THE TECHNIQUE OF RECORD BOXING

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We may be deep in a much ballyhooed vinyl revival but surprisingly, record cases haven’t seemed to have kept pace. With all these folks buying records again from their local record store Whole Foods, you would think there’d be more variety in boxes/cases available. RSD has nudged this along incrementally, especially with prestige releases that tout special packaging but compare the variety of vintage cases you might find on eBay or Etsy vs. new cases being manufactured now and you feel like there’s a missed opportunity.

The last time I saw anyone drop an interesting new case was Numero Group in 2012 for their massive Omnibus release. Even though I found the specs just a hair too tight, it didn’t feel like they were simply slapping a new skin on the same base case that everyone else uses.

I’m thinking about all this (again) because I recently got in the new Beat Bop Bundle from the folks at Get On Down. They already have some decent cases out there, including a faux reptile case that I use as my standard go-to 45 tote though I also like the canvas skin on their People Records case. Both are probably just skins-on-base-cases but the inner removable tray is a smart design feature for gigging out since it allows you to pack the case but then use the tray as a way of having twice as much room to rifle through your records.

This LP/12″ case that comes with the Beat Bop Bundle is something else though. Maybe it’s all that black but it just feels…substantial and slightly severe (in a good way). It’s certainly one of the bigger cases I have; even a couple of inches in height goes a long way. The reinforced corners, much like an anvil-style case (albeit this uses plastic corners) also makes you feel like this thing was built for abuse or the like.

This said, if I’m being candid here: it feels a bit bulky for its own good. It’s heavy just empty so I imagine that at full capacity (50 records/25 lbs), this would be a challenge to slog around, especially without a shoulder strap to even out the load. The lid is also substantial enough that if the case isn’t that full, the whole thing will tip over with the lid open; not ideal.

On the flipside, if you needed a case that could double as a blunt force weapon in a club scrum, this might come in handy. And if you were to combo this with a mid-90s Brooklyn throwback outfit – 20 below Timbos, black bubble goose – you’d be looking real proper. I know I haven’t even gotten to the music but while it’s cool to have a special edition of “Beat Bop”, complete with liner notes by Noz, it looks quite lonely inside that massive case. The disc feels like the bonus but the real package here is the box itself.


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I also recently got in Cultures of Soul new Brasileiro Treasure Box of Funk and Soul 7″ Box Set. Inside, you get seven 7″s, with about a third of them featuring songs that, far as I know, were never on 7″ single to begin with. That includes one of my favorite funky Brazilian cuts: “Bananeira” by Emiliano Santiago. I’m also feeling this one by Célia: “A Hora É Essa“. All in all, I didn’t know most of the songs on here so at the very least, I’m getting an education.

As for the actual box…eh. It’s ultimately a box for shelving purposes; it’s not designed for travel and odds are, you wouldn’t take the entire collection out to a gig but simply select a few 45s. I’m not a fan of the top-loading lid here, namely because it’s too shallow to allow you to flip through the 45s without first pulling them out. That’s a similar issue with “fold out” boxes (see below) but at least with those, you have cleaner lines on the front cover since you don’t have the lid breaking things up horizontally.

I also wish they had printed the track listing on the back. What they have is an insert that lines up on the back…if the box is still in the shrink. But once you take it out, the insert has no place to go (it’s slightly too big to fit into the box itself so it seems like you’re just meant to toss it).


Last but not least is the Big Box of Afrosound that Vampisoul released, with the curatorial help of DJ Bongohead. Musically, it’s the most generous: ten 7″s. And for me, it’s definitely the one that I vibe the most with sonically if only because I’m such a fan of the Afrosound, er, sound.1

I especially appreciate that more than half the songs on here were never on 45 to begin with, including “Salsa Boogaloo” by Sexteto Miramar, which I wasn’t familiar with prior. As with the Brasileiro box, even those songs that have been on 45 before aren’t exactly records you’re going to stumble across in your local U.S. store, especially standouts like Wganda Kenya’s wicked “Fiebre De Lepra” or one of my all-time favorite cumbias: “Cumbia De Sal” by Cumbias en Moog (which is as awesome as you may guess).

The Big Box had fold-up/out lid which is a decent compromise in terms of keeping the cover art intact and still allowing you to flip through the 45s from right to left once fully opened. If I had to nitpick…not a big fan of the cover art but c’est la vie.

There you go: a few boxes (literally!) for you to sample.

  1. Full disclosure, I helped Bongohead with this project at a very early stage though I can’t remember if it was with “Mammy Blue” or a different Fruko song that didn’t make the cut.

H-TOWN BOOGIE

Heyhipster

Supergrass: Alright
From I Should Coco (Parlophone, 1995)

Fat Pat: Tops Drop
From Ghetto Dreams (Wreckshop, 1998)

Systema Solar: Mi Kolombia
From S/T (Intermundos, 2010)

Ocote Soul Sounds and Adrian Quesada: Tu Fin, Mi Comienzo
From 7″ (Aire Sol, 2013). Also on Coconut Rock

Penny & The Quarters: You and Me (Prince of Ballard remix)
Originally from 7″ (Numero Group, 2011)

Bonus: Icona Pop: I Love It
From This Is… (Atlantic, 2013)

I was recently in Houston and Galveston to DJ a wedding (what up Alex and D’Arcy!) and as I’ve probably said before, one of the things that I like about these kinds of gigs is that I’m inevitably turned onto new songs in the process of prepping. Some of it comes directly as requests from the couple, some come more a bit more serendipitously, but the playlist is ever-evolving and I get to expand my musical horizons as a result.

Case in point: the bride requested the Supergrass song, which sounded vaguely familiar (hello Clueless cameo) but I certainly wasn’t that familiar with. Loved it from jump – those stabbing keys! the bright, defiant optimism! – and it’s the type of tune you can drop next to some early Rolling Stones or Beatles jams and it’ll fit right in.

Case also in point: the groom definitely wanted some H-Town rap in there and asked specifically for the Fat Pat song. Definitely never on my radar back in the late ’90s (too busy writing about Fondle ‘Em 12″s) but any gangsta funk tune reworking Yarbrough and Peoples gets my nod.1

Because the groom’s family is from Colombia, I was introduced to the greatness that is the hora loca and while I was hired partially because I already have love for cumbia (I blame B+), the groom put me up on all kinds of newer cumbia jams, including that Systema Solar cut with its slurring rhythms, cheer-a-long hooks, and rhymes en espanõl that sound like they were written circa 1991. Hype.

Speaking of Latin jams, I’d be remiss to not give a huge shout-out to Martin Perna of Antibalas/Ocote Soul Sounds who’s currently living in Houston and reached out to invite me to hang out while I was in town.2 An incredibly gracious host who not only fed me breakfast but hit me with his personal Google map of Houston record stores (no, you can’t see it), including Cactus Music (where the photo above was shot).3 He also laced me with a brand new 7″ featuring two cuts off Coconut Rock, one of which is a cumbia but “Tu Fin, Mi Comienzo” is a slice of frantic funk that’s not to be denied.

The Penny & the Quarters remix was a request by the groom; “You and Me” was the “first dance” song but he wanted a remixed version for use as the last song of the night. He asked if I had anyone who might be up for it and I automatically thought of the Prince of Ballard and I’m happy to say, it all worked out. Slick remix too – POB does it again!

Last but not least, in prepping for the wedding, DJ Choimatic told me to try out the Icona Pop. This may surprise some of my readers but I – like my 8 year old daughter – am feeling this. I do indeed, love it. The thing is: I never did get around to playing it at this particular wedding – it’s not the sort of tune you just randomly drop in anywhere – but maybe the next one…


Ok, so all that said, one more thing and this is not a goodbye letter. I promise you.

But the fact that the site’s been plagued with tech problems for the last month actually seems quite apropos given how harried and scattered I’ve felt. It goes beyond just a month of server-side woes though; it’s been this whole semester. I’ve always said I’m more productive when I’m busy but I’ve learned – the hard way – that there’s a point that goes beyond “busy” where you start to hate all your commitments and (slightly) hate yourself for having volunteered into those commitments. I can’t say I “hit a wall” this semester but maybe I lightly fender-bendered into one. I have – no lie – at least three different ways of reminding me of shit I have to do.4 And with all that, I still feel like I’m only operating at partial effectiveness; stuff gets dropped off my radar daily and as you’ve likely noticed, Soul Sides has been one of the more frequent casualties of all this.

On the one hand, writing this site has given me more than I could have ever imagined, let alone asked for. I got flown out to Houston to do a freakin’ wedding because I write this site. I’ve gotten both writing and DJ gigs off it. I’ve made comps off it. I’ve done all kinds of good shit. I’m so thankful for all this. For all y’all who read this, whether religiously (in which case, you’ve actually bothered to get to this point of the post) or off-and-on (it’s cool, I still have love for you even if you’re not reading me giving you that love right now).

On the other hand, when everything feels like “work,” a labor of love like this feels like work too and in the midst of feeling resentful at all the things beckoning at me, foregoing something as personal as this (translation: shit I’m not getting paid for) becomes all-too-easy. That’s not an excuse, just merely an explanation.

This is not a goodbye letter. I just need to get some shit off my chest because I feel like I owe it you all (and perhaps the fact I even feel that way might be part of the problem but let’s not go there right now) and because I need to force myself to write this just to prove that I can still write a post here. (Yes, welcome to my self-therapy.)

Normally, this is where I say I have some plan to post more frequently and predictably but I’d rather not jinx things. I’d also rather not prove myself to be a liar in four months when I write this same basic post again then. But hopefully it won’t come to that.

Until then, yours, truly, as always.

–O.W.

  1. Thanks to Sugarland TX’s native son, DJ Phatrick, I put together a short Houston rap set which was fun as hell. I may not have been intimately familiar with most of what I played but the crowd certainly was.
  2. Speaking of gracious-ness, I’d be remiss in not shouting out to Kat at Live Oak Legacies for letting me crash with her and her crew in Galveston. Next time, we need to take the boat out.
  3. I wish there had been more time to run through that store and the rest but I was happy to leave with this for $2.
  4. Just in case you were curious, I’d recommend all of them. First, Workflowy. So simple, so genius. Second, Follow Up Then. Your inbox will hate you for it but it has its utility. Third, using Siri to create Reminders. I probably look like a fucking tool when I do it…and Siri blows the transcription more often than I’d like…but it’s a still killer feature.

THE SIDEBAR #24: MICHAEL PIGGOTT OF MASSTROPICAS

Michael Piggott runs Masstropicas, dedicated to the sounds and styles of Peruvian cumbia. He first came to my attention back when his label put out the Ranil’s Jungle Party in 2010, and we’ve been chatting off and on since then. My readers know that I’m a big fan of the surf-y style of Peruvian cumbia and Piggott has gone literally deep into the cities of the Peruvian Amazon to find artists to interview and record. His latest is a reissue of the Grupo 2000 album as well as a very cool Cantos Icaros cassette of Placido from Sensación Shipibo (which benefits the artist himself, after his house burned down).


The Sidebar #24: Michael Piggott of Masstropicas
 

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Music used in the podcast:

      (From Grupo 2000’s

El Destape

    unless *otherwise noted)

  • La Ronzapa
  • El Tinajón
  • El Destape A Los 2000
  • Flor Tarapotina
  • *Es Pumita Andy y su Geniales: Recuerdos
  • *Ranil: Cumbia Sin Nombre (from Ranil’s Jungle Party)
  • *Placido: El Ayahuasca (from Cantos Icaros)
  • Sombra Verde

THE SIDEBAR 18: QUANTIC

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This morning, Will Holland, aka Quantic, dropped by the studio and I couldn’t be more pleased since I’ve been a massive fan of his work for years and though we’ve corresponded via interweb and have some mutual friends, this is the first time I’ve met him in person.

Quantic has had a remarkably prolific and diverse career over the last decade, all now captured in the new 32-song double-CD anthology, Best of Quantic. With that in mind, I asked Will about his history as a producer, beginning in his early years, recording sample-based beats for TV licensing, up through the formation of the Quantic Soul Orchestra, with his collaborations with Alice Russell and Spanky Wilson, and into his major shift into Afro-Latin styles of the last five years.


The Sidebar #18: Quantic
 

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Music in this episode:

All from Best of Quantic unless *otherwise indicated

    .

  • Time is the Enemy
  • Absence Heard, Presence Felt
  • Transatlantic
  • *Fresh Rhythm
  • Super 8
  • Pushin On
  • I’m Thankful
  • Enough Said
  • *Los Melodicos: La Murga
  • Mi Swing Es Tropical
  • *Ray Santos: La Costa Brava
  • Cumbia Clash
  • Step Into a World
  • *Cumbia De Dilla
  • Death of the Revolution

Update: Just saw that J-Rocc has an official “best of Quantic” mix.

SIDEBAR #12: PHOTOGRAPHER BRIAN CROSS/B+

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Even if you’ve never seen Brian Cross aka B+ in person, you’ve definitely seen his photography. Starting in the early 1990s, B+ has become one of the premier music photographers of the past 20 years, especially (but hardly exclusively) in the hip-hop community.

B+ is also one-half of the L.A.-based production outfit, Mochilla, who’ve put out the renown Keepintime, Brasilintime and Timeless series. And, he’s author of one of the best books ever written about hip-hop in L.A., It’s Not About a Salary.1 Suffice to say, of all the folks I’ve met through the Cali music scene over the last 15 years, B is one of the folks whose work and dedication is a constant source of respect and amazement.

He was kind enough to roll through the home studio on a sweltering July day and though, ostensibly, I wanted to have him contribute to the summer songs series, I also wanted to use the opportunity to talk about his career arc (I, for one, had no idea he was a former student and protege of Mike Davis though that fact suddenly made total sense to me in the context of his work), his interest in South American music, culture and people, and the greatest that is Labi Siffre. (In a special “bonus beats” section after the formal podcast ends, we also rap about his working with Damien Marley, bringing more Timeless shows back, and why you’ll have to pry his Hasselblad from his cold, dead fingers.


The Sidebar #12: Brian Cross/B+
 

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Music in this episode:

Related links:

Notes:

  1. Cross is also at work on Ghostnotes his first formal monograph.

QUANTIC: HIP HOP EN CUMBIA EP

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Quantic Y Su Conjunto Los Miticos Del Ritmo: Get UR Freak On
They Reminisce Over You
From Hip Hop En Cumbia EP (Tru Thoughts 2011)

Been waiting for this one to come out for months now – Quantic and company take on a few hip-hop classics and run it through the cumbia-treatment. Quantic first started this a couple of years back with his “Cumbia De Dilla” and then followed that last year with “Dre En Cumbia.” Here’s the entire tracklisting:

A1. Step Into A World (Rapture’s Delight)
A2. Dre en Cumbia
A3. Cuarta Con Cuarta
A4. Miss Jackson (Interlude)
A5. Get Ur Freak On
A6. They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y )
A7. Cumbia De Dilla
B1. Serato Tone Control

Yup, flipside is a Serato tone record for DJs who can use an extra. If that’s not you, well, hey, you have 10 minutes of tone; scratch that up!

I still think “Cumbia De Dilla” is the best in the bunch but the take on “Get UR Freak On” is unexpected and catchy. And hey, for all those sick of “T.R.O.Y.” you can now try it in a new wrapper.

This is limited edition, 2000 units; once they’re gone…they’re gone so if you like, cop sooner than later!

DEEP COVERS: 4 OF 4, MACHUCA CUMBIA

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Machuca Cumbia: Cumbia Alivianada
Cumbia De Los Bee Gees
From 7″ (Aries, 1979)

I first heard “Cumbia Alivianada” (aka “Staying Alive”) when B+ came to spin with me and it’s taken me two years to finally cop it on 7″ (I do love singles but I wouldn’t have minded getting the LP just for that great cover art but the 7″ does have the two Bee Gees joints on it). Not the best cumbia conversion I can imagine; it’s surprisingly flat rhythmically but still a fun, fun cut and one that dancefloor always respond to once they figure out what’s up.

I’m feeling this cover of “More Than a Woman” too, partially because it’s just so difference from the original given the use of…what the hell is that? Some kind of ’70s analog synth?

This isn’t a cover (that I know of) but it came along with the Machuca 7″:

Grupo Nectar: Sueño Andino
From 7″ (Cobra, 197?)

Really lovin’ the smooth flow of this chicha song, especially how it opens; “Andean Dream” indeed!

GUEST SET: MELTING POT 11/14/10

I sat in for Michael Barnes on KPFK’s Melting Pot today. Included a few tracks I’ve had up here of late but a lot you haven’t heard from me yet. Enjoy!

The Melting Pot, 11-14-10

Quantic: Cumbia De Dilla
The East St. Louis Gospelettes: Have Mercy On Me
Kanye West: Devil in a New Dress
The Whatnauts: I’ll Erase the Pain
Golden Harmonettes: I Do Love You
Syl Johnson: Try Me (LP Version)
Syl Johnson: All I Need Is Someone Like You
Syl Johnson: Soul Heaven (All from The Complete Mythology)
Onuma SIngsiri: Mae Kha Som Tam
Plearn Promdan: Wan Maha Sanook (Both from The Sound of Siam)
Olguita: Hay Un Sentimiento
Dom Kennedy: Locals Only
Lee Dorsey: Give It Up
Numonics: You Lied
Ron Forella: Crystals (Both from Groove Merchant Turns 20)
Ozzie Dasilva: Zig Zag
Tammi Terrell: All I Do Is Think About You
Nottz: I Still Love You (feat. Mayer Hawthorne) (from You Need This Music)
Lito Barrientos: Para Que
Charles Bradley: Why Is It So Hard?
Since OUr Last Goodbye (Both from No Time For Dreaming)
N’ Goma Jazz: Mi Cantado Para Ti
Africa Tirmos: Pica O Dedo (Both from Angola Soundtrack)
Ramon Veloz: Comete Tu Pinol
Joe Bravo: Think It Over
Fitz and the Tantrums: Don’t Gotta Work It Out
Gladstone Anderson and the Mudies All-Stars: Mad Mad Ivy
Quadron: Baby Be Mine (Live on KPFK)
Finger 5: I Want You Back
Jackson 5: Walk On By/Love You Save
Please: Sing a Simple Song
Al Hirt: Harlem Hendoo
Timebox: Beggin’
Del-Tones: Rocking Chair
Sugar Pie DeSanto: I Don’t Wanna Fuss
Spider Harrison: Beautiful Day
Quantic: Cumbia En Dre

CUMBIA!



Are we in the midst of a cumbia renaissance? No doubt, folks who’ve been up on this style for years will scoff at the idea that cumbia is suddenly “hot” when it was never “cold” to begin with but at least from my (limited) vantage point, it certainly seems as if there’s been a recent surge in cumbia-related anthologies and compilations being pitched to the same crowds who previously were getting upped on everything from Ethiopian jazz to Panamanian boogaloo.

Yes, cumbia has gone hip(ster) but hey, I’m just as much part of that wave as anyone else and frankly, I’m all for cumbia getting shine no matter what the circumstances.

My first exposure to the magic of cumbia came during one of our many Boogaloo! nights at the Short Stop; it was probably Rani D of Soul in the Park guest-DJing and as he threw in a few cumbia joints in the mix, you could see the dancers viscerally react to it; it’s like you threw some “get hype” switch in their heads.

There’s something marvelously simple about a cumbia rhythm and notice I said “simple” and not “simplistic.” The most distinctive attribute about a cumbia song – no matter old or new or what country it emerges from – is that telltale “two step” rhythm. Listen to a cumbia beat and imagine your head was a metronome and sure enough, you can dip-dip, dip-dip, dip-dip to that rhythm like it was the most natural thing in the world. That plays a huge role in making cumbia such an irresistible force on the dance floor.

It also, I imagine, explains why it’s been such a portable rhythm, emerging out of the coastal regions of Colombia and then traveling across South, Central and North America. That two-step rhythm meshes well with many other music styles, most notably polka, especially once Colombian musicians began to incorporate the accordion into their repertoire.

If you’re a cumbia noob (like me), then you might as well begin with the new Beginner’s Guide to Cumbia, put together by our buddy DJ Bongohead. It’s a 3-CD comp that serves as a decent primer to cumbia styles of the past, present and future. I do wish the liner notes had been more comprehensive – what’s there certainly offers some important historical sweep but compared to the dozens of pages found for the other comps I discuss here, I would have thought a Beginner’s Guide would be more in-depth. What’s notable is that one of other comps I’m writing about, The Afrosound of Colombia is also curated by Bongohead and that’s got a frickin’ encyclopedia of knowledge in there so I’m left to assume that The Beginner’s Guide to Cumbia simply suffered from a limited production budget (the 3-CD comp only costs $14; do the math). In any case, here’s a sampling of various tunes:

Continue reading CUMBIA!