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.
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.
Similar to the interlaced fabric that the title encourages, MESH is a new queer party contributing to the creative network of Pittsburgh’s dance community. Deeply inspired by Hot Mass at home and other queer parties abroad, Chad Beisner and Dov Fischer established their event to provide another safe place for music and freedom of expression.
They met during the very beginning of their college years at film school. Fischer says, “We met in freshman orientation at Point Park University and I skipped out to go out to a club and dance and came back the next morning covered in glitter and a total mess, so they walked up to me and the rest is history.”
As Pittsburgh natives they both share a passion for music and an appreciation for places that encourage creativity. Fischer says they have “always had a deep love for music, dancing, and positive creative spaces in general! I grew up listening to all different types of music from disco to punk and my love for dance music derived from that.”
Beisner, who also DJs as ChadKid, started exploring dance music in high school. “I eventually bought a controller for my laptop and started DJing at my friends’ high school parties. At the time I wasn’t really exposed to techno music at all and was playing R&B edits and disco. When I first started to go out when I was in college, Hot Mass was one of the first places Dov ever dragged me to. That place really sparked my interest in techno and more underground electronic music. Without them I don’t know what I even be doing right now.”
Pittsburgh’s local dance scene has been growing significantly over the past several years. Although ripe with events at Hot Mass, they still have a small scene compared to other cities. Too many promoters in these environments can cause a competitive atmosphere and a dilution of quality, but MESH is on more of a symbiotic mission.
“Our city as a whole has been growing like crazy lately. And after being in our amazing scene and community of queers and music heads we have here in Pittsburgh, I’ve been able to see it grow as well over the past couple years. Dov and I have been wanting to start our own party for a while now, and we’ve done a couple of smaller things in the past that went well,” Besiner says. “But now the city is at a point where we have room for more than one queer techno party without it seeming like competition, so we figured now would be the perfect time to step in. It’s been great to be able to book and showcase artists that I love and give them a space to show off their talents to the rest of this amazing city.”
Fischer adds that the creation of MESH is to provide another safe place for queer freedom and visibility. With Hot Mass and some local bars there are certainly spaces already established, they say, “but there can never be enough.”
It’s also important to note that their party differs from Hot Mass in many ways. MESH is not an after hours party, which has a prominent impact on the overall atmosphere. Besiner explains, “I think there’s a lot that’s fundamentally different about our party from Mass for sure. And not that Mass/Honcho is doing anything wrong, quite the opposite, but we just wanted to create a different kind of queer party. Our parties aren’t all nighters and there’s no spaces for sex. Not that those are bad things but they can definitely create a different kind of dance floor vibe at a party. After traveling some last summer and going to parties like In Training in Cleveland and Jarvi’s Acid Daddy parties in Chicago, I was inspired to create a party with a similar vibe to those.”
Liberation through dress, dance and sound that can be found at these parties and within Club Pittsburgh is also welcomed for those who attend MESH. “Hot Mass is like a second home for me, I’m so grateful that I can be part of this amazing community and be a part of amazing events. MESH is very much inspired by the community Hot Mass has created. Hot Mass is a space where anyone can be who they are,” Fischer says. “Trust me I’ve worn some crazy shit there and all I got was love. MESH is another one of those spaces where we want everyone to express their true selves and showcase artistry of all queer people no matter where they came from or where they are going. Like I said before, there can never be too many queer spaces.”
Often adorned in mesh fabric, Beisner and Fischer developed a signature look. They decided to title their party after their favorite breathable dancing material, only to find the poetic parallels revealed as the event transpired. “As we thought about it more the better and better it worked. Mesh is breathable and unisex fabric and we like to think of our party as breathable and unisex too. Comfortable and accessible to everyone from all areas of the queer spectrum,” Beisner says.
Queer parties play such an important role in the music scene on a global level. These parties collectively work to not only shape the scene at large but also have a major impact for local communities by providing a space of acceptance where there is freedom to just be yourself.
“I think queer focus and visibility is important in any scene. Often times trans, non-binary, and just queer people in general are pushed out of scenes which sucks because there are so many amazing artists that can’t showcase their work. One of the main goals of MESH is to showcase these amazing artists.” – DOV FISCHER
Beisner adds, “Queers throw the best parties! I think all the queer people I know in our music scene are doing the most interesting things. And a good queer party will draw in people who might not be too into the music and turn them into someone obsessing over it. I know several people that Honcho has done that for, including myself. I’m sure all these other amazing parties have done the same for many others.”
MESH launched on April 28 at Cattivo, a bar and venue in Lawrenceville. Beisner provided opening duties prior to headliner Shane Christian, who DJs as Kiernan Laveaux. Not only is she an advocate for queer and trans rights, and co-creator of Cleveland’s In Training parties, but she is a growing name in the techno community, especially after her performance during this year’s Club Toilet and Industry Brunch parties in Detroit.
They both share responsibilities for the event. Beisner focuses on booking and wrangling the music and lighting equipment while Fischer handles budgeting, venue and space decoration. When the night of the event arrives their friends collaborate to lend helping hands. “It does overlap and we work together to find great spaces and artists. We are also lucky enough to have amazing friends that jump at the opportunity to help set up, work the door, and much more. It would be impossible without them,” Fischer says.
Barring the space being just a little too big, the evening was a success. Fischer says, “Our event at Cattivo was great! The turnout was lovely. The only downside was that the space was huge! It’s hard to fill a room that big. The staff at Cattivo was very accommodating and great! They welcomed us techno weirdos with open arms. Shane’s set was amazing! She is such a talented DJ and it was such a honor to have her play our first party!” Beisner agrees that their first event went smoothly and free of any problems. Venue hunting is tough in Pittsburgh, especially when looking for an underground spot that is also the perfect energy for a queer-friendly environment. Fischer continues, “Finding a space is difficult no matter where you are, I find. Pittsburgh has very strict liquor laws and that can be a bit of a challenge especially with after-hours parties. For now, having a non-after hours party is great. People are often intimidated by after hours so while we build a following, this is perfect. We would love to find a space to settle in monthly but for now we are still on the search!”
“We want to build a very strong sense of community and a good vibe of queer friends dressing up and having a good drunken time on the dance floor together to music they love. That’s what we are hoping to bring to Pittsburgh with this party.” – CHAD BEISNER
Beisner agrees on the difficulty found while scouting locations. “It has definitely been the hardest part of organizing this party. All the existing gay/queer spaces are not fit for any kind of party like this, and some of the spaces that are aren’t necessarily the safest places for queer people … We aren’t opposed to staying in one place, but definitely are always on the lookout for new and interesting places. We wanna keep it fresh and expose people to new spaces in the city as well. Also we really wanna do a poolside day party, so if anyone has any leads on that please contact us,” they say with a laugh.
Finding The Glitter Box Theater for their next installation of MESH is a dream come true space, they say. Hailing from Chicago on June 30 will be Jarvi, and opening will be a live set from local duo A&L. Beisner says, “This time the space is gonna be perfect I think. Glitterbox is this multi-use queer art space that just opened recently, it’s the perfect size for us and it will be great to have it in an actual queer owned space instead of a bar. We are bringing in Mike Masai’s amazing sound system that is gonna fill this space perfectly. And on top of everything this space is BYOB so it will be easy and cheap for everyone to get drunk and get dancing.”
Jarvi is a non-binary artist prominently known in Chicago’s underground queer house and techno scene. Among the Naughty Bad Fun Collective crew they can be found putting on parties at Smartbar for Planet Chicago, and also on their own endeavor hosting Acid Daddy’s Haus of Diesel at Berlin Nightclub. Opening the evening will be Pittsburgh’s A&L, a live collaborative performance of raw techno from Alexis Icon and Andre.
“We are so excited for Jarvi! The Glitterbox Theater is more of an art space while Cattivo was a bar. The set-up of Glitterbox is a little more our style and it’s BYOB which is always great,” Fischer adds. “As usual people can expect dancing, techno and lots of mesh.”
Eventually, the last track will play and the lights will come up and after everyone has gone home, Beisner and Fischer will be planning another event. Although anyone who throws parties does so for their own unique drive, there is always a common reason to do so: community.
Fischer says they throw parties because it allows them to “see my friends and community come together and just have an amazing time is enough cause to do it. Seeing people dance and show off their music, fashion, art, makeup, etc. is so amazing to me. I really just love to have a good time!”
Beisner adds, “Ultimately I just wanna throw a party where everyone can have a good time, feel safe, get exposed to some new music, and simultaneously create a space where my favorite DJs can play in my city. I wanted to expand on our already amazing scene here and create a place to dance that is welcoming to everyone. To look out at the crowd during a party and seeing everyone have a good time and dancing is the reason I do it. Putting an event together is more stressful than you imagine before you do it, but the end result is always worth it. We will also be donating proceeds to different organizations as often as we can. We donated all our proceeds from our first party to Planned Parenthood of Western PA. It’s nice to be able to make this party give back to the community.”
Keep a close eye on MESH as they continue to develop and grow in Pittsburgh.
In Central London sits Savile Row, a street lined with tailors who honor a history and tradition of crafting custom suits. Inspired by fashion, his dream destination, and the manner of the craft, Gianpaolo Dieli applies a similar bespoke integrity to his life in music as a DJ and producer. He resides in Chicago and is known by his alias, Savile.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by clothing. In many ways, fashion inspires me to write music as much as anything else in my life,” he says. “My core ideal of a DJ is one who reacts in the given moment, who is ‘tailoring’ their performance, music, etc., to those in the room and situation at hand. I adopted this name as a reminder, in some way, that I should be making it up as I go along.”
Applying this philosophy to many other aspects of his life – with the ever changing ups, downs and in-betweens – Dieli has navigated so with a passionate and exploratory heart.
Michigan born he was raised by a matriarch in an old farmhouse in Sturgis, a factory town just 10 minutes from the border of Indiana. Brought up by his grandmother and mother, two generations of Italian immigrants, he says his home life was one of comfort and safety.
“Looking back, I was terribly fortunate to be raised in an open-minded household smack-dab in the center of a conservative Christian hotbed. I was surrounded by intolerance of all forms as a kid, and as a result my childhood was fraught with bullying and quite difficult when outside the home. My taste in music and personal style made me what you could call an outcast and I was fairly unliked by my peers until the tail-end of my high school years,” he says. “My mother had an idea to send me to summer camp when I was eight or nine, hoping that would provide me with some male role models as a fatherless child. What she didn’t expect was the great cultural discovery that would happen at the hands of camp counselors from all walks of life and countries across the world. Here, I discovered my first musical love – underground hip hop, and my musical experimentation and desire to create began in earnest.”
With a background in graphic design he originally planned to go to art school for college but his passion for music prevailed. He says, “I stepped back from design after realizing I couldn’t continue to learn and grow in music with the same intensity while still creating quality, thoughtful design.” This endeavor also proved difficult as he lacked the proper resources. Additionally, there were several other factors that came into play and diverted Dieli’s path toward art school. “I spent a year after high school kicking up dust in my small town, and ended up getting arrested for a drug offense as I was going through my application process,” he says. Since misdemeanor drug charges affect eligibility for financial aid, he decided to take a costly plea deal with probation and counseling. “This, coupled with the fact that I could only rely on loans for whatever wasn’t covered by scholarships and grants (I didn’t get enough), led me to do some hard math and realize I’d be leaving school massively in debt with a major that was quickly becoming over-saturated,” he continues. In order to survive he picked up a full-time position as a cook.
By 2010 he made the move to Chicago where he started working long nights in restaurant kitchens and even went through a brief period of unemployment. Although months spent without work was a challenging period, he says it was “one that afforded a surplus of reflection, discovery, mistakes, and a lot of growing up that I sorely needed.”
First and foremost he moved in the pursuit of music. He did his research and began connecting himself to Smartbar, other clubs and undergrounds in the city. He says, “I made a list of folks in the scene I wanted to meet and started going out as frequently as I was able to. I felt it was important to me to make my presence known as a dancer and patron first and foremost. I was fortunate to meet a few supportive friends who took chances on me as a new DJ, and I started playing around the city shortly after I moved in 2010.”
Yet he remembers vividly when he first started discovering house and techno. His earliest memory of dance music ventures back to a program called Electric Circus, a live Canadian dance program which aired on MuchMusic.
“I had very little connection with [dance music] besides an interest in ‘city life’ and the dancing on the show. Embarrassingly enough, the ‘stand out’ moment in cementing my interest in dance music is tied to Hot Topic, everyone’s favorite mall goth outpost,” he says. “Daft Punk’s ‘Around The World’ was playing one day as I was at the local mall and I was transfixed by the repetition in the chorus. I sung the hook for weeks, at that time not having Internet at home or any local music stores, until I convinced my mom to buy the CD for me weeks later. I can remember standing in my yard with my Discman in my pocket, raking leaves, and daydreaming about the world of sounds in the intro to ‘Revolution 909’. Was that a club? A house party? Who were these people?”
Eventually he would discover those places and those people. On floors he would become one of those dancers and in the booth he would be the person playing that grooving music that he fell in love with. Not to mention, he would become an active player in creating those sounds.
He began releasing tracks in 2010 followed by a 2012 release on Amadeus Records, which relishes the musically unorthodox. Later that year he partnered with Jason Garden (aka Olin) to put out the Horizon EP on Wazi Wazi Music and then Thanks, Karl on Argot in 2015. Karl, he says, was a bouncer at Smartbar “and became a beloved gatekeeper figure of our home club.”
Steve Mizek is Dieli’s closest friend, DJ partner and founder of Chicago-based record label Argot. The two not only can be found performing side-by-side but also work together to put records out through the label and sub-label Tasteful Nudes.
“Argot exists to showcase American Dance Music in it’s many forms. The sub-label, Tasteful Nudes, celebrates talent outside the U.S. Steve has been a crucial ear and support system for years and his taste has helped shape many of my records,” Dieli says. “We started DJing together in the summer of 2013, and after a few years growing closer as collaborators, Steve asked me to come on board to help manage the label with him at the beginning of 2016. Managing a vinyl label has been humbling, to say the least. The market is unpredictable, the trends swift and the payoff is self-made. Trying to find special ways to share the stories of our artists and their music has been a wonderful challenge in the last year. We are coming up on our fifth anniversary this fall, and will be commemorating with a special release and some events!”
He continues, “All my records since then have been made to present bits and pieces of the friends, parties, travel, sounds, that are happening around me.” No Sleep, Not In America, an output on Chicago’s Stripped & Chewed label, was released in 2016. Later on that year he released Share Power, a record on Argot with two tracks inspired by the present and influential Midwest techno scene. The A-side “3 Hours In The Meat Sink” is a nod to Columbus’ underground Midwest Fresh, while on the flip side “Effort Won’t Betray You” is a dedication to Cleveland’s In Training.
His work and effort has brought him into a whole new realm of experiences, including traveling to Germany to play with Mizek at Panorama Bar as well as Bar Charlie in Munich.
“My experiences as a dancer and a DJ in Europe have been peppered with realizations about the similar threads that tie the party together, no matter where you find yourself. There are certainly little peculiarities, especially in terms of stamina and programming, but ultimately the same kind of release and reckless abandon you might encounter at a party overseas can be found anywhere else, at any time, if the elements are right. In terms of Berlin specifically, I think what makes the city particularly unique to me is this layer of darkness that kind-of hovers below everything. It’s a city that’s easy to fall into completely. The party is always within reach. That sort of awareness can push crowds into a really interesting space, and I think this thread is one of the things that makes the city so alluring.”
As he continues to create his mind is inquisitive, constantly philosophizing the bigger picture and occasionally writing down sentiments of the experience in a truly vulnerable way. In a blog post from 2011 he delved into the idea of fear and how it becomes a driving force in so many aspects of our lives. In his piece he writes:
“As someone who pursues the dream, you must be prepared for the fear.
You can call it the ego, resistance, or the lizard-brain; but you must be prepared for it.
I treat my fear like a compass. it always points true north. It always points to what matters.
The stronger the fear, the closer you are to your goal.”
I asked him to expand further on this concept of fear, especially now after so much change in his life. He says, “In as far as my true fear – this is such a complex one… I think, at this moment, my most present fear is that I’m not making myself available enough to those around me. By ‘available’ I mean present in whatever capacity I’m needed in – be that support, advice, physical presence, advocacy, etc. This fear informs much of how I schedule my time, engage socially and otherwise. I have adopted many habits in the last few years geared towards sharpening my level of attention and it’s potency in any given moment. These habits guide my time spent writing music and how I DJ. My residency at Smartbar, Service, is absolutely about these themes, too. The notion of being present and flexible in support of others’ needs.”
Jason Garden, talent buyer for the Chicago club, offered Dieli an opportunity to build his own night from the ground up. The opening party for Service was held on April 29 featuring guests from the Midwest. Pittsburgh’s Tony Fairchild and ADAB, resident of Cleveland party Heaven is in You, joined Dieli in the Smartbar booth that night. The event calls to service yourself, the room and each other. The description reads: “We will set the table for conversation, interaction. Decentralizaton. A focus on us. The spectacle of an audience enjoying each other. The regal nature of a room of great friends. The curiosity of introductions. A state of play.” Inspired by his past experiences in the industry he says the evening is not only a curation of talented music but one that cultivates an atmosphere of hospitality. Smartbar was entirely transformed that night. Curtains draped from the ceiling to the floor and some tables were set with soft glowing light.
“I’m more and more convinced these days that the magic of ‘the party’ is created less by the DJ and more by those on the floor. When coupled with a young adulthood spent in the restaurant industry, Service emerged as a way to experiment with different ways of engaging a crowd. I am incredibly fortunate to have one of my close friends, Craig Gronowski, as my partner in Service. He’s an interior designer by trade and brings a level of expertise and confidence to the design process that has blown these ideas out further than I could have hoped. With Service, Craig and I endeavor to create environments where the crowd is both taken care of and challenged in equal measure – a kind of space where people feel comfortable enough to be curious and explore. These conditions, I think, will lend themselves to the kind of party you feel better walking out of than when you walked in.”
Maybe you’ll catch him playing somewhere, as he says “I’ll be playing out as much as I possibly can, with a focus on more solo outings, for as far as this ship will take me.” On the horizon Dieli will have several mixes released, the most recent put out this week through Honey Soundsystem. Additionally, he just signed a 12” to some friends in New York City which he says will span a wide range of tempos and styles.
“I’m fortunate to have a list of challenges as long as my ideas, which means more growing ahead and more experiments! As we speak, I’m working on edits for the next album to be released on Argot, the label I run with my DJ partner and brother-from-another, Steve Mizek. We’ve got a beautiful acid record from Todd Osborn coming just in time for summer, and we’ll be celebrating our five year anniversary later this year with a pair of 12” compilations and other fanfare.”
It becomes quite clear that the moniker he adorned himself with is a true reflection of who he is and the way he creates in the world. With a humble heart he works carefully and with close attention to detail. He does so honestly so to most suitably fit the form of his creation. All the while, it is apparent he walks through life gently and fully aware of the energy in motion that surrounds him.
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.
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.
This past week some friends and I took a road trip and on the way we revisited some Melbourne Deepcast mixes to pass the time. I recognized the name Arcarsenal, a group I hadn’t stayed caught up with since their first few EPs.
The car was filled with soulful and sparse percussive passages, deftly mixed. Not surprising, seeing as Alan Mathias and Etienne Dauta have been making deep house, dub techno cuts, and ambient stretches since their Brotherhood EP in 2012, released on their own Bass Cadet Records. They’ve put out eight 12”s in five years, on labels including Rue De Plaisance, Inner Balance, and Funhaus, been supported by heavy hitters like Fred P and Ben UFO, and their label’s Orbit series has had two stellar showings of choice takes by Ron Trent and Jenifa Mayanja. More than mere hobbyists, these two French natives run the Bass Cadet shop and eponymous label, while keeping their fingers in the crates and their productions increasingly thoughtful and foreword thinking. I picked up FH:03, my favorite EP of theirs and the third release from Germany’s Finest Hour Records. It may be around three years old, but it is as serene and appealing as it was on first listen, and is a great document of a group finding their sound together while pushing to stretch their limits in subtle ways.
FH:03 pays such close attention to its use of space and energy. Each song is between six and seven minutes and designed for a prolonged mix. No element here is jumpy or distracting, everything is meant to drive the floor but leave room for interpretation at both ends of the tracks. With pads both thick and thin flying over dubby percussion and skittering hats, the loosely hugging low end holds the bottom with two tired hands. Duata and Mathias let their pieces meander on the floor, only to hypnotically increase tension. Bass sinks into the mix as the loose wrist of the hi-hats tighten, revealing the slight and stepping rhythm at its core. Arcarsenal has a knack for seemingly simple production that bubbles and crowds upon repeated listens. Steady concentration and familiarity reaps the benefit of anticipation. The layers of shaved and icy percussion keep the whole affair from aimlessness. These four songs could equally fill a long car ride or the early hours in a dark club, where music is best suited to evoke moments of isolation and introspection before you reach your destination.
The opener – “Perpetual Workout” – is initially focused on flexing the core kit’s voice. Before an understated vocal sample and splashes of detuned keys drift into view, Arcarsenal gives the percussion room to breathe. The vibe is roomy and chilled, a good indication of things to come. A classic sounding dub rim claps and waves in a haze. Hats both crisp and fuzzy flick over a solid sub line that does its best to corner the bass drum’s flopping roll. At moments the cymbals slow almost to a halt as their edges are rounded and sharpened simultaneously. The male vocal sample begins by saying “I am quite aware…” in an assured tone, and it’s no wonder. “Perpetual Workout” is a great example of world building in music, where elements familiar and alien align to create a foundation for a cohesive sound across two sides.
After A1 sets the stage, earnest pads lead the way as the progression rises in “Ancient Language”. A chatty synth stutters its way around delayed chunks of thin drum fills while distant rims and bells ring out in soft slaps. The most meditative and personally affecting of the four, chunky clips of hi-hats propel the heartbeat rhythm over a sampled piano loop, caught on a note somewhere between somber and hopeful.
The B side opens with a more direct electro swagger that bolsters the most floor-ready cut on the EP. Anchored by a bouncy bass line that stalks the shoulder clapping kit “Quoth” growls but never shows its teeth. Still a heady serving, horizon length pads and some standard hi-hat work are punctuated by stuttering accents spun into distorted highs. It’s not a particularly slamming track by any means, but its disparate elements accentuate the more driving moments without veering too far from the album’s wide, swaying energy.
A determined bass line keeps the EP’s closer rolling to the end while the shining and slinky major pads of “Like Leftovers” fill the room, sticking to the edges and dripping down the walls. Soft stabs of breathy highs and a tight, cutting kit makes for a calming warmth and a perfect bookend to an EP that lets the flames flicker and lick in its dryer times, but smolders with little grit and no smoke.
So much of this album seems to spend its time in the middle of itself. The pads make the landscape; the drums, a path. You are free to walk through, taking in differing elements and briefly considering them before moving on. Like the car ride where I rediscovered this album, Arcarsenal’s FH:03 is streamlined and free of collision or rough patches. When I listen to this album now I can’t help but think of driving on the highway. When you look out the window the buildings move so slowly in the distance, the sky is flat on the horizon. The cars seem to slow next to you, matching your speed, and in that moment it seems that they stop moving completely. You can’t feel the whipping wind or see the end of the road. It’s the same in a dark crowded dance floor, in those moments where elbows are tucked but loose, hands are free, and eyes are closed. You look around, no end in sight, far from the beginning, moving so much that you almost feel completely still.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Josh Gruder lives in Buffalo with no cats or dogs. Buying records gives him such joy, while moving boxes of records into cramped apartments haunts his dreams.