Rewind: Losoul – Belong

Posted: September 30th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

There were several reasons for the popularity of minimal techno and house in the late 90s and early 00s. For one, a lot of electronic club music of the preceding years was quite boisterous. Its ingredients and purpose was often not exactly subtle, satisfying clubbers and listeners that emerged from the acid house and rave days with direct signals and relentless dancefloor dynamics. And as soon as a sound becomes too dominant in the club scene, there is a reaction, and alternatives develop, and as it happened with the minimal approach they might even take over what was happening before and become dominant as well. And a freshly initiated influx of dancers and listeners had also come with different musical requirements. While the big room and big festival acts like Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers converted a rock clientele to the dance floor, a lot of people who earlier preferred less heavier independent rock music fell in love with the early Detroit minimal techno prototypes by Robert Hood , Jeff Mills, Richie Hawtin and Daniel Bell, and its more dubbed out counterparts around the Berlin conglomerate of Basic Channel and its affiliated labels, or Wolfgang Voigt with his Profan and Studio 1 imprints in Cologne, or Force Inc. and later Perlon in Frankfurt or Säkhö in Finland, or Peter Ford‘s Ifach and Trelik labels. Furthermore the club scene itself went through changes. Budget airlines stormed the market and made travelling to parties affordable, new open air venues and festivals entered the circuit but they had to make concessions to surrounding areas and embraced a sound that was efficient without significantly loud and low end sound systems. Also drugs like ketamine or GHB became popular and their users liked a sound that was more reduced, hypnotic and subtle. And soon enough minimal techno crossed over to house as well, and was out to conquer.

Right in the centre of these developments was the Frankfurt imprint Playhouse founded by Ata and Heiko M/S/O, which began as the housier end of parent label Ongaku Musik, along with its fellow sub label Klang Elektronik. It put artists like Ricardo Villalobos on the map, as well as Isolée or Roman Flügel with his Roman IV or Soylent Green aliases, and they reinterpreted house music with a lot of attention to details, abstraction, reduction and repetition. Peter Kremaier aka Losoul was arguably the most defining artist in the label‘s early stages, and his productions had a signature sound that is still unique. He probably was inspired by the layering experiments of DJ Pierre‘s wild pitch sound or the immersive deep house of Ron Trent and Chez Damier, but his own tracks soon took off into their own creative zone. Beginning with 1996‘s „Open Door“ the following 12“ releases „Mandu“, „Don Disco De Super Bleep“, and „Synchro“ were masterclasses in dancefloor mesmerism. Over beats more pumping than those of his label peers, subliminal percussion and chopped chords, he worked with deconstructed disco and funk loops and occasional vocal samples that were so perfectly captivating that he could ride them over extended tracks that gradually introduced element after element with logical patience, resulting in trips you felt should never stop. But by the end of the 90s the structure of his tracks became less strict, and he also explored different sounds on dark, bass heavy tracks like „Ex.or.zis.mus“ or „Brother In Love“, to fine effect. It seemed what was still needed was an album to round up this artistic phase of his, before he would potentially venture into something new, or different.

When said album „Belong“ was then released in 2000, it came as surprise to many of his followers. The opener „Taste Not Waste“ is deceiving, as it is a brooding punchy excursion that would not have been out of place on the preceding 12“s, but already the following track „Late Play“ is a weird off-centre sounding sketch in comparison, hinting at the fact that the artist would not give away the chance to represent more of his repertoire than his trademark club stylings. „Resisting Curare“ takes up on the quirkiness, albeit speedier, while „Overland“ is an eccentric and playful take on the ever reliable Billie Jean groove, coming across like a cross between the original groove and „Kaw-Liga“ by The Residents, with extra weirdness. Then things take another unexpected turn with „Sunbeams And The Rain“, which in my humble opinion is one of the most astonishingly beautiful and sublime tracks ever to merge deep house and techno. Only slightly erratic, this majectic masterpiece is followed by the chunky slow groover „Position“, which dubs down the proceedings before the sparsely tripping yet funky „Depth Control“, another demonstration how much you can achieve with just a few thought-out, gripping elements. Next is „You Can Do“, which contains the sunniest loop Kremeier produced up to that point, a spiralling, almost balearic melody which does not let go for most of the track, thus resulting in another track you can completely lose yourself in, although it achieves that typically intense Losoul sensation with an untypical joyful mood. The last track „Trust“ is a warped and chopped hip hop version of Bill Withers‘ „Use Me“ that would grace any tape of later L.A. beatmakers, and it makes you wonder what whole other sounds the artist might have left in the vaults.

Although Losoul has continued to drop releases of consistent quality, I think „Belong“ marks the end of a certain era, in which he acted as a true solitaire, even among likeminded and similarly talented cohorts. To me it seems that only shortly after the imaginative ideas of the minimal techno and house of those years time soon were often forsaken for a sound that was already looming, more eager to please, and less interesting to listen and dance to, however exceptions might prove the rule. But it is undeniable that here lies the foundation for many backlashes and resurgences to come.

Resident Advisor September 2019


Rewind: Baby Ford – ‘Ooo’ The World Of Baby Ford

Posted: July 20th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

Although acid house exports provided the sound blueprints for Second Summer of Love in the late 80s, the rawness of the US originals often did not really match the ecstasy fuelled day-glo hedonism that was sweeping UK clubland. Of course the pioneering tracks from Chicago, Detroit and New York had the same huge impact in English clubs as they had in Continental Europe, and the American originators brought music that was informed by no less aspiring ambitions, but it was also often produced on the equipment that you could afford in problematic social environments, and its initial target group was more local, and on another street level than the almost proverbial MDMA hugs between football hooligans or other thugs and the dancers they were previously beating up. But UK pop and club culture had interpreted outside influences into something more pop before and sent it back, as it had happened with the British Invasion in the 60s and lovers rock in the 70s, and house, and particularly acid house, was no exception. In the UK, some clever people not only heard a difference, they also understood that it had potential far beyond that. Just a new, small and dedicated scene at first, but maybe more. Or even much more.

Baby Ford seemed to have a very clear vision of what was missing for the music to really cross over and reach such potential, and with his first promising releases from 1988 up to his first album „Fordtrax“ he brilliantly merged inspirations from Larry Heard, Derrick May or Todd Terry with a knowledgeable pop sensibility. But in contrast to other successful London cohorts of the Rhythm King label like Bomb The Bass, S‘Express, The Beatmasters, and Coldcut on their label Ahead Of Our Time, he did not succumb almost entirely to the charms of the wild days of sampling, instead aiming more for his own musicianship than a wild collage of references with a beat. And in contrast to Manchester artists like 808 State and A Guy Called Gerald, who achieved a similarly distinctive sound, he was ready, willing and able to sing as well, and he implied his sense of humour. Be it „Ooochy Koochy“ or „Chikki Chikki Aah Aah“, his music was catchy and smart, but instrumental gems like „Fordtrax“ already proved that he knew how to arrange and set a mood. He seemed to make fine use of his influences as much as he made them his own, and he established a mini-canon of his own work in which his ideas naturally referred to each other.

Already a year later his second album „’Ooo’ The World Of Baby Ford“ aimed considerably higher. There are variations of „Fordtrax“ material but in a different, more mellow mood („Milky Tres / Chikki Chikki Aah Aah“). Which is perfectly ok if your source material is good enough to be reinterpreted in such a short time. Other tracks like „Let‘s Talk It Over“ or „The World Is In Love“ have a similar mood, somehow as urban as pastoral, sublime and full of hope. „Beach Bump“ or „A Place Of Dreams & Magic“ are more over the top, reviving the camp fun of „Oochy Koochy“ and other livelier tracks he made before. And then there are tracks that hint at the idea of this album as a continuation of gone but yet still lasting UK youth cultures. In terms of music „Poem For Wigan“ and „Wigan“ have not much in common with the 70s northern soul haven Wigan Casino (or the Jazz Funk and later Electro played at Wigan Pier club by its resident DJ Greg Wilson), but Baby Ford grew up near Wigan and experienced what happened there, and both tracks have a sentiment true to the inspiration. You may now flock to other clubs and dance to other sounds, but the spirit is the same. Else the cover version of T.Rex‘s „Children Of The Revolution“ is more obvious, putting the 70s glam rock anthem into the context of the acid house movement, whose children won‘t be fooled either. It is time again for the UK youth to rise up against it, and this is how it sounds. And then the according modern grooves also meet the modernized version of the hippie era aesthetics that the tabloids and authorities directly diverted to blame and prosecution. Where there are loved up messages and melodies, psychedelic colours and a quest for an alternative way of living, there must be something for society to fight back, regardless of what you are afraid of in the 60s, 70s, 80s, or the decades to come. Us against them, forever irreconcilable.

This album captured the revolutionary spirit and joy of that time perfectly, and it indirectly predicted why it could not last. It was not widely perceived as a defining statement and Baby Ford did not become the defining pop star, and he seemed to abandon his bright ideas soon after. First with the subsequent 1992 album „BFORD9“, which still had some traces of his prior optimism left, but which also confrontationally displayed disillusionment, darker topics and harder sounds, until he reduced his persona and sound more and more, albeit still with consistently great creative results. Either way, Baby Ford‘s world may have not been big enough, but you still think ‚Ooo‘ when you think of it.


Resident Advisor EX.176 – Berlin Vinyl Culture

Posted: November 29th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

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@ Vinyl City – A Look At Berlin’s Record Store Culture

Posted: November 8th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Gigs | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

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RA Ex163 – Critics Roundtable

Posted: August 29th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

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@ RA Exchange

Posted: February 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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Edit Etiquette

Posted: January 31st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Contributed some thoughts on edits for Will Lynch’s feature at Resident Advisor.


Playing Favourites: Silent Servant

Posted: November 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Doctor Mix And The Remix – Out of the Question (1979)

A lot of the music we’ve picked out to discuss comes from a similar background in terms of time period, style and sound, but I think this one is pretty obscure. How did you find it?

Through a friend of mine. There’s a label in New York called Acute Records maybe eight years ago or so. A few of my friends in California are really obsessed with The Jesus and Mary Chain, and one of the members of the band mentioned once that this was one of their favourite records of all time. The thing I like about it is the extremity of the music. It’s super high-pitched, with distortion and tinny drum machines but then it’s covers of, like, Stooges songs.

This track in particular has this really insane, rhythmic track that’s super metronomic but super heavy at the same time. It’s very aggressive, but not because of the levels of distortion. The first time I heard it I thought I was listening to [The Jesus and Mary Chain’s] Psycho Candy. The more I looked into it, the more I realized how much of an influence it had on them.

It’s funny. The Jesus and Mary Chain were always compared to The Velvet Underground, but apparently there’s much more to it than that.

Sure. There’s not a lot of stuff like this. The guy was in one of the first French punk bands. And, with this, they kind of combined the attitude of the Velvets with these misinterpretations from a different country. I love that because, for me, techno in California was always a misinterpretation of what was happening in Berlin and Detroit and Chicago just because we didn’t really have a big scene. We had a club scene, but not a techno scene. I just really love the weird interpretations of The Stooges and stuff like that.

Are you interested in bands that deconstruct rock tradition in some way?

At the end of the day it’s all about attitude. Willing to push things a lot and not really care. It was the same when I first heard Cabaret Voltaire’s “Messages Received.” I just didn’t know what to say, I was blown away. I thought, “It doesn’t get any more honest than that.” I think that’s the whole thing. There’s an honesty in the music that you can’t remove. There’s a visceral element to it. That’s how myself, Karl [O’Connor], Dave [Sumner] and even Pete [Sutton] interpret music in some way I think.

Cabaret Voltaire – Messages Received (1980)

There was a very heavy art slant on what Cabaret Voltaire did. I think it’s very, very art driven. They’d also have the influence of The Velvet Underground and all that ’60s psych rock, but they’d do all these awesome records and what came through the most was the attitude. “This is what I wanna do, this is how I’m gonna do it.” And they just went for it.

Is that a quality you try to pursue? Not thinking about what you can or can’t do?

Yeah, I talk to Karl every other day on the telephone, we’re in very heavy contact on a weekly basis, same thing with Dave. But it’s funny because when I make music it’s purely to see what he thinks, just for us to discuss… “Oh, I really like this. What do you think?” It’s more a conversation from an art base. I try to work in a very automatic response way. I work in art direction, so I work quite a bit on TV commercials and magazines and stuff like that. So when I work on music it’s usually very late at night and I have to work in headphones, so it’s usually like a weird mantra type state, kinda conscious and unconscious, while I’m working.

It’s nice because there’s a sense that I’m not really thinking about anything particularly. I’m able to work on music in that mindframe where I’m doing it purely just because I want to see what I can come up with. In a more artistic sense, sometimes I will make a visual and we will work to the visual. Like with the artwork for the album. That was made first. Then we made a record that matched that.

For labels like Factory, design labels were incredibly important. They were, in many cases, as important as the music.

When you get that double impact of visual and audio, you’re like, “Wow, this is really intense.” Cabaret Voltaire for me has always done that. All the artwork on their covers. The early ones especially had that handmade element, which I’m sure was some of the guys in the band literally cutting things out by hand and assembling collages. Read the rest of this entry »


Playing Favourites: Alan Oldham

Posted: July 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Weather Report – River People ( CBS, 1978)

You once told me that you were raised on jazz fusion.

I was. That was the kind of music of my early and mid-teenage years. In those days that was grown people’s music, it was very sophisticated. If you wanted to feel cool and grown up and everything, you were into Weather Report and Chick Corea. Lenny White, who drummed for Chick Corea’s band Return to Forever, was one of my all-time favorites. This song, “River People,” was from Mr. Gone and Mojo used to play it every night. He really made a hit out of a track.

Would you say that Mojo kind of planted a seed in some techno heads with this music?

I would say so. Mojo, for the black community, was it. And this was in the pre hip-hop days where black people listened to everything in Detroit when I was growing up. It was that open atmosphere that allowed Detroit techno to form I think. And Mojo was definitely ground zero for the black community. I mean this guy would play The Isley Brothers, Prince, Alice Cooper, Weather Report. He was the first DJ to play B-52s in Detroit. He broke a lot of music to the black community that we would have never heard.

What was the main inspiration of the things that Mojo played for the first wave of techno producers in Detroit?

I would say the real ground zero for this music was Kraftwerk. Which Mojo also used to play. I was in high school—I’m really dating myself [laughs]—and they released “Man Machine” and “Numbers” back-to-back in America. In Europe, there was a gap, but in America they released those two records almost at the same time. That made a really big impact.

I played this because I wondered if there is some kind of connection between a lot of Detroit techno records and jazz. Juan, of course, said “Jazz is the teacher” at one point, and there are a lot of harmonies in Detroit techno that are pretty jazzy, really complex. I was wondering if Weather Report was the source for this connection.

I think it’s a source, but not the source. I think that Detroit techno came from a lot of different influences. You have to remember that, at the same time, Parliament/Funkadelic were big. So you had a lot of futuristic connections with those guys; Mothership Connection was a big thing. Detroit was a huge melting pot. If you look back, it’s pretty incredible. Everything now is just so market-tested.

Nitzer Ebb – Join In The Chant (Mute, 1987)

That was a classic. There used to be a club named Todd’s in Detroit. It was the big new wave punk rock bar in the ’80s. The main DJ was Charles English, and he had the new stuff all the time. When I was in college we used to go every Thursday. He broke that out, and that was it. I was like, “Wow, who are these cats?”

Later, I was hanging out with Derrick May over at his place. Derrick had just gotten back from London, and he was a pop star. I was doing a radio show at the time and he gave me the double pack, saying “Hey man, take this and play it tonight.” He was in with Mute, and they were giving him everything. I still play it out today, the original version.

I don’t know how much influence it had on Detroit techno, but back in those days we were listening to everything. So when Nitzer Ebb came down the pike, it was like, “Oh, that’s really good.” There was a radio show called Brave New Waves out of Canada on the CBC and we used to hear them play Nitzer Ebb.

This track is from 1987, when you began your own radio show, Fast Forward on WDET. That was a really important year for you.

Yes. I had done the artwork for Derrick [May]’s “Nude Photo,” got my radio show. The night of my first broadcast, I went over to Derrick’s place, and he gave me all these records. He said, “Play these.” All of these records are what turned out to be the first techno records, a bunch of white labels. I was playing Detroit techno, what was then industrial and EBM, jazz fusion, a little hip-hop. WBLS, Brave New Waves, Mojo; those guys were my influences. I would go to see Charles play on a Thursday night at Todd’s and buy those records and play them on Friday night on my show.

How did you get the show?

Well, I was an intern at the station the summer before. I was putting the records in order. I started talking to the program director, and told her how much I was into Lenny White. She was like, “You know who Lenny White is?” I was super young compared to her at the time. So I said, “Yeah, one of the greatest fusion drummers to walk the Earth. Lenny White, Tony Williams.” She was impressed, and she asked if I had a demo tape. Fusion jazz got me the job, so that’s why I kept playing it. It was a whole mish-mash of genres, though.

Were the listeners appreciating that, or did you get criticism for being so eclectic?

I was on super late. It was from 3 AM to 6 AM. The graveyard shift. People dug it, they dug it right away. I’ll never forget playing “Acid Tracks” from Phuture, and some guy called me on the phone and was going insane. “What is this called? What kind of music is this?” It was the early days of electronic music, so nobody knew anything.

In those pre-internet days, doing research wasn’t easy.

Luckily, I worked at radio stations. So they had all of these libraries where you could go in and listen to whatever you wanted. Read the rest of this entry »


Playing Favourites: Joey Negro

Posted: May 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

 

Rinder & Lewis – Lust (Pye Records, 1977)

The first one is by Rinder and Lewis – “Lust”, which is kind of a space disco prototype so to say. For 1977 it was kind of a landmark record I guess.

For 1977, yes. I suppose Rinder and Lewis were a very prolific production team in the 70s and 80s. They made an awful lot of records, a lot of albums. That’s probably one of their most moody tracks. A lot of their stuff has got a 1920s, big band, Charleston influence to it. But I like a lot of their stuff. But some of it is unusual in its arrangement. That one’s got a slightly more mystical vibe to it.

Would you say they tried to explore their field a bit further with this record? You mentioned that a few of the other productions had certain influences, like the latin stuff for example. But this one is really something different, almost science fiction.

Yes, but that’s quite different from the rest of the “Seven Deadly Sins” album. I reckon it wasn’t a track that was made to be a hit. It was probably considered an album track. But with that weird bit in the middle with the glockenspiel, it goes into a sort of devil bit about two thirds of the way through. Which is very out of character with the rest of the record. But what I think is interesting about that is that you don’t get those sort of unexpected bits in records now. I guess when musicians are making records, it’s very different to when DJs are making records. Now, when DJs make records they just tend to have the same stuff going throughout the track, it just loops round and round. Maybe there might be some changes, but there’s nothing drastic coming in really loud. A bad DJ produced record might just be a bit boring, whereas a bad record from the 70s might have a great verse and a really terrible chorus. Or you might have something really cheesy. A lot of records now are just rhythm tracks made by DJs for mixing and whatever, whereas then you might have records that have got loads in them, maybe too much. But the reason that they’re not great is maybe because they’ve got too much in them. They might have some great musical parts, but the vocals are crap. I think I’m digressing a little bit. A lot of Rinder and Lewis stuff – have you got that album “Discognosis”?

No, I know the THP Orchestra stuff which I found really good.

Yeah, and there’s El Coco and Le Pamplemousse. I like that track. It’s always very well orchestrated, they always had a bit of money to make the records. It wasn’t done on a shoestring budget, they must have sold pretty well. I think El Coco’s “Cocomotion” is one of my favourites by them as well. Obviously a lot of the stuff on AVI was produced by them, they were putting out a lot of music. They must have lived in the studio in 76, 77, 78, 79.

This is also a really good example for what you can do if you’re a good arranger – the arrangements they did are really complex and beautiful. Is that something you miss? You talked of modern rhythm tracks and functionality – I think it’s hard to pull off these days because you don’t have budgets for studio work…

Yeah of course. I suppose you have to think, this is now and that was then. Record sales were much higher, I suppose disco was like r’n’b was 5 years ago in terms of its worldwide popularity. So there was a lot more money, obviously there weren’t downloads or people copying CDs. I don’t know what the sales figures were like of something like Rinder and Lewis, but it probably sold half a million or something like that. It’s a completely different time, in terms of being able to get a string section in for your record. I’ve paid for string sections before, but to be honest with you what I’ve found is a string section with 30-40 people is so different to a string section with 7 or 8 people. I’ve only been able to afford 6 or 7 people. It isn’t really a string section! Nowadays, with CD-ROMs and whatever you can make something that sounds pretty good – not the same – but pretty good with just samples. To really make it sound a lot better, you need a 30-40 piece, big room orchestra. People at Salsoul and a lot of them classic disco records had that big proper string arrangement. Also, paying someone to do the arrangement isn’t cheap if you get someone good. Very difficult to do that now. So yeah, I do miss it. But there’s no point missing something, it’s like saying “Oh, I wish they were still making Starsky and Hutch”.

As long as a glimpse of an orchestra won’t do, it doesn’t make sense?

I think the only it could make sense is if George Michael decides to make a disco album, or someone like that. He could afford it. Or Beyonce. Some big star. But your average dance record – I suppose Jamiroquai had some live strings on some of his stuff. But then again, he was selling a lot of records.

Doobie Brothers – What A Fool Believes (Warner Bros. Inc., 1979)

“What a Fool Believes” by the Doobie Brothers, which is a merger of rock and disco.

There’s other tracks, like the Alessi Brothers “Ghostdancer”… I suppose that just shows how popular disco music must have been at the time when people like The Doobie Brothers and Carly Simon were actually making disco records. I suppose it’s the same as nowadays people making a record with a more r’n’b type beat. Or at the beginning of house music, there were lots of pop acts making house records. I was listening to a best of ABBA a few years ago. It started off sort of glam-rock, sort of sweet, like Gary Glitter, that sort of production. And by the late seventies their stuff had got pretty disco-ey. And by 82 it was folky. So I think the disco beat was just featuring on a lot of productions by acts who just wanted to make a contemporary sounding record. That’s probably why a lot of the American rock establishment hated disco so much. It wasn’t just that it was there: their favourite acts were making disco records! They hated the fact the Rolling Stones made disco records, it just wasn’t allowed.

But the thing is, that when the disco boom ended, a lot of the rock acts who made disco records acted like they never did! They deserted it pretty quickly.

Yeah, once it became uncool they pretended they never liked it, it wasn’t their idea and all that. I tried to once do a compilation album of that sort of stuff. But it’s too difficult to license it all. They’re all on major labels, they’re all big acts, and it’s very hard to license that stuff. In fact I’d go as far as to say it’s impossible: just too difficult and expensive.

Was it just because of budget reasons, or because the acts didn’t want to be reminded of what they did in that area?

I think often those big acts have to approve every compilation album license. A lot of the time, for the people who work in the compilation album license department, it’s easier for them to say no than to write to the management of Supertramp or Queen. And often, if they do see a title that has disco in it, they will say no. And a lot of them won’t license the Rolling Stones to a comp that’s got a projected sales figure of less than half a million. There’s so many reasons why it’s problematic. You could do it, but you’d have to leave off so many tracks, there would hardly be any point doing it. I did have a chat with a major label about doing it and that was one that owned quite a lot of them. But it’s just so difficult. They want to see a big marketing budget, they want to see you spend a hundred grand on television adverts. Otherwise they just go, why are we on this compilation album?

I think it’s a shame really, there were so many good disco records done by major artists…

Yeah. I like a lot of those things. I’m doing this compilation for BBE which is maybe a similar thing, just it’s not all well known acts. People like Fleetwood Mac, they did that track “Keep On Going”, those sort of things. I guess it’s blue-eyed rocky soul. Quite danceable… it’s not all disco, but it’s not really rock either. More black music based. I always think, if you look at the back of a rock album and it’s got someone playing bongos on it, it’s worth checking out. Read the rest of this entry »