FoH2016 - September Mix
In recent weeks I've been particularly interested in what was happening in the mid 90's with the NY garage sound. The mid-point/crossover between the late 80s sound of the likes of Larry Levan and Tony Humphries, and the later speed garage sound typified by Van Helden's archetypal mix of Spin Spin Sugar appears to provide an incredibly fertile breeding ground for some of the more readily identifiable musicological tropes of what this project is exploring. Gospel choirs, funky pianos, organs, and lyrical content all seem to coalesce at this particular moment to create a very particular sound, a sound that has sadly all but disappeared from modern house.
Over the next few months I'll be putting out occasional short DJ mixes that compile some of the best examples of these pieces. This is the first of many (hopefully).
One of the biggest proponents of this style was Mark Picchiotti under his Mark! remix moniker and as The Absolute, often working with vocalist Suzanne Palmer. There Will Come A Day is a prime example of the more gospel inspired material put out on Tribal in the mid 90's, as is I Believe that has been discussed previously. Those skippy garage drum patterns stacked against incredibly loud, obvious gospel vocals provides a blueprint for a lot of the other material in this mix. It's possible to say almost exactly the same thing about Heaven by Sarah Washington (this time remixed by Brian Tappert under his Jazz 'N' Groove pseudonym), this time on AM:PM, another great source of this sound around this time. Beyond the musical features, the lyrics are impossible to ignore. Heaven? There Will Come A Day? We're certainly circling that research theme that's already been identified looking at striving for a better tomorrow and creating a utopia through house music.
We also hear some work from always reliable Loveland (Rachel McFarlane would go onto to become the quintessential pop house vocalist) with a more UK sound with a much straighter groove template, instead of the more garage pushed snares and hi-hats. In comparison to other tracks on this mix the Loveland mix of Happy Clappers feels very direct, almost minimal in terms of it's instrumentation. When compared with the Boomtang Boys mix of Oval Emotion it's possible to notice the stark difference between the instrumentation and the grooves present. Interestingly Staxx's Joy provides a reference point for both pieces, being released two years earlier it's possible to hear where the divergence happened. More minimal but also quite heavily swung it seems to sit across the divide.
We also hear work from Joey Negro and Prospect Park with Surrender (on Z Records, Negro's imprint), what we'd argue is funky/disco house or filter house with the gift of hindsight. Released in 2001 it shows a much more cohesive approach to the material that harks both back to the mid 1970s and incorporates the shuffle that NY house became so famous for. Jocelyn Brown, perhaps THE most important house vocalist of all time, is represented in her work with Jamestown. Whilst not the most creative moment in house or JB's career it's a good example of the standard, background noise of religiosity present in a lot of house at this time.
Finally we hear the only male vocalist in this mix. PJ's Happy Days was a relatively small hit in the UK but again offers a good example of a more filter-driven approach to house. And also brings to the fore a much more baritone vocal, something not often heard in house around this period (1998-2001), a period almost exclusively soundtracked by MAW and India.