At this point I like to imagine Jeff Mills’ ongoing mission to explore space as if it actually happened.
With each concept album he ventures further out into the vast unknown, and what once mattered – clubs, skills, origins, traditions, cities, people – becomes less important the more he gets away from his own planet. There are times when contact with him is interrupted for longer periods, but he is a reliable traveller most of the time, sending home reports of his encounters on a regular basis. Not every discovery on the way is equal in status, some was already suspected, some is in line with what was known already, has parallels in the inventory, is history repeating. But often enough, there is an unexpected transmission that rearranges your perspective of what might still be possible, what wonders are lurking out there, yet unreached. And then you realize you wish he may travel further away, even if he could be too distant at some point to send the transmissions to where they belong.
Yeah, you might think this a tad ludicrous. But show me yours, and come again
It felt exactly like the film scene above. But it was real.
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.