People often say to me, “John, you’re probably the coolest person I know. I’m going to a cool party this weekend. Can you recommend some music that I can get into so that I can seem cool and make friends and get laid?”
People, while I am most definitely the coolest person you know, you are approaching things in the wrong way. Knowing a lot about interesting music doesn’t make you cool. I’ve never gotten laid because of the music I liked or played. It has always been through the strength of my character and rugged good looks. So if you want me to tell you about music to serve such basic instrumental ends, you should leave my presence and start pretending you like Bon Iver or something.
The point of music is to nourish your soul. The enjoyment of it is an end in itself. Our task as musical creatures in this universe is to find those vibrations of air that best resonate with every fiber of our being. Achieving this, even for a few minutes, is one of the greatest things we can experience in our lifetime. Once you start regularly feeding your soul in this way, you’ll feel better about everything. You’ll be more relaxed and confident, and thus be able to engage people at parties with ease -if that’s what you really want to do.
The particular vibrations that I, under my ridiculous DJ name Smoked Meat Fax Machine, happen to resonate with stem from a very powerful form of music called funk. More than just a musical style, funk represents a feeling, an attitude, a certain sublime, unknowable essence. While it’s difficult to pin down, the overall vibe circling around funk involves weird things like grooviness, stankiness, jaggedness, smoothness, playfulness and heaviness. I like all that, and my work as a DJ/producer is to discover all the ways it can be expressed in music. This project has led me to become somewhat of a cross between Uncle Traveling Matt and Dr. Hans Reinhardt, forever navigating strange dimensions in search of the funk.
My journey is currently taking me to electronic styles like skweee, beats, footwork, electro, boogie, and trap. If you aren’t familiar with any of these tags, don’t worry. File it all under “strange electronic funk mutations” that arrive at your ears via probably more familiar genres like hiphop, disco or dub. If you think this sounds good, you might like the music I’ll recommend.
So, I’ve decided to perform a quarterly round-up of stuff that I’m vibrating with. A report from outer space, beyond the black hole, from the land of the silly creatures. Here’s what I think is noteworthy from the past 3 months:
STRAND – SLAM FUNK! (Laid Back Radio / Lowriders Collective)
This album by a Spanish producer living in Belgium is a refined take on the idea of deconstructing funk from the 70s and 80s and reconstituting it in a thoughtful, if distorted electronic context. Watch for masterful synth layering, tweaky effects, and a healthy dose of glitch. Despite all that is threatening to pull these tracks apart, the producer shows tasteful restraint and maintains a meaty, complex groove throughout.
VARIOUS – MILWAUSKWEEE VOL. 15 (Innocuous)
This is a compilation of wild electronic funk wizardry put together by a fellow from Milwaukee, WI called DJ Puffin. He runs a label called Innocuous. He’s been putting together these compilations for a while now, and he’s also been crafting a unique production style made up of jangly hiphop beats fused with art movie samples, airy synths, and squelchy basslines. This compilation showcases his talent for seeking out strange yet accessible beats in an experimental context.
VARIOUS – SKWEEE SHANTIES VOL. 2 (Tiburoni)
Everything you need to know about the current state of the wonderful style known as skweee is contained within these tracks, compiled by label head RPG-H8R. The Paris-based producer is currently forging a solid path through the forest of colourful melodies, drunken drums and playful arrangements that make skweee such a loveable yet warped funk expression. Watch this label carefully if the skweee spirit takes over your moveable parts.
SUBP YAO – SMOKE UP, DRINK UP (Saturate!)
Saturate! Records is one of those labels that has such a tight, awesome focus that I find myself just instantly liking every single one of their many releases. From their cover art to their collection of shining, razor-sharp beats dripping in synths, they really can’t go wrong as far as I’m concerned. More people need to know about this amazing German outlet. This latest gem by Dutch producer Subp Yao delves a bit deeper into the inky depths of 808 bass-laden, smoked out beats while retaining the ever present focus on swirling synth magic this label is known for.
SPACE GHOST – YOU’RE THERE (Astro Nautico)
Once again, this is a label you need to dive into and get to know intimately. Astro Nautico has been steadily releasing infectious jams that have put the imprint on my radar as a delightful source of melted, spaced-out funk. This particular release swerves into the modern beats realm of cloudy atmospheric samples tinged with earthy percussion.
VARIOUS – 710 RECORDS COMPILATION VOL. 1 (710 Records)
So “trap musik” is a thing now, but it’s really just explorations of the sparse, round-bottomed hiphop beat that comes out of drinking prescription cough syrup mixed with sprite that all the kids have been into for the past decade or so. This wingdings-core compilation balances a delicate, almost romantic R&B flavoured atmosphere with ominous synth passages, drowned drums and rattling sub bass.
-JC / SMFM