CHICAGO – A Metro/smartbar all buildling event: Men’s Room presents OCULUS with…
Mister Wallace vs. Kaycee Ortiz (live)
The Lesbifriends Cartel
Visuals by Nate Love & Allán Herrera
CHICAGO – Expect a gritty mix of industrial, electro, EBM and more when Beau Wanzer takes to the decks at this Thursday-night session of Research & Development.
CHICAGO – QUEEN! takes over smartbar once again, with soul.
Resident hosts: Lucy Stoole / Jojo Baby
Guest hosts: Dida Ritz [RuPaul’s Drag Race] / The Vixen / Bambi Banks / Yolo Ono
PITTSBURGH – One of our most beloved series is back for 2017. The Weekend Send is the ultimate summer block party in Mignonette Alley, curated by the nightowls at Hot Mass. Maybe you’ve slept all night and are coming fresh, maybe you’re cruising through round 3. Either way, we’ve put together some impeccable DJ lineups and they’re going to put the Impact Audio system to work outside in the sunshine. We’ll be setting up bars outside and doing this proper day party style.
– SAMONE (Changes, Chicago)
– EAST LIBERTY QUARTERS (PGH)
– GUSTO (DETOUR, Hot Mass, PGH)
CHICAGO – Helena Hauff’s first show in Chicago is bound to provide the smartbar dance floor with a night of sweat-drenched dancing. Resident Advisor is teaming up with Hugo Ball to bring Helena Hauff to Chicago.
Four DJs, seven hours and a killer sound-system.
See you at the front left speaker.
Sometime last week I began the task of properly organizing and cataloging my record collection. Among a handful of those records that truly inspire me, I wanted to draw attention to NUDES005, a 12” that is rounding the corner on three years of not leaving my bag, seriously.
Comfortably nested under Chicago-based parent label Argot, the Tasteful Nudes sub-label takes an international focus and boasts output from Anaxander, Janis, and the artist behind this week’s Wax Runoff: Royer.
A Parisian known for his ability to cleverly flip samples, Royer’s steady hand in production has earned him releases on Material Image, Lobster Theremin, and Moomin’s Closer label. Though admittedly I’ve tracked down most of his work, 2014’s Tough Questions is a highlight.
The record opens up with the title track, a bright and summery day starter built on filtered down samples and a smooth organ loop. The hi-hat patterns here give movement to the track without getting ahead of themselves.
A2 follows up with “Us”, a textbook Chicago-influenced deep house cut. Classic 909 rhythms mixed with a slowly building organ line and a moody, almost call-and-answer bassline make this perfect for a late night wind down.
On the B-side and generally understood to be the stand out track from this release, “Morning Thea” is a head-bob-inducing, sample-heavy house groove. The filtering on this track adds just the right amount of haziness and allows the crisp, punchy snare to cut through the mix. With the addition of a few choice snippets from The Ahmad Jamal Trio’s “Dolphin Dance”, this one checks all of my boxes. I just wish I could pick up on that vocal sample.
Rounding out the EP on the B-Side is “Grid Like”, a spaced-out dance floor cut that begs for late night air time.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Colin Boardway, of Chicago, is the label manager for Yoruba Records. He has spent the last 10 years developing his sound by digging deep in the bins wherever records are sold.
Similar to the interlaced fabric that the title encourages, MESH is a new queer party contributing to the creative network of Pittsburgh’s dance community. Deeply inspired by Hot Mass at home and other queer parties abroad, Chad Beisner and Michael Fischer established their event to provide another safe place for music and freedom of expression.
They met during the very beginning of their college years at film school. Fischer says, “We met in freshman orientation at Point Park University and I skipped out to go out to a club and dance and came back the next morning covered in glitter and a total mess, so he walked up to me and the rest is history.”
As Pittsburgh natives they both share a passion for music and an appreciation for places that encourage creativity. Fischer says he has “always had a deep love for music, dancing, and positive creative spaces in general! I grew up listening to all different types of music from disco to punk and my love for dance music derived from that.”
Beisner, who also DJs as ChadKid, started exploring dance music in high school. “I eventually bought a controller for my laptop and started DJing at my friends’ high school parties. At the time I wasn’t really exposed to techno music at all and was playing R&B edits and disco. When I first started to go out when I was in college, Hot Mass was one of the first places Micheal ever dragged me to. That place really sparked my interest in techno and more underground electronic music. Without them I don’t know what I even be doing right now.”
Pittsburgh’s local dance scene has been growing significantly over the past several years. Although ripe with events at Hot Mass, they still have a small scene comparatively to other cities. Too many promoters in these environments can cause a competitive atmosphere and a dilution of quality, but MESH is on more of a symbiotic mission.
“Our city as a whole has been growing like crazy lately. And after being in our amazing scene and community of queers and music heads we have here in Pittsburgh, I’ve been able to see it grow as well over the past couple years. Michael and I have been wanting to start our own party for a while now, and we’ve done a couple of smaller things in the past that went well,” Besiner says. “But now the city is at a point where we have room for more than one queer techno party without it seeming like competition, so we figured now would be the perfect time to step in. It’s been great to be able to book and showcase artists that I love and give them a space to show off their talents to the rest of this amazing city.”
Fischer adds that the creation of MESH is to provide another safe place for queer freedom and visibility. With Hot Mass and some local bars there are certainly spaces already established, he says, “but there can never be enough.”
It’s also important to note that their party differs from Hot Mass in many ways. MESH is not an after hours party, which has a prominent impact on the overall atmosphere. Besiner explains, “I think there’s a lot that’s fundamentally different about our party from Mass for sure. And not that Mass/Honcho is doing anything wrong, quite the opposite, but we just wanted to create a different kind of queer party. Our parties aren’t all nighters and there’s no spaces for sex. Not that those are bad things but they can definitely create a different kind of dance floor vibe at a party. After traveling some last summer and going to parties like In Training in Cleveland and Jarvi’s Acid Daddy parties in Chicago, I was inspired to create a party with a similar vibe to those.”
Liberation through dress, dance and sound that can be found at these parties and within Club Pittsburgh is also welcomed for those who attend MESH. “Hot Mass is like a second home for me, I’m so grateful that I can be part of this amazing community and be a part of amazing events. MESH is very much inspired by the community Hot Mass has created. Hot Mass is a space where anyone can be who they are,” Fischer says. “Trust me I’ve worn some crazy shit there and all I got was love. MESH is another one of those spaces where we want everyone to express their true selves and showcase artistry of all queer people no matter where they came from or where they are going. Like I said before, there can never be too many queer spaces.”
Often adorned in mesh fabric, Beisner and Fischer developed a signature look. They decided to title their party after their favorite breathable dancing material, only to find the poetic parallels revealed as the event transpired. “As we thought about it more the better and better it worked. Mesh is breathable and unisex fabric and we like to think of our party as breathable and unisex too. Comfortable and accessible to everyone from all areas of the queer spectrum,” Beisner says.
Queer parties play such an important role in the music scene on a global level. These parties collectively work to not only shape the scene at large but also have a major impact for local communities by providing a space of acceptance where there is freedom to just be yourself.
“I think queer focus and visibility is important in any scene. Often times trans, non-binary, and just queer people in general are pushed out of scenes which sucks because there are so many amazing artists that can’t showcase their work. One of the main goals of MESH is to showcase these amazing artists.” – MICHAEL FISCHER
Beisner adds, “Queers throw the best parties! I think all the queer people I know in our music scene are doing the most interesting things. And a good queer party will draw in people who might not be too into the music and turn them into someone obsessing over it. I know several people that Honcho has done that for, including myself. I’m sure all these other amazing parties have done the same for many others.”
MESH launched on April 28 at Cattivo, a bar and venue in Lawrenceville. Beisner provided opening duties prior to headliner Shane Christian, who DJs as Kiernan Laveaux. Not only is she an advocate for queer and trans rights, and co-creator of Cleveland’s In Training parties, but she is a growing name in the techno community, especially after her performance during this year’s Club Toilet and Industry Brunch parties in Detroit.
They both share responsibilities for the event. Beisner focuses on booking and wrangling the music and lighting equipment while Fischer handles budgeting, venue and space decoration. When the night of the event arrives their friends collaborate to lend helping hands. “It does overlap and we work together to find great spaces and artists. We are also lucky enough to have amazing friends that jump at the opportunity to help set up, work the door, and much more. It would be impossible without them,” Fischer says.
Barring the space being just a little too big, the evening was a success. Fischer says, “Our event at Cattivo was great! The turnout was lovely. The only downside was that the space was huge! It’s hard to fill a room that big. The staff at Cattivo was very accommodating and great! They welcomed us techno weirdos with open arms. Shane’s set was amazing! She is such a talented DJ and it was such a honor to have her play our first party!” Beisner agrees that their first event went smoothly and free of any problems. Venue hunting is tough in Pittsburgh, especially when looking for an underground spot that is also the perfect energy for a queer friendly environment. Fischer continues, “Finding a space is difficult no matter where you are, I find. Pittsburgh has very strict liquor laws and that can be a bit of a challenge especially with after hours parties. For now, having a non-after hours party is great. People are often intimidated by after hours so while we build a following, this is perfect. We would love to find a space to settle in monthly but for now we are still on the search!”
“We want to build a very strong sense of community and a good vibe of queer friends dressing up and having a good drunken time on the dance floor together to music they love. That’s what we are hoping to bring to Pittsburgh with this party.” – CHAD BEISNER
Beisner agrees on the difficulty found while scouting locations. “It has definitely been the hardest part of organizing this party. All the existing gay/queer spaces are not fit for any kind of party like this, and some of the spaces that are aren’t necessarily the safest places for queer people … We aren’t opposed to staying in one place, but definitely are always on the lookout for new and interesting places. We wanna keep it fresh and expose people to new spaces in the city as well. Also we really wanna do a poolside day party, so if anyone has any leads on that please contact us,” he says with a laugh.
Finding The Glitter Box Theater for their next installation of MESH is a dream come true space, they say. Hailing from Chicago on June 30 will be Jarvi, and opening will be a live set from local duo A&L. Beisner says, “This time the space is gonna be perfect I think. Glitterbox is this multi-use queer art space that just opened recently, it’s the perfect size for us and it will be great to have it in an actual queer owned space instead of a bar. We are bringing in Mike Masai’s amazing sound system that is gonna fill this space perfectly. And on top of everything this space is BYOB so it will be easy and cheap for everyone to get drunk and get dancing.”
Jarvi is a non-binary artist prominently known in Chicago’s underground queer house and techno scene. Among the Naughty Bad Fun Collective crew they can be found putting on parties at Smartbar for Planet Chicago, and also on their own endeavor hosting Acid Daddy’s Haus of Diesel at Berlin Nightclub. Opening the evening will be Pittsburgh’s A&L, a live collaborative performance of raw techno from Alexis Icon and Andre.
“We are so excited for Jarvi! The Glitterbox Theater is more of an art space while Cattivo was a bar. The set-up of Glitterbox is a little more our style and it’s BYOB which is always great,” Fischer adds. “As usual people can expect dancing, techno and lots of mesh.”
Eventually, the last track will play and the lights will come up and after everyone has gone home, Beisner and Fischer will be planning another event. Although anyone who throws parties does so for their own unique drive, there is always a common reason to do so: community.
Fischer says he throws parties because it allows him to “see my friends and community come together and just have an amazing time is enough cause to do it. Seeing people dance and show off their music, fashion, art, makeup, etc. is so amazing to me. I really just love to have a good time!”
Beisner adds, “Ultimately I just wanna throw a party where everyone can have a good time, feel safe, get exposed to some new music, and simultaneously create a space where my favorite DJs can play in my city. I wanted to expand on our already amazing scene here and create a place to dance that is welcoming to everyone. To look out at the crowd during a party and seeing everyone have a good time and dancing is the reason I do it. Putting an event together is more stressful than you imagine before you do it, but the end result is always worth it. We will also be donating proceeds to different organizations as often as we can. We donated all our proceeds from our first party to Planned Parenthood of Western PA. It’s nice to be able to make this party give back to the community.”
Keep a close eye on MESH as they continue to develop and grow in Pittsburgh.
In Central London sits Savile Row, a street lined with tailors who honor a history and tradition of crafting custom suits. Inspired by fashion, his dream destination, and the manner of the craft, Gianpaolo Dieli applies a similar bespoke integrity to his life in music as a DJ and producer. He resides in Chicago and is known by his alias, Savile.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by clothing. In many ways, fashion inspires me to write music as much as anything else in my life,” he says. “My core ideal of a DJ is one who reacts in the given moment, who is ‘tailoring’ their performance, music, etc., to those in the room and situation at hand. I adopted this name as a reminder, in some way, that I should be making it up as I go along.”
Applying this philosophy to many other aspects of his life – with the ever changing ups, downs and in-betweens – Dieli has navigated so with a passionate and exploratory heart.
Michigan born he was raised by a matriarch in an old farmhouse in Sturgis, a factory town just 10 minutes from the border of Indiana. Brought up by his grandmother and mother, two generations of Italian immigrants, he says his home life was one of comfort and safety.
“Looking back, I was terribly fortunate to be raised in an open-minded household smack-dab in the center of a conservative Christian hotbed. I was surrounded by intolerance of all forms as a kid, and as a result my childhood was fraught with bullying and quite difficult when outside the home. My taste in music and personal style made me what you could call an outcast and I was fairly unliked by my peers until the tail-end of my high school years,” he says. “My mother had an idea to send me to summer camp when I was eight or nine, hoping that would provide me with some male role models as a fatherless child. What she didn’t expect was the great cultural discovery that would happen at the hands of camp counselors from all walks of life and countries across the world. Here, I discovered my first musical love – underground hip hop, and my musical experimentation and desire to create began in earnest.”
With a background in graphic design he originally planned to go to art school for college but his passion for music prevailed. He says, “I stepped back from design after realizing I couldn’t continue to learn and grow in music with the same intensity while still creating quality, thoughtful design.” This endeavor also proved difficult as he lacked the proper resources. Additionally, there were several other factors that came into play and diverted Dieli’s path toward art school. “I spent a year after high school kicking up dust in my small town, and ended up getting arrested for a drug offense as I was going through my application process,” he says. Since misdemeanor drug charges affect eligibility for financial aid, he decided to take a costly plea deal with probation and counseling. “This, coupled with the fact that I could only rely on loans for whatever wasn’t covered by scholarships and grants (I didn’t get enough), led me to do some hard math and realize I’d be leaving school massively in debt with a major that was quickly becoming over-saturated,” he continues. In order to survive he picked up a full-time position as a cook.
By 2010 he made the move to Chicago where he started working long nights in restaurant kitchens and even went through a brief period of unemployment. Although months spent without work was a challenging period, he says it was “one that afforded a surplus of reflection, discovery, mistakes, and a lot of growing up that I sorely needed.”
First and foremost he moved in the pursuit of music. He did his research and began connecting himself to Smartbar, other clubs and undergrounds in the city. He says, “I made a list of folks in the scene I wanted to meet and started going out as frequently as I was able to. I felt it was important to me to make my presence known as a dancer and patron first and foremost. I was fortunate to meet a few supportive friends who took chances on me as a new DJ, and I started playing around the city shortly after I moved in 2010.”
Yet he remembers vividly when he first started discovering house and techno. His earliest memory of dance music ventures back to a program called Electric Circus, a live Canadian dance program which aired on MuchMusic.
“I had very little connection with [dance music] besides an interest in ‘city life’ and the dancing on the show. Embarrassingly enough, the ‘stand out’ moment in cementing my interest in dance music is tied to Hot Topic, everyone’s favorite mall goth outpost,” he says. “Daft Punk’s ‘Around The World’ was playing one day as I was at the local mall and I was transfixed by the repetition in the chorus. I sung the hook for weeks, at that time not having Internet at home or any local music stores, until I convinced my mom to buy the CD for me weeks later. I can remember standing in my yard with my Discman in my pocket, raking leaves, and daydreaming about the world of sounds in the intro to ‘Revolution 909’. Was that a club? A house party? Who were these people?”
Eventually he would discover those places and those people. On floors he would become one of those dancers and in the booth he would be the person playing that grooving music that he fell in love with. Not to mention, he would become an active player in creating those sounds.
He began releasing tracks in 2010 followed by a 2012 release on Amadeus Records, which relishes the musically unorthodox. Later that year he partnered with Jason Garden (aka Olin) to put out the Horizon EP on Wazi Wazi Music and then Thanks, Karl on Argot in 2015. Karl, he says, was a bouncer at Smartbar “and became a beloved gatekeeper figure of our home club.”
Steve Mizek is Dieli’s closest friend, DJ partner and founder of Chicago-based record label Argot. The two not only can be found performing side-by-side but also work together to put records out through the label and sub-label Tasteful Nudes.
“Argot exists to showcase American Dance Music in it’s many forms. The sub-label, Tasteful Nudes, celebrates talent outside the U.S. Steve has been a crucial ear and support system for years and his taste has helped shape many of my records,” Dieli says. “We started DJing together in the summer of 2013, and after a few years growing closer as collaborators, Steve asked me to come on board to help manage the label with him at the beginning of 2016. Managing a vinyl label has been humbling, to say the least. The market is unpredictable, the trends swift and the payoff is self-made. Trying to find special ways to share the stories of our artists and their music has been a wonderful challenge in the last year. We are coming up on our fifth anniversary this fall, and will be commemorating with a special release and some events!”
He continues, “All my records since then have been made to present bits and pieces of the friends, parties, travel, sounds, that are happening around me.” No Sleep, Not In America, an output on Chicago’s Stripped & Chewed label, was released in 2016. Later on that year he released Share Power, a record on Argot with two tracks inspired by the present and influential Midwest techno scene. The A-side “3 Hours In The Meat Sink” is a nod to Columbus’ underground Midwest Fresh, while on the flip side “Effort Won’t Betray You” is a dedication to Cleveland’s In Training.
His work and effort has brought him into a whole new realm of experiences, including traveling to Germany to play with Mizek at Panorama Bar as well as Bar Charlie in Munich.
“My experiences as a dancer and a DJ in Europe have been peppered with realizations about the similar threads that tie the party together, no matter where you find yourself. There are certainly little peculiarities, especially in terms of stamina and programming, but ultimately the same kind of release and reckless abandon you might encounter at a party overseas can be found anywhere else, at any time, if the elements are right. In terms of Berlin specifically, I think what makes the city particularly unique to me is this layer of darkness that kind-of hovers below everything. It’s a city that’s easy to fall into completely. The party is always within reach. That sort of awareness can push crowds into a really interesting space, and I think this thread is one of the things that makes the city so alluring.”
As he continues to create his mind is inquisitive, constantly philosophizing the bigger picture and occasionally writing down sentiments of the experience in a truly vulnerable way. In a blog post from 2011 he delved into the idea of fear and how it becomes a driving force in so many aspects of our lives. In his piece he writes:
“As someone who pursues the dream, you must be prepared for the fear.
You can call it the ego, resistance, or the lizard-brain; but you must be prepared for it.
I treat my fear like a compass. it always points true north. It always points to what matters.
The stronger the fear, the closer you are to your goal.”
I asked him to expand further on this concept of fear, especially now after so much change in his life. He says, “In as far as my true fear – this is such a complex one… I think, at this moment, my most present fear is that I’m not making myself available enough to those around me. By ‘available’ I mean present in whatever capacity I’m needed in – be that support, advice, physical presence, advocacy, etc. This fear informs much of how I schedule my time, engage socially and otherwise. I have adopted many habits in the last few years geared towards sharpening my level of attention and it’s potency in any given moment. These habits guide my time spent writing music and how I DJ. My residency at Smartbar, Service, is absolutely about these themes, too. The notion of being present and flexible in support of others’ needs.”
Jason Garden, talent buyer for the Chicago club, offered Dieli an opportunity to build his own night from the ground up. The opening party for Service was held on April 29 featuring guests from the Midwest. Pittsburgh’s Tony Fairchild and ADAB, resident of Cleveland party Heaven is in You, joined Dieli in the Smartbar booth that night. The event calls to service yourself, the room and each other. The description reads: “We will set the table for conversation, interaction. Decentralizaton. A focus on us. The spectacle of an audience enjoying each other. The regal nature of a room of great friends. The curiosity of introductions. A state of play.” Inspired by his past experiences in the industry he says the evening is not only a curation of talented music but one that cultivates an atmosphere of hospitality. Smartbar was entirely transformed that night. Curtains draped from the ceiling to the floor and some tables were set with soft glowing light.
“I’m more and more convinced these days that the magic of ‘the party’ is created less by the DJ and more by those on the floor. When coupled with a young adulthood spent in the restaurant industry, Service emerged as a way to experiment with different ways of engaging a crowd. I am incredibly fortunate to have one of my close friends, Craig Gronowski, as my partner in Service. He’s an interior designer by trade and brings a level of expertise and confidence to the design process that has blown these ideas out further than I could have hoped. With Service, Craig and I endeavor to create environments where the crowd is both taken care of and challenged in equal measure – a kind of space where people feel comfortable enough to be curious and explore. These conditions, I think, will lend themselves to the kind of party you feel better walking out of than when you walked in.”
Maybe you’ll catch him playing somewhere, as he says “I’ll be playing out as much as I possibly can, with a focus on more solo outings, for as far as this ship will take me.” On the horizon Dieli will have several mixes released, the most recent put out this week through Honey Soundsystem. Additionally, he just signed a 12” to some friends in New York City which he says will span a wide range of tempos and styles.
“I’m fortunate to have a list of challenges as long as my ideas, which means more growing ahead and more experiments! As we speak, I’m working on edits for the next album to be released on Argot, the label I run with my DJ partner and brother-from-another, Steve Mizek. We’ve got a beautiful acid record from Todd Osborn coming just in time for summer, and we’ll be celebrating our five year anniversary later this year with a pair of 12” compilations and other fanfare.”
It becomes quite clear that the moniker he adorned himself with is a true reflection of who he is and the way he creates in the world. With a humble heart he works carefully and with close attention to detail. He does so honestly so to most suitably fit the form of his creation. All the while, it is apparent he walks through life gently and fully aware of the energy in motion that surrounds him.
It can sometimes be difficult for compilation-only labels to pick up and maintain momentum over the course of many releases and years. The art form is a bit different than solo artist EPs and the scrutiny is heavier from potential supporters. There are still a few though which seem to repeatedly be on the money and NYC Loft Records is definitely one of them. The latest, I Wanna See All My Friends at Once Vol. 2, is currently out now on vinyl only.
Starting with a compilation of six early ‘90s dubs last year, people have been scooping the NYC Loft releases faster than ever. All of which feature that very distinct brand of New York house. Many have a focus on hardware, warmth, and the recreation of subtle inaccuracies in the sound that resulted from making music before computers. The art has bounced around a little bit, but a handful of releases feature photos of modern swanky living room lounges – the sort of place you’d want to have a party with all your closest friends.
Things get kicked off strong on A1 “Dance to the Dub” – a thumper of a track by Kick That Funk. A sample heavy and looped out the tune features fat kicks and lo-fi chords behind filter delayed vocal rips. It’s a rhythmically focused track, and a perfect little slice of house music.
The next cut, Bonjour’s “Fondant (Creamy Disco Dub)”, is also an expertly chopped up sample number. Rolling tape drum loops keep a very sturdy rhythm but the big synth patches that bounce around halfway through are the stars here. It can be hard to have old samples and new synths sit well in the mix together; this track is a solid reminder that it’s not impossible.
A3, Subtle Approach’s “Holdin You Close” takes a step back for a more simple and funky West Coast influenced piece. The tune honestly feels like it could have been released on Westbound or Siesta during the heyday of those labels. Live bass notes and up front filters create a hypnotizing groove, perfect for an early night party starter.
Flipping to the B-side, Dubrazil lends “Sunshine In My Life (Deeper Dub)” to the batch. Very Chicago and masterfully engineered, the bass is loud and chunky. There are plenty of long-decay tape delays to compliment the triplet chord stabs. In true Chicago house fashion, the clicks from the vinyl that the drums were sampled from are still in the mix. The whole tune has a perfect airy sound that sits atop the incredibly rich synthesizers.
“Melodies of Dub” on B2 comes courtesy of Blackdub with a super pared down tribal feel to it. Supple hand drums and snareless drum loops drive along a lazy sax sampling. It’s a wonderful flavor to a compilation that already has reached Neapolitan status.
To wrap things up, Australia’s DJ Freestyle brings the focus back to rhythmic classic New York-styled house with his touch on Pascal Cordoba’s “Comblnaca”. Jazzy piano splices that never seem to get old accompany faster drums creating an energetic yet calm tune that will surely get party goers’ backs off the wall.
What’s great about this record is that all the tracks sound really great on their own, but as a group and all on one plate, they’re an amazing tribute to the first city that really started to define it’s own sound in the wake of the initial house music boom of the mid to late ‘80s. These are the sorts of tracks I constantly try to hunt down in sketchy corners of used record stores all over the country. The early ‘90s in New York was a source of more amazing records than anyone knew what to do with. I can say with confidence that the tunes on this record sound as if they are straight out of a Masters At Work set 25 years ago.
This record was released in mid-March, but it’s still kicking around some locations. In true spirit of the love for New York, I suggest you buy your copy from longstanding NYC house slingers Downtown304. These folks have been in the game a long time and only continue to do so through people supporting their more off the radar shop. I would scoop this record up now and keep your eyes peeled in 2017 for more NYC Loft Trax series because I don’t expect them to be slowing down.
Currently these tracks are available only on vinyl, but you can listen to some snips of the tracks here.
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.
Back in the beginning of DJing as an art form, everything was an egg hunt. That’s why it was very fitting that I recently exhumed a record I’ve been hunting for a long time, Chas Jankel’s Glad to Know You, from a local dollar bin littered with filler.
Aside from a possible disco section, dance tracks really didn’t have a place on the racks yet, and it would be decades before the Internet was fast enough to download a wav. file in an acceptable amount of time. It was the job of these early ’80s DJs to find tracks that moved dance floors but many times weren’t designed for mixing or club play. It was a very exciting time – the recently updated Technics 1200 turntable had just replaced the somewhat restrictive rotary pitch knob with a pitch fader capable of stretching +/- 8%, creating a new world of mix possibilities. Additionally, drum machines would begin to fairly ubiquitously replace live drummers, creating the opportunity for a long mix.
And perhaps most importantly, dedicated clubs began popping up in America to accommodate this burgeoning underground culture. None are perhaps more famous than the fabled Paradise Garage in New York City. Indeed, how I came to find out about this incredible record was in researching the patron saint of the club, Larry Levan. Thanks to those hardened hunters like Larry, a scarcely available and unknown 1980 import shot to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Disco charts after A&M released a 12” version in 1981 where it remained for seven weeks. Interestingly, those charts at the time were not made based on commercial success, but rather from reporting club DJs from various cities around the country. This structure really let underground sounds shine and pointed dance DJs in the right direction.
A&M released the record with three cuts, the first of which – “Glad to Know You” – is probably the best-known track. With lyrics from Jankel’s old Blockheads band mate Ian Dury, the song is a wonderful fusion of disco vibes with the tools of a forthcoming electro era. The funk inspired bassline is undeniably groovy, and the soul-centric organ riff never gets old. There is experimentation with tape delay and sampling, saturated reverb, and synthesizer manipulation. Even 36 years later, this tune would set a club off.
The most futuristic track, however, was of course on the B-side. “3,000,000 Synths” is a true examination of the powers within the Oberheim synthesizers that would become commonplace in the later part of the decade as Miami bass and electro styles began to take off. Those famously wet filters on Oberheim machines were put to the test with massive sweeping resonant pads that pan across the soundscape. Mind melting lines constantly modulate up and down scales and at times there is almost too much noise. The tune is saved from being labeled experimental by a nice and chunky funk bassline with organ stabs and a heavy electro bass arpeggio. There are no lyrics this time around, but instead indecipherable spoken word samples in the background, a stylistic choice still heard in many dance tracks today.
The original 1980 Japanese 7” release only contained the first two tunes, but I’m willing to wager that A&M thought the record was originally too risky for wide success. So the 1981 12” U.S. release contained B2, “Ai No Corrida” much more closely followed the established disco formula. The drum machines and samples were traded for a band and drummer. There are still artifacts of Chaz’s forward thinking style in the notable synth work, but the track is less exciting and in comparison to the other two, feels very safe.
We owe a lot to these early years of people messing about with synthesizers and drum machines. The work from this period jettisoned dance music out of its glitzy disco cage and into a new era that was experimental, different, and welcoming of people belonging to the other. Disco had become chic and commercialized. The exciting music being played at spots like Paradise Garage was paving a way for house music to be born and creating the pillars of acceptance and unconditional love that are held so dear in dance music culture. You’re unlikely to ever find that coveted 7” Japanese import, but there are U.S. copies floating around Discogs that won’t break the bank.
It is so important this music is not forgotten, partly because it’s just as enjoyable and relative today as it was so many years ago. Many thanks due to the beloved Larry Levan and all the other DJs throughout history and today who have pushed the envelope of creativity and artistry and continue to do so.
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.