Cyclic Selects: Paradise Lost

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With music, context matters. And rarely more so than with disco. High gloss, debt-laden aspiration, Stonewall, loft parties, bath houses, drink and drugs, poor and rich; disco’s never made sense in the over-priced bars you find playing those records in Australia. But when everyone’s equal on the dancefloor, when the simple optimism of those songs gels with the all pervading mood; when the moment’s right, disco makes a lot of sense. Sydney collective Paradise Lost are making those moments pretty regularly. In forgotten corners of the city, the six-strong collective play soaring disco, jacking house and Italo disco amid a welcoming (and wildly hedonistic) atmosphere. Paradise indeed.

Their debut release is The Paradise Lost Edits, a series of extended edits, well and truly tested on the dancefloor. DJs Brut 33 and Mikey Miutante took the Cyclic Selects challenge.

DJ Brut 33 Selects

George Duke – Faces In Reflections

I was lucky enough to inherit a few crates of records, through extended family, that used to belong to a local Filipino DJ from the ’70s. George Duke’ name was with Stanley Clarke’s, shoved in between the many Kool & The Gang, Earth, Wind & Fire and Lee Ritenour albums that seemed like bread and butter for upper-CBD haunts at the time. As with most of my records, each one builds on the next, and, in a roundabout way, I moved back to Faces In Reflection. This is important to me for ‘Capricorn’ and ‘North Beach,’ two songs that are sonically much further apart than just the sides ‘A’ and ‘B’ that they occupy, respectively. I stumbled across ‘North Beach’ by chance through a story that Derrick May heard the track and “borrowed’ it for some years, using it to open his DJ sets. Without reading the liner notes, I wouldn’ have known it was a keyboard solo. It is mesmerising and other-worldly. I look for this timeless authority in all the records I play. When mankind ascends to the heavens, I’ll play ‘North Beach,’ when we return again to mother Earth, ‘Capricorn’ will cushion our landing.

Watsonian Institute – Master Funk

What makes a person want to dig for records? Maybe it’s an inherent need to collect objects or hoard stuff? Who knows, I still have all my He-Man figures and an Apple IIe computer stuffed away in the wardrobe. This was a record I picked up on a road trip up through Newcastle from what used to be the Daisy Chain store on the main drag. It isn’ anything overly groundbreaking: a multiracial five-piece funk outfit from Buffalo, New York, fronted by a Mr Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson. It is tight, and its trombone-led horns roll along nicely without overtaking the rhythm section. Clearly these guys had honed their style in front of dancing folk, as it is smooth enough for a shuffle without becoming a raw funk hoe-down. Music from satellite towns always interests me in the unique sound that comes through in their music. The cover art on the album is cool too, a picture of the band on the steps outside a grand stone brick institute that has been glued billboard-like onto a cartoon wall with the song titles airbrushed in graffiti around the border. I’d pulled a lot of other more obscure jazz and world music from the store on various trips, but this one stood out to me for being a really solid record of which you can barely find any information on the net, album or band. It’s also a record which for some reason I really like, without knowing exactly why; much like digging I guess.

Curtis Mayfield – There’ No Place Like America Today

I found this relatively recently but I feel like I have known it for all time. Excluding Superfly, Curtis didn’ grab the limelight to the same degree as the Motown heavy hitters. For someone whom I personally think as one of the most exciting and interesting composers to come from the soul era, he’ been mostly overlooked. America Today is the full house of records. Each track is an ace and comes with a few jokers just for good measure. He is capable of the most exquisite tenderness one moment and pure gutter funk the next. If any record was to show off your sophisticated emotional side as a man; and get you ass – this is it. It is far from all roses though: the cover is a clear parody of advertising of the ’40s and ’50s, playing up the racial divide, and Curtis was always an outspoken songwriter with a message. ‘Billy Jack’ is an early example of a song about gun violence with a horn line that could pierce lead. It is the space within the music that most appeals to me of his personal work on Curtom. He moulds the music around you, inside you – it speaks to me on a very personal level. ‘So In Love’ is possibly the most gorgeous love song of all time and, for me, a bridal waltz to boot.

NWA – Straight Outta Compton

As an 11-year-old, I could have told you this would be in my top five of all time. 20 years on and I can’ think of a record that hit me with as much force or left such a lasting impression on me than Straight Outta Compton. From the get go, I was floored with the energy and raw power that roared out of the speakers. Putting the lyrics to one side, if you can; the music, a hostile creeping menace, opened my mind to the beat and the sample, even though I wouldn’ know the full impact of that ’til years later. My first copy was ripped onto cassette and I carried it everywhere. I had to get everyone to listen to it, I remember getting into a bit of trouble from my cousin who was a cop for that reason. Even with the disintegration of one half of the tape’ casing I still managed to get a few more years life out of it. This album entranced me as aural cinema, with all the subtlety of a Hollywood action flick. I’m still picking up samples off this album and dropping them on dance floors. I hope my tape it still out there somewhere.

Musique – ‘In The Bush’/’Keep On Jumpin’ 12”

If I was to ever kill a person with a record, I wouldn’ use this. This particular pressing, the François Kevorkian mix, is too potent. The collateral damage would be unacceptable for the one-shot one-kill type approach. ‘In The Bush’ and ‘Keep On Jumpin,’ both in their seven-plus minute battle dress, is like a stick of dynamite for a sand castle, a sledgehammer on a slug. I think I drove some friends mad with the number of times I have played this, but I say, if it makes you move you can’ lose. Musique is Patrick Adams, the King Midas of the disco world and Prelude is his kingdom. I measure all other dance floor oriented music against this record, and, I’m sorry, virtually nothing past the mid-’80s stacks up. There is something about a François K. mix. The bottom end has this amazing punch – so tight – and he’s pulled the mid-range in front of the music somehow, and lets those feverish congas run wild. I’m no engineer, but this is the hottest sounding record I have ever heard in terms of volume, colour and warmth. All the key audio-descriptors, this has them. This is what house thinks it is, and what techno should be.

Macho – ‘I’m A Man’

Another record I inherited, an Australian pressing of the Italian disco group Macho. Marzio Vincenti, a vocalist from Bologna, and Mauro Malavasi were the prime instigators for this sound, a kind of rock/disco blend. Within the wider white Australia at the time, though, I can’ help but think that this was taken as a nuisance, as some shitty gay wog music. This was the time of Kingswood Country remember. Macho is brazen and brutish, overtly masculine, flamboyant and gay. It was my breakout record as a DJ, helping me find my feet style-wise and start playing disco at parties that didn’ do disco. The people around me at the time saw this and other tracks like Paul Parker’ “Right On Target’s and Gino Soccio’ “Dancer’ as mere curios and some novel batty house skit and would smile to humour me. At over 17 minutes, this is a song where you can drop the needle in at least three separate sections and the uninitiated will find it difficult to pick the track. The midway breakdown into call-and-response between synth and horns resets the marching beat for wayward feet.

Tenderness – ‘Gotta Keep On Trying’ 12”

The sharing of music is important to me. Mixes by tape, CD or otherwise have been the single largest catalyst in my musical education, not to mention the sheer enjoyment and delight I get hearing new and exciting sounds. This record was given to me by a friend who saw the record as more in-tune with my personal tastes than his, and was enthusiastic in making sure I took it and shared with others. I was touched by the sentiment, not least because until he handed it over I had not heard this, but on hearing I could see what he meant. This song, its sound, its feel, the unrestrained power that “Gotta Keep On Trying’ has, makes it one of the songs of my internal soundtrack. Tenderness was produced and arranged by James Purdie, and written by him and Skip Mahoney. That is the sum total of information I have been able to find out about it. No idea who is in the band, who the band is, where it was recorded or who the vocalists were. To imagine that those involved were a flash in the pan beggar’ belief. The information available on Skip Mahoney is a bit more fruitful, being a key part of the Casuals, but again, not a direct mention of him being part of Tenderness or anything substantial. That is the way it was for many from that time, uncredited session musicians, twelves cut solely for the dance floor.

MSFB : ‘Love Is The Message’ (Cuco edit)

People wax lyrical and entire books have been written on the disco scene in New York. Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage, David Mancuso with the Loft, Sanctuary, West End Records, Prelude, Kenton Nix, Walter Gibbons, Arthur Russell. This pick could have been one of many influential records for any number of reasons. I chose this one because it’s a bootleg by Danny Krivit, and a leading light for me having just released our boot. Danny grew up in NYC in the mid-’70s, going from a music lover and dancer to DJ and edit-man. “Love Is The Message’ has been called Brooklyn’ national anthem and is the seminal club track, and chances are if you are to hear it on a dancefloor now it is almost certainly not the original but a Krivit edit. This is a slice of smooth perfection with the groove extended out to 11 minutes and, if your feet don’, your soul certainly can soar on the rich orchestration that mixes in and out before those solos… Woohooo! This is a ride across the globe, across time. When I’m old, I’ll be rocking out to this still and calling in radio requests on the AM dial. It is as suited to the easy listening grannies as a dark and sweaty dance floor. Heed the message, love is it.

Madvillain – Madvillainy

Going through numerous boxes of records of my flatmate’ when he returned from living in Chicago first exposed me to this collaboration between Madlib and MF Doom. The metal-faced menace on the cover could in no way convey the imagination-busting compositions of the LP. It sounds new on each of my many listens. As an amateur beatsmith, I can’ begin to think where you start putting together anything sounding remotely like this. Though forgetting everything you’ve learnt or heard in relation to structure and formula and smoking a pound of weed might be a start. It is the association between way out beats and how Doom matches sound, flow, phrase. “Fancy Clown’ flipping a ZZ Hill sample makes for the craziest anti-love song I’ve heard. There is a feeling of apparent spontaneity to this album as if it was put together not five minutes ago in my lounge-room. It is the apparent ease in which the mighty is made meek that floors me. The ability for the vocal to twist in and out, to roll around in it, around whatever it is, the organ solo that is “Great Day,’ leaves me thinking if only navigating the hurdles and changes of day to day living was so easy. People will be pulling this apart for years to come.

Various Artists : Groove Armada – Back To Mine

I permanently borrowed this from a friend just after he got this, so it’s no surprise I got my just desserts when the same was done in return by someone else, leaving just the case and sleeve notes for me to cry over. This is the only release of the Back To Mine series I’ve ever listened too and it opened my eyes to “The Sound Of Music’ by Dayton, which puts the vocoder to some amazing use, not to mention Sir Raymond Mang’ “No 1,’ a rejig of a Radiance track of the same name, and something that I’m still yet to pick up. During the time I had this CD, I listened countless times on repeat. It is an excellent example of what a DJ selects mix can be. Whenever I go to someone’ house I am quick to peruse their music collection and how it is organised, taking particular notice of those things near to hand or pushed randomly into a bookshelf rather than filed away neatly in a corner with their Jive Bunny’ and other clearly well-listened to volumes. I have picked up on a few treasures that way, such as IG Culture Presents: Inspirations. I have never bothered to find out who IG Culture is or what they have done, but I can’ speak more highly about that particular compilation. I know I am cheating by combining two albums under the one title but hopefully you’ll thank me for it on listening. Can you burn me a copy?

Mikey Miutante Selects

KLF – The White Room

We got a CD player really early in my family. I think my Dad was doing some job launching the things in Australia and somehow ended up bringing one home. Thing is, we didn’t have many CDs lying around. This was one of them though. I would have been about nine or 10 at the time and I developed a really strong fixation with it. I studied the lyric sheets and looked up words like ‘Mu-Mu’ in the dictionary. The situationist artistic statements were totally beyond me, I just knew it was weird and wonderful and my primary school friends hated it. I guess it was at this point I found myself sticking up for and identifying with “techno” music. I’m talking an early ’80s suburban primary school kid’s conception of techno here. Basically, anything with a drum machine that wasn’t Madonna. There was a real grass roots contempt for anything that wasn’t rock back then and it filtered down to 10-year-old boys in the playground. I think it was probably on the handball court that I got asked to pick my side, as is the nature of human beings (even the small ones). Well I chose techno and was mercilessly teased for it for about 15 whole minutes before the playground politics moved on. I sometimes think about that particular piece of absurd dialogue all these years and years later. Usually at 3am, watching people contort themselves on dance floors to the beat that goes on and on.

Brainstorm – ‘Wake Up and Be Somebody’

If there’s one thing that fucks me right off, it’s people who insist on presenting culture with a veneer of irony. It’s a cancer of the current generation. If you’re going to self-express it has to be honest and straight up. It needs to express some deep inner emotion. Otherwise it’s worthless and fake. If you’re talking about post-modern arts, like selecting a record to play for a dancefloor, for instance, it’s pretty lame to be making fun of someone else’ self-expression. Find something you genuinely like to play instead. This why I love this piece of music. Not only is it well produced and insanely arranged, it hits all the right notes on the dance floor, and the message is clear and honest: “Get up and be somebody, there’s room for everyone.” It’s true and it’s poison to cynicism.

Roy Ayers – Mystic Voyage

I bought this LP up in Byron Bay one summer. I think bought it and a Fela Kuti 12” in the same shop. I was going up for one of my cousins’ 18th birthdays and I’d just started to get the record bug really badly. The album is full of lots of straight up funky grooves. That inimitable Roy Ayers style. The tracks all hum along charmingly and have got that nice summertime bounce to them. There was some track on the inside I was planning to sample – at that stage I was playing in a kind of decks and samplers and miscellaneous boxes with knobs trio. It would have been nearly a year later that I discovered the magic track on that album, ‘Take all the time that you need.’ It’s hard to explain quite how hard this song touches me and quite why. It’s a perfectly written pop song, by Ashford and Simpson, I believe. It’s sung with desperate heart-rending passion and it’s woven around texturally wonderful music. Maybe it was just the context I first heard it in, or first remember hearing it in. It was 6am in a warehouse in Redfern. I’d been dancing all night to fairly mind-blowing music but none of that could be recalled the moment this one went on. It turned out one of my friends had been digging through my own record bag and had found at just at the right moment. I think I must have listened to it a 100 times over the next week.

Shuggie Otis – Inspiration Information

This album contains a lot of the musical elements that personally go straight to my heart. Sweet soul, lush warm tone, drum machines, songs about love and getting high. It’s the tone that’s the most important thing to me and is usually what I pick out of records. Not lyrics, not the melodies… the tone. There is no other album that gets the tone quite as right as this album for my ears. At times it’s all orchestral, at times it’s like drum machine driven slow cosmic trance, at times it’s got the wiggle of synthesiser funk. It all works though. The magic of music is to be found in tone and harmonics and this album is magic, make no mistake.

Os Mutantes – Os Mutantes

Now this is my sort of pop music. Every time I find myself disenfranchised with music I always head back to here. It’s fun, eccentric, incredibly catchy and full of great hooks and melodies. Their outfits were fantastic too. The musical references are so diverse and cover so many genres music but in an endearing very Brazilian fashion. People like Zappa who’ve attempted the same thing, I often find a little contrived. Maybe it’s the fact I have no idea what they’re singing about that stops me from seeing it as contrived. I like this fact as it gives me ample opportunity to make up my own words in the shower – it’s an evolving body of work this album. I didn’t realise until a couple of years ago that there was a whole movement of music like this. I’d always thought this band were one of a kind. To my mind they still are.

Liasons Dangereuse – Liasons Dangereuse

Industrial and noise based albums hold a special place in my heart. Particularly those with funk. A lot of people don’t appreciate that funk was a strong element in this genre of music in its inception. A lot of the modern day purveyors of the sound seem to have forgotten this too – the soundscaping and drone are all great ways of creating dissonance and priming the brain for a musical onslaught, but if you want to be truly visceral the real way to do it is make people dance. The brain processes music in the same place it processes human movement. The two are interrelated. Music is music because you imagine yourself either dancing to it or playing it. I spent a lot of time in my teens zoning out to various bands from Sheffield, but it was always the Europeans that were the funkiest and the noisiest and the most avant-garde. This record is about as noisy and avant-garde and funky as music gets.

J Dilla – Donuts

When Dilla died there was a lot of talk about this album. People with a passing interest in hip-hop were talking it up as the most important hip-hop work to date. It took me a while to get round to picking this up and giving it a listen. It’s so very rare that hype lives up to expectation in this world. I was expecting this to be yet another example of the self-serving Detroit marketing machine talking up something good but not that good. So six months later, when I finally did listen to it I was completely blown away. It was not the hip-hop beat tape I expected it to be. It’s what albums like DJ Shadow’s Entroducing and the Avalanche’s Since I Left You were working towards, but to my ears never quite made. More than anything else, the sample stock was utterly amazing music. And it was spliced with care, precision and humour. It reminded me just how close hip-hop and house are – particularly that moody Detroit style house – and reinvigorated my love for both.

Cloud One – Atmosphere Strutt

It’s incredibly difficuilt to put in to words quite how wonderful this LP is. I’ve seen people cry with joy on full dance floors when those psychedelic synthesiser parts start straining in from the heavens. When people tell me they don’t like disco music this is always the first album I reach for to explain it’s not all Sister Sledge and Donna Summer. It doesn’t need any explaining, I just play it, preferably up loud. I find this LP, more than any other, blows away peoples’ perception of what dance music can be. A lot of the underground dance music you hear played in Australia tends to work on the principle of hammering and haemorrhaging minds. Beat people into submission. Make them thrash. Once people are up and dancing and found their groove, that’s when their minds are open up to possibilities of music. They’re at their most vulnerable and they’re happy to let their emotions be tweaked. That’s when this piece of music should be played.

Nigel Richards – Acid Frenzy (mixtape)

Tapes! I had to include one tape in here. I’m a fairly obsessive music collector and before there was internet, there were only two ways I could find new music – radio shows or tapes. Tapes were where I found all the really far out music, music you just never came across in Australia. These tapes used to come from far and wide and were probably dubbed a 100 times before they got to me. I had one friend from high school in particular who introduced me to a lot of music and let me copy a lot of tapes. His mum lived over in Chicago and he’d spent lots of his summer holidays over there. He’d come back with crazy hip-hop tapes, techno tapes, old house tapes. Some of these house tapes were taken off the radio in Chicago maybe five to 10 years beforehand yet they were still doing the rounds. This Nigel Richards Acid Frenzy tape was one I really treasured at the time. Tweaked out banging acid before the whole thing got either nostalgic or turned into an over-exaggerated farce. I’m sure this tape was the one that kindled my interest and got me excited enough to seek out raves and doofs for the first time. All my tapes were left in the back of a car I once owned – warped in the sunlight and totally destroyed. Maybe that’s for the best, beauty is ephemeral they say.

Aretha Franklin – Best Of

By sheer force of repetition this album is undoubtedly my strongest formative influence. My older sister is a wonderful, wonderful singer. Both my sisters are. They sing beautiful harmonies together and have been doing so since they were small girls. I think my sisters listen to music differently to me. Music for them is about songs that you sing. A piece of recorded music is something that you buy to learn new songs. But you see, this is Aretha Franklin. Those notes are bloody hard to hit. And my sister is a perfectionist. The notes she’d hit were always on point to me, but never quite good enough for her. I’d say she practiced these songs again and again and again for nearly two years. I got to know the music inside out. I never got tired of it. It’s a wonderful album. And I learnt to properly appreciate strong female voice.

The Paradise Lost Edits 12″ is available from Paradiselost.net.au.

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