There’s obviously a massive over-riding aesthetic to Mark Seven`s Parkway, and Parkwest, Records. From the music to the typed – on a typewriter – press “one-sheets”. But what might have initially, on the surface, seemed lovingly crafted, extremely authentic homage, by sticking to their musical guns, over 9 years and 14 releases, the imprints` outputs have become far more than that. You could easily program a whole set from the labels` joint catalogues, 12s and one 10”, and it wouldn’t simply be “house music all night long”. It would actually cover a range of tempos – not only 120 / 124 – and be pretty eclectic. Sure Mark`s a little nostalgic – looking back to a decade or so when affordable machines led to an exponential phase in dance floor experimentation. When a polysynthetic phrase found through serendipity could be your hook, or a Roland b-line just plain irresistible. If these are tributes, updates of tropes, then they span a very busy 10 years of developments in disco, and disco`s revenge. All of it goes into the Parkway / Parkwest pot.
The latest record for example, The Whole Truth`s Lord, Quench My Soul – currently limited to a small number of snail-mailed promos** – to my ears references the electric boogie of Junior Byron, The Xtras, even the Earons` chunky Compass Point groove. Or the bass-heavy collision of sound system culture and high school jazz bands that birthed the UK`s brit-funk phenomenon. Bouncing around at 110BPM. The line, “Fill my cup Lord, fill it up” delivered with the lilt of a New York Rasta – a kind of Monyaka chant – rather than the full-on gospel that I at least expected. While the rest of the vocal comes on “blue-eyed” – think Loft smashes, The Hollies` Dragging My Heels, or Firefly`s Love Is Gonna Be On Your Side. The Club Mix clipping the instrumental refrains, sending them spinning, hypnotic, while letting the piano take the lead. The organ-intro`d Garage Mix spacing things out, echoing those vocals, making some room for the congas, and letting the synth go stratospheric. None of this sounds sampled, but instead “played” – adding to its timeless nature.
Taken together, in hindsight and retrospect, the records on Parkway and Parkwest amount to a black music history lesson. I mean Mark would never be that academic, he`s just making music he loves, but if you don’t believe me, you can check for yourself over at Bandcamp.
**Me on the same mailing list as Hunee – as one of my “heroes”, Lester Bangs`, was apt to say “Who`d have thunk it?”