Night Gallery label

It’s been  quite a time since my last post and even that was more of just a straight up mix. This blog was one of the things that helped reignite my interest in writing about music and more specifically trying to expose the artists and labels that deserved wider recognition. Which brings me to my the whole reason the blog has been silent for so long. After some deliberation, happenstance and partnership a label emerged as an idea that deserved further pursuit.

A little over a year later, a label has formed in collaboration with fellow DJ/music connoisseur, Shawn Kralicek AKA Struggle. The label is called Night Gallery and is dedicated to bringing quality music to the vinyl format, regardless of genre. It will simply be music that we believe in. We are excited for the first release which is from an established artist working anonymously  (under the name Dijkhuis) who provides 3-tracks that explore new ground that don’t resemble anything the artist has released before. They range from deep electronic choral weirdness (“Hotel 19”) and jackin’ techno (“You Can Bring it”) to soulful and funky deep house (“My Love Is…”). You can listen to clips from the Night Gallery site and judge for yourself, but I think you will find at least one track (or more) that moves you. This will be a 12″ vinyl only release and should drop in late March. Stay tuned.

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Future Experiences Mix

I recorded this mix this past summer and had neglected to post it earlier. It got a lot of play in the car during personal trips when I could really blast it to enjoy its contents. The mix is one that although titled something that alludes to new and unknown sounds, features quite a bit of older tracks that I tried to pair up with newer cuts. It flows through quite a few genres (ambient, broken beat, deep house, italo, etc.) and tracks that have shaped my appreciation of electronic music over the years. I hope you enjoy.

Future Experiences Mix
1. Spacetime Continuum – Transmitter (Reflective)
2. Newworldaquarium – Curse of the Bloody Puppets (Delsin)
3. Nail – Greyut (Classic)
4. Likwid Biscuit – Complete Worries (People)
5. Mustang – Twilight (Visions Inc)
6. DJ Qu – Somethin Ta Feel (Strength)
7. W & P Hgg – Long Play (Deep Explorer)
8. Red Rack’em – Exhalt (Shift)
9. Lerosa – Deception (A Touch Of Class)
10. Kano – Another Life [Instrumental] (Full Time)
11. Black Devil – Timing, Forget The Timing (Rephlex)
12. Global Communication – The Way (Dedicated)
13. DJ John Collins – All We Need (Underground Resistance)
14. The Godson – Analog Love (Rush Hour)
15. Terence Parker – Love’s Got Me High [Tribute Mix] (Intangible)
16. Ian Pooley – Relations (Definitive)
17. Fred P. – On This Vibe [Patrice Scott Sistrum Remix] (Esperanza0
18. Sinosine – Angels Of Altitude (Metatone)
19. Conforce – Land Of The Highway (Meanwhile)

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Steven Tang – Mix and Interview

Chicago house music is currently undergoing something of a resurgence. Funny thing about this supposed next wave of producers though is that many of them have been at it for years and are only now getting wider recognition. For Steven Tang and his Emphasis Recordings label this story fits all too well. The producer has been pursuing his own deep techno sound for over a decade now, drawing inspiration from equal parts Chicago and Detroit. Tang’s new release, The Verged Sessions, on Keith Worthy’s Aesthetic Audio is a prime example of how his sound has developed but also of how trends have caught up to where he has always been. Tang graciously took time for the below interview as well as providing a stellar mix that spans plenty of the aforementioned Chicago artists as well some other solid tracks.

Steven Tang – Energy Flash Mix

1.Obsolete Music Technology – End Pass – Machining Dreams (Unreleased, coming soon)
2. Keith Worthy – Rocket Science (Moments In Rhythm Vol. 2) – Aesthetic Audio
3. Daryl Cura – Waiting Room – Eargasmic Recordings
4. Space Dimension Controller – Journey To The Core Of The Unknown Sphere (Kyle Hall Remix) – Royal Oak
5. Kink & Neville Watson – Inside Out – Hour House Is Your Rush
6. Ron Trent – Urban Skylinez (Altered States Sampler) – Prescription Classic Recordings
7. Mr. G – Low Slung (My Crazy Neighbors EP) – Moods & Grooves
8. Zank – Vacuum Direct EP – Housedust
9. Dope Dog – Keep House Unda’ground – Touche
10. Hakim Murphy – Alkeme (Acid Basics EP) – Machining Dreams
11. Chicago Skyway – Acid (Wolfgang Hair EP) – Uzuri
12. Steven Tang – Aerial (Verged Sessions) – Aesthetic Audio
13. Patrice Scott – Excursions – Sistrum Recordings
14. DJ Kaos -Leopard Theme #1 Compiled by DJ Kaos – Skylax Records

Q: Can you describe your approach and equipment used for the mix?
A: My approach to this mix, or any other mix, is to first decide on its direction; in terms of the genre, i.e. house, techno, and sometimes all of the above. Then I just pick out the tunes and play around with them to see what sounds good together. Once I have my set, I play it through and record it in one pass. It’s a pretty basic approach I think to most DJs, if not all. The equipment I used for this mix is 2 x Technique 1200 turntables and a Pioneer CDJ 1000 MKII connected to an old Vestax PMC-17A mixer. For recording, I use an Olympus LS-10, and for mastering, I use Propellerhead RECORD and/or Cockos REAPER.

Q: I remember your first release on Emphasis and wondering who and where did this come from. How long had you been working on music before that release came to be?
A: I started building my studio and working on music back in 1996. Originally going in, I wanted to make banging hard techno tracks for the dance floor, the peak time stuff. But over time in the studio, my tastes had change. I remember not liking any of my harder tracks. I didn’t think they would sell and found them to be too repetitive, too minimal. I was also burnt out from hearing that style at raves during that time too. That led me to develop a deeper, melodic sound, tracks which ultimately make up the Windy City EP. I tried to license the EP, but had no takers. Since I couldn’t get signed to any label, I created Emphasis Recordings and released Windy City myself back in 1998. It was a leap of faith, but I really believed in those tracks. I pressed 500 copies before I even had distribution (don’t recommend doing that today). Sold the whole lot in a weekend through Watts and TRC and was paid in full a week later. Good ole days!

Q: Your sister is heavily involved in electronic music correct? Was music heavily emphasized growing up in your family?
A: Yes, my sister is involved in electronic music as well. Her name is Marina and she runs Alan Oldham’s Generator Records. Music was not emphasized in our household when we were growing up; education was, like most Chinese families. But I remember music always being in the background. There was always a radio on. I know my dad and his siblings like music. He even knows how to play a little bit of guitar and drums. Hmm, maybe music was emphasized, but indirectly. I’m sure deep down my folks wished me and my sister were young professionals. Well, now, (we) would be middle-aged professionals.

Q: You were born in Hong Kong and moved to Chicago which year? At what point did you hear house/techno and know this was something special?
A: When my family migrated to the US, we lived in New York during the mid 70’s up until 1981. That’s when we moved to Chicago. Now you can insert that Chicago DJ/producer cliché here. Ha! Joking aside, when we got to Chicago, my family lived in Hyde Park on the south side, a predominant affluent black neighborhood. I went to school with hip black kids and made friends with them. They were the ones that showed me Chicago house music. They told me what radio stations to listen to, so that’s how my sister and I got the bug. Instantly I knew it was something special because of the scarcity of it. To get my fix, I had to tune into the radio at certain times. And since I was only a kid, I couldn’t go clubbing to hear this new form of electronic music. This discovery definitely changes my outlook towards music. I saw the value in the good music, regardless of genre, and was willing to spend cash on it. Had I not discover Chicago house/Detroit techno on the radio during that time, I think I would consume music passively, like the majority of the public. I probably would be okay with just recording stuff off the radio and with the times, I would be okay with downloading free mp3s. One can hear popular music 24 hours a day for free. So why would I pay for it? Why would anyone?

Q: There appears to be more artists coming out of Chicago getting attention lately (Specter, Chicago Skyway, Hakim Murphy, Tevo Howard, etc.) What is the music scene like right now in Chicago compared to years past? Do you feel like there is anything remotely close to a Chicago sound now?
A: I think the underground dance music scene here in Chicago has been widely dispersed, and it has been that way now for a decade or more, compared to the scenes of the 80’s and early 90’s. That is my opinion. Back then, I felt and saw that the music was what brought people together. There was a sense of camaraderie, people getting along and on the same wavelength. I guess this happened because the music was new and exciting. But over time, things change and evolve. People change and evolve. Forces that we control and forces beyond our control cause the scene to stagnate and break up into little microcosm. However, I think we are starting to recover from that. The artists aforementioned and a couple of others here in Chicago are all on the same wavelength, doing their own thing or collaborating with one another, producing some great music currently. I believe this is the reason for the attention they’re getting and I’m glad for them. If we keep this up, we may spawn a new scene. And whether if there is something remotely close to a Chicago sound now you ask, I have to say yes! Clear example of this is Jamal Moss’s work and his Mathematics label. This and cumulative output from this new crop of artists IS the Chicago sound of today I believe, and it’s the closest lineage to Chicago’s house music past. These artists know their history, and you can hear it in their music.

Q: Your label and productions have always seemed to reference more of a deeper Detroit techno style yet your “label specializes in dance music influenced by the city.” More specifically where would you say your greatest influences come from, musical or otherwise?
A: That phrase, “label specializes in dance music influenced by the city” is part of the mission statement of Emphasis Recordings. It’s the essence of the label. And the music on the label represents everything I’ve experienced in my own personal environment in relation to the City of Chicago. My experience with the music, the culture, the people, my day to day, my desires, is what influences my productions. I heard my first Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson tracks here on Chicago radio. I bought their records here in Chicago. I experienced that Detroit sound here in Chicago. So no question about it, that sound has influenced me also, but just not the City of Detroit itself. That is why that phrase does not make reference to Detroit specifically.

Q: Have you any desire to explore more of your Asian cultural heritage within your music?
A: Yes, I do have a desire to explore more traditional Asian music, like old Chinese opera music, and possibly fuse it with electronic music. I won’t explore the popular stuff coming out of Asia though. It is no different from the music coming out of the United States. In fact, they emulate it! Major labels in Asia throw some stock hip-hop beats together and have someone rap in Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Indian, etc., over it. To me, that’s wack! I will leave that alone, thanks.

Q: The Verged Sessions was just released on Aesthetic Audio. How did you connect with Keith Worthy to make that happen?
A: The story kind of went like this, as told to me by Phillip Hertz at Crosstalk International (local music distribution company), and my former place of employment. Late last summer, Keith was visiting Chicago one weekend and he stopped off at Crosstalk. The company distributed Aesthetic Audio, so the reason for the visit was part social, part business. It was during this visit that Keith stumbled on to Emphasis Recordings. And when Phillip told Keith, the man behind Emphasis sat at the desk a few feet away from him, he was shocked! Keith didn’t know Emphasis Recordings was based in Chicago. Long story short, because he liked the label and the music so much, Keith wanted to meet me. So, Phillip forwarded my number to him. A few weeks later I got a call from Keith. We chatted a few times on the phone and he drove up for few visits. We hung out, got some food, some drinks. We got along, so he asked me if I would be interested in doing a single for Aesthetic Audio. I agreed of course and the rest, as they say, is history. I submitted the tracks back in February and here today, we have the finished product.

Q: What kind of responses have you been getting on the release? Are lots of new people just discovering you again?
A: So far, the responses I’ve received on the release have been all positive. Fans would say the record is great and they would name their favorite track on it; general things like that. There seems to be an air of excitement over this release. I feel it. With Keith, Patrice Scott of Sistrum Recordings, and others, bumping the white labels for almost 2 months prior to release date, it definitely helped fuel that excitement a little bit I think. Also, sample clips had been up on the web for while as well for fans to preview. I’ve had a couple of inquires about my older works already through this project. I anticipate that more will discover, or rediscover, my old catalog and will also keep an eye on what’s to come as well.

Q: What are the main differences between what you release under your own name and under your monikers, Obsolete Music Technology, Tang and Misguided?
A: Right now, I’m focused on music projects under my own name, Tang, and Obsolete Music Technology. Initially, with the alias Obsolete Music Technology, I wanted the focus to be towards what fans refer to as retro Chicago house; a jack trax type of sound, but making it modern. And with the music under my own name or Tang, I wanted the focus to be towards what fans refer to as futuristic, modern Detroit techno. Those are the differences between the monikers; while Misguided was an alias I used one time for music that focused on what I thought to be more experimental, and more ambient. I may bring it back at some point in the future.

Q: You featured a new Obsolete Music Technology track on the mix, when do you plan on releasing it and what is your future plans for the label and yourself?
A: The new track featured on the mix is signed to Hakim Murphy’s Machining Dreams label. It will be on the single; entitled, “Relapse.” My educated guess is that it should be out in a couple of month, give or take. I also have another future project with Aesthetic Audio, plus two finished projects with Eargasmic Recordings. As for my label, I plan on doing a collaboration with Keith Worthy, plus release new music by Chicago artist, Parrish Adams, a.k.a. Intrinsic, and Italy’s Piero Russo, a.k.a. E.S.O.M. Coinciding with the music projects, I hope to get out and DJ more; ultimately plan some kind of European tour to promote my music. Starting things off is my in-store appearance at Gramaphone Records in Chicago, on August 7th.

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Detroit – Movement Weekend 2010

Mural off of E. Grand

My first Detroit music festival weekend is in the books. It only took me 17 years to get myself in gear and now I feel more passionate about the music, people, and city than I ever did before. In five days I only got a small taste of what the city has to offer but what I got I thoroughly enjoyed. For me the trip was only nominally about the Movement festival. Sure I wanted to see some artists perform whom I’ve admired for years (Shake, Larry Heard, Model 500 to name a few), but beyond that I also needed to see the city that I always speak about with such reverence. Here is my best attempt to capture the highlights of what I experienced from this past weekend with my childhood friend/sister from another mother, Chana.

Friday, May 28th

Got into town with just enough time to catch the last two emotionally rousing songs of the screening of “Timeless Suite For Ma Dukes,” who also happened to be in attendance. “The Drive Home” documentary followed detailing the events of the first DEMF, both from the planning and execution standpoints and featured some great footage and entertaining interviews with Detroit artists and city officials that pretty much paralleled all of what was said in RA’s recent Oral History feature. Derrick May then introduced a live set from Timeline that blew smoke rings around most current techno attempting any jazz embracement. The set up included what I believed was Mike Banks on synth and drum machines, Jon Dixon on keys, sax player, and DJ as well as Carl Craig sitting in one track for some analog circuitry business similar to that new No Boundaries project. They started off with “Journey of the Dragons” and moved into newer material (“Ghost of Graystone” and an untitled cut) that will be on a forthcoming release. An encore of “Hi-Tech Jazz” got me out of my seat.

Timeline throwing down

From there it was over to the Beretta/FXHE party where Reference were laying down some techno including their own new one on Planet E. Kevin Reynolds was no where to be found, but ran into Kyle Hall sporting his “KMFH” ball cap and said hello to him. Omar S came on in the main room and served up a bumping mix of Chicago (E.S.P.’s “It’s You” in particular had me going) house, acid (a sound that became a recurring theme throughout the weekend) and ‘90s house classics before dropping some soulful Stevie Wonder and George Benson house edits. It wasn’t what I was expecting to hear but it was welcomed with open arms nonetheless.  Sound complaints pushed the volume down around 3:30 and it seemed to die down at that point. And as we left the BBQ sandwiches being slow roasted (a welcome change from the ubiquitous hot dogs in most cities) in the front were calling my name, but I passed. Still kicking myself for that.

Saturday, May 29th

First day of the festival took me on a couple detours. Mainly to Submerge—which usually open by appointment only was leaving their doors open all weekend and doing a brisk business—to buy some records (new Red Planet and Bileebob as well as that DJ John Collins-an amazing record btw) as well as a shirt for my son. Talking to Cliff there and he led us upstairs to check out the Detroit techno museum.  If you’re into Detroit techno/house history this is not to be missed is all I can say. After that we dropped in on a Los Hermanos BBQ being hosted at Tunnel 7 AKA Ray 7’s house. Great people turned up from all over both Detroit and beyond, with a common appreciation of Detroit techno and more than a few artists/DJs included. Gerald Mitchell mentioned that they might try to make this a bigger event next year at Belle Isle, so keep an eye out.

Cliff Thomas and Buzz Goree working the counter at Submerge

Submerge record racks

Got to the festival just in time to catch Kyle Hall making his debut in the Made in Detroit underground stage, mixing up the styles and tempos, from straight up club gear to Minnie Ripperton and Grace Jones to end his set. Rick Wilhite came on and took it to a deeper level. I didn’t catch all of it but heard some Gino Soccio and Sleezy D. Frank Glazer (from ISM) tweeted that he heard some Bjork but I had migrated to the Torino stage to check out Kirk Degiorgio’s Ableton enriched set. Whatever anyone says about a DJ using the laptop as a crutch it certainly isn’t true of Kirk’s performance. The man was working it up there requiring a towel to his brow every third track just to maintain visibility while pounding out some serious techno heat, dropping stuff like “Altered States” and Ian O’Brien’s “3-5-3” while keeping it current with loads of techno bangers from Ican and his own material. It certainly wasn’t as nuanced as some sets but it was a thrilling ride nonetheless. Decided to skip Theo Parrish’s set in exchange for some rest and knew we would see him later that night anyway.

Showed up for the Deep Detroit party a bit early and found out it was essentially in a theatre space with a café. Coffee in hand we got in there waiting for things to heat up and a bar to manifest. We were 1 for 2. No alcohol appeared (in keeping with the original Music Institute policy perhaps?) but the place got going as Larry Heard dropped some deeper jazzy vocal cuts and then started to intersperse them with acid tracks, but keeping the flow smooth instead of jacking up the intensity too high and burning us out.

Lone dancer on the floor at Deep Detroit

Kai Alce outside after a scorching set

Kai Alce came on and took control with a solid selection of house and disco material, none of which I can recall completely save for the last one, a gorgeously funky disco track that featured some tight jazz riffs that kept rolling along. Theo closed it out with some crazy rhythms ranging from Jamie Principle’s “Bad Boy” to an edit of James Brown that he kept stretching out the vocal longer and longer after each break. Rolling outside to catch some air I ran into Eddie Fowlkes and Omar S who flipped me some shit about my t-shirt that had “Kenny&Theo&Carl&Omar” printed on it. “Is that that ugly ass Omar over in England?” he asked. “That can’t be the handsome Omar here in Detroit,” he said while cracking a smile and asking me if I had picked up his latest release.

Sunday May 30th

This day presented some scheduling dilemmas from my perspective. Too much great talent placed at conflicting slots, creating a crisis of conscious that had me staying through to check out all of one and not some of all. I think it paid dividends too. Hitting the festival just to hear the last part of the Psycatron duo ripping out some hard-hitting techno, which included KiNK’s “Rachel “AKA” Keys Of Life, a track, I bemoaned earlier this year as being too derivative. Orlando Voorn’s live set was next and did not disappoint. He had come into town earlier in the week to practice with his back up players, Ray 7 and Dre, who accompanied him on percussion, playing synth drums. Always cool to see a drumstick knocking out a solid bass kick giving the music a human element to connect with among the synthetic sound processing. Orlando did a great job of taking the audience through some newer sounding experimental electro and techno and even dropped in classics like “Flash” and “Game One” while tweaking them out. And better yet, he did a superb job of playing the showman, giving us exaggerated facial expressions and gesturing while working the midi-keyboard and mixer. They even went so far as to pitch the tempo down during a track to a faucet drip while they moved in slow motion, with Orlando staring cross-eyed at this laptop for a good 5 seconds before kick-starting it back up.

From there it was back to the underground stage to catch the last hour of Shake, who was tearing it up, dropping funky techno joints from Wax 001 , Cooly G and his own “The Fake Left, Go Right Plan” to Kyle Hall’s new one on Hyperdub. An outstanding set that surpassed all of my expectations by providing harder edge stuff but with character, something that I’ve always admired about his productions. Rolando came up next with a non-stop set of dance floor bombs playing to the Detroit hometown crowd. I could name off about 3/4 of the set, which didn’t really excite me as much as Shake’s set, but still good to hear some tracks that I will always identify with my discovery of Detroit techno. He even fittingly dropped “Detroit: One Circle” while Rob Hood was setting up on stage beside him.

Shake blinding us with his tunes (photo taken by DTM)

Hunger and dehydration had set in by that time and it was time go grab some festival food and eat on the grass while listening to Derrick May do his thing. Again a set that contained little in the way of surprises, choosing to work the mixer and play tracks that work the crowd but with little subtlety. Pretty sure I heard both of the most recent Transmat releases as well as that “Women Beat Their Men” track he likes so much. A pity too since we ended up missing Rob Hood’s live set. After May ended it was down to the main stage, which was pretty much packed to see Inner City playing live. Stayed for a few songs, long enough to hear one of my favorites “Big Fun” but it was lacking from a muddy sound quality and lackluster performance. I guess that’s what happens when all your favorite versions are their remixes.

That night another dilemma presented itself as Metroplex 25th anniversary party, KDJ’s Soul Skate and the All In The Family party all weighed heavy as possible destinations. But we instead ended up going to the No Way Back party hosted by Interdimensional Transmissions held at the Bohemian National Home, a massive brick building in a residential area that apparently was a refuge for Lithuanian immigrants in the early part of the last century.  Got there in time to hear Serge from Clone throwing down a set that started laid back with some deep house and moved into full on acid territory. It was hard to tell when BMG came on but one of them dropped Farley Jackmaster Funk’s “The Acid Life” and set it off for me. I was certain that it had been played by Larry Heard the night before but in this context, a dimly lit, tightly packed room, and the surrounding tracks just seemed to set the mood and energy level to a bursting point. BMG finished up with some I-F, a welcome diversion to most everything else I had heard that weekend. Derek Plaslaiko came on and proceeded to play the blandest house tracks I’ve heard in years, and decided to let them play for an eternity. Needless to stay even an eagerly anticipated set from Carlos Souffront couldn’t keep us there and it was time to retire.

Monday, May 31st

I had every intention of making it down to catch the Moritz Von Oswald Trio play but a bonehead move on my part (leaving my festival bracelet back at the room), led me to miss the set entirely. At that point a visit to a record store was the one thing that was going to raise spirits and after a trip to a closed Peoples Records, it was over to Hamtramck to hit Detroit Threads. This funky store boasts both records (used and new) and clothes (vintage and music t’s). I was able to find some nice used techno and electro, quite a bit of Sistrum that I had slept on while finding a copy of the Oliverwho Factory’s “Rain 5th Wave/Together” a release that has become very hard to find after getting featured on Tama Sumo’s recent mix CD. I also ran into Kyle Hall dropping off some records for sale and some of his funny ass KMFH stickers. I thanked him for the interview he did with me way back when and we compared notes on the festival. But it sounded like he was tired as I felt at that point and not even DJ Harvey could pull me out for one more night and sadly missed Model 500 and Kenny Larkin playing live, probably the one regret of the whole trip.

While the festival had its downsides (inconsistent sound, never-ending mobs of raver kids, and obnoxious security), but all in all it was fairly minor compared to the numerous positive points about the city, people and music that overshadowed the festival itself. Thanks to so many people that I was able to meet up with, hang, kick it, dance and talk music with over those few days: Steve Mizek, Tom Cox, Frank Glazer, Minto George, Rik Simpson, Oleg Belogorsky, Jane Lerner, Donte Parks, Jeremy Borden, Jay Newhouse, Jwan Allen, Tori Jordan, Ray 7, Spore Print, Dan Caballero, Alvaro Parra, Isela Salazar, Tampopo, Mike Battaglia, Levon Vincent, Malcolm Moore, Orlando and Emily Voorn, the Butcher, Kyle Hall, Cliff Thomas, Mike Banks, Andy Garcia, Steven Cherry, and of course Chana Goodman (whose pics grace this post unless noted).

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Interview with Kai Alce – Music Institute 20th Anniversary

Even though I never got a chance to attend Detroit’s famed Music Institute, the club’s legacy has always signified something momentous about Detroit techno and house to me. Like the Electrifying Mojo, the Music Institute is just one of those things that left an indelible mark on the city’s artists and club-goers. Those that did make it to the club, be it as an every-weekend destination or just a haphazard encounter, recall it with much fervor. Just check out the testimonials over on The Music Institute Detroit facebook group page and you’ll see what an amazing time and place this was for hearing, dancing and experiencing electronic dance music. Alan Oldham wrote a great piece on his remembrances of the club and what it meant to Detroit, which can be read here. Kai Alce’s recent 12″s under the Music Institute 20th Anniversary banner have proved invaluable sources of techno and house time capsules brought to give us a taste of what those nights had to offer as well as show us what they portended. He plans to release one more 12″ and then compile them all on CD (with some extras hopefully) later this year. Alce talked to me about his involvement with the Music Institute, why he started the 12″ series and what he’s got in store for an upcoming Movement afterparty.

Q: You were originally hired to do lights at the Music Institute at 16; can you tell me how you ended up applying and getting that job?
A: I was out with a girlfriend of mine checkin out Farley @ another club & when it was over George Baker gave us an invite to a late night spot so we wet and checked it out. it was during the week and had just opened. When were leaving Chez stopped us at the door a said they were hiring that coming week. We went back and was initially hired as coat check & worked my way up 🙂 to lights. They never knew I was 16 til a year into it & by then i was on my way to college.

Q: What did the club mean to you at that age?
A: A job for one & it was cool and consistent place to hear the music I loved.

Q: What was magical about the club? What could current clubs learn from what happened there?
A: As with any club the sound & the people make it. It was a tight knit family of trendsetters from all around Detroit. Although very inviting to those that were not of that scene. The two completely different vibes that encompassed everything we were feeling and doing at that time. Also there was this amazing larger than life mural by Sarah Gregory inside the club that would mesmerize you, which never really has been seen outside of the MI, but don’t you worry after some investigation and persistence I have found a picture of it that will be enclosed in the MI disc booklet.

Q: Where you more into the Back To Basics or Next Generation night and why?
A: I enjoyed both night just as much, I mean you’re hearing the basics of the past & present on one night & the future on another, musical bliss.

Q: What was you relationship with Chez Damier like back then? Was he like a big brother to you?
A: Definitely he took me into the whole family of producers that were around then as he was the A&R @ KMS. Not to mention we found out we were distant cousins by way of marriage!

Q: Do you have a particularly fond memory or favorite experience that defined the Music Institute to you that you can share?
A: Probably the last night, which I happened to be back in Detroit for that weekend as I had just left for college a few weeks earlier. I can remember the club at frenzy, reporters from overseas, all the regulars, it was crazy. About 3am Derrick is about to get on and the booth is packed with socialites & Derrick yells “Everyone out!” & then calmly says “except you Kai. I need you to work the lights!”

Q: What made you decide that the Music Institute 20th Anniversary 12″ series was something you needed to do?
A: I actually made one track that reminded me of the MI & that spawned the idea. And as it was actually 20yrs later and no one had actually done anything to pay tribute I thought no better time then now.

Q: The Music Institute 12″s stand as documentation of that period in Detroit’s musical history. How did you convince people to let you release these unknown pieces and how far did you have to dig to find them?
A: It was quite natural as I have kept my relationship with all those involved over the years.

Q: Now the 1st 12″ you didn’t list any of the artists names but obviously can hear early Derrick May on track A1, who else is on there? What was your intention in not providing track names and artists?
A: Well I didn’t want people picking up the 12″ based on names and hype I wanted it to based on the music and the sound.

Q: The 2nd 12″ had names leaked to record stores (KZR – you, Theo, Mike Huckaby, & D Wynn), are those correct?
A: Ah, ah, ah, not yet the names and ID’s will be released when the CD is compiled that will contain never before seen pic of the inside of the MI and memories and quotes from all those involved & a few patrons from the day.

Q: What are you planning for the 3rd 12″ and a final compilation of the series?
A: All I can say it will be doozie!

Q: You recently had “Dirty South Dirt” come out on FXHE, what made you decide to have that track re-released and on 7″?
A: Well that was actually Omar S’ idea to re-release it. He had been playin the original & he was frequently asked what it was he was playing and after doing some research and realized that it was quite unavailable so he contacted me I had a version that was never released & so goes the story.

Q: You also have a limited edition 45 (featuring you, Larry Heard and a collaboration between KDJ and Theo) getting released. Is that going to be sold exclusively at the DEMF/Movement festival and is it related to the Music Institute releases?
A: No it isn’t part of the Institute Series just something special for the the attendees of the DEMF events to take back and say i was there. Last year it was the 12″ mix of Andres remix of Feeding from my first EP on NDATL.

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Running Out of Time Mix

Download: Running Out of Time Mix

1. Ron Trent – Food For Thought
2. passEnger – Tau City Inerlude
3. Blacktroniks  – Why
4. 2562 – Narita
5. Soul Center – Snoopy
6. Aybee – Love Of
7. Lars Bartkuhn – Goodbye Dancing, Hello God (Arto Mwambe remix)
8. Mr. Done – First Scene
9. K Scope – Purple Diazies
10. Yasuo Sato – I Found My Own Place In Her Whole Love
11. Kyle Hall – Kaychunk
12. Willie Graff & Tuccillo – Give You Up (Damier’s A Little More Mix)
13. Art Of Tones – Breaking Bad
14. Jaime Read – No Relief
15. Faltydl – Groove

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Ear Through The Trees vol. 1

I will be DJing on Saturday, 2/20 @ Waid’s alongside D’Jeronimo, Struggle, Grindle and Trench. This is a team up between Made Like A Tree and Ear Conscious and will  be an exciting night of cutting edge dance music and some classic sounds as well. Please come out if you are in the Seattle area.

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Current Top 10

I can’t be bothered sticking to a monthly top ten chart with any sort of consistency so let’s just call this the “Current Top 10” and be done with it.

1. Lerosa – “Rusitcales” (Further)
Taken from his debut cassette-only album  Dual Nature this track is a refreshing listen with an ambient-electronic footing. Here is my full review of this album on LWE.

2. Scott Ferguson – “In The Dales”
Anytime you can find good music for free it deserves to be talked about. This is a deep house track (heavy on the percussion) from Ferguson’s digital free download that was on offer from ISM as a Xmas present. Get it while supplies last.

3. Numbercult – “Tokyo Farhenheit” (Numbercult)
Another freebie for those on the digital tip from this Scottish label, but don’t forget to support their vinyl when Numbercult 2.4 gets a release. Intricate moody techno done sublimely well. Show these guys some love.

4. Andy Vaz – “The Y Theme” (Yore)
“What are we doing this for?” a voice asks on this track as it starts in deep house territory and evolves with jutting stabs, stuttering bongos and acidic gurgling. It answers it’s own question with: “the music.”

5. Reggie Dokes – “Yellow Toe” (Royal Oak)
Many of us know Reggie Dokes but how many of us actually understand him? The man runs in the same circles as the more popular deep house cats, but his material is always cut of its own cloth and stands out for taking chances with jazz modality and atypical melody progression.

6. Mark E – “Gunstone” (Endless Flight)
Elegant IDM posing as slow burner house. Gorgeously simple melody and groove with a bass line that talks backwards.

7. The Reminder – “Coffee First” (Etiku)
A title I completely agree with. Techno music done with heavily effected delay/reverb techniques making this a subtle monster waiting to be unleashed. A great return for this St. Petersburg, Russia-based label and French artist who goes under the name Mush, both of which had a quiet 2009 (Discogs says this came out in 2008 but I have a feeling the submission was done in anticipation of the release).

8. Big Strick – Black Talk (FXHE)
So I bought this along with a few other records direct from the label and what do you know, no charge for shipping on orders over $20 (US destined) and AOS sends a free ice-cube tray. Helluva nice guy. Oh and this track is amazing. Should have made my top 30 for 2009, but I slept on it.

9. Sensual Beings – Detached Feelings (Future Times)
Just started digging into this US label and got rewarded with this vibes, synth and piano led house track done in the spirit of early Chicago producers but with its own rich musical character.

10. Ike – Free To Fly (Philpot)
While the rest of this 12″ freely features classic samples to boost their dance floor impact its done in a fairly respectful way. This one focus more on developing an emotive strings and synth-led melody before unleashing a vocal sample and upright jazz bass line run to keep it close to the EP’s overarching theme.

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The Oliverwho Factory interview


The Detroit-based group The Oliverwho Factory (they go simply by the names Darryl and Shone) is a bit of a mystery. With a scant 10 releases under their belt since they premiered on their own Madd Chaise Inc imprint in 2003, they have created a name for themselves that is rarely heard but when it is, it’s uttered in a reverent tone. Their sound is one that doesn’t fit easily into a box; its raw and electrifying blend of soulful house and jackin’ techno has likely made them hard to market out of the gate. Which was a problem for Darryl’s previous incarnation on a major label under the name Oliver Who?, a deal that only yielded one album that focused on a range of R&B styles. That experience may be why The Oliverwho Factory are reluctant to enter into the spotlight. Whatever the reason, it’s only a matter of time before the world realizes what they’ve been missing. After sticking to small quantities of vinyl through the years they’ve made the jump to digital distribution with What People Play and saw their gorgeous slice of strut-your-stuff house “Together” featured in the mix on Tama Sumo’s recent Panorama Bar 02 mix CD, two events that will surely get them more of the exposure they deserve. In a rare interview with Energy Flash they shed some light on their beginnings, their inspirations and possible customer appreciation day next year.

Q: How did the Oliverwho Factory and Madd Chaise become a reality? Are the two synonymous, in other words was Madd Chaise created as an outlet for just your own productions?
A: We love Techno and House music! The thing that we noticed was that there wasn’t a whole lot of music that had those combined elements. Vocals were not really the thing to do with certain styles or arrangements. We wanted to change that! Oliver started creating sounds and placing them up on the now defunct Barrie at Rubadub took notice of the music and contacted us. Things started to grow from there. Madd Chaise was established in order to make us a legitimate company :-).

Q: Where did the names for the group and label originate?
A: Oliverwho Factory originated from the artist previously known as Oliverwho? (LOL) He was an experimental artist that had signed with Zoo/BMG. Unfortunately at that time Oliverwho? was too complex cause he could play all types of music from rock to, jazz to pop, therefore the label really didn’t know how to categorize/market him. …not R&B enough and not Rock enough. Interestingly enough that type of labeling or lack of label still follows us today which has defined who we are. The “Factory” came into play when “Shonie C” arrived. Just like a factory has many different components to make a “product,” she brings in the other elements of sounds to complete the whole package.

Madd Chaise not to be confused with the other MADD. It is just another part of the obscurity. If things were too easily identified some of the excitement is lost. The Extra D is for emphasis; some people use the word ‘mad’ to describe the term “crazy.” Chaise pronounced, “chase,” is just that. “It’s a mad chase in this crazy world…” People are always chasing something riches, notoriety, their dreams…etc.

Q: Are your two the sole members of the Oliverwho Factory? And if so what are both of your roles in the production of the music?
A: Yes. Oliverwho plays all instruments, writes and produces. Shonie (performs) vocals, writes and produces.

Q: How long have you both been involved in music and in what capacity before starting the Oliverwho Factory?
A: Forever! Oliver involved since around six is when he started playing drums. 1986-Spectrum Records released Oliverwho?’s “Fairytales.” 1992-Shaka Who Who Zoo/BMI, 1995- toured with Aaliyah on her European tour, Blackground Records -keyboards. Currently dance music…

Around eight Shonie began playing the piano. Wrote first song “Macaroni & Cheese,” still shopping that one. LOL. Continued to be active in all types of music from Opera competitions in high school, placed 2nd in Michigan choral vocal association first record, exciting times! Went on to sing here and there. Met up with Oliverwho and still making music.

Q: Your tracks range from deep and soulful to tough and experimental while always keeping a jazz or funk element of musicality present in the productions. What types of artists or experiences have helped shape your sound?
A: Pat Metheny, David Bowie, Loose Ends, Lenny Kravitz, Joyce Sims, the Police, B52’s, Parliment and many, many more. Experiences: Dancing in a club back in the day that was actually warehouse known as “The Warehouse.” And how we love the era of the 80’s!

Q: Your tracks also have a raw and under produced feel, is that a factor of the equipment or recording technique/approach you take?
A: We really like the feel. Our first song had a dirty, grindy, feeling that gave our music an old school sound. It became our signature we decided to stick with that identifying yet odd mood, making tweaks here and there.

Q: Coming from Detroit what artists from the city have been the biggest influence on you and why?
A: Stevie Wonder what more can one say! Pure genius. George Clinton he was one of the most theatrical and obscure as obscure can be. Pure elements of funk and soul! Carl Craig very inquisitive and an interesting person, we really appreciate the fact that he is that way in regards to his music as well. He takes risks and continuously steps outside the box! Kevin Saunderson-not afraid to have a good time nor use vocals. His interaction with his supporters fantastic. Stacey Pullen-his playing is bananas he played our J’David remix over in Europe, we’ve been supporting him ever since. Of course Rick Wilhite- he played our very first release “U Don’t Know, when everyone else said it sounded “muddy” (was meant to sound that way) thanks Rick! The pioneers of this whole dance phenomenon they know they are, without them putting Detroit on the map, it would have been difficult for newer producers to make some noise.

Q: How do you see yourself fitting into the Detroit techno and house scene? Are you tight with the more established and well-known artists or are off doing your own thing?
A: We support both scenes, for our music is greatly influenced by both. When you say tight, like homies (Lol)? We are cordial with everyone, no tension at least that we know of. We do share some interests with C2 and Monty Luke. They are a couple of nice guys.

Q: Would you say your music (songs like “We Are”, “Solitaire” or “Set Me Free”) is message driven? And if so what are some of those messages (vocals or not)?

A: Yep-Let’s take “We Are,” Did you know that there is only a 4% difference in the DNA that we as humans have? But yet so many people want to separate and divide when we are all so alike…

Q: You keep a low profile while producing some of the most exciting and creatively inspired dance music. The fact you have only been pressing a few hundred copies of releases and were previously vinyl only helped keep you obscured, was that part of an original plan to keep the label underground?
A: THANKS, Yes. Don’t really like a lot of attention, just appreciation :o) however we may have a customer appreciation day or two in 2010…Underground is just where we feel most comfortable.

Q: How did the decision come about to start releasing digitally via What People Play? Will you continue to release vinyl for future projects?
A: An opportunity was presented to us to release some music digitally and we like the idea of doing this so we went full speed ahead! Of course we will, there is nothing that compares to having vinyl pressed up the look, the smell, and feel. We grew in that era and we can’t abandon it completely!

Q: With a track (“Together”) being featured on Tama Sumo’s recent Panorama Bar mix CD you will surely see more attention. Are you planning on using that as a springboard to gain more momentum?
A: Tama Sumo such a class act! Top notch DJ and all round nice person. The project has a collection of wonderful tracks and artists that is sure to make some noise!! So if we are noticed then that is an added benefit, but we are honored just to be a part of this compilation.

Q: What will your Alternative Soul division sound like and when can we expect to see the first release?
A: Old contemporary Classic with a New Wave.

Q: What will 2010 see from both the Oliverwho Factory and Madd Chaise release-wise?
A: More heart and soul!

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The cult of numbercult


The mysterious numbercult label appeared earlier this year with a defining motto echoed in ever decreasing quantities of the techno spectrum: Digital downloads have no material value. Buy vinyl. Yet their approach is much more than a simple reactionary stance to digital music’s popularity growth, it’s a celebration of vinyl’s cultural value, its distinct and lasting tactile existence. The unknown members behind the label also form a collective of artists using numbercult as “…a platform for music production, DJing, generative animation and design; all wrapped around a love of vinyl. We like the idea of using a fluid structure with a collective, bringing together like-minded people in the spirit of collaboration under a single banner,” says representative CB. Little is known about who make up this collective as they prefer to let their combined efforts do the talking and shape an overarching identity. Strongly reminiscent of the Basic Channel or UR beginnings but even more so since these releases are simply defined as released by numbercult.

The Glasgow based label’s releases are limited to runs of 350 copies with the objective to get vinyl in the hands of those truly believe in the format. But as devoutly committed as they are to vinyl they have not neglected those that may not be able to get their hands on them, digitizing them and releasing for free under a creative commons license on bandcamp. So what do they sound like? Brilliantly executed techno with a nod to Detroit and true bang up minimalism. numbercult 1’s “Landlines” is one of my favorites, with a slow progression of rolling percussion, fizzy effects and delayed chord stabs that create a growing tidal pulse that fits nicely against tense melodic structuring. “Code Unknown” from numbercult 2.1 wields Rhythim is Rhythim type strings against frenzied bass line arpeggios and syncopated drum programming. “Skeptic” off of numbercult 2 starts off with dubstep-leaning percussion before jumping off into wobbly bleep and bass contortions and soaring synth led techno. And if the 2 mix compilations of unreleased music on their site are any indication there is plenty more next level sounds in the armory. Check out the current vinyl releases here in the meantime.

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