Truancy Volume 104: Big Strick

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Last week, Fact Magazine posted their much passed-around 100 underrated DJs list, which we were very glad to see included Leonard Strickland – alias Big Strick. Raised in an influential household that had the Motown sound on the hi-fi all day everyday, Leonard began DJing in the early eighties which soon followed with throwing his own parties and playing events around Detroit. Things slowed down at the beginning of the nineties with Big Strick moving most of his attention to raising a family, yet with some motivation from his younger cousin Omar-S around 2008, Leonard decided to give music another chance – resulting in his 7 Days EP and his debut release on FXHE. Since then, a lot of his time has been directed towards his own label 7 Days Entertaintment, on which he releases music primarily from himself but also offers an outlet for artists such as Generation Next and Reckless Ron. Alongside delivering us our 104th Truancy Volume, we caught up with Big Strick to chat about the label, playing in Europe with his son and making his first house track ever with Omar-S. 

Hey Leonard, just want to start with saying thanks for letting us host the mix, greatly appreciated. I wanted to start with something I read in a 2011 interview of yours, where you stated that the party scene had been taken over by the hip-hop scene. Besides the smaller clubs, there was really no major club venue for underground house and techno music in Detroit. Have things gotten better from your perspective, has there been any development in this aspect? “Yeah, things are looking up for Detroit as far as the club scene is concerned, although it is still a slow process. Let me explain – the club’s main focus is to make money and the problem here in Detroit is that there is a strict law in place where the clubs can’t serve alcohol past 2 A.M. This means that the bars and clubs always close around that time. There are a few after hour spots here and there, but they are here one day and gone the next. In most major cities in America alcohol policies are more lenient than here, and a lot of major cities can go till 4 or 5 o’clock, sometimes even longer. I see there is a German investor that is interested in building a major club here in one of our historical landmarks so maybe that is a sign of a change to come.”

I know you started mixing using one turntable and a tape deck at the age of thirteen. Could you tell us a little bit about the time between then up to your mid twenties? You must have lived in a real hub of musical creativity. “Yeah, it was my 8th grade graduation party 1983-84. I thought I was doing something! My father always had music around me, be it from records to 8 track tapes instruments etcetera. He was heavy into jazz and I remember riding around with him listening to Count Basie, Miles Davis and Art Blakey – you know, the heavy cats! My mom was the Motown sound kind of music lover so that would be on the stereo when I would come home from school and first thing Saturday morning. The scene was popping in the 90s, very diverse and not necessarily just dance music. All urban music had an impact on the scene in Detroit. You could go in the club and hear Blake Baxter and get in your car to listen to Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power”. You know, music with a message! Good times in the early 90’s for sure.”

For those not clued up on past Detroit nightlife could you tell us a little bit about the Music Institute? “The Music Institute was a one of the true spots where you could go hear some good deep house music and see the who’s who of the time, whether it was the big name cats or up and coming DJs like me in those days. My fondest memories of the Music Institute was when I got the chance to catch the late great Ken Collier. He played some real heavy shit. A lot of stuff I had never heard at that time and still haven’t heard since, straight up deep! Another time I got the chance to catch Farley Jackmaster Funk, a Chicago legend. His set too was a masterpiece. When I say you could see anybody on any given night that’s what I mean.”

I’m trying to put everything in a timeline but I understand you were also the DJ and producer for a rap called P Square in the 90s? At the time how did this come about?  “Yeah, P Square was short for the Political Posse that consisted of M.C. Stone, The High Priest Saint Nick, The Dam J.I.G. and myself. At the time my DJ name was DJ Delirious, haha! Our crew was and still is much deeper than that, though. We met through a mutual friend Marc Roberts also known as “The White Guy” (R.I.P) and they had just gotten rid of their DJ at the time and it kind of fell in place from there. We were heavy into making music and we had some dope shit! Music with a positive message.”

Can you tell us a little bit about Mark King too? From what I’ve gathered you recorded the first house track you did with Omar S in his studio. “Mark King, that’s my man! Funny you asked as I just saw him for the first time in some years at the FHXE studio. He’s got some music coming real soon. We did our first track at Mark’s studio somewhere around 91-92. It was called “ It’s A Party Ya’ll’. It was pretty good too! How ironic is it that he is now in Omar S studio doing tracks? Got to love it.”

Moving onto 7 Days Ent. Do you feel you’ve achieved what you set out to do when you decided to start your own record label? “No way, not even close! When you set out to do something like this, the sky is the limit so to speak. There is so much to do and not enough time in the day. You’ve just got to keep pushing and be ready when your time comes. You have to believe in yourself, keep a positive vibe and surround yourself with positive people. We have a lot of work to do but trust me we will make an impact in this thing called “the industry” in due time.”

Speaking of Generation Next, a lot is coming together for him with the Nocturne EP release and his big European debut at Panorama bar earlier this month. I noticed you were playing for Smallville a couple days prior to his own gig. How was that experience for you both? “Man, what a feeling to be able to fly to Europe with one of your gifts from God and see people show him so much love. Words cannot describe the feeling! Yeah the Smallville gig was a huge success. Shout out to those guys, they showed us mad love. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to catch him in action at Panorama Bar as I had to play the same night in Geneva with Oram Modular. So yeah, I missed him but from the response he has been getting it sounds like he left a good impression!”

What’s happening with Reckless Ron Cook? “Glad you asked as we have something new from Ron coming early 2015. We’re still trying to plan a 7 Days Ent. label night tour with Ron, Generation Next and myself for hopefully April 2015. If any promoters are interested in booking this event please visit our artist page. Had to get that in.”

Finally, what else can we expect from Big Strick over the next year? “More music and more traveling with Generation Next. Hopefully we will be in your city soon! PEACE!”

Words by Riccardo Villella, 07 November 2014. 1 comment

Recommended: Murlo – Into Mist EP

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It’s hard to be conservative with superlatives for an artist as singular as Murlo. With releases on Mixpak, Glacial Sound and Unknown to the Unknown as well as a host of other songs and refixes and an early entry in our Functions of the Now series, it’s safe to say Murlo had 2013 on smash. Even taking into account the numerous singles and remixes from further back, Murlo’s tunes all seem to tie into this vast, colourful and extroverted nebula of vitality. Further exploring the synth-heavy, especially melodious strain of grime and occasionally bringing dancehall into the fray, his music is just like his label release history: unable to sit still, never settling, always on to the next thing. He also seems constantly busy, regularly DJing whether that’s with Hipsters Don’t Dance or the Boxed crew. Coming from a background in illustration and continuing to work in creative fields outside of sound, he produced the video for “Into Mist”, title track of his new EP on Rinse.

“Into Mist’s” vibrancy comes from its playfulness, kicking off with restrained percussion before Murlo lets loose with the marimba-type sounds, all light and airy and cushioned by incidental strings. Soft, sensual and exciting, it’s the dream they try to sell you in chocolate adverts. He only lingers on the Malteser riddim briefly however, as those signature harmonious synths have to come in along with the claps and shuffles, turning the track into bouncy, free-flowing glee. Chiming percussion reappears on “Vertigo” and “Roman Baths”, on the former as a sugary supplement and on the latter as a more tempered refrain. The final track on the EP is all minimal string plucks dancing across the layers like light rain. Murlo is a wizard with those sounds, knowing when too much is too much, and when too much is seriously fun. If Mumdance gets to be Grimey Jeff Mills then we’re nominating Murlo for Grimey Steve Reich.

Murlo’s works have reached a stage where it’s fair to expect a certain standard of quality from new releases. The reason why his Into Mist EP excels so much is that he doesn’t just meet those expectations for club bangers, he surpasses them by expressing his versatility more vividly than ever before. Each track on the record proceeds with different pacing, offering something new each time. “Vertigo” follows on from “Into Mist” retaining the energetic aspects, marrying them with a garage cadence and spliced vocals. Even then, there’s still some marching snare-work and videogame-like synths on an adventure tip. The latter two tracks take a decidedly considered approach leaving some room to breath. “Roman Baths” sees a contemplative Murlo take some time out for melancholic reflection as a sample of a girl’s laugh seems to echo throughout in some nostalgic way. Closing with sighing piano notes, “Roman Baths” is a much welcomed unexpected turn. The curveball comes in right at the end though, in the form of “Dripstone (The Chase Scene)”. Here, some padded kicks and throws are kept while most of the rest of the percussion are thrown out in exchange for solid, straight-faced samples from the inner city, from breaking glass, twisting locks to shutting doors. Passing traffic wooshes hover just outside of Murlo’s bubble of bashful strings and shimmering landmarks. In a way, it’s as if Murlo juxtaposes this world of rustic peace with rush of the city creeping around it, in the form of those urban cues.

Juxtaposition of coexisting entities is something that regularly appears throughout Murlo’s work, one way or another. Sometimes there’s this meshing of styles and genres as mentioned, or how “Into Mist’s” inclusion in Elijah & Skilliam’s Fabriclive 75 is yet another signal of inter-relatability across perceived generations in grime. His illustrations and expressed interests have involved ancient civilisations (the “Into Mist” video is heavy on Roman influence) and fantasy worlds alongside videogames, translated towards the peripheries of grime, a genre that exists both on futuristic frontiers and properly grounded in concrete jungle sprawls. Often, the world humours its impulse to impose constraints on artists – what their function is, the way they work, what it is they can be. Murlo is flourishing, paving new ground in any direction he wishes, and his Into Mist EP is a shining example on the merits of simply letting the artist be.

Murlo – Into Mist EP is out now on Rinse. Grab it here.

Words by Tayyab Amin, 06 November 2014. Leave a comment

Recommended: Life Between Screens (curated by Manni Dee)

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With the never-ending onslaught of the modern-day content wars, it’s appropriate sometimes to sit back and take a break from it all. Techno producer Manni Dee, of Perc Trax and Electronic Explorations fame, has done exactly this with his Life Between Screens compilation for WotNot Music. Life Between Screens is an opportunity for producers to work outside of their stated comfort zone on a project themed away from the dance floor and even stepping into the conceptual art space. Proposed as a soundtrack to the listener’s non-computer/smartphone/table existence, it offers a fascinating and rewarding collection of sounds that hover between a variety of, dare we say it, ambient modes.

Opening with the elegiac shuffle of “Body In Earth” from Fuewa, whose masterful Sonic Router release we profiled last year, the initial feeling is of wistful regret, tempered with an off-kilter shift into more exploratory electronic tones. Similar in shape if not emotion is “Taint” by relative newcomer Trinkkets, which moves from a solid build-up of noise into a plodding hip-hop groove before being stretched and shredded beyond recognition. On a more ethereal tip, BNJMN contributes the swirling tones of “The Unseen”, while D. Hansen shows up as Lotide with “In The Deserted Bazaars”, reportedly one of the last tracks under this alias. It’s a tense affair, unresolved chords and strange vocals eventually given catharsis by a beautifully surreal poetic reading/film sample (delete as applicable). MockSun’s “Without Instinct”, meanwhile, is a glacially cool slice of meandering ambience reminiscent of Biosphere at their most serene. Far from serene, however, is Shelley Parker’s “Restrictions”, a chainsaw-distorted piece of noise and fuzz, enlivening and unnerving in equal measure. Those who opt to obtain the cassette release can avail of even further ditties, with glistening, beatless melodies from Ekca Liena and Lost Twin sitting alongside Vangelis-esque beauty from Danalogue, and curator Manni Dee’s “A Nod Was The First Step” under his Nuances pseudonym, which comes off like Campfire Headphase-era Boards of Canada dragged down to a deathly 10bpm.

One of the most astounding pieces on the release is Memotone’s “Abbots Bromley Horn Dance”, a thrillingly bizarre piece of music that blends moods, eras and styles in a single unit. Built around a chilling recorder melody that’s straight out of the May Day celebrations of The Wicker Man, Memotone undercuts this playfulness with large swathes of distorted noise before injecting dolor with mournful clarinet harmonies. It’s a truly singular piece that takes the listener into realms uncharted and unexpected, in the same way that Manni Dee hoped to draw the assembled producers away from the norm. Take some time and get to know these beautiful and strange pieces of music.

Life Between Screens – Curated by Manni Dee is out now on WotNot Music. Buy here.

Words by Aidan Hanratty, 04 November 2014. Leave a comment

Temporary Trax: CYPHR – Metanoia

CYPHR TRUANTS TEMPORARY TRAX TAYLOR TROSTLE

The second in the Temporary Trax series comes in the form of “Metanoia” by CYPHR and it couldn’t be much further from the bright funk of the first. Most recently, the Her Records mainstay has drawn heavy doses of critical acclaim for his 6 track EP “Ekleipsis”. Much like that EP, “Metanoia” is a showcase of the many different influences which make him one of the most unique producers in this field. It starts off with a ton of ill at ease space and sparse industrial percussion before building into some dark R’n’B with marching band rolling snares and ghostly vocal pads. We got the inside track on how “Metanoia” was made, the reason for it sounding so haunting and also on a potential direction for CYPHR’s future output.

“I made this a few days ago in the space of an afternoon, pretty much. The only tracks I end up sharing are the ones I make in a really short space of time because I don’t have time to overthink them. It’s true that most of the tracks on the EP took a while, but “Ekleipsis” (the track) was the quickest to produce and is probably my favourite because of it. I will always spend a while filling in subtleties, I just think it’s important to ground a track in one session. Otherwise, it’s tough to come back to. The starting point totally depends on my mood and the track. It’s different every time. Sometimes I’ll have a beat or a melody in my head and I’ll work around that but other times I’ll just search through my sound bank until I find something cool. With this one the clocks had just gone back and Halloween was incoming. I found a load of scary clangs, hits and worked from there. I think the voice melody was where it all came together. I also start a lot of my tracks, this one included, with a singer or rapper in mind. I’m always trying them with acapellas, seeing what works and what doesn’t. Listening to guys like BC Kingdom, I can’t get enough of their vocals. Tinashe has a couple of amazing tracks too, like the Evian Christ interlude “Indigo Child”. Tracks like that where the producer’s work and the singer just fit together so comfortably. It’s a desirable relationship. Without a doubt I’d like to do more work with singers in the future.”

[REMOVED ➝ LISTEN TO/DOWNLOAD THE NEXT INSTALMENT BY SUDANIM HERE ]

Temporary Trax: Ever since the inception of Truants, we have been proudly dedicated to providing you with the best content while remaining free of advertising and other external influences. We’ve managed to do this through a certain level of self-funding, as well as through donations from our wonderful readers. It goes without saying that this means an awful lot to us and we’ve been hard at work to offer you something a little more tangible in return. Temporary Trax is a new feature in which we offer you the chance to download something completely exclusive in exchange for a donation. 100% of your donation goes towards our running costs. Each track will stay live for two weeks and once we roll it out you can no longer get the previous offering. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. We’re delighted to be working with graphic designer Taylor Trostle to deliver you an exclusively designed piece of artwork with every new instalment. Mixing engineer Jeremy Cox also continues the impeccable work he does with Her Records and others on “Metanoia”.

If you have donated £15 or more in the past and would like to reclaim your Temporary Trax downloads for free, please mail us at trax@truantsblog.com and we will get back to you with a download link shortly. 

Words by Matt Coombs, 03 November 2014. Tags: | Leave a comment

Recommended: Rival Consoles – Sonne

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Last year long-standing Erased Tapes artist Rival Consoles released the Odyssey EP, his sixth outing with the London-based avant-garde label. We noted its “warm, sumptuous chords” and praised its consistent diversity. In the 12 months since Odyssey, he’s been busy travelling and performing, taking on a US tour and supporting Luke Abbot across the UK in conjunction with the latter’s Wysing Forest release. Sonne, therefore, comes as a weighty surprise, a full body of work after months of silence.

“Sonne” kicks into life with an exuberantly high-pitched synth riff in flighty 3/4, urgent triplets giving the piece pace and nervous tension. A minute and a half in and the track takes on a new life, as rich electronic chords evoke notions of a sort of modern baroque style – a thick swathe of synthetic organ sound coming off like a neo harpsichord. A sheen of open cutoff closes the piece like the blinding light of suddenly opened curtains on a summer’s morning. “3 Chords” is a misnomer, as Rival Consoles does in fact use more than the titular number; that said, the second is only introduced more than two minutes in. Picking different points up and down the line, he builds a steady, growing beat around a single pattern of notes. Bass notes throb while higher pitches glisten and swell. An interesting attempt at minimalism, it succeeds emotionally if not literally. “Helios” is an even greater success – coming off like a slower, more jubilant version of James Holden’s “10101”, it clicks and shakes with rumbling fizz before exploding into an overwhelming barrage of pomp and celebration, rattling drums and a wall of fuzz instilling the feeling of a raucous party atmosphere. “Haunt” is more delicate, then, its warped and elongated synths hinting at deeper yearning, perhaps a telling emotion after such heady delights.

Things head towards a frantic climax with “Think Tank”, which is almost straightforwardly club worthy with its dead-on 4/4 approach. A Boards of Canada-esque wobbling synth line just keeps its heartbreaking mood, while chirruping effects feel like far-off birdsong. “Recovery” closes the release with stacatto synths rolling back and forth, pushing towards a frenetic tempo in unpredictable fashion. While the sonics of Sonne might not be all that different to those of Odyssey, the ideas and emotion that shape each track here demonstrate a clear step forward for Rival Consoles. Developing his sound without straying from his established identity, he’s managed to bring together the head and heart in perfect balance.

Rival Consoles – Sonne is out now on Erased Tapes. Buy here.

Words by Aidan Hanratty, 30 October 2014. Leave a comment

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