Hot on the heels of his last video opus, the magnificent “Earthquake” (which we posted about here), SSION, aka Cody Critcheloe, is back with another clip taken from last year’s excellent Bent long-player.
Both the music and the video styles are different this time round, with the slick dance-pop sounds of “Earthquake” and “My Love Grows In The Dark” eschewed in favor of a darker, electro-rock sound and a straight-to-camera performance. There’s hints of Suicide in here, and also 90s industrial music. SSION’s gender-bending edge remains intact though, with the particularly fine shortening of the Marshall amp logo to simply “Marsha”.
As Cody mentioned in his exclusive DM interview from the start of the year, he plans to make a video for every song on Bent, and it looks like he’s going to make that happen. He has already been teasing his fans with still from the video for the track “Psy-Chic”, possibly my favorite on the album, and there’s an open casting call for folks to star in the video for “Luvvbazaar”. But for now, we’ll just have to do with this:
SSION “Feelz Good (4-Evr)”
As I have mentioned numerous times on here, SSION’s Bent was one of my favorite albums of last year, and I actually included “Feelz Good (4-Evr)” on my Dangerous Minds round up of the best music from 2011. Here it is again for those that missed it:
Hilum is a strikingly beautiful and quite spooky fantasy created by marionette designer and manipulator Patrick Sims of Les Antliaclastes puppet theater.
The manipulators dressed and masked in white lace become a part of the surreal world of Hilum as they interact with the puppets in an opium-like dream. In medical terminology hilum is the point where blood vessels and nerves enter and begin to vein their way through an organ, not unlike an umbilical cord or a puppet’s strings, carrying energy and primal instruction - magic embodied.
Hilum takes place in the basement laundry room of a second-rate Natural History Museum. The cellarage is populated by a host of dubiously adorable urchins who have, for some reason or other, been cut off from the rest of the kingdom of curiosities that has remained ordered upstairs. Orphaned and liberated from their hosts, the prenatal rascals amuse themselves as most children would do at this age. Washer-women attend to their opus of bleaching laundry, despite the frequent shenanigans of the children.What starts off as mere women’s work and child’s play eventually becomes impossible. In the cubic crucible- whites mix with colours, wools are washed with warm water, the cat is chucked into the heavy duty rinse… and playtime quickly becomes a downright theatre of cruelty.
Video directed and filmed by Sébastien Jousse, Franck Littot and Benoit Millot.
Hey LA, watch out, ‘cos Christeene is comin’ for you! Tomorrow night sees the obscene (and obscenely talented) drag phenomena bringing her filthy ass to your town, to terrorise the locals, and officially launch her debut album Waste Up, Kneez Down with a live performance at Trannyshack on Sunset Blvd.
And what a damn good album it is! Make no mistake: Christeene may come across like a novelty act, pushing drag to its most unacceptable social limits, but there is a true artist at work here, with a style, voice and a sound that is completely unique.
Waste Up, Kneez Down is the best album to come out of any kind of “queer” underground in a loooong time. Christeene (aka performance artist Paul Soileau) has really come through with the potential she showed in her early clips, and delivered a fully-rounded, tight-as-hell, funky and filthy album that can hold its own against anyone else in dance and electronica.
Producer JJ Booya has done an excellent job here. There’s shades of the dirty south and British dubstep in the bass and the beats, with a majority of the tracks being guaranteed dancefloor dynamite. The less dancefloor-orientated songs are like the demented, bizarre offspring of R Kelly and Beyonce, kids that came out all wrong and remain chained up in the basement, but in their isolation have developed a surreal and shocking humour all of their own. Just what exactly are you “Workin’ On Grandma” with, Christeene?!
I haven’t been as excited about a queer act since I first heard Yo Majesty, and there’s even some mumblings about Waste Up, Kneez Down being the first true successor to The Teaches Of Peaches. And maybe it is. Yeah, it’s that good.
You can buy (and hear) Christeene’s debut album over at CD Baby, and if you are anywhere near Trannyshack LA tomorrow night, then this is one show that’s a MUST. To whet your appetite, here’s an interview with the lady herself, care of the very nice people at Austin’s Vesper magazine, who did us all a favour by subtitling Christeene’s guttural drawl. There’s also some neat footage of Christeene performing live (and performing lewd acts) with her dancers, so you know what to expect.
Here’s a brand new mix created exclusively for Dangerous Minds. It features some of my favorite tracks of 2012 as well as some much-loved “oldies.” It’s 70 minutes long, so strap yourself in for a long ride…or just get up and dance.
‘Synchron City’ is where it all comes together.
She Brings The Sunlight - Richard Hawley
Dandelion - Baby Woodrose
Ode To Sad Disco - Mark Lanegan
Desert Raven - Jonathan Wilson
Cellophane - Ladyhawke
Fuji-san - Patti Smith
Down In The Woods - Richard Hawley
Bedazzled - Peter Cook
Invaders Of The Heart - Jah Wobble
Shake A Tail - Big Wheel
House In Motion - Talking Heads
Unknown Mix - The Siren
Kas Product - Never Come Back
Hit Of Space - Human League
Abode Of The One - Anuradha
Of all the disco labels active during the genre’s golden age, very few match Harlem’s P&P records for cult status and obscure collectability (you see, I’m not immune to wanting great music!)
Founded by NYC in the late 70s by Peter Brown and Patrick Adams (hence the name P&P), the label was responsible for some of the era’s biggest dancefloor hits, songs that still get played out today, and have formed the backbone of many a modern track, even thirty years later.
P&P had a distinctive sound that is almost instantly recognisable. Very heavy on the drums and percussion, their productions were a direct progression from the raw funk of the early 70s. This was music that came from the street rather than the nightclub, and while it was rougher and tougher and a lot less slick than the bigger labels like Salsoul or Prelude, in terms of pure dancefloor funkability it matched them step for step.
P&P worked with many different artists, under many different aliases and with a dizzying array of off shoot labels, but the core songwriting (and playing) was always down to Adams & Brown, who would often knock out the work of entire band on their own, overnight, in the studio. To this day, Patrick Adams is one of the most respected back-room technicians (and commercial songwriters) working in the biz.
There have been a few different compilations of the P&P catalog before (most notably the Disco Juice compilations on Counterpoint Records, and an introduction to the label compiled the respected NYC DJ Danny Krivit) but this one is different. It is basically the ENTIRE output of P&P and associated labels, and stretches to an incredible 15 CDs. And, most surprising of all, at roughly $40/£20, it’s nowhere close to busting your wallet! That’s a hell of a lot of bang for your buck.
The set comes in MP3 download format, a 15 CD box set, and a deluxe box set that is a bit more pricey but includes bonus materials like liner notes, original promotional material, and two special 12"s for use with Serato or on normal turntables. UK readers can find the box set at decent dance music retailers like Phonica, while Stateside it seems like the MP3 and deluxe versions may not be out, but you can still get the CD collection via Amazon. It’s probably worth rooting around your preferred independent retailers for this, too.
I can’t recommend this set highly enough, especially for our readers who STILL linger under the misapprehension that disco was a commercial fad that sprung fully formed, shiny and covered in glitter, from the belly of the corporate beast. This is REAL disco, with its roots in the streets, the block parties and the underground clubs and bars. Here is one of my all time favourite disco tracks, ‘Out Of Work” by Jesse Gould, a socially aware disco record whose sentiment still rings very true 35 years later.
After the jump there’s more great music from this incredible label, all of which is available on ‘Hits Hits Hits’...
Sure, there may be one or two synths missing (why no SH-101?), but this is the fullest set of synth-cushions I have yet seen. It would also make a great home studio.
On a related note, today, for one day only, the Arturia company are giving away a soft synthMoog emulator that is usually worth over $200. There is more info on that offer (too good to be true?) on the Arturia Facebook page.
I’m a big fan of SSION, but you should know that by now. SSION, aka songwriter, performer and music video director Cody Critcheloe, has just brought out the second video from last year’s dance-pop magnum opus Bent, and it’s killer.
A logical progression from its predecessor “My Love Grows In The Dark”, “Earthquake” sees an androgynous alien-boy moving through a landscape that is simultaneously pop-art bright and druggily disconnected. All the time SSION is beckoning him on, from his iPad, from his TV, from his four-by-four, all the way up to their final, honey-soaked encounter:
Power trio: Lydia Lunch, Bertei and Anya Phillips.
If you lived in downtown New York City during the late 1970s and were a fan of new music, the odds are you encountered Adele Bertei. She was a member of seminal No Wave band The Contortions and could be seen performing and hanging out at the Mudd Club, Pep Lounge and CBGB’s, along with a formidable number of musicians and artists that made those clubs their second homes.
Petite and powerful, Bertei is a renaissance woman, much like her hero Patti Smith, who can operate within the worlds of music, literature, dance and film with a fine-tuned ferocity and grace. Moving from the unhinged funk of The Contortions to dance floor hits produced by Jelly Bean Benitez, Arthur Baker and Thomas Dolby weren’t no big thang for the mercurial Bertei. The transition from No Wave to New Wave and disco may have had a commercial design but Bertei did it all without selling her soul. Along with a number of downtown bands (Blondie, Talking Heads) she expanded her range, infiltrating the discotheques with bohemian raps riding big beats. Even her slicker stuff had a knowing quality that said “I can do this stuff too. So, why not.” The walls between uptown and downtown were crumbling, along with the bridges, subways and ghettos.
Bertei is working on a memoir, No New York: Adventures in the Town of Empty, which will chronicle her experiences in New York City from 1977 to the late-1980’s. Those were amazing years to be in Manhattan and if anyone can get at the heart of what made it such a wildly creative time, Bertei is the person to do it. She’s developed into a very fine writer - precise, heartfelt, tough and delicate. Her life story is the story of a city in flux and the people who rode the crest of a very tumultuous pop culture wave. Her early years alone include a stint as Brian Eno’s personal assistant through the Contortions and her all-girl band The Bloods to being a major label artist and collaborator with musicians as diverse as Matthew Sweet, Lydia Lunch, John Lurie, Scritti Politti and Sparks. If you’re interested in learning more about No New York: Adventures in the Town of Empty check this out.
My own experiences of Bertei were the several occasions on which I saw the Contortions and The Bloods. Uncompromising as hell, both bands took traditional funk and rock styles and played them with an aggressively manic edge that mirrored the vibes of a city hovering between decay and resurrection while also serving as a kind of curative - a headshot to the zombies that lurked at the edges of night.
It is arguable that artists and musicians did far more to exorcise the dark spirits embedded in New York City of the Seventies than the useless politicians helplessly choking on clots of meaningless rhetoric and the cops randomly arresting harmless panhandlers while heroin dealers ruled the Lower East Side with impunity. In clubs like CBGB’s, we gathered to re-fuel our engines before returning to the garbage-strewn streets, with their wall-to-wall carpeting of glassine bags, dessicated condoms and dog shit, to look the dead-eyed rat of reality straight in its big fucking smirk of a face. Within this doomsday scenario, we chose to contort ourselves into shapes that hieroglyphed our inner urgency to drown out, with the beat of drums and clang of metal, the grim wails of sirens that tore through the dank poisonous air like sonic razorblades. We had come to make a bigger noise. We weren’t going to take the shit of civilization lying down. We were going out fighting or at least fucking things up. As it is, some of us made art that cooled the jets of the degenerate culture of death. While Rome burned, we did more than fiddle. We rocked.
The videos I’ve included here give testimony to Bertei’s range and musical spirit. Stiff Records’ motto “fuck art, let’s dance” was good to be sure. But in Adele Bertei’s world, you can create art while dancing because they’re the same fucking thing. I know Stiff was trying to make a point about pretentiousness in music, and No Wave was an easy target for that argument, but when the Mudd Club (co-founded by Anya Phillips, Contortionist James Chance’s lover) opened its doors in 1978 and punkers had a dance club they could call their own it was amazing how quickly we went from cretin hopping to eventually burning down the house. The demonization of disco seemed like a waste of time. And segueing from “Le Freak” to “I Wanna Be Sedated” was as smooth as the seats on the L train.
“Jackie is a punk, Judy is a runt
They went down to the Mudd Club
And they both got drunk
As many times as you may tell your story, it is true that it will never be the same as you are never the same. Memory is flux as is life, although some people may tell you you never change. Stay away from those people. Weed the snakes from your garden. Navigate always toward the love. No matter how much they tell you we are born alone and die alone, it doesn’t make the need for love any less necessary to the in-between.” A. Bertei.
When he moved back to Dundee, Billy Mackenzie didn’t have any recording equipment in his home, and would spend hours in the local ‘phone booth, singing his latest ideas down the line to his record producer. It was typical of the maverick singer and musician whose life ran like a series of connected film scenes, from his early marriage in Las Vegas, to the excesses and glamor of his career as one half (with the prodigiously talented Alan Rankine) of the perfect pop duo The Associates.
Starting out in the mid-1970s, The Associates went on to create a giddy, euphoric soundtrack, around Billy Mackenzie’s incredible voice, which thrilled throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. From the opening chords of “Party Fears Two”, a new world of sensation opened - a world of expectation, excitement, pleasure, hurt and despair - emotions that in time came to reflect Mackenzie’s life.
As their success grew, so did the money (reputedly millions) and drugs (there’s a story of Rankine and Mackenzie being kept on heart monitors for 4 days after ingesting excessive amounts of cocaine), and the fears about performing (a tour of America was canceled days before it was to take place). Rankine eventually quit the band. Mackenzie carried on. Until in the 1990s, the record label were no longer willing to pay for Billy’s unfettered genius. Told of their plans over lunch, Billy only asked for one thing, a taxi home. An account cab was booked, thinking Mackenzie was only returning to his London address, instead he took it all the way back to Dundee, in Scotland.
As Marc Almond points out in this documentary on Mackenzie, The Glamour Chase, Billy must have known genuine heartache to sing with such painful beauty. Tragically, it was such heartache, this time over his mother’s untimely death, that led Billy Mackenzie to commit suicide, at the age of 39, in 1997. Such a terrible loss that revealed the darkness at the heart of The Associates’ music.
With contributions from Alan Rankine, Paul Haig, Siouxsie Sioux, Marc Almond, Martin Fry, Glenn Gregory and Billy’s family, The Glamour Chase is a moving testament to the scale of Billy Mackenzie‘s talent.
Horse Meat Disco are one of the most recognisable names in the modern dance music landscape, a four-piece dj unit known for their top quality record selection as well as their rather cheeky “boner horse” logo.
Focusing heavily on disco music, Horse Meat have done much to rehabilitate that maligned genre in the eyes and ears of the club-going public, and have already released three compilations of rare disco gems on the London-based funk and disco Strut label.
Their weekly party in South London’s Vauxhall is a free-for-all of dancefloor intensity and wickedly positive vibes. It’s overtly-gay, yet open-for-all, and its friendly atmosphere has done wonders to re-establish gay clubbing (and clubbing period) as something cool and fun to do in these down-at-heel times. By concentrating, heavily but not exclusively, on music from the 70s and 80s, Horse Meat have reconnected the modern gay audience with their own, often overlooked, history and culture, and serve as a timely reminder that going out, getting out of it and dancing ‘til the wee small hours was not invented yesterday.
In short, they’re legendary. And it’s my favorite club. To me, the best description of Horse Meat Disco comes from the Brixton DJ and label owner Andy Blake, who calls the club “roots music for the gay community.”
For their latest podcast, the second in a new series being made available through Soundcloud, Horse Meat Disco DJs James Hillard and Luke Howard have put together over an hour of their favorite tracks by Donna Summer, who died last week at the age of 63.
It’s a suitably joyous, and touching, celebration of disco’s reluctant female queen, and features much of her work with super-producers Giorgio Moroder and Quincy Jones, including a whole side of the excellent 1977 LP Once Upon A Time. Although generally regarded as a “singles” artist, Summer had some killer album tracks, as demonstrated here. She could also turn her hand to straight-up soul as opposed to icy electronica, and must rank as one of the most sampled artists of all time.
I wonder if any current musical “gay icons” will leave such a lasting legacy?