Wax Runoff: The Black Madonna [ARGOT 006]

Perhaps my favorite release from Chicago-based label Argot came in the form of a two track 12” from well-loved hometown artist The Black Madonna in 2013. For a while this super bad piece of music was tough to find. Copies of the Lady of Sorrows E.P. were scarce and resale value was high. That’s why it was splendid that the label decided to go ahead and give it a repress last year.

The record is well-deserving of a spot in anyone’s collection partly due to it’s exploration of stylistic cues. Not quite house, not quite disco, and not quite techno – the sounds contained in the grooves are top quality and never seem to have an ambiguous moment, yet combine much of what is enjoyable about each genre.

The repress lacks an outer sleeve, which is a very acceptable price to pay for such expertly crafted tunes. The only sort of artwork involved is on the opposite side of the EP info: a sketch of clasped rosary hands. Indeed, the music on the record feels celestial, hopeful, weighted by guilt and elated by enlightenment.

The Black Madonna

ARGOT 006

“A Jealous Heart Never Rests” on the A-side (which if you’ve ever seen her perform) is quite honestly a perfect ode to the types of music she likes to play. Classic disco drum samples create a wonderful organic foundation upon which very dramatic chords in the form of a string quartet elicit an immediate emotional response. The tastiest aspect of the tune though is the marvelously chunky bass arpeggio that dances over the drums and around the various other tonal elements in the track. In fact, it’s deeply impressive how many different instruments make their way into the composition without clouding one another. A lot of objectively good dance music doesn’t often incorporate many sounds in key because it runs the danger of being too complex and preventing the notes that already exist from shining. Chicago house influence is not lost in this tune; halfway through, the obligatory warm chord stab triplet injects itself into the mix before the other elements come swirling back around everything. This track is full, strong, and not afraid – perfect for early to peak hour dancing.

On the flip side you will find “We Can Never Be Apart” and it takes the same sort of musical approach to construction. It’s always interesting when the same instruments are used to make all the tracks on an EP. The same bass arp instrument is present again, but more toned down this time around. Synthetic bells instead creep in to add layers and give it more life. The disco drums are back too, but play a more up front role. There is still a massive amount going on musically speaking, and it’s equally as impressive as the first time. Where the first tune is really a nod to house and more modern dance music, this second number seems to be more reminiscent of ’80s synthpop due to different phrase structuring and key shifts. That’s the trouble with trying to pin down The Black Madonna’s sound, though. She really doesn’t pigeonhole herself to a set template. Her music is tentative and liquid. I find all her work to be this fantastic intersection of style and class, prompting a sound that is very much all her own.

This record is still around some of your favorite outlets. Juno limited purchases to one per customer but it’s still a tad steep. The best way to get a new un-played copy is through Discogs and well worth the price. As if the repress didn’t indicate these are truly top-notch tunes, the soaring orchestral work coupled with incredibly strong drum arrangements will see you playing this record over and over again.

 

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: Chaos in the CBD [RS008]

Brothers Ben and Louis Helliker-Hales form Chaos in the CBD. Originally from New Zealand they had been based in Peckham of south-east London inspiring their 2015 EP release on Rhythm Section International. Midnight in Peckham is a record that is contemplative and moving. House music heavily influenced by jazz, this has become one of my most beloved albums in my little collection.  

On A1 “Trust is Key” is a romantic slow-driver. It opens up with a solid kick drum and the sound of a chattering crowd. The bassline brings a very mellow groove. Gentle and steady piano riffs begin to pace the track and the cymbal patterns that follow along are crisp and have such a delightful energy. “We trust each other” the vocals reverberate. Near the end of the track there’s a bit of echoing chirps that bring a real atmospheric layer to it all that I just love.

Chaos in the cbd

RS008

“Observe” starts out with melodic synthesized strings, jazzy hi-hats and some piano that make this one perfect for having a chat with a friend or maybe while you’re cooking dinner. The piano starts to make the track jump and when it cuts out the strings resurface. Both of the sounds tag each other perfectly throughout and then in the background a voice starts panning – humming and howling a little tune. Throw this one on if you want to take a moment to space out.

Flipping the record over to the B-side you’ll find “Midnight in Peckham” – the title track and by far my favorite on this record. When the trumpet comes in I get chills. That drum kick always seems to go right along with the pace of my own heart and there’s something quite comforting in that. No matter where I am or what I’m doing I will always let this song play out. It’s just beautiful, in the truest sense of the word. With such fluid elements but a steady kick this is the perfect track to ease down some high energy and would be a great closer. The horn on this one is credited to Isaac Aesili, a musician from New Zealand, who absolutely deserves recognition. He takes the wonderful structure of the tune and brings such bright introspective movement into it.

For B2 “Luxury Motivation” opens with vocals of a man speaking about a stirring, higher life of cars and money. The piano lick in this one is jazzy and stays steady throughout for the most part. When the hi-hat comes in, oh my. With a deep and subtle bassline and tight cymbals, this one I would say is the most loopy on the record and can get a nice little dance going. In addition to some really great percussion, this track is my second favorite.

This entire record is meditative, soothing and just downright gorgeous. Chaos in the CBD brought elements and samples into their production that make this EP one that you will always want to listen to from beginning to the very delectable end. If you like what you hear, there are plenty of copies available on Discogs.

Alicia Greco is the founder and editor of Sequencer in Buffalo. She’s a dedicated speaker freaker and loves sifting through crates. She’s often found enjoying the sounds of a spinning record through a sound system on the dance floor or the music shrine in her bedroom.

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: Central [DKMNTL035]

If you spent any measurable amount of time last week on the internet you likely had a hard time escaping the posts about Dekmantel Festival (or their live Boiler Room feed). Each year the festival, which takes place outside of Amsterdam, plays host to top notch selectors like Motor City Drum Ensemble, Moodymann and The Black Madonna, sending waves of jealousy rippling through the dance music community. Outside of this one hectic weekend a year, the Dekmantel crew can be found heads down, cranking out quality house and techno tunes on their own vinyl imprint.

Launched in 2009, Dekmantel Records’ lengthy catalog features releases from the likes of Juju and Jordash, Matrixxman, Vakula, and this week’s feature: Central.

Central, Dekmantel, Political Dance, Regelbau

DKMNTL035

Part of Denmark’s Regelbau crew, Central is no stranger to dance music, and his latest release on Dekmantel highlights his ability to craft classic, functional floor ready cuts seemingly with ease. Political Dance presents itself as an album, though split across two separate EP format releases, Political Dance #1 and #2. The no frills jacket caught my eye and sent me home with the first record. After a day of listening I had to head back to the shop and pick up #2, which has quickly become my favorite.

Opening up this release is A1’s “Convenient Departures”, a basic, deep-ish house jam that brings nothing new to the table but does it extremely well. Simple four-four pattern and welcoming bassline keep this one moving while the atmospheric pads make it perfect for warming up or winding down a night out. “Detour King” on A2 opens up with a break loop that ushers in the perfectly meshed rolling bassline. The addition of well-layered synths and pads give this one a spacey vibe that sits well with me. On the flip side, “Political Dance”, the title track and my personal favorite of this release starts off with a thick kick and a tripped out organ loop. I really enjoy how the low end of this track evolves from subtle and complementary to full on leading the track about halfway through. Finally the release closes with “H’ Ain’t Nothing But A Number” – another functional, deep and spacey house cut. It’s nice to find quality, timeless sounding house records still being pressed, sometimes that’s worth the purchase alone.

If you’re a fan of the tunes here, I definitely suggest checking out the first half of this release. Both are widely available on the web and a little bit cheaper on Discogs. If doing your homework is more your style, dig a little bit deeper in to the Regelbau crew and the records they’ve put out over the last year.



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.

Wax Runoff: Dez Andres [SPLS 001]

This is a special week in American dance music culture. Thousands of punters from across the states and beyond will descend upon Detroit to take part in a nearly two decade old tradition. Whether it has taken the form of Detroit Electronic Music Festival or Movement, one thing from this weekend is clear – it’s about dance music, and honoring the home of one of its founding cities. With that said, this week I wanted to pay homage to one of my favorite Detroit producers, Andrés.

Andres, Spills, SPLS001, Sequencer, Dez Andres

SPLS001

Having honed his skills as both a record collector and DJ around Detroit, Andrés served as the DJ for legendary hip-hop group Slum Village (as DJ Dez) before crafting his own unique house sound in the late ’90s. With this hip-hop influenced approach to creating house tunes, Andrés released a string of now classic records on Kenny Dixon Jr aka Moodyman’s labels KDJ and Mahogani. Following the success of these releases he went on to start his own imprint, La Vida, which pushed out one of 2012’s most charted records: New For U. Squeezed in between these releases is a little known cut off a now defunct label: Spills, that I chose as this week’s Wax Runoff.

My first trip to Berlin’s famed Hardwax records had me digging for slow and funky jams, which as luck would have it is exactly what I found in this record. A simple four track EP with both a vocal and an instrumental version of two songs, each tastefully sampling a Michael Jackson vocal hook. Side A presents “As We Rock On,” a slow and smooth conga-led track supplemented by keys reminiscent of boogie’s bygone era. This one samples MJ’s classic “Rock With You” and has worked well for me in opening sets or when I’m going for a more loungey vibe. Though I play the vocal, the instrumental is equally as nice and with a baseline that’s less obscured by vocals is ripe for a homemade edit. Flipping the record over you’ll find my personal favorite from this release, “A Time to Boogie.” With an infectious bass groove and less of a four-to-the-floor beat, this one is certainly a unique addition to anyone’s record bag. Here Andrés samples “Blame it on the Boogie” but chops the vocals in a way that gets his message across – “Sunshine, Moonlight, Good Times, Boogie.”

Though it doesn’t look like Spills will be pressing new records anytime soon you should still be able to find SPLS001 on Discogs for only a slightly inflated price. If that’s not really your style but you’re heading to Detroit this weekend you can catch Andrés at Cosmic Disco (Saturday), Day Life (Sunday), or Something Different (Monday).

Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Colin Boardway is a Chicago-based DJ who has been collecting wax and enveloping himself into the city’s house and techno scene.

Wax Runoff: Cuthead [UV019]

The other day I was reorganizing my records and came across an old favorite that had been buried by my almost daily record buying obsession. I threw it on my turntable, pushed up the fader on my mixer and was quickly reminded how Cuthead became one of my favorite artists. Based in Dresden, his music adds depth and character to an already stacked Uncanny Valley records catalog. With styles ranging from hip-hop to breaks to house, his unique sample based approach to making music all but guarantees a “buy on sight” designation when I find his work in a record bin.
Cuthead, Everlasting sunday, sequencer

Everlasting Sunday

Originally pressed in 2013, Cuthead’s Everlasting Sunday is a full album pressed to a single vinyl but presented in two parts. Highlighting his mastery of musical styles, the A-side of this release consists of three chill, funky and otherwise melodic house jams, but flipping the record over gives you six dusty hip-hop instrumentals. My pick of this release is found early on in the A-side with “Maputo Jam.” A hi-hat led drum intro pairs with a bright sounding key loop before the track opens up into a sun-drenched daytime dance bomb. The indecipherable chopped vocal adds a sort of creepy element to the tune that meshes perfectly with the static crackle of his samples. My runner up, also on the A-side, is “Minerals” – another sample heavy cut; I haven’t quite heard chimes used like this before. Layered horn and string loops and abrupt key changes make this more of a ballad than chill out material. I can’t get enough of it.

Even if you’re not one for hip-hop, the six cuts on the B-side are a welcome flexing of Cuthead’s studio chops. Each is practically dripping with an old school MPC sound reminiscent of dons such as Dilla and Madlib. My favorite of these is probably the title track of this album, “Everlasting Sunday.” Coming in at just over 3 minutes, a super chunky bassline meshes with another slick vocal chop making this one, as it’s name suggests, perfect Sunday vibes.

A repress of this album in 2015 brought it’s price back down into an amateur collector’s range. While you can find this on Discogs, I recommend heading for Uncanny Valley’s Bandcamp page where you can find a handful of other Cuthead releases and nice tunes from their other artists.

Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Colin Boardway is a Chicago-based DJ who has been collecting wax and enveloping himself into the city’s house and techno scene.