Over the 80s and 90s I spent a lot of time per week digging through a tiny store called Plattenkiste in my hometown of Kiel, up North in Germany. The store was rammed with stacks of records, filthy paperbacks, VHS tapes and video games. It was all completely unsorted, and whenever they did their regular flea market stints, they just rearranged it all back randomly and you had to start all over again. The store was operated by a family business, a couple and their daughter, and neither of whom had even a vague interest in what they were selling, nor any knowledge. The only music playing was an oldie radio station, constantly. They bought record collections from local DJs, Danish libraries and any private person in need of money. Every record in the store then cost 2 Deutschmarks, regardless of format, and later 2 Euros. It was a total goldmine, where I found a good deal of my record collection, and even if it now has dried up compared to its former glory days, I still find bargains there whenever I go back to visit family and old friends.
One of the finds with the most impact on me has to be “Ruff Disco Volume One” by Nature Boy, which was released on NYC based Black Label in 1992, and which I discovered in the store a year later, probably left there by some local DJ in search of some funky House tunes for the rather commercial clubs of the town. Given that purpose, this particular record was really bound to fail. Apart from myself I never hear it played in clubs for years to come. Disco actually was the theme throughout, and its samples mainly shared the same heritage used in the freestyle based releases of early 90’s New York House labels. But that was it completely in terms of similarities. These tracks deconstructed Disco thoroughly, down to a primitive core that was just incredibly rugged and dark. It kicked determinedly, but all the glitz of its sample references were twisted to a muffled mess, and you were rather thrown out into the back alley through the back door than swayed through the velvet rope on the other side of the building. The record was and is totally visionary, and it preceded what the mid 90’s Chicago trackstyle or Detroit House producers would make of Disco, albeit arguably not this radical and daring.
This was pre-internet, so it took me some more years to find out the producer behind it was DJ Milo from Bristol’s legendary Wild Bunch sound system, and then I loved it even more. You could snatch up copies of it for little money for a really long time, but last I checked that changed dramatically, and these few words probably won’t help. Then again, it might help to get it reissued. Else, dig and you shall find.
I first heard this record played by Boris Dlugosch at Hamburg’s Front Club, sometime in the 90’s, where particularly “Illusion” became a cherished and trusted screaming anthem. It was a fairly obscure Jersey sound item, but not that hard to find. I actually got a hold of it in a bargain bin for just a few euros, and since every time I played it out over the years people kept asking about it, I kept recommending it and every new owner was happy to find something so special for so little money. I was convinced it could stay this way forever and never checked back, but as I played “Organized” at Vancouver’s New Forms Festival this year (see Hot Wax 022, around the 1:50 mark) it was welcomed on the floor like an old friend, with people coming up to thank me for playing it out, and cheers all round. I told them the usual about it being a gem that is still out there for easy grabs, and then to my surprise got told that it was quite the opposite now. Well, it totally makes sense.
DJ Dove probably would have loved to sound as classy as the more successful protagonists of the New Jersey and New York House scene, but it is most likely that there was little money for equipment and studio and his label maybe had even less to spend. Thus you have a record bursting with great moments, and mastering and cut do their best to reduce it to a back door to back alley version of what was best intended, and still it is a wonderful example of what you can achieve as long you have ideas. Nowadays each week sees releases by up and coming producers who gather costly vintage equipment (or according presets) and muffle what they have on purpose, aiming for grit and that enigmatic authenticity, an air of mystery even. Still, if you think what you hear without the filters and hiss, there is not much left to stay in your memory but an aesthetic which has already crossed the gap to a cliché without much meaning. And the reason why a track like “Organized” is still ruling is hardly because it is raw, it is because it is a really good track. But there are plenty of forgotten releases from the past like this, raw because there was no other way, and there will be plenty of new releases longing for this punk deepness, and coming up with the necessary tunes to combine a certain attitude with, well, music. You will have trouble achieving longevity if you neglect the music for anything else. Here’s proof.
When I first heard LFO, I instantly thought this might be the first music to really challenge the legacy Kraftwerk left behind. Meaning, a legacy based on game changing achievements in sound and ideas, and much else beyond. I never really felt the need to revise that first impression in the years to come. Hardly any music of that era has aged so well, and still sounds so unique, and particularly Mark Bell followed it up with a whole lot of comparably superior music, either as collaborator, or on his own. I always had this feeling he might drop a release that would shatter a whole scene again, at any given point. But now he very untimely passed away. There will be young, determined and insanely talented producers again, but Mark Bell’s legacy will be really difficult to match. R.I.P.