The saxophone has always occupied an unfortunate territory. Originally fashioned for use in military bands by a clarinetist who desired an instrument with the agility of woodwind and the projection of brass, it then found favour in symphonic ensembles and big bands. Its reputation in popular music, however, is tainted by scores of soft rock solos and 80s riffs, “Lost Boys” clips and the dreaded “Sexy Sax Man” and “Crazy Sexy Sax Guy”. When it comes to that wide banner of dance music, plus ça change. Mr Saxobeat. Calabria. Guido’s “Mad Sax” paired its novelty with crashing timps and warm synths, but that was an aberration. It’s been a pleasure, therefore, to watch the rise of New York’s Archie Pelago, the trio that blends live playing and improvisation with a hefty Ableton setup. Their Resident Advisor podcast last year was a glorious, life-affirming set, its combination of brass and woodwind with electronic beats offering a frisson often lacking in studio-recorded mixes. With “Lakeside Obelisk”, they’ve captured that magic and put down their most accomplished work to date.
Stream: Archie Pelago – Chilly (Archie Pelago Music)
“D’s Diamonds” opens with a slinky piano line reminiscent of (if not borrowed from) Joe Thomas’s “Venus”, which leads towards the frivolous yet expert sax improv from Kroba. The percussion underneath shifts in every section, mirroring the tenor’s meandering focus, these parts underpinned by that unchanging piano line and the occasional flourish of pads. It’s a thrilling opener, joyful and brimming with hopeful excitement, one that contrasts greatly with “Chilly”, a delirious run through gated synths and scattershot percussion. Hirshi’s trumpet leads the way here, punctuated here and there by detuned rap samples and twisted modulations. The title track sees offers dubby basslines and warm sax drones, Kroba’s recorded lines crushed beyond recognition over slightly contained jungle hits.
Turning the record over to weighty opus “Neighborhood Mephisto” we’re confronted with skittery juke rhythms, split sax lines and trance arpeggios. The twists and turns throughout lead the listener on a wild and ritualistic dance, as mischievous as the title would suggest. Midway through, the main theme is taken on by Cosmo D’s emotive cello, at once intimating a brief respite but instead bringing us into a breakneck 160pm. While “Saturn V” continues that frantic pace, its yearning cello, crashing timpani and celestial Japanese sample offers a stillness amidst its own recklessness. Ending the record on such a beautiful note is a wise move, the power of “Neighbourhood Mephisto” not lost but translated into pure emotion. What this release shows more than anything else, is that Archie Pelago aren’t just a here to show off, a group living off a gimmick showing how clever and talented they are. Behind all that talent and showmanship is the ability to craft real, heartfelt music with soul, not just empty bluster.
Archie Pelago – Lakeside Obelisk is out now on Archie Pelago Music. Buy here.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 14 February 2014. Leave a comment
For our 90th Truancy Volume we’re proud to present Dakini9, a New York based producer and DJ, whose work as one half of Plan B Recordings alongside DJ Spider (of recent Trilogy Tapes fame) has made her a long-standing figure in New York’s deep, underground music scene. Joining Plan B after its first release in 2008, Lola Rephann has been responsible for helping put out more than thirty records from the likes of Amir Alexander, Chris Mitchell and Hakam Murphy, as well as productions from herself and Spider. Having set up Deep See; a weekly Tuesday night she started with E-Man in 2000, which lasted a decade, Lola has witnessed and been part of many cultural and stylistic trends in music which has matured her into a fantastic talent behind the turntables. With this and the news of her starting a new label called Sound Warrior with Jenifa Mayanja we decided to hit her up for a mix and interview which she kindly delivered hot off the back of her recent European Tour.
Want to start with asking you to tell us a little bit about you time growing up in New York and how you first got to be involved in the music scene here and starting nights such as Deep See? “I was actually born in New Haven, CT, but moved to NYC to go to school at 18. I started going out the first night I moved to NYC. I had already been turned on to house and techno at this point, and part of my decision to come to NYC was so I could be closer to the music and culture that moved me so much. I went out for many years, to Limelight and Palladium, Twilo and Mars, Shelter or Arc, Nell’s, Soul Kitchen, and Giant Step, before meeting Eric “E-Man” Clark. He was a local DJ on the NYC scene at the time, with history in the legendary NYC parties like Paradise Garage and the Loft. He was a very diverse DJ, dropping house, reggae, classics, funk, etc., but that’s also how NYC was at the time. He went on to release several big house records in the early 2000s, like “It’s Yours” on Chez Music.
Anyway, he was doing this event called “Bang the Party,” a real underground house party for heads and dancers, and it was my second home, I barely missed a Friday night for years. Some of the best DJs played there, as well as many locals. That was one of the hallmarks of BTP, local jocks always had a chance to get on the decks and E-Man nurtured a lot of talent that way. Observing this, one day I told him I wanted to become a DJ, so that I could better understand this relationship between DJ & dancer that I was so into. House music was always about getting free for me, that’s what attracted me to the music and culture, the feeling of freedom, so this is what intrigued me about DJing. How does the DJ do that to us? We (dancers) are so connected to the DJ. What is the relationship like in the other direction, from DJ to dancer? This really fascinated me. So I got my decks, and that led to me and E-Man starting “Deep See” in 2000. It was a weekly Tuesday night that sometimes went on until 4:30 or 5am, after the club was technically closed. We had so many of our friends and associates play: Rick Wilhite, Keith Worthy, Jovonn, Osunlade, Todd Terry, Patrice Scott, Mike Huckaby, Dennis Ferrer, Fred P, Karizma, Daz I-Kue…the list is long and we had so many incredible nights. Deep See was a huge part of my life, 10 years to be exact.
I understand you had a residency at Pacha NYC at one point too? I had a residency at Pacha NYC in the mid 2000’s as part of the group Stimulus Response. It was a group of 4 DJs and one promoter (Gabe “Silverbull” Mayorga, who is still active on the NYC scene). We played in Pacha at least 4-6 times a year, and that party lasted 5 years. Between Deep See, playing to small, tastemaker crowds and Pacha, playing to large, more diverse crowds, I got a lot of experience playing at different times, in different rooms, to different crowds.”
In a past interview you stated “since we (Deep See) were around so long, we also experienced many “trends” in music, stylistically, culturally, and technologically.” I was hoping you could elaborate on some of those if possible. “Certainly. When Deep See started in 2000, NYC was more or less a unified scene. The sub-genres of electronic music hadn’t really broken apart into strands and there weren’t the number and variety of parties you have now. Competition wasn’t as fierce and generally, the parties that did crop up at this time lasted a while. Some are still around, like Danny Krivit’s 718 Sessions. When we started Deep See, all venues had turntables and DJs were expected to play vinyl. New York City had amazing record stores, like Vinylmania, Dancetracks, Satellite, and Sonic Groove. Although the CDJ had been invented by this point, it had not achieved the status it has now. It was probably 2007 or 2008 before a guest of ours brought a laptop into the booth. So we went through this whole thing, bringing bags and even crates (yup!) of records to our gigs, to seeing things slowly, and then rapidly, turn in favor of CDs, then laptops. Deep See took its last voyage sometime in 2010…
We experienced many trends in music, like nu-jazz, broken beat, soulful house, minimal techno, and so on. Thing is, we always had a diverse taste in music and approach to our DJ sets, so we were always eclectic at Deep See, doesn’t matter the genre so long as it’s good music. I always felt we were ahead of the curve with that party, as we were playing Detroit techno and harder-edged house music for years before it became something that became widely appreciated in NYC.”
How did you move into production? From what we’ve read DJ Spider had a massive influence on you in this aspect. “In the mid-2000s, I was still only DJing. I had experimented with stuff I’d record into my computer using whatever rudimentary programs I had and was playing with mics recording sounds, and even bought a sampler that I fooled around with, but I hadn’t yet gone into anything remotely resembling production. DJ Spider joined Deep See (in 2007) to help us with the event. I had known him from around the NYC scene, but it was through working together on the party that we became friends. I always appreciated his energy and passion for music.
In 2008, he put out the first Plan B Recordings release, then asked me to be his partner in the label. I agreed and we are now approaching our 40th release! Anyway, he had a few years of production experience at this time, and I would go to his studio and work on stuff with him. I learned watching and working with him. We did a few collaborative projects together, where I was just using my name, Lola, before I created a moniker and an idea for what I wanted to do. Those were great projects, really raw creative energy. Around 2010, I started producing as Dakini9. Spider has been a huge supporter in everything I’ve done, and he’s also pushed me to keep going and given me tons of encouragement. He’s an excellent engineer and I’ve been able to learn a lot working with him.”
As an outsider, there definitely feels like there is a lot of great music coming out of New York at the moment with the whole L.I.E.S, Mister Saturday Night, White Material and Point Break crew making big movements in 2013. As someone who’s been through a decade of music in the city, how does the current state of music there feel for you from an artistic standpoint? Does it feel like a close knit community? “The NYC music community is definitely growing. It’s great to see people you’ve known for years doing well and staying active: releasing music, running labels, DJing around the world. For those who are enjoying some success now, it’s come after years of dedication and hard work. After 9/11 and during the Giuliani years, the nightlife scene felt dormant. The entire process of throwing parties became very complicated with things like the cabaret laws and “quality of life” police going around ticketing clubs. Then we got Michael Bloomberg, and everything in NYC became even more expensive. Many Manhattan bars and clubs chose to focus on bottle service and other extravagances, and the vibe was leaving fast. As the Wall Street lifestyle kept taking over, the music scene moved underground, returning to lofts, warehouses, and temporary spaces, mostly in Brooklyn. Thank goodness for these promoters who put their time, money, and energy on the line. From this, a new cadre of promoters, producers, and DJs has risen, and NYC’s underground music scene is definitely riding a new energy now.”
Keen to ask what you feel New York’s best kept secret is, that isn’t music related however. “Well if I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret ;)”
You recently started a new label called Sound Warrior with Jenifa Mayanja. It’s obviously very early on it’s inception but we’re keen to know the thought behind starting the new label and any directions you and Jenifa may be taking it with it. “Jen and I started this label to help support and develop female artists & producers. We’re conscious of how few women there are in the deep electronic music scene. If men make up 95% of the producers & DJs you see on the bills around the world, on the websites, on the charts, that’s not an exaggeration. Being a woman in the scene, there can sometimes be a sense of isolation as you’re walking an artistic or professional path. Jen actually released an album called “Woman Walking In The Shadows” (on her own label, Bu-Mako Recordings). As far as the sound with the label, we go for tracks with a ritualistic or hypnotic feel: tribal percussion, organic sounds, something mystical or deep in flavour.”
Stream: Dakini9 – Trail Markers (Sound Warrior Recordings)
I was very excited to learn that you’re a dedicated yoga practitioner and instructor. I swear it’s every other week I see a DJ mention on Twitter that they’ve taken up yoga classes and that it’s benefited them tremendously. When did this interest first start and do you feel your yoga has an influence on your music and vice versa? “I’ve been involved in the study of the mind-body-spirit since I can remember. Even as a child I was always bugging my mother with questions about life and death. As a teenager I became interested in metaphysical things, exploring yoga and Taoism, reading I Ching, astrology, and so on. I became more dedicated to my yoga practice over the years, and became a yoga teacher about 4 years ago. At this point, yoga is such a huge part of my life that there’s probably nothing I do that isn’t influenced by yoga in some way. Yoga becomes a way of life, one in which you are constantly studying yourself, your actions and re-actions, your thoughts, aspiring to live in alignment with yourself, to discover your true essence. My music is certainly influenced by yoga, and to some degree, music influences my yoga practice as well. How to have more cross-pollination between these two passions of mine is something I’m trying to figure out how to manifest, what the message is I’d like to bring forth, what it is I’m trying to teach or express.”
Although I’ve never done yoga before I find tracks like “Daemon” and “Dust & Memories” would lend themselves beautifully to it if I tried. Do you base some of your productions around this or can it be a more subconscious process? “Thank you, I actually received a lovely email in the past, where someone told me she was using “Dust & Memories” for her yoga practice. Both of these tracks are very personal but I did not create either for the practice of yoga, although either could be utilized for it.”
Stream: Dakini9 – Daemon (Soul Music)
You recently came back from your European tour that included stops in Tel Aviv and Berlin for Panorama Bar. How did the trip go? “It was an amazing experience that I’m still processing. I loved being able to travel to new places and meet new people, see how people in different places socialize and appreciate music, feel different energies.”
Can you tell us a little bit about the mix you’ve recorded for us? “This mix was recorded very spur of the moment, just a few days after returning from my tour to Europe, in January 2014. Most of the selections are records I picked up during my trip. It was recorded live from two Technics 1200s and my Rane mixer.”
What’s next for you, release-wise, tour-wise, music-wise or just personally, etc.? “I’ve got releases coming up on my labels: Plan B Recording’s Underground Sounds Vol. 2 and Sound Warrior 003. This winter, I plan to work on new music as much as possible. I have a few local NYC gigs in the spring, am playing in Hawaii in late April, and hope to return to EU in the fall/winter.
Finally, when was the last time you danced? “I danced a little to DJ Qu’s set at Output in NYC a couple of weeks ago. I opened up the room, then Levon Vincent played, then Qu. I also danced to DJ Spider’s set in the Panther Room that night. But I am due a good sweat fest, that’s the best way to dance.”
Words by Riccardo Villella, 13 February 2014. Leave a comment
We first became familiar with the producer/DJ known as Akito through his near perfect remix of Jeremih’s anthem “Fuck You All The Time”. The remix blended the accapella with both Wiley’s Ice Rink, and Joe’s Claptrap, and reshaped the original slow-jam into something more suitable for the UK-leaning crowds and DJs. Around the same time he released his first original track titled Unacquainted on Sub Skank (a label which he co-runs), and although it was very well constructed it lacked the playfulness and character of his well-known remix. Fast forward one year to the follow up release Metamessage and this time Akito manages to get much closer to the mark.
Stream: Jeremih – F You All The Time (Akito’s F U On the Clap Trap Ice Rink – Bootleg)
As with many of the interesting contemporary club records it’s hard to put a finger on what exactly this music is, with influences spanning many of the “in vogue” genres, such as Grime and Jersey Club over the EP’s 4 tracks. The EP title track comes in two flavours; starting with the low-slung House original mix and is followed by a “Club Constructions” version of sorts which replaces the steady 4/4 with the sporadic Baltimore/Jersey style kicks that the series has become known for. Over on the B-side the track Aqua Tryst jumps between driving Jersey rhythms and laid back Grime patterns. The EP then closes with Bordello Bounce; the perfect combination of ennui filled atmospherics and tuff-as-fuck drums. Although the EP shares a very similar palette to many of the new wave of Grime artists, Akito manages to avoid many of their shortcomings, and by including elements from House and Jersey, he is able to re-inject some momentum into a sound which, I feel, is much too sluggish in its current form.
One of the EP’s striking characteristics is the depth of activity on each track. When looked at in a positive light this intricateness is what will keep people coming back to the record; however, at times there is a feeling of over-production and the songs lack the powerful minimalism heard on the aforementioned Club Construction series. Having said that, this detail and also his more Dub and Jungle influenced sound, is what separates Akito from his contemporaries and allows him to stand out in the every expanding and mutating “UK Club” spectrum.
Stream: Akito – Metamessage EP (Sub Skank)
Available digitally from Boomkat and all other good online distributors.
Words by Warren O'Neill, 11 February 2014. Leave a comment
David Spaans might have been responsible for a series of hot records under a collection of different aliases such as Hustler, Barracuda and Piranha throughout the late nineties, but something David might hold closer to heart is the number of producers who say they owe their career to the mentoring and advice given by him. One person who falls under this category is fellow Dutch producer Mark Du Mosch, who says a trip to his studio in 1995 and witnessing all his machines in action was all it took to start his interest in ‘great techno music’. A close friendship ensued between the two and before long Du Mosch had landed his first release on Keynote in 2006; a record which would ultimately be the last pressed from the label, since its inception in 2000. Du Mosch’s melodic approach to house, techno and italo-influenced electro soon found itself onto labels such David Vunk’s Moustache Records, Cyber Dance and Tabernacle; culminating in an expansive discography that led up to his brilliant debut album Salmiak on SD Records in 2012. We highly recommend checking out the video of the title track, featuring the man himself on some spray can tip.
Having earned the highest amount of respect in Dutch circles, it seems only natural that his latest release comes from Dutch label and general party throwers Dekmantel. After the roaring success of their first official festival last year in August, the label have since released two records; one from an artist across the pond in the form of Joey Anderson’s Fall Off Face and the other from native Du Mosch. Titled Bay 25, the release features two originals and a remix from Gesloten Cirkel, all firmly rooted in analogue goodness. Starting with title track Bay 25, you know those tracks that can set a dance floor alight from solely a kick drum, a baseline and a bit of white noise? Well, there’s a section in Bay 25 that will do exactly that and then some. Du Mosch’s aptness for skirting subtle melodies in the mix is in full effect here and the break like percussion adds a new dimension to effectively a techno tune. B side track ‘Living It Up’ excels with the melodies, adding layer after layer for an almost progressive like build up that will equally work a crowd but in a slower, slightly more engaging manner to its record counterpart. It’s incredibly busy yet the mix down is impressively done. Overall, these are two masterful tracks in abundance with variation that display Mark Du Mosch’s abilities as a producer as one of the best in the field.
Words by Riccardo Villella, 06 February 2014. Leave a comment
Our 89th Truancy Volume comes from San Fransisco native Avalon Emerson, who’s just put out her debut release on Icee Hot. “Pressure/Quoi!“ is a full-on assault, combining tough beats and frivolous samples. Her mix for us, meanwhile, throws together classic rave anthems and more recent house jaunts, all in the name of the party. We spoke to Avalon (who’s also a software developer by trade) about rocking that party, how she got in with the Icee Hot guys, and where to find the best cookie in America…
Hi! How are you? “Doing well Aidan! It’s 10:30pm and I’m enjoying a 2005 Napa Chardonnay.” What have you been up to recently? “Things have been great, fielding reactions from my first record [laughing] that only happens once! I’m finishing up the mixing for a new record. Also still finding new ways to be in love with my new (to me) 1980 Vespa P200. Seriously, it’s changed my life.”
The mix you’ve done for us is decidedly retro in feel – how much inspiration do you draw from the early days of house and rave? It struck me that tracks like ‘The Human Bond’ (1997) and ‘Nightbird’ (1991) sound just as fresh now, while tracks like ‘Songs To Elevate Pure Hearts’ and ‘Ride’, without sounding dated, pay great homage to earlier styles. Does this element of timelessness appeal to you? “Kevin Saunderson does have plenty of modern copy cats, but to me actually ‘Nightbird’ sounds super dated! Like it’s the music for some fast-motion montage of some English kids riding in a van through a field during the 2nd summer of love with acid smiley face T-shirts and cargo pants. Some music is woven using threads of objective quality, no matter the decade. Music is not a linear progression, and there are only so many really great tracks that came out in 2013. When digging for new tunes, increase the search scope to increase the yield.”
You recorded the mix using a Urei 1620LE and E&S X3004 isolator – can you tell us a bit about that? How did you first come across that piece of kit? “It’s what’s set up in the living room with the turntables, it’s my preferred method of mixing and listening. Nothing else even comes close to a broadcast quality rotary and a nice isolator as far as sound reproduction, with nothing in the way for distraction. I think it enforces an attention to timing and blending with the room, not with split ears or EQ bass ducking. The best times I’ve had dancing at parties are with isolator-friendly DJs like the Dope Jams Celebrate LIFE parties and Body & SOUL. Simply, I want to accentuate the frequencies in music that I resonate with. That’s my golden ideal. I feel like my DJ sets are running at 60-70% when I play without an isolator, and the crowd seems to enjoy the performance aspect of it as well. You can’t always make riders happen when you’re asking for a rig that costs twice your fee, so I just recently actually bought a really shitty Vestax FDG-1 non-rack iso to run through the sends of whatever crap line fader the club has. The depressing Pioneer peak limiters still suck out most of the dynamics, but with a few big knobs at least I can be expressive!”
How representative of your sets would this mix be? Would you often pull it up and shift moods as you do here, going from Jackie Moore into Special Request? “I loved being able to use a mix as a snapshot for what I was into and playing for a particular time. Especially when I practise it and record it live like I did with this one. As far as the omnivorous vibe switch up thing, for me, all my favorite DJs will traverse disparate mood/energy/genre continents in a night. I don’t want someone listening in to the first four tracks of my set and thinking there’s another two hours of the same ahead. The night changes with the crowd and the space and the circumstances, so should the music.”
Many people keep their day job, which is solely to make ends meet, separate from their musical identity, but Avalon Emerson the producer/DJ, developer and photographer are all one and the same. Does this lack of demarcation make life easier for you? “Well I don’t do photography professionally any more, and it’s sure not as sexy to say you write software for a living, but I feel very lucky to be doing something career-wise that I can grow with, that challenges me, and that sharpens me in other aspects of my life.”
You’ve just put out your first record, with Icee Hot. How does it feel? “It feels pretty great! I finished the songs almost a year ago, so the pace of physical media was definitely something to get used to, but just the difference of having something exist in the real world, and to be able to work with other talented hustlers like the Icee Hot guys and Christopher Willits (my sound engineer) to get this thing done, has been really exciting.” How did you first get in touch with the label? “Well I actually interned at XLR8R when I was 20 and had just moved to SF after college in Arizona. That’s when I met Shawn (and Willits actually). I’ve been going to Shawn’s Icee Hot parties since their inception.”
‘Pressure’ is pretty full on, while ‘Quoi!’ is very much tongue in cheek. Is this split important to you, making sure people know you’ve got range? “I put together ‘Quoi!’ because the guys wanted to hear if I had anything else to accompany ‘Pressure’, a track I’d given to Ryan (Ghosts on Tape) in hopes that he’d give me the masters to his recently test-pressed ‘No Guestlist’. He didn’t give me the promo until later, but we ended up putting out a record! I think the two tracks compliment each other well, but it seems like a lot of people, especially those less inherently in-love with techno, seem to gravitate more to ‘Quoi!’.” You got a pair of contrasting remixes from Tuff City Kids. Whose choice was this? It’s an interesting approach, which for me harks back to the time when the likes of Andrew Weatherall or David Morales would do varying styles of remix across one package. “Gerd and Philip’s involvement was such a pleasure and a privilege. They turned the first track around in a couple weeks, then another a couple weeks after that, without even asking! The range between the two reworks still really impresses me and I think it’s what really makes the record a full statement.”
I read an interesting interview with you where you talk about the transition from traditional songwriting to producing. You said that: “The huge difference between the two kinds of songwriting/producing to me is the somewhat objective lens you can put over a dance track. It either works on a dance floor or it doesn’t.” Do you ever find it difficult to keep tracks personal while also ensuring they work on the floor? “I make production decisions with my gut first, polish it off using my ears, and decidedly keep my self-conscious, and scene-aware mind out of it. I think what I meant to get across is that you get to play with the element of instant social proof with dance music. You can use a crowd as a big agar petri dish to spill stuff on and see what grows. Both dance and non-dance can be terrible and genius, weighed down with genre codifications and transcendent, but I think the whole ‘club/warehouse DJ paradigm’ is actually an environment that allows an artist to be more creative and interesting than the traditional rock-show way of experiencing music.” What other material have you been working on? Do you have any plans to make non-club electronic music? “Actually yes, my next record is an EP on this brand new San Francisco/Paris label I’m working with called Spring Theory, which actually is three songs of deeper and more listenable-in-a-non-club-environment stuff.”
To round things up, what’s your favourite kind of cookie? “Definitely the Momofuku Corn cookie out of NYC. Those who know…”
And when was the last time you danced?” Even if you’re not dancing physically, you can dance internally and spiritually.“
The Future Sound of London – Papua New Guinea (Andrew Weatherall mix)
Neville Watson – Songs To Elevate Pure Hearts (Kink & Rachel mix)
Meat Beat Manifesto – Radio Babylon
Avalon Emerson – Quoi! (What Beats?)
E-Dancer – Human Bond
Gesloten Cirkel – Gesloten Cirkel
Archigram – Carnival
Stacy Kidd – You
Sheila E. – The Glamorous Life Part II
Jackie Moore – This Time Baby (Special Disco Version)
Lana Del Rey – Ride / Blue Jeans (Special Request mix)
Shed – Fluid 67
Auto Repeat – Auto Disco (Soundhack’s Krachapella)
Fokus Group – Mucky Crack Funk
Convert – Nightbird
Scan 7 – Unusual Channel
DJ Sprinkles – Glorimar’s Whore House
Math-U-Matix – Higher (Symphony mix)
Raw Junkies – Roomba (Feelin Horny)
Benjamin Damage – Delirium Tremens (Robert Hood mix)
The Knife – Silent Shout
Boogie Nite – Feel Me (Boogie Nite Unplugged mix)
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 30 January 2014. 1 comment