Finn Johannsen – Hot Wax 026

Posted: March 2nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Mixes | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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Hot Wax: Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls (Razormaid Version)

Posted: February 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

I really don’t like all these convenience product edits of rare or popular Disco and Synthpop material. With a bit of experience and practice you can learn the skills necessary to handle the original irregularities of drummers or sloppy rhythm programming, and maintain the already well executed aspects of the original arrangement over the DJ service straightness of most edits. I like people who deconstruct the source material and turn it into something else, even if it is only a respectful variation. I just do not see much merit in keeping the original and just streamlining it for better mixing. I am perfectly aware that this criticism may seem pointless, as most of today’s club setups for mixing are designed to have the choice what to play next as the only task left for the DJ, if at all. I have Zager and Evans’ In The Year 2525 in my head, predicting “some machine is doing that for you”.

When DJs began to make their own edits of tracks they liked to play in the late 70s, better mixing purposes admittedly played a role. But mostly the editing process was determined by personal preferences concerning the arrangement of a track, not determined by the aim to reduce every track to the same groove and functionality, regardless of arrangement. So they took out tape and scissors, and made intros end up in a kick drum in time, extended or cut breaks and other parts, dropped instruments or vocals they did not like, and often improved the source with individual versions and interpretations.

Many daring edits of that era were officially released, but the most radical approaches were to be found in the catalogues of the remix services. Disconet led the way in 1977, and soon all over the US and Europe DJs and producers were splicing reel-to-reels to let a certain track shine in the best possible way, and the remix services like hot Tracks, Razormaid, Ultimix, Art Of Mix, C.S., Landspeed and countless others gathered the results and distributed them back to the clubs. The records compiling the edits often contained original tracks and medleys as well, and tracks were segued to make the work for the DJ easier, who often played for hours on end in those days, several nights a week. The selection of the tracks per release was often frustrating. With a few sublime reworks there were also tracks included that were well cheesy to begin with, and did not get better after being worked on. Eurodance cheese, weird rock songs trying to cross over to the dance market, and lots of one hit wonders, with questionable hits. There was no other reason for the tracklisting than songs being pushed regardless of quality, and of course the individual taste of the editor at work. The edits also varied in quality, a lot were even rather crude, or as forgettable as the original material. But there were also a lot of edits that reconstructed what they were given to work with to a whole new level. Take Razormaid’s edit of the Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls for example. The intro is easier to mix in their version, but were the official Shep Pettibone remix arguably sacrifices the song’s special appeal for dancefloor credentials, Razormaid manage to keep the tension by rearranging the elements and still achieve a track that works a treat in a club context.

I’ve been collecting remix service records for quite some time now, and starting with Hot Wax 026, I would like to dedicate an irregular series of shows to my personal favourites in that field.

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Finn Johannsen – Hot Wax 025

Posted: January 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Mixes | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

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Hot Wax: Shinichi Atobe – Butterfly Effect

Posted: January 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

As I checked Hot Wax 025’s tracklist for a record to highlight I couldn’t help noticing three records of Japanese origin. All three are very fine examples of artists with their own signature sound. Soichi Terada was doing House in Japan from the late 80’s on, when there very few cohorts around him. It is quite strange that the country that developed so much equipment that House and Techno were based on in their respective pioneering days, led to such little output in that field, whereas from the late 70’s to the late 80’s there were almost too many great artists to follow track. And for a music enthusiast outside of Japan, information and actual releases were always hard to come by, too. Now Terada’s rare back catalogue will be compiled to shine a light on the small but very fine according Nippon House scene, which unfortunately did not develop much further from those years. A good part of the local scene was wholly absorbed by the international success of the glossy Nippon version of Lounge, Acid Jazz and New York big room House, and it seemed not to be a fertile time for subtleties (and if Japanese culture adapts foreign culture it adapts it thoroughly, and it may last a while as well). So there surely are some gems to be found, but there is also a bulk which is a charmingly weird interpretation of Western club sounds of the boisterous and booming era as House entered the big rooms and became widely recognized in the mainstream stakes, and the tons of styles that were recycled, sampled and mutated in the process only added to the confusion.

Shinichi Atobe on the other hand landed a record on Hard Wax’s seminal Chain Reaction imprint just a few years later, and it certainly had its kudos, but then it was also perfectly available for years, and only became a rare item as the interest in Japanese electronic music was on the rise again more recently. So a perfect timing to release “Butterly Effect”, previously unreleased recordings that display a fine talent for deep atmospherics and which do not seem to care what happened in all those years. And even in times where many labels, producers and their respective fanbase do not care much either, this release stands out from the rest, and the praise seems well deserved.

Takuya Matsumoto started his career around the same time as Atobe, but he appeared on my radar only a few years back, when I coincidentally stumbled upon a few releases on the Iero label. At first I thought he was taking a decidedly psychedelic look on the Detroit House legacy, but I soon learnt that he was aiming elsewhere really, and he might have the potential to become a property for some time to come.

I hope that there is much more to discover where all of the above came from, and I hope it does not sound as what is happening elsewhere in this world. We need that!

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Finn Johannsen – Hot Wax 024

Posted: December 19th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Mixes | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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Hot Wax: Jeff Mills – The Advent

Posted: December 19th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

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

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Finn Johannsen – Hot Wax 023

Posted: December 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Mixes | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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Hot Wax: Suburban Knight – The Art Of Stalking

Posted: November 28th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »
Do you remember the scene in “The Terminator” where the dogs in the dark tunnel go mad, indicating that something is not quite right among the rebels hiding out there? Just a few moments later shots are illuminating the room like deadly strobes. And the shooter has no mercy, killing everything that moves. And soon enough not much is left moving. And then one of the few survivors is staring into the dark, watching the machine in the shape of a human that is causing all the mayhem. And then the machine turns around, and in the dark chaos its lifeless eyes glow, flashing melting metal like beams like a lethal laser pointer towards more potential victims, as the smoke of its heavy gun barrel mingles with the smoke of the slain bodies on the floor.
Sometime in 1990, I was among the crowd in a dark basement club at peak time, and the DJ dropped this track.

It felt exactly like the film scene above. But it was real.

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Hot Wax: DJ Dove – God O’Mighty EP

Posted: November 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

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 Deutschmarks, 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.

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Hot Wax: R.I.P. Mark Bell

Posted: October 13th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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.