wave ska and modern reggae. Croce says, “I wasn’t in Kingston in 1966, but that summer seemed like a glorious time to be alive. Ska was slowing down and the lyrical content was becoming more soulful. The music was sexy, smooth yet raw, and yearning for some sort of connection. And that sound for yearning for love, community, and connection is precisely what we try to do with our releases and parties.”
Croce says, “My fiancée puts it best: there’s ‘vertical’ music and ‘horizontal’ music. Vertical music would best be defined as a lot of the techno coming out right now. It’s brain music, it’s upright, and it’s stiff. These characteristics aren’t bad, they just are what they are. Horizontal music would be disco, soulful house, and rocksteady reggae. People move their hips side-to-side when they dance, and it’s less individual. Both of these styles have their place, and you’ll hear me touch on all of these sounds in my sets.”
Regardless which way the groove moves, Rocksteady Disco will be there to lift you up and keep it going.
Stay tuned this week for a very exclusive Sequencer Soundcast from Peter Croce.
If you so choose to explore the dimensions beyond your structural consciousness – and seek expansion of how you might define spatial extent – you will find Interdimensional Transmissions. For more than 20 years the Detroit label has been creating inspiring techno, and continues to develop a realm to truthfully reunite with music, the concept of self, and universal consciousness.
Detroit native Brendan M. Gillen, otherwise known as BMG, founded Interdimensional Transmissions in 1994.
“I was born in Detroit and raised in the dream of where the edge of the forest and the city meet, that so much of Michigan urban sprawl is based on. I grew up on Detroit radio with the likes of the Mojo and the Wizard (Jeff Mills) and Mike Halloran and Peter Werbe. That alone should get you ready for a revolution. If you add all that up, you can see it in the music we make and play,” he says. His favorite memory as a child was visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts and watching six of Marcel Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs spin around.
His creative inspiration derived from a visionary esoteric place during a trip to Europe in 1991, when he realized that techno stretched to a global level beyond Detroit. During his trip he also had an experience at Dún Aonghasa, a fort on the Aran Islands near Galway, Ireland. An individual that is both scientifically-driven and spiritual, Gillen heard voices that told him to change his life path and to start creating music. Eventually, he listened and Interdimensional Transmissions was born, named after the guiding ancient voices that seemed to permeate into his reality. The label went on to become essential to the Detroit scene as Gillen had a mission to create techno for the city itself, not just for export.
“Detroit’s history is profound, corrupt, confused, inspiring and crushing. When you move to the city of Detroit you enter into a who-dun-it. Who killed this city? Why? What factors? What confused byproducts of previous wars are left here? You’d be quite surprised at the answers.” – BMG
For several years he worked as music director at WCBN, a radio station at the University of Michigan. Erika Sherman, deemed co-conspirator of the label – joined the station’s efforts her freshman year. “We met pretty quickly through weekly music review meetings. I was spending a lot of time at the station volunteering and learning about music, and we became friends,” Sherman says.
She eventually became program director of the Ann Arbor station and in 1997 Gillen asked her to join Ectomorph. “There was a personnel change in Ectomorph and Erika seemed like a very interesting solution; she entered into the project and it was a long-term evolving education thing from which she later fully emerged as the artist you know today,” he says. The two have been creating sounds together with all analog live hardware sequencing under that name ever since.
Daughter of a famous scientist, Sherman was born and raised in a home of technology and music. At a very young age she was well-known for developing a BBS (Bulletin Board System) as well as launching erika.net – a freeform streaming online radio station.
Sherman says, “My relationship with Detroit has always been primarily about music. I started going to Detroit right around the time I joined WCBN to see bands play, go to raves, etc. — all while studying music at the radio station. During this time period I learned the most about jazz, rock and techno: music forms that are a part of Detroit’s cultural makeup. I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Detroit’s place in music history/music present.”
As both a DJ and a live performer her mission has been to gather collective human energy and transfer it through sound. The energy is palpable and can be seen above the crowd in a cloud, according to Gillen. In a means of call and response Sherman says she loves how the energy on a dance floor is “visceral and raw. At its best, it’s both pure individual expression while also a shared experience. It brings people together, forcing a group of friends, acquaintances and strangers to channel their energy into a collective moment, even when dancing by themselves. As a dancer, I like to be lost in the music, dancing by myself, but also feeling the energy of others around me having this moment with that track.”
“You can’t see it, you feel it. It exists without boundaries. It works within your mind but also on a multitude of primal levels. It connects us all, and reconnects us to things far beyond what we can see. For me it is my place of meditation of mental and personal growth, mental relaxation or mental exploration. Freedom for the mind,” Gillen says about why he loves music.
Both Sherman and Gillen perform live as well as DJs. Sherman is well-known for her rare use of The Octopus in her live PA, which is a midi-sequencer that was discontinued by genoQs Machines after the company shutdown in 2010. With her upbringing in a science-based environment, it is clear she uses that influence in her creations; as an example, her video for “North Hex” takes tones of the song which are sent to different machines including computers, a World War II submarine oscilloscope and video synths, all of which are captured with real-time modulation.
Through both of the artists productions and performances, it is clear that space exploration is a driving force for inspiration. What about this science and thought is so intriguing to these artists?
“First, that we know so little about it, so there is tons of room for speculation and contemplation. I can imagine it to be so many different ways inside nebulas, on planets, circling moons… I also like the idea that when we are looking up into space we are actually witnessing ancient history; the light that travels to Earth from the stars has taken so many millions of years to get here. So what’s going on today?” – ERIKA
Gillen continues, “We are stardust. We are the result of a random cosmic collision … We are not unique, but we should stay alone for now. We are totally responsible for what has happened here. Our culture, our achievements, our failures of past societies – that is us. The way we have treated this living organism of earth, you would hope that we never explore beyond our planet. A defining aspect of civilization is that it destroys wherever it is. When I look at the stars I don’t ask myself, ’Is there life out there?’ I already know. The answers are not in the sky, in the stars, in alien lifeforms. I am not waiting on my angel. I don’t need the cosmos to answer a mystic question. I just enjoy witnessing the endless creation, destruction and rebirth.”
In the early 2000s the sound of the scene changed, as did the environment. Minimal became hyper-prevalent and events in Detroit were being held in bars and clubs. It was that time in techno that many are familiar with, where there was a lull followed by a resurgence.
Gillen made a phone call to Derek Plaslaiko, a Detroit native, and pitched an idea to reawaken the local scene: a party that would last 12 hours. In 2007 at an abandoned bank, No Way Back was created. The party has been housed in many places but is mostly known as an after-party at Detroit’s Movement festival and is now co-produced with New York City’s The Bunker.
No Way Back is more than a party. It is an experience that is deep, contemplative and psychologically expansive. In the environment created, the dance floor is a place to transcend in the most primal and honest way. In recent years, it all takes place at Tangent Gallery and from moonlight to sunrise people are flowing in and out of the industrial blank art space building. Nearly 10 minutes from downtown Detroit – just beyond the entrance gate – the floor and the patio are packed. There is a chill room that glows in cool colors, music on the ambient side lets you flow into the space and there are chairs to sit back if you need some ease for just a moment. Past the bar, through the hallway, beyond that door, is the main room. It’s dark, and the temperature is high. Giant parachutes hang from the ceiling and military netting provides background behind the DJ; the label’s recognizable symbol of a hand can be found there as well. The environment is created to inspire certain feelings and vibrations – what you do with the experience is up to you.
In regard to No Way Back Gillen says, “We live in a world of accelerated time, where everyone is multitasking, living these 24-hour lives always pushing but so rarely in the moment. I like to think about vast concepts when you remove the gradation, like music is continuum that we divide into 12 tones, but there is so much more there when you apply different scales or look for notes in between notes. Gagaku [ancient Japanese music] uses only seven notes. Another very fun one to think about is time — how we divide up time. Like there are currently more than 14 calendars on Earth right now, in some places the year is currently 1437. The October Revolution that started too much in Russia happened in our November. Astrologers still use the Julian calendar. Yet my favorite to ponder is Eternity. The absence of time moving forward.”
“That is the space I hope you can return to at our parties where the past the present and the future all exist on the same plane, and you are experiencing that without thinking about it. Our culture robs us of so much of the tribal highlights of living, and nothing beats the dance for actually stretching out your brain and resetting yourself for daily living. So the party must be a place where the mind can go free, and we respect that and structure our parties around that. A free open space for you to be you and to reunite with music, which was our language before words,” he continues.
At No Way Back you will see performances from the likes of BMG, Erika, Carlos Souffront, Mike Servito, Patrick Russell, Scott Zacharias, Orphx, Bryan Kasenic, Derek Plaslaiko, and others. Many factors and well-thought planning are at hand to create a party that for many is inexplicably life-changing. Sherman says “with No Way Back we hope to provide a safe environment in which you can lose yourself in sound and time. How we construct the environment – with an emphasis on the quality of sound system, top-notch DJs, and immersive environments – is something we bring forth from the heydey of rave culture in Detroit. This party is an attempt by us to not look backwards, but to bring the best parts of our early rave and warehouse experiences to today’s crowds.”
We forget in the daily minutia that our innocence is there to be embraced. We deny our darkness for fear of what we’ll see. Our concept of where we are and who we are with is sometimes not as clear because we do not take the time to really be aware. Interdimensional Transmissions in its cognitive and visionary nature brings you into the depths of what it all is, what it all means. Once you get a true glimpse, there truly is no way back.
The cab makes a left down a road toward a dead end. It’s the East Side of Buffalo, N.Y. and there’s no one around. “Where is it? Do you hear anything? Maybe just up there a little bit. Oh, that’s definitely it.” Feet scamper down the road toward a warehouse where a few other souls are found milling outside the building smoking cigarettes. There’s faint light spilling out. Someone, open the door.
Although Buffalo is a Rust Belt city and a primed breeding ground for artful events, it wasn’t until Strange Allure came to fruition just last year that there has been a boost of fueled excitement to the city’s typical party scene.
A man that calls himself Alan Frank was living in Cleveland, Ohio for almost six years before moving to Buffalo about two years ago. He was born in a town south of Cedar Point, right between Cleveland and Toledo, in the middle of nowhere.
When he was just a teenager, Frank was booking and playing punk and hardcore shows. While he was in high school he would book touring bands at a clubhouse by the local reservoir. Grind and extreme music exposed him to seeing the American underground music scene. But overtime, he says, the scene became oversaturated with bands and the payoff wasn’t ideal.
“I had always flirted with electronic music and techno, but all my friends were punk and we all liked hip-hop and dub.” Techno was his guilty pleasure. But Frank grew up with knowledge about turntablism and was semi-familiar with Detroit techno; occasionally he was able to pick it up on the radio due to his proximity being in Ohio. Artists such as DJ Shadow and any of that “moody groovy weird stuff” drew him in deeper. He started hearing more and more about DIY house and techno, and simultaneously began collecting records. A self-acclaimed Craigslist hound, he scored a collection of Detroit techno and dub techno and from that point forward he was convinced. Additionally, “in a crazy stroke of fate” he was able to flip a mediocre pair of turntables for a mint pair of Technics at a price that was somewhat unimaginable.
“I started collecting techno records and there’s a really sick shop in Cleveland called Bent Crayon, which is legitimately the best record store in the country.”
Frank would pay close attention to the owner’s favorite picks that he would showcase in the shop. Additionally, the shop’s owner would throw events and Frank found himself at Regis and Veronica Vasicka. “That was probably the first techno thing I’d really gone to … it was just freaks coming out,” he says.
When Bent Crayon brought Voices From The Lake, Frank ran into previous co-worker Adam Miller and from there they “went down the wormhole” together. Frank and Miller started going to Hot Mass in Pittsburgh in 2013. “That was huge to see – how cool a party could be and how un-club like it could be.
“It was funny because I really didn’t want to go … I was tired,” he says. His interest was piqued for psilocybin, nothing serious and without a very real intention toward it. But Miller approached him – unaware of Frank’s predisposition – and said he had some mushrooms. The romantics might call it fate, regardless, they both hopped on the Interstate 76 toward Pittsburgh.
“[Hot Mass] was unlike anything I’ve ever been to. You know, just a tiny dark room with a killer system. People weren’t talking, people were dancing. You could dance with other people. Totally uninhibited.”
After Hot Mass, Miller invited him to Sustain-Release and with hesitation Frank eventually agreed. “That’s when I got my mind blown about the possibilities of the intersection of DIY culture and dance music … I was dialed in throughout the whole weekend. It’s the most cohesive, perfectly built thing I’ve ever seen. It’s insane.”
The communal vibe of Sustain-Release was a clear inspiration which has worked as the oncoming structure for Strange Allure parties.
“Just seeing all the different people that would come out. Certain people, and groups like Discwoman, using it as a platform to approach real issues and talk about things in a very punk sense, it was really cool. The thing that was cool about Sustain-Release is how represented the female talent was, that was awesome. There have been things that I’ve been to that were clubby and just fucking bros … if there’s one thing I cannot relate to, or one thing that will drive me away, it’s that.” Sustain-Release, a total void of the surface mainstream EDM, became a beacon in his mind’s eye.
“Seeing the detail and the care that all these people put into building this thing and it turning out perfect … such a cohesive idea, seen all the way through – it was really cool.” — ALAN FRANK
Sometime later, friends of his were throwing a Halloween party and asked him to DJ. “It went way better than I expected,” he says and people urged him to continue playing house and techno. In the summer of 2015 he decided to explore something new and assembled a group of 10-12 fresh air punk homegrown people. With connections in real estate he started bouncing with the idea of curating an event in the city of Buffalo.
Frank had the name Strange Allure in mind a long time ago. Inspired by Mission of Burma, a post-punk band from Boston, Mass. in the ’70s-’80s, he scribbled the name down on a dry erase board in his bedroom studio hoping to one day use it for something. Next step was to figure out who to book for the first event. While in Toronto to see Jay Daniel, by happenstance arrived in time for doors; “I was there so painfully early and nobody was there except me.”
Stuart Li, otherwise known as Basic Soul Unit, was there and the two started chatting. Li agreed to come through to play in Buffalo and the first Strange Allure party was born.
After a slight location snafu before the launch party he cold called people for five days straight and eventually landed on the East Side space where Strange Allure held it’s first party. “I was so stressed out because I did not want to cancel that show because I thought we were going to be able to ride something really cool that was happening with Western New York and all this stuff that was coming to a head,” he says. In a warehouse that functioned for powder coating and as a lumberyard in the 1920s, the collective started to turn it into something different.
“That spot was totally haphazardly thrown together. We got in there maybe two days before the show,” he says. “I had no idea how to build it up. We made everything out of stuff that was found there. The sound system, we built that little makeshift stage and all it is was are pallets and drywall. We dropped the subs in front of it and it was perfect, totally flush. The speakers fit perfectly. That bar is just an old headboard. The car seat we put in the lounge area. The table we were using at the door was already there. Everything was just in there.”
The day began at 9 a.m. to prepare the party and after loading in and loading out they cleared the warehouse by 9 a.m., a few hours after the party ended.
Prior to the launch party, the crew put together a fundraiser event at SolRise studio on Buffalo’s East Side. “It wasn’t a great turn out but the people who came out were really excited to see techno in the city,” he says. “We really tried to build it up and promote it as a community-based party and make people feel welcome and make people feel like they’re part of something.”
Working hand-in-hand to create something together, an evening of Strange Allure is one worth exploring and full of surprises.
For the next Strange Allure installation, catch Detroit’s Erika and BMG [Interdimensional Transmissions] on Saturday, June 18.
The ability to move is something that many may often take for granted. Movement toward change, peace or safety is not accessible to all. For some, the right to movement is being actively denied. In Germany the term gegen has become one of significance and holds an immeasurable amount of political weight.
Through Noise Manifesto in 2014 Paula Temple released her track titled “GEGEN.” The term is a very powerful and complex word in German. With two opposite meanings it translates to “against” but if applied to time it means “around.” It is a word of tension and a term that drives protest. A club night called GEGEN Berlin creatively took the term and uses it as a tool to lead a very specific mission. The collective strives to break the structural identity and to be “Against yourself. Around queer narratives.” The aim of the party according to their website “is playing with the solitude of the political meaning of gegen as a suicidal mechanism of the ‘self’ or the sublime crisis of enemy subtraction as the aggression of dialectics.”
Gegen is a term being used heavily by protesters, specifically now with the upheaval of refugees and asylum seekers in Germany.
“Sadly Europe has been closing its borders especially since introducing Frontex, making agreements, supplying arms that are causing unnecessary cruelty and murder to innocent people. As refugees fleeing for their lives it is shocking we are creating similar conditions and hateful rhetoric as what happened in 1930s pre-WWII for political gain,” says Paula Temple. “My personal hope is in our efforts to diminish the climate of hate with an overwhelming climate of empathy. This is not do-gooder blah blah, this is life and death.”
The O Platz Refugee Movement in Berlin is a group of refugees driven by self-organized protest and who are choosing not to accept the disfranchisement by the German state. The group set up a protest camp/home base at Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Through a list of demands and by publicizing the cause through protest and media, they hope to achieve peace for refugees in their state.
The group demands mandatory residence. The Residenzplicht is a unique legal requirement that is affecting foreigners living in Germany; rather, they are applicants for refugee status or those given temporary stay of deportation. Under this requirement refugees are required to remain in a certain area which is a violation of human rights.
O Platz demands an abolishment of all “Lagers” which are forced refugee camps. According to the organization’s website these locations are “mostly completely isolated from society, under inhumane living conditions and constant surveillance by authorities and Lager-guards.”
This group demands an end to deportations and also The Dublin III, which is a European Union law that the O Platz group deems “nothing else than a network of human trafficking between European countries.”
“I have freedom of movement, I can go in and out of countries. Since moving to Berlin I have been lucky enough to travel the world, meeting many techno communities and queer communities who share a sense of care and responsibility for each other.” – PAULA TEMPLE
HYENAZ, an electronic band from Berlin that have evolved a cult following for their immersive live shows, were inspired by Paula Temple’s track. They released a special edit this month that lays angry punk vocals over the tune, yelling for a desire to move and evokes a jarring sense of solidarity. It is abrasive, but that naturally reflects the political situation at hand. This is an edit specifically made for the refugees and asylum seekers that are in need. HYENAZ says, “The urgency of its siren-like lead synth speaks to the militarized policing of national borders and the desperation that pushes people to risk everything in order to exercise the human right to move freely.”
According to a statement from HYENAZ, “So many assumptions are made about why people choose to move, who has the right to move, and who does not, who can simply travel on a whim and who must risk everything to leave their lands for others. Our sense of time and space is increasingly unbounded, as access to knowledge, art and the public sphere shared through electronically mediated communication. Yet so many still have to risk death or internment to cross national borders physically, with access to migration arbitrarily determined by pieces of paper distributed along class and racial lines.”
The track is available for purchase. For each purchase Paula Temple and HYENAZ will personally double the sale and the whole amount of funds will go to the Berlin O Platz Refugee Movement, who is tirelessly providing to help to refugees and fight for their rights. Funds will go toward the constant need of resources and money to pay lawyers fees, help to run education tours, or to provide food and activities for mental health relief.
Paula Temple says, “I’m not expecting anything big with this, simply being part of the dialogue for empathy, however your support here and now would be much appreciated. Please buy the edit, even if you never liked ‘GEGEN.'”
Raised on Detroit’s westside, Norm Talley and Delano Smith began establishing themselves as artists in the early days of house and techno in the Motor City.
Talley was influenced by music at a very young age. “During this time in my youth there was a strong musical presence on the westside of Detroit. Lots of great record shops and parties to go along with that; they even sold records in department stores like Federals along with records shops like Detroit Audio, Professionals, Chaunceys, Kendricks, etc.”
With genuine determination to explore his love of music, he picked up a paper route to earn money for records as well as another turntable to complete his set.
“Motivation comes from within and if I wanted it I went out and got it, so at this time in my life as a teenager my motivation was collecting good music and dancing before I even had two turntables.” – Norm Talley
Smith was born in Chicago, Ill. but he and his family moved to Michigan when he was maybe 4 or 5 years old. Although his roots stem from Detroit, by the early ‘80s he started to develop a taste for Chicago house music. “There was no place like the Detroit’s westside growing up. That’s where the scene started in Detroit,” he says.
Each artist were influenced by the late and great WLBS DJ Ken Collier, a Detroit-native and pioneer to the techno community. Collier was ultimately known for his after hours sets at Heaven, a gay nightclub on 7 Mile and Woodward. Like Frankie Knuckles and others, Collier played a pivotal role in the era of post-disco, when the energy was high, the scene was pushed further underground and a new sound was brewing.
“I opened for Ken a lot in Detroit at many of his residencies … I already knew how to beatmatch pretty much prior to having the opportunity to open for him. He did advise on little things like blending, EQing and volume, but just watching and speaking with him when we played together taught me a lot,” Smith says, adding that he has too many fond memories of him to reminisce on just one. Smith did begin to DJ alongside Collier and began gaining most of his notoriety at L’uomo Detroit, a warehouse type club.
Talley lived four blocks away from Collier and regardless of being a bit younger at the time, he was still gaining knowledge through the music he shared. Collier was a mentor and a friend to him, providing him knowledge about disco and progressive which developed that signature Talley sound and energetic set. “One great memory of Ken playing was when he got ready to mix a record he would tell the light guy to ‘blacken the floor!’ which meant turn off the lights and when the mix was complete, and the next record was introduced, the light guy would then turn back on the lights!”
Smith took a break from DJing in the mid/late ’80s around the time that house music was becoming more popular. “I’d already been DJing for a long time making no money, so I decided to get a real job and further my education and eventually left Detroit for a few years. When I returned in the early ’90s the music had changed completely. I was at a friends house that happened to have some turntables set up in his basement — one thing led to another and here we are.”
Fully inspired and on the grind, Smith had his mission at the helm and in 2003 joined forces with Tony Foster to develop Mixmode Recordings. Prior to that, Smith and Talley developed the Detroit Beatdown Crew, along with Mike ‘Agent X’ Clarke. Their first compilation LP was released through Third Ear Recordings in 2002. As a trio their sound began seeping into the European scene, leading Smith to Germany where he developed a very impactful relationship with Yossi Amoyal, head of Berlin label Sushitech.
Both artists have performed on an international level, including places like Germany, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Japan and more.
“When I first began to travel internationally overseas they seemed to pay very close attention to detail as far as sound system which was pleasant for me and now I see a lot of clubs in the U.S. paying more attention to details. Don’t get me wrong, there were some clubs in the U.S. in the late ’70s and early ’80s that had great soundsystems but I guess it seemed as all the clubs overseas had great sound systems,” Talley says.
According to Smith, “The music is taken more seriously in Europe and Japan it seems. A DJ can really play from the heart. People that come to hear you are truly your fans, they buy your records and are knowledgeable about the music and the entire scene in general. It’s a lot different in the U.S., and I’ll just leave it at that. There are many factors in the U.S. that divides us musically and culturally.”
Regardless of international differences, “the D” is the birthplace of techno. Creation and community was so poignant during the early days on the westside, it helped spark and develop a culture that remains authentic. According to Talley, “I think DJs and producers living in Detroit at that time were heavily influenced by the rich history of music coming out of Detroit through radio, our parents, backyard parties, high school gigs, DJ crews … so I think it just carried on into our adult lives.” The city is still growing with new waves in the scene, many shaping the next generation of music from that city and carrying on the legacy. From two artists who have seen the city’s evolution, they shared with Sequencer who they find to be an important player in shaping the next generation of music from the 313.
“Really hard to say as there are so many and I like a lot of them,” Smith says. “Too many to name actually, but I will say – with the new younger generation of music producers, the scene will be left in good hands!”
Talley continued, “A lot of producers and DJs have brought their sons into the music business and I think they will carry the house and techno torch when we’re old and grey. Guys like Jay Daniels, Kyle Hall, Dantiez and Damarii Saunderson, and Generation Next to name a few.”
Tens of thousands of people will make the pilgrimage to Detroit on Memorial Day weekend for the annual Movement Festival. Movement attracts people from all over the world, exposing them to the city and perhaps showing it in a new light, breaking the negative connotation that many people might have in mind. There is a culture of art, music and cuisine that is more than a pleasure to explore.
Each person that has a connection to the festival has a special meaning in their heart for Detroit. For Smith, “I like the fact that Detroit is shown in a good light around the world. The guys at Paxahau have a top notch production in the U.S.A., we need this here, and it’s done in my hometown where techno was born.”
Movement, produced by Paxahau since 2006, will be celebrating 10 years this May and has grown to become one of the largest electronic festivals. “It’s a positive thing all the way around exposing people from Detroit – and worldwide – to electronic music from Detroit and abroad,” Talley says.
Talley will be returning to Rochester, N.Y. along with Smith on Saturday, April 23 for the seventh installation of Signal > Noise who have previously presented The Black Madonna, Claude Young and Eric Cloutier. This event has also been selected as an official Movement Pre-party.
Both artists have been friends and DJing with one another for decades. Smith says that he and Norm are like family. “I’ve known Norm for many, many years and we’re very close friends, like family,” Smith said.
“Great friend of mine for many years, and we have held residencies together here in Detroit for over 20 years,” Talley says. “[He is] very passionate about music and pays close attention to detail which is right up my alley. Great DJ and label owner of MixMode recordings which we have done records together in the past and more coming in the near future!”
Signal > Noise 2.1: Norm Talley and Delano Smith
Saturday, April 23
45 Euclid (45 Euclid St., Rochester)
See the Facebook event page for more details.
On a global level the house and techno scene has a long and powerful history. From Berlin to Detroit, from New York City to Chicago; born from the underground this realm has always been a beast of its own, and somehow is both inclusive and exclusive. Not all enter, but anyone is welcome if your mind is in the right place.
Simple in its foundation yet complex in the details, electronic music is a widely expansive genre with more subgenres that can be uttered in one breath. One of the best descriptions I have ever heard about house and techno is that it is a “rabbit hole.” Once you start falling down it, you can’t really get out. There is too much to explore. Too much to find. So much to love.
Comprised by a culture of people, each person is playing a role in the interconnection. It’s a living, breathing mass that evolves with time but maintains the quality of history that fuels it.
Additionally, each city has it’s own vibe, taste, feel, whatever you may call it. Sequencer is a place to converge – to learn, discuss and expand. To be notified of what is to come, or what has happened.
Here you may get to know the DJs and producers that you love with artist spotlights. Learn the history of it all. Check out our calendar of events. Find something new to add to your auditory palate. Join the experience.
Enter the Sequencer.
Questions? Please email email@example.com.