Welcome to our Guide to the week of music, a round-up of music news, media and releases relating to the Band on the Wall programme and wider musical world. This week we speak to Chris Massey, DJ and founder of the Sprechen label, to discuss Mutant Disco and some house producers doing Manchester proud. We’ve also got news of several exciting, forthcoming music documentaries, new visuals from multiple Manchester-based hip-hop artists and new sounds from across the globe.
Chris Massey is a man who knows his nu disco and house music. He produces, DJ’s, remixes and releases the stuff, putting his A&R instincts to use wherever possible. He drops a new EP on his Sprechen label today and kindly took the time to tell us a little about its creation, not to mention his take on the Balearic sound and favourite contemporary producers in Greater Manchester.
Your Return to the Mutant Disco EP with James Rod lands today – can you give us a little description of the EP and tell us your release policy and aesthetic vision for Sprechen?
CM: ‘The EP is the second collaborative project of mine and James’ and it came about in much the same way as the previous one. James sent me over a few stems of sounds and synth bits, of which I was able to go through and cut, chop, add, tweak to eventually come up with the 2 cuts! On account of the arpeggiator synth stems that James sent me, I’d say I was heavily influenced to take it in a ‘cosmic disco’ style of vibe whilst still retaining elements that are still relevant to productions of myself & James.
Regarding Sprechen I started it as a side project alongside my A&R role for Paper Recordings to be an outlet for my own productions and to source out artists who are doing their own exciting productions within their own right but not necessarily getting their stuff released. There’s such a wealth of talent out there and I enjoy the mission of digging around to find, much like record shopping I suppose! Its release policy is pretty much open season…anything that is dance floor aimed and of any genre is fair game whilst almost still retaining that important fact that they’re being made & released to entertain a ‘party’.’
You put together a fine ‘Death by Balearic’ mix for DBR recently. Everybody seems to have a slightly difference perception of the balearic sound – what does it represent to you?
CM: ‘For me it’s about playing great records and not being afraid to go places that may be deemed ‘uncool’. I think there’s a certain time and place that any track can work wonders, you just have to be brave to do it! For me I’d say the older you get the more your tastes move into being ‘balearic’, personally it makes a DJ’s set so much more interesting to hear curve balls being dropped left, right and centre, whether it’s a beach bar set or a late night club banger.’
Luke Unabomber recently gave you a name check in a piece about Manchester music for Red Bull music. Taking the baton from Luke, which Manchester artists/labels are exciting you at present?
CM: ‘As always, there’s a wealth of talent in Manchester covering a multitude of styles and genres. Immediate ones on my radar are defo Gina Breeze, who also holds the honour of being an incredible DJ. She has had some great releases, with an EP out on Classic as well as some wicked productions and remixes on Sprechen obvs.! David Burch is the man behind Ad-Hoc Records who is pushing a very cool world music/Gilles Peterson kind of sound from local talent such as Yadava (So Flute), Two Tail & Sid Quirk.
James Holroyd is arguably one of the best DJ’s in Manchester and his productions under his Begin moniker are things of supreme beauty. You can’t talk about Manchester producers without giving Ruf Dug a massive shout. His Ruf Kutz release are just extreme fire and fit all occasions. More recently has been the very excellent Talking Drums release from Piccadilly Records counter captain Patrick Ryder. It’s sold out near enough everywhere now I think and it’s not surprising at all!’
There are a handful of tremendous music documentaries heading your way in the coming months, revealing unknown aspects of a breadth of musical stories. Filmmaker Adam Kahan, who brought us The Case of the Three Sided Dream in 2016, is well underway with the post production of Bass to Infinity, a documentary exploring the life and career of renowned jazz bassist Buster Williams. You can see Herbie Hancock tell a fascinating tale about his time playing with Buster below – a film clip that is likely to find its way into the final edit.
Blue Note records call Buster ‘the mobile anchor of Herbie Hancock’s exploratory Mwandishi Sextet’ and indeed their story is yet to be fully told on screen. That duty falls to Sophie Huber, whose forthcoming feature length Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes, looks at the vision behind the label, through interviews with the late engineer Rudy Van Gelder, current boss Don Was and a studio session uniting label legends with young contemporaries.
The steel band movement that perpetuates in Brooklyn, New York is to be captured in film by independent filmmaker Christine Shaw. Five years in the making, her Panorama: Jamming to the Top has settled upon a narrative led by the steel band participants themselves and she hopes to complete funding the project’s production within the next fortnight.
The American singer-songwriter and guitarist Jackson C. Frank, who at the age of 22 was able to surmise that ‘blues run the game’, led a life many would consider too tragic for filmic portrayal. Through childhood trauma to mental illness, family tragedy and destitution – his were circumstances you wouldn’t wish on anyone, but his musical legacy is one of great importance regardless. His sole studio album, produced in the company of Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and Al Stewart in 1965 – was introduced with Blues run the game and the song has become his defining composition. It is therefore an apt title for the film which is to tell his full story. Directed by Damien Aimé Dupont and shot by Etienne Grosbois – it is currently seeking funding for completion via Kickstarter and scheduled for early 2019. The production team have so far invested their own time and money into the project, travelling between the U.S., France and U.K. to interview the likes of John Renbourn, Wizz Jones and U.S. biographer Jim Abbott among others. Dupont says ‘Almost nothing remains of Jackson C. Frank, and yet, you will discover a unique and uncompromising personality, broken by tragedies.’
Fans of Manchester hip-hop have been spoilt this week, with new visuals from Cul De Sac, The Mouse Outfit and Black Josh. Cul De Sac’s video for This Time was directed by Jay Bannister and shot at various Manchester locations. The cut repeats the winning formula concocted on Know We Know: a jazzy beat, verse from each MC and hooks for days! As Truce puts it, “You ain’t never met a group vibe like this”. Berry Blacc pops up in The Mouse Outfit’s new video as well, but KinKai and IAMDDB share chief vocal responsibilities on this one. Blah records mainstay Black Josh takes us to India in his self-directed visual for Dem Ways – shot by Harshbir Singh Phull of the international creative firm Bombay Arthouse.
MC Flowdan – known for his work with Roll Deep, strong solo discography and frequent MC’ing on the airwaves – dropped a wicked ragga/grime cut and video featuring Irah, while on a mellower electronic wave, producer Paul White released a hypnotic and colourful visual for his chilled cut Returning, lifted from REJUVENATE which drops today.
Saxophonist Bob Reynolds continued his series of video releases ahead of his new quartet album and supporting UK tour while Broken Brass Ensemble and Iceage round off this week’s selection with a wacky and altogether more serious production respectively.
Portico Quartet return with a clear and concise extension of Art in the Age of Automation today. Despite its 32-minute length, Untitled (AITAOA #2) has manifold twists and turns that apply and further their absorbing sound, dubbed ‘widescreen minimalism’ by label Gondwana. Largely recorded during the sessions for its predecessor, it suggests the group are brimming with ideas. Highlights include centrepiece composition View From A Satellite, with it’s thick drone and free saxophone solo, plus Reflected in Neon – a dark, ambient piece which appears to stew in pink noise and make the vast sound from a simplest piano motif.
Elsewhere Ghost Note – an ensemble led by Snarky Puppy drummer Robert ‘Sput’ Searight and percussionist Nate Werth – releases their new double album Swagism last week. As it’s cover hints, there’s a strong seventies fusion vibe, so fans of Caldera, Eddie Henderson and George Duke will feel right at home, but contemporary jazz, R&B and hip-hop fans will no doubt dig it too. Plenty of guests hop on the record, not to mention a certain Kamasi Washington, whose new mammoth album is forthcoming.
Finally, why not check out Hilary Woods’ new piece Black Rainbow, the gritty sax-mospheres of Ben Vince, Max Graef’s fine new remix of Oscar Jerome material and the awesome new Carl Craig remix crafted by Ishmael Ensemble – previously mentioned in our interview with their bandleader, Pete Cunningham.
Photo credit for bottom image: José Perez