#008: White Fitness Freaks
or this column of Beatz, we’ve got Cameron Octigan telling us about his discovery of Italo Disco in San Francisco, Michael F. Gill on one of the best DJs from The Netherlands, new reviews of Alden Tyrell, Tim Paris, Justice, Tiefschwarz, and the latest joints from Kompakt, DFA, and Border Community.
Nobody I know ever saw Larry Levan. But can you really separate him from the Paradise Garage? I mean, the club unexpectedly closed in 1987, and Larry battled drug abuse until 1992 when everything finally caught up with him … so his personal history was always distinct from the club, and the era. And as much as he did as a DJ, everybody can agree that a movement is never about any one person. Either way, because I’ll never see him spin, and I’ll never be clubbing at the Garage back in the 80’s, all I can do is try to understand what happened and try to appreciate it.
The spirit of what it is that I, in an incredibly limited personal sense, appreciate about that place and time is alive and well. Not just in some metaphysical sense, but in my own city: San Francisco.
Notoriously secretive about where he finds his art, typically 70’s gay porno, and endearingly pure about his motives, DJ Bus Station John has been all the rage on the internet for about the last month. Why? Well, anyone who can supply big screen b-boy projections, cheap drinks, early electro rarities, legit italo tracks, funky disco, and danceable champagne soul can find at least one person, in a room packed with people losing their shit, to go home and spread the word.
My first encounter with him was at a club called Aunt Charlie’s Lounge in the Tenderloin District for a weekly event called Tubesteak Connection. Anyone who has lived, or had an extended stay, in San Francisco knows that the Tenderloin is the neighborhood where sex workers battle pimps and the marginalized heroes of yesteryear beg for change and cigarettes. Even if you have a car, taking a cab is a good idea.
After paying my three bucks, I walk in to a small, dimly red lit room full of drinks clanking, Munich Machine posters, vintage gay porn flickering on a television, and shirtless men dancing to their heart’s content. To me, Aunt Charlie’s isn’t a dingy gay bar downtown, it’s one of the only places that I’ve been where you can hear serious early dance music without any sense of self-seriousness. There’s no retro value in any of the mash-ups, because there are none. Bus Station’s style is simply classic to classic via the fade. It’s all about track selection, not the DJ’s ego,
Well versed in all of the relevant Mutant Disco, I-Robots, and countless Italo Disco compilations, I was floored by Bus Station. By the end of the night, and several very strong and inexpensive drinks later, I went home recognizing only one song: ‘Lectric Warriors’ “Robot Is Systematic.” But the thing about it all was not that he just played random twenty five cent finds off of Prelude Records or TSR, but that every song was amazing … each one better than the last. First Choice, Invisible Man’s Band, Carol Hahn, Fascination, Gina and the Felixix, and Aural Exciters sit next to ‘Lectric Warriors as the night’s token “oh-yeah-you-obviously-know-this” tracks. Um, we do?
But more than anything, it’s about the music and the energy. It’s not about obscurity, or DJ worship, it’s about the way that he works the crowd and the environment. On one hand, the nights are definitely about hooking-up. After all, each event is at a gay club with porno on both the flyers and the projection screens. And I don’t want to ignore that aspect of Bus Station’s nights. I don’t want to gloss over the subcultural context and simply opt for the commodification of someone else’s culture. But on the other hand, each event has a certain honesty, a certain what-you-see-is-what-you-get, about it that would prevent scenesters from ever completely infiltrating. And honestly, DJ Bus Station John doesn’t seem like the sort of guy who’s going to sell out his crowd for a shot in the Cobra Snake or Last Night’s Party. When you’re at one of his parties, you definitely get the feeling that you are in his world, and you’re welcome there but it’s not about you, or even him for that matter. Bus Station seems to embody everything that I can only speculate about the Paradise Garage: movement, energy, a safe community, and fun. Put down the black hair dye and grab your dancing shoes.
Alden Tyrell - Times Like These (1999-2006)
Label/Catalog #: Clone / C#cd7
Released: May 2006
As one of the first producers to return to the sounds that made up early Italo-disco Alden Tyrell was one of the few modern artists to feature on I-F’s influential Mixed Up in the Hague, the mix which sent diggers to the crates to scrabble for previously dismissed early-80s electronic disco and producers to their equipment to try to recreate it. Times Like These gathers on CD some of the best of his past work and a few new tracks. Tyrell’s post–house and techno take on Italo is trackier, more explicitly electro dance-floor functional than the trashy, wannabe commercial originals but still works best when it retains at least vestigial attachment to song form. On “Love Explosion 05,” a vocal rework of a track from ’99, old school Italoid Fred Ventura emotes soft-rock sweet nothings over filtered white-noise snares and hi-hats. It sounds as cheap as the sentiment. The other vocal guest, Nancy Fortune, brings the over-enunciated second language English to the motorik space dust of “La Voix.” “Knockers” compares and contrasts the ever-present synth arpeggios with cyclic tom tom rolls and fills. I ad-lib lyrics about being a sultry time-travelling space woman over the Liaisons Dangereuses percussion of “Phaze Me” but that’s only in the privacy of my own room. You might just want to dance instead; I strongly recommend it.
A Beatz by the Pound Roundtable Review
Shit Robot - Wrong Galaxy
Label/Catalog #: DFA/EMI / 1256
Released: April 2006
Mallory O’Donnell: How the DFA have taken such an immediately identifiable sound and worked upon it in so many different satisfying ways is a great mystery for me, but this is another new single from them that refashions the familiar into the shimmeringly fresh. The A-side and title track is great enough, calling all the old ghosts of EBM and New Beat out to dance on the floor, spinning 'round with them, then finally laying them to rest with a vintage synth stab. B-side "Triumph," on the other hand, is exactly that. Sounding like they've been smoking some of Lindstrom's killer space disco dust, Shit Robot evoke old and new, everything and nothing in particular with seven-plus minutes of wonky joy. Vintage synthesizer sounds abound, but it's really the faded chorus of "you got it..." wandering around underneath the beat that sells me on this track. The bastard lovechild of Gonzalaz & Russom's "Rise (DFA Remix)" and the Juan Maclean.
Nate De Young: If there’s been an emphasis of slowing down tempo recently, then Shit Robot’s “Triumph” might be best bastard concoction of the current bump’n’grind. Playing b-side to “Wrong Galaxy”’s electro-and-beyond, “Triumph” is the stunning slow jam, gently releasing cosmo-synths into the horizon. Underneath it all are DFA-trademarked cowbells and handclaps, coupled with a fuzz-pop guitar line and “In-a-Gadda-Vidda” floor-toms that gently ease you into the stoned realm between dance and rock. Although you could call it an anthem, “Triumph” will probably soundtrack more road-trips than Ibiza-trips—making the end chants of “you got the Earth” hypnotically streak past like street lights in the middle of the night.
A Beatz by the Pound Roundtable Review
Tiefschwarz feat. Tracey Thorn - Damage
Label/Catalog #: Fine / Four Music / 010
Released: May 2006
Mallory O’Donnell: How we've gotten four singles deep into Eat Books is beyond me. The sub-Sarah McLachlanisms of "Damage" certainly provide no answer. The "Dub Mix" at least brings in some more interesting sonics, clattering drums and sinister echoes liven up the track, but then those accursed vocals drop back in and we're back in the acid-house Starbucks. M.A.N.D.Y. bring both a vocal and dub mix to the plate, and guess which one I prefer? Sounding a bit horror for the disco and a bit dancey for the bug-out, we at last have something that twists the track into some interesting shapes, but not yet enough to entice the listener (if they've made it this far) to fork over their hard-earned Euros.
Mogg Man Band redeems this one from the trashpile. Concocting a live band backdrop, they take us from the coffee shop to the dancefloor—a warm, two-minute buildup, some plinky guitar and enough swaddling draped around the vocal to keep it from intruding. Then the beat drops and we focus on the one non-throwaway line—"music is a lonely place"—before heading into jam land. It’s Buick Project that understands the brothers' intent better than they did themselves: they scuzz and tweak the mix, delivering a combination of diva house and spastic funk that actually sounds proper rather than forced.
Ronan Fitzgerald: So what do you do when you’re stuck in the tiny gap between electrohouse and minimal? You hire other people who are more gracefully skipping through said gap to remix your single! Enter M.A.N.D.Y. with a typical M.A.N.D.Y. remix; that is to say, rather low key but decent quality deep electronic house, with a nice Garnier/Sanderson bassline. The truth is Tiefschwarz’s own gothy, metallic dub outdoes M.A.N.D.Y, but sadly it’s only a little evocative of the days when Tiefschwarz outdid everybody. Elsewhere Buick Project and the Mogg Man Band continue the overly polite theme for this 12. You had one nice but overly retro deep houser; now have 5!
Margot Meets the Melody Maker - Torch
Label/Catalog #: Great Stuff / 027
Released: April 2006
Great Stuff continues to fly the flag for good maximalist electrohouse even if at this point the entire genre is in danger of drowning in a sea of Scandinavian Metallica remixes. Though in the recent past, fairly naff releases have been polished by the likes of Williams and Tobias Luetzenkirchen. This time around it’s Border Community’s Extrawelt remixing yet another forgettable original by Margot. They come up with a spaced-out melancholy groove which seems to suggest that we’re past a point of no return; where once these progressive house refugee producers were apologising for how they really feel with sonic nods to electro, now they are proudly strutting down the street to the gym safe in the knowledge that house music is once again dominated by white fitness freaks.
Superpitcher / Stardiver - Speicher 35
Label/Catalog #: Kompakt Extra / 035
Released: May 2006
Superpitcher re-emerges from the shadows with “Enzian,” a pretty, slow burning piece of emo-house which sounds like label-mate DJ Koze crossed with Border Community. For a producer who has created some of the best electronic records of the current era it’s a bit of a disappointment, in that it seems to fall into that weird “listening techno” vortex that has swallowed up all of Kompakt apart from K2 lately. You can’t escape the sense that the dub:techno ratio Kompakt operate on is really out of sync with the rest of dance music at the moment; so many sticky unlovable, unplayable releases. Stardiver’s “Borderline” on the other hand has some kind of kick to it, sounding a little like something off Silent Shout; but the truth is both tracks here are more pleasant than essential.
Ricardo Villalobos - Que Belle Epoque 2006
Label/Catalog #: Frisbee Tracks / 067
Released: March 2006
Such is the cult around Ricardo Villalobos that he is being called upon to re-release his own early records due to popular demand. Here, he gently massages his hard-to-find 2000 single on Frisbee Tracks and neither dramatically improves upon it nor ruins it. Blasphemy avoided, then, but considering that the flip (“Lazer @ Present”) wasn’t remixed at all, if you were fortunate enough to get this the first time out, you certainly don’t need this version unless you are a member of said Villalobos cult. If you missed it (as most of us did), you are in for a treat: bubbling bass and percussion, funky handclaps, and one of those trademarked Villalobos dub-style arrangements that drifts in and out of itself for more than ten minutes without getting old.
69 - Pungtang
Label/Catalog #: Planet E Classics / 65284-1
Released: April 2006
Carl Craig has been on a remixing roll of late (check his recent mixes of Theo Parrish and Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom for evidence), and now he checks in with a four-tracker of killers under his long-dormant 69 guise under his Planet E Classics imprint. The good news is that the rare-as-hen’s-teeth “Pungtang” is finally available again, in two stomping, twisting versions, no less. The bad news is that the other two tracks are a slightly tweaked “Unreleased Mix” of “Sub Seducer” (it’s good and has a fabulous loping bass guitar part, but is also a bit slower than the original), and the original mix of the utterly immortal breakbeat monster “Desire,” both of which are a decade old. Thankfully, all four tracks are classic Craig, their percussive, slightly disco-fied sheen still sounding like they could bring a club down around your ears, especially the filtered, funky, “Pungtang.” Spoiler alert: wait until the horns come in. Oh shit.
Rhythm & Sound - SMY Remixes #2
Label/Catalog #: Burial Mix / BMX-2
Released: March 2006
The legendary Berlin dub-techno imprint continues the three-track remix single series in style. First up, François K.’s drum and bass mix of “Lightning Storm” goes down a treat with a full vocal and a killer drop in the middle (and again near the end) that really works up to a lather. How did that genre die again? This mix alone has restored my faith in the idea. Anyway, the flip features Soundstream taking on “Free for All” in late-night house mode, recalling some classic sides by Masters at Work, and “Let Jah Love Come” is given the super-mellow, spacey treatment by Sweet Substance. Coming up in volume 3: Hallucinator, Sleeparchive, and Vainqueur. Yum.
Telex - How Do You Dance (Remixes)
Label/Catalog #: EMI Belgium / 358999
Released: April 2006
Another Telex single? Funky. Though I've never bought M83's whole bag, I have to love the crazy filter Eurohouse freakout he turns the chorus of "How Do You Dance" into. Unfortunately, this is alternated by periods of extreme stillness, and it's killing my high the way Depeche Mode always did with "Blasphemous Rumours." Unfortunate, too, since some lovely slurring fuzzbox sounds make their way into the final refrain. Luckily, Telex themselves are here to save the day with their own remix... or are they? Playing the tech-house angle, the results are worthy of some head-nodding, but the action never really builds. The Subs "Dirty Dancing" remix flattens out the bumps for the late-night discotheque floor, and I'm beginning to see the light. Swerving the fizzy wall of synths from the first mix around a stompin' beat, we can finally answer the titular question in the positive—"I dance like this!" Given my inveterate love of all things Gomma, you'd think I would slather some positive attention on the "Tomboy Remix." You'd be right! Although it doesn't explode an all-out blissbomb, it certainly gets the job done in slinky, sultry fashion. Taking the less-techno, more-disco route suggested by the Subs version, Tomboy gets a freaky polyrhythmic thing going that is the most distinctive and danceable variation provided here. A truly mind-melting remix, however, will have to wait for someone who can splice the best elements of each version together into one colossal mega-mix.
Tekel & Tim Paris - Marketel & Marketim
Label/Catalog #: Marketing Music / 003
Released: April 2006
Beginning his Marketing Music label with one of the most instantly catchy electronic tracks of 2005, Tim Paris’ “Edges of Corrosion” defied simple name-dropping, despite a cache of vogue cowbells, splashes of Metro Area, and more than a passing resemblance to Villalobos’ Waiworinao-guitar hook. In comparison, the third single on the label begins with delayed clicks, vague sonar blips, and tempered ‘rubbery’ bassline and drops “Marketel” in the underwhelming realm of tech-house. But Tekel and Tim Paris use the track as a blurred starting point, eventually revealing the bassline as buoyant—like an ever-accelerating balloon. What’s more, the backbeat and layer of shimmer spirals the song into control—providing the anti-keta-dote for the mentally exhausted.
[Nate De Young]
Justice - Waters of Nazereth
Label/Catalog #: Ed Banger Records / 5060107720077
Released: May 2006
Here’s a handy six track UK CD that combines one of the biggest records of 2005 with a brace of remixes (there’s also a 12” issue with just the new tracks.) I’m sure that most people reading this are aware of the original “Waters of Nazareth”—house music that’s been backspun then kaleidoscopically chopped, compressed and digitally distressed until it’s less le French touch, more le French punch. Justice and Feadz new take splits it into disassociative shards of crappy beat-box, bass drops, and mobile phone siren, before becoming more four-to-the-floor than they’ve ever been for, oh, fifty seconds at least. Erol Alkan’s ‘remix and re-edit’ (choose one or the other, you can’t do both) is more spacious, playing up drum hooks and church organ. Except for the DJ Funk mix, standard booty biz that fucks the flow, this sounds like one long track, such is the homogenising power of the ever-present distortion.
The Lotterboys - Animalia
Label/Catalog #: Eskimo / 501505
Released: May 2006
Combine Terranova with Paris the Black Fu from the Detroit Grand Pubahs and what do you get? In their own words “electrofunkypunkrockband” (oh god) The Lotterboys. What else do you get? Tremolo-ed live guitar, punk funk bass, block party disco breaks, overdriven snare clatter, and chopped trumpet samples—which at its worst sounds like the oft-threatened return of big beat or, when Paris’ vocals come in, outtakes from Fatboy Slim’s deeply unfunky Freakpower project. Occasionally it works; “Star Whores” pool hall crack and swagger and the Dirtbombs-like garage punk of “Wired and Tired” convince and, most unexpectedly, sparks happen on a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” where lead-boot syncopation meets “It’s the Joint” drum rolls. Princess Superstar provides the “Death Valley 69” backing moans. But aside from everything else, how you get on with this album will be determined by your tolerance for Paris’ wobbly loverman pastiche baritone and his love of puns. Sometimes he replaces the word fuck with funk. It’s that type of album.
Chromatics - Nite
Label/Catalog #: Troubleman Unlimited / 171
Released: April 2006
Chromatics make drowsiness erotic at “Nite.” It makes perfect sense; life after 2 a.m. is when the lovin’ starts and when future child custody battles begin. Adam Miller and Lena Okazaki have clearly studied Italo and the DFA songbook. The innovation is Okazaki’s delivery—her vocals were reportedly recorded right after she awoke from a nap. Unfortunately, the music is rubbing its eyes too—the mid-tempo disco rhythm takes too long to pick-up and the choppy harpsichord-synth melodies are too light and unremarkable. B-side, “The Guest” doesn’t fare much better—Miller sounds like a pathetic stalker over a Remain in Light rip. It’s “Glass Slipper” that’s the payoff. Here the Cinderella myth is recast: the heroine is now chasing her prince in the night like a predator. A classic disco high-hat hypnotizes, while a dirty electro vocoder narrates the tale. A kitschy, but rather sinister synth line straight out of a giallo flick introduces and ends the tension. Here’s hoping that the Chromatics are more Dario Argento than James Murphy on their upcoming album, Shining Violence.
Lazy Fat People – Big City
Label/Catalog #: Border Community / 11
Released: April 2006
Border Community’s latest 12” offerings from Fairmont and, now, Lazy Fat People seem to be veering closer to the ambient side of the spectrum, allowing tracks to glide far longer than shoulda-been three minute running times to near-interminable six- and seven-minute bores. So you might say, if you only heard the A-side of Lazy Fat People’s debut entry into the label’s catalogue. But then comes the spellbinding “Dark Water,” which has received play in all corners of the techno world (including even John Digweed’s KISS FM show). That track never quite reaches the heights of Nathan Fake’s world-beating “The Sky Was Pink,” but the molasses-stretched static, pound-turns-into-plod house beat, and Knife-esque congo melody-drums turn it into a whole ‘nother beast entirely, with the Sleeparchive-esque sonar meltdown providing the cherry on top.
Kano - Don't Try to Stop Me
Label/Catalog #: Mirage / 311
Kano's second album, New York Cake was a bit of a sop to the mainstream disco world. Having created one of the essential Italodisco LP’s with their eponymous debut, Kano toned down the spacey, instrumental portions of their sound and went for a more R&B; feel—resulting in some awkward moments and a few successes. "Don't Try to Stop Me" is the anomaly. Combining the alien black leather funk of the first record with all the sprightly downtownisms of New York Cake, it's truly a lost classic. The vocoder-lace vocal reciting the title like a raison d'etre spars with an earnest line "I must go, so let me go" and a memorable heroic synth lead. My friends, we cannot be stopped from knocking down the walls and proceeding directly to Euroheaven.
Despite being a highly prolific and innovative DJ, remixer, engineer, and producer for the last two decades, Ben Liebrand still flies under the radar outside of his native country, The Netherlands. Inside, though, Liebrand made his name as the mastermind behind the 1983 radio show "In the Mix," on local station Radio Veronica. It’s often cited as one of the first radio shows to feature non-stop mixing/beat-matching. These mixes, and the radio station, often also exclusively presented Liebrand's own remixes and re-edits throughout the 80s.
From 1983-1992 Liebrand produced a year-end "Grandmix," for Veronica, which whittled down nearly one hundred tracks to one hour of music. Sure, this idea of the "megamix" has practically become cliché over the years, but if you've ever been lucky to hear one of Liebrand's grandmixes (they were never released, although radio copies are often bootlegged and traded) it's a thrill to hear how he well he blends thirty second snippets of underground disco, italo, house, and hi-nrg with such mainstream hits by George Michael and INXS. Trevor Jackson (aka Playgroup) recently tried to something similar with his erratic Party Mix but that release lacks the sheer minute focus of Liebrand's mixes, which, over the course of the hour, painted an accurate picture of what that year sounded like. For those interested in seeing what those pictures looked like, there’s a highly detailed Dutch fansite which has a listing of most of his playlists.
Nowadays, he has finally dipped into the world of commercially available mix CDs, and is selling them through his website. Highly recommended is his unmixed “Grand 12 Inches” series, a great primer of full-length disco classics and obscurities.
[Michael F. Gill]
Sparks - Tryouts for the Human Race (Kafka Re-edit)
Currently available as a free download from DJ Kafka's website, this re-edit of a track from Sparks’ Moroder-produced album No. 1 In Heaven proves that buoyant, beefy Italo knows no national boundaries. Homing in on the classic oscillators and the "let us outta here" chorus, Kafka diverts the slightly clunky post-disco feel of the original into a sleeker and more (dare I say it) modern beast. Sparks and Italo both deserve a Renaissance, but it's the lost art of the re-edit that really needs re-investigation. Taking nothing more than the original released version of a track, one can easily, as Kafka's done here, take a workable or decent track and cut and paste its prime moments (or those of a number of versions of the track) into something that rocks out whatever kink your particular dancefloor gets off on. Considering the ready availability of track-editing software, what once took hours of laborious tape-splicing is now just a click or two away. Get on it people!
In The Mix: Todd Burns
01: In Flagranti – Genital Blue Room
02: 3 Channels - Amnesia 03: Thomas Schumacher – Red Purple
04: Donato Dozzy & Say DJ - Tutto Negativo
05: Margot Meets the Melody Maker - Torch
06: Röyksopp - Beautiful Day Without You (Wighnomy And Robag Whruhmes Spekkfakkel Remikks)
07: Trick & Kubic - Easy (Niekisch & Hermann Mix)
08: Soylent Green - (Track 01 from the forthcoming La Forca del Destino LP)
09: Ziggy Kinder - Genussmaterial
Sten - Third Season
Todosantos - Bahia
Shit Robot - Triumph
Telex - How Do You Dance (Tomboy Remix)
Lindstrom & Prins Thomas - En Dag I Mai
Trussel - Love Injection
Stephanie Mills - You Can Get Over
Ashford & Simpson - Street Corner
Steadycam - Knock-Kneed
Anja Schneider - Lily of the Valley
Tabula Rasa - Argon
Dada Life - Bigtime (Linus Loves Mix)
Eyerer and Chopstick - Electric (Williams Mix)
Booka Shade - Movements
I-Robots - Spacer Frau (Boys Noize Mix)
Dash Dude - Revenge of the Nerd (Argy Mix)
M.A.N.D.Y.- Jah (Jona Mix)
Tiga - Essential Mix (Radio 1)
Clashing Egos – Aminjig Nebere (I Trust You) (Joakim's Afrobot mix)
Daft Punk – Burnin’
Double Vision – Clock on the Wall
First Choice – Double Cross
In Flagranti – Genital Blue Room
Luomo – What Good
Matt John – Perlon
Plastikman – Spastik
The Rice Twins – For Penny and Alexis
Skyy – Let’s Turn It Out
Troy Pierce - 25 Bitches (Too Many Bitches Makeover)
69 - Pungtang (Original)
Two Lone Swordsmen - Glide-By Shooting
808 State - Pacific 313
Adam Kroll - Squonk
James Cotton - T-Y-O-C Painkillers (2 AM/FM Remix)
Matt John - Hawaii You
Espiritu - Conquistador (Sabres of Paradise No. 3 Mix)
Linton Kwesi Johnson - Inglan Is a Bitch
Rhythm & Sound - Free for All (Soundstream Remix)
Michael F. Gill
V/A - Studio One Soul
Yello - Forward Pussy Cat
Sunbelt - Spin It
Lime - You’re My Magician
Extras - Haven't Been Funked Enough (Instrumental)
Sly Mongoose - Snakes & Ladder (Rub N Tug Mix)
Avril - French Kiss
Petter - All Together
Paul Nazca – Verdure
Terrence Dixon – Detroit City Lights
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-05-05