Beyond The Beats With Homework
Just because we are Deep House Amsterdam doesn’t mean we don’t have a passion for other kinds of music. The same goes for all the DJ/producers that we feature each day, they too have a broad musical taste and are probably not only listening to to the music they play in clubs every weekend. In our new segment ‘Beyond The Beats’, popular artists are given the chance to step outside of the modern dance music sphere, and let them give you an insight into their favorite pieces of music from other genres that they hold dear. Music that has special meaning to them, music that has helped shape them to be the artists they are today. Ten songs with ten special, personal stories that explain the love for the chosen music. So sit back and take a minute to get to know the person behind the DJ a little better. And who else could kick off this new concept than our Amsterdam brothers and eclectic musical connoisseurs: Homework.
Gábor Szabó – Keep Smilin’
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When Tom and I went to New York and Chicago last year to play a couple of gigs we took a lot of time to hop from one local record store to the next. I found this gem at A-1 Records in East Village, NYC: a relatively small record store with an impressive catalogue of secondhand vinyl for very affordable prices. A great place to spend your Sunday afternoon, forget about your hangover and flip through dusty LPs.
Gábor Szabó was a Hungarian guitarist whose output was mostly rooted in jazz music, but suffused with different styles like pop, rock, funk and Hungarian folk music. He was one of the precursors of what would later become fusion and jazz-rock, but he rarely gets mentioned together with more recognized innovators like Miles Davis, Weather Report and Return To Forever. Don’t be put off by the first two minutes of this track – as they might seem a bit cheap and cheesy – cause the moment Szabó starts his guitar solo… It’s a perfect record to end a dj-set with. And that is exactly what we did during our debut at Le Bain at The Standard with the skyline of New York as one of the best backdrops you could have.
Tangerine Dream – Love On A Real Train
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If there’s one track I wish I had produced, it’s this one. Tangerine Dream are one of the pioneers of the Berlin School of electronic music: a 70’s movement formed by Berlin artists like Klaus Schulze and Ash Ra Tempel. Another luminary from this movement is Mannuel Götsching, whose hypnotizing 1984 album, ‘E2-E4‘, I consider to be an absolute masterpiece. E2-E4 is a 58-minute collage of modified guitar licks, atmospheric synth melodies and sturdy beats. While the record was never intended to reach a dance music audience it would end up being a huge success in the underground club circuit and one of the most important foundations for the development of genres like techno, house and contemporary ambient electronics.
Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells‘ album paved the way for more experimental music serving as scores for movies. Hollywood picked up on that trend and so it was that Tangerine Dream began an impressive career in producing movie soundtracks. In the 80’s the band produced more than thirty of these, one of them for Tom Cruise’s ticket to fame: Risky Business. Love On A Real Train is taken from this album and will forever be my definitive soundtrack of the 80’s.
Arthur Russell – This Is How We Walk On The Moon
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I discovered this track while watching the 2008 documentary ‘Wild Combination: A Portrait Of Arthur Russell‘ – an absolute must-see for any self-respecting music lover. The American musician Russell was a man of contradictions: he was a classically schooled cellist with a renowned role in the minimal music and avant-garde scene, but on the other hand he would also become a tastemaker of 70’s disco and one of the founders of modern electronic dance music. An enormously talented, obsessive musician, who passed away in 1992 at the young age of 40. “Arthur, in a way, was not tied to any of these styles. Arthur was tied to Arthur.”
Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity – Light My Fire
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A couple of years ago I was browsing through my dad’s immense record collection and stumbled upon an LP by Julie Driscoll, Biran Auger & The Trinity. The artwork of Street Noise, their 1969 final collaboration, was dark and strange and I was instantly propelled to put it on a record player. One track immediately stood out: Light My Fire. It’s an inspired reading of one of the hits of the time, originally written by The Doors. I absolutely detest The Doors! But this version is miles away from their original and a far, far better incantation. The entire album is just brilliantly innovative and a must-have package for anyone interested in Auger & Driscoll’s music and psychedelic rock music in general.
Luboš Fišer - Matching Mirrors / Morgiana’s Prowl
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Record store Concerto was, while we worked there, an inexhaustible spring of all kinds of music. I can remember that a colleague of mine once handed me a compilation from the Finders Keepers label that featured this track by Czech composer Luboš Fišer. Morgiana’s Prowl is one of the arrangements from his score for the movie Morgiana, directed by one of the most important directors of the Czech New Wave, the criminally underrated Juraj Herz. Fišer is beloved via the cult classic ‘Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders’ for which he also provided a mesmerizing and dreamy score. Both Valerie and Morgiana stem from a hectic (censorship) period in Czech cinema after to the so-called Prague Spring of 1968. Morgiana usually being appointed the last film of the Czech New Wave.
Fišer’s work could be dubbed avant-garde, but finds a sumptuous originality through his personal touch. His ‘leitmotivs’ are dizzying, his orchestral tones dark, his percussion unsettling and his melodies stirring.
Aphex Twin – Alberto Balsalm
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As far as I can remember Albert Balsalm was the first track I downloaded with the P2P sharing program SoulSeek (Man, I feel old when I realize I even used Napster when that was still around…). This was before YouTube made unknown music just one mouse click away, so I waited and waited while my mother’s 56kbps modem slowly downloaded Alberto. This probably took about half an hour in those days, but I ended up being the proud owner of a real, illegally acquired 128kbps mp3… And there was much rejoicing!
I discovered the genius of Aphex Twin through a strange manner. In those days I had started listening to Lemon Jelly – a British duo who were known for their sample-based, tongue-in-cheek down-tempo electronica – and while checking out their discography on AllMusic.com I spotted a list of similar artists. For some weird reason the list featured not only Mr. Scruff and Luke Vibert, but also Orbital and the Mozart of my generation, Richard D. James, also known as Aphex Twin. The aforementioned artists will agree with me that he doesn’t really belong on a list with them, but that might also have to do with the fact that his work is completely unclassifiable.
Alberto Balsalm, the tenth track from his third and most consistent album, ‘I Care Because You Do‘, is just one of the many masterpieces his legacy consists of. And what an oeuvre it is, still to this day, sounding innovative, versatile and incomprehensibly crafted. There are a lot of artists I listen to and I ask myself “How the hell did they fabricate this?” But with Aphex Twin I so fully don’t have a clue as to how he produces his music that it sometimes makes me desperate. Why would I have a place in the music industry when there’s this dude from Cornwall with an Einsteinian mastermind laying down the most demented drum patterns and lushest pads? Alberto’s complementing melodies are perfect and, not trying to sound pathetic, contain tons real emotion.
Ennio Morricone – Metti Una Sera A Cena
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When Deep House Amsterdam offered us to do this selection I knew one thing for certain: Ennio Morricone would definitely make the cut. But which of his compositions would I select? When I started out in the stock department of Concerto I slowly became friends with a colleague called Joris. Joris isn’t only one of the most sincere people I’ve ever met; he also had a stunningly broad taste in music ranging from death metal to IDM to Japanese prog-rock. He would teach me far more than he will ever know. During our work we used to exchange our finds and so it happened I developed a weakness for one of Joris’ favorite soundtrack composers, Ennio Morricone. His scores for The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, Once Upon A Time In The West and Cinema Paradiso are so well-known that at the first sound of a harmonica anybody would be reminded of the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, for whom Ennio did his most identifiable work. But his works are far more wide-ranging than his ‘hits’ would make you assume. The Rome-based composer has literally made hundreds of soundtracks, some for genuinely mediocre or terrible French gangster movies or Italian ‘giallo’ horrors. Legend has it there was a month in the 70’s where there were three movies released each accompanied by a score by the Italian master… This is also a reason that a lot of his more obscure work sounds very similar, but not less superb. It’s these b-shlock soundtracks, which for some might sound like ‘elevator music’, that I hold so dear.
This live registration of a concert in Venice gives me goose bumps every time I watch it. Morricone conducts a piece called ‘Metti Una Sera A Cena’, which was originally composed for the soundtrack of a 1969 Italian movie with the same name. Melodies on top of melodies and strings doubling horns, etc. etc. His arrangements are magical in their simplicity and utterly inimitable.
I had a dozen alternatives for this spot, from soundtracks like Maddalena and Le Casse to Le Clan Des Siciliens and Le Professionel, but I ended up going for this one because I can’t wait to see the man and his orchestra live in the Ziggo Dome on the 12th of April!
The Other People Place – Lifestyles At The Laptop Cafe
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We’ve had endless discussions about what the finest track is from the best album of James Stinson – who sadly passed away far too early in 2002. Stinson was born and based in Detroit and will forever be remembered for the music he produced under the Drexciya-pseudonym. Lovers of abstract, analog techno/electro hold albums like Neptune’s Lair and Harnessed The Storm, both released on Tresor, in high regard.
But for us there is only the immaculate Lifestyles At The Laptop Cafe. The album is so flawless that we’ve never agreed on its one and only highlight. That’s why I’ve included it in its entirety in this selection. Each and every time I put the needle on this record it inspires me to get back into the studio. Even though the minimalism and oldskool vibe is far away from our output and the rest of Stinson’s work as well. Some tracks sound like extremely stripped-down versions of work by Yellow Magic Orchestra, but without being the extravagance. ‘Lifestyles’ is full of rain-drenched warm chords, dark-street rhythms and a sense of unpretentious melancholia.
The reason why I love this album so much is beyond me. But I remember that, during my time at Concerto, I would sneak to the dance department to get the sole copy we had in stock to play it at the movie section where I was working. Because of this I’ve heard it so many times, sometimes even subconsciously, that Stinson’s music has become a part of my musical DNA.
Sedan – Security
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I discovered the underrated mid-80’s combo Sedan while I was, what I would call, ‘Youtube digging’. Every once in a while I’ll take a couple of hours to get lost on YouTube to find myself stumbling on lost gems. If you know the right channels you can get lost in a spiral of clicking on this and that and then some. I’ve discovered artists like Toni Campo, Cortex and Idris Muhammad in this fashion. Many of these finds would find their way to our blog, that has become a sort of library of our sources of inspiration.
I wasn’t aware of the obscurity of the sole album effort when I fell in love with the mellow funk of Sedan. Their 1985 debut LP was released on Cotillion, which also released music by well-known disco/soul artists like Sister Sledge and Mass Production. But it’s hard to find any information about the musicians behind Sedan and the self-titled album. Through Orpheo from Red Light Radio I learnt that the album is a beloved rarity in vinyl lover circles, changing owners for mad money on eBay. It seems the record flopped when it was released in 1985, even though the somewhat cheesy jams are built on solid grooves. With this in mind the tracks bear a sort of tragedy. It’s a fine example of how great music can disappear in the grand scheme of history. How artists can sometimes end up not being on the right time at the right place. It seems odd, since the entire LP echoes influences from Prince and Cameo.
Johnny Hartman & John Coltrane – Lush Life
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I wholeheartedly accept the fact that there’s a part of my personality that could be described as romantic, melancholy and therefore pretentious. It’s a way of looking at things that most sane people forget about after their puberty. Alas that never happened to me. During my high school days I would raise eyebrows when listening to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, while Limp Bizkit was teaching my generation that it was all for ‘the Nookie’. My appreciation for Sinatra was actually sparked when I learned that the grandfather I had never known – he died when my dad was in his teens – used to listen religiously to a very specific and obscure Sinatra album, ‘A Man Alone‘. It’s an extremely melancholic work that is mostly considered as a failure in the works of ‘Ol Blue Eyes and is based on the poetry of Rod McKuen. A Man Alone is all about sadness, loneliness and memories of days gone by. While my love for Sinatra has somewhat waned over the years, I still consider him the instigator for my affection for vocal jazz and ‘crooners’. They can play Dean Martin when they lower my coffin into the ground. I still listen to Julie London on a daily basis. And I know most of the Rat Pack shows word for word.
I discovered ‘Lush Life’, from the album of the same name by Johnny Hartman and master saxophonist John Coltrane, while listening to a majestic mixtape by No Regular Play. I’m not really sure as to why ‘Lush Life’ hits a nerve with me. But I know it has something to do with my own downheartedness, my blues and the wonderful way the song paints an all too familiar picture: “Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life / to get the feel of life from jazz and cocktails.”