Every week or thereabouts, Mutant Dance Moves takes you to the shadowy corners of the dancefloor and the fringes of contemporary electronic music, where new strains and dance moves are evolving.
It used to be that dance music was identifiable with its birthplace, the city that gave rise to a certain sound or scene informing what would radiate out from it. New York City birthed disco, Philly turned out their buoyant and sumptuous strain of disco-soul, while Chicago and Detroit nurtured their own scenes and idiosyncratic sounds. London and Berlin and their attendant genres — be they drum’n’bass, minimal techno, dubstep — followed suit. But as the Internet has turned previously isolated pockets inside out, there is no longer a capitol for any particular sound. And adventurous DJs are digging beyond borders in countries that heretofore have never exactly epitomized ‘dance’ music.
“Who knew the sound of Communist Poland could be so funky?”
Take for instance Istanbul-based DJ Bariş K (née Karademir) who grew up DJing hip hop before digging Turkish folk icon Bariş Manço and embracing his Anatolian heritage. His 2009 Eurasia EP featured an edit of Manço’s 1983 track “Aman Yavaş Aheste” and introduced DJs to the type of slinky dancefloor grooves and tasty guitar licks that abounded in Turkey in the early ‘70s and ‘80s. It coincided with a wider appreciation for the psychedelic and heavily rhythmic music emanating from Turkey’s pop and rock heritage. (Labels like Finders Keepers and Sublime Frequencies have also dug up the massive bodies of work from Turkish icons like Ersen and Erkin Koray, the latter widely hailed as the Jimi Hendrix of the country.) Since then, Bariş K has DJed with the likes of François K. and Paris’s D.I.R.T.Y. Soundsystem. A week ago, LES imprint Nublu released a hefty CD compilation of Bariş’s deepest, most rubbery dancefloor fillers and now a few more of these edits are finding release on the handy 7” format.
Last year, Norwegina nu-disco godfather Todd Terje charted a curious 7” from Polish producers Maciej Zambon and Kacper Kapsa. The duo releases edits and mixes under the heading of the Polish Cut-Outs, and the duo’s first 12” (a red vinyl affair released on the Bumrocks label) kicked things off with an edit of Polish singer Franek Kimono. A friend in Krakow recently explained to me the appeal of this particular ‘70s track, in which Franek parodied disco culture as well as the cult then surrounding Bruce Lee, while also pining for the mythical West that lay just beyond the Iron Curtain. A parody at the time, Franek has been repurposed by both hip hop and dance music producers in Poland of late. The latest Polish Cut-Outs single finds Zambon and Kapsa taking on big Polish stars like Czerwone Gitary (considered the Beatles of Poland) and another retro-garage band, Breakout. Both tracks are backbeat heavy and poppy with just enough glammy and psychedelic flourishes to make a non-Polish speaking dancefloor peak. Who knew the sound of Communist Poland could be so funky?
Andrew Morgan no doubt knows how much skewed dance and boogie music resides in heretofore un-considered countries. Morgan runs both the rare record website Earcave as well as the Washington, D.C.-based imprint Peoples Potential Unlimited. Beginning in 2006, PPU has unearthed and reissued weird boogie and modern soul tracks emanating from bedrooms in Maryland and studios in the former Dutch colony of Surinam, to name just a few enclaves he’s explored. On a whim, Morgan recalled an interaction with a record dealer based in Sweden: “This record had some info on the jacket about a Syntovox Vocoder, so I took a chance on it; I’m a vocoder fanatic.” That mechanized voice belonged to an Estonian musician named Uku Kuut who had resided in L.A. for a time and had pressed up some records in Russia before returning to his homeland. Based in Tallinn now, Kuut has been putting out his particular vision of deeply funky Adult Contemporary, nearly-smooth jazz tracks for over a decade.
Morgan tracked Kuut down via CD Baby and in 2010, PPU put out a peculiar yet groovy 45 from Kuut and the two stayed in contact. Earlier this year, PPU dropped one of its most curious full-lengths to date from the man. Featuring a long-haired, sleepy-eyed teen Uku on the cover, it features a slew of demos recorded in his home studio, both in Los Angeles or in Stockholm.
Drowsy and dreamy in equal measure, the sounds anticipate the type of subliminal funk that DaM-Funk would drop decades on, with Korg and Casio melodies weaving around like honeybees as a jazzy drum machine ticks on. The response has been positive so far, says Morgan, though he added that the “… Sad thing is Uku said he lost a lot of his masters and gear during a divorce.”
Kuut isn’t operating alone though, as he frequently collaborates with his jazz singer mother, Maryn E. Coote, and thanks her for her inspiration on this album. It’s a fruitful collaboration so far and there are plans to release more of Kuut’s output, as he and his mother continue to write and record together. Morgan laughs at the thought of such a collaboration though: “I think about me and my mom trying to work on a track together… HELL NO!” Perhaps that’s just the different mores of a foreign land though, all of these nations under a groove.