A guide to queer house music

Posted: January 11th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: | No Comments »

You better acknowledge the fact that house music emerged from gay sub- and club culture. And it is a continuation of disco music, for which the same applies. These are the undeniable roots of what still keeps so many people busy on the floor, and the roots of a whole industry. Yet there are less explicitly homosexual producers and performers that have the same attention and careers as the heterosexual stars of the scene, and there are less records that display explicitly gay content in the canon of club music than heterosexual ones. This guide is a chronological celebration of releases that wear their sexual orientation with pride, from the early days of house music to ballroom culture, drag queens and vogue dancers, from encoded niches to the mainstream. RuPaul‘s first record was released in 1985, a long way before the Drag Race. And a whole lot of names have vanished from sight over the years. And even if the struggle continues, they all paved the way for more acceptance.

The Children – Freedom (Factory Mix) (D.J. International Records, 1987)

A jacking anthem for the Warehouse and Music Box crowds in Chicago, produced by Adonis and The Children. But also very decidedly produced for the children, the dancers on the floor that did not fit in with the majority around them. „I have nothing to prove. I‘m this way because I wanna be. Can‘t you accept me for what I am?“

Steve „Silk“ Hurley – Cold World (Mommy Can Your Hear Me Mix) (Atlantic, 1989)

Jamie Principle riding a bumpy groove, taking a stand against ignorance within family and society. The lyrics have echoes of the Pet Shop Boys‘ „It‘s A Sin“ and Bronski Beat‘s „Smalltown Boy“, but they have no time for pomp and detailed narrative. The kid is not leaving, as the Beatles once sang, it is thrown right out. „The children say: I will not change!“

Danny Xtravaganza – Love The Life You Love (Le Palage Mix) (Nu Groove Records, 1990)

In 1990 the success of Jennie Livingston‘s documentary „Paris Is Burning“ brought the secluded ballroom culture into the limelight, and gave Madonna a hit single (and some spectacular tour dancers). The codes, terminology and vogueing dance moves were expected to fade away again once the usual mainstream attention faded, but they came to stay. Among the houses portrayed in the film was the House of Xtravaganza, whose forming member, the late Danny Xtravaganza managed to introduce both a life-affirming message and a glimpse of success against a merciless ballroom jurisdiction, all over a breezy house groove. „Judges, your scores. Ten, ten, ten, ten, ten, ten across the board!“

Jackie 60 Presents Jackie MC‘s – The Jackie Hustle (Johnny D’s Duelling MC Mix) (Minimal Records, 1992)

The theme tune of the seminal New York City club Jackie 60, featuring co-founder Johnny Dynell and Arthur Baker as producers, and Danny Tenaglia mixing it up. The track is a sweet mellow house groove with a cheeky reference to Van McCoy‘s „The Hustle“, and Paul Alexander and Richard Move most charmingly act as MCs in the most conférencier sense, greeting the Jackie legends and Jackie hustlers as if they would pass them by in the room, and giving them a bit of attitude, too. „We got a lot of superstars in the house tonight. Hello. I wanna welcome all the Jackie virgins, all the Jackie wannabees.“

Ralphi Rosario – Bardot Fever (D.J. World, 1992)

Ralphi Rosario provides a swinging piano house track for a showcase of Chicago‘s club legend Byrd Bardot. Actually the way she constantly pronounces her name throughout the track was perfect to throw a pose to. „Do you feel it? Fever? Lots of fever? I bet you do. “

Moi Renee – Miss Honey (Project X Records, 1992)

A kicking house track that gives more than a slight nod towards Masters At Work‘s „Ha Dance“ from 1991, the probably most interpreted sound template of ballroom house music. But here we also have the late, legendary Moi Renee, telling that unfaithful bitch some news in her very own style. Her almost mantra-like rant inspired a lot of subsequent vocalists to follow her steps, although they mostly went way more into detail. „Where‘s the bitch, she‘s got some nerve. Here I am, and feeling fierce!“

Frank Ski – Tony’s Bitch Track (Original Dirty Version) (Deco Records, 1992)

Baltimore Club was not exactly known for queer artists, and so the repect and praise the late Miss Tony commanded in that scene was already saying a whole lot. A frequent featuring MC and vocalist on according local records and club nights, Anthony Boston also proved to be aware of the real struggle with brilliant releases like „Release Yourself (Tired Of Being Under Pressure) and „Living In The Alley“, but „Tony‘s Bitch Track“ really shows what this legend is all about. The music merges Todd Terry and Eddy De Clercq‘s act House Of Venus as a perfect canvas for Miss Tony‘s inimitable reading. „I‘m a man, I‘m a man, I‘m a man, I‘m a man. But you know what y‘all? Sometimes I feel just like a woman. And if you don‘t believe me, ask your father.“

I.M.T. – I.M.T. Theme (Free Yourself) (Miss Girl Hopes 2 Become Mix) (Miss Girl Records, 1993)

I.M.T. only released two singles, but both were very remarkable. Their music was an eerie and idiosyncratic take on house and techno, their message was an encouragement of transgender determinedness, referencing quotes from „Paris Is Burning“. „It‘s your turn. And it‘s your time. To free yourself to become yourself.“

The Ride Committee Feat. Roxy – Get Huh! (E-Legal, 1993)

Roxy punished the competition in a lot of seminal ballroom house records, but this wild Louie Balo production is still among her fiercest. Don‘t mess! „She‘s got really dreadful skin. She‘s got Ethel Merman‘s chins. I hate huh! Get huh!“

Candy J – Shoulda Known Better (M.D. Rubba Dub Mix) (Vinyl Solution, 1994)

Candy Jackson aka Sweet Pussy Pauline aka Hateful Head Helen was a true icon of the Chicago house scene, releasing very self-confident and often very explicit tracks since 1986. But this striking Mike Dunn production shows another side of her, telling a very moving and very bitter story of abuse and wrong love to the girlfriend (and us). „Now I‘m in the hospital. I got a black eye, a sprained arm and one broken leg. I can‘t see him the way I used to, I can‘t hold him the way I want to, and I got thoughts that I want to hop back to him when I get out. Am I crazy? Am I still delirious?“

Junior Vasquez – X (Sound Factory Mix) (Tribal America, 1994)The Sound Factory was the big room playground of the 90s ballroom scene, and its resident DJ Junior Vasquez was its undisputed and imperious ruler. This pounding track is an example of how he merged DJ Pierre‘s wild pitch sound template with the club‘s floor theatrics and drama, and it is also a tribute and a theme tune to the House of Xtravaganza, and its late house mother Angie.

Rageous Projecting Franklin Fuentes – Tyler Moore Mary (Banji Bite Mix) (Strictly Rhythm, 1995)

Jerel Black working a butch, Todd Terry referencing house track, featuring the notorious Franklin Fuentes relentlessly reading a queen who is probably having a go in the realness category. „I‘m the New York Times, baby. And you‘re Street News. You get the picture?“

Tronco Traxx – Runway (Grease Monkey Drag Queen Mix) (Henry Street Music, 1996)

„Can You Party“ by Todd Terry in his Royal House guise served as reference in many ballroom house tracks (and also yet again there are samples of other staples like Eddy de Clercq‘s aka House of Venus‘ „Dish And Tell“ and MAW‘s „The Ha Dance“), but it arguably seldom hit as hard as in this Robbie Tronco production. One for the true devils on the floor. „Butch Queen vogueing femme. Butch queen voguing like femme queen. Bring it to the runway.“

The Ones – Flawless (Phunk Investigation Vocal Mix) (Groovilicious, 2000)

The Ones was a triumvirate of the scene veterans Paul Alexander, Nashom Wooden and Jo-Jo Americo, whose „Flawless“ was released in 1999 to little attention. Since the early 90s successes of the game changer RuPaul or the camptastic Army of Lovers attempts to conquer the charts had more or less failed, but then Italian remix duo Phunk Investigation were allowed to have a go at the track, and transformed it into an irresistibly catchy big room house anthem that was frowned upon by musical purists, when actually it was indeed pretty much flawless. After all a glitzy fantasy of fame and beauty on the floor appeals to the majority, or so it became evident. „With amazing grace you walk and smile, they answer to your beck and call, you’re flawless. After all, overqualified for the position, your dreams see fruition. Mere class on a higher plane. Everyone wants to know your name .Just like perfection. Needs no correction. Like no other.“

Aaron-Carl – Hateful (Wallshaker Music, 2004)The late Aaron Carl surely was a unique phenomenon in the legacy of Detroit techno. Respected by fellow artists and fans locally and internationally, yet determinedly outspoken about every point he felt the need to make about himself and those that stood in his way, and also gifted enough to succeed with every artistic statement he wanted to make. However endearing he could be, he was neither ready to compromise, nor would he ever put up with everything, and „Hateful“ was a fine testament to that. „Tearing down the future, living like the past. If you can‘t tolerate my kind, you can kiss my fucking ass. I‘m feeling hateful, because you think I‘m weak. I give it all, and you take it away from me. I fight fire with fire when I‘m in this state, and if I can‘t find love, I guess I‘ll hate.“

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A guide to Flute House

Posted: November 8th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: | No Comments »

At the end of the 80s house music added deep. Seminal artists like Larry Heard, Marshall Jefferson or Virgo Four abandoned the track-dominated sound palette and introduced musicianship to a genre that was then better known for dancefloor functionality. But it was from 1990 on that the vibe really spread and developed, particularly in New York City. I first heard the term flute house when Roger Sanchez released „Luv Dancin‘“ by Underground Solution. Some also called it ambient or mellow house. But the music was not made for home listening purposes, DJs would use it, too. As a gentle introduction, or as a moment of regeneration during peak time, or as the best possible way to ease the crowd out again into the early morning, so that not a single glorious moment of what just happened the hours before was tainted by something less. A lot of these tracks had enough kicks to have you working at any time, but they also seemed to be created for unique moments, closed eyes, embraces, disbelief evoked by sheer beauty. A lot of these tracks had tags like ambient or jazz in their titles and credits, but they did not really try to be either. The artists involved liked to display their musical abilities, and their skills to establish a mood and an atmosphere. They knew how to write a melody, they knew how to arrange their layers and instruments, they were determined to sound as good as their means would allow. By the time Frankie Knuckles‘ Whistle Song was released in 1991, the flutes, vibraphones, saxophones or similar instruments were already derided, but the sound had come to stay, until this day. This playlist gathers some classic moments that paved the way.

Logic – The Final Frontier (Acoustic Mix) (Strictly Rhythm, 1990)

Wayne Gardiner took Larry Heard’s gentle elegance (the bassline is lifted from Fingers Inc.’s deep house blueprint “Can You Feel It”) and added the archetypical swing of early 90s New York City house. His back catalogue is filled with lots of sublime grandeur, but this track is structured like a jazz band taking turns on their respective instruments, and steadily building up layer after layer of tension and drama in the process. The result is still peerless.

Freedom Authority – Expressions (Flute Groove) (XL Recordings, 1990)

That Bobby Konders quit producing house music for a career in dancehall and dub productions when he was capable of track like this, is still a an irreparable trauma for many. As with many of his tunes, this can completely zone you out. Eight minutes of considerably relentless flutiness, accompanied by a dubbed out bassline and some eerie strings. A psychedelic masterpiece.

The Vision – Shardé (Nu Groove, 1991)

Eddie Maduro was an accomplice of Wayne Gardiner (for example he co-wrote Logic‘s „The Warning“ and supplied its seminal vocal introduction), and this is one of his finest moments. It is named after his daughter, and I am very convinced that the world would be a better place if such a beautiful piece of music would be composed for every child.

The Nick Jones Experience – Wake Up People (Massive B, 1991)

New Jersey DJ and producer Nick Jones with a total gem on Bobby Konders‘ Massive B imprint, with some help by Satoshi Tomiie. Not your typical house groove, but this forever remained a special track for special moments anyway. But if chosen wisely, it can elevate those moments to something completely else, be it in the club or when you are on your own.

Beautiful People – I Got The Rhythm (Club Mix) (Cabaret, 1991)

I assume this collaboration of Joey Longo aka Pal Joey with Manabu Nagayama and Toshihiko Mori came into being when King Street Sounds label head Hisa Ishioka introduced American and Japanes producers to each other in the early 90s. This tracks bears the trademark Pal Joey mixture of hip hop ruffness and deep sounds, but it is way longer, more complex in structure, and it even adds a steady breakbeat to fine effect. Beautiful People indeed, and they sure got the rhythm. Read the rest of this entry »