The Attic

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Shadowplayers: how Factory Records created great music against all odds

"The only alternate to the spectacle becomes the spectacle of the alternate. Discuss."
Factory Newsletter #1

Coming across the FAC.DANCE compilation at Rotate This was one of the highlights of the month. The sleeve notes, written by the walking DJ encyclopedia that is Bill Brewster, mentioned a book for those who needed to know more about New Wave and post-punk music: Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records, by James Nice. I needed to know more. One library trip later, it was mine.

As the title suggests, Shadowplayers goes into exhaustive detail on the origins and early beginnings of Factory Records, the anarchic, under-managed, pretentious shambles of a label that nevertheless was responsible for some of the greatest artists and records in the late 70s and 80s. Joy Division, New Order, OMD, A Certain Ratio, the Happy Mondays and countless other New Wave/electronic acts were born from Tony Wilson's vision of a Manchester movement that would spearhead a new wave of Northern culture and sophistication.

If you're the kind of person like me who likes to obsess over details and obscure knowledge, you need to read this book. Not only does it paint a clear picture on the origins of early electronic music as we know it, but it exposes you to artists who you've likely never heard of. Section 25's "Looking From a Hilltop" sounds like a present-day Detroit techno homage, despite being recorded by a pasty-white English band in 1984.

Marcel King's "Reach For Love" was a funky Paradise Garage favorite in 1985, after being produced by the same guy who fronted New Order (bonus points if you don't have to check wiki for his name).

Anyways, you can check out the full FAC.DANCE song list here; share your favorites below and try to incorporate some of these songs into your mixes. It beats playing whatever shit's on Beatport's 'most popular' list...

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Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Hard Sell: Join our list. Resistance is futile

[Dancers at Studio54]

Are you tired of crowded clubs, overpriced drinks and terrible Top40 music? Of course you are.

Do you want to see more classic dance parties across Toronto? Of course you do.

This is your chance to make it happen.

We need 50 people to make a classic disco, new wave and house dance party happen. If you sign up for our mailing list, we can convince owners that people will come out, resulting in you getting an amazing dance party to take some hot selfies at.

Sometimes the realities of the DJ scene collide with the idealism; promoters and owners want guaranteed bums on benches, or on the dance floor, or anywhere inside the premises as long they they pay cover and buy drinks. DJs want to play their special music, and people just want to have a good time. The solution: get on our mailing list to satisfy promoters and make the dream a reality.

Q. Why do you need 50 people on a mailing list?

A. We need some kind of guarantee for owners and promoters that a crowd will show up if we put on a dance party, and it won't be just us and a roomful of expensive equipment, alone, dancing slowly and crying in the dark. It's also the best way for us to let you know when and where to be once we get the venue sorted out.

Q. What kind of dance party will this be?

A. A classic New York/Chicago style dance party: dirty disco, 80s new wave, early house and techno with the odd pop song thrown in for fun. Basically this, but longer and louder.

Q. I don't want to receive spam and crappy promotions.

A. I have no interest in sending spam; the list will solely be used to send you information about dance parties and DJ nights we set up across Toronto. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Q. Sounds fun, where do I sign up?

A. Right here:

Subscribe to Mixes in the Attic's mailing list

Email Format

Q. Now what do I do?

A. Bask in the knowledge that you've helped to make the world a slightly better place.

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Monday, 23 June 2014

Hello Steve Reich: James Murphy's best remix ever?

And the music world breathes a sigh of relief as this blog is once again updated. Even though this was released back in October, it deserves another listen:

I can hear the complainers already; it's too long, why the fuck is there clapping noises, who the hell is Steve Reich? Leaving aside the length (it's perfect), clapping (amazing) and Steve Reich (check out his vids on Youtube), what this remix is is ten and a half minutes of stuttering disco sleaze that revisits the lost art of taking your damn time.

I love that it takes nearly five minutes for the beat to drop. I love the snippets of "Ashes to Ashes" that's thrown behind the beat. I love the weird and slightly depressing lyrics. It's a shame that I can't think of any DJs who would be willing to play this.

David Bowie's Love is Lost (Hello Steve Reich mix by James Murphy for the DFA): glitchy disco goodness, or 10 minutes of spastic clapping and no bass? Let me know...

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Monday, 5 August 2013

The rise of House music, from Detroit to Manchester

[Interior of the Hacienda nightclub, Manchester]

As the 90s progressed and drum machines gave increasing power to DJs while allowing producers to explore different sounds and increasingly complicated rhythms, new genres sprung up faster than most people could keep up with. By the late 90s things had reached a climactic peak of idiocy, with music fans and artists hell bent on sub-classifying house music into increasingly obscure and pointless genres that often made little to no sense at all. However, broadly speaking, in many of the clubs in Europe (especially Berlin) house music was becoming more sparse, with DJs favouring minimal melodies and ambient experiments paired with driving beats that could come and go like a aural tide.

Drawing inspiration from the sparser sounds of Detroit techno, Deep House softens the harsh edges of industrial beats and relies of bass-heavy warmth to drive bodies on the dance-floor. Often classified as progressive house, trance, minimalist or tech house, its resurgence in popularity thanks to newer artists such as Deadmau5 will ensure that the delights of enraged genre debates can continue in future generations.

Deep House/Techno DJ mix:

Artist // Track

1. Begin - Elate
2. Deadmau5 - Faxing Berlin
3. Daft Punk - Contact
4. System 7 - Spacebird (Dubfire remix)
5. Underworld - Mmm... Skyscraper I Love You
6. Shlomi Aber & Itamar Sagi - Blonda (Original)
7. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
8. Orbital - Belfast

Like what you hear? Subscribe to our mailing list to help create shows like this across Toronto.

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Saturday, 3 August 2013

Track Highlight: Mother of Pearl

The original Dorian Gray, Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music has made a career of looking for love in all the wrong places. Before sliding into a wearied but knowing collapse of easy listening, Roxy Music spent the 70s as one of the pioneers of British art-rock, mixing experimental studio techniques with high-brow lyrics and unsettling performances.

This song from their third album is a story told in two parts, with the narrator finding himself in the middle of a frenzied party, frantically trying to be noticed. Later, reflecting on the night, he stumbles upon life's inner meaning and ponders on the futility of his search for love. Those familiar with Ferry must wonder at the obvious parallels with his own life, and the tragedy of predicting his own personal troubles while being unable to avoid them. Still, it's unlikely he'd change it for the whole world.

For more information:

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Monday, 8 July 2013

Track Highlight: La Mer - Sleazy disco

One of the most famous French chansons, "La Mer" has been covered endlessly by artists in every style of music imaginable. What makes Julio Iglesias' version special is the funky sleaze which his band uses to turn a melancholy and introspective song into a dirtier disco track that slinks through the speakers like a nauseous fog.

Used (with good reason) recently in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", playing in the background of a miserable alcohol-fueled office party in a dingy room choked with cigarette smoke and secrets, Iglesias croons gently as the movie reaches it's finale of betrayal and regrets. A world away from the lighthearted pop tunes of ABBA and the Bee Gees, this is disco that explores the darker side of love, something which is far more resonant, timeless and real than Travolta strutting around in a shiny suit.

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Friday, 5 July 2013

The New Wave of Disco: how technology changed music (for the better)

[Bruce Davidson: Subway (New York City, 1980)]

As the grime of the late 1970s progressed into the glossy sheen of the Reagan and Thatcherite years, New Wave began hitting the clubs across Europe and North America. Something that seems to be lost in clubs today is the sheer eclecticism that DJs displayed when sharing music with the crowd. Disco hits from a few years ago would be mashed together with the latest tracks that used shimmering synthesizers and cold drum machines instead of the warm studio sounds favoured by session musicians, creating a chaotic but frenetic atmosphere that in many ways mirrored the social and economic upheavals of the time.

No Wave Disco - Disco/New Wave DJ mix:

Artist // Track

1. Tambi - You Don't Know (Horse Meat Disco Remix)
2. Young Marco - Darwin in Bahia
3. Rose Laurens - American Love
4. Visage - Fade to Gray
5. Wild Geese - Macho Disco Master
6. Metro Area - Atmosphrique
7. The Human League - Don't You Want Me?

Like what you hear? Subscribe to our mailing list to help create shows like this across Toronto.

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Thursday, 4 July 2013

Not your Dad's disco: the origins of dance music

In the beginning... there was the Paradise Garage. Arguably the birth place of what would later become modern dance/DJ culture, the Paradise Garage had the most impressive sound system ever heard.