Monthly Archives: April 2014

Record Watch: Tames – Vivid Elements (Galdoors – GAL004)

This big release came out last week, read on to find out just why we like it so much.

Galdoors 004

Galdoors returns for its fourth release, this time from its co-boss, Tames. Its his first release but if he hasn’t much practice in putting together good releases, you really can’t tell. The A side holds the title track and it’s a real strong opener. It’s got that melancholic melody in those synths and those rattling snares which give it a bit of structure above and beyond that subby kick. Early set, peak set, warm up set…whenever you hear this tune it would work. Check out the Until My Heart Stops mix for RA from Leif and Joe Ellis for a longer snippet and also to hear how it sounds in a mix.

The B side opens up with the more restrained feeling Episodes. It’s lighter in every way from Vivid Elements: the beat is softer, the synths less sharp and the bass notes less prominent. The EP finishes off with Squeeze, a proper acid warbler. The acid sound is made to sound fresh by being combined with hi-hats and a high pitched note which emphasises the kick as well as generous layers of reverb. We’ve all heard those acid tracks that are just a bit boring, not adding anything new to the genre, just rinsing that 303 sound. Squeeze, fortunately, is not one of these, sounding like exactly what you’d expect, but also sounding fresh and memorable at the same time.

A strong debut release on a solid label. Expect to hear this one a lot, especially the A side.

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Hoping For A Repress 05

It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these, perhaps because there’s been loads of tasty represses since the new year, from Kerri Chandler to Chez Damier, Ron Trent and Mood II Swing, to name but a few. There’s always more records that we’d love to get hold of though and so we’re back to our repress requests.

Ark & Dolibox – Be My Baby (Karat Records – KARAT 40)

Discogs Asking Price: None Available

This is a great record – collaboration of the highest order from Ark & Dolibox and probably my favourite release that either of them have put out. There was a copy on sale for £20 towards the end of last year but it’s gone now – presumably the seller realised this one’s just too good to let go. Okay yes – it’s on Beatport, but sometimes that just doesn’t cut it.

That’s on the A side. I love the way it develops from this stop start beginning into more of a roller while keeping that glitchy feel throughout. The vocals are manipulated to perfection and for most of the track there’s just that one chord breaking them up. This one sets up for the B side very nicely, hinting at a deepness that is just on the other side, but taking on more of a dancefloor filling complexion than you’d normally associate with deep house.

On the B side you get Deep At All. This one for me is a perfect blueprint for deep music – slow development, lovely detail and all kept interesting over the track’s 10 minutes +, allowing you to drift off while being kept firmly tied to the dancefloor.

The track amalgamates all sorts of disparate vocals into its patchwork and slots them beside a deep, almost dubby bassline where they sit comfortably alongside a hesitant beat, melancholic acoustic guitar, jazzy piano and the occasional string crescendo and saxophone blast. The result is that it sounds both organic and electronic with that high note every few bars keeping everything in place.

Omniverse – Venere/ Antares (Antima Records – ANT 004)

Discogs Asking Price – £16.40 – £164.16

Classic release. It sounds just as good today as (I imagine) it did in 1991.

Across both tracks jacking beats, chord stabs, bits of female American vocals and soft melodies in the background combine to create two tracks that make you think of 90s era house music. They don’t sound clichéd, tired or imitated, they just sound great. This Omniverse release has endured for over 20 years because it came before there was a formula for house music. These are the sorts of tracks that had a big part to play in shaping perceptions of how house music should sound and has been imitated countless times with never the same result.

Vinalog – Relative 002 (Relative – RTV-002)

Discogs Asking Price – £28.72 – £41.03

A great release you might recognise played by all the big names in big room techno. That doesn’t take away from it at all though – it’s everything big room techno should be: a wall of low end, a pumping beat and an eerie vibe on top of it all. None of the tracks are too fast, so you can even bring them in to a slower set than you’d usually associate for playing techno bangers. These would cut right through most of the records in my collection in a blend.

The A side boasts Military Field and The “Do” Trip. Both are guaranteed to get a reaction, especially Military Field with its frantic looped vocals. The “Do” Trip is more melodic and haunting. Just a great slab of wax to have. The B side I’ve not heard as much of, but the record is worth getting for the fantastic A side alone.

A chat with…James Priestley & Giles Smith (secretsundaze)

The summer has traditionally been the domain of secretsundaze, so just before their first UK party of the year, we sat down with James & Giles to talk shop.

It’s clear that they haven’t lost any of their enthusiasm for what it is that they do, and that they’re still very much dedicated to their craft, so we gave them a few nasty questions about the past, the future and everything in between. These are the results.

Summer looks like it’s secretsundaze’ busiest time of year. What are you most looking forward to this summer?
In terms of our UK activity, it’s definitely the busiest time of the year with events. We have 2 parties in May, 1 in July, August and September. Our next party is something we are really looking forward to on Easter Thursday at Electric Brixton, with Derrick May, Deetron, Livity Sound and Arnaldo. This should be a killer. The 2 May dates should be huge both being day and night time events over 2 locations. That has the likes of Rolando, Mosca, Joey Anderson, Wbeeza, Steffi, Martyn, A Sagittariun and Virginia amongst others. The birthday is in August on the bank holiday and we are working on announcing details of that soon. Of course we are doing some great international events too. We are touring the states in the next few weeks, we have a new 3 date residency at Tresor in Berlin and and of course our huge off Sonar party at La Terrrazza in Barcelona in June where we also do 3 dates over the year.

(Details and tickets here).

Your first event of the year features Derrick May alongside Arnaldo. How important is it to you to match these established names with the less well known DJs?

Very important really.. whilst we obviously love welcoming elder statesmen of the scene such as Derrick, and everything people such as him bring to the table, we also really like giving younger artists or ones earlier in their careers the platform to do their thing on a bigger stage. Plus for our own interests, it’s often these artists that are really turning us on as DJs or individuals – there will always be a balance of cutting edge artists alongside more established names at secretsundaze. We’ve often taken risks on breakthrough artists, booking many people over the years in the UK for the first time, from people like Joey Anderson through to the Cassy’s of the world.

secretsundaze

Since you started putting on events 13 years ago, you must have seen a lot of changes in dance music. Which of these have struck you as the most significant/interesting?

I seem to get asked this question a lot recently. In terms of doing parties – there is much more competition – there are many more promoters putting on similar nights so it’s like a scramble for DJs and we are having to book them 6-9 months ahead. I do feel like this has taken the fun out of it a bit and we can’t be as reactive to new things as we used to be. Another major point would be just the growth and commercialisation of dance music. This really is a huge thing now and it’s developed in ways which I see as both positive and negative. There is a new professionalism in terms of some events that are put on – people have more experience etc. at running events but on the negative side I’m quite saddened by how much the hype machine has come to affect this scene and it’s a little less meritocratic than it used to be or based on say how good a DJ you are and as much about your image. This has always been true to an extent but its now hitting new heights. Musically things are always evolving but its nice to see some of the great house and techno from the 90s being introduced to a whole younger generation who were not able to hear it the first time around.

What about London? The city’s constantly evolving, do you think it would have been harder for you to start to do today what you did 12 years ago?

In many ways, no, not really. London is an amazing place to start up new enterprises, whether they be music led or something completely out of the creative sphere. As long as you have a passion and a plan (not that we had much of a plan), there are opportunities here. If anything, the advent of social media and digital marketing has meant it’s easier to start things up I’d say. We had more of a rogue edge when we were younger, and certainly used to get away with a lot more in terms of some of the legality of the parties we were putting on, which we certainly wouldn’t get away with now. So the city as a whole has sadly become more awash with people with money and attitudes to boot. You only have to look as far as what has happened in Shoreditch and incredibly quickly in Dalston in relation to the backlash to the late night economies there to illustrate that. The scene is very developed now, which may make it harder too, but at the same time, I’ve not witnessed the level of interest in this music since we started back in 2002 so in that sense, you could argue there are plenty of people to go around.

Do you ever go out these days to parties where you’re not on the bill? It looks like there’s a very healthy community of promoters in London at the moment putting on smaller events with innovative lineups and amazing residents in unusual places, such as Undersound, Frontroom, Night Moves, World Unknown…although I was a bit young at the time when you were starting out with secretsundaze, these promoters’ approach to putting on a party strikes me as similar to yours back when you were starting out.

I have to be honest and say for myself but also James, we are playing a lot abroad, doing our own events and on a night off I’m looking to do something different than go to a club. However I’m really aware of most of the nights you mention and know that they do good stuff from the heart. ReviveHER! also do some cool stuff out in Hackney Wick and the Make Me guys curate some nice line ups. Yeah, I feel that DIY ethic is never far away from the heart of London.

You’re fortunate enough to be invited to play in loads of different places beyond the UK. Do you have any favorites? You seem to spend a lot of time in Japan?

Japan is certainly a favorite. I’ve been fortunate to be touring there as a solo artist since 2005, and then under the secretsundaze banner a few years later. The country, especially the cities (I’m not so familiar with the countryside), the culture, the people, the food, the nightlife and the record shops are something else.. I will never tire of travelling there and still get the same level of excitement as I did 8 years ago when getting on the plane. There are a lot more white / western people there now, and some of their traditions seem to be sadly waning but it is still an incredibly unique place to play and visit. Going the other way, I love spending time and touring around the states. There is so much that is wrong about America but they also have got a lot of stuff right. Closer to home and in Europe, as far as actual clubs go, then Robert Johnson in Offenbach is perhaps my favorite place to play, we do at least one annual party there on the Sunday of the Easter weekend and have done for 5/6 years now, as well as various other dates there over the years. That place is the finest specimen of the perfect small club, certainly that I’ve seen anyway.. hopefully, long may it continue..

Do you ever feel that there’ll come a point when you’ll feel that you can’t take secretsundaze any further? Do you think you can continue topping what you’ve achieved before?

I don’t over analyse that too much at the moment. We still really enjoy what we do. The brand has grown to incorporate the agency and the label so there are different facets of what we do and the music is the main factor that still binds us to this.

Shazam x Juno: Our thoughts

Last week, Shazam & Juno announced that the Juno catalogue (which in our experience is pretty thorough, covering both the big releases and many smaller ones) will be available to users of the app. What this means in practical terms is that you’re out and you hear a track, you wave your Shazam equipped phone in the air and within a few seconds you’ll know exactly what it is and be presented with a purchase link on the Juno site.

Shazam Juno

Whereas before this service was restricted to Beatport’s digital catalogue, this new development now means that people with smartphones (which is most of us nowadays) can find most tracks that you’re likely to hear out, unless you’re listening to a set full of whitelabels and dubplates. We don’t see this as a positive, and we’ll go on to explain why.

Being able to identify vinyl tracks through Shazam effectively undermines DJ culture. The previous Beatport deal did so as well, but its impact was restricted. Extending its reach from the CD wallet to the record bag is more of an issue because 90 second clips and YouTube rips were previously the only digital footprint of a vinyl only release.

A DJ is only as good as the records they bring to a party. A good set is a combination of track selection and technical ability. Making track IDs available to everyone with a smartphone removes the mystery over the track selection. If you’re a DJ, the chances are that you’ve spent a great deal of your time digging – either in a basement somewhere or with your laptop on your knees. Given the amount of time spent on this, it’s only natural that DJs want to preserve an element of mystery in their sets. Reducing them to performers pushing buttons and stroking records is a resounding negative.

Having the musical knowledge required to play a standout, unique set is not something that comes for free. It’s earned through years of dedication to finding that one gem that very few people will recognise. It comes from listening to ten shit tracks to find that one obscure gem. Shazam’s partnership with Juno removes that essential step from the equation, which is a bit of a slap in the face to people who have put in that application to digging, listening far wider than looking for a single track ID invites you to.

The point that we’re trying to make here is that music and musical knowledge is something that you have to work for. For us at least, when you hear a track and you nor anyone with you knows what it is, it embeds itself in your audio memory and remains there until you find it. If you dig for long enough and in the right places, you will eventually find it. Shazam has reduced the process of obsessing over a track and digging for it to a matter of using your phone. This instant musical gratification is not a good thing. It will, in our opinion, cause higher still Discogs prices and make it harder to get hold of records that you’ve had your eye on for a while and this is why it bothers us.

Perhaps the more concerning issue that Shazam and Juno have raised is the potential for infringement on the rights of the record labels who stock Juno’s warehouse. There’s a reason besides a preference for vinyl as a medium and its aesthetic qualities why much of today’s underground music continues to be released on what was once thought of as redundant technology. Music released digitally is far harder to control; it has the potential to spread far beyond its intended environment. Releasing music on wax is a way of ensuring that your records will reach their intended listeners. Electronic music is a fundamentally underground thing, and releasing music on vinyl is a major part of this. Record labels will now have to opt out of Shazam’s track ID service, which is at best a hassle and at worst an infraction of their rights.

Of course, in many ways Shazam’s announcement can be a great thing for small, independent imprints: it will expose their music to a greater audience and should result in more sales for them. But to say this rather misses the point that it should be down to the label how their music is discovered, distributed and sold. The internet is something of a double edged sword for music; on the one hand it can give you the possibility of achieving a solid musical education and invites communication and creativity like never before, but on the other it leaves music open to over exposure. Shazam and Juno have taken a big step towards the latter by removing the element of the unknown from vinyl.