This week I have a quick round-up of recent albums and mixes that have been getting lots of dance moves from Mutant Dance Moves at home and in public. Here’s five that come highly recommended as the summer swelters on.
1. Various Artists — Originals Vol. 7 (Claremont 56)
Quickly disappearing from shops is the CD compilation Originals Vol. 7, part of the Claremont 56 label’s ten-part series featuring DJs digging deep for some of their most rara avis selections. This time around, the set features Rong Music’s Jason “DJ Spun” Drummond and Ben Cook, but it’s not the seventh entry in the series but rather the penultimate one, following Vol. 8 and 9 (released earlier this year). And after the tenth volume is released, there will be a hefty vinyl box set featuring selections from all of the mixes. If deep knowledge about release dates, serial numbers, different B-side mixes, UK-only promos and the like are your thing, this is the set for you, as each edition of this series has featured impossibly rare tracks unearthed by some of the western hemisphere’s most dedicated diggers, ranging from Moonboots to Sean P. to Phil Mison.
2. Various Artists: Psychemagik Presents Magik Sunrise (Leng)
The British duo Psychemagik first popped up in the midst of the disco edit renaissance of 2010, releasing singles that extended and toughened up the drums of artists ranging from Talking Heads and Wang Chung to uh … David Crosby, magically making them dancefloor-friendly. Last year, they released a comp of wholly unknown fare called Magik Cyrkles, a set that disappeared almost overnight from shops. Strange, cheesy, musty and funky as that one was, their latest comp, Magik Sunrise, is a soundtrack for the absolute end of the night, when dawn’s early light begins to grow. As so, it moves a bit slow for the first half, gradually picking up some soft rock, reggae and lite jazz grooves by the third side, just in time for brunch.
3. Beautiful Swimmers — Son (Future Times)
Andrew Field-Pickering has had a busy 2013. First he released his second solo album, House of Woo, then followed it up with another 12” under the name of Dolo Percussion. There was even time to team up with Peaking Lights and labelmates Protect-U for a 21st century soundclash inna dub style opening up for Lee “Scratch” Perry this past May.
Somewhere in there though, he found time to connect with his partner Ari Goldman and finish the first Beautiful Swimmers’ full-length, some four years after their debut single. And even if Son hadn’t come out digitally right before the Fourth of July, it feels like the perfect summer soundtrack. Standout tracks like “Running Over” and “Big Coast” are like David Hockney’s series of pool paintings: vibrantly bright, blocky, surreal and gently warped, with luminous lattices of light at play across their surfaces.
4. Rodion G.A. — The Lost Tapes (Strut)
I’m a sucker for rudimentary drum machines, whether they power Sly Stone, Shuggie Otis, or the entirety of last year’s astonishing Personal Space comp, as well as a fan of crude electronic components. So when a Paleolithic-era drum beat sputtered to life on “Alpha Centauri,” the opening track on this heretofore-unknown Romanian ’70s rock act Rodion G.A., I was immediately hooked. The brainchild of Romanian musician Rodion Ladislau Rodion Roșca and a few like-minded friends, Rodion G.A.’s recently compiled set, The Lost Tapes, provides a fascinating peek into the underground sound of this communist country at a time when western music of all stripes were all but contraband. At times, compilations from second and third world countries can tend to be knock-offs of better-known pop acts of the era (and I really don’t need to hear Nigerians sound like James Brown or Kool and the Gang again), but what fascinates about Rodion G.A. is the fecundity of their imagination when cut off from the outside world. These don’t sound like Jimi Hendrix rip-offs, but Throbbing Gristle from a parallel universe.
5. Express Rising — Express Rising (Numero Group)
Speaking of Personal Space, that set’s compiler, Dante Carfagna, recently released a collection of homemade songs that are in the same spirit as that compilation, conveying an intimacy via instrumentals. Carfagna is known in many circles as the digger’s digger, sourcing ridiculously rare 45s and the like alongside his partner DJ Shadow, reissuing many of these treasures via the Soul Cal imprint. But what’s it like for a collector to place himself before the tape machine, to transmit rather than receive? Across its eleven carefully-crafted songs, Carfagna conjures minor musical moments and then gives them space to radiate: mosquito-like drones, subtle nylon-string guitars, keyboard chords that hover and echo, drum machines as quiet and near as your partner’s pulse. The album moves like someone trying to not disturb a sleeping household, mindful of every step, gentle and loving with its every gesture.