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.

New Deep Society – A Better Day (4 On The Floor A Better Dawn) (House Jam, 1991)

Billy ‚Jack‘ Williams other lasting moment apart from the anthemic „Warehouse (Days Of Glory). The original is a fine vocal house tune but this mix is where the magic really happens. Flutes, strings, bird calls in sheer perfection. Optimists see proof, pessimists feel doubt.

Dee Dee Brave – Can’t Get Over It (Untitled Mix 4) (Champion, 1991)

An early Kerri Chandler production, and already the beats kick harder than most of the competition in this field. The rest is very blissful though. Flutes and dubbed Garage vocals meet Larry Heard‘s bassline from „Can You Feel It“ again, and the latter, as you may have noticed by now, never fails.

Sound Waves – I Wanna Feel The Music (Smooth Mix) (Strictly Rhythm, 1991)

Andrew Richardson and Gijo Rosario at the controls, and both this and the equally gorgeous flip „Gotta Have You“ come with a version justifiedly labelled „Smooth Mix“, and as with Richardson‘s gem „Waterfalls“ as After Hours, this is among the pinnacles of the very mellow side of the early 90s New York City house legacy. Flawless.

Helen Sharpe – Got 2 Have Your Love (Jazz Rave Mix) (Strobe Records, 1991)

Strobe Records, the label run by producers Ron Allen and Hayden A. Brown, put Canada firmly on the map with a string of classic records that balanced Detroit influenced, gently spaced out techno and deep house bliss effortlessly. There are many legendary tunes to choose from at Strobe headquarters, but this one is particularly wonderful, especially the „Sweet Soul“ vocal mix, and this instrumental version. Actually there is nothing flutey in here, but you will not care. Also please spare a moment of respect for Helen Sharpe, whose classy voice sadly never graced another record, which is both a mystery and a shame.

Aphrodisiac – Just Before The Dawn (Nu Groove Records, 1991)

The contributions of the Burrell twins to their ever slightly enigmatic homebase Nu Groove and the mellow house (and beyond) canon cannot really be overestimated. This Ronald Burrell produced gem is the sound of pure dancefloor sophistication, and it has one of the best credits ever („Finger Snap co-ordinators: Rheji Burrell & Judy Russell“). You can guess the best time to play this.

Never On Sunday – Memories Of You (430 West, 1992)

Early Detroit techno is not necessarily known for weighty examples of the sound playlisted here, but the way the Burden brothers let the flutes reign is supreme. Hypnotic melodies meet their hometown sound‘s bittersweetness. Grand.

Mr. Fingers – Children At Play (MCA, 1992)

This playlist could not do without a Larry Heard production, for very obvious reasons. This track from the bonus 12“ of his „Introduction“ album is just one of so many brilliant examples why. Heard‘s first record is from 1985, and he felt the need to introduce himself seven years and many eternal classic later. Bona fide ingenuity is not always this modest.

Jazz-N-Groove – Do Ya (Marcs Lunch Pale Mix) (E-SA Records, 1993)

By 1993 most house productions became more muscular, as the clubs the music was played at became bigger. Beefed up bass and beats had a strong tradition in the house sound of Florida (see Murk territory), but they could still be in harmony with a vibe that was decidedly deep. The E-SA imprint had a few releases mastering that task, and this was arguably one of their finest releases in that aspect.

SNK – Samurai Remix (Summer Is Gone, Winter Is Here) (Nite Grooves, 1995)

Mood II Swing showing all their class on this remix, merging one of their catchy melodies with one of their impeccably jumpy rhythms. The tribal percussion obligations of the NYC scene at that time are there, but subtly. And there is always that melody, and you know it will be back. Soon.

Freestyle Man – Love Story (Puu, 1997)

A tune so delicate, pure and wonderful that you need a crowd you can trust not to break it. And you can build that trust if you treat your DJ job with some responsibility, maybe you should even aim for it.

Electronic Beats 11/2018

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