Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Ben Lovett's Grooveyard Dance column

Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard
Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard Marshall Jefferson Marshall Jefferson DEFECTED NYE PARTY 2012/13 Hacienda 30 James Dexter: System Check EP (Lost My Dog) Makin’ Moves Sampler Vol .1 Prince: Rock And Roll Love Affair (Swiss Purple Music) Kris Menace & Miss Kittin: Hide (Ger Compuphonic) Kings Of Tomorrow: Let Me Tell You Something (UK Defected) Body Language 12 - Catz ‘N Dogz: Various (Ger Get Physical) Mario Basanov: Journey (UK Needwant) Benjamin Brunn: A Sun Life (UK Third War Recordings) No Regular Play: Endangered Species (US Wolf + Lamb)

Godfather of House, Marshall Jefferson, was in London last month to soundtrack the 30th anniversary of fabled club The Hacienda at a special one-off party. Its story is well documented. The Hacienda opened in Manchester on May 21, 1982, and after a number of years finding its rhythm (literally) established itself as a major, speedily rotating cog in England’s radical house revolution. The club was alert to the embryonic electronic dance trends of US cities Detroit, New York and Chicago, and eager to beam them back across ‘the Pond’. That helped kick start everything....

Who better, then, to mark 30 years than Marshall? “It may surprise you but my very first experience of The Hacienda wasn’t a good one” he laughs. “I saw all this concrete and industrial finishing and thought that the space was too hard. Of course when the club opened for business later that night my impressions quickly changed. The people got it. I always think of that amazing moment whenever I play a Hacienda event.”

So what made the club so special? How did it justify its particularly prominent place in history? “I first played The Hacienda back in 1987 and was struck by just how magical the atmosphere was” Jefferson recalls. “There was all sorts of music and such freedom on the dancefloor. I could play what I wanted and it was totally appreciated. There was a unique vibe, in the same way that the Paradise Garage had a unique vibe.”

Other English clubs of the time were also attempting to broaden their dancefloor horizons but, according to Jefferson, something wasn’t clicking. “There were a few places that had started to notice what we were doing in America and what was being played in places like Ibiza [in turn influenced by America] but not many of them truly got it. When I first started coming over a lot of the clubs were filled with people in suits and ties and I was like ‘what the fuck!?’ The two places that did get house were Nottingham’s Rock City and the Hacienda. Everyone knew all the tunes and responded with this incredible energy. And in the case of the Hacienda, DJs like Mike Pickering were mutherfuckin’ jammin’. I think some commentators have criticised Pickering in the past but he was tearing it up, playing like Ron Hardy [like Jefferson, another legendary Chicago figure] every time.”

It was no different at Hacienda’s 30th. The party, hosted by Camden spot KOKO, featured Pickering in typically scintillating form alongside Jefferson and fellow great Todd Terry; the three were celebrating an important clubbing milestone but also launching a special triple-disc mix CD Hacienda 30 (mixed by Pickering, fellow veteran resident Graeme Park and original co-owner Peter ‘New Order’ Hook, and featuring vintage dance music delights from the likes of Inner City, MAW, Robert Owens, Murk, Inner City and ‘Madchester’ favourites The Stone Roses) – a further celebration of the anniversary. The loyal crowd rocked from opening to close; the atmosphere fizzed and crackled with joyous abandon; and all three headliners left exhausted but spectacularly happy.

As the well-worn story goes, the Hacienda club actually closed in 1997, owing to problems with finance and local syndicated crime, before being demolished and converted into bland, identikit flats. The name, however, has continued to thrive, reinvented as a highly successful globally touring (and merchandising) party brand. “I think that’s because the same core of people has been involved with running the name and looking after it” Jefferson says. “They’ve maintained the vibe and the variety which, today, is a rare thing to find on the circuit. Whenever I’ve played for The Hacienda – and that has been on and off over the years – I’ve always felt like I’m playing a stadium show. I just can’t describe it.”

Unsurprisingly, Jefferson will be back in just over a week for the Hacienda’s annual Christmas party, December 27, at one of Manchester’s most influential dancefloors today, Sankeys. But what of 2013 and beyond? What are the big man’s priorities? One, is his Chi-Town record label Open House Recordings, whose signings include Jungle Wonz (of which he is a member), Virgo and Louie Gomez. Jefferson also includes the odd standalone production himself but the pace of things is casual. “There’s no pressure” he affirms. “I work on the ideas that appeal, when they appeal, and hope that the people who follow me also find them interesting. I have a loyal base. I enjoy doing what I do. There are no plans, just ideas and my own momentum.”

In truth, the current musical landscape has more than influenced Jefferson’s approach to his work: “Put it this way, I’d love to be helping young artists come through but I’m not convinced I can raise them up at the moment. I used to work with a lot of different artists, in one way or another, because of the music, yes, but also because that music made us money and allowed us to keep pursuing our careers. People like Felix Da Housecat, Roy Davis Jr, Lil Louis...we all had options and avenues. Today, the talent is strangled because everything has to be so formatted and convenient; I’ve met young kids as talented as the Rolling Stones, Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, even the Beatles but...shit...the industry is still so messed up that there’s little hope of getting those heads onto the ladder...standing out and making things happen.”

Can the industry ever redeem itself? Can, in Jefferson’s eyes, good music ever expect to cut through today’s predilection for simplistic bedroom-produced drum tracks and, at the other end of the scale, sanitised radio-friendly pop-dance?: “It’s maybe embarrassing but I like artists like Deadmau5 and Skrillex. I mean, theirs is not my style of music but I appreciate their songcraft and production. Unfortunately, too many artists today are only focused on the beats and that’s not enough. Electronic music has its cycles but the good stuff is always driven by excellent songwriting and production. These things are improving right now but the outlet for songs and detailed, well-crafted dance records is still not there. Record companies aren’t sure. The singers are often older and we know how the industry is stuck on youth. It’s a shame.”

Jefferson continues: “There’s nothing wrong with EDM [electronic dance music, the term coined by the American mainstream for dance’s recent explosion there] or whatever you want to call it but some of the emotion and rawness is missing and I’m not sure if things will change, significantly, any time soon. Everyone has to look good and the drive is image not the music. I’m not saying we need more ugly people producing house and shit, but there has to be a re-balance. Dance music isn’t anonymous anymore; it’s a big business with plenty more going on than just music.”

Aside from the Hacienda, Jefferson has been rather busy this month defending good friend and fellow Chicago vet Lil Louis (best remembered for sexual 1989 house grind French Kiss) who has been involved in a high-profile entanglement with an Australian promoter and alleged fraudulent activity. Louis had been called out by said promoter on a Resident Advisor club forum because of his refusal to return payment for a series of recent dates Down Under which for various complicated reasons he was unable to honour. Louis has attempted to reschedule, the promoter has continued to argue and the whole sorry saga has stretched out in public domain. Jefferson eventually decided to step in and, within minutes, faced a barrage of vitriolic forum comments himself.

“I’ve had some praise [for defending Louis] as well as abuse” he clarifies. “Lil Louis is a proper businessman and I think there’s been this huge misunderstanding. Why would he deliberately miss a set of shows and a payday? It doesn’t add up. And now he’s feeling the full force of the anonymous natives on the web....”

At a time when the dance music scene has fully matured and is largely defined by business frameworks – as well as digital connectivity – it’s perplexing (and worrying) that such ‘complications’ should be allowed to surface. Is the road still a precarious one for the touring DJ? “It can be” Jefferson reflects. “There can be stress points for the artist as well as the promoter; the industry is more regulated now but things do still’s music after all! Me? I work with a number of booking agencies; I know Lil Louis doesn’t. I’m not saying that’s the reason why my friend is where he currently is but I get directed to my shows and told what to do. There’s no brain work and no stress.”

Marshall Jefferson is house music’s true ‘godfather’; the main who helped define acid house, created the classic house piano riff and knocked up Move Your Body. With so many career accolades how does he keep himself motivated? He could easily ride out his remaining years on the raging torrent of past achievements. No?

“Friends tell me that I’m more animated in the DJ booth and studio than I was when I was starting out” he chuckles. “I appreciate the work that I get to still do. It’s crazy, for whatever reason I’m getting more work this year than ever. And people are interested in what I’m up to, and these beautiful young girls are still throwing themselves at me for sex. OK, I might get a heart attack if I followed them out of the club but it’s flattering man. I don’t go in for all that now but I appreciate it...I’m happy with my health and my music. I just go day to day and enjoy life.”


One quick piece of news – you might want to check out Defected’s huge NYE party at London’s Electric Brixton; a smart music venue launched from the ashes of mighty Brixton space The Fridge. Running for nearly 12 hours (9pm to 7am), the party will feature some of the finest names in underground house, ranging from New Jersey titan Dennis Ferrer and super Swiss Deetron to talented Dane Noir, Ibiza staple Sam Divine and Defected head honcho Simon Dunmore.

“It’s been a fantastic 12 months for Defected and what better way to celebrate than with an end of year party?” Dunmore declares. “We don’t normally do this sort of thing; I mean last year’s NYE event at Proud 2 [within London’s O2 Dome] was something of a first for us. But the feedback there was amazing; Proud 2 had a real purpose and it’s no different this time round. We’re celebrating our success at an appropriate point in time...a London label on its home turf seeing out the old and bring in the new. I’m totally proud of that.”

Hit for further event info


James Dexter – System Check EP (UK Lost My Dog)

Fast-rising LondonerMr Dexter chucks us a seriously deep, groovy house four-tracker, with oodles of murky, soulful keys, haunting vocal samples and wholesome swinging beats. There’s a whiff of early Kerri Chandler here. Good.

Various Artists – Makin’ Moves Sampler Vol 1 (UK Makin’ Moves)

A brand new events company launched this summer by Tribe Records’ Matt Langrish-Smith and close compadre Jamesey, Makin’ Moves has now moved into the label side of things with this seriously on point sampler. Remixed by Quentin Harris, DJ Qness feat. Xoli M’s Don’t Go offers deep, poignant afro-centricity via soulful New York; a Harris’ dub adds twisted tech edge. SMI feat. Shea Soul’s Just Fine, meanwhile, locks into satisfyingly hypnotic house flow thanks to David Harness’ remix; New Jersey’s Jihad Muhammad hones in on vibrant strings and devilish key work for his deliciously musical interpretation.

Prince – Rock And Roll Love Affair (Swiss Purple Music)

Legendary ‘pop pixie’ Prince maintains his ties with Jamie Lewis’ suitably coloured Purple Music label for a brand new song (to precede a brand new album) marrying trademark guitar-funk and swaggering vocals with a light sprinkling of house. Lewis’ various remixes drop slick beats and polished synths beneath the struttin’ rock of the original; a likeable if unspectacular blend of conviction and accessibility.

Kris Menace & Miss Kittin – Hide (Ger Compuphonic)

Subtle but shining ‘space-disco ballad’ Hide (a description rightly applied by collaborator Miss Kittin) is released following the recent arrival of German synth-houser Menace’s solid new album Features. It comes armed with a selection of similarly ‘spaced’ electro-edged remixes from Nhar, Undo, Maethelvin, Alexander Maier and Pwndtiac. There’s also a bonus Beatport remix by house king DJ Pierre; upping the tempo with radio-friendly aplomb it’s a warm, natural and fairly surprising slice of crossover dance.

Kings Of Tomorrow – Let Me Tell You Something (UK Defected)

Sandy Rivera returns with another classic Kings Of Tomorrow banger, all thumping drums, cutting snares and relentless b-line. There’s more to it than that of course, Rivera’s groove building effectively into hyped vocal samples, waves of crashing percussion and a feeling that house music is the best thing since sliced bread. A secondary remix by Rivera alongside long-term collaborator C Castel treads a mellower path, extending the use of vocals and injecting hazy melody to create a deeper, more thoughtful workout. Essential.

Various Artists – Body Language 12: Catz ‘N Dogz (Ger Get Physical)

M.A.N.D.Y’s Berlin-based Get Physical imprint unveils the latest instalment of its illustrious Body Language mix comp series and it’s a corker. Our helmsmen, this time, are talented Poles Catz ‘N Dogz (AKA Grzegorz Demianczuk and Wojciech Taranczuk - AKA ‘Greg’ and ‘Voitek’) who steer us through an effortlessly funky, dubby, tech-y, disco and house-ified selection of killer dancefloor grooves. There’s brain and brawn on show, punchy offerings from Braiden, Trikk and 2012 darling Eats Everything (with the exclusive Trouse Hack) surrounded by subtle delights courtesy of Soul Clap (the charming Ecstasy), Zak Toms’ Parade (remixed by Catz ‘N Dogz with retro New Jersey verve) and Atjazz. But then there’s also time and space to build drama and atmosphere via bass-y, leftfield rambles such as El_Txef_A’s In. Body Language 12 is a personal, fully charged account of the tastes of one of clubland’s fastest rising duos; if you’re after funk with flair then look no further. Excellent.

Mario Basanov – Journey (UK Needwant)

Basanov, one half of Mario & Vidis (who released game-changing double album Changed this time last year), really does create a journey from this, his debut long-player. Basanov’s generous 16 tracks convey electronic grace and funkiness across the genres of everything from tech and deep house (his home tuft you might say) to pop and jazz via epic ambient.

Frankly, Basanov creates depth and emotion wherever he wanders, highlights including the gently rippling, emotive Slip Away (featuring percussive master Rahjwanti) and maverick, electro-funkin’ High School. Some might prefer the upbeat tick of previous big singles We Are Child Of Love and Lonely Days, here included in slower, stripped back formats, but Journey still demonstrates undeniable power, variety and poise. It’s a meaningful listen set to reveal much more on return trips.

Benjamin Brunn – A Sun Life (UK Third War Recordings)

German producer Brunn has been making challenging electronic music for over a decade now and his vast experience more than shows on latest long-player A Sun Life, much as it did on his last opus, 2008’s innovative Move D collaboration Songs From The Beehive. A Sun Life highlights Brunn’s still evolving relationship with old-school hardware including the Roland TR707 drum machine and Nord Modular synth. It is a relationship rather than dependence, Brunn eeking out rich new synth ‘n’ beat soundscapes in the form of stunning cuts like Papanin (flowing funk), Nash (chaotic acid swing), May B (radiating soul) and The Way She Giggled (vintage Eighties house). The abstract density of Pankow Memories is icing on the cake.

No Regular Play – Endangered Species (US Wolf + Lamb)

Buttery smooth licks like Nameless say much about Big Apple duo-to-watch No Regular Play’s transition from wildly experimental roots to something more straightforward on this their debut album. But that is no bad thing. New Yorkers Greg Paulus (whose beguiling trumpet work has already found favour with several other similarly hyped artists including Soul Clap and Deniz Kurtel), and Nick DeBruyn providing welcome clarity to their hitherto exciting but sometimes confused and frustrating sound. Won’t Quit is poppin’ New Jack Swing and Kickback an ultra-tight J Dilla-esque hip-hop manoeuvre; elsewhere, the title track motors with sleek nu-house intent. There is greater experimentation on The Answer, a mysteriously swirling, throbbing, drifting deep dance delight, and opener Birdfeathers, which quietly soars on a magic carpet of spacey synths, off kilter vocals and meandering, transcendental Paulus brass, but all of it is channelled into something with real purpose and, more importantly, bounce. No Regular Play are not so staged as to blunt their considerable talent, but with greater cohesion comes greater creative payback. A key album for this year....

Ben Lovett

...Still working the late shift!

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