Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

Welcome to B&S



Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard (November)

Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard (November 2011)
Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard (November 2011)

I had a refreshingly frank chinwag with Seth Troxler this month â Seth being clublandâs current man of the moment; or at least one of them. If you really donât know who he is, then let me talk about four friends living in Detroit during the early Noughties, their subsequent relocation to Berlin and re-branding as Visionquest.


The friends â Seth, Lee Curtiss, Ryan Crosson, Shaun Reeves â have achieved great things together. Lee and Shaun hit Germany in 2004, Seth and Ryan joining them three years later. As Visionquest, the quartet quickly established a reputation for quirky but high quality remixes and gigs and, this year, extended that holding pattern with the launch of an eponymous label. The group have never been stronger, even whilst Seth has now moved to London with his fiancée and Lee is back in Detroit.

So what is so special about these boys? Visionquest, collectively and individually, have screwed with the minimal house and techno templates on which they were raised, injected all manner of eclectic influences including folk, indie-rock and Motown, and crafted a bold new form of soulful dance music. Theyâve flipped club music on its repetitively-nodding head.

Itâs meant a huge heap more attention for Seth and co, and the rapid snowballing of larger-than-life personas. Seth, more than anyone, has stepped into âcharacterâ, most noticeably in the interviews he gives to press. They have been some fairly outlandish comments in recent months.

âWhen I give interviews itâs probably 50% me and 50% fun and games, depending on the quality of questions Iâm getting asked. I do play things up but itâs no different to DJing and working in the studio; itâs all an expression of my characterâ Seth responds. âItâs a lot like Andy Warhol, who lived his art publicly. And, look, Iâm passionate about the music, so that is always the major focus of what I talk about with people. Itâs what I do.â

Seth goes on: âI am pretty normal, honestly. I do normal things around the house and with my fiancée and friends. But with the music there is this character called Seth Troxler. Some of it is the real me, Iâm sure, but some of it isnât. Itâs a different mindset altogether.â

Visionquest has pushed boundaries a country mile over the past few years. The groupâs label only launched at the start of 2011 and already its A&R decisions seem to be carrying significant sway with clubland â the kind of sway that tees up exciting careers.

âThree of the four of us have to agree before signing anyone to the label,â Seth answers. âBut weâre usually all in agreement, and we take the A&R really seriously. There are business practicalities, and there needs, obviously, to be an emotional connection to the music, but we go further than that. We ask artists to hang out with us for a few weeks; we get to know them as people and artists, make sure theyâre not knobs or anything, and then we make our decision. Everyone in our family is a good friend, and that makes what we do that bit more special and successful.â

The music is something else. Itâs well produced, balancing quirk and accessibility without any obvious pretention. Releases also come with bespoke artwork, part of Visionquestâs attempt to make a wider cultural point.

âWeâre total music geeks,â Seth stresses. âWe have an insane passion for all sorts of music and sounds⦠abstract, indie-rock, whatever. Being open-minded is vital. Itâs got us this far.â

But what about drugs? History reveals many famous examples of chemically-fuelled life inspiring art â Coleridge, Pollock, The Beatles. Seth has previously referred to Visionquest live as âa psychedelic mind trip to the futureâ, which strongly suggests narcotics have, or have had a part to play in the creative process.

âWeâre not about promoting a drug vibeâ Seth stresses, âbut, sure, our experiences with acid and psychedelics have helped inform who we are today. A lot of that inspiration came from the early days in Detroit when we were young kids DJing and stuff, and researching ideas about music⦠finding ourselves, getting otherworldly. We were a close group of friends working out what we wanted to say, and psychedelics supported that process. We might be in a different position today but weâre still questingâ¦.â

Seth will marry next year and, perhaps prompted by that reality, is currently pondering his long-term career. He is keen to reduce his current âinsaneâ workload and channel it more constructively in 2012. His current level of travel between gigs, he tells me, is a particular killer and not something he plans on repeating for the next decade or so. âLife is really good but there have been occasions recently where I donât feel in control of what Iâm doing; my career seems to have a life of its ownâ he adds. âRight now Iâm on empty; Iâm completely worn out.â

For now, there really is plenty going on. First up is The Lab 03, the latest instalment of NRK Musicâs cutting edge mix compilation series. Sethâs contribution is expectedly varied, corralling deep atmospheric cuts by Hatikvan and Bearweasel, slick tech-flecked grooves by Lindstrom, Dinky, and DJ Qu and then, on a second disc, everything from low-slung dub to freeform jazz via electro-psychedelia courtesy of Chaim, Superpitcher and Und.

âIâm really happy with the final resultâ he confirms. âIâve blended a number of popular underground house and tech sounds, with some really weird shit⦠music at the other, more abstract end of the scale.â

Beyond that the Visionquest label is readying several new album projects. Crosson is set to release a new artist album with Vagabundos staple Cesar Merveille, in two hefty parts; Ewan Pearson is adding final studio touches to Footprintzâ pop-edged debut album, and tasty Italian duo Tale Of Us are preparing their first album.

âItâs [Tale Of Us] pretty much left the concept stage now; there are few tracks taking shape. The guys [Tale Of Usâ Karm & Matteo] have some surprises up their sleeve; the album wonât just be riffs on the deep house and techno material theyâve released before. Theyâre musicians; their ideas are wide-ranging. Theyâre outrageous.â

Mr Troxler is more than positive about what the future holds: âThings are going great so far. Itâsâ¦what⦠30 years on from when dance music began? It feels like weâve reached a pivotal moment where dance music is embracing all of these different ideas, a mix of underground and mainstream, and has its first chance to be universally accepted by everyone. It is becoming accepted culture, and that is completely amazing. I love being part of that.â

Various Artists â Seth Troxler: The Lab 03 is out now on NRK Music.


Elsewhere, French house sensation Shonky â real name Oliver Ducreux â has confirmed to me that heâll be launching a new, long-rumoured record label in January.

The label, Apollonia, is named after a character in Princeâs hit Eighties movie Purple Rain and promises to reflect its foundersâ varied dancefloor tastes; Shonky will be co-owner alongside fellow talented Frenchies Dan Ghenacia and Dyed Soundorom.

The label also promises funk and disco edges, a nod to the sounds peddled by the real-life singer playing Apollonia â Apollonia Kotero â back in the day. Its debut EP will feature compositions by Soundorom, Ghenacia and Shonky.


It's time to start thinking about Miami in March, by the way. Organisers of the Ultra Music Festival and the Winter Music Conference (WMC) have just announced dates covering the same period of the month, which must mean huge sighs of relief all round clubland. WMC will run March 16-25, double the length of previous instalments, whilst Ultra will cover March 23-25 at a new, as yet TBC venue. The two events sparked major headlines last year when they operated apart â DJs and promoters, expecting the usual unified Miami, were unhappy at the prospect of having to commit to two rather than one visits there.


Finally, room to quickly mention that Ministry is releasing a compilation later this month celebrating 15 amazing years of Body & SOUL, the institutional New York party headed by dancefloor titans Francois Kevorkian, âJoeâ Claussell and Danny Krivit.

The trioâs eclectic, super soulful party â covering all shades of house, techno, hip-hop, R&B and dub-reggae, to name but a few genres â launched in 1996 at a Manhattan warehouse. In due course, the venue became Club Vinyl; and Body & SOULâs weekly Sunday free-for-all parties became legend. In recent years the parties havenât operated to a weekly schedule but continue to influence all over the world.

Ministryâs special double-disc mix, Body & SOUL â 15 Years, sees some of the partyâs biggest cuts mixed by Kevorkian and co. These include Hugh Masekelaâs Donât Go Lose It Baby, K-Scopeâs Latin Blues Part 1 (AKA Eric Kupper), 808 Stateâs Pacific 212, Sound Of Blacknessâ The Pressure and Coldcut feat. Lisa Stansfieldâs People Hold On.

The album is released on Ministry, November 21. Weâll have the review in due course, all bodes well!

Talking of reviewsâ¦.


DJ Mbuso feat. Harrison Crump â Oh Yeah (UK Tribe)

Take one South African house legend, DJ Mbuso, add one from Chicago, Harrison Crump, and revel in their deep soul-house collision. Oh Yeah is a worthy meeting of minds and of old versus new school house, Mbusoâs smooth urban rhythms tucking in snugly beneath Crumpâs sturdy, emotive vocals. Pert, well positioned remixes by Angolan newcomer Djeff.

Ethyl & Flori â Shelter (UK secretsundaze)

The Birmingham pair with releases for Freerange and Tsuba under their stylish belt already drop new tech-led lick Shelter on Sunday party secretsundazeâs fledgling label. The original is harmonious drum machine flow given further delicious roll by sequences of sweeping strings and key; but Rolandoâs snaky remix steals it, crafting intense new peaks and troughs thanks to some nifty percussive moves.

Maceo Plex â High & Sexy EP (Sp Ellum Audio)

Valencia-based high-flyer Mr Plex launches his own label with this typically dark and intense electronic house EP. Both cuts mesh sexiness and morosity in their attempts to deliver powerful 4-4-framed funk ânâ soul to the dancefloor; those rather unique attempts work.

Voices Of Black feat. Rap Lisa â Her Flower EP (US Wolf + Lamb)

Wolf + Lambâs Brooklyn protégés turn out casual soul-soaked house par excellence. Backed by âcasualâ new singer Rap Lisa, the boysâ tidy six-tracker shines thanks to nimble vocal samples, deep melodies, spaced-out synths and rippling Latin rhythms â everything, rather aptly, under the sun.

Nico Purman â Fade Away (UK Crosstown Rebels)

Rebels regular Purman conquers by dividing his latest EP release along the lines of both Prince-spanglinâ synth disco and tough, bass-shaken electronic groove. Interesting stuff.

Intruder â Amame (UK Defected)

This, as the sleeve also tells us, is A Murk Production. House legends Oscar G and Ralph Falcon are back in their hard ânâ soul Miami groove for a new track which, recorded under one of their earliest aliases, will feature on the next instalment of Defectedâs prestigious House Masters in January, celebrating 20 years of Murk. Amame, fronted by mesmeric vocalist Jei, writhes darkly and smartly between the boundaries of house and techno; hammered by Troxler, Chandler and Ferrer all summer it is, simply put, a devilish, indefatigable delight.

Aaron Ross & Sterling Ensemble feat. Ursula Rucker â Alive (UK Restless Soul)

Defected A&R Ross connects with keyboard Albert âSterlingâ Menendez once again for a wholesome, free-flowing, totally musical soul-dance groove ripe for poet-chanteuse Ruckerâs confidently-paced and meaningfully-directed vocals. Empowering.

Timmy Regisford feat. Lynn Lockamy â At The Club Remixes (UK Tribe)

The rump-shaking title track from Regisfordâs current album earns sharp new remixes from Frenchman Rocco, up-and-coming South African Da Capo and veteran compatriot DJ Mbuso. Thereâs luscious variety, Rocco adding linear drive via pacy key hooks and dark synth stabs, Da Capo mixing tech and deep organic groove, and Mbuso shaking down outrageously funky afro-house. Youâll be At The Club for a little longerâ¦.
Now albumsâ¦.


Boo Williams â Home Town Chicago (UK Anotherday Records)

New Brit label Anotherday promises to restore vintage house material from the dark, dank vaults of time by re-releasing it to a contemporary, digitally-minded audience. First up is Boo Williamsâ 1996 album on Relief, Home Town Chicago, which showcased a mellower side to his studio craft after aggressive, super-tough EPs such as A New Beginning (Booâs debut, also on Relief) and New Breed (on Dutch techno imprint Djax). Home Town Chicago still loops, drives and acid wiggles but there is a deep warmth to keys and b-lines, and Williamsâ changeable beats flash real swagger.

Wagon Cookinâ â [i]Eleven[i] (US Smoke Nâ Mirrors/Om)

Wagon Cookinâs fourth album bumps and hustles between wired nu-jazz and deep down house via slick electro-funk and digital disco. Itâs a polished but three-dimensional exercise from brothers Javier and Luis Garayalde, injected with further feeling thanks to tight vocals by guests Odille Lima, Ladis Sité, Melina Jones, Ricky Husbands and Roberto Q Ingram. On the money.

Sunlightsquare â Britannia Shing-A-Ling (UK Sunlightsquare Records)

Claudio Passavantiâs 25-strong ensemble bristles with retro sophistication, helping their leader revisit some of his favourite Northern Soul, rare groove, Boogaloo and rhumba licks from the 1960s and 1970s relying only on studio equipment of the time and Sunlightsquareâs trademark Latin spirit. The project was recorded at Londonâs Studio Liloco complex, hence its Britannia title, and entertainingly covers everything from Wilson Pickett to Cuban percussionist maestro Mongo Santamaria. Recorded live, in the same authentic, unedited vein as Motown and Staxâs output, Britannia Shing-A-Ling displays breathtaking musicality and real soul.

Various Artists â Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits (UK Harmless)

It is 40 years since legendary R&B-soul producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff founded Philadelphia International Records and, amazingly, the pair still owns it. Theyâve bestowed their blessing on Brit-based imprint Harmless, who this month celebrate the landmark anniversary with a commemorative box-set and two-disc, 21-track âRe-Editsâ compilation. The latter invites major PIR supporters from within contemporary clubland such as DJ Apt One, J*Ski and Norwegian nu-disco king Todd Terje to re-interpret classic moments from the back catalogue, including those by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Dexter Wansel and The OâJays. The results are respectful and largely believable, no mean feat.

Deep Street Soul â Look Out, Watch Out (UK Freestyle)

This second album from gritty Melbourne funksters Deep Street Soul wrings out every last drop of feeling from its 13 included tracks. Opening number Soul Loco Suite sets the tone, a grinding instrumental jam leading into the wig-out maelstrom of punchy horns, dirty Hammonds, swinging drums and smokinâ vocals (from lead singer May Johnston among others) that tears arrestingly across the rest of the album. Stormingâ¦.

Various Artists â Norman Doray: Strictly Ibiza To Amsterdam (UK Strictly Rhythm)

In a crowded compilation market, Dorayâs foray represents decent value per beat. And neat beats there are too, stretching across two well-constructed discs showcasing both the fast-rising Frenchmanâs appetite for snappy funk and âmirrorballâ and his penchant for more progressive, tribal grooves. Doray blends material by Todd Terry, Jose Nunez, Sandy Rivera and Deniz Koyu, not to mention his own strident disco-house ditty Kalifornia, and creates something rather memorable; much like his journey back from Ibiza to the ADE this autumn.

Various Artists â Under The Influence Vol 1 Compiled By Red Greg (UK Z)

Red Greg, a familiar face at vintage record stores, and on the international record fair and collectorsâ circuit, delivers the start of a new compilation series for Dave Leeâs Z label. Under The Influence swivels the spotlight not on to big-name spinners but those grass roots aficionados with the knowledge and talent to helm interesting mix compilations at once educative and, well, slamming. Greg flags priceless low-level disco-R&B from the late 1970s and early 1980s - amazing, surprisingly high-quality gems on small, struggling retro labels by the likes of Donnell Pitman (his Love Explosion, a recent disco re-discovery riding a similar arrangement to Rippleâs The Beat Goes On And On), Sophisticated Ladies (whose This Ainât Really Love is penned by The OâJays) and Sir Ted Ford. Under The Influence will hopefully run and runâ¦.

Various Artists â Watergate 09: Tiefschwarz (Ger Watergate)

Whatâs not to like about a mix CD switching from the eclecticism of wunderkind Nicolas Jaar to the soulfully enrapturing bass-house of Julio Bashmore, to classic Chi-Town groove from Frankie Knuckles to outings by Kevin Saunderson, Masters At Work (their transcendental remix of Afro Celt Soundsystemâs Release), Romanthony and Isolee? Tiefschwarz also contribute their own piercing exclusive, Corporate Butcher, on what is blatant five-star compilation material â their new mix for revered Berlin club Watergate eschews the tradition of using only recent underground house and tech, plumping instead for a deeply personal but wholly immersive journey through favourites old and new, familiar and subtle, minimal and fully layered. Journeys donât get much more fulfilling than this.

Dillon â This Silence Kills (Ger BPitch Control)

Berlin imprint BPitch maintains its recent exploratory momentum with the release of Dillonâs captivating debut long-player. Stunning Welsh vocalist Dominique Dillon de Byington drapes kooky, cut-through delivery over her own minimal yet emotionally rich production; simplistic soundscapes making interesting tonal shifts between the boundaries of techno, indie-pop, ghetto beat and piano ballad, and the 23-year-oldâs crisp vocals â touching upon the abstract and everyday alike â maintaining rawness and a deep profundity that should resonate for months to come.

Ben Lovett

Still working the late shift...

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