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Beat Connection: The R&B-House Interface

My friend Michael Daddino isn’t a DJ, per se, but the 24 sets he’s made over the last month under the title Mixcloud GO! 1971 have provided some of my favorite summer listening. He’s done other things like this in the past, as he outlines on this project’s helpful explanation page, but this is certainly the most immersive, some 330 recordings from and/or released in Daddino’s birth year of 1971, with each hour-long set compiled and segued in mood-based rather than genre-led cycles. His more unorthodox picks are frequently revelatory — Van Morrison’s astonishing live “Friday’s Child,” recorded in Berkeley, on the 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. set, rather than anything from that year’s Tupelo Honey, for example. The most rousing volumes are also my favorites: 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., which climaxes with two of my favorite recordings from that or any other year, by Caetano Veloso and Sly Stone; and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., which opens with screaming live James Brown before going on to limning the glam-rock groove by way of Fanny, T. Rex, and Slade. One of the key inspirations is Christian Marclay’s The Clock, which has no “narrative” yet insists you follow along, creating its own rules, and that sort of what’s-next? suspense makes me love the whole even when I don’t love the parts. Which leads us to …

https://soundcloud.com/twincities/mix-no-11-w-finn-johannsen

Finn Johannsen, Twin Cities Mix No. 11 (June 11, 2018)

To cop a line from Melissa Weber, a/k/a New Orleans rare groove specialist DJ Soul Sister, DJs are historians, and this five-hour, fourteen-minute monster is a history lesson. “Song after song, no dubs, no instrumentals,” goes the SoundCloud listing. But the vocal-only remit doesn’t limit the DJ to singing. There’s a handful of spoken-word tracks and plenty of instrumental passages — Johannsen likes playing these records to their full lengths (obviously; it’s five hours long). What’s crucial is that these tracks’ roots aren’t in disco, the source of the screaming-diva archetype, but R&B; in fact, there isn’t a shriek on here. It’s gospel heavy, stunningly consistent but also super peaky. And since I’d heard almost none of these tracks (or, in the case of some remixes, these versions of them) before, it played tricks with my sense of its historical timeline.

Johannsen’s c.v. is as long as the set. In addition to being a busy DJ, he’s a journalist, the co-head of Macro Recordings, an employee of Hard Wax, the Berlin shop whose collective tastes have been a techno standard-bearer since it opened in 1989, and a historian by word and deed. He makes mixes prolifically — the set in question is a sequel to Twin Cities Mix No. 1, from last fall, which opens with Frankie Knuckles remixing Chanté Moore and spends three and a half hours following the same house-remixes-of-major-label R&B seam. (Your author, a St. Paul resident, notes that, despite its name, the podcast series comes from Copenhagen.) A lot of records pass through Johannsen’s hands, and Hard Wax and its musical syndicates have stayed faithful to techno’s dub and Detroit roots.

In addition to being a historical marker, a DJ set is also an argument about sensibility. It is, or can be, a narrative about sound — or a sound, as here. To me, Mix no. 11’s sound connoted — instantly — the late-Eighties-unto-Nineties boom of major-label house remixes of house hits. There’s a lot of that era here, of course — my favorite surprise there was hearing mid-Nineties Toni Braxton remixed by Frankie Knuckles. But what’s striking is just how many of these tracks — how many of them I love best, anyway — post-date that era. Of the tracks I was most compelled to search for, three came from 2000-’01 (the transporting “Guidance Mix” of Yolanda Adams’ “Open My Heart,” a cover of Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love” by DJ Spen Presents Three Fierce Divaz, and E-Smoove’s reworking of Sunshine Anderson’s “Heard It All Before”). Just as many are from 2014: Artful & Ridney feat. Terri Walker’s “Missing You (Eric Kupper’s ‘Director’s Cut Tribute to FK’ Mix),” Angie Stone’s “Brotha (DJ Spen & Karizma Remix),” and Louie Vega feat. Byron Stingily’s sharp-stepping Pride anthem “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Love.” This isn’t over five hours long because Johannsen can’t stop himself (though it’s clearly that, too): it’s over five hours because gathering it all in one place was long overdue.

The latter pair appear at opposite ends of the set (Vega near the beginning, “Brotha” close to the end), but their framing makes particularly plain that, whatever the fact that a pale Berliner made it, this is an unblinking celebration of house-music blackness. That becomes utterly clear nearer the finish line, when Johannsen drops Todd Gardner’s “Do You Know House?” (1998), a spoken-word track that throws ‘bows at progressive house, the big-room stuff coming from the U.K. (cf. Sasha and Digweed): “Now as we move into the new millennium, some people think the progression of house has turned into progressive. But we all know progressive ain’t progress and progressive ain’t house,” eventually followed by a laundry list of, pointedly, black (and mostly American) producers and DJs: “Tony Humphries — that’s house. Larry Levan — that’s house. Frankie Knuckles — that’s house. David Morales — that’s house.” I loved this track then, too — those horns! — but I was a 23-year-old in the Midwest who hadn’t traveled and thought it protested too much. Today I understand: There’s no such thing.

On July 4, in transit to a friend’s barbecue, I read a conspiracy theory being passed around by Twitter — that Trump’s then-upcoming private meeting would involve giving Putin the United States’ unconditional surrender — and spent the entire bus ride with a knot in the pit of my stomach. This set is the only thing that calmed it. More than once, the upfront humanism of Johannsen’s mix has helped me gather my resolve.

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SOSUPERSAM, XLR8R Podcast 546 (June 13, 2018)

L.A. native Samantha Duenas wouldn’t be the first DJ this column has covered with a more or less traditional showbiz-kid background, though she is certainly the first to have done time as a backing dancer for Miley Cyrus and the Cheetah Girls. But as a DJ of ten years’ experience as well as an R&B singer-songwriter and the promoter of a popular L.A. R&B club night (she’s bringing it to Schimanski this week), SOSUPERSAM negotiates R&B and DJ aesthetics as nimbly as Johannsen above, albeit in a wilder spray than his noble arc. Modern R&B is very elastic sonically, but this mix uses the genre as diving boards into  frisky deep ends: minimalist deadpan talk-rap that takes electroclash into squeakier future-pop territory (Yaeji’s “Guap“); or hip-house-era ricocheting breaks that loop but don’t roll under samples like Todd Terry in riot mode (LSDXOXO’s “Codename Cottonmouth“); or best of all, a twenty-minute finale that detours into some of the most lustrous jungle ever cut, starting with Photek’s “The Rain.”

SOSUPERSAM plays Schimanski with Siik on Friday, July 20.

Yaeji + Kim Ann Foxman, Beats in Space radio show #944 (June 26, 2018)

Radio is where you get to spin for roaming ears more than moving feet, and June was a good month for rangy sets created for the medium. My favorites came from Rinse FM’s DJ Python with Sleepy G and DJ Freez (June 13),  Dekmantel Radio’s Ivan Smagghe and Borusiade (June 15), and Francois X’s hour two from Solid Steel (June 22). But WNYU-FM’s Beats in Space seems to bring out something extra, or maybe host Tim Sweeney just books the most consistently excellent guests: Paulor (June 12), Francis Inferno Orchestra + Andras (June 19), and the first half of this rousing double-header.

Loose and ebullient, the Brooklyn-based dance-music singer-songwriter and rising star (“House Music’s Most Exciting New Voice,” is how Pitchfork put it in December), Yaeji’s first half has a similar build as the SOSUPERSAM set (which uses Yaeji’s “Guap”), only it’s different as rain is from mist, which is a metaphor unto itself, not one for either set. For one thing, Yaeji’s set swerves around a lot more than Sam’s, tempo-wise — as when X-Coast’s “Ghetto Baby” slides down the pitch into a drastically slowed-down edit by L.A. producer Luxxury of, yep, “Vogue,” before things rev back into the hypnotic steady-state plunk-and-sizzle of Hoel feat. Dorian Moist’s “Voice.” For another, the selections are sharply defined sonically while placing hazier elements — like the futzed-with vocal samples on Tekowa Lakica’s “Dangerous (Riite Edit)” — right in center frame.

Kim Ann Foxman came to prominence as part of Hercules and Love Affair, then part of the NYC disco revival of the late 2000s; she left the group in 2012. She’s sung on others’ records as well, from KiNK to Maya Jane Coles, but as a DJ and producer, Foxman’s stamp is as strong as her smoky voice. She’s been one of my favorite DJs since the night in the fall of 2015 where I danced to her in the Panther Room until about 7:30 a.m. Playing right around the time her label, Firehouse, had issued Jozef K + Winter Son’s immediate classic “Tribal Rhythm,” she was in the zone; I finally had to leave while she kept spinning and a small group of women kept right on dancing. It’s one of the clubbing highlights of my time in the city, and it comes right back while I listen to part two, even if little about the new set reminds me much of that night musically, which I recall as pretty sharp-edged.

Here, she keynotes things with something a little softer: Psychedelic Research Lab’s “Keep on Climbin’,” a 1994 acid-breaks gem that Firehouse has recently reissued, produced by New Yorkers Scott Richmond and John Selway and first issued on Satellite, the label attached to the store Richmond ran. (There’s some amusing talk between Foxman and Sweeney about the process of reissuing it at the set’s end.) Its rubbery groove and shake-your-chakras-loose feel imbue the rest of the set, from Richard Sen’s sped-up remix of Jeffrey Brodsky’s “I’ll Be Strong,” near the middle, to the Kevin Saunderson-produced “Rock to the Beat,” so much so that it feels through-composed, which is always the idea.

Yaeji plays Panorama Music & Arts Festival at Randall’s Island Park on Friday, July 27; the festival continues through Sunday, July 29. Info here. Kim Ann Foxman plays a Firehouse showcase at Good Room with Andrew Potter, Hunter Lombard, and Rachel Noon on Friday, August 10. Info here.

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ZØE, fabric Promo Mix (June 19, 2018)

The hard-dark techno axis keeps nosing its way into this space because there’s a bumper crop about. To stick with the absolute cream, this month included Auspex’s The Bunker Podcast 170 (June 6); Batu’s Dekmantel Podcast 183 (June 18); Pär Grindvik’s Reclaim Your City 283 (Rinse France; June 16); Kwartz’s PoleGroup Radio (June 18); and Bart Van Rijn’s Radio Nachtlab (June 6); each could have claimed this spot. But this hour-long demo reel from Italian up-and-comer ZØE (I guess it’s All-Caps Month here at Beat Connection) has the forthright boldness you’d conjure given her longstanding musical association with Cocoon Recordings and Drumcode regular Sam Paganini. (She’s sung on his recordings as well as DJing on the same bills.) And her preview for an appearance at the London club institution has a beginning-middle-end quality that’s rare anyplace. There are no frills here; sonically it’s comfortably widescreen and hood-down. But the tone is playful, occasionally ruminative, even when the beats are battering the door down, meaning basically always. It flags only a little, near the end, before some white noise comes along to clear things out and then a glittering fanfare sees us to the door.

Maurice Fulton, Beats in Space radio show #472, part one (June 9, 2009)

We conclude our mini-survey of the R&B-house interface with this dual throwback. Maurice Fulton started out in Baltimore in the early Nineties, working with house producers the Basement Boys, and making regular trips to Jersey City’s Zanzibar — “Tony Humphries was God to me,” Fulton told RBMA in 2006 — and eventually moved to New York to expand on the Boys’ gospel-R&B-house template. He’s issued a wide array of recordings under a long list of aliases, as Discogs will attest, but the most memorable is 2005’s Out of Breach (Manchester’s Revenge), made by Fulton and his wife, Mutsumi Kanamori, working as Mu. Critic Jess Harvell called the couple “the Paul and Linda of vomit disco” and their album “the musical equivalent of a unicorn or a decent Christmas movie. Mu-sic is full of 1,000 mph hairpin turns and stylistic jump cuts but never stops grooving or feels like Frank Zappa shaking cookie crumbs out of his mustache. (Mr. Patton, please report to Room A4 for your audit.)”

Fulton’s Beats in Space set from June 2009 is another story. Even nine years on, following a saturation of disco revamps, revivals, reissues, and regurgitations, these selections keep surprising even when you know them. Chances are unless you’re a DJ you don’t: the slurping hi-hat that dominates the mix of Gentry Ice’s “Utilize the Beat” (produced by Adonis of “No Way Back” fame) are not only extreme even by early Chicago house standards, the track is from a compilation, not a 12-inch. There’s a lot of high-rolling disco, like Damon Harris’s “It’s Music” (1977) and the more Latin-flavored swing (despite the title) of Letta Mbulu’s “Kilimanjaro” (1981) that’s hardly deep but too propulsive to deny. And yes, that includes the close-out edit of Archie Bell’s “Any Time Is Right,” which goes on and on and on.

Maurice Fulton plays Warm-Up at MoMA PS1 on Saturday, July 21, with Josey Rebelle, Innov Gnawa, Antal, rRoxymore, and Emily A. Sprague. Doors at noon; info here.

 

Want more mixes? Join the Beat Connection Long List to receive links to all the goodies the column can’t fit. DM your email to @matoswk75 (they’re open).

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‘Mister Saturday Night Presents Chairlift’

Buy any iPods lately? Thank Brooklyn hippies Chairlift, whose irresistible single “Bruises” might be the only love song to advise strawberries to ice a loved one’s wounds. Their debut Does You Inspire You shines with atmospheric pop confection, relying on weighted synths and whispered vocals, in a realm where the soundtracks to Fire Walk With Me and Pretty In Pink are one. Live, Chairlift’s mimbo guitarist, pint-sized drummer, and Stevie Nicks-type singer bring it all home to Santos Party House, unleashing their orchestral maneuvers in the dark. With DJs Maurice Fulton, Eamon Harkin, Justin Carter.

Sat., March 7, 10 p.m., 2009

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Mu Mu

I love MU. Say it. It feels good. Mu Mu Mu. I love both the lady Mu, MUTSUMI KANAMORI, and the band Mu, which is her and her producer-hubby MAURICE FULTON. I love how Mu dresses—like a punk rock bondage cheer-leader. Today she’s wearing a skull ‘n’ crossbones T-shirt, fishnet stockings, knee-high boots, and braided pigtails with red ribbons threaded through. I love her stomping and dancing and posing and shrieking.

I especially love it when she tries to do gymnastics. At P.S.1’s Warm Up on July 23, she tried a back bend and succeeded. Later, she attempted a cartwheel and didn’t. Then, she tried again. And again. And finally she kicked herself over. I looked over at Fulton, who was manning the turntables, and he was smiling and laughing at his wife’s onstage antics. Most people in the crowd seemed to love Mu, even though they are used to uninterrupted house music (provided earlier by DARSHAN JESRANI of Metro Area and TIM SWEENEY).

I’d never met Mu before, but when I interviewed her I wanted to be her new best friend. We are the same size and roughly the same age. (OK, so I’m older and shorter. Bah.) I want my own patented Mu to take around whenever I feel sad. Can we clone Mu?

I asked her about PARIS HILTON, about whom they have a song. “Yes, I like her,” she says without a trace of irony. “She’s really sexy, and cute, and funny. I’ve been a big fan of hers for a long time. Before the sex tape!”

Her unbridled buoyant energy clearly inspires her performances and music—even though her song titles seem more antagonistic (one’s called “Haters”) than optimistic. She and her husband have an unusual way of recording that seems to work. “I just write. Maurice, he does the music, and when he calls me, I go to the studio and then do the vocals. He always has all the ideas, everything in his head. He tells me what to do, this kind of vocal style. Be a chicken.” She squawks, giving a quick demonstration.

I read what New Yorker writer SASHA FRERE-JONES posted on his blog: “If you have a club and you are unsure who to book, book Mu. When Mu is done performing, book Mu again. Repeat until GRACE JONES shows up. And then book Mu again.” Mu glows. “Really? That’s so nice.” She bows. “Thank you.”

Mu hails from a small Japanese village, and so came to pop music belatedly. She’s serious when she says in her song to “Stop Bothering MICHAEL JACKSON.” Her first record was a Jackson album. “It was Bad. My hometown didn’t have any foreign music. I think I was late.” But it’s really never too late if bad Michael Jackson was able to give us Mu.

JASON DRUMMOND, known to many as DJ SPUN, along with music director LOKKE HIGHSTEIN, is the man responsible for bringing Mu to P.S.1. He’s been helping with the booking there for the last four years, and in addition to Mu, he’s had an amazing lineup of talent, including HANS-PETER LINDSTROM and PRINS THOMAS, SAL PRINCIPATO, and MONOLAKE.

“We kind of take the attitude that the curators here take, where we’re gonna have well-known and established artists, and lesser-known artists that people should really know about,” says Spun. Maybe Mu’s one of those acts that people should know about but won’t unless someone presents them on a platter. Spun’s got ample opportunity, with 4,000 (or more) people coming to the industrial beach each weekend.

Since he’s had so many of the greats (DERRICK MAY, STACEY PULLEN, JUAN ATKINS), I asked him who he wants to book that he hasn’t already. It took a while, but only because he’s covered the bases pretty well. Finally, he settled on DAVID MANCUSO and the IDJUT BOYS. And, he should take SFJ’s advice and book Mu again. And again. And again. And then you, if you don’t already, will love Mu too.

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Swinging Sheffield Couple Smacks Up Bitches

For the cover of Mutsumi Kanamori’s second album with her husband Maurice Fulton (a Sheffield electro-house producer by way of Baltimore), MU has contorted those puckered-up lips from her batshit debut, Afro Finger and Gel into something fiercer for her follow-up. Now she sneers in pigtails with Mickey Mouse’s disembodied hand stuck on her head, as she wields a Ginzu blade and ashtray (!?), ready to rumble. As if she’s about to enter a GLOW grudge match (that’s Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, bitch) or else charge onto Springer to break chairs over some backs.

And throughout the malcontentious Out of Breach, there are numerous lumbars to thwack. Possible opponents: “Tigerbastard,” that bitch-ass label guy who sabotaged Afro Finger; that old bitch interviewer in Neverland who won’t “Stop Bothering Michael Jackson”; those bitches that steal tampons backstage; that chicken-legged bitch, “Paris Hilton”; any and all haters. Step in the ring, motherfucker, Mutsumi taunts, threatening to erase family trees, pull hair, and beat you “like a little bitch.” Meanwhile, Fulton (wearing his Dr. Scratch mask in the corner), kicks opponents’ record bags, clocks cowbells, and extends deathmatches past the six-minute mark with conga taps and 303 ear-gouging.

It’s not all hate, though. Mu loves dudes named Luke. And her friend Tomoko! The inner photos show her other wrestling personas: broom-straddling witch, gymnastic sorority girl, and (my favorite) bookish schoolmarm at a homemade subwoofer convention, judging jams. Just don’t say she sounds like Yoko Ono; it’s not like she broke up her husband’s famous band, Eddie and the Eggs.


MU play Rothko July 21 and P.S.1 July 23.

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Music

Maurice Fulton; his awesomely batshit wife, Mutsumi Kanamori; and his project Mu are everywhere this week. You’ll either love Mu or hate them, and that depends on whether or not you like watching crazy Asian lady Kanamori do the patented crazy Asian lady routine. I think she’s fabu, but I can see how more than three songs might make you wish to change the channel. Their debut, Out of Breach (Manchester’s Revenge), features some of the most hilarious song titles in recent memory—there’s “Stop Bothering Michael Jackson” (we did), “Paris Hilton,” and “Like a Little Bitch.” Aren’t you entertained already? See Mu or some formation of Mu many times this week. Maurice Fulton plays Negroclash with DJ Language. Thursday @ 10, APT, 419 W 13th, 212-414-4245. Mu and Maurice also play at P.S.1’s summer Warm Up with Darshan Jesrani and Tim Sweeney. Saturday @ 3, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, Qns, 718-784-2084. And catch Mu again with the Juan Maclean. Thursday @ 10, Rothko, 116 Suffolk.


Derrick May’s (playing as Rhythim Is Rhythim) jacked-up, angular style makes a good foil for Fran K’s more languid approach at the weekly Deep Space. Together, they’ll traverse techno’s bumpy terrain. May typically sticks to his Detroit sound, but Fran explores the genre’s nether regions—taking its influences (dub) and the influenced (Basic Channel) under one wing. Monday @ 9:30, Cielo, 18 Little W 12th, 212-645-5700.

Tim “Love” Lee isn’t content to hold a mere record release party for his latest, Against Nature. No, the DJ must have a week’s worth of festivities, including a collaboration with visual artist Erick LoPresti, and lest you think he’s an egomaniac, the performances (and record) are all inspired by the Joris-Karl Huysmans novel Against Nature. Seven nights of music will be broadcast on East Village Radio and WPS1, with performances from Lee, DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy, Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone, and many more. Wednesday to Tuesday, Xpo Gallery, 63 Pearl St, Brooklyn, 718-797-2557, thexpo.com.


tromano@villagevoice.com

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Listings – 10/5/2004

Colder is the sound of a bored Parisian graphic designer with a musical itch. His debut, Again, got nabbed by Trevor Jackson’s label Output. Colder (né Marc Nguyen Tan) isn’t content with just creating a critically praised album filled with moody, pensive music and breathy vocals. No, he has to make short films for each of the songs, too. Way to go, making the rest of us feel like slackers. Jackson, himself no slouch in the post-disco-electro-funk realm, has turned into a tastemaker via his label, handpicking Colder, Dead Combo (who like things noisy and distorted), Vancouver’s Circlesquare, minimalist Love and Rockets, and Mu (the twisted product of Maurice Fulton and his wife, Mutsumi). It might be so f*&king cool, even the trendies won’t be able to handle it. Thursday @ 9, Canal Room, 285 W Bway, 212.941.8100


We know time flies when you’re having fun, but we must have been having a lot of fun, since that “new” party 718 Sessions is already turning two. The post–Body & Soul deep-house-lovin’ jam, helmed by ex-B&S-er Danny Krivit, seems to get stronger in popularity with each week. Here’s to next year and the year after that! Sunday @ 6, Deep, 16 W 22nd, 212.978.8869


Q-Burns Abstract Message is one of the few West Coast producers from the early ’90s that didn’t burn out or fade away. While he does maintain a lower profile, he’s got a new remix album, Future Past Tense, which will help him return to the spotlight. It’s got Left Coast written all over it, with sunny-side up melodies, funk-filled beats, and some tribal touches. The end result is a record filled with the kind of shimmery deep house not rendered cold by an overly immaculate production. If we still did E, we’d take a pill and chill. Wednesday @ 10, Table 50, 643 Bway, 212.253.2560


tromano@villagevoice.com