Friday Night Tune: DJ Valium – Whiskas

I hate losing records. For various dull reasons I’m a bit obsessive and freaky about the things I have an interest in, and where for most people the discovery that a record appears to have disappeared may lead to a shrug or half-hearted search, for me it usually means tearing the entire flat apart looking for it. It’s not just records that bring out this behaviour in me; I once almost irrevocably damaged the relationship with my partner over a lost hoover attachment. Don’t ask. It still rankles.

But records do have a tendency to wander. From the wrong records going into the wrong DJs bag in the busy, dark, confines of a club’s DJ booth to light fingered bastards taking advantage in the messy chaos of an after-party. That’s where I think my copy of DJ Valium’s Valium EP went missing. Likely I wasn’t even playing; I probably dumped my bag in the hallway whilst I renewed my acquaintance with Mr Buckfast.

Still, these days it isn’t as near to being the end of the world as it used to be. Discogs, obviously, is the medicine that fixes all ailments and it only took me about five minutes to track down a new, still sealed copy. In its own little way it was a profound relief; this is one of those records that, for some of us, has moved beyond simply being a classic – it has become part of our heritage.

And if that sounds an extreme way of thinking about it, you have to try to see it from our perspective. Glasgow is an odd city when it comes to its love of electronica, and one can never be entirely certain that what cuts the mustard elsewhere it going to manage it here. It’s not that we’re better, that our taste in music is more exquisitely fine tuned (although, obviously, it is). It is, in fact, a distillation of different factors which range from the traditionally short length of the average club nights to the city’s industrial harshness reflected in its night-time decadence, to the impact that the town’s one time large number of dance music shops had on its relatively small population.

The Valium EP nicely draws together a period of time in the mid nineties when people were really begin to step out a wee bit from their safe zones towards stuff that was maybe a little bit more unhinged. It was Valium’s first release on Gary Martin’s insane Teknotika label; an imprint that hailed from Detroit but never, ever sounded like it. Teknotika was always looser, gathering together trace elements of disco, house, weird-edged experimentalism, kitsch, and something I can still only really describe as ‘cosmic tribal’. The music tended to be fast, dense and life affirmingly off-the-wall. It was perfect for Glaswegians.

The tunes of this EP were probably the first contact many of us really had with the label, with perhaps the exception of the phenomenal anthem Universal Love, and it was long one of those records you loved even if you had no idea who it was by, or what the tracks were called. I’ve always thought that a true test of quality. Knowing the artist colours your view, even if you don’t think it does, and confirmation bias can have a negative effect whether we mean it to or not.

In a slight break with tradition I haven’t chosen my favourite cut from the release. That honour goes to the thunderous, seething Running In October, a tune with a bassline which still makes me shudder. The tune I’ve gone for, Whiskas, is here because of, well, consensus I guess. It was the tune that delivered every time it was played, bonding together people on the dancefloor, and in grubby flats afterwards. It still sounds like very little I’ve ever heard; a brew of humour and beats, recalling something disco without sounding anything like it. It was, and remains, a true Glasgow – and even more importantly, Paisley – anthem. Gaun yersel, big Man.

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Friday Night Tune: Blootered On Byres Road

Let’s be frank: people probably don’t come to Glasgow to make it big. DJ forums aren’t clogged up with people asking for advice on how to move to the Dear Green Place (a sort of wet, mouldy green right now, given the amount of rain we’ve had over the last few months); it isn’t London or Berlin or Chicago, and the Macdonalds and Burger Kings aren’t full to bursting with producers from middle America or mitte Europe anxiously waiting for the opportunity to slip a copy of their latest demo under Ben Klock’s happy meal. We aren’t hanging around on the terraces of converted power stations at 7AM as the sun rises (for a start, there are only about three days a year you could do this without freezing to death). But that’s enough of the Glasgow’s good points – let’s get down to business.

Only joking. While people probably aren’t coming to Glasgow with thoughts of stardom burning in their souls, it remains livelier and more influential than any city its size, and with its history, probably has any right to be. Its industrial heritage – now almost gone – came from the shipyards and fed directly into the city’s nightlife. It’s maybe something of a cliché that hard industrial cities live for the weekend and the opportunity to escape the daily realities for a few hours, but it is also a truism. Beyond that, the heavily socialist politics of the yards fed into what was perhaps Glasgow’s first really important scene. For decades the back rooms of countless pubs would play host to folk music; social awareness and protest songs. Not for nothing was the city known as Red Clydeside.

No, people don’t come here to get famous, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come. They do, and in numbers. But the city has always had a curious gift for giving its own a platform to excel. It sometimes seems that Glasgow is a city where every second person is hustling for their art: Producers, painters, writers, designers and DJs (especially DJs) and a host of others all trying to make it. And while it’s not a huge place, and everyone tends to know each other, its large enough that there always seems to be something new, something unexpected.

As far as electronic music is concerned, Glasgow has always punched above its weight. I don’t think I could possibly list every act, every band, everyone who has done something special. Weekends are full of gangs of nights crowding out a score of venues, despite the best attempts of a thuggish council to cut the cultural throat. And despite the fact that it is the fey, jangly, indy pop of the 80s and 90s that the city probably remains best known for in the wider world, it is house and techno that far better captures the town’s quickened pulse.

Slam, Subculture, Optimo the big hitters, the most famous. Beyond that it gets silly. It still feels like a place where the concept of the Underground still has some meaning, full of people who just decided to start a night to see what happened, to play records they liked to people who might also like them. There were and are great nights elsewhere in Scotland. I’ve fantastic memories of clubs in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, but Glasgow always combined quality with quantity. The table overfloweth.

And of course, there was Club 69. Not in Glasgow – in Paisley, a few miles out to the west. In a dingy wee room beneath a curry house was and is one of the best clubs you could ever hope to find, and it still boggles the mind that such a thing could exist in a place like that. You can blabber all you want about Fabric, or Berghain, or Smart Bar. It doesn’t matter; I don’t care because I know – and so does everyone else who ever attended 69 – that the music played on Club 69 nights was next generation insanity and defined the musical tastes and loves of countless people without snobbery or elitism, or the sense that it was trying to be a cultural landmark. It achieved that with nothing more than incredible tunes and a few cans of Red Stripe.

And the cornerstone has always been Rubadub. I don’t get into the city centre often enough these days, and when I do, I don’t get much time to go record shopping, but without Rubadub electronic music in Glasgow would be a vastly different proposition. Actually, electronic music would be vastly different in the wider world too – you just have to pay attention to the DJs and producers who began paid employment there, the record labels that came together under its tutelage, to know that.

Funk D’void’s Blootered on Byres Road gets the nod tonight. Byres Road is a street in the city’s west end – a thoroughfare bordering Glasgow University, and ten minutes walk from my house. I’ve been blootered, I’ve been drunk, I’ve been mad wi’ it on Byres Road many times over the years and the tune remains a fitting tribute to two of Glasgow’s favourite things: getting jaked and listening to twisted, life affirming house and techno. I might get sick of the rain, Glasgow, but I’ll always be proud of the nonsense we’ve gotten up to together. Gaun Yersel’!

Reviews: Shawlands Arcade – RADZod1 (Rubadub); Sparky – Signals (Numbers)

We’ve been having a wee bit of home town lovin’ around here over the last few weeks, and dipping into some of manky auld Glasgow’s house and techno history. Before we delve back in to the past, though, we’ve a pair of releases that drag us right up to the city’s here and now:

Shawlands Arcade – RADZod1 (Rubadub)

Rubadub’s own in-house imprint has been very much a case of quality over quantity since its arrival back in the spring of 2013, with only a slender three releases to its name. Luckily, though, each of those records has worked its own particular sort of magic, and brought attention back to the breadth and depth of talent kicking around in the underground just now. From Anthony Naples’ career best, hand-in-the-air house shenanigans, to Frak’s wobbly analogue grunts, and on to Sparky’s Detroit-ism flecked work-outs, they’ve each managed to convey some mark of shared electronic ideals whilst noticeably remaining very different from each other.

Shawland Arcade fits right into this with the two tracker of Zod1. Pitching itself somewhere between a slightly knackered sonic world of worn electronica and the thick grooves of a more clued-up, clubbed-up breed of techno, the 12″ moves itself between the two extremes without missing a beat, mashing up differing moods and vibes into a spiky whole that offers glimpses of IDM, soundtracks and lost Saturday nights before year-zeroing the lot with the loose limbed funk of the modern underground. Diddies hits straight out with a tight, tribal tinged groove that grows increasingly hypnotic before slowly wiring itself into the warped energy of scything high hats and a shimmering, descending riff slowly collapsing in on itself.

The Bro-House Anthem redacts Diddies psychedelic tendencies in favour of bubbling acid that goes straight for the jugular. It carries the same low slung, darkened energy as its predecessor, and shifts itself with a similar focus, but is far lower down, keeping its feet in the gutter instead of its head in the clouds. It also manages to sound like the most Glasgow thing I’ve heard in a while; a distillation of all those nights of wonky street level acid and techno the city seems to have taken to its heart. It couldn’t be any more Clydeside unless it was busking behind a tap dancing jakey. Another class release on a label that has its ears working over time.

Sparky – Signals (Numbers)

Dave Clark’s musical history is entwined with that of the city’s techno heritage; all but pre-dating it, in fact, with his work as half of the early nineties duo State Of Flux. Since then he’s worked under a variety of guises: Luma, The Truffle Club, part of the Optimo (Espacio) production and remixer team up with JD Twitch, and recently with the Birthday Party and Scratch Acid channelling rock outfit Big Ned. His recorded work as Sparky, though, has remained much less frequent since its début with 1997’s As You Like It EP. Recently long time fans Numbers seem to have managed to get things going again.

Signals is something of a move back to more classically sounding electro and techno, and also something of an eye opener. The lead track is a slow grooving, electro tinged swinger; bittersweet and decidedly melancholy, it has the feel of a companion piece to Fatima’s classic What’s a Girl To Do, but one that is looser, less locked into a specific time and place, and more willing to explore shifting moods and colours through its propelling bass and subtle, jacking beats. Complex yet fragile, it gradually builds through an atmospheric mist of frills and touches until it reaches a cold, clear and almost brittle high.

Flipside Tigress is a harder stomper that swaps the motifs for noise and clatter, and rockier leanings. Essentially a far more punk take on the genre, it strips out any excess of emotional complexity, rendering down to a lean banger with a wide grin that never allows itself to get locked into the pretend moodiness that so many modern thumpers wear like a uniform. It’s just about the perfect compliment to Signal’s cinematic flare; A stoater of prime time techno to get the feet working.

Pattern Burst Special Broadcast: ’69 DJs’ – Side A

OK, I have to admit up front I know virtually nothing about the history of this tape. If it turns out to be something commercial and/or well-known, let me know so I can take it down. Essentially the only information I have on it is written on the front. It simply says ’69 DJs’ which, I am assuming, means it was mixed by either Martin or Wilba from Club 69 way the hell back in the mid nineties. I’m not even entirely sure of the date. It could be as early as 94 or as late as 97. Most likely it’s somewhere between them. All I know for sure is that is has been in my possession for about twenty years, and it’s a beast.

Club 69, then. Quite resolutely NOT a Glasgow club, but a Paisley one ( a town just south of Glasgow, for those not from these parts) it has long been based in Rocky’s Basement, a space underneath an Indian restaurant at the edge of the town centre, which required some effort and a bit of a trek for those of us hailing from Glasgow. That probably made it even better, though. After all, you get out what you put in.

It was the music, though, that was the draw. As it should be. In Glasgow techno nights were dominated by things like Slam; popular and big, they tended towards the enjoyable but fairly predictable end of the genre. At 69, though, you could always be assured of sonic mayhem, and an eclecticism that you would probably have had to go to Edinburgh’s Pure, or Aberdeen’s brilliant Pelican club to match. And what makes it even better than either of those is the fact it’s still going.

Anyway, here’s Side A. Sound quality is a wee bit squirrelly, but you should probably just regard the tape hiss as part of the overall vibe. As before it’s provided as is. It’s on Soundcloud for now, but I might move to Mixcloud or something since, judging by the stats, most people don’t seem overly bothered about downloading. We’ll see. I have a think and get Side B up soon.

As for the music. Hot damn. This really is 45 minutes of some of the finest techno I think I’ve ever heard and, more than that, goes a long way to actually defining what it is I think of as good techno – just like Club 69 did, in fact. There is no track list, of course. Some of the tunes are easy, others not so much. If anyone, ANYONE, knows what the hell the second track with the flutes is please, please let me know. It’s been doing my nut in for years. And like I said at the top, if anyone knows for a fact that this isn’t who I think it is then drop me a line and I’ll add the facts in.

Pattern Burst Special Broadcast Part 2! – Mystec FM Volume 1 Side B

Aaaaand We’re back. Sorry, I meant to have this up last night but I ended up listening to the football on the radio and then it got late….

Anyway, this is the B side of last night’s first encounter. Taped during Mystec’s radio show on Glasgow’s Sub City Radio. Last night was DJ Oral, tonight the wheels of steel are in the hands of Adam – AKA DJ Goodhand – who was Mystec’s other original resident and is now probably better known to the troops for his adventures as part of the Glasgow/London Numbers collective, which is good because Mystec is very much a part of that club’s DNA.

I should have pointed out that although these tapes represent a fairly complete snapshot of the various shows, they are not entirely complete. The original broadcasts were about two hours, if I’m remembering correctly, but were recorded on whatever was available, usually C-90 cassettes. Apologies for the way they slam in and cut out at the end, but as I said last night they are presented ‘as is’.

I’ve also just realised that Soundcloud’s free account is limited to 180 minutes of upload space. I’ll have to get my skates on and worked something out because that just ain’t gonna last long. I’m aiming to get the next tape up sometime over the next couple of weeks. Not sure which one yet. Stay tuned!

Mystec FM Volume 1 Side B

So here is Side B, featuring a very young DJ Goodhand. Like last night it is a slightly different vibe from what you would get at the club. It’s also quite different from DJ Oral’s side last night. A bit darker, a bit more acidy and a bit more housey. Some great tunes here. Enjoy.