Signal > Noise Mix Series Shines Light On WNY

The I-90 might be just a stretch of pavement but it has served as an influential link in the growth of the Western New York dance community. When told there’s a scene Upstate, those who don’t know might respond with a look of surprise. But Rochester and Buffalo in particular have a strong rave history and future. These two cities are filled with pockets of people absolutely passionate about house and techno, and everything the music entails. There are folks throwing parties that leave DJs in awe. There are DJs in these cities that are deep diggers and ripe with talent. There are dancefloors in these symbiotic scenes that are intensely energetic.

Signal > Noise is a party in Rochester, N.Y. that really helped fuel the WNY scene to its current state. The first party was in 2015 and they have since booked high-octane artists such as Shawn Rudiman, Claude Young, Noncompliant, DJ Minx, Derek Plaslaiko, Eric Cloutier, Norm Talley, Bill Converse – the list goes on.

Joe Bucci, one of the founding S>N crew members, delves a little bit deeper and shares his perspective of the WNY network, its history and its current significance.

“The role we are playing as a region has grown immensely. I know that historically WNY played a huge role in the community. During the ‘90s and early 2000s this was a hub for the rave community. Hosting parties connecting cities. Caravans of heads driving from Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo to the Midwest and beyond. This predates my time here in the community but the guys who make up S>N with myself were part of that scene – that was their coming of age. It’s what helps fuel what we do now,” Bucci says. “What our community has morphed into is a powerhouse in my opinion. In four short years WNY has went from EDM, Bass parties, almost exclusively to what we have now which has evolved into a harmonious community. While those events still dominate the landscape just underneath that, you’ll find a rich scene. With ourselves and Sole Rehab operating out of Rochester and in Buffalo you have REDUX, Strange Allure, Aural Shift, and Pyramid. That’s not even including the one-off local nights, and Rufus Gibson‘s other venture at Gypsy Parlor with his monthly.”

He continues, “What I’m getting at is the local scene is on fire right now, each crew pushing the other to up their game in the friendliest of ways. We all try to work together to balance calendars, bookings. Trying to support each other. While bringing in some of the finest talent that is out there. At first it took some selling to get artists to come play our corner of the state. Perennially overlooked for NYC or Toronto. Now tours are being booked with WNY in mind. That is a quick change in four years. Each crew puts in work to create their vibe and aesthetic. But if the people do not show up it might as well be done in a vacuum. That hearkens to the people who attend the events and make up the community. They are the fabric of it all.”

Don’t Trust Humans, based out of Chicago and Portland, published a run of mixes that showcased each cities talent. Inspired by this Bucci established the Signals mix series about a year ago. It is “a great way to learn about what the local artists sound like and gives you almost an overall vibe of what is defining the local sound,” he says. “Our local community is made up of primarily Rochester and Buffalo artists; let me tell you there are some really talented people between these two cities.”

Each week for the month of April Signals hosted a “/WNY/:Love*” series showcasing five artists from Buffalo and Rochester. “Everyone we chose for this are fantastic artists in their own right. Each has the ability to craft a set and move a party,” Bucci says. “It’s fun to listen to how each artist can craft a mix. Is it just grab what I’m diggin’ right now and enjoy? Is it more of a journey? To see what story is told by each contributor is exciting.”

BFLO LYDIA [LYDIA WROBEL]

Bucci: “I absolutely love Lydia’s style. Energy, knowledge and an ear for great tracks. She’s played a few of our parties and we consider her close family. Watching her move from vinyl to digital has been fun. I was surprised when she cut the mix it wasn’t all vinyl. Her ability to craft a set is on full display with this one. A lot of fun. Lydia truly is a foundation member of our community. It was only fitting to have her contribute.”

What do you love most about the Western New York dance community?
Lydia: I love that there are layers (generations) of people who’ve experienced the WNY scene who may not have known each other at the time they experienced it, but that WNY still provides that connection as people move on to other/different/bigger scenes. Example: I might tag a friend living in Berlin or Toronto or wherever who I met through the Buffalo scene because another DJ with WNY roots is playing a night there in that city that I think the first friend needs to check out. I also love that while we go out in our scene for the music, I feel a lot of times in Buffalo the dj or the music is an excuse to catch up with friends we’d not otherwise see. Obviously we go for the music always, but here it’s also quite a bit about meeting up with the good friends, despite or in spite of whoever happens to be playing. That’s what my nights were about when I threw them – getting the locals together for a raucous night of dancing and yelling and joking around.

 

NEW SPHERE ELECTRIC [ALEX FRENCH]

Bucci: “I asked Alex to contribute because his curating with Strange Allure is fantastic, their parties are fantastic and a not miss. Always bringing in amazing artists who are just flying under the radar or bringing in strong innovators like BMG and Erika. I wanted to showcase the local talent but as well the people behind the parties and what they dig. This guy knows music. He performs as New Sphere Electric on his own and as a duo in Pure and Supreme. Very talented guy. I was very excited to hear what he put together. It was most certainly a journey mix. Which I love – take me on a ride. Mission accomplished.”

What do you love most about the Western New York dance community?
Alex: I’d say my favorite thing about the WNY dance community is how unpretentious it is. You get folks from a variety of backgrounds, some with little to no knowledge of underground dance music, all coming together simply to get down. The artists get to cut loose and the music can get as weird or wild as they want it to. It’s a very unifying experience as everyone gets to take chances and share in a unique experience that couldn’t take place in a lot of other cities.

 

NICKL [NICK GIORDANO]

Bucci: “I don’t know where to start with Nick. He is easily one of my favorite people. Very loving person who has a vibe about him that is magnetic. He does a great job putting together very danceable sets. High energy with a healthy dose of Diva. Nick has played for us a few times. Opening for Black Madonna as well as appearing at our Sunday Shit Show last year. Nick’s collective Sole Rehab throws killer parties. Great underground location, fantastic guests, thick vibe with a ton of raw energy. We are also fortunate to call Nick and the rest of his Sole Rehab crew as co-conspirators. For the last few years we’ve joined forces to help put on an unofficial Rochester Gay Pride event. Much like Jim and Lydia, Nick has been one of those people who are in the fabric of our WNY community.”

What do you love most about the Western New York dance community?
Nick: The dancers (both the new and the veterans) trust the DJs. They are totally along for the ride. Which of course, makes for some really fun trips!

 

UVB76 [SHERRI MILLER AND MARIO FANONE]

Bucci: “I’m going to be honest these two are a mystery to me. I know I fucking love them both. I met them both at one of our first parties and have stayed friendly with them ever since. Sherri and Mario are each members of the Buffalo collective Strange Allure. Sherri has a magnetic energy about her and a very creative perspective. Mario: I know he is a strong well-rounded musician, but he is also a man of few words. That being said when you see the soon-to-be husband and wife duo together it all just flows. So the music they make together as UVB76 is represented of that. All live gear oriented style. I approached Sherri if they would be interested in doing anything after I heard a few things they had put together. Almost a year later here is the finished product. I’m pretty sure her and Mario went up to a cabin in the woods one weekend and recorded a bunch of stuff. This is the finished product of that cabin session. A 45 minute live belter of a mix.”

What do you love most about the Western New York dance community?

Sherri: I love that our WNY dance community consists of some wonderful sweeties who are genuine, unpretentious, and pure fun. Our dance floors are happenin’ and the sound is on point. There’s a reasonable variety of quality events in interesting non-club spaces.

Mario: Even though the community here in Western New York may be smaller than other bigger cities I’ve visited, I feel like the passion and excitement for events is greater. I believe people tend to appreciate what we have, and don’t take the experiences we offer for granted. And we have so many talented people in our area that always inspire me to create music and art, and be more engaged in the scene myself. It’s a wonderful creative cycle that I hope continues for a long time.

 

JIM KEMPKES

Bucci: “S>N member and resident Jim also holds a title that I personally hold him to. Best DJ in WNY. He tells me ‘whatever,’ whenever I tell him this. But it’s my opinion. This guy is a encyclopedia of music. From Jazz to hip-hop to electronic. His ear for a track is fantastic and a hell of a technical DJ. When I relocated to Rochester from Chicago, Jim was one of the first local DJs I heard. After I heard the first five mins of his set, I knew I was going to be OK. At least there were guys like him around to keep me dancing. The fact that he is a S>N resident, color me lucky. Needless to say Jim, like Lydia, is another foundation member of our community who has been at this since the ‘90s. No better person to help represent what Rochester has.”

 

What do you love most about the Western New York dance community?
Jim: The intimacy, family-vibe, collaborative spirit, and authenticity.

 

Head on over to the Signal > Noise Soundcloud and dig into these stellar mixes, or perhaps one of the live recordings from their parties like when Sassmouth and Shawn Rudiman rocked a warehouse space, when Gay Marvine brought sounds for Pride, or Derek Plaslaiko‘s 6-hour set. Keep an eye on Western New York, and if you get a chance to hit one of their dancefloors – you should take it.

Wax Runoff: Jerome Hill [ILA004]

Jerome Hill was once a name associated with a sometimes forgotten rave sub-scene referred to as London acid techno. Guys like Chris Liberator, D.A.V.E. the Drummer, and The Geezer were the musical stalwarts behind this rambunctious, almost exclusively British offshoot. The music spurred by this camp featured blistering acid basslines but was far too driving and fast to ever call it house music. This was techno, yet defiantly at odds with more dominant styles of the time: “proper” Detroit techno and, at the other end of the spectrum, maddeningly repetitive, banging loop techno emanting from countires like Sweden and Italy. London acid was the bastard stepchild, complete with an irreverent punk rock atittude in the way they threw parties in crumbling squats where crusty ravers would dance all night as bonfires burned.

ILA004 - Jerome Hill

ILA004 – Jerome Hill

Coming from that background it’s no wonder that Jerome Hill’s music retains an unpretentious, nasty streak to this day, even as he’s slowed his BPMs down a tad.  Also still evident is his embrace of the Roland TB-303, heard loud and clear on his 2015 release for the I Love Acid label (operated by acid-dedicated UK duo, Posthuman). A four-track, limited-run, hand-stamped and numbered affair (only 303 copies pressed – cute I know. I hold #076), this thick slab of wax hits hard on every cut. From the opening track, “Consumed”, one can immediately hear the classic, stripped-down ’80s/’90s Chicago acid influence, albiet with some crunch-enhancing modern production techniques added to the mix. The TR-707 drumwork rattles your skeleton and the 303 bassline is simple, sinister and relentless, pushing the listener’s mind and body further into the abyss.

But for me, it’s A-2 “Controlled” that causes the real damage. The vocal commands “Let the beat conrol your body” over a monstrous acid bassline. Gone is the 707 here, replaced by a brash, distorted 909 kick (think 1992 Robert Armani) not often utilized in acid house music these days. This is a stomping acid tune for peak-time dancefloor devastation. In this instance, the tune is so singularly intense that the only challenge for a DJ is finding equally solid tracks to buffer it.

The B-side is just as good, with Altern-8’s Mark Archer (an acid guru in his own right) providing some melodic chord stabs over a supple acid line and 808 drums in his remix of “Moved”. In my opinion, this record is the strongest release on this consistently high-quality ILA label.

As a side-note, do yourself a favor and check out Jerome Hill’s own fabulous record labels, Don’t, and Super Rhythm Trax. Both are stellar, but the latter has been putting out some serious heaters lately for those that love the tracky classic Chicago house sound.

Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Jim Kempkes of Rochester, NY has been a vinyl devotee since he was a teenage punk rock kid back in the late ’80s.

Signal > Noise & Sole Rehab: Gay Marvine and d’Adhemar

An epic celebration of Rochester Pride. An exploration of current and classic house, techno and disco sounds slaying the global underground club circuit. Brought to you WITH LOVE from stewards of Rochester’s dance music underground, SIGNAL > NOISE and SOLE REHAB, and featuring GAY MARVINE [San Francisco] [Bath House Etiquette, Secret Mixes Fixes] and D’ADHEMAR [Washington DC] [Honcho PGH] as well as JIM KEMPKES [Rochester] [Signal > Noise].