Alex Knight is the co-founder, alongside Dave Cawley, of respected independent label, Fat Cat Records. I met Alex in around 1991 / 92, when Fat Cat was not a label, but a record shop. Located in the basement of a clothes “boutique” on Monmouth Street. Off of Covent Garden`s Seven Dials. Early devotees to the sounds coming out of Chicago and Detroit, Dave and Alex had been the first people to bring Juan Atkins to the UK. When Mad Mike brought his message across the Atlantic, Alex was driving the Underground Resistance tour bus. Fat Cat was quite possibly the best “Electronica” shop in the world. Super enthusiastically stocking and supporting every new genre of music that technology could come up with.
An amazing House and Techno DJ himself, Alex held a residency at Steve Bicknell`s legendary Lost parties. He was Derrick May`s support DJ of choice whenever Derrick played at the Ministry Of Sound. Personally, it was his warm-up sets at Andrew Weatherall`s Sabresonic parties at EC1 that made the biggest impression. Where he`d seamlessly beat-match from 0 to 120 BPM in the space of two hours.
Fat Cat became a record label in 1996, and to a large extent moved away from its Dance roots. Releasing, Folk, filthy Punk Rock and ground-breaking albums from then unknowns, such as Sigur Ros and Animal Collective. Joining the dots from Pete Namlook to Charlie Patton. In 2001 they started a separate imprint, 130701, headed by another Dave, Howell, devoted to Modern Classical. This year Fat Cat will come full circle and launch a new Dance label, FCR. The first missive, Cottam`s I Can`t Carry On, due in September.
On my last trip home I met Alex for dinner. He spoke with such passion about the new label and a whole host of young Electronic artists. Only a couple of whom I had heard of. With a big smile on his face, explaining their commitment to a word-of-mouth culture of limited runs of hand-stamped, hand-drawn, physical releases. I had to ask him if he could provide Ban Ban Ton Ton with some reviews and an insight into this world. These are the first. Rounding up a selection of Alex`s recent favourites. Accompanied and aurally illustrated by a vinyl-only mix.
Words & Music by Alex Knight
After a number of false dawns and technical hiccups, I’m pleased, and somewhat relieved to finally have a moment to pull together the first in a series of regular mixes with accompanying reviews of the records used in the mix.
These are records purchased recently. They’re not necessarily brand spanking new. They could be re-issues of old classics. Repressed and made available again. They could be new records undergoing a second pressing due to demand. Or a record that slipped past me on release but which demanded a second listen.
So first up is renowned Chicago producer, and master of the deep, Ron Trent, who delivers classic House. Stripped-back, rolling beats, a relentless bassline which tumbles and rolls. All underpinned with repetitive vocal hooks that can only be from Chicago. Kinky City forms part of his Humans, Drums and Machines project on his own Electric Blue imprint.
Breaking out of the back of Kinky City, Innershades come at us with a track that owes more to the classic ‘Kick and Stab’ of New Yorks’ finest,Todd Terry, than anything from Chicago. Released on Club Lonely Records, it takes the shape of a classic sample-based party anthem. Up tempo key-stabs and skipping beats. Looping female vocal samples. Its bubbling 303 segues gently into new work Influxxx from Gnork. A heavy kick and clever interplay of rim shots and hats keep the track taut and tight whilst strings soar and glide. A simple but effective refrain.
Levon Vincent, hailing from New York, and label owner of the astonishing Novel Sound label pops up on the third instalment of Dekmantel’s 10 year Anniversary series and delivers an absolute House classic. Elegant is not a word normally associated with House music but this really is. Simple, beautiful, stunning.
Chaos in the CBD, two brothers from Auckland, New Zealand, now based in London, have been building a steady arsenal of catalogue over the past couple of years. Renowned for the attention to detail and quality of their productions they more than deliver with False Awakenings. A tribal, percussive, roller with melodies that float and twist. Strings that glide. A sound that never tires. I can stay with this groove all night long..
Doc Daneeka, a name taken from Catch-22, is a Welsh producer whose work has already appeared on NMBRS and 50 Weapons. Here he debuts a belter of a release on his own Ten Thousand Yen imprint. Reminiscent of Harvey at his peak, this is a dirty, tribal, head-nodder. A guaranteed party anthem and a brilliant way to launch your own label..
Re-pressed / re-issued and back in the shops The Buzz by Pacific Beach is essentially a re-edit of Maynard Ferguson’s The Fly. Albeit fused with and driven by a Moodyman style bassline and the addition of multiple layers of percussion. With original copies changing hands for upwards of $100 this is a timely repress.
The Posse, not to be confused with Da Posse, hail from Sydney and this their debut release on Australia’s Ken Oath records is finely crafted Acid House in a very traditional style. Rolling 303 basslines, subtle strings and gliding keys. It segues perfectly into the “Rocksteady Disco” of Peter Croce. One of the new breed of producer / DJ’s, alongside Blair French, Todd Modes, Ali Berger and others that are emerging from the birthplace of Techno, Detroit. Revival is classic House. A preacher discussing the state of affairs in today’s USA, back-dropped by a driving drums, Kerry Chandler style key stabs and a pulsating 3 note bassline. What else could you possibly want?
Well you might want to take in one of the masters of Acid House. Blake Baxter has been there since day dot. Alongside Juan and Derrick he’s responsible for turning my head as a youth growing up in the suburbs. With Tyree on production duties this is a timely re-issue and remix of the original Let It Go, which first appeared on Dance Mania 21 years ago. Minimal, distorted, it’s everything Acid House should be.
I don’t know too much about Violet Poison who deliver another grimy and gritty Acid Houser for DJ Nephils Gravitational Waves imprint. But it’s safe to say that this is late night, uncomfortable listening. Turn off the lights, play it loud. Drop out.
Finishing with a lesson in production from DJ Nature. What it Isn’t showcases a producer at his peak. Freak Funk, scattered beats, floating melodies and a producer unafraid to play with his art. Play with his listener. This is a must have EP. A current and future classic.
Ron Trent – Kinky City – Electric Blue
Innershades – Crystal (LA-4A remix) – Club Lonely USA
Gnork – Influx – Magicwire – 0010
Levon Vincent – UK Spring Vibes – Dekmantel
Chaos in the CBD – False Awakening – IDWT Music
Doc Daneeka – Save Me – Ten Thousand Yen
Pacific Beach – The Buzz (Love drop edit) – Disco Deviance
The Posse – Seasons Greetings – Ken Oath Records
Peter Croce – Revival – Rocksteady Disco
Blake Baxter – Let It Go – Chicago Vinyl Records
DJ Nephil – Violet Poison – Gravitational Waves
DJ Nature – What it Isn’t – Future Boogie Recordings