Liner Notes: Various – Front

Posted: September 28th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

The people of Hamburg rarely boast about their achievements, which is why you probably do not know about the club this compilation is about. But you should know about it. The club was called Front, and it lasted from 1983 to 1997, which in itself is quite an achievement. But what happened there in those years is the real treat.

Hamburg in the 1980s had a vibrant nightlife. Mod, soul and (post) punk culture had seemingly always been covered by numerous record stores, live and dance venues, such was the diversity of styles after disco collapsed in on itself when its boom was over at the end of the 1970s. A lot of people say that this was the time when things got really interesting in terms of music, and they are probably right. Klaus Stockhausen definitely knew that. He started DJing in 1977, in clubs in Cologne, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, and had already reached considerable status when Willi Prange and his partner Phillip Clarke opened Front six years later. They were very keen on laying the focus on quality dance music at their club. They knew about Stockhausen and had been travelling to Cologne frequently to hear him play. And when he happened to visit Front by chance in early 1983, Prange recognized him, fell onto his knees and asked him to become the resident DJ. Stockhausen accepted.

His new workplace offered few distractions from the music. It was located in the basement of a high-rise building owned by Leder-Schüler, a leather manufacturing company, in a rather nondescript business district near the Berliner Tor station, away from the traditional entertainment hotspots near the harbour. But in its early years Front was a strictly gay club, and its clientele made no little effort to enjoy the experience, doubtless content that the straight crowds amusing themselves elsewhere across town were shying away from it. The rooms were raw, with low ceilings and bare walls, and through a long corridor you could either descend further into a bar area, or turn right to the dance floor, which was surrounded by low platforms with railings. The quadrophonic sound system was not exactly an audiophile’s dream, but it was very efficient, and very loud. The light-show consisted simply of strobes and multicoloured fluorescent tubes, lighting up the dark at mysterious intervals, and an illuminated sign reading “Danger”. But the boldest statement was that you could not see the DJ. The booth in the corner was completely secluded, leaving the DJ to check the intensity level through some tiny portholes or, more commonly, by gauging the sheer volume of screaming on the floor (thankfully there was plenty of that). It is still unclear what led the Front owners to build the booth in that way, but it was there right from the beginning, and both the DJs and the dancers appreciated it. It meant that the music unfolded like some force from somewhere else, and it was more important than anything else in the room. Of course you can only make this setup work if you know your crowd exceptionally well and, in return, if your crowd trusts you blindly. And the music was much better than good enough, keeping the attention of revellers throughout the night.

Klaus Stockhausen got to know his crowd very well indeed. Being a resident in those days meant that he played every night from Tuesday to Sunday, for eight to nine hours that he programmed more like a rollercoaster, in terms of tempo and intensity, than a constant peak time. He loved it. He had enough time to test new records and develop a sound that fitted the location and educated the crowd perfectly. Sure, old and new disco and other subsequent sounds as synthpop, electro, freestyle, boogie, hi-NRG and italo where played by other DJs in other clubs around town, but they were not played in the same manner as they were at Front. Klaus Stockhausen had unique mixing skills, with an unerring and adventurous taste, and he worked according to his own intuition, which soon made the Front experience incomparable to other places. He had a preference for edgier, more dynamic dub and instrumental versions and utilized scratching, a capellas and sound effects (the tractor sound bookending the mixes of this compilation being a prime example), and, generally, even if you knew some of the records, at Front they never sounded like you remembered. And they were all played in a way that was so coherent that every further development to the sound palette of the time was immediately sucked into the sound of Front. Thus, from 1984 on, when well selected local stores like Tractor and later Rocco and Container Records started stocking the first house music imports, it did not feel like a major change to proceedings; it felt like an addendum.

But still, after a transitional period, the house sound gained momentum. Around the same time, Klaus Stockhausen started to have a second, equally successful, career as a stylist and fashion editor and, never having been interested in the techno craze or the cult of personality that was beginning to emerge around DJs, he felt it was time to cut down on playing out. Thankfully another, equally talented DJ appeared on the scene with whom he shared the residency until he finally quit in 1992 to concentrate fully on his work in fashion.

In 1984, at the age of 16, Boris Dlugosch educated himself on cassette live recordings from the club and began practicing his own skill set. In 1986 he handed in a demo tape and was rewarded with the job, which, of course, really says something. And soon it became obvious that he could fill the shoes of his predecessor and mentor, even though Klaus Stockhausen had shaped the needs of the Front crowd for such a long time. It certainly helped, though, that the now-dominating house music was evolving so quickly, and that the Front DJs had easy access to the newest releases. But after the early sounds from Chicago had morphed into acid house in the late 1980s, the stylistic variety for which the club was so cherished seemed to be at risk, and the Front residents decided to keep any potential conformity at bay. So when techno established itself in 1990/91, Front did not give in to the desire for harder and steadier beats but instead embraced the machine funk of Detroit, the freestyle hybrids from New York City, and sounds emanating from the UK (the latter also helped by the anglophile tradition of Hamburg’s club culture, the proximity of which had always led to a healthy exchange of  ideas taking place either side of the North Sea). Still, techno was increasingly defining itself in terms of harder and faster and, in the process, it lost its groove. Thus, Boris Dlugosch switched the mode nearly overnight to garage and deep house, and mixed these sounds to such new heights that the typical Front floor dynamics were never lost, they just sounded different. The reputation of Hamburg as national and international hub for house music has its origins right there. House had been played at Front since 1984, so it was one the first clubs outside of the US to feature it, but now it was also defining it. And it was opening up. The door policy was not strictly gay anymore, and guest DJs like Frankie Knuckles, DJ Pierre or the Murk Boys from the US were invited, often playing their first gigs abroad. Nevertheless the club was, in the main, ruled by its resident DJs, first and foremost Boris Dlugosch, but also Michi Lange and Michael Braune. They all defined the ‘90s at Front, as the club managed to uphold its wild hedonism, inventiveness and versatile approach for nearly another decade.

But it was also undeniable that nightlife was changing. More and more DJs entered the scene, and the identification with weekly residencies was fading. In Hamburg, as in any other local club scene, competition was soaring and increasingly crowds grew eager to catch a glimpse of the next big thing, something new, something unfamiliar (however great that was). And, feeling their club was growing apart from that with which they had once fallen in love, the original Front dancers were no longer as fiercely loyal. But pioneering is always easier than maintaining status quo, arguably better, and, true to its original spirit, the club closed its doors at a level that was still extraordinary. And it lives on – you can trace its legend in so many wonderful things.

It really is something to boast about. These mixes by Klaus and Boris in commemoration of Front are long overdue and they stay true to its legacy. Even if they represent but a tiny fraction of the whole picture, they still belong to that picture. And I hope you now want to know more.

 

Finn Johannsen, Front Kid, est. 1987

Forever grateful.

 


A Guide To Sex Tags

Posted: August 29th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

When the brothers Stefan Mitterer (DJ Sotofett) and Peter Mitterer (DJ Fett Burger) decided to extend activities from their graffiti origins in their small hometown Moss in Norway to music, they founded the label Sex Tags for their own sounds and those of friends and artists they admired, either from their own country or met while travelling. Thus an ever growing and fiercely independent network came into being that by now is so complex and diverse that many find it difficult to decipher. But for the brothers it all makes perfect sense, and there is a coherence based on their own varied musical preferences, humour and attitude, and that of the likeminded collaborators they encountered along the way. There is also a vital dose of determination and conviction that ensures that the whole construct is as antithetic as it is cohesive, and as tight-knit as it is open-minded. We take a look on some choice tunes from the back catalogue of the parent label Sex Tags Mania and its leftfield offshoot Sex Tags Amfibia, plus the imprints the Mitterers run individually (Sotofett’s Wania, and Fett Burger’s Sex Tags UFO, Mongo Fett and Freakout Cult, the latter a joint venture with Jayda G). The other talents that populate the Sex Tags universe are too many to list, but we included some that pop up more frequently.

Bjørn Torske & Crystal Bois – As’besto (Percussion Mix) (Sex Tags Mania, 2006)

This joint venture of Norwegian old school don Bjørn Torske and the enigmatic Crystal Bois (or Siob Latsyrc, if you prefer) is a supreme example of how little a good house track needs to achieve magic. A deep and dubbed out chord, some improv percussion, and that is basically it. But it keeps moving floors since it first appeared twelve years ago, and will most likely continue to do so.

Acido – After Club Rectum (Crystal Bois’ 727 MANIA) (Sex Tags Mania, 2007)

An early appearance of the tag Acido (but confusingly not involving Acido label head Dynamo Dreesen himself) and Laton label head Franz Pomassl, who was to become  a regular fixture in the Sex Tags universe. Crystal Bois on remix duty, and they transform the source material into a hard jacking rhythm tool track that you can most probably mix into anything and gather all attention. Erlend Hammer provides brilliant liner notes, making a perfectly valid point that every local scene needs a Club Rectum.

Doc L Junior – Baracuda (Sex Tags Mania, 2009)

Kolbjørn Lyslo had already released fine and highly individual tracks on the prolific Music For Freaks UK imprint in the early 00s, but the sound of this track (originally scheduled for Torske’s Footnotes label, but then lost for very obscure reasons) was not to be expected. A latin and jazz tinged summer breeze of a tune that could so easily have ended sounding camp and corny, but sounded absolutely sublime instead. A reproachful echo of the days when uplifing was not yet an insult.

Busen Feat. Paleo – Stream Of Love (Wania, 2010)

The first appearance of Greek vocalist and musician Paleo, the closest the Sex Tag empire has come to an in-house diva. He delivers his trademark meandering voice to a dark hypnotizing jam produced by Busen, an alias of Daniel Pflumm, a prolific graphic designer who also released on Elektro Music Department, General Elektro and Atelier, and Stefan Mitterer. Also well worth noting for a typically tripped out session on the flip, provided by Dreesvn alias Dynamo Dreesen and SUED label head SVN, at their Neues Deutschland studio HQ.

Transilvanian Galaxi – Transilvanian Galaxi (Sex Tags Mania, 2010)

Another mainstay at Sex Tags and affiliated labels, Skatebård, who rides a psychedelic new wave take on new beat, before most even cared to remember what both were. Skatebård always manages to come across as both earnest and gleeful with every reference he works into his music, and is thus a perfect match. At Sex Tags, fun and seriousness go hand in hand. Read the rest of this entry »


When House Met Disco – A Guide

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

As it was a continuation in the timeline of club music it is quite natural that via sampling the early years of house were already littered with references to what happened before: disco. Pioneering Chicago house records used vocal snippets of the classic repertoire of disco and replayed its basslines and arrangements. Just take Isaac Hayes’ „I Can’t Turn Around“ for example, which was not only used in Farley Jackmaster Funk’s „Love Can’t Turn Around“, but also numerous other house tracks at that time. And acapellas from the back catalogue of classic disco labels like Salsoul, Prelude or West End never stopped being used for giving a track that extra imperative on the floor. But as well as disco always remained an integral of house music’s matrix, particularly lesser productions means led to different approaches of utilizing it. From the mid 80s on, nearly no house producer could afford to set up an orchestra in a studio, also many were not trained to write and arrange music as many protagonists of the classic disco era were. Still, the desire to reference or recreate the disco legacy with a house groove was always there until today, and the ways with which disco and house connected were manfifold and innovative. We take a look at some prime examples.

Mitch Winthrop – Everybody’s Going Disco Crazy (Everybody’s Much Crazy Records, 1991)

I first heard this record at Hamburg’s Front club, where it was a total anthem. At the time most people were actually not disco crazy anymore, but this was a perfect reminder to never forget where it was all coming from.

Reese Project – Direct Me (Joey Negro Disco Blend Mix) (Network, 1991)

Dave Lee aka Joey Negro was one of the first house producers that were not content with only sampling disco elements, but who aimed for a production that came as close as possible to disco’s original production and arrangement values. His remix for Kevin Saunderson’s garage house project went all the way. Joey Negro had the knowledge and had paid close attention, and obviously his directive was to achieve anthemic euphoria, and as all was done with loving detail, straight to the syndrum pew pew pews, he proved himself to be a trustworthy ambassador of the disco heritage, and remained ever since.

Nature Boy – Tobago (Black Label, 1992)

Milo from Bristol’s legendary Wild Bunch soundsystem deconstructing disco source material down to dark and gritty netherworld. None of the glitz of the sample references survived the process, and the music seemed to rather kick you out into the back alley through the back door than sway you in through the velvet rope on the other side of the building. I found „Ruff Disco Volume One“ in a bargain bin in the early 90s and I think it still sounds totally visionary and unique.

Romanthony – In The Mix (Azuli Records, 1994)

A tribute to Tony Humphries and the whole New Jersey legacy by Romanthony, one of house music’s greatest producers ever. If there ever was a more convincing argument to never deny your roots and keep them alive in what you are doing, I would like to hear it.

Jump Cutz – House Luck (Luxury Service Records, 1995)

One of many highlights from the Jump Cutz series, produced by Rob Mello and Zaki Dee. This really shows that often a good disco house track is no rocket science. Deconstruct source material into several parts. Reconstruct said parts as you please. Watch them go.

The Morning Kids – Free Lovin’ (Housedream) (Balihu Records, 1996)

As a true disco lover and dancer, Daniel Wang knew that it is the early morning hours when the magic of a good night out really unfolds. A rather simplistic meditation based on just a few samples compared to his later vintage syntheziser led output, but it still works a treat if the DJ decides it is finally the right time to switch gear. When it was released, the balearic revival was just a few sunrises away.

Los Jugaderos – What You Doing To This Girl? (Jus’ Trax, 1996)

A rework of Dazzle’s „You Dazzle Me“ which is indeed dazzling. The well-proven disco evangelists Ashely Beedle and Phil Asher concentrate on building up the tension mesmerizingly and release the strings at exactly the right moment. A masterclass in structure.

Turntable Brothers – Get Ready (Music Plant, 1996)

There once was a seminal live recording archived on deephousepage.com that captured Ron Hardy whipping his floor into a frenzy with an extended reel-to-reel edit of Patti Labelle’s „Get Ready“. This Chicago label already carrries the legacy of two legendary windy city clubs in its name: the Muzic Box and the Warehouse (later Power Plant). So it should come as no suprise that most records on Music Plant are a straight homage, albeit with banging beats and the freewheelin’ demanour with the use of samples so typical for Chicago. „Get Ready“ skips the traditional verse part of the original and heads straight to the climactic chorus, then rides it far into ecstacy. Read the rest of this entry »


Anthems: Soju Bar, Berlin (2010-2013)

Posted: May 31st, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | No Comments »

In the early to mid-noughties, minimal techno and tech house were ruling most of Berlin’s dance floors, but there also was a vital scene dedicated to playing records that were not played at most other events in town. Seasoned disco and house DJ legends were invited, and often reactivated to display their experience and skills, and local and international DJs established a network dedicated to digging deep for the more obscure and leftfield sounds of club culture, and turning them into intense and vibing events with their finds of vintage house and disco, italo, post punk, afro, latin, balearic, yacht rock and even more specialized niches. The daring and knowledgeable eclecticism of this scene established an openness that inspired more current music productions and is still around in club and festival lineups, and even led to DJs like Hunee and Call Super becoming celebrated A-listers. From 2010 to 2013 the club Soju Bar was Berlin’s main spot for this context of night life. It was located in the backroom of the Korean street food bistro Angry Chicken, which belonged to the restaurant Kimchi Princess around the corner. The club’s sound system was way above average, and the room was decorated with loving attention to detail, an impressive replica of Korean bar culture that made the room appear puzzingly bigger than it actually was. Hyun Wanner, one of the Kimchi Princess owners who was on par with his DJs in terms of music enthusiasm, booked Soju Bar’s tasteful program until the club had to close and became a part the hotel that already took over most of the building. We asked him to revisit resident and regular guest DJs via music that he associated most with their nights.

Hunee: Shina Williams & His African Percussionists ‎– Agboju Logun (Earthworks, 1984)

This record turned into a huge Soju Bar hit. It was just the time when more and more DJs started to flavor their sets with African influences. I think it is a trademark element of Hunee’s sound these days. Another regular Soju Bar DJ called Nomad, now of Africaine 808, went completely down that road. I love this record. I bought it years before Soju Bar, because my favorite Discogs dealer recommended it to me and offered me free shipping if I buy it. I was very pleased when Hunee played it the first time. I think he still plays it today.

Lovefingers/Lexx: Carrie Cleveland – Love Will Set You Free (Cleve/Den, 1980)

My girlfriend at the time was obsessed with that song. She knew that it was on Lovefingers’ blog and made him play it at least three times. I remember Andrew playing it two times in a row early in the morning and dancing on the floor with his eyes closed. Lexx had to do the same a couple of weeks later. This was one of these classic early morning magic moments. Sometimes there was only 15 people left in the place, but they had the time of their lives!

Joel Martin (Quiet Village, Velvet Season & The Hearts of Gold): House Of House – Rushing To Paradise (Walkin These Streets) (Whatever We Want Records, 2009)

When Soju Bar started everything was really disco and balearic. Then most DJs started to pick up more and more housey vibes again. It was almost a bit like going through the history of dance music in one and a half years, and a few subsequent decades. This record contains all this history. I have funny memories of this track. For example, it was an incredible hot night and it was really empty, but the few people were dancing for hours and didn’t want to leave. Joel was the only DJ and already played 6 hours for the same 15 people. When he was playing this track a random very young girl with a record bag came up and wanted to take over. She promised us to play the same kind of music: HOUSE! We were like, OK! Well, she had her very own definition of house music I reckon! Two records later Joel and me were in a Taxi home. She went on for a few more hours, and I have never seen her again. By the way, it was first hour Soju Bar resident DJ Filippo Moscatello who introduced me to this record.

I will change. I promise.: Ideal – Schöne Frau Mit Geld (Losoul Remix) (Live At Robert Johnson, 2010)

This was definitely the residency with the best name. “I will change. I promise”. I was promising this to myself pretty much every Monday morning! This party was hosted by our friend Alex van der Maarten and was musically on a slightly different trip, but very successful and always busy. It had guest DJs like Nu and Lee Jones. This was one one of the signature tracks.

JR Seaton (Call Super): Bunny Mack – Let Me Love You (Rokel, 1979)

Call Super, or JR Seaton as he still called himself back then, played at Soju Bar many times. I think the first time he was invited by Headman who did a monthly Relish Night at Soju Bar. Call Super finished the night together with Objekt and they both blew my mind. They were playing very obscure electronic stuff and then broke it up with songs like this. 100 % early morning magic. Nobody cared which genre, which time or which part of the world the music was from. Everything melted into one amazing vibe.

Druffalo Hit Squad: Nicolette – Lotta Love (Warner Bros., 1978)

Huge Soju Bar anthem! The Druffalo Hit Squad’s residency “Love Fools” was the night where anything was possible. From pop to shock to classics and not classics! Sometimes very ironic, sometimes iconic! Sometimes hard to follow, and sometimes pure magic. At the end of their nights there was a lotta love in the air indeed. Read the rest of this entry »


Anthems: Ostgut, Berlin (1998-2003)

Posted: April 23rd, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Located near to its famous successor Berghain in a disused freight depot, Ostgut was open from 1998 until its lease ran out in 2003 and the location was demolished. It is telling that the name is still vital in the Berghain enterprise, and Ostgut already had a lot of key elements that are still thriving: marathon weekends with marathon DJ sets, with hard Techno played on the main floor and housier vibes on the already existing Panoramabar. And as Ostgut evolved from the male-only Snax parties, it carried the according focus on gay and fetish sex into a permanent, raw location. We asked Ostgut resident DJ André Galluzzi to guide us through the sound of the club that set the foundation for the clubbing experience Berlin became famous for in recent years.

Surgeon – Atol (Downwards, 1994)

We begin with a primetime highlight. This track guaranteed ecstasy on the floor and became a trademark for the club.

Ignacio – Virton (N.E.W.S., 1999)

It was not an unusual track, but definitely one of the naughty ones. Direct and mindblowing. I used to drop the track between 5 to 6 a.m.

Si Begg – Welcome To The Discotheque (Mosquito, 2000)

I loved to open my set with Si Begg after live acts. Because it has this incredible intro while the mood of the record was already defining for the night. This was brillant. Read the rest of this entry »


A guide to Wild Pitch

Posted: February 14th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Chicago’s DJ Pierre already had the credentials to be responsible for a lasting sound revolution in club music when he, together with Earl “Spanky” Smith Jr., and Herbert “Herb J” Jackson as Phuture, tweaked the knobs of the Roland TB-303 and came up with the squelching sounds that defined acid house. But regular visits to the seminal Wild Pitch parties put on by Bobby Konders and Greg Day in early 90s New York City inspired him to reinvent himself once again, and again with lasting consequences. The Wild Pitch parties consisted of several rooms with different musical agendas between reggae, disco, hip hop, house and techno. Pierre’s idea was to gather the diverse styles played into one track, but by applying a structure that stepped away from the traditions of club music functionality. Over the course of tracks often hitting or passing the 10 minute mark, he opted for a gradual introduction of a track’s key elements. Starting with the kick drum, every further sound was slowly and patiently layered onto another on a rolling groove, heaping up the intensity step by step until a climactic release. This may not read as being revolutionary, but it was executed so skillfully that it shook up the foundations of house, introducing a level of upbuilding tension and a hypnotic quality that was yet unheard of. And it also led to Pierre becoming one the most in-demand remixers in the years to come. Here is a guide to some classics and overlooked gems that defined wild pitch.

Photon Inc. Feat. Paula Brion – Generate Power (Wild Pitch Mix) (Strictly Rhythm, 1991)

The ground zero of the genre, and all the key elements are already there: the waddling groove, the standing strings, the stab repetition, the signalling vocal samples. The upbuilding structure was not as refined yet, but the intensity level sure was. This track literally ran over house music in its release year, and Pierre obviously noticed that he was onto something.

DJ Pierre – Muzik (The Tribal Wild Pitch Mix) (Strictly Rhythm, 1992)

DJ Pierre often said in interviews that wild pitch was inspired by his own DJing preferences of sneaking in elements of other tracks in long blends. „Muzik“ is a perfect example for that. Just check how its elements fade in and out, are repeated, modulated, replaced, continued and layered. It is a master class in structure.

Joint Venture – Master Blaster (Turn It Up) (Strictly Rhythm, 1992)

Divided in four parts segued into another and add up to 15 breathtaking minutes, this track tore through dancefloors with a massive boom still seeking comparison. Yet it is actually clocking at 120 bpm, proving that pace does not equal heaviness. And it builds and builds. Someplace else, Chez Damier and Ron Trent were taking notes. Read the rest of this entry »


Anthems: Front, Hamburg (1982-1997)

Posted: January 5th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Down in a raw basement near Hamburg’s Berliner Tor station, Willi Prange and his partner Phillip Clarke opened the mostly gay oriented club Front in 1983. The majority of nights at Front were not played by guests, but by the main resident DJs Klaus Stockhausen and his successor Boris Dlugosch, who steered the club through the most cutting edge music the disco aftermath had to offer, until it eventually became one of the first clubs in Continental Europe to embrace house music and the styles that followed suit. The club’s intense nights were built on a wildly hedonistic and loyal crowd, a fierce quadrophonic sound system, a secluded DJ booth that seemed to antagonize the cult of personality of the years to come, and thus created a legacy that lasted well beyond the club’s closure in 1997. We asked Boris Dlugosch to guide us through the sound of the pivotal years of Front.

Shirley Lites – Heat You Up (West End, 1983)

This was one of my first lasting musical impressions at the club. Klaus Stockhausen played it nearly every Saturday then. It was more of an after hours record and it fitted perfectly.

Syncbeat – Music (Streetwave, 1984)

Klaus played this record when it came out, and when I started as a DJ in 1986 it had a small revival because I rediscovered it for myself. It was one of the most formative records for me. I did not know until then what this record was. I found it by chance in the club’s own record inventory. I loved this track very much and one day I could get a hold of it in a grab bag at Hamburg’s Tractor store for import records, where I was working at the time. Those bags were sealed and contained 10 records. I actually flicked through several other bags until I had two copies of it.

Connie – Funky Little Beat (Sunnyview, 1985)

This kind of Electro was the sound of Front from 1983 to 1984. I was not going to other clubs much, I was still too young and could not get in, but I heard this record on old tapes recorded live at the club (https://hearthis.at/front/). When I started going to Front from 1985 on this sound slowly faded away and was replaced by early house music.

Harlequin Four’s – Set it Off (Jus Born, 1985)

For me this was a quintessential Freestyle and Electro record. Klaus Stockhausen used to play it mostly as a break, often mixed with „Operattack“ by Grace Jones, or with space effects records. This and the Grace Jones album were milestones for my musical socialisation and they always worked on the floor.

Adonis – No Way Back (Trax, 1986)

This record and Farley Jackmaster Funk’s „Love Can’t Turn Around“ came out in 1986, shortly before I started playing at the club myself. At Front club changes in pace and style were elementary and the according setting was sometimes prepared over the course of hours, and sometimes just introduced by a quick break. House music brought along a different structure, and there was a steady beat for hours. At that time this was the defining new feature of the genre. Music was mixed seamlessly throughout the night at Front in all the years before, but with house music the rhythm became more homogeneous. Read the rest of this entry »


Anthems: Moroco, Köln (1982-1986)

Posted: December 21st, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

So what were Germans actually dancing to before Techno? Of course to as many different styles as in other countries. But a good glimpse at what was getting down in West Germany before house music happened was the club Moroco in Cologne. Located at Hohenzollernring, the club ran from 1982 to 1986, and both the club interior and its crowd were determined to look as posh as possible. In contrast to Post Punk counterculture, the materialistic 80s decade manifested itself in the culture of the “Popper”, foppish youth dressed up to display as much wealth and taste as they could. But what distinguished the Moroco from other similar clubs across the land was its status as favourite leisure and inspiration spot of the Kraftwerk members. Carol Martin, credited as CGI artist on their “Computerwelt” album, was a resident DJ at the club and guides us through the sound of the Moroco and how it was connected to the Kraftwerk canon.

James Brown – It’s Too Funky In Here (Polydor, 1979)

Be it Kraftwerk or Miles Davis, everybody seemed to be inspired by James Brown. Bootsy Collins, whom Kraftwerk also cherished, started his career with him. „Boing Boom Tschak“ is also a tribute to Bootsy’s concrete bass.

Earth,Wind and Fire – Fantasy (CBS, 1978)

Funky, emotional and wonderful to dance to until today. I went to see them with Kraftwerk by invitation of the concert promoter Fritz Rau at the Phillips-Halle in Düsseldorf. It was a magnificent show with perfect sound and effects and all of a sudden the bass player was hanging 20 metres up in the air.

The Gap Band – I Don’t Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance (Oops, Up Side Your Head) (Mercury, 1979)

Danceability was typical for Moroco, and you could play this anytime. There was a nine minute extended version of it, so the DJ could leave to „wash hands and powder the nose“ and when he returned the floor was still as packed. Read the rest of this entry »


Anthems: Aufschwung Ost / Stammheim, Kassel (1994-2002)

Posted: November 29th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

If Kassel is known in Germany for another cultural contribution besides the art fair Documenta it is the legacy of the techno club Aufschwung Ost, and its renamed successor Stammheim. Both clubs were located in a former textiles factory building called Kulturfabrik Salzmann that served mainly as an art space. When Aufschwung Ost opened in 1994, it quickly established a national and international reputation that exceeded those of clubs in similarly middle-sized cities. The main resident DJs, the late Pierre Blaszczyk aka DJ Pierre and Mark Pecnik aka DJ Marky, built a dedicated local following with their state of the art techno sound, and managed to pull in every main guest DJ important in the techno scene, propelling the club to the level of famous clubs in Berlin or Frankfurt, until its lease ran out in 2002 and it had to close. We asked DJ Marky to recall some of the tunes that ruled the floor in both clubs.

.xtrak – Facc (Peacefrog, 1995)

This bleep track by Todd Sines, who regularly collaborated with Daniel Bell, was played a lot at our club. It is had a minimal sound but a maximum impact on the floor. The hi-hats coming in at the first minute are just a dream.

Jiri.Ceiver – Osiaic (Vogels Funky Sola Mix) (Harthouse, 1995)

It is very difficult to develop an own signature style. But what Cristian Vogel and other artists such as Neil Landstrumm, Dave Tarrida, Si Begg and Justin Berkovi released in the 90s was definitely new and not existent before. This track stands for the Brighton sound and its wonderful playfulness which was very influential over the years for the resident DJs at Aufschwung Ost and Stammheim.

DJ Hyperactive – Venus (Missile, 1996)

Chicago techno at its best. A peak time banger that never failed to work on the big floor. You still hear it in the sets of well-known DJs.

Daft Punk – Rock ‘n’ Roll (Virgin, 1996)

You just could not pass by Daft Punk in 1996, but you did not want to anyway. Their „Homework“ album included this track and to this day it is still one of the best house and techno albums for me. Either the album or other terrific releases on Thomas Bangalter’s label Roulé were constantly played on both our techno and floors.

Wishmountain – Radio (Evolution), 1996

Sven Väth played this as a white label at our club, in early 1996. It was way ahead of the official release date, so the whole crowd was unfamiliar with it. The energy this track built up on the floor in just a few minutes was just incredible. It was a miracle that the whole place did not just collapse at the last break. What Matthew Herbert created with this track is unique and it is perhaps THE quintessential Aufschwung Ost/Stammheim classic.

Skull vs. ESP – Power Hour (Sounds, 1996)

A beautiful track by DJ Skull and Woody McBride. It came out on Sounds back then, which was a sub label of Communique Records, a very popular label with the resident DJs that had several legendary releases. I liked to play it in the early morning hours.

Green Velvet – Destination Unknown (Relief, 1997)

I could have picked „Flash“, „La La Land“ other Green Velvet classics as well. The Relief and Cajual labels were essential to any of our parties. You can witness its effect at Green Velvet’s legendary gig at our club in 2001 ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ES0ldBe4kZA).

Coldcut & Hexstatic – Timber (Ninja Tune, 1998)

This is an absolute DJ Pierre classic. There was not only hard techno being played at Aufschwung Ost and Stammheim, and this is a wonderful example. Particularly in the morning the residents had enough time to experiment with different styles and we did just that. Electro, big beat and cuts ‘n’ breaks, everything was tried and tested. That was just as much fun for the dancers as it was for us DJs.

DJ Rolando – Knights Of The Jaguar (Underground Resistance, 1999)

A masterpiece by Rolando and Underground Resistance. This track on the big floor at 10 A.M. meant instant goosebumps for everybody. The light came through the windows, and together with the music created a magical vibe each time the track was played. It will still put a smile on those dancers today.

DJ Rush – One Two Zero (Pro-Jex, 1999)

DJ Rush and Stammheim was love at first sight. The residents loved his mad beat constructions. There was probably was not one set from us big floor DJs without at least two tracks by him. And on the other hand DJ Rush adored Stammheim, it was the best club for him back then.

Aphex Twin – Windowlicker (Warp, 1999)

Aphex Twin was formative for his time, and „Windowlicker“ is just one example. I chose it because Pierre used to end long nights by playing this as his last record. It was always astonishing how much energy it could restore for one last time. So it is a classic forever connected to Pierre.

Stefan Küchenmeister – Soda Stream (Hörspielmusik, 2000)

Stefan Küchenmeister was one of the Stammheim residents and he delivered one of the big Stammheims anthems with this track. Fortunately it was released on „Hörspielmusik“, the label I ran with Pierre, and thus we had a home-made Stammheim hit record.

Wassermann – W.I.R. (Sven Väth Remix) (Profan, 2000)

Labels such as Labels wie Profan, Kompakt and Auftrieb developed the sound of Cologne, that us residents really cherished back then. This remix was also one of the big Stammheim anthems.

Vitalic – La Rock 01 (International Deejay Gigolos, 2001)

What can you still say about this track? Pure energy on the dance floor! And one of my all-time favourites.

Depeche Mode – Dream On (Dave Clarke Remix) (Mute, 2001)

Depeche Mode and Dave Clarke? That is the perfect combination that could only lead to a killer track. Dave Clarke knows how to transform an already great track into his own style, resulting in something even better, without losing any of the source’s original greatness. This is a rare gift. A big peak time number at Stammheim.

Electronic Beats 11/17


Life At The Bottom

Posted: November 2nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Features | 4 Comments »

I would like to maintain that no music is really rare these days. It is likely just a few clicks away, and if you can afford to purchase it, it is just one click further. Nevertheless there is also a whole market built on DJs that play rare music, or who are reliably making music rare. They are often announced as DJs that dig deeper than others. Now finding music that others DJ do not play is or at least should be more or less an integral part of DJing, and to use it as a sales point seems at least debatable. Then again, a whole lot of DJs do not mind playing the same music as others, and if this special market segment injects some diversity or unpredictability, it should be nothing to complain about. The according DJs might also not opt for rarity status intentionally, often they just play out music they like, and a lot of people like the music as well, and they want to own it, too. And as these DJs are usually well documented, too many wantlists soon exceed the supply, and the music gets expensive. Well, of course a lot of DJs are also intentionally playing rare music to maintain a certain status, and in the process they exhaust the surprise potential of the music because other people learn about the music and subsequently seek access to it. It does not make the music cheaper either. Most of the DJs who trigger such chain reactions are able to do that for certain reasons though. Nearly all of them have the necessary well-developed taste buds, experience and the according deck skills to present all of it. Some are old enough and bought the music when it originally came out, some are younger and just knew where to look later on. Regardless of age all these DJs were probably spending a considerable amount of time learning about music, and they were also not afraid to invest a lot of time finding it. But once you made your name on this special circuit, finding rare music is also getting easier. You establish a network with other likeminded DJs and exchange knowledge, and when you enter a record store or an distribution office, you are likely to be given valuable information about rare music, just because you are who you are. At best, you either play enough gigs to afford any kind of music you want, or you pull enough attention to just being given it for free. Some might not even really possess the music in its original form, maybe they just have the files. You cannot really tell these days, I suppose.

But what do you do if you like the music these DJs play? Of course you can wait until some label reissues rare music you are looking for, which is actually very likely nowadays, but it is still music that was already discovered and played out by people as mentioned above, and you cannot really gain status by showing off with records that others already added to the canon of desirable items, particularly if you do not own the original issues. The other thing is that not every record you would like to have gets reissued, or you just do want to wait for it. Or you belong to the majority of DJs that simply cannot afford to buy such originals, but you still want to establish a reputation as a decksman who finds things. If your budget is limited your chance of finding that box of sealed copies or private pressings in a seedy basement or a rural shack is limited as well, because you just cannot travel to such locations. But also in an actual record store, or online, your chance of finding those for little money is near zero. Everything is connected. It is way easier to learn about records nowadays and then buy them, but it is also easier to check what they are worth. That works the same way for shop and customer, so surprise finds are restricted to stores that really do not care much about technical progress. And these are a rare species, probably nearing extinction.

At some point I decided to play less old rare records, regardless if I bought them for a regular price, found them by chance in a bargain bin, or paid a lot of money. I felt they lost their appeal if too many people in the club already knew how special they were, or if too many other DJs already had similar ideas. So I went the other way and started playing cheap records that everybody else seemed to not know, or had forgotten about. Personally, I am now not digging more than ever, but it feels like it. And I loved the reactions of dancers and fellow DJs who checked Shazam or Discogs only to realize the record that just had everybody screaming was available from plenty of sellers in numerous countries for very little money. For some the tune they wanted the minute before instantly became contaminated, inacceptable, uninteresting. Others discovered they could possibly gather a set of several hours for the price they expected a single tune to be worth.

There are a lot of ways to find those tunes. For example there are a lot of discographies by artists and labels that just have one or a few rare items. But what about the rest? Well, just check. The best way to find cheap alternatives that are as good or even better than that holy grail is to look left, right, and even elsewhere. Follow the credits, look for peculiar track titles or designs, isolate individual sounds, notice who did that dub on B3, and if you like what you hear, check what else they did, under what moniker. In the process you will learn about local scenes, sounds attached to a certain period of time, sellers that have an inventory that might offer things you were not even expecting yet. And then you proceed from there, as wherever you might find something you like, there might be more. If you think this reads really obvious, try it out. It is not as easy as you might think it is, and it requires a whole lot more time and initiative than just going with established decision makers. But it is also a whole lot more rewarding, and personal.

I am well aware that presenting some cheap finds here is a tad contradictory in that aspect. But I just want to prove what you can find, and I just can’t help telling people about certain music anyway, and some might even like it as much as I do. And if they look on their own they might find something that I did not know about, and I want them to tell me. Thus the knowledge is spread and things move forward. I am also aware that some records might get rare and expensive by being featured in this column. But you know what? It does not really matter. There are plenty more fish in the sea. And there is more life at the bottom.

Tyrone Ashley – Looks Like Love Is Here To Stay (Safari, 1977)

A lot of people still disregard Ian Levine. He started out as a collector and DJ in the original rare soul scene of the 70s, he was wealthy, gay and outspoken and he modernized (and split up) the whole movement by adapting more contemporary sounds from US club culture, thereby introducing classic disco and later Hi-NRG to the UK and beyond. He also discovered, managed and produced a lot of hugely successful pop acts, and did not mind to deform the original soul singers and tunes he started out with in the business with weird, cheap sounding updates. I quite like him for all of that, but I particularly like his songwriting and productions in collaboration with Fiachra Trench in the 70s disco era. I doubt he will ever get the respect he deserves, probably he does not even care. But listen to this gem: the right clues from the melodies he spent so much money on as a record collector, a state of the art orchestration and arrangement, and it hits all the right spots on the floor. And there’s plenty more disco ecstasy where this came from. Read the rest of this entry »