Yes, Record Store Day is important, but let’s not kill the golden goose…

Founded in 2007 in the US, Record Store Day has undeniably played a part in the revival of vinyl as a format.

As evidenced by queues outside record shops around the globe, and the hundreds of artists signing up to offer RSD ‘exclusives’, this year’s event, taking place today, is likely to be the biggest yet, and provide a much needed boost to the traditional bricks and mortar music store business (take that, Amazon!).

To borrow a line from 90s indie comedy Empire Records, even Rex Manning would approve.

But with each passing year, I along with many others find myself aghast at the prices of said ‘exclusives’, and I worry that this important event is fast becoming another Hallmark holiday.

Yes, I like Zero 7, but do I want to shell out 60 quid for a box set of seven 7-inches, featuring their biggest singles?

The Sugarhill Records vinyl set similarly sounds fab (12-inch versions of Rapper’s Delight and Apache!), but I’m not going to fork out 50 quid for it.

And then there are the ‘stunts’, where bands develop ridiculous concepts to support a product’s ‘limited edition status’ and inflated price tags. This year, The Flaming Lips are releasing a special edition 7-inch single pressed with beer from Dogfish Head Alehouse.

Anyone who’s ever spilled a pint on a spinning vinyl knows that this is a somewhat baffling collaboration.

I’ve been buying vinyl all my life, and, Record Store Day or no, I won’t be going shopping for records today. I simply can’t afford to.

The other 364 days of the year, however, are a different story… KEEP VINYL ALIVE!

 

Massive Attack’s Mezzanine is 20 years old this week, and the band are commemorating it in the best way possible… [April 1998]

In the annals of electronic music history, there are few better opening 15 minutes than at the start of Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, released 20 years ago this week.

In starting the album with four epic cuts – Angel, followed by Risingson, followed by Teardrop, followed by Inertia Creeps – the Bristol group cemented their status as masters of the trip hop genre they helped create, and all-round musical geniuses.

Making an appearance in both Rolling Stone Magazine and NME’s lists of the ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’, at #412 and #215 respectively, it hasn’t aged a bit, two decades on.

And underlining the group’s status as musical pioneers, to mark the 20th anniversary of Mezzanine, they boldly went where no band had attempted to go before, and encoded the whole album on DNA, working alongside ETH Zurich.

“While the information stored on a CD or hard disk is a sequence of zeros and ones, biology stores genetic information in a sequence of the four building blocks of DNA: A, C, G and T,” said Robert Grass, professor at ETH Zurich’s Functional Materials Laboratory.

The album will be transmuted onto 920,000 short DNA strands, which taken together contain all of Mezzanine’s information, which will then be poured into 5,000 tiny (nanometre-sized) glass spheres, over the course of a couple of months.

“Compared to traditional data-storage systems, it is quite complex and expensive to store information on DNA,” Grass added. “However, once information is stored on DNA, we can make millions of copies quickly and cost-effectively with minimal effort.”

Takes ‘Home Taping is Killing Music’ to a whole new level. Fair play lads!

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY: A Man Called Adam – Easter Song [1995]

With the mercury reaching 25-degrees plus in most of Europe today, for this week’s Throwback Thursday, I’ve picked a track synonymous with so many Ibiza sunsets, Easter Song by jazz/house maestros A Man Called Adam.

I first came across A Man Called Adam through the track Estelle, which appeared on the first (and still the best) Café Del Mar compilation, compiled by José Padilla, but delving further into their back catalogue, this track from 1995 encapsulates everything that I love about the White Isle.

A Man Called Adam have been fairly inactive since 2004,when they released a Best Of compilation on Southern Fried Records, but if this week’s weather continues for the remainder of the summer, I will be among those calling for a reunion.

Fun fact: former band member Paul Daley left the band in the early 90s to form Leftfield, alongside Neil Barnes. Now there’s an enviable CV if ever there was one…

[Kudos to CafedLmR for the YouTube upload]

You’re twisting my melon, man – Bez from the Happy Mondays turns 54 today…

Legendary dancer, vibesman, part-time politician, maracas enthusiast, reality TV star and professional caner Bez, from the Happy Mondays, turns 54 years old today, 18 April.

And like many longtime ravers, these days you couldn’t wash the smile off his face with a Brillo pad.

But as the Freaky Dancin author, known to his mum as Mark Berry, revealed in an interview last year, his involvement with the Mondays might never have happened.

“That’s the amazing thing about my whole career, there was absolutely no planning involved in it,” he told Lincolnshire Live“The Happy Mondays were supporting New Order in Manchester at the Hacienda club.

“At the time we were all taking microdots. Shaun was off his nut, and he turned round and said to me – because he was looking for some support – ‘Bez you are going to have to come on stage with us’. I told him to get lost.

“Obviously, I was taunted into it. So I just grabbed hold of a pair of maracas and got on stage and danced my socks off. […] I’ve never been off the stage since.”

As the article reveals Factory Records owner and Hacienda founder Tony Wilson was also clearly impressed, urging the band to hold on to their new arrival.

“You’ve got to keep him in the band,” was his curt response.

Happy birthday Bez, and here’s to many more…

 

Legendary Belgian techno club Fuse opened its doors 24 years ago this week. Here’s a documentary about how it all came together… [April 1994]

Paris has Le Grand Rex, Berlin has Tresor, and Brussels has Fuse.

The legendary Belgian techno club opened its doors 24 years ago this week (on 16 April to be exact), creating a powerful legacy that is still as strong as ever, close to a quarter century on.

A documentary, Fuse: The History Of Belgium’s Premier Techno Club, developed by Red Bull Elektropedia, was released earlier this year. In it, founder Peter Decuypere summed up the challenges involved in opening what at the time was a unique concept.

“I thought: the world is waiting for a techno club,” he explained. “But how wrong I could be.”

Decuypere notes that in Fuse’s early days, there was limited interest, particularly in a club that specialised in techno.

“It was a misjudgment of the phenomenon. […] At that time there was no techno club anywhere in Europe, or no club that was open every week. I believed that there was a support base, but ‘my’ world is not necessarily ‘the’ world.”

Thankfully, for the sake of a generation of clubbers and DJs, Decuypere decided to stick with it, and the club began to fill up by the summer of 94.

Check out this trailer for the documentary, featuring VTM News anchor Dany Verstraeten attempting to explain just what sort of music guests could expect at the now-legendary venue.

Fuse: The History Of Belgium’s Premier Techno Club is available to watch here.

For those of you that thought good music died in the 90s, this is for you… part two [April 1998]

Looking back, 20 years later, on a list of the ‘best dance tracks of all time’ you would expect there to be a few duds.

But yesterday’s reveal of numbers 51-100 (taken from the April 1998 issue of DJ Mag), indicated that one or two exceptions aside, the late 80s and early to mid 90s truly were a glorious period for music.

The Top 50:
So without further ado, here are numbers 1-50, as voted for by DJs and members of the public some two decades ago, which is led by one of the most epic electronic symphonies ever committed to wax, Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy.

And as for that Top Ten? All killer, no filler, as the saying goes… Enjoy.

1 Massive – Unfinished Sympathy
2 Beltram – Energy Flash
3 Frankie Knuckles Presents Satoshi Tomiie – Tears
4 Joe Smooth Inc. Featuring Anthony Thomas – The Promised Land
5 Ultra Naté – Free
6 Ce Ce Rogers – Someday
7 Energy 52 – Café Del Mar
8 The Future Sound Of London – Papua New Guinea
9 Alison Limerick – Where Love Lives
10 De’ Lacy – Hideaway
11 MFSB – TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) / Love Is The Message
12 Young MC – Know How
13 Gat Decor – Passion
14 Faithless – Insomnia
15 Roni Size Reprazent – Brown Paper Bag
16 The Night Writers – Let The Music (Use You)
17 Jaydee – Plastic Dreams
18 Wink – Higher State Of Consciousness
19 Orbital – Chime / Deeper
20 Age Of Love – The Age Of Love
21 Fingers Inc. – Can You Feel It
22 Bizarre Inc – Playing With Knives
23 Robert Owens – I’ll Be Your Friend
24 Leftfield – Not Forgotten
25 Rhythim Is Rhythim – Strings Of Life
26 Slam – Positive Education
27 Wildchild – Renegade Master
28 Liquid – Sweet Harmony
29 Subliminal Cuts – Le Voie Le Soleil
30 Lil Louis – French Kiss
31 A Guy Called Gerald – Voodoo Ray
32 Sounds Of Blackness – The Pressure (Pt. 1)
33 Donna Summer – I Feel Love
34 Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force Music By Planet Patrol – Planet Rock
35 DJ Misjah & DJ Tim – Access
36 Da Hool – Meet Her At The Love Parade
37 Shades Of Rhythm – The Sound Of Eden (Every Time I See Her)
38 State Of Grace – Not Over Yet
39 BT – Flaming June
40 Robin Stone – Show Me Love
41 Sneaker Pimps – Spin Spin Sugar
42 Alex Reese – Pulp Fiction / Chill Pill
43 Underworld – Born Slippy
44 The Prodigy – Your Love
45 Robert Miles – Children…
46 Truelove Presents… The Source Featuring Candi Staton – You Got The Love (Erens Bootleg Mix)
47 State 808 – Pacific
48 A.S.H.A. – J.J. Tribute
49 Camisra – Let Me Show You
50 Mariah Carey – Dreamlover (David Morales Def Club Mix)

[Original list published in DJ Mag, April 1998]

For those of you that thought good music died in the 90s, this is for you… part one [April 1998]

There’s a school of thought out there that all dance music post 1998 is, frankly, fairly rubbish – you know who you are…

While this is only partly true (!), it gives 909originals the chance to revive a countdown of the 100 ‘best club tunes ever’, which was compiled in 1998 by DJ Mag.

Published in the April 1998 edition, and featuring input from both readers and international DJs, it’s a snapshot of how far dance music had come, ten years after 1988 and all that followed…

I’ll publish the bottom half of the list today, and the top half tomorrow, so stay tuned!

The Bottom 50:
As you might expect from a list compiled towards the end of dance music’s formative period, the bottom half of the list is an eclectic mix of house, acid, range belters and a few soul and disco classics – note Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up at 73, and Chic’s Good Times at 70.

There are, inevitably, also tracks on there that perhaps haven’t stood the test of time that well – hello Ecuador, by German production team Sash!

Nonetheless, it makes for an interesting read….

51 Nuyorican Soul Featuring India – Runaway
52 Phuture – We Are Phuture
53 Raze – Break 4 Love
54 187 Lockdown – Gunman
55 Jamie Principle – Your Love
56 Hardfloor – Acperience
57 Ten City – That’s The Way Love Is
58 Hashim – Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)
59 The Prodigy – Out Of Space
60 Congress – 40 Miles / Better Grooves
61 MAW – To Be In Love
62 Tina Moore – Never Gonna Let You Go
63 B.B.E – Seven Days And One Week
64 Ce Ce Peniston – Finally
65 Phuture – Acid Tracks
66 Jimi Polo – Better Days
67 The Space Brothers – Forgiven (I Feel Your Love)
68 My Bloody Valentine – Soon (Andy Weatherall Mix)
69 Sash ! Feat. Rodriguez – Ecuador
70 Chic – Good Times
71 House Of Pain – Jump Around
72 BT – Remember
73 Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
74 Dionne – Come Get My Lovin’
75 Grandmaster & Melle Mel – White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)
76 Inner Life – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
77 Jam & Spoon – The Complete Stella
78 Orbital – Belfast
79 Primal Scream – Come Together
80 Pulse Featuring The Voice Of Antoinette Roberson – The Lover That You Are
81 Rufus And Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody
82 The Sabres Of Paradise – Smokebelch II
83 The Dream Team – The Dream Team Theme
84 The Future Sound Of London – Cascade
85 Heller And Farley Project – Ultra Flava
86 Sash ! Featuring La Trec – Stay
87 Son’z Of A Loop Da Loop Era – Far Out
88 The Prodigy – Everybody In The Place
89 Chaka Khan – I Feel For You
90 Corporation Of One – The Real Life
91 Kristine W – Feel What You Want
92 New Order – Blue Monday
93 Nightcrawlers – Push The Feeling On
94 Stetsasonic – Talkin’ All That Jazz
95 Kenny “Dope” Presents The Bucketheads – The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)
96 Brainbug – Nightmare
97 Crescendo – Are You Out There
98 DJ Quicksilver – Bellissima
99 LFO – LFO
100 Way Out West – Ajare

[Original list published in DJ Mag, April 1998]

Think you know David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’? You’ve never heard it like this before…

As today is ‘Aphex Twin Day’ (Avril 14th), I’ve dug up one from the archives that is perhaps more suited to Halloween than a Saturday afternoon in April.

After all these years, David Bowie’s Heroes still has the power to captivate, and its tale of two drunk, star-crossed lovers is one for the ages…

It has also spawned numerous cover versions and remixes, with Aphex Twin‘s incredible reworking, from his 26 Mixes for Cash album (released 2003), in a league of its own.

Borrowing from composer Philip Glass‘ orchestral version of Heroes, and using Bowie’s isolated lyric from the original, it’s arguably Richard D James’ finest remix, and unlike anything you have ever heard.

Rising and falling string patterns, a la Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi score, are spliced with vocals that feel like they are floating in space, as haunting, discordant voices yell out in the background.

It’s terrifying yet beautiful, and best enjoyed through headphones… although perhaps not in a dark room, alone.

Happy Aphex Twin Day!

[Kudos to CARRS for the upload]

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Steve Poindexter – Computer Madness [1989]

By the end of the 80s, the initial acid house wave had given rise to serious experimentation; with legends such as Larry Heard, Mike Dunn and Armando Gallop crafting psychedelic soundscapes built around steady 4/4 rhythms.

One of the standout examples of this was Computer Madness, the B-side of Muzique Records co-founder Steve Poindexter’s debut EP, Work That Mutha Fucker.

The title track would go on to be one of the most played, and remixed, ghetto tech tracks of all time, but in Computer Madness, he created arguably the most bizarre, and hypnotising, acid house tracks of this nascent genre, built around a minimal, Roland TR-505 beat.

Poindexter gave an interview to Resident Advisor in 2014, in which he revealed that the tracks from Work That Mutha Fucker had been doing the rounds for a couple of years before the EP was released.

“‘Work That Mutha Fucker’ actually came out a year and a half before it was even on vinyl,” he said. “Armando [Gallop] used to play it. Frankie [Knuckles] used to play it. It was just something that we played at the parties to get the crowd fired up.”

To create the EP, Poindexter and music ally Wesley Green used a ‘Roland TR-505 drum machine, a Kawai drum machine, a Casio CZ-101 drum machine, a Sony keyboard and a small, battery-powered Casio keyboard whose sounds they sampled’, according to the article.

“On ‘Computer Madness’ I was tweaking, playing the drum machine, but I was moving stuff. I was trying to change the filter sounds. Wes, my partner, he came in, he’s like, ‘OK, while you’re playing that, I’ll just tweak the keyboard sound.’ So we tweaked the sounds, and we got them just how I wanted it, and I was like, ‘This is it—computer madness! It just sounded like something that was out of the future.”

[Kudos to Sound of 88/92 for the YouTube upload]

 

Is anyone else excited about Larry Heard’s first album as ‘Mr. Fingers’ in a quarter of a century?

Under his ‘Mr Fingers’ moniker, Larry Heard released some of the most jacking, acid-infused tracks of the early Chicago House movement. such as Bring Down The Walls and Washing Machine, not to mention the epic Can You Feel It.

While Heard has continued to release music under his own name for many years since – 2011’s Winterflower is a recent highlight – this Friday, the Chicago native releases his first album as ‘Mr Fingers’ for 24 years, since 1994’s Back To Love.

Called Cerebral Hemispheres, the new album seamlessly blends house music with R&B, soul, jazz and countless other genres, as you might expect from a legend of his craft. It will be released on Heard’s own label, Alleviated Records.

Commenting on the album, NPR.org, which offers users the ability to stream the new album on its website (USA only, unfortunately), described it thus: “The house music sound that Heard helped bring to life in Chicago in the mid-1980s is everywhere, of course — sometimes foregrounded, minimalist and jacking, at other times buried in the songs’ DNA.

“But Hemispheres also features generous helpings of soulful R&B, of rock guitar and jazz strains (smooth here, acidic and downtempo there), of South American and Antillean rhythms. Elsewhere, it eschews overt rhythm for melody and ambiance, making clear that the anthemic Fingers/Heard legacy now celebrated across the world’s dance-floors is only part of the story.”

Welcome back Larry.. I mean, Mr Fingers!

[Kudos to Chris Tee for the YouTube upload. Image sourced from NPR.org]