Tevo Howard has been a fixture in Chicago’s dance music history for decades. An artist who wears many hats, he is an accomplished DJ, composer, writer, instrumentalist, and live performer.
In 2014, I picked up The Drapes in the Living Room EP at Gramaphone Records in Chicago after seeing it featured prominently on one of the recommendation walls, among the many prolific local house producers. Before even listening to the record, what drew me to the release was the beautiful black and white hand-sketched artwork on the cover from the Chicago-based street and fine art creator, Slang. Thug Records out of Sydney, Australia was a label I was unfamiliar with prior to picking up this release, but it’s catalogue contains offerings from Larry Heard, Jeff Samuel, John Tejada, and even DJ Slugo.
Recorded at Tevo’s own Beautiful Granville Studios in Chicago, all four of these tracks are lush, warm, and intimate, perfect for home listening or perhaps an early evening opening set or late morning after hours gathering. I tend to shy away from including a lot of melody-driven music in my own DJ sets, but these tunes are groove-driven enough to work well when transitioning to and from more beat-driven tracks. As with many of Howard’s releases, all four tunes feel familiar in terms of their connections to the classic Chicago house “sound” paying homage to those traditions in their structure and classic drum machine samples. However, they have a clean and modern finish. The EP was impeccably engineered by Dietrich Shoenemann at Complete Mastering, which contributes to their polished and professional aesthetic.
What stands out in all four songs, for me, is the thoughtful balance between the forward-moving bass lines – which have a touch of funk – and the rich, velvety pads. They’re dreamy, but not meandering. They’re persistent, but not at all repetitive or pedantic.
When my son was about three months old in 2015, I was on maternity leave from my day-job, trying to figure out how to navigate the beautiful but often stressful “newborn” phase while itching to get back to DJing. I had a baby that was a great night-sleeper, but had a difficult time taking those necessary daytime naps. Baby-wearing and mixing records saved my sanity during those early months because I would play a few tracks for him and within a few minutes, he would drift off to sleep in his carrier, allowing me to keep enjoying my favorite hobby. I ended up recording these practice sessions at home once a month and released three of them in a little mix series I called “The Lullaby Sessions.” Tevo’s “Shaquanda” from The Drapes in the LivingRoom E.P. is the third track on the first mix. The baby always really loved that one.
Unfortunately, this EP is out of stock with most online record retailers and very few sellers have it listed on Discogs, so if you find this gem in your local brick and mortar shops, definitely pick it up for a gorgeous addition to your house collection. The more I revisit these tracks, the more I appreciate their simplicity and sensuality.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Guest writer Elly Schook (aka “Kiddo”) is a DJ and vocalist living in Chicago. She has been DJing since 2004, but has been collecting vinyl since she was a little kid. She still gets as excited about buying a new (or “new to her”) record as she did when she was five years old.
Fresh into the New Year, Sequencer and Redux join efforts to present an evening of no holds barred techno.
ISRAEL VINES // los angeles (borrowed language, eye teeth)
For over two decades, Israel Vines has challenged and embraced listeners by recontextualizing sounds from a wide range of genres and eras. A product of the ’90s rave scene in the US midwest, Vines’ early interest in industrial and left-leaning electronic music readily merged with his exposure to Chicago house and Detroit techno, and that mix of influences is felt in his DJ sets and productions.
Despite years of dedication to DJing, Los Angeles-based Vines remained relatively unknown until he launched his now-retired label, Borrowed Language, in 2010. Through his collaborations with Jeff Pietro, he honed his sound prior to releasing his own solo material on respected labels such as Cult Figures and Semantica, while stepping into the world of remixing for the likes of Erika, Makaton, and Stave. Now, he has found a more permanent home on the Eye Teeth imprint — an offshoot of Detroit’s long-running Interdimensional Transmissions label, where he released the well-received (and regularly caned) WWKD EP. Vines has also released collaborative material with Chicago’s Kit Geary under the KGIV guise on Horizontal Ground, with another EP forthcoming on Eye Teeth.
KAMAL NAEEM // berlin (blank slate)
Berlin-based Kamal Naeem is the owner of Blank Slate, an independent record label devoted to providing a range of musical voices, from techno to afrobeat. He has been a music lover ever since his mother blared Nausat Fateh Ali Khan, his father introduced him to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and he listened to Louis Armstrong’s rendition of Disney songs. Established in 2012, Blank Slate was founded during his time in Ithaca, NY and is continuously putting out heavy hitting records.
Fluidly hypnotic Bill Converse, a DJ and producer, was heavily influenced by the sounds of Detroit while growing up in Lansing, Mich. At 15 years old in 1998 he and his family moved to Austin, Texas where he currently resides and continues to develop an abrasive and immersive experience of industrial techno and acid.
Initial exposure to techno happened for Converse while in Michigan and he started mixing as a youthful teenager. Mechanical Pulse, a college radio station out of Michigan State University, is where he was familiarized with Detroit techno, industrial music, and Chicago selectors
He developed solid roots living in Texas and the friendships he made have kept him there. “Pretty much everyone I grew up with here has been involved with music in some capacity the entire time I’ve known them. I’ve always enjoyed that about this place – even though for a long time I didn’t know any other techno nerds, just other types of music nerds,” he says. “But rent was cheap, friends hooked up free food, coffee, groceries and drinks…now the day-to-day isn’t quite what it used to be but you can still have fun.”
The Rave-O-Lution 309 is the first piece of gear that sparked his entryway into the realm. “I’ve always liked making music,” he says. When Propellerhead’s ReBirth was released he spent his time programing drum tracks and “wanky 303 patterns.” From that point on his journey into production began.
“Finally, I began saving up and buying the machines I lusted after for so many years, got lucky and started buying them before they started wearing the price tags they do now.”
Under the moniker WWC, he originally released 100 copies of Meditations/Industry, a 90-minute cassette of atmospheric acid, in 2013 through Austin’s cassette label Obsolete Future. Three years later the album was edited down and an LP was reissued under the name Bill Converse through Dark Entries, a San Francisco-based label. Establishing a solid foundation for Converse, that record brings a framework to sound that is evocative and dreamy.
“There was nothing pre-meditated about those tracks, they were all sourced from the urge and satisfaction of turning knobs and pushing sliders. Very precious to me. Now the tracks are living on their own, they’ve all grown up and have left the nest – they do what they want to, they have lives and lovers of their own. I’ve had to learn how to let them go. And I still love them very much. They are unfolding into this world quite nicely and I am overjoyed for them.” – BILL CONVERSE
Continuing deeper, the label explored more of Converse’s catalog and released Warehouse Invocation in July 2016. The EP included three remastered tracks from his previous record and one unreleased track that truly encompasses his raw and enveloping production approach.
He draws a crowd in and weaves his signature sound on dance floors throughout the U.S. and on an international level. Through Intergalactic FM, Converse and his crew Timelife Methrave began “Tunnel Dive” – an online radio show with a mission to promote and support underground DJs and producers. Currently spearheaded by Sylvia Shale, the broadcast specializes in the darker side of electronic music.
Whether eyes closed with headphones on or upon a dark floor in front of a system, Converse knows how to take the listener on an introspective trip. His productions and his sets have a very beautiful and ethereal as well as a brash and haunting spectrum. Explore more and hear for yourself. Care to catch the live experience? Rochester, N.Y. party Signal > Noise will host Converse for the next installation on Oct. 8.
If you’ve spent any amount of time collecting records you know how addicting of a hobby it can become. Aside from the joy that records bring, I find myself drawn to the culture that surround them. From digging with friends to record release parties and visiting new shops to becoming a local at an old favorite, this is one of the things that makes me tick.
Last week I was fortunate enough to find myself taking a stroll through La Source in Paris, the official home of Smallville Records in France. Not only was the staff super welcoming (whaddup Jacques!) but the bins were extremely well curated and I walked away with a stock of new finds and long sought after 12″s.
Among this week’s finds was Treats Vol. 4 from Retreat Records, a missing number from a catalog I’ve been actively seeking to own the entirety of. Started by Session Victim’s Hauke Freer and Yanneck Salvo aka Quarion, Retreat has been churning out funky, sample heavy cuts since 2009. After getting over the initial surprise of seeing this one in the wild, I immediately put it in my “coming home” pile.
Part of the Treats series, RTR-11 is a lovely three-tracker with contributions from Session Victim, The Hints, Iron Curtis & Leaves. Opening up this record and taking the entirety of the A-side is my pick of the release – a rare cover of an already iconic house cut – “Harlequin” by Roostrax. Already a massive fan of the original, I couldn’t pass this one up. It’s all about that bassline and this one nails it with Session Victim’s signature live bass. As much jam band as it is floor-filling house it won’t be leaving my bag any time soon. On the flip side you’ve got “Downtown”, a slow but chugging bass-driven number from The Hints (Quarion & Jules Etienne). The addition of some wonky chords here makes this one quite fun. While it sits at a low 110 BPM, something tells me speeding this one up would get people moving.
Lastly, B2 comes from Iron Curtis & Leaves with the chilled out Rhodes-led “A&F”. I’m a total sucker for nice sounding hi-hats and the texture of this is right up my alley. If that wasn’t enough, the way they’ve played with the timing on the third beat gives it a certain stutter-step depth that adds enough character to get behind.
Flipping through my record bag on any given day you’re bound to find at least two records from the Retreat catalog. If you’d like to track down a few of your own, you can buy direct from their site, retreat-vinyl.de or find the rest on Discogs.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Colin Boardway, formerly of Chicago, is now based in Greece as 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.
On a global level the house and techno scene has a long and powerful history. From Berlin to Detroit, from New York City to Chicago; born from the underground this realm has always been a beast of its own, and somehow is both inclusive and exclusive. Not all enter, but anyone is welcome if your mind is in the right place.
Simple in its foundation yet complex in the details, electronic music is a widely expansive genre with more subgenres that can be uttered in one breath. One of the best descriptions I have ever heard about house and techno is that it is a “rabbit hole.” Once you start falling down it, you can’t really get out. There is too much to explore. Too much to find. So much to love.
Comprised by a culture of people, each person is playing a role in the interconnection. It’s a living, breathing mass that evolves with time but maintains the quality of history that fuels it.
Additionally, each city has it’s own vibe, taste, feel, whatever you may call it. Sequencer is a place to converge – to learn, discuss and expand. To be notified of what is to come, or what has happened.
Here you may get to know the DJs and producers that you love with artist spotlights. Learn the history of it all. Check out our calendar of events. Find something new to add to your auditory palate. Join the experience.
Enter the Sequencer.
Questions? Please email email@example.com.
Welcome to Sound Devices. My name is Cory Perla, music editor at The Public. This is how this column will work: each week, we’ll feature a piece of gear that one local electronic music maker loves. The gear featured here might be vintage, homemade, or brand spanking new, and we’ll ask one simple question about it: Why do you love it?
I’ll go first.
“I bought this [MicroKorg] synthesizer about 10 years ago to use in a band I was in at the time. We just wanted a way to add a layer of noise to our songs, and this guy did the job. I never mastered it; I suppose it’s not too late. What I honestly love about it is the character. I unearthed this last week after it sat in an extra room, unused, for a couple of years. I forget how that key in the middle popped out, but I do know that strip of duct tape with the notes for each key written on it has been on there since the day I got it.”