Aug172018| August 17, 2018
From East End blues parties to playing Plastics with Floating Points, Red Greg is a DJ who has only ever been motivated by a love for music. That his career has taken off at a (relatively) late stage is testament to the consistent quality of his sets, an ear for rare boogie and a gentle, unassuming demeanour.
Darren Griffiths aka Red Greg lives in a small flat in Ilford with his partner and their Jack Russell, Arthur. For a DJ whose collection precedes him, the space is tidy, and besides an Expedit’s worth of records in the living room, you’d be forgiven for wondering what the fuss was all about. It’s here that we conducted the interview, as Griffiths tells of his teenage years at Funkadelic’s sound system blues parties in Canning Town, buying records from mail order pamphlets, and negotiating the cultural shift as 2-step parties were infiltrated by acid house in the early ’90s.
It’s not until the end of the interview that Griffiths suggests we see his albums collection in the bedroom, where records are perfectly stacked, floor-to-ceiling, covering its entire back wall. In the small corridor, he opens cupboards to either side, which are bursting with records. Every nook of this humble space is utilised. He assures us that most of his pop, RnB and house records are still at his mum’s.
Now in his late 40s, international acclaim has come later than most for Griffiths. A self-confessed ‘part-time’ DJ, he played the soul circuit in East London for almost thirty years before an email from Floating Points brought him into the You’re A Melody fold at Plastic People, the party and label, Melodies International, co-run by Mafalda, to which Griffiths now contributes regular edits, and a wealth of knowledge.
With an appearance at Dimensions Festival still to come this summer, Red Greg is revelling in playing records for open-minded audiences, and began by telling us about his own musical up-bringing, and how he’s managed to side-step the competitive, macho environment that surrounds the rare record scene.
An international DJ career has come a little later in life for you. When did that kick off and how has it been adapting to that?
I think it grew from the You’re A Melody parties. From that point, more people knew who I was. I had always been DJing, and the older people knew me, but Sam [Shepherd aka Floating Points] invited me down, and the younger people were really going for it, which was surprising to see for someone from my generation.
How did you first get to know Sam?
Just through records really. I think he got my email address off Richie [who runs Love On The Run parties] from New York. I got an email out of the blue from Sam asking, “Do you know this record or that record? Every time I Google them they come up on your mixes or on your compilations.” I met him at Plastic People and it all happened from there.
But you’ve obviously been involved in music for quite a while… None of this must have been that new for you?
Well, growing up in East London, Canning Town, I had two older sisters, and they’d go to a place called Bentley’s and other local clubs. My sisters would have mixtapes of local soul and reggae sound systems, and that’s how I got into music when I was about 14 or 15.
What was that local scene like?
The main sound system for me was Funkadelic, which was more a soul sound, and was run by George [Small] and Dennis [(Scanka) Lewis]. They were basically just blues parties, which would start at two in the morning and go until two in the afternoon in a flat like this… I think I went to my first blues party when I was about 15 or 16.
What did those blues parties look like?
They were basically like illegal parties, sometimes in a house that had been boarded up. They’d kick the door off, set up a bar, have drinks for £1. It was like an old warehouse party, but just really small. Usually they were free to get in, or something ridiculous like £2.
For me, there were a couple of songs that were important, one of which was Claussel ‘Let Me Love You’ and they’d play that. On a reggae sound system the bass was just incredible in a small place like this.
Literally in a flat this size?
Yeah, I remember one party got really rough because the neighbours weren’t happy. They came down with hammers and it wasn’t that nice. I think you had blues parties all over London, with all the different sound systems. There was Casual Affair, Side Effect, Mystery, Touch Of Class, Funkadelic… I was only 16 at the time, so I felt safe at the local East London parties in Canning Town and Forest Gate. I was more into the soul, but a lot would play reggae tunes. For me it was all about the 2-step, rare groove scene.
Were you buying records at that time?
I was always buying pop records as a kid. I’d go round my grandmother’s and she’d give me pocket money to spend on pop records at the shop down the road. When I was about 14 or 15, I got into the music that my sisters liked: Quincy Jones, and Evelyn King. It was only when I got into Funkadelic with a couple of friends that we wanted to set up our own sound system. We’d just left school and all chipped in and bought some equipment.
What was it called?
I think it was called Plus One because we were always adding one more person to the group. After that I started buying lots of records, things on West End, and also loads of 2-step. It was really different to now, because you’d just hear a jingle on the radio saying, “we’ve got these in stock”, and you’d go to Red Records in Brixton and find the rare ones. That’s how it all started. A couple of years later, there was a mail order company called Soul Bowl. You’d get the list through the door, see something you liked on the list, and you’d have to run to the phone and ask them to hold it for you, and send a cheque from the post office.
Yeah, and at the time, not many people I knew were aware of albums by the likes of Milton Wright… I got that one from Soul Bowl, and everyone was surprised how I got that record.
A lot of those sound systems had a ‘selector’ as well as a ‘DJ’, but know they two terms have become somewhat conflated…
For me, I wanted to find my own records and play them. And at the time there were other sound systems like Rap Attack where it was all about mixing. For me, it was all about finding the records that other people weren’t playing and mixing, whereas with the more mature sound systems it was about having a selector and having a DJ, who would mix. There would be four people – the DJ, the selector, the MC, and the sound guy.
It was only a few years later that the whole acid house thing happened, so you’d be playing 2-step, rare groove, acid house, and reggae, at the same party, which was really good. It probably fizzled out in the ’90s, when house music was really predominant and it was more about mixing, but in the past ten years it’s gone full circle and it’s about selecting. You don’t have to mix, people can have a really good selection and you can just play your records.
Did you ever get into acid house?
Probably for about two years. Everyone would be on pills, and you’d be at a blues party where it was just 2-step, and then acid house – it was really weird, because some people just wanted to have a drink and dance to the music like before, and then all this new music came along, with people out of their heads, who just wanted it faster.
I was buying everything really. I was buying acid house and hip-hop, but I think all those records are at my mum’s house now. In the mid-’90s, I was into the RnB thing. I was buying records, doing some local DJ work, going to Black Market, or buying the New Jersey soulful garage imports religiously every week. There was so much going on musically and it was changing so quickly. It’s only been the last ten years that I’ve stuck to playing one thing, so people have been booking me to play disco and boogie.
Were you holding down another job throughout?
Yeah, buying records was always just been a hobby. I’ve never been a full-time DJ, I’m still not, really. The last ten years, I’ve worked in education, in provision for kids who’ve been kicked out of regular school, and now it’s just two days a week.
Do they know you’re a DJ in your spare time?
No, not really! No one would be interested…
You’d be surprised… You mentioned the Milton Wright records rearlier, but were there other things you got that other people were after?
Yeah, there was Bobby Wilson – ‘Deeper and Deeper’ – a Barry White-esque thing that I would play at the end of the night. Also, things like Pam Todd ‘Let’s Get Together’ played a massive part in what I play now. I remember seeing it from Our Price in Stratford, and I think I got that there. So records like that are still really important.
Can you put your finger on what appeals to you when you first hear a new track that you like?
For me, the sound is instant, if it’s that whole optimistic, feel good, positive feel to it.
Were you ever much of a record dealer?
No, not really. I’m terrible, because if I see something I like I’ll buy it. Do you know Roy Ayers’ Silver Vibrations? It has got a long version of ‘Chicago’ on it, which is not on the US album, and I’d always see it for a fiver and I ended up with twenty copies over the years. It’s such a good record, why is nobody buying it? And then it started going for £150-£200…
Because you had them all!
Haha, maybe. I gave some of them to friends and sold a few… Most of the records I have in the other room are really cheap albums, but they’re just brilliant records. It’s not really about rarity for me, it’s more about the music. There are loads of mid-late’80s boogie records, for example, that people are going crazy about now, which at the time everyone would have said was no good compared to West End or Salsoul. But now because they’re expensive people really want them, and they’re not necessarily that good.
Sometimes with rare records people leave their ears at the door, so to speak…
Some people just want these trophies, and it’s very macho and competitive, which I really don’t like.
What’s your upper limit for buying records?
I always try to stick to £500. That’s probably about the most I’ve spent on a record. That’s a rarity really. Most of the stuff I like I manage to find before they go through the roof, which is good!
And you’d play this stuff out at a gig?
Yeah, although I know collectors and DJs who won’t play these records. That seems weird. They’re made to be enjoyed. I understand that people just want to put it on the wall and it’s all about keeping the value, but I’m pretty bad with playing them and stuffing them in the bag. I want to play them, I want to enjoy them, and I want people to enjoy them, that’s what it’s all about for me. It’s not the best when someone drops a drink on a £500 record, but that’s life.
I have also started getting into more unreleased acetates from the ’70s. I just try and collect the unreleased things, which there are not many of. This one by DeeDee Sharp, I played in Paris, and back-cued it once, and then when I pulled it forwards the first beat had been wiped, so I don’t play them anymore!
What’s your routine for putting a bag together for a gig?
I think I’m constantly turning stuff around. You’ll have your staple songs and everyone knows you for playing certain songs that they now expect, like the Fronzene Harris ‘Lifetime Guarantee’, which I played at Dekmental with Ge-Ology that someone took a video clip of…
Has it been a bit of a learning curve playing in these festival environments or to bigger audiences than before?
It’s been really good, and amazing to see young people sing along to records that are not mainstream. The Netherlands in general is just amazing for an open-minded young crowd. Even if they don’t know the music, they’ll dance for the full set, which I’ve never experienced before.
What does your collection mean to you as a whole?
It’s part of my life. At my mother’s house there are a mixture of big records from the ’80s and ’90s – loads of house stuff and dance stuff. I find it hard to get rid of them, because they take you back to that time, playing at this or that bar, and the people you were surrounded by then. It’s all part of my life.
Dec052017| December 5, 2017
From essential track IDs to crafted EPs.
Having picked out our favourite 7″s and 10″s, we turn our attention to the 12″ in the second of our retrosepctive rundowns of the last twelve months.
And just as 7″s no longer represent the year’s biggest chart hits, so has it been some time since 12″s were exclusively the domain of the dance floor.
From the simple 2-track club banger to EPs that border on mini-albums, we’ve demanded that each 12″ offers something more than just an aggregation of the year’s best tracks.
Some though, like Objekt, Denis Sulta and Bufiman do represent the year’s most urgent dance music, or in the case of Bicep, Four Tet and Nathan Fake distil new albums in more forms.
This year, the 12″ has also been the friend of the UK’s burgeoning grassroots jazz movement, capturing the nascent scene as it grows and evolves, whether on Joe Armon-Jones & Maxwell Owin’s Idiom, Moses Boyd’s Absolute Zero or the improvised voyages of A.R.E. Project.
And finally, the 12″ was also home to several beautifully crafted EPs, cementing concepts and musical ideas – from Fatima al Qadiri’s provocative sexual politics to LAPS’ DIY dancehall – that circumvent generic boundaries for something true to the musical diversity of 2017.
You may have also noticed that we’ve changed the emphasis of our lists this year away from the tired, arbitrary and frankly over-used ‘best’, to the more openly subjective ‘favourite’. We believe this more accurately reflects the fact that these rundowns are essentially recommendations of what we’ve enjoyed most this year, as selected by our weekly contributors Patrick Ryder, James Hammond and Chris Summers, alongside VF’s editorial team, Gabriela Helfet and Anton Spice.
What were your favourites this year? Let us know in the comments below.
See the rest of our 2017 review:
Our 50 favourite albums of 2017
Our 10 favourite 7″s of 2017
Our 12 favourite reissue singles of 2017
Our 30 favourite reissues of 2017
Our 12 favourite soundtracks of 2017
Our 12 favourite record sleeves of 2017
Bicep may have dropped their long-awaited debut album, taking first place as the most track ID-requested producers of the year by a country mile in the process, but the audio pinnacle from this Belfast duo actually came in the form of their final release of 2017. The Glue EP delivered one of the LP’s finest cuts on the A-Side, plus fresh tracks which included the delightfully acid-tinged ‘DLR’ on the reverse. – GH
Don’t Get Me Wrong
This curveball dropped right at the start of 2017 and hasn’t left the record bag since. Lead track ‘Be A Man’ sashays across the dance floor with jasmin-infused disco pizzazz, lush synths and a belly-dance bassline underpinned by sharp-as-brass percussive shuffle. Things take a step down to Room 2 on ‘Rigola’, the groove staying in the pocket, with vibraphones to the fore. A triumph for the Music From Memory off-shoot that was heard far and wide this year. – AS
18. Carla Dal Forno
(Blackest Ever Black)
A VF favourite coming off the strength of last year’s debut full length You Know What Its Like and its accompanying singles, this year gave us four new cuts from Carla Dal Forno which made for more essential listening. An artist who sets out an alluring sound world of mysterious and uneasy pop music, The Garden carried on where her debut left off in its sparingly affective structures and ability to craft distinctive vocal hooks that work their way in with repeated listens. – JH
17. Denis Sulta
Nein Forteate EP
Glasgow homebro Denis Sulta launched his own label with two choice EPs this year, the highlight of which was its inaugural release, Nein Forteate, featuring ‘Dubelle Oh XX (JVIP)’. The kind of synthy club anthem that Sulta is rightly becoming known for, its greatness lies about 3 and a half minutes in, when the track, seemingly at its peak, suddenly cuts out… Is it a mistake, a DJ faux pas, a power problemo? Nah. It’s Sulta bringing in a silky smooth “ohhhh yeah” vocal, before dropping the ole hook in back again to maximum effect. – GH
16. Beatrice Dillon & Call Super
‘Inkjet / Fluo’
One of our favourite collaborations of the year also appears on one of our favourite labels in sweet symbiosis, as Beatrice Dillon unites with Call Super for this Hessle Audio affair. As with many of the 12”s gracing this year’s list, the A-Side ‘Inkjet’ is a legit slice of aqua electronics, but it’s the flip – ‘Fluo’ – that we’ve been rinsing since it dropped. A soundtrack for the robot takeover to come, with Blade Runner-esque dial tones making way for exquisite saxxy breakdowns midway through. Proof, if ever you needed it, that no B-side should be left unturned. – GH
15. Avalon Emerson
Avalon Emerson returns to Whities for the follow-up to her Narcissus in Retrograde EP – one of our favourite 12”s of 2016 – on a different, but no less excellent, tip. With this catchy double-dose, she continues her well deserved ascent as one of the most exciting producers around: ‘One More Fluorescent Rush’ serves glitchy, spaced out feels, before ‘Finally Some Common Ground’ takes off on a Soichi Terada-esque, one-way trip to the intergalactic mothership. – GH
14. Four Tet
‘SW9 9SL / Planet’
Aside from a couple of split 12”s last year, 2017 marked something of a return to the prolific output we’ve come to expect from Kieran Hebden, releasing a handful of 12”s, a load of material via multiple Spotify aliases, some brilliant remixes, the year’s most ID’d edit ‘Question’, and a new full-length infamously made using just a laptop and a view over some unspectacular woodland. Thankfully, the album’s two stand-out tracks were also collected on this limited 12”. Propulsive, melodic dance music for the headphones or the dance floor, ‘Planet’ is Four Tet’s finest since There Is Love In You. – AS
13. Craven Faults
Elusive, evasive, but delivered with unerring authority, Craven Faults is one of this year’s wildcards. Arriving on a mysterious label with a soaring two-track EP of airborne krautrock, Netherfield Works pays its dues to ’70s Düsseldorf and the San Francisco Tape Music Centre and casts them to the English winds, forging two sprawling tracks from within a nest of patch cables in an old Yorkshire textile mill. A modular synth record that, like recent works by Kaityln Aurelia Smith seems to shed its machined origins to become something altogether more organic, Netherfield Works overflows across two sixteen minute tracks that will appeal to fans of Cluster, Steve Reich and the like. – AS
12. Fatima Al Quadiri
Few EPs set out to challenge norms and hegemonies like Fatima Al Qadiri’s Shaneera, which riffs on the English mispronunciation of the Arabic word for “outrageous, nefarious, hideous, major and foul.” Reconstructing snippets of Grindr chats, online drag and femme comedy skits, and Iraqi proverbs into a hybrid vernacular built from Kuwaiti and Egyptian Arabic, Shaneera is an intoxicating listen – all menacing dubbed-out electronic arrangements – and a self-confessed “love letter to evil and benevolent queens around the world.” – AS
Dekmantel celebrated a decade as a champion of left-field, dance floor meditations by delivering its strongest year yet, hosting an annual sell-out festival in Holland, a smaller soiree in Croatia, and releasing some of the label’s finest music along the way, including Dekmantel 10 Years 04 EP and Juju & Jordash’s Sis-Boom-Bah LP. However, it was Bufiman aka Wolf Muhler’s Peace Moves EP that best represented the weird af and wonderfully off-kilter sonics which have come to define the Dutch imprint. A seemingly bizarre combination of growling vocals and cranky, bent out of shape jack-in-the-box effects that sounds so wrong it’s right. – GH
10. Moses Boyd
(The Vinyl Factory / Exodus)
Drummer and producer Moses Boyd exploded into the wider musical consciousness with ‘Rye Lane Shuffle’ in 2016, and this EP, co-released between VF and his own Exodus imprint, was his much-anticipated follow up. Ditching the horn stabs for shimmering krauty synths, Absolute Zero was born out of Boyd’s solo live shows but has since been reintegrated into the Exodus band with which he has sold out the likes of Corsica Studios and Jazz Café this year. Underpinned by his live-wire drum sound, this EP swells with a restless ease, referencing influences as broad as grime, ambient and hip-hop, rooting this new jazz mode in an urban context. One of the year’s breakthrough artists, expect to hear much more of Moses in the coming months. As objective as we can possibly be, the soft-touch laminate artwork by Optigram may also make this one of our favourite sleeves of the year. – AS
9. Agnes Obel
‘Stretch Your Eyes (Quiet Village Remix)’
(Phonica Special Editions)
You don’t need us to tell you how great it is to share a building with a record shop, let alone one as consistently on point as Phonica. So when manager Simon Rigg called us into his office one afternoon last summer with news of an extra special 12” on one of the shop’s in-house imprints we knew it was going to be good. Here Quiet Village pull apart Danish singer Agnes Obel’s ‘Stretch Your Eyes’ into a dark and dubby chorale, backed by an eerie a cappella imbued with the same haunting longevity of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrops’. – AS
8. SW. / SVN
Who needs things like track names when the music can do the talking? Not SW. that’s who. The producer follows up a close-to-perfect 2016 LP (appropriately called The Album) to team up with SUED co-founder SVN. SUED 18 kicks off with Pepe Bradock-esque house heaviness on the A-Side, plus a knockout, subdued techno ride on the reverse. – GH
7. Floating Points
‘Ratio (Deconstructed Mixes)’
Though Floating Points debuted versions of the slow-rolling, emotional synth-filled ‘Ratio’ via live shows and DJ sets last year, it finally saw a long-awaited official release this October. Well worth the wait, ‘Ratio’ is a shimmering number that harkens back to Floating Points’ supreme ‘Myrtle Avenue’ and ‘ARP3’ fare. And though it may seem like a mere sales gimmick to release the track in ‘deconstructed’ parts, as he did on the B-side, it’s not. If you caught his live set this year, this seemingly fractured 12″ actually makes perfect sense because no live version of ‘Ratio’ was identical. An exciting hint that the best of his new material is yet come. – GH
6. Joe Armon-Jones & Maxwell Owin
A record that captures the jazz routes and roots coursing through London at the moment, tying together the convergent legacies of broken beat, house, 2-step and fusion that having been coalescing south of the river for some time. Aside from being assembled from a quintet of fiercely accomplished musicians (Armon-Jones & Owin are joined here by Nubya Garcia, Oscar Jerome and Jake Long), Idiom is a refreshingly playful record that never takes itself too seriously. With discrete improvisations woven into the fabric of each track, Idiom is greater than the sum of its parts, and a testament to the community that has helped elevate it. – AS
5. Nathan Fake
Providence Reworks – Part I
A primer on how a track, in this case Nathan Fake’s ‘DEGREELESSNESSS’ from his Providence LP, can be turned into (two times the) greatness, thanks to formidable edits. A-Side sees Overmono assuming the rework duties to craft one of the anthems of 2017’s festival season, teasing out the most euphoric moments of ‘DEGREELESSNESS’ across seven and half minutes. Meanwhile, a no less worthy of rotation revamp from Huerco S brings a psychedelic, Middle Eastern-hued séance to send you into a zen-filled trance. – GH
LAPS are Ladies As Pimps, the Glasgow duo and Golden Teacher affiliates forging an industrial dancehall sound that’s unlike anything else we heard this year. If there’s one big hit here it would be title track ‘Who Me?’, which finds a sweet spot between the sensual, the confrontational and the surreal we had no idea existed. It’s a trick ‘Edges’ manages too, before rounding off the EP with the fragmented “pyjama house” of ‘Lady Bug’. A charismatic record that pulls no punches, and a fine first foray into new music for 2017 label newcomer MIC. – AS
If in January someone had told us one of the biggest tracks of the year would be a slowed-down two-step garage beat-meets-techno superjam, we would have been rather confused about what the year held in store. But so it was. TJ Hertz’s first release since 2014, a 12” on the club-focused white label series under his Objekt alias, stormed dance floors far and wide thanks to its unexpected B-Side. ‘Theme From Q’ is the kind of track that works in sets of all shapes, speeds and sizes, because it’s just that great. – GH
2. Hieroglyphic Being, Sarathy Korwar & Shabaka Hutchings
A.R.E. Project EP
Arguably one of the UK’s most prolific and inspiringly creative musicians, Shabaka Hutchings leant his saxophone touch to a number of contenders for our favourite releases of the year, including the Comet Is Coming’s psychedelic jazz 12” Death To The Planet 12”. That said, A.R.E. Project, a unique and forward-thinking, improvised collaboration between Hutchings, Hieroglyphic Being and Sarathy Korwar was the obvious choice. Captured during a completely live, two hour performance aboard a studio moored inside a ship along the Thames, the EP sees cosmic sax merging with Indonesian folk music and space-age electronics for a truly one-of-a-kind result. – GH
1. Sudan Archives
One of this year’s most enchanting debuts came from violinist, producer and vocalist Sudan Archives, whose self-titled EP on Stones Throw takes the award for our favourite 12” of 2017. Channelling the bedroom RnB production that sustained her early forays into music into an outward-looking hybrid sound, Archives draws as much on North African melodies and instrumentation as Stones Throw’s storied left-field hip-hop tradition.
A self-taught violinist, she weaves finger picking rhythms into the fabric of her productions, and uses its sawing melancholy to lend a gorgeous nostalgia to each song. And while ‘Come Meh Way’ might be the track you’ll have heard most, ‘Oatmeal’ and ‘Goldencity’ exude the same singular clarity, marking out a route between the percussive, earthy RnB of opening track ‘Paid’ and the syncopated folk musings of final track ‘Wake up’. A modest record, both utterly new yet uncannily familiar, we revisited this EP time and again this year, and can’t wait to hear what comes next. – AS
Illustration by Patch D Keyes.
Nov132017| November 13, 2017
“There’s nothing getting in the way of the feeling, it’s straight from the heart.”
Mafalda and Floating Points’ Melodies International will reissue Gloria Jay’s ‘Know What You Want’ on 7″ vinyl this December.
Crate Diggers: Mafalda
The latest in the label’s all-killer-no-filler liner of rare jazz, funk and soul reissues, ‘Know What You Want’ captures the raw talent of Gloria J. Jennings, who was catapulted into the recording studio aged just sixteen to stand in for the track’s absent singer and song-writer Theresa Eagins.
Channeling the gospel inflections and spiritual ease honed in the choir of her father’s Southern Baptist Church, ‘Know What You Want’ has enchanted and evaded a generation of DJs and soul fans with, in Patrick Forge’s words, its “pure and unadulterated soul”. Like the original 7″, ‘Know What You Want’ is backed by the playful ‘I’m Gonna Make It’.
Reissued on 7″ vinyl via Melodies International and available from 8th December, you can pre-order your copy here.
It follows the release of Maurice Moore’s ‘Everything That Shines Ain’t Gold’ and Y. Gershovsky’s ‘Disco Baby’ on the label earlier this year.
Oct232017| October 23, 2017
Photography icon William Eggleston’s debut, that new Floating Points single, and dance floor stompers to suit every whim and fancy.
This week’s offering is proof that good (vinyl) things come to those who wait.
On the albums front, we’ve got 77-year-old photographer William Eggleston’s first LP, beautifully layered electronics from Colleen, and supercharged disco delight.
In singles, there’s a long-overdue reissue of Lion’s psychedelic 1975 song ‘You’ve Got A Woman’, Latino champeta riddims to warm your buns as the the autumnal winds come, plus that jazzy Floating Points track he’s been teasing versions of all year long.
Scroll down for our definitive across-the-board rundown of the week’s new vinyl releases as selected by The Vinyl Factory’s Chris Summers, Patrick Ryder and James Hammond with help from Norman Records. 5 singles and 5 LPs every 7 days that are unmissable additions to any collection.
‘You’ve Got A Woman’
Numero Group’s eccentric soul 45s are always a worthy investigation and their latest is another winner. Not exactly a faithful reissue as this one takes ‘You’ve Got A Woman’ – the B side to Lion’s original 1975 release- and puts it upfront, with the original A-side, which was quite frankly an awful cover, having been done away with. A little heard gem of psychedelic soul ‘You’ve Got A Woman’ is finally getting some wider exposure thanks to a recent cover by Whitney, and this 7” single is a welcome opportunity to own it on vinyl.
That track Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points has been teasing snippets of all year long during live shows and DJ sets finally gets a release. (What will identification of music group have to hunt for now?) A signature Floating Points emotional piano roller in the vein of ‘Myrtle Avenue’ and ‘Vacuum Boogie’, Shepherd has rewarded us all for the wait with a 19-minute version of ‘Ratio’ on the a-side, plus a late night hoodoo-ready, dance floor dub on the flip.
Latino Body Music Vol. 2
(Public Possession / Under The Influence)
Public Possession launch another ICBM at the sticky dance floors of the world with the second volume of Sano’s Latino Body Music. Though the producer may have swapped his native Medellín for Barcelona a couple of years back, the champeta rhythms of his birthplace dominate on this irresistible EP. Tougher than the first volume, this disc tops rattling percussion, M1 vamps and explosive acid lines with a whole load of South American toasting. Whether you’re peak-timing carnival, blasting a basement or hosting a living room disco, you need this one in your arsenal.
‘Let Go Of This Acid’
Arthur Smith aka Artwork has unleashed an absolute banger. ‘Let Go Of This Acid’ is one of those acid house 303 records that will not fail to shake a dance floor to it’s core. It’s simple and direct with no messing. It’s a straight up banger. It’s fucking amazing! Comes with a sheet of tabs too. This shit’s hot.
‘Snow, Moon, Flowers’
It’s not quite the dead of winter yet, but Shinowa are giving it a good go. A hibernating shoegaze band with a drum machine for good measure, they offer dreamy, after-thinking songs that most resemble the cold air that takes shape after you mumble a word or two about how you probably should’ve brought a coat.
With his photography having adorned many a record cover, William Eggleston’s work might be no stranger to the medium, but as a musician Musik comes as his first release and a revelatory step in exposing a life-long affinity with sound. Far from being the kind of vanity project that his reverence as a photographer might afford him, Musik feels like a natural extension of his oeuvre and its ability to heighten the mundane and expose inherent beauties and peculiarities. Created in the ’90s using a Korg OW1 FD synthesizer, Eggleston’s love of baroque music meets electricity head on here with some surreal and compelling results that rest between worlds.
Full Beam – For Gees Only Vol. 1
Manchester’s primo boogie firm bring their raucous clubnight and ridiculous NTS show onto wax with this stacked double pack of supercharged streetsoul and post-disco power. Presented in a screen printed gatefold, this lavish package treats us to the best pound bin finds, private press discoveries and car boot killers in Randy’s racks, as well as a hook up for the wildly exclusive Full Beam! Gee-Line. Packed to the brim with moochers, smoochers and stompers, For Gee’s Only is the real deal.
Ty Segall Band
(In The Red)
If you missed this all the way back in 2012 then set that right right now! This is Ty Segall and his crew in full face shredding mode with everything turned up to 11. Recorded by the main man Chris Woodhouse at his Hanger studio this is the sound of ferocious riffs, power drums and Ty letting loose all over these power jams. Limited clear vinyl with an extra track too. Enjoy.
Toronto post-punkers Fake Palms exhilarate their way past the obvious comparisons, outpacing the jagged, grayscale guitar bands they most sound like. Moody corners of motorik implode into bright riffs that sound like they’ve just appeared over the horizon; other moments offer experiments on punk pastiche with dulled electronic rhythms, sweet harmonies and waiting room drones. Shapeless and better for it.
A flame my love, a frequency
A kaleidoscope of beautifully delicate electronics, A flame my love, a frequency sees French multi-instrumentalist Colleen signature viola da gamba for Moog pedals, and Critter and Guitari synthesisers. Its heart-rending eight-tracks feel like the score to a 1980s Studio Ghibli underwater love story that never existed. Get your tissues at the ready.
Oct062017| October 6, 2017
The one he’s been teasing all year.
London producer Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points has announced the release of ’Ratio’ this October on 12”.
The track has been the subject of fervent id requests by fans throughout the year who have recorded snippets of it during his live shows and DJ sets.
‘Ratio’ will be released digitally in its 19-minute entirety.
The vinyl version includes three tracks. The a-side features the first 9 minutes of the song, and an organ-only cut of the 19-minute version’s second half. The b-side is a “beat/drums and bassline” edit of the 19-minute version’s second half.
“Squeezing 19 mins onto one side of wax is a bit bananas so the vinyl edition will be a deconstructed mix where the second half of the track is split with drums and bass on one side and the other elements on the flip,” explains Floating Points. “Combining two copies faithfully recreates the original, but both sides are also pretty fun to experiment with! Hope you enjoy!!”
The 12” follows a 10-minute, limited white label single from Floating Points released earlier this month, which sold-out in less than a day before appearing for upwards of £150 on Discogs, courtesy of vinyl sharks.
‘Ratio’ is out 19th October via Floating Points’ Pluto Records.
Pre-order a copy here, and listen to a ‘radio edit’ below.
Oct022017| October 2, 2017
Kaleidoscopic piano jams, resistance reggae and where to still get that Floating Points white label…
Unable to choose ‘just’ ten given the sheer volume of great vinyl releases this week, we’ve expanded to a digger’s dozen.
The singles see Floating Points’ white label that sold out virtually everywhere in less than a day (plus a tip on where you can still find it), a kaleidoscopic piano jam, Greco Roman’s 10 year anniversary celebrations and more.
As for albums there are seven to suit your fancy, spanning everything from grainy funk and medicated boogie to jazz balladry and rare groove, and an honourable mention for Four Tet’s New Energy, which didn’t quite make the cut.
Scroll down for our definitive across-the-board rundown of the week’s new vinyl releases as selected by The Vinyl Factory’s Chris Summers, Patrick Ryder and James Hammond with help from Norman Records. 5 singles and 7 LPs every 7 days that are unmissable additions to any collection.
If you’ve managed to make it into one of the nation’s record shops this weekend you’ll no doubt have realised that fresher’s week is upon us. Clad in hiking gear and RA-approved label merch, the country’s brightest and best are all on the hunt for one record right now, the almost mysterious ‘PL03DJ’. Though the vendors are under strict instructions to keep schtum, anyone with even the briefest bit of dance floor education will tell you that this one-sided wonder comes from the mind, and machines, of musical genius Floating Points. Taking a break from his kosmische jazz journey, FloPo locks into club mode, fusing mournful organs, syncopated percussion and a ‘Vacuum Boogie’ styled bassline into the most introspective dance floor trip of the year.
10 Years of Greco Roman Vol. 2
Those crazy kids at Greco Roman are celebrating their ten year birthday with a set of 12″ releases over the next few months and here’s volume two in all it’s glory. Not only does it feature tracks and bangers from Disclosure, Joe Goddard, Dixon and Lxury but it also features – for the first time ever on vinyl – Tirzah’s amazing ‘Make It Up’ – which still sounds like the best track Motorbass never made.
Space To Breathe EP
(Joy in Repetition)
If you didn’t manage to nab that ‘mysterious’ Pluto release fear not. Will Lister’s here to ease the pain. The London producer follows his shimmering debut EP Phantom on Phonica last year with another beaut, Space To Breathe. The first 3 tracks are dreamy, early Floating Points meets South London jazz fare, setting the stage for its finale, ‘Blind Eye’ – an anthemic and ethereal, slow-building, kaleidoscopic piano gem that you’ll be listening to all autumn long.
Carla Dal Forno
The Garden EP
(Blackest Ever Black)
A Vinyl Factory favorite coming off the strength of last year’s debut full length You Know What Its Like and its accompanying singles, here we have four new cuts from Carla Dal Forno that make for more essential listening. An artist who sets out an alluring sound world of mysterious and uneasy pop music, this EP carries on where her debut left off in its sparingly affective structures and ability to craft distinctive vocal hooks that work their way in with repeated listens.
‘Why I Must Pay’
(Third Man Records)
Third Man is good for many things but here stretches out to cover Country Teaser Ben Wallers outsider punk/art project the Rebel. As off key as any ‘big’ label release would be expected to be and sits wonderfully awkwardly alongside this week’s Muddy Waters 7″s on Jack White’s ever surprising imprint.
Neō Wax Bloom
No half measures here as Iglooghost returns to Brainfeeder after two off the wall 12”s, for his first long player. Mangled grime and hyper-accelerated junglist drums pumped full of sugar race through a record that would sound like it’s being played at 45rpm if it wasn’t for the moments of brittle clarity that shine through. ‘Super Ink Burst’ and ‘Bug Life’ are early highlights that smack of the free jazz meets electronic improvisations of Flying Lotus’ own Cosmogramma, while the drugged, Japanophile balladry of ‘Infinite Mint’ glitters like the leveled-up end zone of a video game that doesn’t yet exist.
Music for the Age of Miracles
Beautifully timed as the leaves loosen from the trees is perhaps the Clientele’s most accomplished album to date. A lovely pastoral romp through the backwoods of Love, Nick Drake and Felt. Indie pop with a chill in the air.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
After last year’s stunning Ears LP and Sunergy collaboration with Suzanne Ciani, this latest album from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith comes with a fair amount of expectation. It doesn’t disappoint in being yet another leap forward in a craft that re-envisions the possibilities of pop music at the frontiers of experimentation. Articulating a vivid and enchanting sound world, Smith manages to meld both the acoustic and electrical to a will of her own – with her skills on the Buchla music easel finding equal match with her vocal work and visionary compositions throughout. Not everything on The Kid serves as an immediate payoff, but these joyous, ambitious and unabashedly blissed-out pieces are a welcome reminder that there are other frequencies out there to tune into.
Pacific Alley LP
(Long Island Electrical Systems)
Unless you can count yourself among the fortunate few to cop a K.K. Promo 45 in May, this new creation from French veteran Krikor is about to take you completely unawares. The Parisian has followed a variety of stylistic diversions over his 20 year career, and this latest release sees him reborn into the grainy funk and medicated boogie of a particularly edgy Moon B. Inspired by a childhood in the heat of L.A., Pacific Alley is a sonic vision of VHS porn with a magnet on top of the TV set.
Amadou & Mariam
Blind duo Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia, better know as Amadou & Mariam, have been making music together since the early ‘80s, after meeting at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind, where they were both members of the institute’s orchestra. Their first album in five years, La Confusion, is funky fresh in a familiar way, mixing traditional sounds with guitar, synth, Cuban, Egyptian, Syrian and Indian instrumentals. Think Oumou Sangare hitting the dance floor via Francis Bebey and some slow jams.
Zara McFaralane has always been a vocalist of great talent and poise, but on Arise she sounds more comfortable then ever. Deftly moving between jazz balladry, resistance reggae and up-tempo rare groove, the investigation of her British-Jamaican ancestry underpins a record that makes understated connections between politics, identity and urban music. With a support from the UK’s budding jazz scene in the form of Moses Boyd and Shabaka Hutchings, Arise is an essential record of contemporary London life and should not be slept on.
The twins behind one of our favourite albums of 2015 where always going to have a tough time reaching those heights, but on Ash, Ibeyi have found a consistency that their full-bodied, rasping sound demanded. While Ash is more overtly a “pop” album, (so powerful are their voices the vocal treatments feel unnecessary at best), its brightest moments are in the contrasts between empowered rallying cries like ‘Deathless’ and stripped back ballads ‘Waves’.
Sep262017| September 26, 2017
‘PL3DJ’ has landed.
Floating Points has released new record ‘PL3DJ’, by Unknown Artist on his Pluto label.
The 12” features a ten-minute long, layered house track on the a-side, and follows his Reflections – Mohave Desert LP released earlier this year.
No word on what the title refers to, or if more are to follow.
The record comes ahead of the Warehouse Project takeover that Floating Points is curating this Saturday.
Order a copy here.
Sep072017| September 7, 2017
Photos from the Fort.
More than perhaps any other major festival Dimensions, has always championed the underground. Whether through its DJ Directory, which provides a platform for emerging selectors, or in the revelatory billboard roll-out that flipped the traditional headliner-first line-up on its head, the festival has sought to build on its reputation by booking DJs from a tight knit community in the UK and beyond.
Over five days at Port Punta Christo in Pula, Croatia, those selectors braved storms and inclement weather to provide a diverse, era and genre-spanning soundtrack to the festival’s dancefloors, whether that’s Touching Bass’s Alex Rita dropping Detroit free jazz label Tribe, or Debora Ipekel unleashing ’90s kwaito house jam ‘Voaria’.
In the booth and on stage alongside heavyweights like Floating Points, Daphni and Theo Parrish, VF got up close and personal to capture the weekend’s action. Scroll through the gallery below and look out for a new short film series, launched at Dimensions, in the coming weeks.
Alex Rita & Donna Leake
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Sadar Bahar & Lee Collins
Around the site, ft. Alma Negra, London Modular Alliance and others
Photos by Pawel Ptak and Kamil Dymek for The Vinyl Factory.
Aug092017| August 9, 2017
“I love when people play Pharoah Sanders in clubs.”
It’s this impulse that brought Mafalda to London three years ago. Drawn to a city where DJs play jazz on the dancefloor, Mafalda has quickly made tracks as a joyful selector of spiritual grooves, straying gleefully across genres as a regular on NTS, Worldwide and festivals like Dimensions, where she’ll appear next month.
As Floating Points’ partner in crime she co-runs reissue label Melodies International, and has overseen the release of now iconic records by Aged In Harmony and Open Soul, originals of which you’d be more than likely to find at Cosmos, the London arm of the first pressings record shop where Mafalda also works.
Inviting us to the attic room of a small North London apartment, Mafalda begins by putting on her latest acquisition, Pharoah Sanders’ Love In Us All, a smile flashing across her face: “Pharoah Sanders is very special, I love all the records I have of his.”
Since we’ve got a Pharoah Sanders soundtrack going on, could you tell us a little bit about this specific record?
There’s a funny story behind this one – Sam [Shepherd aka Floating Points] bought it for me in Amoeba in Los Angeles six months ago. He was doing that ‘What’s In My Bag?’ film, and said “this is for my friend Mafalda” and he sent me the link. But he lost it and never actually gave me the record!
Then it was his birthday the other day and I was helping him organise his records because he had just put up new shelves and I found this one and he was like, ‘That’s yours, that’s the one for you’. He had lost it in the middle of his zillions of records.
Pharoah Sanders is very special, I love all the records I have of his, but some are more difficult. They have this agitation, they can shake you and sometimes you need a record like that. Also, I love when people play Pharoah Sanders in clubs. It doesn’t happen often but when it does I think it’s quite special.
Can you dance to it?
I mean, I can, but that’s what I do, I’m always dancing. If the music is good I’ll dance to whatever it is. I totally dance to Pharoah Sanders, and it’s amazing when more people do it – when it’s not just me.
A long time ago, I was at Brilliant Corners and Sam played ‘You’ve Got To Have Freedom’ and it was insane, everyone was dancing. It’s from Journey To The One, which is another special one.
What was your journey to Pharoah Sanders and spiritual jazz?
I don’t really know. In Portugal I didn’t listen to much jazz. My father had some Egberto Gismonti records, which I brought here.
But I came to London because of that, and I didn’t know why. Three years ago I came here to visit my mum, who lives in Epping, and Sam [Floating Points] and Sadar Bahar were playing at Corsica Studios and I was there having the time of my life, listening to all the music I love. And at some point Sadah Bahar dropped a jazz tune at 4am and everyone was dancing, everyone was grooving. And that moment was very powerful. That’s when I decided to move here, because I felt fascinated with people dancing to jazz in clubs.
But you came here without much of a plan?
I had quite a nice job in Portugal, I was a fashion designer, and when I got back from my London holidays, it took me two weeks to decide to quit.
We can come back to this, but let’s go back a little bit first – What was the first record you ever bought?
I was about 13, my father was living in Lisbon but I was still living in Porto with my mother. I would go to visit him and there was a big hip-hop shop, so my first record was a hip-hop record. I’m a big hip-hop fan and that’s really how it started with music and records. I had a hip-hop band when I was a kid…
Did you rap?
Yes, I used to rap (laughs), when I was very young, you know 14 or 15. I had these two friends at school and they were studying science and I was studying arts, so we had this really cool vocabulary we used for lyrics and our older friends made beats for us. I was no good but everyone supported us because we were so young, and they wanted us to keep on doing it. Every time I’m clearing up though I still find papers with lyrics that I wrote and it’s funny…
Rapping aside, you arrived in London less than three years ago without a network of people, but here you are embedded in the music scene. What happened?
I came here and I didn’t have friends, but I was staying with someone I knew for about a month just next to Plastic People. And even though I was on my own I would go on by myself to Plastic People a lot – almost every weekend – because I just couldn’t stay at home knowing such good music was being played there. I basically ended up making lots of friends through Plastics. Most of my friends in this country are music people.
Is that how you met Sam [Floating Points]?
Yeah, I think he knew who I was after a while at Plastic People because I was always in the front row singing and dancing the whole time. One day he was on NTS and he said he was going to start Melodies International. I emailed him saying “Hey Sam, it’s me, the girl who is always in front of you screaming and dancing. I heard about Melodies so if you need any help let me know.” And he was like “Yeah there’s this magazine, if you want to do that?” I’d never done a magazine before but I was sure I could figure it out. I was obviously very, very happy. I did the first magazine and we stayed friends, because we have the same musical taste.
He was doing his album at the time and I knew Aged In Harmony was going to be released next, but nothing was happening. By this time I was pretty good friends with Sam and was just like “Do you need help?” I had worked with production before when I was a fashion designer, but this was still something completely different, it was records. So he gave me all the contacts and I learned how to do it.
What binds the label together? Is there an ethos beyond your combined tastes?
I think the thing that sparked it was the You’re A Melody parties, where they would play really beautiful, rare records. And those recordings of the first parties were shared thousands of time, and these tracks became famous and wanted in their own right. So we thought we could have some say in it.
The party is the root of the label, but now as time goes by, we are all growing and discovering new stuff. And actually Mel08 and Mel09 are not going to be disco bangers they’re going to be really mellow soul tracks that are very beautiful. People can play them at parties, and I hope they do, but they’re not party tunes. It’s mostly music we love very much.
And your own collection, have most of the records here been accumulated over the last three years?
Yes, so this is my London collection. These are the records I got since I moved here. I don’t care about the quantity, I just care about the quality. All of these records were hand-picked carefully and I only have records I absolutely love.
So they’re all special?
Yeah, they’re all special, but I have some new ones. I’m fortunate enough that people think my music is Sunday music, so they invite me to play on Sundays and this Blossom Dearie record has a tune called ‘Sunday Afternoon’. I love partying but I really like mellow, chilled out music too.
You said that your collection isn’t very organised, would you like it to be?
Yes, I love organising stuff. I’m a Virgo! I’m not a freak, but I like things to be organised!
You divide by genres?
Yeah, by genres and then just mixed stuff, from gigs and recent buys, stuff I’m listening to at the moment. I have a big mix. Hip-hop, gospel, disco, soul, electronic music, lots of Brazilian, lots of Latin jazz, funky jazz, spiritual jazz, straight jazz, soul jazz (laughs). I like everything, even rock! I don’t collect one genre or one label or one artist. If I see a record I love and I can afford it, I’ll buy it. I like that my collection is so diverse because every day is different.
How about first pressings vs. reissues?
I work for a reissue label but I also work in a first pressings record shop, so I am really torn.
Of course, if I can afford the first pressing and I find it in a shop, I’m going to get it. But some records are just very expensive and as much as I care about them, I also care about eating, and my landlord cares about me paying my rent. I can’t be too picky. I would love to get all the first pressings of these records and lots of them are. If I can’t I will stick to the reissue.
What’s the most expensive record you’ve ever bought? Not that price has anything to do with it…
Unfortunately really good records are rarely cheap. And that’s why reissues are great, especially when they’re done properly. With bootlegs and unofficial releases, if there is no love, I don’t see the point.
This one, Shirley Nanette’s Never Coming Back, is a very special record. I think I got my job as Cosmos because of this record. I asked them for it and I think they were impressed. It’s the original, so it’s not a cheap record. But I love it so much that I had to have the first pressing. And it’s not £1,000…
So what counts as an expensive record for you?
Anything above £50 is expensive. And maybe some people think £40 is expensive but if it’s an amazing record, it’s cheap! Just get it! And that’s the problem with good music, it rarely gets cheaper. Working in a record shop for almost two years I have seen some records increase in price.
In fact, I was in Zurich recently and I played Belair’s LP Relax You’re Soaking In It and someone came up and was like “Do you know how much this costs?! And you play it!?” And I was like “That’s why I bought it! I’m not working in a museum.”
And this Lou Bond, I found it on a market for £20, which is pretty cheap. But, I have to admit that I scratched it…
My favourite is track is ‘Come on Snob’, and all the good stuff is on that side, so I didn’t ruin any crucial tracks, but still it really hurt. With this one I learned a lesson – don’t bring your drunk friends home and play records! Actually that’s not good advice, bring people and play records but keep the chairs away from them.
You mentioned before we started recording that you thought records were quite a feminine thing…
I don’t know why, I think they’re just so beautiful and I think that women care more about beautiful things than men do… (Laughs) I think that, as a woman, for me this is very natural. I feel like I’m in my natural habitat when I’m here. If I’m having a tough day and I get home, I look at this shelf and I think it’s beautiful. Music really makes me happy and I know lots of girls who collect records, so it’s not just me obviously!
Would you call yourself a collector?
Yes, well I collect records, but I’m not too precious. I’m not like the Instagrammers (who I really like and follow). This is a big part of my life but as I was saying earlier, the music has to give me pleasure. That’s why I collect. It’s an obsession, I’m obsessed with music, but I’m not obsessed with records, or not too much and not in a way that’s going to cause me any stress. I just want to enjoy music.
And DJing is something that came as a natural extension to this?
Yes, I had my first gig in Lisbon before I moved here because I had some records but I never thought I would be a DJ. My ex-boyfriend was a DJ and we were together for many years and most of the time I would go and party with him, but I always liked being outside of the booth and just enjoying the music. But it does give me pleasure to play these records for people. It’s something I do and I really enjoy doing but it’s not my goal.
So what is the goal?
My ultimate goal in life is just to be happy. And that’s why I moved here, because I wasn’t happy with what I was doing there. And now, I really love Melodies and Cosmos, all day just playing records. I think that’s my definition of a good time. In ten years, whatever I’m doing, I just want to enjoy it. Hopefully it will be Melodies. I always tell Sam that I have a twenty year plan!
Jun202017| June 20, 2017
With edits by Floating Points and Red Greg.
Melodies International is to reissue a pair of obscure ’70s disco belters heard on the dancefloors of the increasingly legendary You’re A Melody parties.
Fronted by Mafalda and Floating Points, the label will breathe new life into Maurice Moore’s ‘Everything That Shines Ain’t Gold’ and Y. Gershovsky’s ‘Disco Baby’.
Forty years after its initial release, both parts of Moore’s soul anthem have lifted from the original 7″ and pressed to the same side of a new 12″, backed by Floating Points’ soft touch edit.
With originals pushing £300 on Discogs, it comes with the label’s signature Melozine mag, a 16-page fanzine assembled by the Melodies family.
An obscure library recording, originally released in 1979, Y. Gershovsky’s ‘Disco Baby’ has been pressed to 7″ vinyl, and is backed by Floating Points and Red Greg’s edit.
Both records were initially discovered by Floating Points and Red Greg, whose dancefloor-ready edits have become cornerstones of their iconic You’re A Melody parties, but were never slated for official release until now.
Jan042017| January 4, 2017
FloPo opens his bag.
Sam Shepherd bka Floating Points recently raided the broad shelves at Amoeba for the Hollywood store’s long-running What’s In My Bag? series.
The London-based artist picked out a load of jazz that he already owns but is taking home for friends. “I say they’re for other people but I’ll just go home and lose them,” he jokes at the end of the video (below).
The selection includes Pharoah Sanders’s “joyous” record Love In Us All , Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction and a straight organ jazz record by Charles Earland which Sam says he regularly plays in clubs.
He also chats about Numero Group’s reissue of The Edge Of Daybreak, a gorgeous 1979 private-press soul LP, recorded entirely by inmates at a a Virginia Prison, as well as some typically killer disco in the form of Mary Clark’s Patrick Adams-produced ‘Take Me I’m Yours’.
Sep282016| September 28, 2016
Brazilian singer-songwriter José Mauro’s revered 1970 masterwork Obnoxius has just been reissued on Far Out. It arrives shrouded in mystery, from the mercurial and darkly compelling music it contains to the story of the man behind it.
Words: Tom Tidnam
The ongoing enigma of Obnoxius begins with its title. A word denoting brash insolence seems ill-suited to a record such as this. The Latin definition is quite different, however: it signifies guilt, ensuring that Western audiences hearing this scarcely heard Brazilian record for the first time will be unprepared for the strange, sombre otherworldliness found within.
Released initially on producer Roberto Quartin’s eponymous label – whose entire catalogue Far Out plans to reissue over the course of the next year – Obnoxius was a record over which the backdrop of the military dictatorship loomed large. While many young musicians fled the country, preferring their prospects in the liberated and affluent US, others like Mauro chose to stay and reflect their anger at the authorities through thinly veiled protest songs such as the stirring ‘Apocalipse’, one of the standout tracks on Obnoxius.
The fraught political background of the record also fuels one of the lingering rumours about Mauro’s disappearance, that he was abducted by the military on account of the incendiary nature of his lyrics and music. The sunny escapism that cloaked some of the era’s more politically motivated music is conspicuous by its absence on Obnoxius. Instead, it revels in a dark, yearning sort of beauty, a seamless blending of disparate styles and trends, seminal not just in the world of Brazilian music but also in the intersectional paths of jazz, folk, psychedelic music and baroque pop.
There are other pervasive rumours, but little evidence to support them. One enduring claim is that Mauro died in a motorbike accident shortly before (or after) the album’s release. The cancellation of the production on the record, which may or may not have been a result of Mauro’s disappearance, and its lack of commercial distribution, meant that the record went on to languish in obscurity in the years that followed.
But as is often now the case, records such as these are given a new lease of life by collectors and DJs whose influence far outstrip that of Mauro himself. Sam Shepherd, best known as Floating Points, calls it an “amazing record” and “one of my top 5.” Gilles Peterson has given it “holy grail” status and selected the title track for inclusion on his 2009 contribution to Far Out’s ongoing Brazilika series. Its singular sound has also provided ample sample fodder for the likes of Madlib. Sampled on his track ‘Cali Hills’ with rapper Guilty Simpson, ‘Apocalipse’ almost sounds like an experimental West Coast head-nodder even before being given the boom-bap treatment.
Joe Davis, founder of Far Out Recordings, himself first discovered the record – and the rest of the Quartin catalogue – in the 1980s. “I came across the catalogue as I was hunting down rare Brazilian records and I really liked these releases on a label called Forma,” he says, pointing out that “the records were very special and quite contemporary for their time… You could hear that they shaped the Brazilian music which was to follow.” After running into financial difficulty, Forma’s head Roberto Quartin set up his eponymous label in the hopes of sustaining a continued outlet for his musical vision, to provide a platform for the talented young musicians working in the shadow the censorship and oppression.
At the time unfamiliar with Quartin’s story, Davis’ initial discovery of the catalogue was fortuitous, happening upon it in “a small shop in Rio above a store, run by a guy called Carlinhos and his mother, with incredible knowledge of Brazilian music.”
“He had all the Quartin records,” Davis remembers. “They were about $1 each… Like the Forma records they were extremely different and free of their time. They really stood out to me and still do, they are like no other. The musical approach and freedom and expression is really something special.”
Antal, co-founder of Dutch label and record shop Rush Hour agrees. “I had been sleeping on it for quite some time to be honest… [I] was always after other things first and never really bought the record as it was already higher priced then most of the Brazilian things I wanted. But at the end of the day it’s beautiful Brazilian soul music with wonderful arrangements.”
As far as the mysterious circumstances surrounding Mauro’s life and disappearance, though, Davis in the dark with the rest of us. “The musical mystery of the records speaks for itself. He disappeared, I know he is not around but it is a real mystery and no one knows anything about him, not even Roberto. I asked Roberto if he knows where he is and he told me he either passed away or got out of the music scene.”
With recent rumours circulating that Mauro may in fact be alive and living in poverty in a favela outside Rio, there may be more of Mauro’s story that is yet to be told. But until then, all we have is the remarkable, strange, beautiful music he made all those years ago.
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Registered in England and Wales under no. 04184222.