Thursday, June 30, 2011

Article | DJ History | Keep Playing Our Song

Keep Playing Our Song

Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton continue to school us in the

 history of the DJ.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 04.13.11

“You don’t have to walk far in the music industry in New York for some old head to start talking about a great DJ.” Bill Brewster is retelling the story of a night out in Gotham in ’93. He and his journalistic partner-in-crime Frank Broughton were chatting with two elder statesmen of New York’s disco scene and an idea came to them. “There’s such a strong oral tradition in the dance-music industry in New York that it seemed blindingly obvious and criminal to us that it wasn’t being documented,” he concludes.

The pair’s idea to tell the history of the Big Apple’s club scene ballooned into 2000’s Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, a complete history of deejaying. Full stop. This definitive tome—which is used as a textbook in Columbia College’s Club DJ classes—travels the path of the disc jockey from the moment a record was first broadcast on the radio waves to the multimillion-dollar entertainment industry it’s become.

Recently, Brewster and Broughton are back with The Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries (Black Cat, $16.95), a series of 46 interviews with many of clubland’s most influential names. There are early innovators like John Peel, revered for breaking new music in Britain via his 30-year radio career, and Francis Grasso, the New Yorker who established the tradition of mixing records in the ’70s. Page after page is dedicated to the proliferation of Chicago’s house-music scene: Frankie Knuckles’s move to the city; Chip E’s first electronic beats; DJ Pierre’s invention of the acid bass line. The same goes for Detroit, thanks to their chats with Juan Atkins, the Wizard Jeff Mills and Derrick May.

Although they grew up near each other in working-class towns in Northern England, Broughton, 43, and Brewster, 51, first met in New York in the early ’90s. Broughton got his start in advertising (which he still dabbles in), and Brewster trained as a chef before making the shift to writing (and later deejaying). Working together at the U.S. chapter of iconic club magazine Mixmag, where Brewster was an editor, the two tackled the club scene here on their own—“pretty much Frank wrote all the bits I didn’t write,” Brewster says.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Shuffle | Motor City Drum Ensemble

Shuffle | New Music From Our Inbox

Motor City Drum Ensemble "L.O.V.E." + Philippe Sarde "Le Cortège Et Course" (MCDE edit) - !K7
Blah. Blah. Blah. Music chameleon. It's an overused descriptor, but for some, like Cologne's Motor City Drum Ensemble (née Danilo Plessow), it really is a deserved introduction. Back in the early 2000s, when I still only knew him as Inverse Cinematics, I voraciously sought out his jazz and funk-fueled broken beat and leftfield house concoctions. Even as those sounds fell out of trendy favor, the man never lost his love of the roots, and he turned his focus towards deeper and techier pastures, resurfacing as MCDE. In this incarnation, he's settled on a more timeless sound, something that is abundantly clear on his contribution to !K7's celebrated DJ-KiCKs series.

On it, he travels from subtle and deep to cosmic and jazzy, from new to old and from classics to hot off the presses. I'll admit his mix is not my favorite DJ-KiCKs ever, but in the world of music criticism you can respect something for what it does as much as how it sounds, and what Plessow does here is undeniably impressive.

Take Philippe Sarde's "Le Cortège Et Course," which was lifted from a vintage French film and already a prescient techno number. Plessow gives it the extended edit for an adventurous dance floor, and the result should have everyone from Henrik Schwarz to Manuel Gottsching freaking.

Then there's "L.O.V.E.," Plessow's original contribution the mix. The man's love affair with Detroit is undeniable, so there was no way the 70 minute workout was going to run through without a personal homage. Here it is. In the vein of Moodymann or Theo Parrish, it's disco from the future with hand claps, loops, ample samples and that deepness that the D (and Plessow) does so well.

Check'em both for yourselves with the download links below:

Listen: Motor City Drum Ensemble "L.O.V.E." 

  Motor City Drum Ensemble- L.O.V.E. (DJ-Kicks exclusive) by !K7 Records

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review + Q&A | Wolf + Lamb vs Soul Clap

Wolf + Lamb vs Soul Clap

house \haus \ n + chill•out \ chil-aût \ vb

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 05.18.11

To bill the latest installment of !K7’s impeccably curated DJ-KiCKs series as Wolf + Lamb versus Soul Clap is misleading. The two camps, from Brooklyn and Boston respectively, are peas in a pod—there is no infighting here. In fact, this is a case of four heads—Gadi Mizrahi and Zev Eisenberg of Wolf + Lamb and Eli Goldstein and Charles Levine of Soul Clap—being better than one. 

A collective consciousness, the quartet presents a rather singular vision, one that espouses an approach to dance music that holds subtlety and groove close to the heart while the rest of club land gets steadily more intense, aggressive even. The music progressives that hang with Wolf + Lamb for its night at the Marcy Hotel don’t rage, their taste is more refined.

On its surface, the quartet’s sound is basically deep house, but a closer inspection reveals a wealth of nuanced diversity. Bass lines bubble over amidst mutant disco, techy flourishes, hints of acid jazz, uptempo soul and a groove-riding deep thump. For these four, a youth steeped in black music is self-evident. There’s even a hint of old school hip-hop in the electro funk bass of songs like “Deniz Kurtel and Mizrahi’s “Crank It Up” and the Parliament-esque “3 Wheel E-Motion” by Soul Clap.

And these boys aren’t afraid to slow it down. Within four tracks they ditch an already slow-burning tempo for the mellow groove of Double Hills’ “Every Time I Go,” a track that would be right at home on Mark Farina’s next Mushroom Jazz mix. After a brief 8-track build-up, they cut it down again, ushering in the midtempo shuffle of Sect’s standout “In the Park” featuring London soul crooner Ben Westbeech.

The secret to capturing their sound so succinctly? Across the mix’s 27 tracks, the vast majority is kept in the family. Meaning they come from the selectors themselves—both duos spend as much time producing as deejaying—or from close affiliates like Nicolas Jaar and Greg Paulus. The musical statement here is so concise it could prove to be too much sonic wallpaper for the uninitiated. Not so much a criticism as the nature of the beat, just know that Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap aren’t in a hurry, and if you’re going to truly enjoy this mix, you shouldn’t be either.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

About 45 minutes before they were to take the stage at Detroit's Movement Festival this past Memorial Day weekend, I had a chance to sit down with Eli Goldstein and Charlie Levine of Soul Clap. Each had a touch of jet lag or a touch of a cold, but they were clearly excited to be performing there for the first time. So much so, it was little difficult to hold their attention. And with that many candy ravers, friends and other sights competing, I couldn't blame them. Nonetheless, we chatted for a spell about their hometown of Boston, their growing success and their penchant for slowing things down.

Is this your first time here at Movement?
Charlie Levine: This is our fourth or fifth year attending the festival, but this is our first year performing. I’m really excited; it’s my favorite weekend of the year.

It’s definitely the perfect way to kick off the festival season. Do you have a lot more things like this planned for the summer?
Eli Gold: Well, we’re playing Glastonbury in the U.K., Garden Festival in Croatia, Sonar in Barcelona and Welcome to the Future, outside of Amsterdam.

So the short answer is yes?
CL: Oh, and Burning Man.

And then Burning Man? Right on. I have a couple buddies who are diehard burners. You may have to rethink which is your favorite weekend of the season after that.
CL: It can be our favorite week.

So with this and all those tours, how does it compare to clubbing in Boston?CL: I don’t think there’s any comparison between what we’re doing here and anything in Boston.

So you’re a one-of-a-kind thing up there.
EG: Well, there’s our homie Tanner Ross and we have a lot of friends who are DJs there. There are a lot of really small, intimate after-hours that have built up there over the past 10 years from our group. But just like a lot of cities in the U.S., the clubs close at 2am so it’s very underground and very small.

CL: It’s very funny to think back to the beginning of when our whirlwind of touring started. We’d come back from a weekend somewhere, like Amsterdam or Berlin, and try to do a show and it’d be a total bust. We’d come from all this glory and insanity to just the dive bar scene in Boston. It’s just really wild, they’re like parallel universes.

How’d the whole Soul Clap thing evolve?
 CL: I think when we forged our relationship with Wolf + Lamb, that’s really when everything took off on a grand scale. But we were working very organically with a label called Air Drop for the first few years. We helped them get off the ground and they release our first records. You know, we were generating a small buzz, but when we joined with Wolf + Lamb, I think that’s when we really discovered our sound and hit that stride. It was very much a kindred spirit connection. They had an agenda and a more historic sound. We were very much aligned with that.

What about you two, how’d the connection start there?
EG: At the parking lot of a rave.

CL: Yeah, we met raving. We’re rave babies. We had a mutual friend who went to my high school. He was like, Eli deejays, Charlie deejays, and we were like, oh shit, I know you from raving. And we just started sharing a record collection. We formed Soul Clap in 2001, but we’ve known each other since ’97.

How did your sound come together?
EG: Just years and years of experimenting.

CL: To survive in Boston you had to play anything that would come your way, be that a wedding or a private event, a hip-hop club or a dancehall night. So we’re doing these other nights professionally, with the dream of doing electronic music the whole time, and finding along the way that by fusing everything together we became very interesting.

What’s cool about it is, I don’t want to say it’s going against the grain…
EG: We’re very much trying to go against the grain.

CL: Like, ok, you’re doing this and you’re popular. I’m going to do the complete fucking opposite of that.

EG: Even beyond that, we try to always be pushing ourselves and experimenting in new ways. Ok, so, it worked with these R 'n' B edits, so now let’s do something completely different.

You guys really aren’t afraid to slow it down.
CL: We love slowing it down. It’s sexy. When we slow it down people start making out. Now we’re getting people coming up to us being like, I met my girlfriend or I met my boyfriend at a Wolf + Lamb or a Soul Clap show and now we’re in love. We’re like the Dr. Ruth of dance music.

How was putting together the DJ-KiCKS?  EG: It was a really good experience. We all moved down to Miami together last November. We worked on music together, we compiled music together, we mixed the music together. It was amazing getting really tight with those guys and then taking it on the road the last two months. We really feel like a band right now.

Then there’s the other mix you did for Art Department’s label. I would imagine the Soul Clap extended family is expanding really quickly.
 EG: Totally, yeah.

Aside from you guys, many of the acts here at Movement—Art Department, Visionquest and these guys—they all seem to be coming from a similar spot.
EG: Well Visionquest is a generation before us in a way. They really pioneered it for us, bringing house music back and bringing the American sound back. But I think our generation—Art Department, Benoit and Sergio, and a lot of the other Wolf + Lamb artist like No Regular Play and our boy Tanner Ross—we’re taking it in a more experimental and out there direction, really playing with the tempo even more.

In the elevator coming down, there was a girl who said the first big thing she couldn’t wait to get over here for was you guys. It’s great to hear about this reinvigorated interest.
EG: Was she cute?

She was actually.
EG: Alright, that’s awesome.

Like you said, it’s sexy music right?
CL: If this girl is feeling sexy and she wants to come here to continue that feeling, then we’re successful, successfully sexy.

EG: We’ve put so much work in America now. Seeing the last month of this DJ-KiCKS tour in North America, I feel like the country’s really behind us right now. It’s really amazing, the amount of support we’ve gotten from people. It’s like everybody wanted it to happen. If not us, they wanted somebody like us to come and be like, we love you guys. I’m out there dancing on the fucking dance floor, we’re out there in the party because we want to hang out with everybody. It’s like, let’s do this together.

What else do you guys have in the works?CL: This tour ends and we don’t even have a week off.

EG: At some point we have an album that’s going to come out. We’ve been working diligently at that, but It’s been difficult. We’ve written almost all of it on the road or in Miami or in transit. We’ve got a lot of remix work, we’re starting to really catch the ear of more major labels. We even had an opportunity to remix the Beastie Boys. They didn’t accept it, but we’re playing the dub mix all the time and it’s getting great reactions.

Sometimes that’s how those things go. Watch, five years from now people will be like, how can we get that?
It’s really funny because the feedback we got was that it’s too classic. But that’s what we do you know.


And here's their Essential Mix from Pete Tong, broadcast on the BBC in early March:

  Soul Clap Essential Mix - March 5th 2011 by Soul Clap

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tensnake | Live +

Tensnake | Live +

Hamburg's dance music revivalist releases box set

It just so happens that I was digging through, sorting and reorganizing my vinyl collection yesterday. It's something that I don't do too often anymore, having made the jump to digital deejaying. This move hasn't made me cherish these 12" slabs of plastic any less (although it has significantly slowed the pace with which it grows). Now that I no longer need to purchase every new "hot" track—you know those songs that everyone wants to hear for a total of two months, never to care if they hear it again?—I can focus my sight and disposable income on pieces that are truly worth owning. Like this one from Tensnake.

I've long been a fan of Tensnake, Hamburg, Germany's disco-boogie-proto-house revivalist. Tracks like  his 2010 anthem "Coma Cat" are a staple in my discoid excursions—although my personal favorite is  "In the End (I Want You to Cry)," mostly because every time I play it I see speaker cones on the verge  of blowing in my mind's eye. For his latest boogie house venutre, he has partnered with conceptual design firm Droog—well known for its collaborative spirit—and U.K. preservationists the Vinyl Factory to produce this limited edition box set for his single "Something About You." The double disc also includes "You Know I Know It" and a string of unreleased remixes by Jas Shaw of Simian Mobile Disco, deep house maestro Lone and the serpent himself. It also includes a CD for all your digital needs. Each item is enveloped in sleeves featuring the kaleidoscopic vision of Droog.

The whole thing screams collector's item for anyone who cherishes vinyl as much for artwork as they do the sounds contained therein. Pick it up direct from Vinyl Factory for about $50, check the video for "Something About You" below and listen/download a deep and lovely live mix from Tensnake,  out in conjuction with Live +.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

 Vinyl Factory by Tensnake

Download Tensnake's mix from his website:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Live Review | Movement Detroit pt II - Top 10 moments

Movement 2011 | Top 10 Moments

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Photos by Matt Reeves of Darkroom Demons

Given that Detroit's Movement Festival is three days of non-stop DJs and each day bleeds into a nights crowded with after parties (which sometimes bleed into the next day), attempting a comprehensive review is a fool's errand. Instead, here are a handful of the top moments that I witnessed while taking in the the techno-dominated sounds and technicolor sights of this year's event. 

10) Having to stuff wads of a drink napkin in my ears to save them from the pounding onslaught of James Zabiela.

9) Ramadanman. Period.

8) Chatting with German techno star Ben Klock about the phenomenon that is Berlin's Berghain club.

7) Catching the lone drum 'n' bass set of the weekend, from the master of the genre, Goldie.

6) Dancing to Richie Hawtin and caring less that it's raining.

5) Sweating out one too many Red Bull and Vodkas while blissing out to Art Department at the Beatport stage.

4) Watching thousands freak out as Sven Vath drops Todd Terje's new single, "Ragysh." Guaranteed, this is the largest crowd to do so in the U.S.

3) Basking in the rays of an 8am sun at Visionquest's Need I Say More backyard party.

2) Being ushered through the kitchen of TV Bar and then up a rickety stair case to find a dilapidated side room bumping to the sounds of Detroit legend Stacey Pullen.

1) Hearing Heidi drop a remix of DJ Le Roi and Roland Clark's "I Get Deep" at 6am during the Spy Bar and Get Physical after-party.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Live Review | Movement Detroit

Movement 2011

Hart Plaza | Detroit 

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Photos by Matt Reeves of Darkroom Demons

Attending Movement last year was an eye opener. Detroit's annual outdoor bacchanalia dedicated to machine music and worshippers of 4/4 beats can seem like rave's last stand. Furry boots, animal backpacks and pacifiers accompany an army of candy kids each year. And as someone who never really did the rave thing during its '90s heyday, the scene can seem like some surreal, drug-addled blast from the past. Revisiting the melee this year, I was no less surprised at the color and creativity of the diverse crowd or the number of young faces losing their minds to this music.

If you think this is some niche event where a few hundred kids dance under a tent to a DJ shoved in the corner, you're wrong. According to Paxahau, the event's organizers, this year's attendance swelled to a new record on its first day: 34,820 eager dancers flooded Hart Plaza, and they did it despite the rain that steadily soaked us for the last six hours of the event. No matter, the talent on hand did more than enough to take our minds off the weather. A God in these parts, Richie Hawtin took over the Beatport DJ stage with a two-hour set of bouncing, emotive techno. Berlin talent Monolake shattered eardrums in the underground cement bunker that is the Movement Torino stage. And, as always, the Red Bull stage flipped the techno script entirely with sets from drum 'n' bass king pin Goldie and blistering dubstep phenom Skrillex (Chicagoans can look forward to Skrillex at Lollapalooza this summer as well).

This pace kept steady over the next two days with the top slots going to Fatboy Slim, who was way more entertaining than expected; Carl Craig, who smashed it under his 69 guise; and Flying Lotus, who had too much fun swilling Red Bull and Vodkas earlier in the day and was actually a pretty big disappointment compared to past performances. (See our review from his April 2010 chicago show).

But it wasn't all about the headliners. Movement, though sizable, is still a compact festival and surfing from one dance party to the next is a large part of its charm. New York disco revivalists Metro Area were a great way to warm up for the first day. Broadcasting from the main stage, it was all uplifting house and the odd mirror-ball classic—sunshine music to its core. Later, at the Made in Detroit stage, a brilliantly high impact live PA from Iranian producer Aril Brikha  was followed up by fast-rising Detroit foursome Visionquest, who are ushering in a new phase of dance music from Detroit.

The highlights continued over the next two days with an onslaught of beats that ranged from the slo-mo house stylings of Boston's Soul Clap to the beautifully melancholy turn from Toronto's Art Department. Underground, things remained an intense affair with Berghain big wigs Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann. Red Bull kept the tempo varied with sets from Ramadanman, Scuba and Little Dragon (which was one of the only live bands all weekend). 

The highlights can go on ad nauseum—this is a festival that truly brings to mind the adage no rest for the wicked. At Movement, the last thing you should expect to be doing on Memorial Day weekend is catch up on your beauty sleep.