Photos by Matt Cheetham.
Three records selected by Tim Lawrence that reflect the phases in an LSD experience invoked at a Lucky Cloud Sound System party, top to bottom:
Chuck Mangione with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, “The Land of Make Believe” [Entry]
Osunlade, “Envision (Âme remix)” [Circus]
Stevie Wonder “As”: Re-entry
The Lucky Cloud Loft Party began with David Mancuso, who has been running private parties in downtown New York since 1970. I met David while I was researching my book on the rise of the city’s DJ culture. Since June 2003, Colleen Murphy, Jeremy Gilbert and I have been running the party according to the principles of David’s New York parties. For the first 11 years, we held the party in a converted power station with springy wooden floors. We decorated the room with hundreds of balloons, just like we were putting on a kid’s birthday party, to evoke a time of joy and freedom. We put out a spread of food to give guests energy for the marathon dance. And we set up the room so that the first thing a dancer would see would be the party room and not the booth, because the dance floor is the focus of the party, not the person selecting records.
David has never called himself a DJ. Instead, he prefers to call himself a “musical host,” because he is a party host who also happens to select music that he thinks his friends will enjoy. The sound system is almost entirely analogue and is made up of high-end stereo equipment that is highly efficient and sensitive, including Klipschorn speakers and Koetsu cartridges. It only supports vinyl playback because vinyl is the warmest and most detailed medium. The overall aim is for the system to reproduce the original recording as accurately as possible because the energy of the party will rise in correlation to the musicality of the experience.
Whether the role is taken up by David or by someone else, the musical host will play the entire party, from 5 p.m. to midnight, drawing on a wide range of sources that stretch from acid rock to disco to house to minimal techno—because the world is diverse and magical, so why restrict the music to a single genre? Records are also selected to match the arc of an acid trip, because LSD was the drug of choice when David held his first dance party on Valentine’s Day 1970. He wrote the words “Love Saves the Day” on his party invites for a reason.
David learned from Timothy Leary that the acid trip is comprised of three stages, or three “bardos,” and he selected his records so they would match the intensity of these phases: the gentle, playful beginning or “entry;” the deeper, more introverted transcendental “circus” that follows; and the more open, more social, more uplifting experience of the “re-entry.” David was the very first person on the downtown party scene to take dancers on a kind of musical journey, and although that’s become something of a lost art in contemporary club culture, it remains important to us, whether we choose today to take LSD or not.
Whatever the stage of the party, the musical host won’t take the sound system above 100dB because anything above that can start to tire or even damage the ear. Early on we found that quite a few people would come up to us and ask if we could encourage David to play the music louder—because we’d all become used to hearing loud bass music played at 120dB and above. What’s interesting is that we no longer get anyone asking us these questions. Our ears have adjusted to a new way of listening.
Another distinguishing feature of the parties is the absence of a mixer in the sound system. David decided to get rid of this piece of equipment after he concluded in the early eighties that a musical signal becomes more powerful if it passes through the least number of electronic stages possible from the vinyl to the ear. He decided that the musicality of the experience was more important than his ability to mix records; or, as he put it, interfere with the intentions of the recording artist. Getting rid of the mixer also enabled David to properly shift the attention of the party from the booth to the dancefloor. Of course, by now it’s become mandatory to have non-stop mixing in contemporary party culture and people assume that any gap between records would lead to a decrease in the energy of the party. But what we’ve found in London is that the pause has become a moment of heightened intensity, when people can clap, scream and whistle, showing their appreciation of the music. And that to us is really quite thrilling.
This article was originally printed in the Fall 2014 issue of Electronic Beats Magazine.
Covering Tracks is a regular series in which we ask our favorite producers and DJs to recommend around 10 new (and not so new) releases. This Friday’s edition stars John Osborn, whose TANSTAAFL PLANETS label is gearing up to release a new EP from Joey Anderson on November 10.
Stephen Brown — “Medusa” [Technorama]
Stephen Brown has been around since the beginning, and his take on techno is always as solid as it comes, but this recent release really shows his diversity. It’s a house beast that seem to propel you forward, and once the synth strings come in, it takes you to that special place. Only people with this amount of experience and understanding of dance music can do this as well as Brown.
Spiritchaser — “Other Side of Blue (Dub Mix)” [Niche]
I remember that, when this came out in 2001, I was mesmerised at how house could be so trancey. Now, it’s over tens years old and I still play it. Tribal trance house for journeys to a utopian future via The Light Fantastic.
Future Sound of London — “Cascade” [Astralwerks]
I grew up on FSOL, so they probably defined my tastes today. I got this first 12″ from the LP and listened to it while tripping balls in my bedroom in Lewisham, South East london. Each time I hear it, it takes me right back to that room in the winter of ’93.
Beaumont Hannant — “Utuba” [Warp]
This was released on the Artificial Intelligence II compilation on Warp. I was tripping balls again, but this time in my mate Paul Spymania’s bedroom in Brixton in 1994. Early visions of the future that still excite me today.
Tusken Raiders — “Tatooine Sunset” [Clear Records]
I got this record in Fat Cat. I remember Alex Knight playing it behind the counter. I rushed up to him and demanded a copy and to be told who it was by. “Shhh, its Mike Paradinas,” he said. I have now almost worn my clear vinyl copy out.
Simple Minds — “Theme For Great Cities” [Virgin]
I had never heard this Simple Minds track until this year at the Labyrinth festival. I played the Saturday night, and on Sunday I was getting loose in the afterglow of my set. Peter Van Hoesen had just played a phenomenal live/DJ hybrid set, and then, as the moon was hanging in the sky behind the teepee that Peter was playing in, he dropped this track. The crowd melted into one collective consciousness and tears of joy rolled down my face. I think this was what you could call “a moment,” and one which I will be forever grateful to Peter for.
Joey Anderson — “You Gave Me Life Again” [TANSTAAFL PLANETS]
Shameless self-promotion here—this is the next release on my TANSTAAFL PLANETS label. It’s not the most “club-orientated” track on the EP, but it’s my favorite. Joey sent in around six tracks to choose from (which was not easy to do), but from the first time I heard this, I knew it had to be put on wax. Out November 10th.
Henrik Schwarz — “Lockstep” [Ostgut Ton]
I am not normally a Henrik Schwarz fan, but this remix he submitted for the MASSE III Remix 12″ on Ostgut is incredible. At first, it may not sound like much, but the rhythms create so much tension and expectation. At the end, it shoots a synth line at you—not for long, but long enough for me to mix out of it and propel the floor another level up.
Fairmont — “Twin Freeks” [New Kanada]
This one was released on an excellent “ambient” compilation on Adam Marshall’s New Kanada label. It’s an ambient chill-out track that reminds of the days when there were ambient chill-out rooms in clubs. Tdoay’s promoters killed these rooms. Back then, the chill out rooms often had the best music that could be heard as you gurned in a bass bin at a location called The Vox in Brixton, London.
We Love is an opportunity for EB writers to contemplate, rant, and rave about one of their current musical obsessions and the deeper issues they inspire. For our first installment of the regular feature, Laurie Tompkins backs Lukid’s Crawlers, on Liberation Technologies.
If someone has recommended Lukid’s music to you, chances are they’ll have lauded its low fidelity and waxed lyrical about its fuzzy textures and degraded beats. While it’s true that Luke Blair’s woozy productions are often drenched in tape hiss, lumping him in with the lo-fi contingent does a disservice to the precision and craft of Crawlers. Of course, I don’t mean to say that the constituents of said contingent aren’t precise or artistic—I just want to explain why Lukid’s latest record stands out.
The EP’s four tracks are full of evocative sound combinations which might appear mismatched in a lesser producer’s hands. “The Brick Burner” plays off cold, plain synths and a rasping banjo line, while the cutting 808 rattles of “Nine” brilliantly sharpen the impact of scaling synths. In the video for “Nine,” digital shafts of light through the windows of an empty club, which strikingly captures the record’s defiant negotiation of grit and gloss.
We Love is an opportunity for EB writers to contemplate, rant, and rave about one of their current musical obsessions and the deeper issues they inspire. For our first installment of the regular feature, Laurie Tompkins discusses why he’s loving Beatrice Dillon’s new tape on Where to Now?
Certain underground music of late has seemed to demand a pledge of allegiance to either the ’80s or ’90s, via the lo-fi house sludge of L.I.E.S. and its imitators, or hyper-slick hip-hop and rave deviations, respectively. But Beatrice Dillon’s Blues Dances sidesteps this faux dualism entirely, prioritizing subtlety and variety over ramming some garbled retroism down your ears.
My introduction to Dillon was an ace mixtape for Will Bankhead’s The Trilogy Tapes, which skillfully navigated Folkways Records’ catalog, whose range of early electronic experiments, dub, and African drumming mirrors the hybrid elements of her own productions. On her Where to Now? tape, which is composed of all original material, the London-based producer channels a variety of different influences. Whether she’s composing ambient music (“My Nocturne”) or Ekoplekz-style dub (“Carrier Mask”), Dillon always manages to employ a palette of analog electronics, snatched guitar, and vocal samples with a deft and playful hand. Closing cut “34” is particularly magnificent—snipped bleeps and bloops settle into full swooping lines, whose artificial reverb is swallowed by the resonance of a fractured piano solo.
Blues Dances is available via the excellent London/Brighton imprint Where To Now?, who are set to release a further 12” and album from the producer in the coming months.
For a while back there it seemed like certain blogs were awash with fresh-faced electrosoul acts—most of which seemed to come from London and most hoping they’d follow in the footsteps of James Blake rather than Jamie Woon. Adam Pless and Howard Whiddet are the latest to throw in their lot with sparse electronics and bruised falsetto vocals and, on the strength of first EP Still, it seemed like they might just stick around.
Follow up The Cards EP sees their Qtier project picked up by weirdo techno label BPitch Control, but thankfully their sound remains intriguingly withdrawn. Today’s Video Premiere is “Athena”, perhaps the most melodic track on the record with Adam’s vapour-like vocals used as a counterpoint to the finely textured synthetic instrumentation—think Mount Kimbie if they jacked in clubbing for good and started rocking Rough Trade tote bags. The video is a fittingly intimate piece; a tight close-up of Adam’s face, with occasional, disorienting jump cuts, add to the song’s simplicity and 4 a.m. sleep deprived atmosphere. Because, face it, this is music for the frayed of nerves and bruised of heart.
Qtier’s The Cards EP is out now on BPitch Control.