Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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BRINGING YOU THE STORIES BEHIND MUSIC + ESSENTIAL NEWS, REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS...

Column

Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard (June)

Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard (June 2013) @bluesandsoul.com
Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard (June 2013) @bluesandsoul.com

Letâs open with a story. A story set in Boston. New compilation album "Soul Clap presents: Dancing On The Charles" â A Boston electronic music story should, Iâm convinced, officially confirm the American cityâs place within clublandâs loftier climes. Soul Clap, talented Bostonians Eli Goldstein and Charles Levine, have done much to promote their local manorâs dancefloor credentials over the past few years after a far longer period of living in the shadow of clubbing epicentres New York, Chicago, Miami and, further afield, London and Berlin. Dancing On The Charles, however, doesnât simply focus on them; it is an exciting reflection of Bostonâs wider underground scene.

BOSTON GOT ELECTRONIC MUSIC

âBoston has a history with disco but its dominant force has always been rock ân roll,â Goldstein explains, âthe number of hipsters per square mile is staggering. Therefore the city has always been passed up for New York [just over 200 miles to the north] when it comes to dance music.â

The recent stylistic shift is hard to explain Goldstein suggests, but Bostonâs dual role as university campus has some significance: âNot to toot our horn but weâve done really well. But then...I think thereâs something to be said for the fact that 50% of Bostonâs population is university students. You have the Berkeley College Of Music too. These kids are more open to varied musical influences and whilst that means the whole EDM piece [Americaâs fledgling mainstream dance scene] has started to grow in the city, thereâs also the other side. There are definitely a whole new bunch of underground DJ-producers, some of whom we donât know, making interesting stuff.â

Soul Clapâs album references the duoâs classic outdoor Dancing On The Charles parties, held on the banks of Bostonâs Charles river over the past five years or so. Those gatherings strongly epitomise Bostonâs vibrant new electronic sound and compliment the spirit and industry that has propelled Soul Clap so far themselves. Today, their DJ sets, mixtapes, studio productions and eponymous label have massive international audiences.

But what is the Boston sound? EFUNK, suggests Levine: âItâs a totally open, diverse state of mind. You can feel the indie and R&B influences, right next to the house basslines and sprinkles of disco. All of it together is EFUNK, an engaging, funky electronic feeling.â

That kind of makes sense when you listen to the compilation. Despite their creative versatility and variety, track selections such as Chas Bronzâs feel-good piano-houser Love Only You and John Bareraâs deep spine-tingling dive Wait For It (featuring Victor Floresâ beautifully distorted vocals), newcomer Clifflightâs breezy electro-popped All The Things and Soul Clapâs own twisted funk-bomb remix of Mystery Roarâs Mayhem, all sound, well, EFUNK-y.

Levine continues: âThis [the new album] is the closest project to our hearts; it feels like a real breakout moment. The reaction has been great so far and another one might be cool. Because weâve done one compilation, more producers will make themselves known to us and we can look at whatâs possible [next]; thatâs an exciting thought. We basically just want to tell people that Boston IS happening and has lots, today, to shout about.â

Soul Clapâs revered mentor Kon â AKA Christian Taylor â firmly agrees but is even less sure of the specific reasons behind Bostonâs dramatic evolution. Itâs easier perhaps to stand back and remember that all music is cyclical; its artists, sounds and scenes constantly dipping in and out of fashion and cultural acceptance. âI do know that if you study music as a linear entity then youâll identify shifts and Boston is definitely a shiftâ he says. âLook at how retro house is back, things go in cycles. At the same time, thereâs a lot of specific talent in Boston right now. I was pleasantly surprised when I first heard Eli and Charlesâ album; itâs really cool to see this influx of underground talent.â

Kon is also on Dancing On The Charles, remixing (alongside Bosq) late Seventies jazz-funk-disco legend Matthew Larkin Cassell. He first met Goldstein and Levine before they formed Soul Clap. The three were residents at one of Bostonâs âTop 40â clubs, Aria, Kon taking the others under his wing and tutoring them in real-deal funk, boogie, disco and âold schoolâ.

Kon (an acronym for âKing Of Nothingâ) is widely acknowledged as a master DJ, record collector (his digging earning him a separate relationship with Londonâs BBE stable) and âeditâ producer. He has been through it all. He first started âmessing with recordsâ aged four, before buying a mixer in 1985 (âwhen everything made senseâ) and progressing to gigs in 1990. His original focus was hip-hop, which also led to studio cuts for key genre imprint Rawkus before creative disillusionment pushed him back into the clubs, a close alliance with disco and house, and, eventually, his tie-up with Soul Clap.

âThere are talented young artists coming up but with some I do question their connection to the music theyâre meant to be inspired by; particularly those people making so-called ânu discoââ Kon argues. âI grew up in the late Seventies. I remember my mum taking me to the roller disco and witnessing that musical energy first hand. I have a huge connection to that music which I can pull on.â

KON

This month, Kon releases the All About Youx EP on Soul Clapâs label â it features some of his first original house music production. Next month, follows debut artist album On My Way, via BBE. The latter, recorded over three years, includes tantalising guest spots from Ben Westbeech, Georg Levin and local diva Amy Douglas. âI canât give you a theme or style; thereâs only good and bad music, and Iâm aiming for the former hereâ he offers. âBut this is a natural progression for me and a return to the Seventies definition of a producer as someone arranging everything... the people, the instruments, not just the beats. Thatâs what Iâve tried to usher in with the album. I want the best out of the artists I work with." Georg gave me three takes on his particular track; I wasnât sold on the first two so I asked him to go again. Ironically, he didnât like the final take I chose but I learned a lot of things with this process and that was invaluable.

âI love sampling and beat programming but I love the musicianship and emotion of music even more. My approach to this album has allowed me to find those things but itâs been a long process. The main thing for me is that Iâve been able to progress.â Hence the title....

As Kon himself is sage enough to admit, he is still learning. His association with Soul Clap, and their peers, has certainly taught him a few new tricks â Bostonâs scene, then, is able to thrive by feeding and supporting itself right the way across its exciting array of artists. âWe split off from the mobile DJ'ing to do the Soul Clap thing in 2007 and Kon really helped steer us through that transitionâ Levine says. âHeâs been an amazing influence; when I first heard him DJ with all those technical skills and that awesome knowledge it totally fucked me up. With Soul Clap we focused on the underground; we embraced other people with the same ideals. This scene has now grown and continues to support and drive itself forwards.â

Soul Clap has literally achieved the world in half a decade. Since debut EP Dimension7, the duo has dropped distinctive grooves for pivotal labels AirDrop, Wolf + Lamb (including last yearâs Efunk The Album) and Crosstown Rebels, built and maintained a hefty (insanely popular) global touring schedule and, perhaps most impressively, held on to its local grass roots via the Charles parties and, similarly, its local Midweek Techno gathering.

Even more remarkable is the fact that all of Bostonâs current underground running is being made from within one comparatively small district of the city, Cambridge (whilst âdowntownâ sticks to EDM) â hinging on a cool cabal of venues including Middlesex, Zulu and The Phoenix Landing. This geographical pocket is pumping sound far beyond its borders and yet Goldstein and Levine feel no pressure or burden of responsibility.

âWhen you have a crew behind you, you have the confidence to take risks,â Levine remarks. âBesides which, I think the expectation of our fan base these days is to hear the unexpected. Thereâs no problem. What weâd really like to do this summer now is infiltrate those big festivals with their M_nus and Carl Cox arenas and establish our own, grown-up sound alongside them...make the mainstream see what we do as the norm.â

Itâll be hard soon for anyone within the music scene to ignore Soul Clap and its Boston story. There are new Soul Clap EPs scheduled for release later this year and some seismic collaborative material with funk deity George Clinton â EFUNK will meet P-Funk, and Sly Stone (dropping his first music in around 20 years) is also along for the ride. Wow.

Boston then is firing. And not even Aprilâs devastating Marathon bombings can shake it. The local music scene is very much business as usual. âThey [the bombings] happened during the holidays, so there were no parties and nothing open the next day,â Goldstein reflects. âWe all felt it; we all had friends and family caught up in it but that Wednesday, at The Phoenix Landing, was our first party afterwards and, honestly, there was even more of a desire to party, to have fun, and to celebrate life.â

Soul Clap presents: Dancing On The Charles â a Boston electronic music story is out now on Soul Clap; Konâs All About Youx EP is released by Soul Clap this month; his debut album On My Way follows on BBE next month

In other news:

RUSSIA'S NEW 'NEO BAILE' SCENE

Interesting rumblings from Brazil where the popular Eighties-derived Baile (or Favela) Funk sound â a feisty mix of funk rhythms, drum machine loops, Latin percussion and freestyle rap â is being reinterpreted as Neo Baile with cult world music label Mr Bongo on hand to capture the transition on new compilation Funk Globo: The Sound Of Neo Baile.

Of course, Neo Baile isnât just a Brazilian thing. Far from it. The genre is thriving thanks to various individuals around the world who have listened to (and love) Baile Funk and now want to interpret in their own particular regionalised ways. Hence Baile Funk, originally catalysed by the Miami Bass scene, is now gaining additional, ultra-heavy impetus everywhere from Lithuania to Mozambique â spliced with everything from techno and electro to bass music.

Funk Globo arrives next month and Iâll have the corresponding review in my next column. For now, though, let me tell you that two of the Neo Baile sceneâs biggest players Renato Martins (AKA Sao Paulo-based Funk na Caixa) and Sean Casey (AKA Bumps, founder of Londonâs Club Popozuda) are involved as curators; and featured artists include Ophex (Lithuania), Ckrono & Slesh (Italy), Gato Preto (Mozambique) and Chuck Upbeat (Moscow), not to mention Brazilians MC Gi and Maga Bo.

Itâs another reminder of the dramatic effect of musicâs rapid digitisation. That music-makers in Russia can create a brand new movement based on the niche manoeuvrings of a South American sub-scene is testament to the power of the internet and the strength of todayâs download industry. Weâll have more next month.

THE CHANGING FACE OF DEFECTED

Elsewhere, Defected Records have just re-launched their website and, by extension, their overall brand. The new concept has been driven forward by designer, DJ and producer Trevor Jackson, alongside label boss Simon Dunmore and several other members of the Defected team. The overhaul aims to strip down Defectedâs brand âappearanceâ to the bare essentials â a simple, unpretentious look for the label that has been defining house music since the soundâs earliest days.

âDefected in 2013 is a completely different proposition from the record label we started in 1999â Dunmore says. âWe wanted to recognise this by giving our branding a complete overhaul, a new contemporary look that also had to acknowledge our history. Trevor Jackson is an outstanding creative and his understanding of dance culture has enabled him to achieve this and deliver the design requirements of a contemporary label. I am ecstatic with the results.â

Check out the slick new look ânâ feel at defected.com

THE LOFT @20

London soul-house legend Paul âTroubleâ Anderson is celebrating 20 years of his iconic capital club night The Loft with a huge one-off party on July 13 at Shoreditchâs East Village, 89 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3HX (9pm to 3.30am).

Anderson, a DJ of some 39 yearsâ garage and soul-house repute, plays upstairs alongside in the âLoft Boogieâ space alongside Chrissy T and Johnny Reckless; he also plays the main âLoft Advance Danceâ basement with Phil Asher, Funkie P, Simon Andrews and pedigree diva Lisa Millett.

The Loft rose from the ashes of Andersonâs original London night Trouble & Friends.  Both were based at the HQ club in Camden Town, the latter expanding in line with his cult Saturday Night mix show for Kiss FM and the decision to bring in major special guests including Byron Stingily, Jocelyn Brown and Terry Hunter; those who often appeared on Kiss with him.

Over 20 years, The Loft has become a powerful dancefloor ritual attracting thousands of fans on a routine basis.  It has comfortably outlasted clublandâs penchant for short-term peaks and trends, owing to the consistent integrity â the very heart ânâ soul â of its music.  Today, it appears at various venues around London, including Camdenâs Bar Vinyl.

Iâve been told that this 20th birthday bash is likely to involve further, surprise guests; find the latest details (including ticket info) on Facebook

ROMANTHONY RIP

Veteran US house DJ, producer and vocalist Romanthony, AKA Anthony Moore, sadly died last month (May 7) at his home in Austin, Texas. He was 46 and reportedly suffering from severe liver disease.

The news was originally communicated on Facebook via former Romanthony collaborator Eve Angel but missed for a number of days before being spotted and then heavily circulated. Mooreâs big sister Mellony promptly confirmed the story. The nature of Romanthonyâs passing is much in keeping with the air of mystery that surrounded him when he was alive; many friends and commentators didnât know heâd even moved to Texas.

Countless DJs, producers and fans have taken to social media with tributes. Angel, AKA Daone Remmidy, posted: âI am deeply saddened to Announce the Passing our my Label Owner, Producer, Manager and Family. Our Beloved World Renowned DJ And Producer Romanthony has passed away. What a great run we had Roman gave me my first break into the Music Industry and introduced me to the world as Eve Angel. We were working on an amazing project. I will miss him and he will forever remain in my heart. We had a 20 year stint together and he will never be forgotten. [sic]â

German producer Boys Noize, meanwhile, typed: âRomanthony and me were working on such an amazing song together. he said it was the best song he had ever written. [sic]â And Pete Tong added: âSad news RIP Romanthony.â

Romanthony, also an accomplished songwriter and musicianship, enjoyed a long and successful career, starting out in the early 1990s with a series of classic deep house cuts (fusing influences such as tech, pop and rock) including The Wanderer, Falling From Grace and Let Me Show You Love. He also recorded a number of albums for labels Azuli, Glasgow Underground and Distance, whilst remixing Daft Punk (with whom he famously collaborated on One More Time, providing vocals) and DJ'ing all over the world.

A memorial service is currently being planned. RIP Mr Moore.

REVIEWS

Singles...

The CombiNations â Mulebone (US Jellybean Soul)

New Jersey studio team âJamminââ Johnny Nunez, Ed âFreshâ Nunez and Jun Nunez release Jellybean Soulâs first official comeback track after a two-year hiatus. Following previous outings on the label including tribal rumble Kipanga, The CombiNationsâ latest effort is snaking, hypnotic Afro-house, underpinned by moody thrusts of b-line and later, conversely, delicate harp work. Itâs an irresistible balance, accentuated by further remixes nodding skilfully to jazz guitar and deeper, dubbier 4-4. Soul with power and poise....
5/5

Bernadette Mutangara â Give Me Your Love (US Jellybean Soul)

Mutangara, of South African descent, delivers smooth ânâ sincere vocals over Pex Aricahâs minimal Afro-house remix for this, the second comeback release from âJellybeanâ Benitezâ well regarded Jellybean Soul imprint. DJ Micksâ alternative Midnight Love edit offers similar depth but a greater sense of swing and build via neat stabby keys and rolling b-line, whilst Nkokhi sprinkles chiming riffs and glacial synths between yet more gently lolling tribal rhythms for further spiritual remix enlightenment. Mesmerising....
5/5

ALBUMS/EP'S

Guti â Hope EP (UK DFTD)

Desolat and Cadenza staple Guti steps up with warm, sunshiny purpose for his latest EP on Defectedâs brand new sub-label DFTD. The titular track glides majestically on a soulful b-line cut with dreamy vocal snippets from Jason Hates Jazz lick Pray For Love; La Casa, a collaboration with Fosky, effectively blends whip-smart drums and bass with deliciously off-kilter pianos, and Pete Tong fave Funkapella conjures peak floor, filter-house heaven â much as the name suggests. Solid.
4/5

Daft Punk â Random Access Memories (UK Columbia)

Gallic dynamic duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have made the boldest of mainstream music statements with the release of Random Access Memories, their fourth studio album. And yet those fans expecting a 5G upgrade of the Punkâs digital, robo-synth sound will, frankly, be disappointed. And then, if they persist, re-booted in their admiration, for RAM is a largely spell-binding Seventies-effused attempt to find human heart and soul within the usual fizzing, buzzing Punk circuitry. Nile âChicâ Rogersâ disco panache and swish bass guitars add organic oomph to the albumâs insanely catchy flagship moments Get Lucky, Love Yourself To Dance and Give Life Back To Music (the former two making good use of Pharrell Williamsâ falsetto tonsils). Elsewhere Animal Collectiveâs Panda Bear drops sparse but deliciously intense spoken word on minimal funk bomb Doinâ It Right and the Todd Edwards-fronted Fragments Of Time charismatically lands free-flowing song over sweet Moog, guitar and drums; itâs a little reminiscent of Steely Dan. There are wilder sonic experiments that both hit and miss such as closing crescendo Contact (hit), dinner table chit-chat turned dizzying synth, 303 and kitsch guitar wig-out Giorgio By Moroder (hit) and baffling cosmic-opera Touch (featuring Carpenters songwriter Paul Williams â miss) but through it all Daft Punkâs artistic passion, creative endeavour and commitment to high quality sound cannot be faulted; only applauded and celebrated. Bangalter and de Homem-Christo have, it is clear, confirmed their position as timeless, highly essential modern day music makers.
5/5

Various Artists â The Djoon Experience: Compiled & Mixed By âJoeâ Claussell & Black Coffee (UK BBE)

Seriously soulful Paris club Djoon and its cult monthly night, The Djoon Experience, celebrate 10 years of high-calibre house, disco, Afro and funk via this similarly high-calibre double-disc compilation which features leading soulful lights Black Coffee and Joaquin Claussell wholly in the mix. Claussellâs session kicks us off, recorded in a Tokyo hotel room but instantly transporting us to Paris via its chic yet involved selection of deep house, tribal and jazz-funked cuts. The tracklist rocks, moving emotively between soulful 4-4 (Josh Milan, Ron Trent), basement funk (Gregory Porter), Protest skank (Seun Kuti & Egypt 80) and aisle stomping gospel (The Djoon Experienceâs own Kenny Bobien-charged Old Landmark). Coffeeâs set probably delves deeper, and offers smoother edges, but has no less feeling and attraction, gathering several cuts from fellow African house stars G Family, Bucie, DJ Kent and, of course, himself. This is a towering project, able to convey a loose and therefore exacting sense of the Djoon dancefloor. Purist dance it may be but dance with warmth, sincerity and rhythm that is impossible to shake.
5/5

Various Artists â Southport Weekender Volume 10: Mixed By Miguel Migs & Atjazz (UK Miroma Music)

Itâs not surprising to see Southportâs eponymous compilation series on its 10th volume now; a series that actually started out with San Franciscan smoothie Migs seven years ago â returning here, alongside, talented eclectic Martin âAtjazzâ Iveson. The attention to sonic detail has always been apparent, skilful guest curators taking great care to figure out effective track selections in reverent homage to the legendary Weekender itself. Such dedication (and quality) has snowballed over time and bred supreme confidence among fans, confidence unlikely to waver with the arrival of Volume 10. Migsâ mix motors effortlessly on trademark dubby, disco soul-house, typified by the inclusion of his own productions Heartbeat and Create A Mood, as well as those of newcomers Husky and Andre Crom. Atjazzâs sumptuous follow-up widens the playing field, corralling gentle jazz-soul gold courtesy of Leon Ware and Moonchild, 4 Heroâs ascendant breakbeats, infectious Latin via DJ Graham B, lush New Jersey-style vocal house (The Laybouts) and heavier 4-4 (Honesty). Another stylish yet thoroughly substantial addition to the canon....
5/5

Different Marks â Untitled (Pol PETS Recordings)

Snappy free-thinking from three of house musicâs most exciting frontiersmen â Polish Catz NâDogz duo Greg and Voitek, and deep Brit Martin Dawson. Completed shortly before Dawsonâs tragic death last November, Untitled demonstrates warm, musical appeal across all manner of ripe-for-picking genres including melancholic trip-hop (Canât Figure Me Out, featuring Ben Westbeech), acoustic ballad (To Be Without Me, featuring Glimpse), slow-funked soul-house (Lavender Lady, featuring Paul Randolph) and atmospheric drum & bass-edged soundscape (Lonely In My Room). Available as a free download through Catz Nâ Dogsâ PETS label â www.differentmarks.pets-recordings.com/ - this is an absolute steal.
4/5

Still working the late shift...[b]

Ben Lovett

Please feel free to contact me with any Dance news that you feel would benefit others ben@bluesandsoul.com Thank you.

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