Moodymann, also known as Kenny Dixon Jr., is a prophet of Detroit. Motor City has long produced a line of father-figures for a music scene that craves substance. The Electrifying Mojo, Chez Damier & Theo Parrish, are just some of the names on the list. The spirit of Detroit combines spiritual essence with the stark contrast of the often harsh living conditions experienced by its people. Few have come close to infusing such soul through sampling in a majestic way as Kenny Dixon Jr. has. If you need proof just listen to ‘Ya Blessin’ Me‘ or ‘Sunday Morning‘. He’s graced stages worldwide from Rex Club to Dhërmi Beach in Albania, yet claims East Side of Detroit as his favourite place to visit. Moodymann’s ‘I Need You So Much (Runaway)’ came part of his acclaimed Black Mahogani album released back in 2004 on Peacefrog Records. A gentle reminder that the DJ behind the project is a guru of Deep House.
The track begins with crowd talking sampled from Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up‘. Dixon Jr. is well know to be a fan of the Soul singer, releasing a tribute track “The Day We Lost The Soul” in 1995. However, there’s also a connection to be made with Motown’s Detroit roots. After all, the genre takes its name after the Motor City. Moodymann is an ambassador for his city through and through. In fact in ’Forgotten Places’, he calls out the geographically local areas where he likes to hang out. The piano keys, saxophone and the bass guitar combine for what appears to be a Jazz improvisation at first. This a recurring feature of the producer’s releases, seen in his other tracks like ‘People‘. The DJ’s performances back home often integrate a live local band. However, a crisp kick here provides the rhythm that partners with what sounds like a man clapping in a bar to the beat. Roberta Sweed’s vocals are like honey running into your ears, melting into the wholesome atmosphere created. Finally, the producer stamps his mark as his own vocals give a shoutout to the lead vocalist. Extravagant yet soulful, the track is a gift from a talent blessed by the heavens above. Continue reading →
The early 1990s was an interesting time for the New York underground scene. Larry Levin was living his final years, seasoned clubbers reminisced about the good times of Studio 54, while Garage House moved across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom. Then came Moby, and brought a fresh dimension of ‘rave’ into the mix. A lonely inhabitant of an abandoned factory based in skid row outskirts of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he was inspired by fringe culture. A regular DJ at the Mars Club, he introduced the locals to his innovative sound. Though ‘Go‘ birthed the producer’s career, ‘Next Is The E’ was always the set-starter, according to his 2016 autobiography ‘Porcelain‘.
The track opens up with a drum pattern similar to 1980s Hip Hop hits such as Big Daddy Kane’s ‘Ain’t No Half Steppin‘ or Eric B. & Rakim’s ‘Paid in Full‘ that simmered its influence into 1990s. A hyperkinetic bass loops, an inheritance of Moby’s teenage years involvement in DIY punk bands. A masterful use of stripped down, sampled vocals have painted Moby’s picturesque discography. In ‘Honey‘ he sampled Bessie Jones, Boy Blues’ ‘Joe Lee’s Rock’ laid the fundamentals for ‘Find My Baby‘ & Vera Hall’s voice conducted ‘Natural Blues‘. Here he combines male ‘Heart-beating‘ chants with female ‘I Feel It‘ and ‘Yeah‘, all which sound related to the other. The breakdown, however, is the highlight of the track. Stripped of the bass, the kick and soft hi-hats accompany radiant ambient pads. Moby is gifted in soundscapes, none more evident than in ‘God Moving Over The Face of The Waters‘ which scored as the OST for Michael Mann’s 1995 movie ‘Heat‘. The melody coalesces, with repetition of ‘These are the odds‘ to raise the dopamine levels before all comes crashing into a drop. The preluding elements collide with the new vocal chants to complete a collage of rhapsodies, all dancing in unison to bring down the soundtrack of paradise.
Marshall Jefferson – Open Our Eyes (Marshall’s Elevated Dub)
Everyone in the underground scene has come across Marshall Jefferson’s ‘Move Your Body‘ before. The anthem, a definitive Trax Records release lead by Curtis McClain’s vocals, embodies the free spirit of 1980s Chicago House scene. At times, referred to as the Godfather of House Music, Jefferson unquestionably was pioneer heavily involved with the nurturing of its early progress. Being a friend and collaborator of Frankie Knuckles, and the producer behind DJ Pierre’s groundbreaking ‘Acid Tracks‘ EP project are just some of the extracts from his CV. His 1988 release on the New York label Big Beat Records ‘Open Your Eyes’ offers a more gossamer take on production.
The track is an exhibition of a polished Jefferson drum programming, with the producer noted to have been an enthusiast of the Roland TB-303 back in the 80s. The profuse bass line used sounds very similar to Mr Fingers’ (aka one of the father’s of Deep House Larry Heard) 1985 release ‘Mystery of Love‘ that has more recently been sampled by Kanye West in his track ‘Fade‘ featuring Post Malone. The innocuous, yet poignant lyrics repeat ‘Open Our Eyes, Give Us The Light‘. The Elevated Dub offers a crunch that is more club-ready for a a crowd that have gathered for a shared communion of dance. Continue reading →
Imagine being born in South Africa, then coming-of-age in London & finally finding dwelling in Berlin. The sense of a permanent home would become a foreign concept. Which is why the leading chant of Portable’s ‘Albatross’ ‘Which way, which way’ can be interpreted to be a call of a diaspora generation, open to new directions. Self-released in 2013 by now sadly dormant Süd Electronic label, the frostiness of the Cold War lingering in Portable’s now permanent home’s history with the spark of Alan Abrahams heritage. The end result is an oeuvre of creativity.
The track opens with a bunch of glass bottles being hit with the summon of Luther from The Warriors. Accompanying them is a delicate pad synth, resembling of a Moodyman record that timidly enters the picture. The swing of the bassline that kicks in is characteristically South African, dynamic yet loosening. The drum work is more cadenced than that of the European compatriots. See Culoe De Song’s remix of Goldfish Feat. Monique Hellenberg – Call Me for reference. Unlike his work under the Bodycode alias, where Abrahams takes a more Jazzmatic approach to the tracks structure in the similar vein to Kettenkarussell, ‘Albatross’ is more linear. A vocalist as well as a producer, Portable provides the solemn questions which carry the spiritual pursuit of Burning Spear.Continue reading →
The underground scene is often caricatured for its hedonistic culture. Often emblematised as the culture of unbounded liberties full of excess and substance abuse. You’d be forgiven to think this environment to be in direct contrast to the concept of church. Yet dig deeper and you’ll find an underlining heritage of spiritual hymns produced by the pioneers of house and techno. Just last year Robert Hood released an EP named ‘Let The Church’ under his Floorplan alias. Rocco’s ruminant track ‘Someday’ is another piece of the puzzle complementing the argument that underground music can offer a redemptive sermon in the form of dance.
The introduction carries phased out synths akin to Kerri Chandler’s signature sound. Robust kick is supported by a snare drum and a plucky bass that riffs, underpinning the groove. The gospel vocals simmer in and out in a wavelike manner. The leading female vocalist assures us that ‘Someday, We’ll all be Free’ while a unison choir sings in the background. The midsection breakdown filters out the drums allowing the choir to shine its celestial singing. 1990s inspired string pad provides guidance until the kick is brought back in. Fittingly, a tambourine is introduced in the final third to support the drums. An instrument that is often associated with the Southern Baptist congregation, its a great tribute to the track’s inspiration. Continue reading →
Chicago Legend Theo Parrish has a reputation for delivering outlandish, yet sleek cuts. Always off kilt, his distinctive sound stays recognisable. Mixing in the Jazziness that symbolises much of the Chicagosound akin to contemporaries like Ron Trent, ‘Heal Yourself and Move’ is something special. It’s meditative. Released in 1998 on his classic album ‘First Floor’, distributed by the ground-breaking UK label Peacefrog Records, this track is the pinnacle of electronic and organic synergy.
The 118bpm makes the aura woozy from the off. It’s a low key affair, the improvised sounding midi bass trembles for 40 seconds before a sub bass and salt shakers kick in and out. It makes you want to stretch out and get ready for a good dance. The pace increases with the background clicks growing in whilst a man who sounds like he’s warming up in the background hums. Together you get an intoxicating mix, the overtone plonky keys providing a real experimental edge. Continue reading →