Friday Night Tune: CVO – Party Time

As I’m sure everyone has noticed the 2014 Commonwealth Games have kicked off here in Glasgow this week for ten days of running, jumping and grunting. Regardless of whether there is any place in contemporary society for what is really a celebration of Empire, or whether Westminster and Holyrood are using the games to pump voters up ahead of September’s referendum on Scottish Independence, the reality is that it’s all kicked off in the best possible way – 30c temperatures and endless blue skies; weird, slightly See-you-Jimmy opening ceremony and the Scotland team kicking ass in a quiet and unassuming way.

To say that Glasgow has got behind the games is to put it mildly. It might be a cliché but no less true to say that Glasgow loves a party. Any excuse to get jaked is leapt upon with a wild-eyed hunger that cannot be put down to a simple love of the booze. It has probably something to do with the city’s history being so thick with industry. The Exhaustion of backbreaking work (mostly in the shipyards here) is lessened by a good bender of a Friday and Saturday night. And although the shipyards and the rest of the industry are all but gone now, the need for your average Glaswegian to go off on one is still very much alive.

I think it’s this that partly explains Glasgow’s love of House and Techno, and the deeper, groovier elements of both. it’s also good to remember that it’s a hard, working class city but it is also a city of music, of art and of literature. These influences are echoed in the clubs, from Club 69 way out in Paisley (not Glasgow as the natives there will tell you,) to Optimo to whatever is happening at the art school tonight and tomorrow. It’s in the labels too. Numbers may well be as much of London now, but it’s DNA was encoded in Glasgow and Paisley and the vibe of the city is writ large in everything they do as it is with others like All Caps and Clan Destine.

I’ve chosen tonight’s tunes because its seems to sum up Glasgow for me in a myriad of ways. This would have been equally true if I chose something by Underground Resistance or E-Dancer or one of a thousand other tunes from the two big US cities that had such a profound influence on Glasgows music.

I’ve always loved Party Time. I love the whole EP, in fact. It’s Glenn Underground at his best and even though its is now almost twenty years old it still burns with a fierce passion and energy that comes from the pounding tom heavy rhythm and the downward mood of the chords which gives the feel of smiling through tears. It’s tight and potent, as Glasgow a tune as I can think of, and my unofficial theme for the blue skies, the dreadful attire and the games themselves.

PS. I’m going away camping next week, and swimming in the Atlantic, so there probably won’t be any updates. Kind of difficult to get a Wi-Fi signal from the edge of nowhere.

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Review: OB Ignitt – I’m Here Now The Arrival (OBONIT Records)

Although Detroit Producer Omar Harper – AKA OB Ignitt – has been making music for over twenty years, it’s only in the last few that he has moved into Dance. His previous genres – spanning Hip Hop, Gospel, Jazz and others – share many of the same genetic markers as House and Techno so it’s no real surprise that his electronic oeuvre is richly textured with soulful colours and touches. His debut, the Oh Jabba Ep, which was released on fellow Detroit Alumnus Omar S’s FXHE label, marked his entry into Techno-land with a record that was deep yet playful, the lead track being a stomping piece of Motor-city music from that place where House and Techno collide whilst being influenced as much by soul and funk as it was by anyone from his city’s more recent History.

For the slightly grandiosely titled I’m Here Now the Arrival, Ignitt has ventured out on his own with a new label, OBONIT Records – an endeavour that, in terms of both artwork and sound, wears the influence of his former boss at FXHE proudly. This is not to suggest that either the music or the label are slavishly following too closely in the footsteps of Omar S; Ignitt is too savvy for that to be the extent of his ambition. Aside from anything else, there is a drive to the music that is different, and a choice of direction that shouldn’t be surprising but actually kind of is.

The brilliantly named Sweaty Dance Floor is a deep and lithe groove that is more than a nod to disco and funk. On a first – and second – listen one might be forgiven for thinking it a simple mover. In fact, there is a tightly woven complexity to it’s parts: multiple lines criss crossing each other above the gloriously insistent drums – sometimes disco, sometimes almost tribal – and the deeper shades at the root of the track. It’s the bass which ties things together: It’s a deep thrum, a potent groove riding beneath the sunshine glimmer of the higher registers. I expect Robert Hood has been pumping this in his DJ sets for some time already. It’s an almost perfect summer tune: energizing in the heat, and always smiling.

Ignitt Techno, despite it’s name, is no four to the floor banger. It’s heritage is much more clearly vintage Detroit Techno than the previous tune. It carries the vibe of Underground Resistance in their more laid back moments; the peels and chimes of synths and organ are pure Mike Banks, book-ended by thunderous claps and the pulse of a dirty, fuzzy bass. Beyond that it works it’s magic in the way – as was always a staple of the very best Detroit Techno – it sidesteps any harshness, relegating any latent aggression into the musical drive where it can work itself deep down into the structure of the tune and push those upper elements higher and higher until they sparkle in the clearer light.

Chocolate City sits at a slight tangent to the other two pieces. It’s a reversal of the formula found elsewhere on the record, taking the funk and disco and gospel as their starting point with Housey trills and smudges here and there instead of the other way around. It has the immediacy of a live session in the furnace of a packed, after hours bar, with the interplay of trebley guitar and keys carving out a path through the vocals and sweaty murk of the background noise. It feels ever so slightly out of place, but that doesn’t stop it from being a great tune, and one that deserves to be here, among the machine carved funk and grooves.

Random thoughts on Pioneer’s New Turn Table.

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When confirmation came last week of Pioneer’s PLX-1000 Turn Table, the first from a company best known for its extensive and ‘Industry Standard’ range of mixers and CD decks, certain sections of the peanut gallery went predictably mental. A clever move, they said, given the rising sales of vinyl and lack of any real competition in this specific section of the market since Panasonic stopped manufacturing their iconic Technics decks a couple of years ago. It would, the thinking went, lead to clubs across the land embracing real DJs playing real records once again. In one swift move Pioneer have probably sealed their dominance of the booth for the next decade.

They look exactly like you would expect: Like a Technic SL-1200. That is no bad thing of course, (although, lets face it, how different could it have been?) and the feature set is paired down to pure functionality: variable pitch speeds running from 8% through 10% up to 50% and a reset switch give it a slight advantage over Techies, and the removable cables (RCA, grounding and power) are an excellent move as is the concept of a rubber insulated tone arm to isolate and cut out problematic feedback and frequencies. Coupled with a strong magnetic engine, low wow and flutter (although at .1% compared to the .01% of a Technics deck) Pioneer have definitely come up with a nice looking and rather old school bit of kit albeit with a price point of £600 or so (although, at this time, I’m not sure the UK pricing has been confirmed.) Personally, I think I would have liked to see a USB cable in there too. A top quality turn table with a digital interface would have been very interesting, especially considering how many tables are used as part of a DVS system nowadays.

As a way for clubs to replace knackered old kit with something brand new and capable, I can partly understand Pioneers move, but aside of that I can’t help feel a little bit confused about who else is likely to be buying them. The much vaunted rise in vinyl sale is – however welcome – not entirely applicable to those of us primarily listening to electronic music. The bulk of all those new sales are to be found in audiophile, remastered pressings of classic albums and a bunch of contemporary big sellers. That is not to say that there hasn’t been a notable rise in the number of underground labels that deal all but exclusively in vinyl, but the numbers are still tiny in comparison, and the ranks of vinyl only DJs aren’t about to return to the levels of the mid nineties either. People have slowly begun to see advantages to playing with their music on a lap top or a memory stick (even CDs have benefits) and I wonder how willing any of them are going to be to spend £600 on a deck, even if it is just one for ripping vinyl from?

The fact is that on Ebay today you can pick up a second-hand Technics 1200 for £300 and as little as £100. Even taking into account the possibility that the unit will need a service it’s unlikely a pair of them are going to set you back anywhere near as much as a pair of Pio PLX-1000. Of course, One of Pioneers main advantages is it’s marketing and PR machinery, and the desirability that any bit of kit with the logo on it has over a large section in the market. No other company could get away with charging £1500 for a single CDJ 2000 Nexus no matter how good it is. But Pioneer have arrived at this point as Industry Leader, and to do it a time when – unlike in the days of Technics dominance when there really only was once real choice – clubs can furnish their booths with plenty of equipment that does the same job cheaper, better or both is a real achievement. It’s partly down to the gear, but it’s heavily down to the PR machinery too. The logo on the kit has a quality all of its own.

Even saying this stuff, I’ll be more than happy to see people snapping them up for use in clubs and at home. It’s indicative of a different approach to DJing and we should surely be happy to see as many different ways of doing the thing we love as possible. As for myself, I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to get to grips with a pair of CD decks and I realised what it is I really miss about vinyl DJing: The immediacy of it. CD decks there is the hassle of getting your music into the correct format and then onto a memory stick or CD. Even with software like Traktor there is the beat-gridding and all that rigmarole. How much better for creativity to drop a needle onto the wax and just go? Maybe there are a whole bunch of people out there who feel the same way. Maybe Pioneer do to. I guess we’ll find out in August.

Friday Night Tune: Larry Heard versus Marshal Jefferson – Your Mine Vs Destination (Zernell Gillie’s Rework)

The main reason that this weeks Friday Night Tune is so late in coming is that, due to a combination of the energy sapping humidity, exhaustion from a long week at work and having to devote my spare time to something else, I simply couldn’t think of a tune to write about. It happens like that occasionally; your state of mind or some other fundamental changes in a way that renders a piece of music as dry as a piece of gravel and about as interesting.

Still, it forces you to look around and re-evaluate music you haven’t heard in a while. It’s interesting what you find. Your Mind Vs Destination was not one I had really thought about talking about before, and even now I’m not entirely sure what I am going to say about it. It’s a tune that has simply been haunting my subconsciousness for a few weeks. whenever I’ve been having a wee mix, it one of those records that seems to slip into the space at the end of the playing tune without you thinking too much about it and with no more right to be there than a nagging insistence that it should stay.

It certainly has stayed, and not just in my mind. I am unsure of when it was originally released. Or when the original parts were released, in fact. It’s essentially a remix by Chicagoan DJ Zernell Gillie, who has become famous for the edits he releases through his label, Grimy. As a whole, though, it’s representative of an entire all-but-lost era of House and a good reminder that the music released across those famous Chi-town labels and the music that people were dancing too in clubs like the Music Box were not always exactly the same thing. I have no idea where, if anywhere, I originally heard it, but I only became aware of it a couple of years back when I bought a copy of the Gene Hunt Presents – Chicago Dance Tracks compilation that Dutch label Rush Hour Recordings put out a little while back.

The album represents underground Chicago House that was passed between producers and DJs way back in the early days but rarely – if ever – found a proper release. Often they were played in clubs straight from the tape before vanishing into the ether until Hunt dug out a bag of them and went to work in tracking down the release rights.

We should be thankful that he did. The album is a testament to the early underground sound of Chicago. Jacking, Acidic, dark prime quality movers that sound as modern (more so) than anything we’re buying today. It’s a veritable Who’s Who as well, with the likes of Mike Dunn, Virgo 4, Steve Poindexter and other luminaries all covered. This one is no exception.

It’s a dream pairing, really. The influence of Larry Heard and Marshal Jefferson on House music is all but impossible to quantify. I’m not even going to try. I’m not even going to bother about talking about the tune because sometimes, instead of worrying about what you’re going to say, its wiser to stay quiet. Instead, go and soak yourself in one of the deepest, slinkiest pieces of proper deep House you are ever likely to hear, and, when the disco infused sample and the vocal chime into life, just smile and let it wash all over you.

Upcoming Event: Numbers 11th Birthday With Paul Johnson @ Sub Club, Glasgow 18.07.2014

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It seems like only yesterday they were celebrating their 10th…Numbers head back to Glasgow’s oldest hole-in-the-ground tomorrow for their 11th birthday celebration featuring none other than the straight up legend, Dance Mania luminary and producer of the immortal Feel My MF Bass, the one and only Paul Johnson. If you don’t know who he is, well, you’re education is B0rked. If you do know then you have zero excuse for not heading down Jamaica Street way for what is going to be a dirty, nasty night of viciously banging house. Number’s own Spencer rounds off the bill .

Tickets are £10 in advance. Doors open at 11 at the Sub Club, 22 Jamaica St; Glasgow, G1 4QD.

It’s going to be hot. Better dress to sweat.