Volvox

Ariana Paoletti’s transformative journey through sound has certainly brought her changes in scenery. From her formative gothic years to becoming the DJ known worldwide as Volvox, it has been her undying passion for music that continues to drive her. A Portuguese saying goes, “O amor é algo eterno; o aspecto pode mudar, mas não a essência” – Love is something eternal; the aspect may change, but not the essence.

She was born in São Paulo, Brazil. But when she was two years old her family moved to the United States due to the country’s 1987 debt crisis. “Just days before my family was set to move the banks shut down and kept everyone’s money, including my parent’s entire savings,” she says. “They arrived in the United States with a little more than $2,000 to their names, but my American grandparents took them in and helped them get started in Buffalo (where my mother was from).”

continental buffalo

THE CONTINENTAL, BUFFALO [PHOTO BY LORRAINE SIMON]

In Western New York on the Niagara River sits Buffalo, a small and gritty rust belt city only a stone’s throw from Canada. Not only was Buffalo’s rave scene strong in the early 2000s, the Queen City brought life to various famous underground artists and was also home to a very prominent hardcore scene (most notably Everytime I Die). “I had a great time growing up there and was never bored,” Ariana says. She attended Amherst Central High School, just east of downtown proper. She was a vocalist in a punk band, and from 2001-03 she played keys and performed vocals in EBM-industrial band Process of Elimination; they would open for international Industrial acts locally and in Rochester, N.Y. 

“There was a venue called the Showplace Theater that was in a crummy part of town that would let us host our own shows but we had to buy tickets from the venue and resell the tickets ourselves to cover the overhead of the event. So imagine a bunch of goths pushing tickets on their friends, almost monthly. It was a hassle but we loved it! Many times we just paid for the tickets ourselves and let our friends come for free. We were all under 18 at the time so these shows were the best option we had for going out and having a scene,” she says.

the continental buffalo

THE CONTINENTAL, BUFFALO

A pivotal place that defined her teenage clubbing days was The Continental, a now defunct goth/punk dive bar that was located downtown at 212 Franklin Street. “It had been open since the ‘80s and was the de-facto home of the underground/alternative scene in the area. It had a performance stage on the first floor and a dance club upstairs. It was dark and dirty and smelly and sticky and beloved,” she says. “The funniest thing I remember about the club at The Continental was that the dance floor was the width of the building but relatively narrow, the long side was mirrored and so everyone in their goth finery would dance and preen facing the mirrors, checking themselves out and the others behind them! Eventually my band played there once or twice, which was pretty exciting for me as a teen.”

It was a space unlike any other in Buffalo, where fetishism could be expressed freely and the dark electronic music ranged from postpunk, Industrial, and EBM. “Occasionally they would host touring band shows that were 16+ and I would hide in the bathroom to avoid being kicked out before the 18+ club night started afterwards. I specifically remember an Ohgr (Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy solo act) show in 2001 that was a big moment for me. Ogre was the most famous Industrial music figure after Trent Reznor of NIN and Al Jourgensen of Ministry so this show coming to Buffalo was a huge deal.”

When it comes to raving Buffalo is primed for it. Similar to Detroit, the city relied on manufacturing (particularly with Bethlehem Steel) and saw a rapid socio-economic decline along with deindustrialization. Homes began to disintegrate and many spots in the city became ghost-like structures, only to be inhabited by temporary new life.

groove attack

ARIANA AT GROOVE ATTACK 2.0 – NIAGARA FALLS, 2000 [PHOTO COURTESY OF ARIANA PAOLETTI]

“Just before I went totally goth I started attending raves in the area with some friends – Buffalo had tons of abandoned spaces along Main Street downtown and also in Fort Erie and Niagara Falls. The first rave I ever went to was in 2000, put on by local promoters Phlux and it was a MASSIVE affair held at the Niagara Falls Convention Center. My parents drove me there and picked me up at noon the next day. I had never been to any dance event on that scale and I still distinctly remember walking into the massive main room, it was so dark and large you couldn’t see the ceiling, or the end of the room. It was a proper classic rave with multiple rooms each a different genre including a chillout room. For a while my parents drove me to and picked me up from these events to ensure I was behaving responsibly. Indeed at this time I was still naive to the world of drugs; I was just thrilled to be able to dance for eight hours straight! There were many raves I attended around that time but Groove Attack was by far the largest and most memorable.”

niagara falls rave

GROOVE ATTACK 2.0 FLIER – NIAGARA FALLS, 2000

When school wasn’t in session Ariana would perform The Rocky Horror Picture Show each Friday night at the Amherst Theater on Main Street, a staple to this day for new art films and re-screening classics. “Nearly our entire cast was from my high school. I had very horrible acne on my face and back at the time that I was extremely embarrassed about it but performing in various states of undress with these folks helped me feel more confident about my body and how I looked! My mom would drop me off at midnight and watch X-Files at home until 2 a.m., she’d then pick me up when our show was over. Once I had my drivers permit I drove myself and my friends home from these shows as my parents were very sick of staying up so late,” she says. “I had stellar grades and was very serious about school which is why my parents were always so accepting of my nighttime interests!”

Upon graduating in 2003 she was deciding between Boston or Chicago; she chose to attend Massachusetts College of Art and to continue clubbing unhindered. “I was already well entrenched in the Goth clubbing scene by the time I turned 18 and indeed I chose to move to Boston over Chicago because the minimum age for clubs in Illinois is 21 whereas in Boston it was 19+ at the time. Club life had already become my main interest and there was no way I was going to put that on hold for three years!”

A DANCER IN 1996 AT MANRAY

Through Livejournal she ended up connecting with Angeldustrial, a local crew throwing events at Cambridge goth-club, Manray. “They welcomed me with open arms into their midst. I became a part of the crew, eventually joining their fetish-leaning dance performance troupe” for about a year after her move. “That was the beginning of my professional involvement with clubs, as I made the transition from spectator to performer.”

manray massachusetts

MANRAY CLUB, MASSACHUSETTS

Angeldustrial’s core beliefs include “raising cultural discourse through high technology and blending social circles for greater DIY networking.” These friends got Ariana to start DJing in 2006 with a group birthday gift organized by her friend Jenn – a Numark CD Mix 2. Koren (aka DJ Punketta) helped get her first DJ gig at Redline, a Harvard Square bar that’s now closed. But before she started learning the craft she was being molded on many Manray nights in the dark corners of the club.

Manray was an integral space for the Industrial/goth scene from 1985 to 2005; its name derived from the Dadist artist. Although it has been more than a decade since closing, Ariana can still visualize the space vividly. It was “a sprawling old-school style club with several rooms, a main dance floor, second dance floor, lounge with its own bar and a downstairs with men and womens restrooms, coat check and a large dressing room. Manray’s main dance floor had a second story DJ booth so the DJ was totally out of sight, but looming over the dance floor. There was a phone booth in the corner you used to request songs from resident DJ Chris Ewen. There was a large stage that hosted many famous bands and also the dance/fetish performances. The main room was sonically dedicated to goth, rock, and ‘80s synth. Swishy stuff that trad(itional)-goths loved to swoop around to in a flourish of velvet, point toe boots and clove smoke. The second room was more of my domain, focused on EBM, industrial and alternative electronic sounds with a decidedly more cyber-futuristic and European slant.”

As Manray closed its doors in 2005 the local scene fell along with it, although some of the club’s events continue elsewhere to this day.

Eventually she “made the transition from goth/industrial to electro/techno.” A party called Hearthrob – which took place every other Tuesday night at The Middlesex Lounge – is where she sparked a residency with Make It New. Hearthrob is also where she met “an entire small village of people that now live in NYC all met there, including NYC lighting designers Michael Potvin and Kip Davis, Unter’s Olga Romanova and KUNQ’s False Witness.”

“I ditched the black and went full on new-rave as the noughties rolled on into the blog-house era. Soon after I was asked to become a resident of Make It New, the weekly Thursday party at The Middlesex thrown by the Basstown crew. The people I met there showed me that you didn’t have to be ‘an adult’ or established to throw a great party, and the Boston electronic scene as it was now basically grew up around the Hearthrob and Basstown parties.”

ARIANA 2007 AT HEARTHROB [PHOTO COURTESY OF NICKYDIGITAL]

By 2008, freshly graduated with an art degree in hand, she decided to attempt living in Berlin. “By then I knew Techno was my life and so I had to get to the motherland. I remember the first time I went to Berghain was in 2008, as I heard it was a pretty sweet fetish/alternative club, like I was used to at Manray. I was still mourning it’s closing so I was excited to get back in black,” she says. “It was so way beyond anything I imagined. I remember I wanted to see Mark Broom play so I rushed my friends to get there at 1 a.m., which to me was very late to get to the club! When I arrived I found out Mark wasn’t playing until 6 a.m. or so…what the fuck!? I had no idea clubs were open that late.. On some later trip someone from Juilliard took my photo outside the club for a school project, maybe one of the earliest such surveys.. I don’t know where those images ended up but I’ve always wondered…”

Her best friend Lauren was working as label manager for International Deejay Gigolo Records, and DJ Hell would invite Ariana to staff meetings. Exploring her local Media Play in Buffalo is where she became familiar with the label and others such as Astralwerks and Hed Candi.

“CD compilations used to be a huge thing and the Gigolo series was second to none. This is where I learned about artists from Terence Fixmer to Derrick Carter. When I was 17 years old I told myself ‘one day I’ll go to Berlin and meet DJ Hell.’ It was an insane dream, as far removed from my teen life as anything I could imagine. Well, I completely forgot about that until in 2008 I was sitting in the Gigolo Berlin office and it hit me. ‘Holy shit.’ I thought to myself. ‘I’m here. ANYTHING is possible!’” – VOLVOX

Three months later in Berlin, she says, “I was 23, recently graduated and jobless, with blue hair, a terrible spat of chin acne and a bogus story of working at a record label. Nobody would rent me a room until one day I met a Brazilian guy whose room I was interviewing for. The lady I was looking to rent from had a giant gnarled ponytail hanging off the side of her head and red lipstick that was all out of the lines. She had a huge dog, hundreds of plants and asked me metaphysical questions about ‘what I wanted from Berlin.’ ‘You don’t want to live here,’ he told me. ‘This lady is crazy. If you don’t find anything else you can come stay with me, I’m moving into a one-bed.’ And that is just one of the many times being Brazilian has saved me in a pinch.” Their chemistry as roommates matched as his job had him up early to work each morning and Ariana would sleep during the day after being out each night.

Until one morning her roommate woke her up in a panic – there was a fire.

“We tried to make an escape but we were overwhelmed by smoke in the hallway and I almost lost consciousness choking in the darkness. It didn’t help I just HAD to bring my DJ bag with me. I started to drift off then I remember thinking to myself ‘No, I’m not going out like this, not now.’ I got up and shouted for my roommate. Just as we were both about to pass out he smashed the hallway window with his bare firsts. Firefighters arrived soon after and took us to the hospital. After this experience I decided I had enough of Berlin and moved back to Boston.”

volvox basstown visions

VOLVOX BASSTOWN VISIONS 2010 [PHOTO COURTESY OF NICKDAWG2000]

She spent three more years in Boston DJing, throwing events and dealing vintage clothes. Her gigs were frequent, but $100 a night just wasn’t enough. “In the back of my mind there was always this nagging voice telling me that a wider world was waiting for me, and that I was squandering my potential staying in Boston.” In 2011 she made her move to New York City.

Working her way into the rhythm of the city she started promoting at The Flat, and also helped found Moon II along with Michael Potvin. This warehouse art space on Rutledge Street off Broadway became home to a series of raves and events which Ariana says “put our group on the map in the burgeoning DIY electronic scene.” One of the space’s first tenants, Daniel Fisher (aka DJ Physical Therapy), was a nexus figure integrating them into the local scene. Ariana recalls Ron Morelli playing one of the first parties and Mykki Blanco using the space to rehearse.

jack dept. nyc

JACK DEPT. NYC

“Eventually the local Hasidim who owned the space brought those efforts to a close, they certainly didn’t appreciate all the queer party freaks that were hanging outside, smoking cigarettes and carrying on into the morning light,” she says.

Fischer introduced her to John Barclay, owner of Bushwick’s beloved Bossa Nova Civic Club. At the time the bar had just opened and he was looking for a resident on first Fridays of each month. She and John Barera ran the monthly together for a couple years before it evolved into what is now known as Jack Dept. “For the first couple years the party had no name, only hot DJ lineups and little more than a Facebook event. That was the style in Brooklyn at the time, very understated, if you knew the artists you knew what was up. I don’t even have flyers from that time, I guess we never even made any!” Yet, popularity for the party grew.

“When I came up with the name Jack Dept. all the energy we had put into the parties up until then just came together in a big way. I remember one dancer excitedly letting me know ‘I’ve been to ALL the Jack Dept.’s!’ …it was only our second party. That’s when I knew the name was spot on, that it would encourage such enthusiasm and also stand for a consistent level of forward-thinking bookings.”

Some of the party’s bookings include Shawn Rudiman, Kiernan Laveaux and Father of Two, Justin Cudmore, Doc Sleep, Hot Mass residents, Eris Drew, Mary Yuzovskaya, Patrick Russell – and that’s just to name a few. “Over the years I’d say half the people that came to the early parties have become famous in their own right and the party is now informing a new generation of edgy Brooklyn clubgoers,” she says, adding that her and Barera are working to bring in national upcoming talent.

mosaique volvox

PULSE @ MOSAIQUE – RUSSIA, 2017

“I deeply appreciate having the privilege to break young artists here in NYC and also to provide an intimate club experience for more established DJs to enjoy. As I play more and more massive events across Europe I have recognized that the intimate dive/club experience is something that brings me back to my roots and lies at the heart of my passion for dancing and electronic music.”

Out of the party grew a digital-only record label of the same name in 2016. Pushing lesser known producers who create techno and acid, the imprint has seen releases from Will Martin, M//R, TX Connect, AAAA, Horos, Innershades & Robert D, and Pete Vai. Ariana handles the art direction.  

Additionally, the Bossa Nova residency is where she became acquainted with Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, Emma Burgess-Olson and Christine McCharen-Tran: the founders of Discwoman. This collective has grown to become a globally-recognized platform and booking agency for woman-identifying artists. As one of the group’s first clients, Discwoman has played an integral role for Ariana not only providing further growth for her DJ career, but in the strengthening of her community.  

Discwoman definitely turned me on to the female DJ mission. I guess what I’ve realized now is how amazing and special my youth experiences were in that all the scenes I’ve described until now were well-balanced between men and women, straights, gays and everyone in between, people of all races and decidedly liberal and creative leanings. I never felt like anything was missing but clearly that hasn’t been the story everywhere. I’m happy that Discwoman can inspire more people to take up electronic music, their support also showed me that there was a wider audience for what I do than I ever imagined!” – VOLVOX

When she’s not at Bossa she also holds a residency with Unter, the acclaimed underground party whose unique aesthetic and high-caliber bookings have brought on a serious reputation. Additionally, for the past few years she has been touring on an international level stretching to 21 countries beyond the United States. Her gig roster is incredibly extensive in review. But you can certainly find her frequenting Berghain/Panorama Bar. Perhaps you caught her performance alongside Umfang at last year’s Dekmantel. Back on Buffalo turf in 2016 she played to an intimate dancefloor for Strange Allure as the city’s underground scene began its most recent surge. That’s hardly close to scratching the surface of how much she has done and where she’s gone.

But, there was one party specifically that focused and refined even further the vision of love that Ariana has for music. In February 2016 she made her way back to Brazil for Dûsk, a party in celebration of Vênus Ácida [Acid Venus]; a party inspired by the planet poetically known for its myths of feminine energy and creating balance. Visiting the motherland reintroduced her to ancestral power. This reconnection to the idea of home helped her understand more so her own essence of being.

BRAZIL VOLVOX

DÛSK – BRAZIL, 2016

“I always say that my love of dancing comes from being born in Brazil. They just LIVE for it there! I’d say it’s the national pastime. It’s in my body and my soul. But growing up away from there I never knew what it was about me that was Brazilian. Since I knew only my family I had little sense of what Brazilian people were like. I only knew that I always felt somewhat different/alien all while growing up. That I had a fire inside me that wasn’t like others around me,” she says. “Finally in the last three years I’ve been able to spend quality time there as an adult, and so much has clicked into place. My passions, my desires, they all make more sense when I see myself in this frame. I am so so grateful for the friendships I’ve sparked there, the fruits of which have been deeply spiritually nourishing. I always come back from São Paulo feeling 100% more confident and embodied.”

Over time, life’s little details changed. No matter the city or sky she is under. No matter the time of the day. To thousands of people or just a handful. Ariana’s love for music is eternal.

I love music because it’s an internal journey that can take you around the world. Music has nourished me for my entire life and has been the great driving force of my happiness. As you can see my life has been wrapped around music for as long as I’ve been doing things and I’m just dumbfounded by how far it has all gone. I’m a lifer for sure, come find me in 10-20 years…I’ll be on the dancefloor.”

Rufus Gibson Presents: FINLEY (Boston)

BUFFALO – Back again for the August installment. The heat isn’t cooling down anytime soon and neither are these beats! This month FINLEY is in the house for his Buffalo NY debut!

The bastard son of SONA. If you don’t know her, educate yourself.

It was an era that FINLEY was brought up in and moulded him into who he is today. “Tech-no” you say? “ Tech- yes” says FINLEY; inspired by marathon sets at the history filled SONA nightclub.

His inspirations led him to the decks in 1998 and over the next few years, he honed his skills while picking up residencies throughout New England underground parties, including the well-known SUNDAY NIGHT MASS in Burlington, VT. Then it was off to school to learn the precious art and science of audio engineering at Full Sail University, where his productions first saw the light of night.

Low Tide provided a platform to release original music and remixes on labels including Dilate Records, Motek, and Inside out alongside artists Dance Spirit, Kosmas, Miguel Puente, Silky, Jonny Cruz, Balcazar & Sordo, and others. With upcoming solo releases on Faceless, Sullivan Room Records, NOSI Music, and endless hours in the studio creating.

His understanding and true love for the scene can be heard throughout his productions and dj sets. Sexy, multi-layered, melodic tunes, mixed with a bit of his techno and R&B roots, make for an incredible journey every time.

Line Up:

FINLEY(Get Physical, Nervous Records, Superfreq) – Boston MA

Rufus Gibson( Mikita Skyy, REDUX, Gourmand Music Recordings)

Cover:
5 Bones

And as always this is a sucker free zone. Come as you are and who you are because together we’ll be sharing once again another beautiful night on the dance floor. Beats will be on point and all I can say is we’ll see you on the dance floor!

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: Detroit Favorite [LA VIDA 001]

The week of the reckoning is finally here. People have gathered their best pieces of black clothing and the requests off from work have been approved. Starting tomorrow and through out the weekend folks from all over the world will begin arriving in Detroit for debauchery and impeccable dance music. There are a lot of great parties to attend and, of course, the festival itself has reached almost legendary rapport.

One thing that strikes me every year at some point or another is the realization that each year I hear a few tracks with out fail. There are records that are so well made – so fantastically funky, that it’s essentially never a bad idea to play them. Pepe Badrock’s “Deep Burnt” always gets a spin or two; Scott Grooves’ “Movin’ On” also comes to mind. But the one that always jumps out exactly when it’s needed is the lead track off New For U, the premier LP on Andres’ record label La Vida

NEW FOR U ANDRES

LA VIDA 001

The record was released in February 2012 and ever since has maintained a massive following of fondness. Astonishingly, 5,000+ Discogs members want LA VIDA 001, which is pretty impressive for a somewhat newer release. It’s a very unassuming little slab of wax; sealed in a flat white cardboard sleeve and featuring track listings and small label logos on a white label.

While A1 “New For U” is the breakout star of the record, the second cut on the A-side is a wonderful piece of music as well. While not a dance floor igniter like the former track, it’s made with such amazing warmth and perfection of sampling that Andres is famous for. Lo-fi drums and delicate vocal looping at a slower tempo make it great track for very early in the night. It’s hard not to love based simply from the skill in the arrangements and mastering.

The flip side gets a bit back to the groove of things with Jazz Dance. A lot of DJs have told me that they actually like B1 the most of all. It’s more stripped back and has a lot of breathing room. From a mixing standpoint it layers very well. The juice of this tune lies in the rolling bassline that doesn’t quit very often. The filtering and frequency of over all of each instrument sit astounding well in the mix, creating a splendid finish to an amazing record.

These tracks all bring a bit of something to the table. Part of the reason people champion Andres’ work so much is because the engineering involved in the sound design is so admirable. When you have these massive, expensive, top of the line sound systems to work with, Andres records will always shine on them very well.

People trade this record around a lot. There are constantly new listings on Discogs and I personally got this record only this year when a copy was found in the backroom at my local shop and then put on the shelf. Stay vigilant for it if you dig the tunes and want to own it yourself.

See you in Detroit!

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: Modern Detroit [VQ035] [PLE65350-1] [BCR007]

With Detroit’s Movement festival inching closer and closer by the day, excitement continues to grow across the stratosphere of dance music. Whereas last week’s Wax Runoff contained a few records from the crucial early days of Detroit techno, this week we take a look at some of the modern labels representing for the D.

Visionquest, Planet E, and Blank Code all manage to pump out splendidly solid Detroit tunes, each with their own flavor and take on the booming rhythms. Though bending the rules to be interesting, fresh, and new, these imprints preserve the nature and vibe of the best the Motor City has to offer.

Seth Troxler, Shaun Reeves, and Lee Curtiss’ powerhouse label Visionquest is an instant talking point when discussing the important Detroit players of the last decade. I’ll be the first to admit that there is some really corny and imperfect music on Visionquest, but the releases that do hit the mark always seem to remain on heavy rotation. The 35th release [VQ035] from 2013 Jadore featured one of Norway’s most enjoyable exports – producer Terje Bakke. This record actually introduced me to Terje, who has had some amazing releases across a handful of labels before and after this release. Somewhere between house, minimal, and techno, this record takes a lot of what is loveable about European dance music and breathes in the classic fat and dry Detroit sound. Plenty of loops and subtle changes make it perfect for a pre-midnight DJ set or a relaxing Sunday drive.  And if you’ve ever been to Movement in the past, odds are that someone at some point has recommended you find yourself at the Need I Say More party thrown by the Visionquest crew every year on Monday morning. It’s without a doubt one of the best sound systems in the city brought in for a day of delightful classics, rare gems, and forthcoming heat. Definitely not a label or party to sleep on.

 

 

Planet E has actually been around since 1991. Carl Craig has been the mastermind behind its development which could play a part in why it continues to put out sturdy, relevant techno tracks. The Last Decade EP [PLE65350-1] is credited to Carl Davis which is a single-use alias taken up by Carl Craig for this release. The tracks are broken down into “Sketches” that truly put classic Detroit styles front and center. Most notable are the nods to the electro and bass styles that originally got Detroit started on the path of electronic music. Dark and stiff tracks litter the A-side, but the true secret weapons of the record are Sketches 5 and 6 that feature more downtempo and chilled out beats. The juxtaposition of production styles traditionally used for hard, slamming tracks against the soft and slower soundscapes is nothing short of fantastic. Carl is always around the Motor City on Memorial Day weekend and his sets are not to be missed; if given the chance, make sure you stop by to enjoy his grooves.

 

 

Of course, no modern Detroit sound discussion would be complete without touching on the heavier, more grinding style of techno. Blank Code is the youngest of these three labels, but has wasted no time making a very respectable name for itself. Rituals Of Submission [BCR007] by Luis Flores could not have a more appropriate name. The record features two originals and two remixes containing tight drums that slap and big powerful synth blasts. With kick drums that could knock your wig off, the tunes are wonderful odes to the confusing and at times terrifying sonic onslaught experienced at true Detroit parties. The tunes just feel like a warehouse when you hear them. Blank Code is also responsible for the Interface:Scene after party which happens each year on Sunday night during Movement weekend. The back room of The Works is transformed into a mini warehouse with only a single pulsating strobe light and enough sound to disperse a small crowd of protesters. As one friend once put it, attending the party is like “having your brain-grapes crushed into wine”. Tickets for this year’s shindig are currently at final tier, so act fast if you want to secure your seat in the spaceship. An added bonus: Mr. Flores is on this year’s lineup and promises to be a delightful set.

 

 

So whether you’ve been knee deep in 303s since ’92 or you’re just getting into the Detroit sound recently, there’s plenty of tasty sounds and labels associated with and dedicated to Detroit. The city is truly a deep catacomb of influence and output. There’s really so much to find and talk about – this piece could easily be 10 pages long. One consistent aspect is the undeniably crisp style present in all Detroit releases. As for the releases here, they can be hard to find and expensive but at least are not as tough as the classics from last week.

Consider swinging by Detroit Threads during your visit to the 313 to support the local wax peddlers. And if diggin’ in the crates is your thing, Record Graveyard comes highly recommended, complete with an authentic old and dilapidated Detroit feel to it. Even if you don’t have time to support the local record scene, enjoy your Movement weekend by getting out to as many different spots and parties as possible. The wide variety of music bearing Detroit’s proud heritage is seldom matched anywhere in the world.

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: Radio Slave [REKIDS100]

Accomplishing 100 releases is no small feat. Many great record labels have barely made it to 25 and  often times less. Yet Matt Edward’s Rekids imprint has stood the test of time and output, recently celebrating 10 years of existence and adding a second zero onto that figure for the release count with last week’s entry Another Club / Feel The Same hitting store shelves and internet pages.

The hundredth release comes courtesy of Edwards himself via his Radio Slave alias. Having had a reputation over the years for putting out hard hitting techno, house fusion with a touch of disco occasionally dashed in, it was fabulous to see Rekids’ big milestone be a true iteration of their classic form. Telling of the tracks within, the artwork contains no bells or whistles. Just timeless, oversized Fonzie-cool black and white lettering – straight to the point and sure to catch the eye of anyone flipping through the crates.

Radio Slave Rekids

REKIDS100

The lead off number “Another Club” sets in with a deep and powerful techno kick drum. Saturated, full to the point of having a tonal hum, and unrelenting. The ubiquitous half step 8th note hi-hat cut into the mix while a tape delayed vocal sample marks the phrase every 32 beats. A sharp decay stab works it’s way in, along with an eventual ride cymbal. Yes, the track is extremely predictable, incredibly formulaic, and not quite innovative by any means. But what is so satisfying about the tune is that it does what we know to be the tried and true in a remarkably solid fashion. There are no gimmicks here; no reverb attempts to glue the mix together, and no pads attempt to cover up shoddy drum work. The track is instead an extremely raw eight and a half minute dance floor stomper aimed at propelling the already charged club goers ever onward into peak hour bliss. This is by no means the type of track to get skeptics into the house and techno sound, but it is, however, a tune that quenches the thirst within hardened veterans for pure unabridged drum machine sound offs.

On the flip, “Feel The Same” accomplishes much of the same goals and as far as I can tell uses the same drum machine and synthesizer. There’s more swing here in the hi-hats though, and the synth stabs play more of a present and varied role. Weird squeak and siren sounds are also found on constant loop along with a hypnotizing vocal repeat. Overall the track is more exploratory, but still resolves itself to be a floor shaking selection for when there are shoulders from wall to wall.  As noted by others, this track feels markedly like heyday Detroit tunes, and very likely was made with less than 12 channels in the recording.

It’s easy to love records like this. They don’t need to be interesting or exciting to create those warm and pleasant feelings the best kind of dance music leaves us with. I very affectionately refer to these types of tunes as “traxxx” – numbers whose excellent simplicity and cutting edge engineering make very grand gestures through the most modest and stripped means. They are humble reminders that limitation can be a wonderful tool in producing some of the most phenomenal compositions.

REKIDS100 is floating around all the usual points of interest. It’s sold out on deejay.de but still available on Juno and Decks. My local shop had two copies left as of this past weekend. Some goon has already posted it on Discogs for $14.77 in anticipation of the hype, so be sure to grab it now while it’s still available for the price intended. Support the label if these sorts of tunes are your cup of tea, and I’ll see you at another club with no sleep, and another club, and another, and another…

 

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: Love Letters [CGI017]

While the southern region of the United States has made great contributions to the stylistic development of many different music genres, outside of Miami, there is notably a lack of influence on dance music. This is why I was very surprised to discover the Atlanta-based CGI Records while perusing the racks of my local techno peddler.

Beginning in 2013, they are now on their 17th release as of February. All of the releases had me personally questioning how I had never heard of them before. Each of them possess a forward thinking aura about them, straying from the rule book while making sure to have a classicism that prevents too close a brush with the avant-garde.

Queens, NY producer Love Letters serves up the latest installment with four quality cuts that each hit a different part of the techno palette on the  Suburban Attractive Complex release.

LOVE LETTERS

CGI017

A1 “Who Was Driving” leads things off with a very infectious club workout for the sweatiest moments on the dance floor. Perhaps the most straightforward track of the bunch rhythmically speaking, this track makes use of a very simple audio gate on the spoken sample, to input from the drums. Living proof that it really doesn’t take much to keep a solid techno track interesting.

Track 2 on the A-side “F+” gets an eerie vibe going with significantly over-driven and distorted kicks under faint white noise wisps and barely noticeable organ/string patches. A simple mid-bass synth loops throughout, while the more creepy harmonies build and fall along with reverb drums. It’s very easy to tell that like it’s siblings, this track was undoubtedly made with all analogue instruments – powerful even when faint.

Switching over to the flip side, “Sporty Presentation” features an assertive bassline that injects itself around more sparse rhythm. The track gets a chance to breathe a bit more than the previous two, with more of a melodic exploration. It does pick up halfway through with a classic open hi-hat sound on the upbeat but overall this one is deeper, more musical, and just as enjoyable.

The final tune, “Digital Favoritism”, comes closer to the realm of house music. The drum machine is still present, the expertly crafted analogue synths are still there, but there is heartfelt emotion here to close things out. Perhaps the most interesting, is that in such a beautifully harmonic track, Love Letters still reminds us of the fleeting comfort in life by detuning the synth work periodically. The result is something that’s perfectly poignant, but also wrong. Additionally it is notable that this is the only song on the record longer than seven minutes – in fact closer to eight – and my personal favorite.

This record is another great example of the limitless creativity artists can achieve with very limited tools. It sounds as though the same drum machine and synthesizer was used for the entire record, yet each track goes down a different path and reaches a different destiny. It’s also an example of limited press runs that slide under the radar and don’t get the price gouged reputation of so many other releases limited to 300 copies.

You can get a hold of the vinyl with high quality digital as well for $11 straight from the label. And while many limited releases are lackluster in terms of art and design aesthetics, this record features tempting hand stamp artwork from Stephanie Cheng which I very much hope will continue on more CGI records releases.

 

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: Four Tet [TEXT036]

Everyone will at some point find a record in their collection with curiously long cuts on it. It is an almost played out joke of a DJ to mention these tracks as their “bathroom break” record. For those enjoying the sonic succulence of long tracks from the comfort of their home, these records present a rare chance to enjoy a single piece for more than 10 minutes without having to get up and flip the plate.

It is humorous to think that 1970s sound engineers and recording artists were under the impression that most recordings over four minutes would be too boring and negatively impact sales. In a current musical atmosphere where artists and labels no longer make significant money from sales, one of the biggest advantages for artistry has been an increased freedom for experimentation.

Enter Four Tet (Kieran Hebden), who has always been an artist known for embracing the weird and experimental. I often find that my friends who have no real interest in dance music are familiar with his work. Although that may be due to his involvement in film scores and more mainstream remixes outside the immediate house/techno realms, I believe it may have more to do with the fact that his work is not only interesting, but also just good music.

TEXT036

The 2015 release Morning / Evening is a splendid example of the musical genius behind Four Tet. It truly pushes the idea of how long a tune can be while still remaining one coherent piece of music. Indeed, both sides of the record clock in at about 20 minutes – long enough for not only that bathroom break, but also a cigarette and a call home to see how Mom is doing (she worries about you, you know?). The traditional info/logo aesthetic of center labels is forgone here in favor of textless crayon drawings of a sun and a moon on each respective side. The sleeve artwork is bright and alluring, featuring very similar patterns that appear to be repeating, but upon close examination reveal small changes – much like the tracks contained within.

The concept of the record reflects those times at a party where the vibe shifts. Both tracks make use of the same key, instruments, and samples, and yet both can initially trick the listener into thinking they are two entirely different tracks.

The “morning” side of course represents the sun washed and ethereal moments of the after party and begins with plenty of percussive movement while remaining light. The piece chugs along for quite some time before opening up to a fully ambient piece of music with tonal synths keeping the rhythm rather than the drums. The “evening” side is stylistically opposite. Aside from 64 measures designed to cue up the record, it begins with ambient synth exercises and gradually evolves into a percussion driven little techno tune that features his signature warm tape sound that once led fans to speculate he was behind the mysterious Burial moniker.  The pieces are truly symbolic of when the party is just starting to fill in, and those moments when the last friends finally throw in the towel after a long night of drum loops and frequency filters.

Unfortunately, this record isn’t cheap. There is one copy on Discogs for a semi-agreeable $15 after shipping in the US, but all the others will have you spending over the sticker price of $16. But this shouldn’t deter you from keeping your eyes peeled for Four Tet slabs at any record store you visit. I’ve noticed due to the alt/ambient/non-dance oriented crossover appeal, Kieran’s work is located in shops where the electronic section is severely diminished or entirely non-existent. I subsequently got a hold of this record in the 50% off bin at an unlikely location. So stay sharp, support your local record store – and above all else – never stop coming early and leaving late from your favorite places to enjoy music with friends.

 

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: Krimp [SR 12440]

Any DJ or avid record collector will agree, it pays to explore the back catalogs of record labels. For me, that’s been the case with classic New York house label Strictly Rhythm. While I’ve always carried a couple choice cuts from the label in my bag, revisiting their output frequently has helped me expand my horizons and pick up records I may have passed on merely six months prior.

Krimp, Dana Kelley, Strictly Rhythym

SR 12440

Such is the case with a recent score of House of Pain / In The Spirit by Krimp, aka Dana Kelley. Originally from Boston, Mass. Kelley is known for his output of classic deep house and garage tunes, under a number of different aliases, on labels such as Strictly Rhythm, Guidance, and Large. Sadly Kelley passed away in 2013, however, his music lives on in this week’s Wax Runoff.

Opening up the record is the Citrus Mix of “House Of Pain”. A moody late-night jam, this one starts out smooth before layering a number of textures and building tension. While “The Clouds Mix” retains much of the character of the previous mix, the drum beat has a bit more theme to it and the synth has all the hallmarks of a session jam. Crafting a sort of wonky organ style sound, this one has me very excited to play out. On the other side of the record we have two mixes of “In The Spirit”. The first (and my favorite of the release) is the “In The Spirit Mix”. Starting out with a simple, yet effective bassline, the addition of some mellow keys push this into true old school deep house territory. When this one starts lifting off, it feels like the vocal calling out “in the spirit” is the only thing keeping you grounded. Closing out the release is “In the Spirit (The Perk-Us-On Mix)”. Again, the inside track is much dancier with this one having considerably more drive and at times feeling almost like an old techno track. Given the context of the backing track the vocal evokes a completely different feeling.

Being an older Strictly Rhythm release, this is one of those records that you may just get lucky with when digging in a bin somewhere that hasn’t been too picked over. If you’re interested in grabbing your own copy, there’s plenty on Discogs at a reasonable price, but it looks like you’ll have to pay the shipping from Europe.

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: Descendants of the Deep [DOFTD03]

Ah, Detroit and Chicago – two cities whose reputations have a special place being focal points for the proliferation and advancement of dance music. Arguably they birthed the styles and templates many artists still strive to replicate in present day.

That’s why I was not surprised to find myself digging all the releases thus far on Jordan Fields and Larry Heard’s semi-mysterious and entirely satisfying imprint Descendants of the Deep. The limited vinyl-only label and it’s subsequent releases (From Chicago to Detroit Volumes 1 & 2) were established around this time last year. The label has been largely dormant since that time, until October 2016 when From Chicago to Detroit Vol. 3 started very quietly popping up in various good and honest record outlets around the world. I purchased mine from a seller in New York City.

Descendants of the Deep

DOFTD03

The record has five cuts, with a white label on one side and an awesome vintage boogie-down Bronx b-boy boombox flick on the flip. What’s so tangibly solid about the EP is it’s strict adherence to the sound of the cities that lend their names in the title.

A-1 leads off with “Your Love” – a deliciously deep cut from Giles Dickerson; one could easily close their eyes and imagine blaring in the basement of Smart Bar. A warm and filtered decaying pad crashes every four measures to set the tone while processed guitar and a soulful vocal loop keep rhythm. Slightly squared 808 kicks and a hi-hat double up to make this a perfect party-groover for those cold winter nights coming.

A-2 transports us a few hundred miles east to the Motor City. A tune true to his nature, Jordan Fields brings a more up front vibe with “I Feel Loved”. Rigid sequencing and layering perfectly compliment a jackhammer kick snare pattern. A squelchy and heavily delayed vocal sample is made to dance around tight piano stabs and an encouraging bassline that demands movement of the feet. This one is a jackin’ number that if played at the right time will keep the dancefloor’s full attention.

Over to B-1, things stay high energy with “Free” – a serious drum machine number from Ed Nine. Chord stabs, infectious arps, eighth note open hi-hats, snare rolls, and of course the old reliable wood block. This is the tune of the release for me almost purely because of its very primal and precise drum shaping and sequencing. I think it’s a wonderful example of why drum machines work so fantastically well for not only techno, but house music too.

Things deepen up heavily on B-2. Jordan Fields re-edits Jaime Read’s “The Rise” for jazzy lounge affairs and strung out sunrise after parties. Lush pads slink back and forth while a very Juno-esque bass keeps interest with short hits before reverb and decay laden jazz scales come in, locking listeners in a daze. Splendid stuff, really.

Jordan Fields again offers a re-edit for B-3, this time of Deep88s “Test 1”. I also love this track because it strikes the perfect match between deep filtered pads that are mostly dreamy with a very danceable drum pattern and chunky bass hits. All the percussion comes out and the track breathes before diving back into a peak hour groove. It’s a great tool for waking up the party when things get a bit too deep.

Being a limited release you’ll be lucky to find a copy but there are still some available for $11. You shouldn’t mind though because the release is solid the whole way through and likely not a single cut will go unplayed. The releases seem to be coming in bursts of two, so Volume 4 is also out now for those who are hungry for more Chicago/Detroit tunes (and Volume 2 has a single copy for $5 currently on Discogs).

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.