Until the end of the year–hey, that’s only four posting days!–we’ll be devoting our Second Spin column to running down albums from 2007 that somehow slipped through the blog posts, great records that we never got to mention until now. If you’re looking for something to spend that iTunes gift card or record store certificate (do they still do that?) on, consider these our late-breaking recommendations. We start with three underground dance LPs, two of them full of up-to-date club cuts and one that dropped 25 years ago and may out-groove (and definitely out-freak) them both.
Jesse Rose – Body Language Vol. 3 (Get Physical)
Rose is a versatile Brit-to-Berlin producer/selector faced with more 21st-century dance music scenes than he has time to dip into, as likely to be cracking at populist/blog-friendly dancefloor cut-ups as he is trying out the high-toned vocabulary of classic deep house as swimming around in the spacious oddness covered by all the all-purpose term “minimal.” His mix for Get Physical’s Body Language series yokes all of his seemingly disparate leanings into a an hour-plus that boils down from clonking, cluttered post-Herbert/speed garage grooves topped with stuttery hip-hop samples to a thick, bass-y reduction of pan-genre underground house. Rose hits a plateau of pure dread at the roughly halfway mark with the thrilling and unnerving (at the right volume) Radio Slave remix of Chelonis R. Jones’ “Deer In The Headlights,” and then coasts out of the darkness from there, the stanky murk never quite evaporating until the very end.
Henrik Schwarz – Live (!K7)
Speaking of Rose, he appears here on the tracklist of native German Henrik Schwarz’s misleadingly titled DJ mix, not to be confused with an earlier Schwarz Live from 2005 that contained only his own productions. Unlike the promiscuous Rose, Schwarz is firmly stamped by dance message board types as a deep house producer, but he’s grown his fame over the last few years thanks to an ear for the outer limits of his genre, sometimes straying just out of orbit. His earlier DJ Kicks mix opened with Moondog and included curveballs like a percussive vamp from D’Angelo alongside old-school techno, using EQ twists and crossfade turns to bridge the genre gaps. Live kicks off with Sun Ra, but thereafter sticks to records comfortably tagged as house, with even the James Brown cut getting a 4/4 reformatting from Schwarz himself. Particularly in the back end, Live is unflashy and techno enough to please minimal fans, even if it’s a bit like jazz-funking minimal that’s broken the genre’s anorexic rules and gorged itself on the saturated fat chord changes and basslines of briefly unfashionable ’90s club records, and it’s that much-needed, subtle integration that makes Live so refreshing after a few years of dry dance mixes sending parched listeners running towards even the juiciest, fruitiest trance.
Dinosaur L – 24-24 Music (Sleeping Bag/Traffic)
But if you’re looking for the roots of Schwarz’ corpulent electric organ runs and big dipper disco basslines, albeit freed from all but the most nominal 4/4 needs and lost down an NYC manhole in the ’80s, this reissue is key, especially if you also dig on brass section freak-outs, party chants as stoned high camp, acid rocking in the club, and keyboards revved as dizzy as kids doing donuts ’round the sandbox. Ten years ago when I first encountered his music, biographical and contextual info on Dinosaur L mastermind Arthur Russell was decidedly scant on the Internet, but a beyond-thorough reissue program means there’s been enough written about him in the intervening years, including the dreaded Wikipedia page, that there’s little need to try and thumbnail his dance and avant bona fides here. Suffice it to say the long strange trip that led to the creation of the defiantly odd 24-24 Music, laid down under typically Russellian studio conditions in the late ’70s and released a handful of years later as disco’s in-the-shitter commercial status had given rise to the freak funk so beloved in the 21st-century, is best described by business partner Will Solocov in the liner notes:
“Arthur’s music is really avant-garde,” states Will, “and here is a very traditional Philadelphia/R&B family [the Ingram Brothers, who helped Russell record the album] which he had to cajole into doing this stuff. He told me that Butch [Ingram] would look at him like ‘You’re out of your fucking mind!’ but the younger ones Timmy and Johnny Ingram would really get into it, just grooving with Arthur.”
And yes, even the more turntable-ready remixes from Francois K and Larry Levan do little to unknot the kinks (willful or unwitting) of Russell’s cultural tangle, making 24-24 Music a zonked totem for any commerce-shunning producer (or infatuated fan) still mixing gutbucket disco-funk with the avant excesses that had Butch Ingram thinking the retiring Russell was out of his fucking mind.
Arthur Russell [Wikipedia]