The tenth edition of this humble blog is by Tim 'Journeyman' Fielding. A graduate of the Balearic school of DJing. Tim is one of the key figures behind two of London’s most storied clubs: The Brain and The End. He also produced the legendary mix series, Journeys By DJ, which paraded the likes of Sasha & Digweed, Gilles Peterson, Paul Oakenfold and Coldcut.
He left London for New York City, where he spins regularly for the likes of Disorient, Kostume Kult, House of Yes and Mirage Garage. He definitely knows his onions, so get your notebooks out and prepare for some early Christmas presents.
Enjoy the festive season - Bully x
Firstly, thanks very much to Andy for the nifty and for the chance to express my support for Bandcamp. They’ve been around a long time, quietly building their business and community while other more commercial music streaming platforms take all the attention and make most of the money. Once you get past the Soviet era interface and perplexingly dysfunctional search engine (more on that later), you realise what a great service they are providing by giving artists a chance to get paid properly for their music.
I’m generally of the view that audiences fall into two categories: those with a similar relationship to music as KFC customers have to food, and those that appreciate that for the price of a packet of fags, you can acquire an entire piece of art that represents perhaps a year’s creative output of a bona fide genius, and which will get better and better no matter how many times you listen to it, become a companion through the years, and may possibly change your life.
Bandcamp stands up for this, and while the radio streamers have cute features for sharing and discovery and consumer-friendly convenience, I can’t help resenting them for showing the same attitude towards producers as industrial farmers do to battery chickens.
Just the other day I was chatting to a well-known DJ/Producer about RCRDSHP, the new service that enables labels and artists to bundle up tracks, videos, artwork etc into monthly ‘drops’ and monetise through crypto. He showed me his first statement with real income in US $. “That’s equivalent to 15 million plays on Spotify”. Not a bad start for a new alternative revenue source.
So, big ups to you, Bandcamp. I have a feeling that when the streamers have been gobbled up by even larger tech/media conglomerates, you’ll still be there, like a cheery old market trader, racking out the crates of downloadables for your indie artisan suppliers. I hope these reviews will generate some more precious sales, and I hope that you, dear reader, will enjoy the spins as much as I did. Merry Christmas!
Kicking off with something fresh, Hotmood launched this last week and the title doesn’t lie. A very funky sound indeed, with a groove that will lift a soulful set into house territory and transition it back vice versa equally well. I’ve yet to hear Hotmood put a foot wrong. He’s especially good on the jazz tip (that Herbie Hancock joint from a couple of years back remains a standout) and this tune has some nice trippy keyboard flourishes to take you off on a disco ramble. So much good stuff coming out of Mexico these days, if you’re wondering if there’s something in the water, it’s fair to conclude that Guadalajara must have a huge lake full of primo tequila hooked up to the mains supply.
When it comes to new tracks from Da Lukas, I’m pretty much stuck in ‘Buy now and ask questions later’ mode. The spirit of Italo Disco runs pure through the man’s veins. His productions have a super phat sound that always kicks on the dance floor and the arrangements are simply spot on. A mid-lockdown 80s throwback release for Spanish label Spa In Disco (grab me a towel!) this one rises over a squelchy electro bass line with the refrain of ‘I don’t wanna be a freak, but I can’t help myself’ building to a peak. Not hard to imagine this causing some havoc at the right kind of parties.
While rummaging around in the Italian funk closet at Bandcamp, I unearthed this filthy little creature from the ever-reliable Lego Edits. In a laid-back, low-slung JBs style, it’s got a live jamming vibe to it with a catchy ‘Resurrect the funk tonight’ vocal hook, all propped up on a solid rhythm track, and then creeping up on you this grubby low frequency synth line that snakes its way into your ear. One for the committed funkateers.
If I were an alien entering Earth’s orbit with my mind fixed on Most Fun This Planet Has To Offer, I would set my GPS to an island off the coast of Spain and hear ‘you have arrived at your destination’ when a sign for Pikes looms up in the viewfinder. On entering the hotel I would proceed to a small, packed dance floor where Harvey would be at the decks, working the crowd with his hedonistic verve, Nazarene good looks and peerless discographic mojo, as he’s been doing for over 30 years. Now, I’m not one for publicising my man-crushes on social media, but having slept on the floor of the Chelsea Hotel once with him back in the previous millennium, I’m sure that Harv will know my intentions are pure when I say that he brings out certain feelings in me that very few other DJs do. Feelings that lift me up and away from my desk in suburbia and drop me down on the floor of Studio 54 in a tight pair of hot pants with a brain full of quaaludes and intense pleasures on my mind. Feelings, in other words, that one should probably keep to oneself, but there it is. Hard to contain sometimes. The thing about Harvey, apart from years of experience playing incredibly long sets to the coolest club crowds all over the world, is that he achieves the amazing, Weatherall-esque feat of being really diverse while remaining absolutely unique and distinctive. This Mercury Rising collection shows that off in spades. You probably can’t go to Pikes because of the bloody pandemic, but you can get the spirit of it bottled up here in the form of music. There is more heart in this collection than you will hear in a whole week tuned into the FM dial. Blissed-out ambience blurring with meaty electronic workouts. It’s like… Guy Garvey’s Sunday show on BBC 6 broadcast from David Mancuso’s Loft. I’m not even going to begin to describe it track by track. Just go ahead and buy the fucking thing. We are so very lucky to have access, for a few sovs, to such quality of curation, originality and cultural experience. Hat tipped.
Always had a soft spot for the French. Their unashamed flamboyance seems so well fitted to the whole Disco thang. I mean, Dimitri would have to be from Paris, wouldn’t he? As opposed to, say, Sheffield. “Dimitri from Sheffield” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Then again… but I digress.
One thing their DJs keep doing is dig up some cheesey track that you think has been done to death, shamelessly abuse the hooks and then (a bit like their rugby team) blow you away with a flash of brilliance.
Hot off the presses, Funky French League’s “Dancefloor Weaponz Vol 4” is a case in point. As well as sounding like a bunch of groovy porn stars, Woody Braun, Adam Chaps, Young Pulse and Monsieur Willy Mama Mama show a dab hand at touching up four 70s beauties, with possibly my fave being #3 “Got the Feeling” driven by that wicked guitar lick that you know so well but never sounded better than it does here. Sacre Bleu! Even Boney M gets a hose down and it ain’t bad either.
I first came across FFL via Young Pulse’s stunning ‘Floor Killer Rework’ of Armenta & Majik’s “I Wanna Be With You” which has been my go-to mid-set 80s classic drop all year. Also available on this page and HIGHLY recommended.
Funky French League? I wanna go their parties.
Second album in the selection, and I’m recommending it for two reasons: firstly because you might have missed it when it first came out in the early days of Covid meltdown last year, and secondly because they are currently on tour and I was lucky enough to see them a few weeks ago and it was fan-fucking-tastic. Assuming you know 'em already, truly one of the coolest, smoothest and it turns out, most enduring Electronica outfits that USA has produced, IMHO Thievery Corporation perfected the art of coffee-table dub/trip hop whatever you wanna call it, sorta more earthy/bluesy take on Sade meets Kruder & Dorfmeister for sophisticated ears all over the world.
As much of a gig recommendation as a record review this, because buying the album is a no-brainer but you may have to go the extra yard to see them in the flesh. Well worth it though, a revolving cast of wonderfully charismatic, extremely hot vocalists, the two main dudes Eric & Rob multi-tasking on guitars and keyboards – and no slouches at any of that, for sure - plus a superb wifi’d-up barefoot bassist conjuring images of David Byrne’s American Utopia, and tracks that go on and on, evolving into epic dub-funk journeys like Saint Germain in his prime with a team of Africa’s finest jamming to the groove. Symphonik riches indeed.
Big Pete Herbert fan. Much as I love funk and disco, the organic 70s sound starts to flag after a while. I need an injection of steely electronica to bring it up to current techno-compatible sensory levels and no one does that better than this guy. If you don’t want to spring for the whole album, then track #2 “Big Bubbles” is the must-have. Lovely sleazy laid-back mid-tempo chugger with wicked stabs and noises swirling in and out of the groove.
Another track that I’ve been hammering this year is “I Wanted You to Stay” by Brighton-based Flevans. Real peach of a tune that’s great for taking things up a notch, like after you’ve got the whole party started, see that there’s a decent crowd out there and decide to go into some more serious Balearic territory, the curiously-named Flevans’s (Frank Lloyd Evans?) percussive, guitar-driven tune does the job very nicely indeed. It just has ‘that sound’ if you know what I mean. So imagine my delight to find that it is but track #3 on an EP, with 2 equally tasty siblings jostling for attention. Check 'em out, definitely in the Top 5 of 2021 for me FWIW.
The name Toby O’Connor has been cropping up increasingly and every time it’s attached to some high quality production with slick instrumental jazz overtones. Is there something happening up in North Wales that we need to know about? This high tempo bumping party tune has a lovely guitar lick maybe inspired by Georgie B, with a male gospel vocal keeping the pressure on.
More good gear from our Mexican maestro, this a departure from his usual stylings but simply too good to resist. A full-on, balls-to-the-wall skank-til-u-drop peak time house party tune. Essentially sliding a hefty new rhythm track under the original world/reggae rockers hit “Go de Yaka” by Monyaka (thanks, Andy), if this doesn’t get the heads bobbing, it’s time to call a cab. Takes me back to Sancho Panza sound system on a Ladbroke Grove street corner during Notting Hill Carnival. Whistles at the ready!
On a different tip from most of the above-mentioned, really enjoying this tech house treat from Danny Mekanik, who maintains a steady stream of quality remixes/reversions that are well worth following. Deep and atmospheric, but still music you can really move to. Skittering timpani and shades of ‘Strings of Life’, I can hear this being played at festivals across the board. The rest of the “Waveform” album that this appears on is good too. But sadly I don’t listen to artist albums of this genre of music that much anymore. Lame as it might be to fess up to, I would rather hear it in a mix by some legend like Digweed or Laurent Garnier.
Ending on a brooding note. As mentioned in starting, there’s something badly wrong with Bandcamp’s ‘discovery’ feature. I suspect it’s because they are short on staff and artists are left to assign genre tags to their own tracks and the more mercantile ones assign as many as they can, with the result that when searching for “House”, for example, you’ll land on a load of tracks that do not fit that description at all. Never mind, this can turn up some happy accidents. If, like me, you have a secret indulgence for dark, dubby breakbeat, you might enjoy unearthing, entirely at random, this murky pearl from Organic Society in Romania, a group that I know absolutely nothing about, but imagine they have access to some great acid and like to dance with bears up in the Caucasian mountains under the stars.
Mexico, France, Italy, Brighton, Ibiza, North Wales, USA, Romania… where next? Turns out the universal language of house music is still spreading the love far and wide. It’s been quite a journey by DJ after all. Boomshankar!