Our favorite indie dance star is back with a addicting new single. Ben Browning teases his debut LP on “Make It Easy,” mixing a nice blend of synth pop, disco, indie pop and even a dash of 60s flair. The chorus is instantly memorable, and musically it’s a perfect summer soundscape. We generally love anything by Ben, but this one’s particularly special. Keep an ear out for Turns this summer
Yesterday marked the passing of house music pioneer, Frankie Knuckles. Leaving our community at the young age of 59, his legacy as a DJ, musician, and cultivator of new sound has been written about and discussed in countless interviews since his death, but the one thing that seems everyone can agree on is nothing will ever compare to seeing the Godfather of House in the flesh – in the mix – as he masterfully transitions and makes every club his new home.
With respect to what he’s left behind, these are a few of the tracks that this staple of Chicago’s music culture has bequeathed to us during his career; tracks that undoubtedly help shape the dance music culture that we see today.
“You Can’t Hide,” Frankie Knuckles. DJ International Records, 1986.
In an era that survived with the invention of drum machines and the tool of sampling, Frankie Knuckles put together his first track with the help of legendary producer Chip E. and looked back to the high energy disco music that got him playing at the Warehouse to begin with. Featuring a variety of percussion that drew inspiration from Latin beat, vocals from Teddy Pendergrass, and a bassline style which would become a signature for Knuckles’ later works as a producer, “You Can’t Hide” is the kind of deep cut that oozes house music in its purest form.
“I Want a Dog,” Pet Shop Boys. EMI, 1988.
On this track, featured on Pet Shop Boys’ 1988 album Introspective, the Chicago sound is on full blast complete with choices of snares, hi-hats, and the bassline that bumps in the background of the track. Knuckles’ production choices on this track makes this edit on Introspective a stand out cut on the album and will serve as somewhat of a predecessor to his work on a track by Hercules & Love Affair later in his career.
“Your Love,” Frankie Knuckles feat. Jamie Principle. Trax Records, 1987.
Considered by many to be the first *true* house music track out of Chicago, this version of “Your Love” was actually an update of a track that had been playing in the underground dance music scene since the early 80′s. Eventually getting recorded in the DJ booth of the now defunct club, The Power Plant, using a drum machine borrowed from fellow house music legend Derrick May, this track skyrocketed Knuckles’ career and became a track that would define him as a musician and DJ. Elements of early acid house pepper the track while his signature envelops it in a well composed bear hug making for a song that not only transcends culture, but time as well.
“The Whistle Song,” Frankie Knuckles. Virgin, 1991.
A seminal track in the Frankie Knuckles catalog, “The Whistle Song” shows a maturity in Knuckles’ skills as a producer while also showcasing a new period of dance music. Off his 1991 album, Beyond the Mix, this track is built on the foundation of a very specific 4/4 drum pattern that would define dance music for an entire generation of 80′s and 90′s babies. In other words, this is one of the tracks that would inspire artists like Clean Bandit, Duke Dumont, and just about any other artist now looking to their past for inspiration. As such, this track is part and parcel to the time in which it was made making it a high point of early 90′s electronic music.
“Blind (Frankie Knuckles Remix),” Hercules & Love Affair. DFA, 2008.
Few could ever dream to produce a remix like this one and even less could actually pull it off. A crowning achievement, and arguably Knuckles’ most famous work outside of “Your Love,” the remix of “Blind” by Hercules & Love Affair released by DFA in 2008 presented a freshness by Knuckles or, rather, an updated sound for newer gaggles of kids going out to the club. He retains his undercover bassline and references to the music that he sampled in the warehouses in his past, but he allows the cleaner, more artificial sounds to make their presence known which allows for a nice blend of organic and inorganic soundscapes to canoodle with one another.
It’s Miami Music Week, a.k.a. Winter Music Conference, and that means the international dance scene is ablaze down south. Like me, you may not be there BUT the fire does not stop burning if you’ve got some quality speakers and bass. This week’s Too Funk Tuesday’s tracks below bump, plain and simple. They are meant for DJ sets everywhere, even if you’re not in Miami. Seriously, each one is made for dance heaven. It was a struggle just ordering them…
CamelPhat feat. A*M*E – Paradigm (Amtrac’s Temptation Mix)
Amtrac is certainly a gamechanger in the house music genre and this song is genius. This is one of those tracks that reminds you why you love dance, dirty, deep, blissful dance. All DJs everywhere need to introduce this mix into their sets – incorporating its “hypnotizing melodies, chopped up vocals, and shuffling hi-hats.” The bass, the synths, and the filtered French touch are on point and I couldn’t implore you more to check this out.
Zimmer x Pallace – Saturday Love
Think about your favorite feel-good song. Take it and add an energetic bassline, piano house melody and a super funky vocal, and you have this piece of art. “Saturday Love” is deep house track with a redefining sound that makes it welcome to almost any set of ears. Music lovers beware; this track might take your heart.
Funkerman Feat. J.W. – Foolish Game (Radio Edit)
This is sensual, love-making dance music. Dutch producer Funkerman brings a whole new sexual appeal to this dance track that touches on Duke Dumont-levels. Surprisingly simple, yet you can help but lose control of your feet every time you listen to it. This is a dancefloor scorcher that is sure to bring everyone on a whole new plane. A must listen!
Blonde feat. Alex Newell – All Cried Out (The Magician Remix)
Yes…the Magician is back with another completely surreal remix of an already great track. I swear this guy has the modern-day Midas touch. Give him a hedge fund already! His remix of “All Cried Out” makes this track dance floor ready with its upbeat touch and fun feel. It still keeps the deep vibes from the original but the funk synths really give it an irresistible sound that’s unmatched. Enjoy!
Jean Tonique Feat. Iris – Guest
I’m ending TFT with a summertime jam from Parisian producer Jean Tonique. This is made for poolside parties and relaxed summer nights, its really just a great, chilled-out track that is insanely gorgeous to listen to. Borderline indie, this dance vibe gives off a great upbeat feel.
The break-up of LCD Soundsystem left a lasting impression – and a hole in the heart – for many. Since the final show at Madison Square Garden, the good people of LCD, namely the band’s patriarch James Murphy, have dedicated much of their time giving back to those who have felt like they lost their way in the post-LCD era of DFA Records; a notable attempt at fan service which, so far, has included a vinyl box set of the band’s final show and the exceptional concert documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits.
Resulting from these ripples on the fringe of mainstream culture, Murphy’s career as a DJ has seen a resurgence in the past few years and, in many ways, has seen Murphy come full-circle. His sets have become a temple of sorts – a safe space – acting as an opportunity to replenish the soul in a similar fashion to how Murphy’s live act did: by appreciating good music and making memories with good people.
His most recent stop in D.C., this past Friday at the 9:30 Club, was a testament to this reputation as a DJ and tastemaker featuring an inspired opening set by local veteran DJ and Blisspop resident Ozker, over 3 hours of deep cuts, a sea of squirming bodies drenched in sweat and filled with starry eyes, and hazy lights providing glimpses into a bygone period of going out and being young and stupid. However, this is no shock to anyone privy to Murphy’s career as he’s built much of his image by being dominated by his influences from music’s past including Bowie, Eno, Byrne, disco greats like Donna Summer, and members of the 80′s new wave such as New Order or the Human League. And for that, his choices as a curator are eclectic and fresh allowing audiences to give themselves up to the music. But what really ties his parties together are the people, the majority of whom happen to be on a similar wavelength with Murphy both in mind and soul. These are the types of people who could give two shits about getting the perfect picture for their Instagram feed because they’re there to appreciate the art of music, going out, and the love of sharing that appreciation with others due to the magic it represents.
This is why the crowd bursted into euphoria when James Murphy dropped tracks like the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place” and Fern Kinney’s “Love Me Tonight.” Or why there was practically an eruption into anarchy as he played out Rare Earth’s mind-melting drum number, “Get Ready.” It’s because Murphy is a master of manipulating the crowd even if he is in a makeshift booth hidden from sight in the wings of the club. He understands that music is universal. That it’s in the very fiber of our being: it allows us to feel; to love; to understand the idea of ‘home.’
It’s this element that made LCD Soundsystem so important, truthful, and real to so many people. And it’s important to acknowledge this imprint: for a great number of those in attendance, Murphy’s parties like the one thrown at the 9:30 Club are an act of trying to relive the moments that made the idea of LCD so tangible to them. For others, it’s the chance to see what it is like to be one of the few people who can say, “I was there.” But regardless of motive, rhyme, or reason, Murphy gets it because he, too, is a member of the pack. The misfits. The weirdos. The romantics. It’s a quality that has made his DJ sets so honest and sublime. The experience you get is one that reaches past borders like age, creed, or artifice.
Ultimately, his goal is to get you to feel something whether it’s by playing Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” or by exposing newcomers to the powerful vocals at the beginning of Montana Sextet’s “Who Needs Enemies.” It’s about inviting you to leave your baggage at the door to be a part of something inclusive and beautiful. To feel like you’re at the top of the world. And as the night winds down and the music begins to reverberate around the dancehall, you’re one of the last ones left with friends by your side and Murphy humbly turns on his microphone to thank you because, let’s face it, not everyone gets the opportunity to play other people’s music and become famous for it, you momentarily see the beauty in what’s around you.
Going to see James Murphy spin is about going out to dance yourself clean which, perhaps, is the best kind of legacy – and purest experience at a dance venue – one could ever hope for. This is what dreams are made of.
This is ‘The Spotlight.’ Many artists pass through D.C. on a weekly basis, but this column highlights one specific artist who happens to be playing in the district during the week so that you may join their journey in influencing the house music landscape.
Sleazy McQueen. Since the early 2000s, the self-described ‘disco edit vanguard’ has carved himself a small, but dedicated estate of dance music aficionados after years of curating deep cuts and crafting a signature sound blended from parcels of the deep house and nudisco pantheons of sound. 100% self-made and having gone to and from nothing multiple times in the attempt to find himself in music, McQueen’s journeys led him into a constant state of evolution – the true mark of genius in any field – before eventually founding the indie label Whiskey Disco in 2009.
Since establishing himself in the dance community, Sleazy McQueen has traveled all over the world playing world class clubs in South America, Madrid, and Tokyo and spots during the Winter Music Conference and Electric Daisy Carnival. His relentless touring schedule, eccentricities, and steady stream of well-executed disco edits and reworks has made him a diamond in the rough in the dance music community at large making his sets a go-to experience for anyone looking to go beyond the normal electronica atmospheres and events.
This week, you can see Sleazy McQueen at the Eighteenth Street Lounge in Downtown D.C. on Saturday, March 28.