Wax Runoff: Jerome Syndenham [irc122]

It was a wonderful feeling to recently uncover the 2013 release Sun Ark EP by Jerome Syndenham. This record has seen countless parties partly because it’s versatile but more so because the phenomenal overall production really sounds marvelous over a good sound system.

jerome sydenham

irc122

For anyone who has spent time crate digging in New York City, that name Ibadan should be well familiar. Started by Syndenham himself at the height of the New York City house era in 1995, the label has consistently pushed out solid New York house, but also has taken chances on darker or tribal influenced tracks on many releases.

A1 belongs to Jerome’s Special Edit of Carl Craig’s “Angel” and is probably the reason for the record’s quick rise. “Jerome’s Vocal Dub” of the track was released on Planet E about four years earlier and had seen much public praise and heavy club rotation. This special edit is something else; raw drum cuts are layered with minimal reverb or delay and one extremely off-beat closed hi-hat loop. The track is characterized by a single bass note that climbs four notes in the scale repeatedly. The creepy dark vocal is not lost either, but rather further distorted and cut. This tune is actually frightening if I’m being honest; there is a certain tangible discomfort that comes across, and yet it’s still difficult to turn it off.  

The second cut on the A-side is my personal favorite. “Sun Ark” is the only original mix from Jerome on the release, and it certainly holds its own against some of his best productions. If A1 was made for transcendental out of body dark basement experiences, A2 was crafted strictly for sweat. There is no real bassline, just one massive kick that barrels through subs. The genius of this track is the drum arrangements. About eight or nine different drum loops come in and out of play with one another, often away from the down beat. Most low-end percussion cuts out for a few bars periodically to let a rushing atonal sort of air synth oscillate before descending back in heavy stomping club beat. It definitely has a heavier vibe that needs the right time and crowd, but at its core it’s simply an excellent conception

Flipping to the back end, B1 is titled “Route 303” by Japanese duo Lo Hype. As you could imagine, the track makes extensive use of the legendary Roland 303. The vibes are so different on the B-side – it’s incredible. The front two are sort of grand productions; they make statements and stand out in the mix. However, “Route 303” is understated, hypnotic, and refined. Various 16-bar phrases from the drum machine exist in different forms throughout the eight minute track, with the only real musical elements coming from ethereal synthetic pads. It’s a delightful ride that tricks you into its peculiar song and is perfect for those 5 a.m. excursions.

B2 finishes up with a nod to the ’90s house culture of New York. Though not “Bonus Beats” in the traditional sense of that idea, the nod tickles me and the association is apropos. It is a full track in its own right – just over five minutes long. There are minor changes made, with the same foundation there, but instead of the eerie pads there is a focus on only drum machine and 303 workouts. It truly does change the sound from dark and looming to up front and energetic. This track would do well in any minimal techno set at peak hour.

This record is relatively scarce, and finding a new copy would be quite the feat. With a heavy have:want ratio on Discogs, good copies tend to get snapped up. There do tend to always be at least a few if you’re willing to pay, though.

And even if you can’t track down this particular gem, keep an eye out for that iconic Ibadan center label that has not changed in 22 years. All the releases come recommended, and all of them trade at a fairly decent price as well. Good luck!


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: Fitzzgerald [TGE1211]

Coming up on the end of September, I rounded up my favorite releases of this past month to find the destined pick for this week’s Wax Runoff. Overall a wonderful month for excellent tunes, but there is one record that I have consistently been coming back to.

tugboat edits

TGE1211

Fitzzgerald was a new name to me. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to learn that his recent 12” on Tugboat Edits is actually his first release. In truth, Tugboat Edits Vol. 11 sounds as if it had come from a much more decorated veteran. It’s a deeply jazz-infused carpet ride through sexy house loops and gourmet samples that vary in flavor for diverse hours and moments.

A1 “Starfruit” is a precipitant introduction to the record. Lo-fi jazz licks and warm pads accompany a classic disco bass guitar line while a Rhodes piano goes on seemingly endless G# scale tangents. The drums are forward; a jackhammer 4/4 kick rhythm gives an undeniably groovy feel to it, but that’s not to discredit the hand drums solo around the five-minute mark. Ultimately this jam comes off polished and tight, ready for a sunny terrace near you. This track sounds like how a Mister Saturday Night party feels.

The second cut on the front, “On Your Side”, takes things a bit farther left from center. Slowed down and with a noticeable bossa nova influence this one features some great marimba scales. It takes about four minutes, but eventually a more house-centric rhythm does start to command things as  memorable disco strings create a wonderful classy vintage type vibe. While maybe not for the prime time hours of the night, this is still an amazing piece of music that certainly has its time and place.

Someone once told me the best tracks are always on the B-side. That superstition seems to be true as my favorite tune by a long shot is “Mysterious World”.  It’s essentially a really done house re-work of the title track off MFSB’s 1980 jazz-fusion release Mysteries of the World. Devastating for me because I actually had sampled my copy of that 12” earlier in the year and was halfway through an edit of my own when I bought this record. This re-work seems better than I could likely do, with just the right amount of delicate percussion and an extra funky synth line that was written for this edit. Serious party stuff when the vibe calls for it.

The clean-up spot on the roster belongs to “Shaka Joe”; a nice mix of tribal and deep house, it’s less experimental for sure and yet still easily avoids being forgettable. As with the other three tunes, there are plenty of punchy and improvised jazz scales, this time coming from an unidentified organ synth. It sounds great with lots of loop layering variation, along with points where the mix clears out making this one a favorite that creeps onto your table more as you begin to wear out the other three.

All in all this record is a must have if you are really into the jazzy lo-fi house that is popularized by well-known taste maker labels Razor N Tape or Mister Saturday Night. And I would say a nice record to have if you like really solid and well-mixed house and disco tracks that carefully measure to never venture into the realm of over-production. This slab would be particularly valuable in a bag for early morning after parties and late afternoon BBQs in my opinion.

I encourage you to scoop this great record straight from the responsible party. There are of course is Discogs  and the usual main online competitors: Juno, Deejay, Redeye, etc. If you want to support a smaller online retailer who have a great team and really care about this music on a personal level, I recommend grabbing a copy from Downtown304. The press is limited, and if you were going to buy new from retail, I would act fast before this release is comfortably sitting in other people’s record collections the world over.

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: Chez Damier [mojuba g.o.d.2]

While at my local record shop recently I was flipping through the new arrivals when a paper sleeve Mojuba stamped 12” caught my eye. It appeared to be a re-press of the 2009 deep house smasher Time Visions 2 by Chez Damier. I handsomely paid the clerk and headed home to enjoy the sweet sounds.

chez damier

mojuba g.o.d.2

When I checked the Internet later, sure enough I couldn’t find much on this mysterious release. Discogs only has the various 2009 releases listed, and a google search yielded essentially one result at a Russian online record store where it appears to be sold out. I started to become a bit more skeptical now, but when I placed the record on the platter and set the needle to it, instantly it was clear that this was a high quality, top notch repressing that if not official is one of the best bootlegs I’ve come across.

The record is soaked in creamy deep house goodness from beginning to end. The A side “Why (D’s Deep Mix)” is a marvelous 10 minute slugger that loops and swerves way down at 113 BPM. This is classic Chez, with a glowing and pulsing chord loop setting the mood and never falling from the mix as bongos and tight bass blips repeat bar over bar. Eventually, a legitimately groovy harmonica solo cuts through that’s not hard to love.

On the flip side “Help Myself (Unreleased Reshape)” stylistically brings things back to popular ’90s house fare. Fitting as it’s Carl Craigs unreleased edit of the classic KMS tune. A 16 bar live drum sample sequenced rhythm with resonant synth melody loops with perhaps the most tasty upright jazz bass samples. Something about the crash cymbal ending phrases in classic house tunes just feels so right. The tune is atmospheric while remaining organic and would burn down any 21st century dancefloor.

The record closes with what is probably the crowd favorite of the trio, “Soul Minimal” on B2. As the name suggests, it’s a fairly stripped back soulful house number, but there’s a bit less depth compared to the other two jams. This one is more strictly party material with the main feature being a fat and round bass synth that bounces up on swung out 16th notes. The sharp reverbed pads behind everything start to mix with sax samples and a lively bongo line. The tune works quite well in 2017, as it’s structured in a way where the core of percussion never leaves the mix. In so doing, it lends itself well to the driving syncopated rhythmic adventures popular in minimal and house right now.

I wish I could tell you how to find this record. While I’ve never owned any of the previous presses, the sound quality is excellent on this one. Even the website for the store I bought it at never listed it online. Keep your eyes peeled for the all-text red stamp center label seen in our picture here. If you do fancy the slab and want to purchase a 2009 copy from Discogs it trades at a pretty agreeable price depending on which version you’re after (the limited red translucent press will cost you). However you come across it – repress or not – this piece comes highly recommended. It’s thoughtful, heady, and just the right mix of tech and deep; new and old.

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: Jean-Luc Ponty [SD 18163]

Who is this scruffy dark haired man always popping up in the P’s section of the record store? That would be French-born, LA-dwelling, and crucially funky jazz violinist and songwriting savant Jean-Luc Ponty. Most people know him for his work with Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, before he stepped out on his own. Aurora follows a variety of more straight-ahead jazz and collaboration records, and is effectively Ponty’s second solo jazz fusion LP.

jean-luc ponty

SD 18163

In addition to Ponty the line-up features a young Patrice Rushen on keyboards, Darryl Stuermer on guitars, Tom Fowler on electric bass, and Norman Fearrington on drums and percussion. Save for Rushen, this fairly unknown ensemble delivers a wide array of world-class cuts, ranging from blistering and virtuosic to emotive and pensive.

The uptempo “Is Once Enough?” kicks off the record, complete with solos from Ponty, Stuermer, and Rushen on Rhodes piano. “Renaissance” follows, a track featuring Ponty on auto-harp as well as violin. This is a highlight of the record for me, and apparently for others who draw inspiration from it. Stuermer and Ponty’s almost bouzouki sounding acoustic guitar and violin harmonization is so on point that its skill and technique can accidentally be overlooked. Sit back and enjoy this one.

The title tracks begin with a semi-atonal 5/4 based groove, complete with bass fills from Fowler. Part 1 does a wonderful job of setting up the funk to come in Part 2. Stuermer and Ponty duke it out again before the rest of the band joins in for the fun, resulting in quite possibly the stankiest 7/4 groove cut to wax. Play this one for the floor and watch people get weird.

The B-side follows a similar pattern to side A, but it certainly stands on its own. It leads with the blistering jazz rock of “Passenger Of The Dark” and is followed by the goosebump inducing “Lost Forest”. Of course Ponty and Stuermer’s counterpoint stand out, but Fowler’s borderline psychedelic phased out electric bass, complete with some power chords, really add a thick element to this cut. You might need to put this one on repeat.

“Between You and Me” sounds like if Yacht Rock musicians could rip, and I mean that in the best way possible. Proper sunshine grooves. It serves as a phenomenal penultimate track, before “Waking Dream” takes us into space with a variety of synthesizers, guitars, and effected violins.

Ponty’s Aurora is over 40 years old this year, yet it continues to stand the test of time. You can snag a copy on Discogs but can also probably find it in your local record store from $2-$15. Don’t sleep on it.

Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Peter Croce is a Detroit-born and now Chicago-dwelling deejay, producer, and label boss. He owns and operates Rocksteady Disco, Mr. PC Versions, and MotorCity Wine Recordings.

Wax Runoff: Fatback [SP-1-6721]

Earlier this week as I sat in my chair at my dreadfully dreary office day job, a groovy song crept from my memory caves into my head. I strained to recall what it was as I lightly tapped my foot to the riff now endlessly looping in my brain. After about an hour of trying to figure out what it was, it finally hit me; “Hesitation” from the 1979 Spring records release Brite Lites, Big City by The Fatback Band, or more colloquially – Fatback.

SP-1-6721

I purchased this gem earlier in the year from an old funk-gangster Vietnam vet who sets up crate-after-crate of forgotten and rare funk and disco grooves every weekend at the local market. The art direction for Fatback releases was consistently superb and I had seen their albums before, but never made a purchase because I never agreed with the price. It was only because this gentleman priced this album for a single dollar.

Within minutes of popping the plate onto my platter, I was blown away for a few reasons. This record absolutely does not sound like it was produced in 1978/1979. During that time, recording engineers really weren’t using heavy compression in the studios. Most funk and soul tracks were much more organic sounding – like a live recording of a band. Furthermore, the drums would be mixed down below a sonic focal point. This record was doing the opposite: loud and compressed drums very foreboding of how house and hip-hop music would be produced 15 years later. I was so curious why these jams were so uniquely different and forward thinking than their peers of the time.

The answer was very simple: no recording engineer was used. All production credits go to the Fatback Band itself and likely many of the creative decisions were made by mastermind and front man of the band, Bill Curtis.

It wasn’t just technical originality that set this record apart for me but the unique musical theory behind each track. There is a very heavy reliance on repetition and loops, again reminding me of dance music that would come many years later. In addition, rather than having lyrics in the traditional sense, much of the vocals on the tracks are spoken word, a future trend that Curtis and his band heavily utilized before others.

In fact, it is not just “Hesitation” that has been randomly stuck in my head. Each of the six tracks on the album have an infectious groove.

The A side is more of a funk affair, though all the tracks are written in 4/4 time signature which was more common for disco at the time, and indeed there is much disco influence. “Freak The Freak The Funk (Rock)” kicks it all off with a fat distorted guitar riff and structuring similar to many of the classics made popular by George Clinton. Much like the other tunes, it is an incredible fusion of funk and disco styles. “Let Me Do It To You” comes next and stands out the most with slick guitar plucks and a tambourine line that always causes a case of the head-bobs. This one is more slanted to the disco side of things and really works for a dance floor. Then the final A cut “Brite Lites, Big City” flips the tempo down to 95 BPM with a pure funk take. Of notable mention is the ripper of a sax solo by band member Fred Demery during which Bill yells “Keep the wine flowing!” and claims he lost his voice because the party was so good.

The B-side is definitely where the disco shines through brightly. B1 “(Do The) Boogie Woogie” is a classic late ’70s jam. What makes many of the tunes from that time unplayable today, though, was how overly cheesy the horn sections and vocals could be. Fatback stays true to form while taking all the classic elements but strictly adheres to the repetitive style. “Hesitation” on B2 is an absolute jam with the 1/8 note closed hi-hats we know so well. This is the only tune that truly has lyrics but is still as sweet as the fruits and the rolling big disco bassline that plays during the bridge phrases always impresses me. The release wraps up with “Wild Dreams” on B3. Another heavy disco influenced number, but slower and most importantly – jazzy as hell. Jazz influence is actually prevalent across Fatback’s discography but it really only shows on the final cut. If it had existed at the time, I would say I hear so much lo-fi jazz sample house influence in this track. But it’s just another example of how this album was ahead of its time.

Fatback was insanely prolific. From 1972 to 1988, Fatback released 23 full-length studio albums and tons of singles. Surprisingly to me, Brite Lites, Big City was one of their least regarded albums. But if you listen to the other albums before and after this one, there is not as much of an experimentation with sound design or music theory. This album was less safe, and in turn not as popular, but from a 2017 perspective, it was massively genius. It avoids all the major pitfalls of funk and disco of that era, while pushing the envelope of innovation and achieving stunning originality.

It’s somewhat tough to snag a mint copy of this 12”, but there are certainly some options on Discogs for varying degrees of quality and price. More likely, you stumble across this record while flipping through the crates and searching for the lost grooves. Ideally, you meet an OG funk-gangster of your own who can supply you with this and countless other long lost heaters.

 

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: 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: Bobb Deep [JSPRO-01]

After the unfortunate loss of Prodigy on June 20 I’ve been thinking a lot of Mobb Deep’s grand contributions to music and vinyl culture. Prodigy’s counterpart, Havoc, learned the art of MPC sampling around 1993 with help from infamous Q-Tip. In 1995 – smack dab in the middle of the golden age of hip-hop – The Infamous was released to major critical acclaim.

JSPRO-01

The genius behind the sampling was true to New York City form and undeniably classic. Growing up in New York during this time, it was hard to escape the now classic style cemented in legendary albums like the aforementioned, Nas’ Illmatic, and Notorious B.IG.’s Ready to Die. The producers behind these albums were masters of re-purposing old vinyl tracks for new life in rap, and I can recall it being some of the first impetus to buy vinyl at the flea markets in Chinatown.

As MPCs began to get traded in for Pro Tools, the essence and allure of hip-hop started to be diminished and eventually the golden era came to an end around the turn of the century; many people who were interested in the vinyl aspect of this music lost interest.

But those individuals and artists who are dedicated to a craft, and vinyl culture via production have dipped below the radar. Mixtapes played a major role in the underground music scene in New York during that time, and the ubiquity and ease of burning CDs expanded their reach from corners in Brooklyn to bodega counters across all boroughs. Big record execs with swollen dollar signs for pupils were unwilling to give “old” style mainstream exposure, and mixtapes became the main route of delivery for vinyl sampled music art.

Though I started to explore other genres, these mixtapes always made me smile, reminding me of some of the initial reasons I became infatuated with records and vinyl collecting. In 2005 I came across an unassuming mixtape CD in a West Bronx neighborhood that immediately piqued my interest. The artist credit read Bobb Deep in an identical font that I had seen on Mobb Deep sleeves prior. I brought Queensbridge Meets Kingston home with me and was instantly impressed with the creativity of the samples, and the depth of the drums that are hard to match without sampling vinyl.

The actual engineer behind this project was boom-bap saint DJ Swindle. He took most of the tracks from the heavily pressed and circulated Bob Marley Greatest Hits 12” Legend, and spliced it up to exist around Mobb Deep verses. I played the absolute hell out of this CD, and lost track of where it ended up by the end of high school. But the amazing sound on the record had forged an unforgettable niche in my brain.

Fast-forward to 2017 when I found myself at a rare and odd record fair searching out forgotten disco and funk. I came across a man from Chicago who specialized in impossible to find Japanese releases in mint condition. Flipping through his crate and scoffing at the prices, I was about to move on when I saw it. Bright green cover with the yellow lettering – how could I ever forget? I couldn’t believe it, but someone in Japan had commissioned an off-label pressing of Queensbridge Meets Kingston. Even though it was a tight groove LP (5 tracks on each side!) I had to have it. I managed to convince the Midwestern gentleman to let me have it for $50 and I was off racing back home to turn my amp up and melt into nostalgia.

While admittedly a couple of the tracks are in a way uninteresting, the greater core of the record sounded just as deep, rich, and full as I imagined. The titles of the tracks retained some of the best and most memorable Mobb Deep originals. The true aspect that made me fall in love with this record was how far the re-imagined compositions tended to exist from the originals. From the small guitar scale snippet on “Survival of the Fittest” to the drum ‘n’ bass structure of “Gangstaz Roll”, the record is a beautiful example of the place vinyl has in not only presentation, but also creation. The fact that someone in Japan felt the need to press a run of this record two years after it was released is a testament to how powerful the format can be for the people who can appreciate this music.

This record is essentially non-existent. It has never been sold on Discogs and prior to that record fair, I was unaware it even existed. There are three two-track singles that were released the same year of the CD via AV8, but I couldn’t imagine not enjoying this record from track as it was fully intended. Even so, these singles seem to be the only instances of Bobb Deep circulating on the internet.

The music world lost a great contributor and pioneer when Prodigy passed away last month. However, the inspiration he and Havoc left on youth and music producers resonates strongly. If they had never championed the vinyl sample sound, I don’t think DJ Swindle would have ever engaged in this project. But thanks to him, this stupid-rare gem will be out in the world, floating around, waiting to spellbind another music lover who refuses to dig anywhere except the deepest of crates.

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: Royer [NUDES005]

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.

Royer, Nudes005, Tasteful Nudes

NUDES005

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.

Wax Runoff: Dietrich Schoenemann [TEN 1003]

Normally the records I feature on Wax Runoff are pretty squarely centered around house and techno, but the crates are endless, and sometimes the best records in a collection can be the less obvious ones.

TEN 1003

When I first started discovering the world of dance music, I was primarily going to large raves and club promoted events that featured DJ sets normally no longer than 90 minutes. It wasn’t until I went to more intimate all night parties and underground events that featured longer, extended DJ sets that I discovered the art of the ambient and downtempo records.

In many ways ambient tracks are the antithesis of a party. They rarely feature rhythmic elements and therefore there is great skill involved in having them work for a crowd of people. The beginning and end of nights are usually when these choices are most applicable, but there are moments at the after-party when they shine, and of course the rare peak hour hypnosis can be caught from time to time as well.

In the early ‘90s as psychedelia as ramping up in the club scene, many small record labels put out amazing ambient and downtempo records that largely were never repressed and forgotten with time. One of my favorite records in this group is a 1994 12” by techno master Dietrich Schoenemann. Pluto-Circuits was released by Rancho Relaxo – an ambient off shoot of the respected Tension record label. It features three cuts of deep, dark, and bassy soundscapes that transfix the mind and soul.

“Pluto 1” on the A-side is my favorite of the record and almost always gets a spin at those moments when the after-party has been going for well over 12 hours. The crown feature is a massive subby bass that bubbles underneath very harmonious patches I would describe as angelic whispers. These sounds work quite well with the echoed blips and klangs that bookmark the ends of the soundscape elements. The reason it works so well is because of how much it translates the emotion behind the eventual end of the after-party and closing ceremony. It is a tune to get lost in, reflect on, cry with, and fall asleep to. It does grow to be pretty busy, but is an amazing example of strict sound arrangement.

Flipping over to the other side presents darker and less emotional cuts. “Pluto 2” on B1 is pure ambient succulence that embodies the true hypnotic allure of the genre. Dietrich enlists the help of some very grand synthesizer patches that wildly modulate in pulse width and filter cutoff. However, the changes are slow, gradual, and sneaky. Those more evolving pad and string elements come and go while an initial pad sequence loops endlessly the entire time. This creates an incredibly sophisticated interpretation of call and response theory. You have to wait for the juice, but in so doing, he has grasped the art of having you forget how long you’ve been crushing the grapes. Much like A1, this track expertly creates the atmospheric context around complex sounds, but is better suited for late-night early-morning party wrap-up moments.

The final track “Pluto 3” is markedly different in that it features drums, coming in the form of a simple and well-compressed downtempo 909 licks for which Dietrich is famously fond of. Drum kicks and snares swirl around synthesizer burps, though, for only a few minutes of the piece. The true beauty of the track is when the drums are not yet there and the long sequence of bass oscillations and noise filters begin to grow and evolve to create a mystic realm within the ether. Perfect for early on in the night as it has drums traditionally used to blend with other downtempo tracks. The sound is best described as mechanical and inviting, more curious than it is downright dark in comparison to the other two.

I’m always on the lookout for these obscure early and mid ‘90s ambient records because they are so amazingly explorative in their approach. For many, this sort of music doesn’t click until it’s heard at exactly the right moment in a DJ set that makes sense. I wasn’t even aware Dietrich had made records like this and there’s endless more examples of situations like this that I have yet to discover.

Getting your hands on this record is tough, but there looks to be two copies in good shape on Discogs that you may be able to grab if I don’t buy a new copy to replace my scratched one first. Whether with other people or alone, this record and other ones like it always light up my mind with delicate distractions from outside stimulus. It’s unbelievably easy to get lost in the sound.

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: Moods & Grooves [MG-046]

June is in full swing and thousands of us are still glowing after a stupendous Memorial Day weekend in Detroit. The sounds and atmospheres created at the various clubs and venues around the city continue to inspire and delight music lovers from all around the world. I heard so many amazing records; there were beloved classics, new heat, and tons of obscure beauties time would have forgotten if not for the amazing curation and selection from some of Detroit’s best DJs. Indeed Detroit has not (and hopefully never will) change.

MG-046

In coming back and flipping through my newest finds and purchases I initially was searching for a new, fresh off the press record to focus on after an entire month of Detroit related material. But as I was flipping through, I stumbled across a 12” that has two of my favorite tracks ever put out by a little, old Detroit label by the name of Moods & Grooves. This label is another staple of the Motor City scene, responsible for almost perfectly consistent releases that span from deep and minimal to soulful and energetic. A simple two track release issued in a plain white sleeve, this record doesn’t exactly grab your attention up front, but the work from Andres and Mr. G give it a status that I would consider imperative for any house music lover’s collection.

The A-side of Moods & Grooves Classics V1 belongs to none other than Detroit’s house sample master, Andres. Everything about “Out In The Open” is expertly crafted with his unmatched subtle style. Straight from the gate, the kick drum is on a completely swung and broken pattern while the crispy stiff snare cuts on a perfect 4/4 pattern. Coupled triplet hi-hats and delicate ride taps gives the entire track a rolling feeling that is incredibly friendly for the dance floor, yet laid back as it slithers through the speakers. It wouldn’t be an Andres track though without the perfect sample treatment. A hearty ballad with a female vocalist – sped up massively – was recruited for use here, though I’m not sure where the sample comes from originally. The only thing that can be said for Andres’ artistry is that this man truly understands how to filter sound, when to soften it with reverb and slip it into a gorgeous quilt of sonic presence. Every small detail ends up being immaculate in the final mix – each noise complimenting its neighbor. This is one of those tracks that you can close your eyes while flowing through its essence and open them six minutes later without being sure whether a second or an hour of time has passed. This track is ready to go for any of those early party starting nights, or tea on the balcony Sunday morning.

On the other side of the slab, vibes totally change up for a more direct hit, designed to keep the party going while it’s at the apex of sweatiness. “The Struggle Of My People (Mr. G’s There’s Hope Mix)” begins with high energy on a full drum break filtered with delicious resonance and looped  every four bars. A single transposed string sample descends over and over again while the drums begin to gain eighth note hi-hats and sixteenth note shakers. This is repetition done in the most infectious way. Whereas everything on the A-side fit perfectly around one another, each element on Mr. G’s tune fit perfectly on one another. The cutoff on the filter for the strings opens at times creating this feeling of a wave of sound washing around the dance floor. All the drums pull out of the mix at two separate times just to let a single synth and the strings coalesce around a spoken word sample from Maya Angelou’s poem, “And Still I Rise”. I have never seen this track not light a dance floor on fire. Again we have here a tune that is expertly made and so delightfully warm, the aural result is magnificent if played on any halfway decent sound system.

Although these tracks are so heavily played (my copy has gotten 100 spins, at least) they personify the idea of well-grounded, timeless house music. Some might say they are too safe, or even perhaps cliché, but hearing “Out In The Open” played by Andres himself over the excellent Void soundsystem at Marble Bar during the Sampled Detroit party over the Memorial Day weekend reminded me of how spectacular this record is. It was only fitting to write about it after that truly infinite moment.

Because this record is a 2013 press of two widely sought after early 2000s tracks, I would consider it a great deal. The 12” is trading on Discogs for about $13 stateside. It’s one record I personally could not live without. The two tracks have such wildly different personalities but still resolve themselves to be near perfect examples of all the things we love about house music. The unrelenting nature of the drums and structure truly mirror the undying love and support that true fans of house music display, and to which the massive turnout in Detroit for Movement is a testament to. And if there’s one thing I was reassured of in Detroit, it’s the same thing that is etched into the runout groove on MG-046: “Technology may move forwards, but vinyl will never die…”

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.