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Boyd Jarvis: Remembering the Architect of House Music

Boyd Jarvis, who died after a two-year battle with cancer on February 16 at age 59, was one of the key architects of post-disco New York dance music. When I interviewed him five years ago, he was both genial and at pains to take credit for his innovations. It’s easy to understand why. Working with two synths — a Yamaha CS-15 and a Prophet 600 — Jarvis created “The Music Got Me” in November of 1982. Credited to Visual and issued the following year on Prelude, its plangent feel and simple patterns are a clear precedent for the Windy City’s recombinant cheapo disco, and it precedes the first Chicago house records by a year.

A synthesizer and organ player, as well as a radio and club DJ, Jarvis was a native of East Orange, New Jersey. He began hitting New York clubs as an early-Seventies teen, when there was little separation musically between the nascent disco and hip-hop scenes, and he cited Larry Levan, Tee Scott, Nicky Siano, Grandmaster Flowers, and Pete “DJ” Jones as favorite DJs.

Jarvis himself first got on the decks at outdoor parties in Fort Greene in 1977: “I was dragging my two huge Vox speakers. I had two Garrard turntables, [on which] you can really blend, but you can’t be doing any rugged scratching, and a McIntosh power amp. I would bring that shit out to the park. Right there at the corner, Fort Greene and Adelphi, plug up and had a little party, man, outside.”

Jarvis was an early regular at the Paradise Garage, which opened in Soho in 1977. “The entire room was designed to be a big huge speaker,” he remembered. But the recording studio interested him far more than the DJ booth. He began purchasing equipment, including, around 1981, a Yamaha CS-15 monophonic synthesizer. “I was intrigued by the ability to shape and create sounds,” he said. “Synthesizers can do some amazing things. I’ve created water. I’ve created wind. I’ve created chimpanzees jumping from tree to tree. I didn’t have any drum machine at that time. I created an artificial kick drum with the synthesizer and I played it with my finger. The snare was also artificial. I created that using white noise. You can make a combination of white noise and a tone and you can create a damn good kick drum.”

It was at the Garage that Jarvis first met Timmy Regisford. When Jarvis took his CS-15 to accompany another DJ, Derrick Davidson, at the NYC club Melons, Jarvis recalled, “Timmy happened to come down and heard me doing it and said, ‘Yo, what do you think about you doing my audition for WBLS with me?’ That was it, man. That started my whole career.”

With Jarvis adding keyboard lines and effects to the records Regisford spun, the duo would stay on the station until 1986. “We were so young and so naïve to be able to have that position and not knowing the power in that position,” he said. WBLS DJ program director Frankie Crocker had enough faith in Regisford and Jarvis that nothing held their creativity in check. “It was carte blanche. Wednesday was the day everybody came up to ’BLS to get their record played. Frankie had the chicken line. Anybody who came to get their records played — you’d better bring a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, or Frankie will not be playing your shit.”

Regisford, credited as co-producer on “The Music Got Me,” became Jarvis’s primary musical partner of the decade. “When I made ‘The Music Got Me,’ we didn’t even call anything house,” Jarvis said. “We call it club music or dance music. Most of that stuff was done straight to reel [-to-reel tape] in Timmy’s bedroom. I said, ‘What are we going to call this stuff?’ and he said, ‘Shit, let’s call this ‘bedroom music.’ ”

Jarvis was never too hot on early Chicago house — “I don’t know about the ‘jack, jack, jack your body’-type shit. It wasn’t too hard. It was too country for me.” The DJ classics he made with Regisford — including Circuit’s “Release the Tension” (4th & Broadway, 1984), Boyd Jarvis & Timmy Regisford’s “Battle of the Beats” (Next Plateau, 1985), and Colonel Abrams’ “You Got Me Running” (Echovolt, 1984) — had a far more professional sheen.

Billie’s “Nobody’s Business” (Fleetwood, 1986) may be his greatest record. Jarvis met the singer — real name Robin Williams — after leaving Studio 54. “Billie was kind of cute,” he said. “I was really trying to get some pussy. I was like, ‘Hey, what’s happening, baby?’ You know, that little spiel: ‘I am a producer and I make music.’ She said, ‘I can sing.’ I said, ‘Sing me a song.’ ‘The only song I know right now is a Billie Holiday song.’ I said, ‘Why don’t you come to my house? I got this track.’ I noticed that she had this little high range and I said [to] scream, [laughs] and she did.” A refurbished version of the Jazz Age standard “ ’Taint Nobody’s Business If I Do,” the track became a monster at the Paradise Garage, one of Levan’s all-timers, even though the club closed a year after the record’s release.

Following the success of “Nobody’s Business,” Jarvis had gotten heavily into cocaine; he entered rehab in the early Nineties. It was then that he found out his old assistant engineer Freedom Williams had issued a record, “Get Dumb (Free Your Body),” as the Crew featuring Freedom Williams — an early run for what would become C+C Music Factory — that heavily sampled “The Music Got Me.” “I don’t realize how bad it was until I was in Jersey one night at a club, and they played the record and I was excited. And then I started hearing the orchestra is coming and went up to the DJ, and he said ‘Yo, this is Freedom’s new record!’ I took them to court.”

The verdict, in Jarvis’s favor, set a sampling-law precedent. The judge’s opinion dismissed C+C producer Robert Clivillés’ statement that “Get Dumb” took a chunk of Jarvis’s track that was “mere background lasting for only a few seconds toward the end of plaintiff’s recording” as being “so untrue that I must question how defendant’s counsel could have allowed this statement to be submitted to the court in a sworn affidavit.”

Jarvis worked with big artists (he played keyboards on Jellybean’s 1984 single “Sidewalk Talk” and on Herbie Hancock’s 1988 single “Beat Wise”) as well as his clubland confreres. One memorable later gig was his late-Nineties residency at the Tribeca club Vinyl. “There was lots of drugs flowing in Vinyl,” he recalled. “I used to stash my boss’s drugs underneath the turntables. You had BTS, those little gangster white boys from Brooklyn coming in. They robbed the ravers. It was crazy: K-holes all over the place, bro. I have never seen such hilarious shit as these kids overdoing it with those drugs, that special K shit.”

In 2016, Jarvis was diagnosed with cancer; that October, a number of his colleagues — including Regisford, Francois K, Joe Claussell, and host Barbara Tucker — held a fundraiser at Brooklyn’s Output. Another colleague, Paul Simpson — who co-produced Serious Intention’s equally sparse and impactful “You Don’t Know” in 1984 — told Red Bull Music Academy in 2016, “Boyd Jarvis invented house…. When Boyd was doing it, the sound didn’t have a name.” Bedroom music, house — whatever you called it, it was Jarvis who first gave it shape. 

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CULTURE ARCHIVES MUSIC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES

ALA.NI’s Antidote to Robot Music

ALA.NI is rhapsodizing over a bar of dark chocolate spiked with pink peppercorns that she’s found in Ouro Preto, Brazil. The singer-songwriter, who was raised in London but now resides in Paris, is touring to promote You & I, a debut that cannily blends late-Thirties Café Society jazz and mid-century pop. (The tour will bring her to the Music Hall of Williamsburg, where she opens for Son Little on October 19.) Speaking from Brazil via FaceTime, she outlines her cocoa theory: “It can’t be too overly sweetened and over-flavored and adulterated. It needs to be raw. I think we as people are a lot more aware now and want that rawness — we want to taste the earth and the bitterness.”

At that, ALA.NI lets out a self-deprecating laugh as she realizes that her chocolate pontificating could be an apt description of her music, too. The vibe of You & I has been tagged as nostalgic and retro, and tracks like the dusky ballad “Darkness at Noon” and the gently swinging “Ol’ Fashioned Kiss” have drawn comparisons to Billie Holiday and Judy Garland — fair enough, given that ALA.NI recorded and performs with a vintage 1930s RCA microphone that she affectionately calls Monster. The songs are pitched as an antidote to what she sees as “robotic computer music” that focuses on sounding “really low and beat-y or very high and trancelike.” Instead, her treasured microphone — which she sourced from Munich after meeting a collector of antique musical equipment on a beach in Grenada — allows her voice to settle into the middle ground: “That’s where our hearts and the molecules in our body resonate to it in the most peaceful way.”

You & I — originally released as four seasonal EPs in 2015 before arriving as a full album earlier this summer — isn’t a stylistic pastiche. “I didn’t set out to make a kitsch album,” she says. Her interest in the past is less stylistic and “more about how music was made back then.” The twelve songs center on ALA.NI’s voice, supported by atmospheric guitar and a smattering of background instruments (including the lesser-spotted flügelhorn). This foregrounds the stark emotions of what she calls “a love story, a very intimate affair,” that was written off the back of a breakup with a Swedish beau.

ALA.NI grew up surrounded by music. Her great-uncle Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson was a face on the 1930s London cabaret scene; her father played bass and guitar in a reggae band. She recalls accompanying him at a young age to rehearsals that consisted of “a whole room of men playing reggae music, smoking massive amounts of marijuana” and remembers lying on a chair with “literally a cloud circulating above me.” ALA.NI’s father encouraged her to sing, and as she ventured into the performing arts scene, she found herself flipping between “reggae at home and then ragtime or theater at stage school.”

That stage school was the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London, whose alumni include Amy Winehouse and Rita Ora, and ALA.NI began gigging as a backup singer to a mix of artists like Mary J. Blige, Blur, classical tenor Andrea Bocelli, and Ora herself. It wasn’t for ALA.NI: She recalls feeling like “my soul was being destroyed” as she went through the rigmarole of backing up “artists who didn’t appreciate their position.”

Pressed on that last point, ALA.NI lets out a defiant laugh and says, “Fuck it, I was doing Rita Ora on [BBC TV show] Jools Holland and was so bored they could see it on my face. It was a lot of someone to do her nails, someone to do her hair, someone to do her clothes, someone to put her shoes on, someone to wipe her arse.… I was like, ‘Dude, just sing.’ ” Eventually, Ora’s crew dumped ALA.NI at the TV studio, leaving her to hang out with Damon Albarn’s band. “That was that,” she says. “I got fired!”

Inspiration to make good on her own ambitions came from reading a biography of her uncle. “It was a poignant moment,” she says. “He was bisexual, black, and living in the Thirties and he pursued, conquered, and achieved.” After a reflective pause, she says, “So I have no excuse as a free, liberated black woman that I should be able to achieve the things I want in my heart to achieve.”

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MUSIC ARCHIVES

In New Statement, PWR BTTM Contest Allegations Of Sexual Assault

Last week, the Village Voice published a profile of the queer punk duo PWR BTTM. In the following days, allegations of sexual assault were leveled at guitarist and singer Ben Hopkins on Facebook, and in an interview with an anonymous accuser on Jezebel. PWR BTTM were dropped from their label, a summer tour was canceled, and the band’s music was removed from streaming services. The response from the band’s fan base was swift and severe, and the incident sparked conversations about accountability, community, and restorative justice. Today, the band issued the following statement:

From Ben:

What has transpired over the past several days has been emotionally overwhelming and difficult to comprehend. Last Thursday, I learned that an anonymous individual had made an allegation of sexual assault against me. This allegation was devastating to me as it is contrary to the intentional way I seek to interact with those around me. As I digested the allegations, I tried to figure out who the individual might be so that I could try to reconcile what I had read with my memory of any particular sexual interaction. I’ve waited to respond to the Jezebel article because the statements made about me by the anonymous source did not line up with any sexual experience I have ever had.

Over the past several days, I was able to figure out who the individual was based on what I was reading and my subsequent conversations with Liv. I am not going to breach the anonymity of the person interviewed in the Jezebel article, but given the serious nature of what was published and its impact, I have to unpack the claims and provide perspective on the details within. We met the night before a show in March of 2016 and spent most of the following day together. After the show, she invited me back to her house and we eventually engaged in sex. Based on the nature of our communications and our interactions with one another, I understood our interactions to be fully consensual. We stayed in touch over the course of several weeks by exchanging texts and pictures. Later, she asked if she could stay with me at my home, where we had sex several more times over the course of those days. Again, I understood these interactions to be fully consensual, especially since our ongoing communications continued to be mutual, positive, and reciprocal in nature. We did not see each other much after that but when we did it was entirely pleasant and we continued to exchange texts, including as recently as March of this year. I had no indication before last week that she had any concerns about our interaction.

Last week I learned that, in February of this year, this person had expressed concerns to others about what had transpired between us. I fully embrace and respect this individual’s right to speak out in any manner or forum they choose, including in a Facebook post or anonymously to a Jezebel reporter. It does not diminish that person’s experience or perception. After the initial shock of learning about her concerns, I have tried to understand her experience of our interactions. It would be antithetical to my values to attack, blame, or shame someone who is using the power of callout culture to name their experience and hold others accountable, even when — or especially if — the individual they seek to hold accountable is me. I fully appreciate that someone’s views about the dynamics of intimate interactions can change and are not always apparent in the moment. While I am open to understanding this person’s perspective, I strongly contest the account put forth in Jezebel. I am firmly committed to consent, to communication, and to mutual expression of sexual interest. The accusations in Jezebel directly conflict with my experience, as it is not my practice to engage in sexual contact without protection, without discussing the issue with my partner, or to engage in the other conduct alleged in the Jezebel article. That being said, in keeping with my commitment to my principles, I believe it is my responsibility to be accountable to this individual’s perspective and to honor it accordingly.

One more thing. I have seen posts about people raising concerns about having their boundaries crossed when I have greeted our fans after our shows, something Liv and I do after every performance, taking selfies and thanking folks for coming. This is, again, incredibly shocking news to me, as the safety and well-being of PWR BTTM fans is the most paramount concern I have as a member of this band on and off stage. If my physical contact has made anyone feel uncomfortable, I sincerely apologize and will work hard to have an increased awareness of boundaries moving forward consistent with our commitment to our fans.

From Liv:

In February, I made contact with the anonymous individual interviewed by Jezebel, someone I knew casually, after hearing that she had made inflammatory accusations about Ben in a private online forum. My intent in reaching out was to learn more and to make myself available in the event that I could be of any help. Our conversation was friendly, but it ended without a plan for any specific next steps. Based upon our discussion, my understanding was that she did not want me to share her identity with Ben unless I had her explicit permission to do so, and I assured her that I would not do so.

After our conversation, I wanted to discuss with Ben the issues she had raised but I quickly realized that doing so would inevitably reveal her identity. I did not know how to proceed nor did I know where to seek advice about how to move forward.

After Ben ascertained the individual’s identity on Friday I decided that my withholding information was no longer protecting her privacy and I told Ben about the conversation she and I had.

From PWR BTTM:

As some of you know, we set up a separate email address back in mid-May so that anyone with information relevant to the situation that was then unfolding could privately share what they knew. At the time we thought it was the right thing to do. We now see that we were putting the onus on others to do something that only works if it is what they want. We have concluded that there is no viable way to do what we were trying to accomplish, with the result that we are going to shut that email address down (we have not and will not look at any emails that may have been sent there to date).

Finally, to our fans, our friends, our family, and those who have supported us unfailingly and who continue to support us unfailingly: Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Having enjoyed the enthusiastic support of so many incredible people throughout our music careers has been a blessing. We love playing music, we love sharing music with others, and we want nothing more than to be back performing together soon.

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Purple Rain Shower: The Revolution Offer Prince Fans a Chance to Celebrate and Mourn

Every single Prince fan has a personal story behind how s/he got that way. Mine: From the moment I played a Purple Rain cassette doing ninth-grade homework in ’84 to graduating college in ’93, my ambition was to grow up to be Prince. I bought sheet music and practiced his songs over and over on my out-of-tune Kemble upright piano. I wore my grandpa’s cream cashmere coat to high school in the Boogie Down Bronx like I’d sauntered out of Under the Cherry Moon. Teenage journals are packed full of Prince references like he was my first love. TMI, but I may not have figured out how to be me until I was 22, at (coincidentally) the same moment Prince stopped acting like Prince, changing his name to the male-female biological symbol fans wore on necklaces like crucifixes.

The Revolution, Prince’s backing band during his years of cultural and commercial domination, played the B.B. King Blues Club last Friday to a relatively small crowd of 1,000 who, no doubt, each had their own heartfelt, cringingly embarrassing version of the above. #TeamPrince was and forever will be an almost cattily exclusive club, and the Revolution tour — returning to Webster Hall on May 3 — is for collective mourning and celebration. Prince’s unexpected death from an opioid overdose came a year and one week prior to the Revolution’s NYC memorial, and sadness was never far below the surface for anybody in the house. “We need to kind of create a place for all of us to land,” said a bespectacled Wendy Melvoin midway through the 23-song set. “It’s sort of our own little shiva.”

Guitarist Wendy, bassist Brown Mark, keyboardists Lisa Coleman and Matt Fink, and drummer Bobby Z re-creating tunes from Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, and Parade sometimes sounded (and certainly looked) like a damned good middle-age cover band playing Prince tunes. Some lyrics were subtly forgotten, and a command from Brown Mark for 25 James Brown–style hits at the end of “Let’s Work” broke down around 13. But the Revolution, on a music-historical note, were the most practiced, stop-on-a-dime accomplished, rock- and new wave–tinged funk band ever. So some moments of magic, like Wendy’s rip-roar solo at the climax of “Let’s Go Crazy,” were inevitable.

“Y’all don’t know this one!” exclaimed a zealous fan as Lisa’s repetitive keyboard run launched the band into the rare, unreleased “Our Destiny.” Which led into “Roadhouse Garden,” an even scarcer, funkier track much adored by the hardest of hardcore Prince lovers. The smackdown Bobby Z put into the backbeat of “Kiss” would’ve made their fearless leader proud. Snatches of piano from the extended “Let’s Go Crazy,” familiar from the opening performance scene of Purple Rain, popped up in the middle of “Delirious.” Likewise, “Controversy” at some point contained the melody to “Mutiny,” a funk track from protégés the Family that Prince reclaimed for Revolution live shows when that group dissolved. The sly ear candy for attentive fanatics (meaning most of the audience) went over well.

More secret-handshake moments came with all the dance moves associated with different Prince songs, something you may never think much about until you’re in a sea of beautiful ones crouching down at the same moment during “Raspberry Beret” or “Computer Blue,” side-stepping in sync to “When Doves Cry,” or hand-signaling choreographed gestures to the chorus of “I Would Die 4 U.”

“I’m sure a lot of you in here, if you haven’t met him, would think to yourself, ‘I wonder if he would like me,’ right? I’m sure that he would,” Wendy shared, introducing the delicate, beloved piano ballad “Sometimes It Snows in April.” The song — about a death and the longing for the one who’s passed — was written by Prince, Lisa, and herself on April 21, 1985, she said, exactly 31 years to the day Prince would pass away in an elevator at Paisley Park Studios. Fingerpicking her acoustic guitar over Lisa’s piano and harmonizing, Wendy sang as audience sniffles gave way to tears. The evangelical rock celebration of “Let’s Go Crazy” followed, but failed to mask the melancholy in the air. What could?

By comparison, “Purple Rain” served up a sobering be-here-now reality check. The Revolution (the Revolution) stood before us playing the song that surely made many of us cry in our private moments since last April, without their hero and ours. Because he’s gone. And so we could only harmonize together through the end, and slowly sway.

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Friends And Family Celebrate The Life Of Tommy Page

On Thursday night, Tommy Page’s friends and family gathered to share stories about the man they considered an exemplary musician, colleague, and father.

Page, who passed away on March 3 at age 46, had recently joined the Village Voice as vice president of music partnerships, but he had a long career in the music business as a singer, songwriter, and record executive — his 1990 single “I’ll Be Your Everything” was the number one record in America. Page is survived by his partner, Charlie, and their three children.

Marney Halpern, a music industry colleague of Tommy's, recounts how much, when she was in times of need, Tommy and Charlie made her feel part of their family. "I saw the life and the love and the energy in their family, Halpern said. "The last time I saw Tommy was on my birthday on Feb 7. He was at Nobu holding that red wine with his infectious smile. That is my last memory of my friend Tommy."
Marney Halpern, a music industry colleague of Tommy’s, recounts how much, when she was in times of need, Tommy and Charlie made her feel part of their family. “I saw the life and the love and the energy in their family, Halpern said. “The last time I saw Tommy was on my birthday on Feb 7. He was at Nobu holding that red wine with his infectious smile. That is my last memory of my friend Tommy.”

Warner Brothers, who released “I’ll Be Your Everything,” hosted the memorial.

“He was the nicest person to be around,” said Karen Moss, who was Page’s publicist for his number one hit. “He always had a sense of direction. His career as a musician and behind the scene in the music business was phenomenal.”

Dale Cannone worked at Warner Brothers when Page was an artist and later Page became his colleague. “He always managed to reinvent himself and was never scared to take on new challenges,” Cannone said.

Karen Moss, left, and Dale Cannone, right.
Karen Moss, left, and Dale Cannone, right.
Debbie Cerchione, who worked with Tommy Page at Warner Brothers hugs mutual friends of hers and Tommy's as they arrive at the memorial. "He was always vibrant," Cerchione said of Tommy. "He’ll never be forgotten. A lot of people loved him."
Debbie Cerchione, who worked with Tommy Page at Warner Brothers hugs mutual friends of hers and Tommy’s as they arrive at the memorial. “He was always vibrant,” Cerchione said of Tommy. “He’ll never be forgotten. A lot of people loved him.”

Those who wish to help Page’s children and his partner can make a donation here.

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Palisades Owners Explain Why the Beloved Venue Was Shut Down

Last June, beloved Bushwick legal-DIY venue was shut down permanently, with little explanation other than a vague mention of building code violations. It came as a shock to fans, who loved the venue’s sweatbox basement dance parties and sold out shows from international stars like Skepta. The venue’s owners and bookers kept mum about the details , and more rumors floating than fact.

But in the latest issue of the local-music zine AdHoc, the venue’s founder Leeor Waisbrod and main booking agent Ariel Bitran speak to AdHoc founder Emilie Friedlander about the short life of one of Brooklyn’s more exciting venues, expounding upon the reasons for its demise in the process.

In short? Palisades was never actually legal, despite popular conception to the contrary. Sure, they had a liquor license and a certificate of occupancy, but they were still in early stages of acquiring a public assembly license, and their paperwork with the city listed them as a bar/tavern, not a music venue. The space didn’t have enough exits, and the ones it did have were not up to code. In the interview with Friedlander, Bitran said they had been meeting with lawyers and architects to build two more exits along a side wall of the venue, but “the Department of Buildings was just not cooperating.” In hindsight, it’s a wonder it lasted as long as it did.

Waisbrod explained their familiarity with the city’s MARCH program, or Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots. “The MARCH program is when all the different departments — the Fire Department, your local police department, the Health Department, and the State Liquor Authority — raid your place on the same night, shutting your event down and all fining you for every possible violation they can find,” Waisbrod explained. “We got marched three times.” Bitran put it quite bluntly: “Legally speaking, I think the best way to describe why it was shut down was like a combined violation between departments, misrepresentation of the use of the space and the space just being a death trap.”

Palisades may have been winging it, but the city’s bureaucracy has proven that if it wants you shut down, there’s no amount of hoops you can jump through to satisfy them. Just ask the folks at Market Hotel, who were served a “gotcha” citation for “warehousing alcohol” after months of above-board, legal operation. In the end, the bureaucracy succeeded in destroying the venue founder’s hope that any amount of compliance would have sufficed. “There was meeting after meeting, inspection after inspection, and every time you hit a milestone, you would be asked to do something else,” Waisbrod told AdHoc. “I can’t speak for the city, but there was definitely a feeling of, ‘We don’t want this to happen for you.’”

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CULTURE ARCHIVES MUSIC ARCHIVES

10 of Clams Casino’s Best Pre-LP Cuts

Clams Casino (a/k/a New Jersey’s Michael Volpe) dropped his first album, 32 Levels, earlier this year, featuring the likes of A$AP Rocky, Lil B, Kelela, Vice Staples, and Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring. It’s some of his best work yet, since he’s hardly a rookie — his production discography is full of gems. So ahead of his show with Lil B and the Keyboard Kid at the PlayStation Theater in Times Square on Thursday, we take a look back at his most memorable pre–32 Levels production credits.

10. Blood Orange – “No Right Thing” from Cupid Deluxe (2013)
The staccato guitar strums, loose acoustic percussion, and Dave Longstreth’s (Dirty Projectors) croon dance along a pulsing bassline in this track from Dev Hynes’s second Blood Orange album. It doesn’t really sound like anything else in the Clams Casino discography, which makes sense — Mr. Casino contributed production, but Hynes is the maestro here.

9. Havoc – “Always Have A Choice” from The H Is Back (2009)
Mobb Deep’s place in the hip-hop canon is secure, but Havoc and Prodigy have had mixed results on their own. This Hav solo joint from 2009 features an early-career Clams on production, with dramatic strings swirling over a basic 4/4 beat, and an alien baby vocal on the hook. It’s an aesthetic he would refine later on, but this track still fits well with the rest of the Mobb Deep oeuvre, which leans heavily on dramatic strings and piano to create their eerie Queens gangsta vibe.


8. Mac Miller – “Angels (When She Shuts Her Eyes)” from Macadelic (2012)

An early peak for Clammy Clams, this Mac Miller joint goes back to back with the next track on our list on his second Instrumental mixtape. It fits better there than on Macadelic, the Mac tape on which it first appeared — the rapid fake-hi-hat rhythms, syncopated bass beats, and a vocal sample stretched out over a few extra notes make it easily identifiable as a Clams Casino track.


7. A$AP Rocky – “Leaf” from Live.Love.A$AP (2011)

One of the producer’s early champions, Rocky had no qualms about getting as many Clams Casino tracks on his debut as possible — five of its sixteen tracks carry CC production credits. He’s a great fit for Rocky, who reps Harlem but has a sound free of any shared regional sonic tendencies or characteristics. Most Clams Casino tracks are heavy on the atmosphere, and this one is as dark as any of them.


6. The Weeknd – “The Fall” from Echoes of Silence (2011)

Another artist who shares that darkness is Abel Tesfaye, a/k/a the Weeknd. His Echoes of Silence mixtape is the last of three he put out in 2011 — by that point, he was no longer anonymous and had started branching out to work with new producers. This leaned-out track sounds quite different from the production on House of Balloons and Thursday, with pseudo-industrial samples and almost no negative space in the mix with Tesfaye’s Auto-Tune soul. The track is built in layers, slowly but surely; the beat doesn’t wholly come together until almost three minutes in, and when it does…damn.


5. Danny Brown – “Worth It” from Adult Swim Singles Program 2015 (2015)

This track opens up without much percussion, giving Brown ample room to set the pace with his unique nasal flow before the beat actually drops. Brown’s voice is heavy in the mix, but the funky bassline and synthetic bells ring loud and clear. One of our favorite things about Clams Casino productions are they way they give rappers an atypical platform atop which to rhyme; minus the standard song structures, rocking a Clammy Clams beat requires some creativity, and here, Brown is up to the task.


4. Big Pun – “Leatherface (Clams Casino Remix)” (2012)

Because of his death in 2000, early in a tragically short career, Big Pun gave us precious few verses. His second LP, the posthumous Yeeeah Baby, is often tough to listen to, with flashes of his brilliance and rare moments of honest hope. This Clams Casino remix of “Leatherface” dropped more than a decade after the original’s release but pays homage to both the rapper and period — it legitimately sounds like it could have been a B side on the single. He changes up the pace to match Pun’s flow a little more directly, and swaps out the original’s mean electric guitar with a choral sample and brighter tones. Impressively, it sounds more like a Big Pun track than one from Clams.


3. Vince Staples – “Norf Norf” from Summertime ’06 (2015)

You could probably put together a formidable all-star team from the MCs with whom Clams Casino collaborates most frequently, and if you did, Vince Staples would be in the starting five. This Summertime ’06 single remains one of Staples’s most popular songs; built on a basic boom-bap and what sounds like a tortured-whale conference call, it’s peppered with auxiliary percussion throughout. It’s one of the best examples of a Clams Casino solo production that masters negative space, giving Staples room to breathe and lay down some of his most memorable verses to date: Just ask this white lady.


2. FKA twigs – “Hours” from LP1 (2014)

One of the more stunning pieces of music with the Clams name attached to it, this track from FKA twigs’ debut LP is another group effort. He shares credit here with his boy Dev Hynes, as well as Buffalo, New York’s Emile Haynie and the Venezuelan producer Arca. It’s impossible to distinguish individual contributions here, but you can hear echoes of all of them; the punctuating synth sample that almost sounds like a vocal, the texture of the rumbling bassline, the airy atmosphere and reverb. We like to think of producers as auteurs, sitting alone in a dark room cooking up magic, but tracks like this are evidence that collaborations often surpass the sum of their parts.


1. Lil B – “I’m God” from 6 Kiss (2009)

If you were a little slow to catch onto Clams Casino because his star initially rose in tandem with Lil B’s, you’re forgiven — B is certainly an acquired taste. It’s a testament to the beauty of this Clams Casino production that it managed to pique the interest of people who don’t worship the Based God, but if you buy into the spiritual cult that is Lil B, this track is essentially its gospel. The vocal sample is at once choral and angelic, and if you can ignore Lil B talking about wet vaginas, it’s almost transportive. And if you can’t, there’s always the instrumental.

 

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Bon Iver Convinced a Bunch of Fans to Listen to His Album on a Boombox in Brooklyn

When a cryptic post signifying a time and place popped up on Bon Iver’s Facebook Wednesday afternoon, it was anyone’s guess what it could mean. Pop-up show? Interactive performance? It’s 2016 and anything is possible — except for teleportation, which almost certainly ruled out a live performance in light of the band’s Berlin dates.

Curious fans were greeted by a mural at the cross street of Guernsey and Nassau, along with a little stand housing a stack of flyers and a tape deck playing Bon Iver’s newest 22, A Million. Click on for more from the drizzly get-together.
Photos by Chona Kasinger for the Village Voice

 

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Ten Inches of Niche: A Sub-Subculture of Music Nerds Gets Together

This past Sunday evening, the front room of HiFi Bar on Avenue A was a typical East Village scene. The flat-screen TV showed the final round of the PGA Championship, and young guys from the neighborhood, drying out from the day’s downpour, caught up over drinks.

But in the back: a time warp. While Duke Ellington’s “Jam-a-Ditty” crackled over the speakers, a small group of old-time music obsessives chatted about their favorite hillbilly and gospel records, drinking cocktails and seltzers while toe-tapping to Ellington’s swing. Alex de Laszlo, a librarian at Bronx Community College, was at the DJ booth. “All the best drummers from that period came out of the strip club,” he said to Jon Hammer, a mustachioed guitarist in the rockabilly-revival band Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co., and the host for the event.

It was the Big Ten-Inch 78 Listening Party, a bi-monthly opportunity for New York’s most devoted record collectors to play show-and-tell with their favorite obscure discs. The only requirement was that, as the name says, those discs must be 78s: stiff, fragile cuts of shellac made from South Asian bug resin and most popular during the first half of the 20th century.

Serious 78 collectors make LP snobs look like Spotify playlist jockeys, but their hobby creates a paradox: Preserving rare, old pop music often dooms some of history’s hottest jazz and most mournful country to life on a dark, dry shelf. The listening party reverses the sequester and has become a smash hit in this small community.

The must-have spare inch of turntable mat
The must-have spare inch of turntable mat

On Sunday, a mixed, middle-aged crowd, occasionally joined by curious bystanders, nodded to the sounds of barrelhouse bluesman Piano Red and danced in pairs to Lester Young’s “Let’s Fall in Love.” Attendees had either put a lot of effort into their wardrobe — newsboy hats and high-waisted trousers — or none at all. A few looked like extras in a John Waters movie; Michael McMahon, trim and sporting a pencil mustache, could be mistaken for Waters himself. He estimates his collection at 4,000 records, amassed over 30 years, but until the party began in 2010, he had never taken his trove outside.

His set was the most idiosyncratic, a versatile blend of time and logic. Patience and Prudence’s unintentionally creepy “Tonight You Belong to Me” was followed by “You’re My Sugar,” an antagonist duet between Kay Starr and Tennessee Ernie Ford, then by Lillian Briggs’s “Can’t Stop,” an explosive love song belted by rockabilly’s preeminent female trombonist-turned-powerhouse singer. His strangest pick was Little Rita Faye’s “I’m a Problem Child,” an unsettling Americana oddity unavailable on either YouTube or Spotify. “That one
always gets people’s attention,” McMahon said after leaving the DJ booth. “She was a 10-year-old, kind of precocious hillbilly singer. It’s the grating nature of her voice.”

Record collectors may be known for their prickliness, but this group was affable. When curious bar patrons asked what the hell was happening, they got an enthusiastic rundown. McMahon insisted that the turntable was always open, even if one were to put on, say, late-Thirties pop icon Glenn Miller, whose gleeful cheesiness has made him the scourge of aesthete collectors for the last 60 years. “People will judge you,” McMahon warned of such a choice, “but anyone is welcome to play.”

This is the spirit that the party’s founder, an old-school punk who goes by Phast Phreddie Patterson, always intended. “I had to figure out something to do with my 78s,” he told the Voice over the phone the day before the party. “They were just sitting there! They’re never gonna be on iTunes, they’re never gonna be reissued on CD or even LP. This is the only way you’re gonna hear them.”

 

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The Faces of Record Store Day 2016

Music lovers and vinylphiles all over the country headed to their local, independent record stores on April 16 to celebrate Record Store Day. While many waited on lines since dawn, New Yorkers ventured to shops like Rough Trade, Other Music, Generation Records, and In Living Stereo to get their hands on some rare LPs from David Bowie, J Dilla, Patti Smith, and Madonna. The inaugural Record Store Day Crawl also launched and took LP collectors from store to store to feed their vinyl needs.

Photos by Emily Tan for the Village Voice