Check My Guest Mix for FunkinAroundClothing.com

7 Oct

A couple weeks ago, Sam Sklover at FunkinAroundClothing.com approached me about the possibility of mixing some vinyl for his blog/culture/clothing site, based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He had only one stipulation: limit my selections to five of the funkiest cuts in my crates. Naturally, I was eager to participate. I had listened to the previous guest mixes on his FunkinAround5 Soundcloud series and was impressed at how each contributor diverged in his personal understanding of the “funky” superlative.

This mix gave me the opportunity to blend some songs that have long been solid companions in my play box at local gigs but never featured on my regular mixes. Sam Sklover has been curating his Soundcloud account with diverse talents, searching globally for top-rate crate-diggers. In keeping with his international initiative, I’ve selected tracks that showcase musicians from Detroit, North Carolina, Jamaica (x2), and France. I’m currently withholding the playlist because there are some rare monstrosities on this mini-compilation. But if you’re really digging the synthfunk/island disco/afrobeat vibes, drop me a comment and I might be able to help you out.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my frequent collaborator Isaac B-Tips Goldszer for cleaning up the audio on my live recording and finding better blends. With his finesse at audio production, he always makes me sound like a better DJ than I could manage alone.

Northern Boulevard

27 Aug

Northern Boulevard

Nothing anchors interest like an unusual cover song. A few tracks into this mix, Della Reese’s salty version of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” grounds us in a mid-60s soul-jazz vibe that I’ve been wanting to explore. Reese almost chuckles through her bad luck in love. She rattles off names–Billy, Lou, and the other girls–rapping cocktail talk while the big band holds back. “It be’s that way, sometimes,” Simone answers. If her follow-up song declines to offer consolation, she acknowledges the parade of walk-outs, “guys who’ve got [their] hats and made [themselves] hard to find.”

The musicians on “Northern Boulevard” equate love with pain, commonly enough, and they distinguish themselves in this sentiment with the complete absence of self-pity. They don’t want your sympathy. They want to impart a lesson. Or issue a warning, like Terry Callier’s exclusive 7″ version of “You’re Goin’ Miss Your Candyman.” On his essential 1972 album What Color is Love, Callier presents “Candyman” with pushy languor that places him just past the threshold of the bedroom door. Does he want to stay or go? You might not notice that the song exceeds seven minutes as you try to unravel his intent. Recorded in 1968, the 45 rpm single that I’ve included possesses none of the same uncertainty. Callier’s rhythm section runs up and down the same flight of stairs; horns and handclaps build to crackling intensity. The song culminates in the colossal energy required to make a definitive break: “I might not ever come back at all.”

The tracks that follow fall loosely between genres, ranging from rockin’ bones to R&B. In the second half of the mix, you’ll hear a few Northern standards like “Magic Corner” by Belita Woods that absolutely demand a wider audience. And the session concludes with two of my favorite ballads that remain somewhat underplayed, even among the most fastidious soul collectors. That being said, I don’t want to misrepresent myself; this isn’t a mix for obsessives or aficionados. These are current favorites in my living room. I spent several weeks compiling the records with the goal of making something that would appeal to funkrunt readers–informed, curious, and eclectic in their tastes.

Track List:
1. Gloria Walker – Talking About My Baby
2. Tony Adams – The Blues Don’t Like Nobody
3. Shep Grant – You Found My Lonely Heart a Home
4. Della Reese – Solitary Woman
5. Nina Simone – It Be’s That Way Sometimes
6. Terry Callier – You’re Goin’ Miss Your Candyman
7. The Dynamics – Misery
8. Jean & The Darlings – How Can You Mistreat The One You Love
9. Bobby Brown – A Woman and Some Soul
10. Beau Williams – Outside Love
11. Belita Woods – Magic Corner
12. Arnold Albury & The Casuals – My Baby Don’t Understand
13. Steve Mancha – I Don’t Want to Lose You
14. The Chosen Few – Birth of a Playboy
15. Della Humphrey – Don’t Make the Good Girls Go Bad
16. Marva Josie – You Lied
17. Bill Coday – A Woman Rules the World
18. Willie Tee – My Heart Remembers
19. Doris Troy – He Don’t Belong to Me

Photo credit: Maurice Seymour.

Attack Decay

28 Jan

AttackDecay

Your friends Colin Mannex and Isaac “B-Tips” Goldszer have been hard at work on a serious 80s electro hip-hop mix that pulses with Cold War paranoia. Mechanized beats carry the listener through a future world that has withered and cracked in a grim projection of contemporary fears about automated technologies. The electronic production elements on each track create an arid soundscape. And when emcees arrive at heightened moments of outrage or political activism, they sound tortured by their own synthesized loops and samples.

Electro’s production values introduced a new source of narrative tension for rising emcees who wanted a formal break from their immediate forerunners in disco rap. In 1980, artists like YMO began to take advantage of the programmable Roland 808 drum machine. The inorganic sounds produced on these machines helped redefine pop music–with Kraftwerk leading the charge–until electronic beats became as common as pocket calculators. Flash forward 30 years and most 12″ electro records now share the same status as consumer electronics produced during that era–they’re equally disposable. Too often, acts like Quadrant Six, Strafe, and The Extras accumulate in the curbside bins that give telltale sign of someone’s newly cleaned garage.

Electro rarely comes up in popular culture today without a presumed joke against the people who are listening to it. To make matters worse, some of the recording artists who’ve maintained active careers after electro’s heyday have shrugged off their contributions to the genre. With its corny swagger, heart-on-sleeve amateurism, and robo-dystopian vision, the music fails to endear older hip-hop mavens who guard its memory like embarrassing photos that once lined their lockers.

Part of the goal of Attack Decay is to provide new context for electro leaders to rival their contemporaries in minimalism, new wave, and avant-garde soundtrack composition. Electro deserves reevaluation at the very least for the wild eclecticism that major artists showed in their influences. Foreboding themes from John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape from New York haunt this entire audio project. Carpenter has explained that his role as a composer, early on, required that he produce endlessly replicable patterns on electronic drum machines and keyboard synthesizers. The cheap, cut-and-copy aesthetics of sound editing brought Carpenter’s pulp minimalism into unlikely company with producers at hip-hop’s vanguard. Consider, for instance, that Bambaataa lifted Carpenter’s stark motif from Assault on Precinct 13 and simply renamed it “Bambaataa’s Theme” in 1986.

assaultonprecint13

Similar stories of hip-hop’s appropriation of sound and editing techniques abound in the early 80s. Kid Frost’s production values recall the skull-crushing tread of robotic tanks evoked in Brad Fiedel’s Terminator soundtrack. Kid Nice’s triumphant “Keep Dreaming” pairs well with “Chronozon” from Tangerine Dream’s Exit–the album includes material that the German musicians reprised in the movie Risky Business. Throughout our mix, vocoder samples from Arthur Rubinstein’s menacing “WOPR” computer in WarGames pop up to solidify these cinematic connections.

wargames

Electro artists did more than emulate the new synthetic tools and techniques familiar to pop cinema’s best compositional talents. Clearly, they also understood the importance of harmonic tension. For the most part, the songs featured on this mix settle into one or two neighboring keys on the chromatic scale. It’s no coincidence that many artists recorded with mindfulness for DJ splicing, much like Carpenter at the soundboard. Beyond that, I would argue that these electro pioneers also aspired to discover the same physical dimensions of sound that they felt in the cinema. Electro shares with movies a bigness–interplanetary, dark, melodramatic–while at the same time restricting synthetic tones until the music feels claustrophobically small. In electro, our cosmic explorers find a thin atmosphere.

Terminator

The robotic repetition of the drum machines takes on new wave conventions, too. Our title refers to avant-garde rock outfit Thomas Leer & Robert Rental for their brilliant tape-loop sequencing in The Bridge. The duo’s electronic homage to Hart Crane’s confessional poems showed surprising emotional vulnerability in synthesized sounds. The emcees on this mix—Whodini, especially—tell stories that risk the same exposure. X-Visitors were savvy to new wave production values, especially in their raw appropriation of New Musik’s “The Planet Doesn’t Mind“. Bridging the short distance from electro to new wave, Loui$’s Italio song “Pink Footpath” locks the arc between genres like a keystone. It turns out that Italian Disco, however idiosyncratic, provides strong support to opposing ends of hip-hop’s greatest growth spurt.

The awkward phase in American hip-hop didn’t survive the introduction of gangster rap in 1984. Schoolly D’s mega-hit “Gangster Boogie” rippled through the DJ community and changed the rap game for the next fifteen years. After the record’s second pressing in 1986, most producers abandoned the cinematic vibe for urban realism, rap-battling over the streets. Look to Dr. Dre’s early recordings with the electro group World Class Wreckin’ Cru and you’ll notice a swift and urgent transition as he reinvented himself in N.W.A between 1986 and 1987.

WorldClassWreckinCru

We’ve mixed the entire production on first or second pressing vinyl recordings. As with our last collaboration, Colin did most of the digging and sequencing while Isaac mixed, scratched, engineered, and mastered the final cut. Isaac plans to play the show on wax at the launch party on February 8. You can catch me, Colin, playing the early evening vinyl set with an ear bent to upcoming projects. Information forthcoming.

Track List:

1. [Secret Track]
2. [Secret Track]
3. Strafe – Set it Off
4. Universal Two – Dancing Hearts
5. Quadrant Six – Body Mechanic
6. X-Visitors – The Planet Doesn’t Mind
7. [Secret Track]
8. Whodini – Friends
9. Kraftwerk – Trans Europa Express
10. The Extras – Haven’t Been Funked Enough
11. Dimples D – Sucker D.J.’s (I Will Survive) (Suckapella)
12. Loui$ – Pink Footpath
13. Brooklyn Express – You Need A Change of Mind
14. [Secret Track]
15. Kid Nice – Keep Dreaming
16. Tangerine Dream – Chronozon
17. Kid Frost – Terminator
18. John Carpenter – The Bank Robbery / Prison Introduction


Gloria Ann Taylor – Deep Inside You

12 Jul

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I have been living with Deep Inside You, Gloria Ann Taylor’s claustrophobic 12″ soul-disco EP, for as long as I’ve been paying rent to negligent landlords. Six years into this suspicious arrangement–worrying over the legality of digital rips and lead paint chips–I’ve come to conclude that “it’s a mean world,” “love is a hurting thing,” and it’s time for a proper reissue.

Over the years, I’ve featured several selections from Gloria Ann Taylor’s genre-leaping career on my mixes. Her cover of “Jolene,” Dolly’s pleading anthem, anchored the initial song sequence on Tripping on You. An early 7″ version of “Love is a Hurting Thing” titled “How Can You Say It?” also appeared on funkrunt’s first blog mix, I Don’t Mind. Taylor’s husband Walter Whisenhunt produced both tracks. On his own, Whisenhunt’s name commands equal respect in collectors’ circles for his highly prized, left-field disco recordings.

Beyond the details in personnel, not much remains known about the haunting, enigmatic 12″ Deep Inside You. Experts speculate that the recording was released during the late 70s or early 80s in the husband-and-wife team’s bid to cantilever some of their old material to a dance crowd that had left them behind. Originally recorded in 1973, the three essential tracks on this mini-album appeared as 45 singles released on Whisenhunt’s Selector Sound label and Columbia Records. Songwriting credits for “What’s Your World” go to Leon Ware, and the legendary Dale Warren arranged the other two tracks, but in the transition to the recordings made for Deep Inside You, Whisenhunt and Taylor really stand apart as chief creative agents. Their remixed songs lap at listeners’ ears with irregular swells: dub beats and dolorous reverb. Whisenhunt’s engineering at the sound board provides as much tension and interplay as any other traditional instrument performed on this record. One feels his presence as at once meticulous but spaciously imprecise: the drums sometimes veer too close and then mysteriously recede; Taylor’s voice likewise sails through different levels on the mix; and an erratic, raspy hi-hat almost mars the otherwise majestic “Love is a Hurting Thing.”

Gloria Ann Taylor 12inch EP

Probably wisely, major label distributors passed on Deep Inside You. The curious imperfections and all-too-real lyrical pain on these tracks would have made for an uncomfortable disco burner. If the dance craze can be said to have rooted its social and aesthetic power in re-imagining sex, labor, and loneliness as a kind of theater, the stripped down material on Deep Inside You would have threatened to crash the genre’s affective magic. These songs do not mix well with other disco standards. Both in terms of playlists and audiences, Taylor’s music is best listened to alone.

It is for exactly these reasons that today’s collectors have enshrined Deep Inside You as the most revered private press album from the era. An accurate estimate of the album’s current value would be difficult to surmise–mostly because it never appears at auction–but copies used to sell for over $1200 when the record was still a secret among aficionados. Today, due to the peculiarities of our digital music culture, the rarest recordings often gain the widest casual audience. Deep Inside You, this 14 minute EP that only a small group will ever own, may serve broadly as a symbol for both the wise collector’s taste and the auratic value of his choicest collectables. Many people want the record for the simple reason that so few people have it.

Beyond the vinyl’s allure as commodity fetish, Deep Inside You offers a referendum on the endless cut-and-copy, recombinant aesthetics of contemporary pop music. The argument that soul music’s novel sounds–like nu-disco and dark r&b–have arisen to furnish previously unexplored emotions to old, sturdy genres falls apart when a little online sleuthing draws out neglected masterpieces that play with the same desired force, feeling, and conviction. New music today almost always builds on an unacknowledged past. (Consider the popularity of Daft Punk, for instance, as an example of an artistic collaboration that more accurately doubles as curatorial scheme, mining forgotten sounds with minimal attribution.) Of course, the artists’ tendency to exploit a marginal past comes as nothing new in pop music history. But since so much of this unacknowledged past exists with such easy access online, even the most haphazard listener gains some appreciation for the dialog that transpires between old and new sounds. The sum effect is that more old music sounds new today. Conventional Youtube user responses to popular, rediscovered classics–“so fresh!” or “someone sample this!”–attest to the sudden novelty of anything from the 70s-90s that contemporary producers have recently emulated. At the very top of the comments list, someone has usually written that an emerging recording artist or DJ has “sent them here.” This behavior reveals a greater desire among listeners for contextual understanding of new music but with less appreciative value for its native source.

Part of reason Deep Inside You holds tremendous power as a listening experience is that the music is impossible to generalize. Even by today’s mix-and-match standards, the music remains practically unclassifiable, more at ease with psychic pain than anything remotely similar on the disco scene. Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael may have created neurotic soundscapes, but they never allowed their songs’ lyrics to betray darker sentiments. Gloria Ann Taylor, on the other hand, “wants you to know [she] knows that love is a hurting thing.”

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The titular track on Deep Inside You starts the record with a throbbing, obsessive sexual pathology masquerading as a floor-filler. From there, “What’s Your World” sets off with a similarly compulsive theme and then collapses, like a love that torments itself into fracturing the lock-steady groove that holds it all together. On the flip, “Love is a Hurting Thing” constitutes the powerhouse track on a mini-album already teeming with monstrously beautiful music.

While David Linden and Ben Raleigh certainly deserve their writing credit on “Love is a Hurting Thing,” Whisenhunt’s adaptation sounds so unlike the other, more popular recordings by Lou Rawls, Joe Tex, and The Temptations that to call it a “cover” would unfairly diminish the entire recording project. Whisenhunt’s excellent studio musicians, credited as “His Orchestra,” open the final number with some Isley-inspired electric shredding and a mantillo beat that quickly morphs, with dramatic strings and a few plinking keys, into the EP’s most memorable instrumental refrain. Taylor joins the mix, murmuring, “to hurt me, to hurt me,” either in memory of lovers past or to shield against future pain, while a hi-hat hisses over her words. Gaining momentum, her voice suddenly emerges, sharp, vulnerable, and resplendent, (“Can’t you feel it? Can’t you feel it?”) and just as quickly fades under Whisenhunt’s orchestral maneuvers.

An electric guitar drops some final riffs like metal sprockets on a machinist’s floor.

Bobby & The Innkeepers – World of Fantasy

11 Jul

Bobbyinnkeepers

“Strange as it may seem,” this terrific garage band from Seattle found a Northern (U.K.) audience in the 80s, but I haven’t heard their surly psych-soul arrangement played anywhere except DJ Chak’s St. Petersburg podcast, recorded in 2007.

It’s a marvel to me that these guys could move so quickly from “a little story… all about me,” pouting over life’s hardness with the kind of whiny indignation best reserved for one having just stubbed his toe, to a mystical sense of peace with the universe. The complete journey from self-pity to clarity takes about 150 seconds. By the end, Bobby & The Innkeepers play as shepherds for the rest of us, promising that “one day” we’ll reach our “destination.”

The song narrative’s unanticipated astral trajectory reminds me–perhaps inevitably–of a song that was also recorded in 1967 and features a likewise crowded suite of musicians: “A Day in the Life.” Where The Beatles patched their crack-up opus with orchestral glissandos, Bobby’s band lugged out a humble organ and tambourine. Despite the hominess of their recording, the Seattle group nearly rivals the Liverpudlians in sonic density. They almost manage the same theatrical segmentation in the flow of lyrical ideas. But what makes “World of Fantasy” a notable achievement–besides these near-brushes with baroque pop immortality–is that they’ve clocked their single in less than half the time.

If The Beatles’ mad, recessional march recalls a pied-piper waltz into a sea of television static, Bobby & The Innkeepers offer a wry thematic return to the beginning.

Plaid Stamps

7 Dec

Plaid Stamps

Streaming on Mixcloud.
Download Here.

A collection of all-time classic, polyester monster jams, these psych-soul songs traverse themes of lost love and cosmic impermanence. Recorded in rented or makeshift home studios, each single on this mix burns from the underground circuit of regional funk-rock outposts, from Florida to Queens. While some like Moses Dillard had small but measurable success, recording for Curtom Records, the majority never developed commercially beyond intermittent touring and private press vinyl releases. Despite having limited contact with one another, the various bands on this mix expressed similar influences, absorbing The Temptations along with Jimi Hendrix & Curtis Knight.

These musicians also came of age at a peculiar time, in the ever-mounting anxiety of Civil Rights assassinations and social fracturing over Vietnam. A sense of deep cynicism or amazement seems to urge every stomping whammy jam on this compilation. Tapping common sonic resources–like throttled horns and garbage-buzzing guitars–the musicians featured here remind me of indie rock’s aesthetic consistency, circa Bee Thousand. Misleading phenotypes aside, both scenes, early 90s indie and rare 70s soul, do share an uncommon and startling basic sincerity or sometimes not exclusively, apathy. The self-consciousness that results when these emotional drifts collide gives us strange masterpieces like “The Unforgiven,” “After We’re Gone,” and twenty years later, “Hot Freaks.”

The Plaid Stamps soundscape should be familiar to most FunkRunt listeners. I have a ready fondness for broken, repetitive riffs laid under barbiturate meditations on regret. In a sense, this deep soul mix completes a genre-exploring cycle that began with my blog’s inaugural post, I Don’t Mind. I’ll always be mining similar territory, but my next posts will cover new sounds, ranging from mod to post-punk.

I owe a big thanks to Numero Group for their timely Omnibus release. Several songs that I have been hunting for years appeared in their 45 box set. I highly recommend splurging for the whole thing.

Track List:
1. Laurene LaVallis – Key to Our Love
2. Stone Creations – Hands on a Golden Key
3. Darling Dears – And I Love You
4. The Halleluiah Chorus – I’ve Got to Find a Way
5. Nick Allen – Hard Way to Go
6. Joey Irving & Just Us – There’s a Man
7. Power of Attorney – Changing Man
8. Sag War Fare – Don’t Be So Jive
9. The America People – Give it Up If You Can’t Do Nothing With It
10. Scorpio & His People – The Unforgiven
11. Free Mind – After We’re Gone (The World Keeps Turning)
12. H. Andrews Congregation – I’ve Got to Find Myself Another Girl
13. Gloria Walker – Walking With My New Love
14. The Creators – Why, Why, Why
15. Moses Dillard – I’ve Got to Find a Way, pt. 2
16. Uptown Syndicate – You’re a Woman
17. Moses Dillard – We Gotta Come Together
18. Total Unity – I’m Taking a Stroll With the One I Adore

The Second Stimulus Package

8 Jul



Download Here
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Funkrunt and B-Tips have joined forces to deliver the second installment of an economic recovery plan that not even our slow-jamming President could push through Congress. Your host Colin Mannex procured the set-list and sent the material to Isaac B-Tips Michael (djbtips.com) for production. After a few conversations about mixing aesthetics, the collaborative duo realized that The Second Stimulus Package might lead to some mutually exciting opportunities; the mix went through a few drafts without any partisan objections. After weeks in careful correspondence–and much more time spent digging–the creative team behind this momentous compilation felt confident to bring it before the American public.

As with the first stimulus package, these songs have been compiled to respond to the current slump in our global economy. Whereas the first installment harnessed rippin’ funk-and-blues energy to express personal outrage over real poverty and impoverished relationships, this mix addresses a similarly troubled world without the same anger. The biggest difference between these “packages” has to do with their respective genres. Most songs on this mix were recorded a full decade after material on the first economic recovery compilation. The tracks here represent a certain generic evolution from raw funk to disco boogie. With less regional diversity in late-70s/early-80s dance music, disco usually showcases a more specifically urban experience. You’ll hear references to NYC’s boroughs, campaigns to fight crime and drug abuse, and civic tension resulting from a highly visible stratification between rich and poor. As disco typically serves a working-class reprieve from the daily grind, it’s uncommon to find four-on-the-floor dance cuts that directly confront the era’s biggest social problems. The selection process on The Second Stimulus Package thus presented some difficulties, but curiously, the mood never collapses, however contentious or embattled the music’s themes. The modal changes from funk to boogie also carried differences in tone; the insuperable optimism in this mix should be evident to any casual listener.

Track List:
1. Golden Flamingo Orchestra – The Guardian Angel Is Watching Over Us
2. Universal Robot Band – Barely Breaking Even
3. Elkie Brooks – The Rising Cost of Love
4. Rainbow Brown – Till You Surrender
5. Mighty Mo & The Winchester Seven – The Next Message
6. Prince Charles & The City Beat Band – Cash, Money
7. Freez – I.O.U.
8. Intrigue – I Like It
9. Ca$hflow – Spending Money
10. Rhetta Hughes – Angel Man
11. Multivizion – Work to Live; Don’t Live to Work
12. Dennis Greene – Great Escape

Photo Credit: Barbara Crane.

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