Magical Moton Moments

Long-running label, Moton Records Inc., have a new 12 in shops – where they’ve enlisted assistance from Marc Roberts, founder of the Bali-based Pantai People. I thought that this might be a good time to take a trip through the London imprint`s back catalogue, and list a few personal Moton moments…Now, I know the subject of unlicensed re-edits is a very thorny one, but back in the days before online forums, marketplaces, and stores, labels such as Black Cock, and Moton, were not just delivering floor-filling dynamite – re-edits, of course, have always been an essential, central, part of underground dance culture – but also an education. Uncovering stuff that previously only heavy disco dons and gurus were privy to. 

Billy Paul – East – 1996

Moton East

I’ve online bantered before about why this was / is such a big tune for me. It`s one of those songs that sonically signposts a particular time, a crossroads, a turning – or tipping – point in my life. Suffice to say that it was Gilles Peterson, during his Sunday evening residency on Kiss, who hipped me to it, and Nick Huggett – a fellow Croydon boy – then working the counter at Mr. Bongo on Poland Street, who did the honours, and as if by magic came up with the goods. When I went into the shop, asking after the tune, he said something like, “That`s funny, a bloke`s just dropped a box of these off.” Bolstered by beefed up drums and percussion, on the flip there`s a live dub that fires phased and echoed fragments of the original song through this new battery. One for the hardcore / headstrong. 

George Duke – Northbeach – 1997

George Duke’s proto-ambient techno keyboard freakout, from 1974, gets given a bad-meaning-good broken beat bashment drum workout. A flash piece of future fusion on a par with Carl Craig’s cracking overhaul of UFO`s Planet Plan. 

Moton Northbeach

King Errisson – Well, Have A Nice Day – 1997

Moton Have A Nice Day

Bumped along by brass blasts and a proud, punchy b-line, taking in Mardi Gras cowbell and congas, and celebratory Copacabana salsa piano, really it`s the brilliant lyric that sets this track apart. Recounting a first-person narrative where a smooth talking old fame gets seriously blown out. Where “I hope you’re not still sore”, gets quickly followed by, “Would you like a drink and maybe dinner too”, only for our “hero” to be promptly knocked back. It`s disco comedy gold, laugh out loud funny, although by the end he does sound genuinely angry and pissed off at getting the bum`s rush.

Fela Kuti – Water Get No Enemy – 1999

Moton Fela

I am eternally grateful to Moton for introducing me to this sublime, spiritual, almost modal afrobeat shuffler. When its main riff explodes, for me its right up there with Pharoah Sander`s seminal, You’ve Got to Have Freedom, as far as joyous, uplifting jazz-dancers go. Over the course of 11 minutes, swinging between solos on saxes and a variety of keys, Fela invokes a Yoruba proverb to remind folks of man`s insignificance and the true nature of power. 

While on the A-side, the Moton version does little more than boost the bass, just like the Billy Paul 12, it`s flipped by a significantly shorter dub, where the horns get looped, twisted, “mutated”, and sucked inside out. 

Ed Motta – Brazilian Song – 2000

Moton Brazilian Song

Buoyant, bouncing, Brazilian boogie, that switches from lush, lithe scatting, to a sweet Sylvester-like falsetto. 

Carl Bean – I Was Born This Way – 2000

Moton This Way

Remixed into disco and house history by two legendary duos – Boyd Jarvis & Timmy Regisford, and Bruce Forest & Shep Pettibone – in 1986 (Bruce has a brilliant story about finding the master tapes in a plastic carrier bag), the Moton mix takes a tiny snippet of keys, and vamps on this for 5 or 6 minutes, backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards, before knocking your socks off with the strings. An emotional eruption to equal Black Science Orchestra`s update of The Trammps` The Night The Lights Went Out, I always assumed it was the Black Cock chaps – DJ Harvey and Gerry Rooney – behind this (see also the edit of Tenderness on Noid), but perhaps more logically it might have been Ashley. 

Various – Kane’s Spanish Home – 2007

NYC renaissance man, Dennis Kane, reconnects to The White Isle of the early `80s with a high-camp hit of heel-stamping, hand-clapping, castanet-clacking, flamenco-flavoured Euro-disco. Cutting together two different tunes, excising the cheesier chunks, and building the combined drama into an uber-Balearic epic. 

When this one came out I`d just moved to Japan. The enormity of my decision in full dawn. How the fuck would I ever get back? In a panic, my OCD manifesting itself big time (that first year in Tokyo I ended up – a la Alan McGee – with duplicates of everything), I got my nerdy knickers in a proper twist – thinking that I`d never be able to locate this 12 in The Land Of The Rising Sun. It would be gone. What would I do? I was emailing mates back “home” – like Emotional Rescue`s Chuggy – asking them to secure me a copy ASAP. I needn’t of worried. In those days you could find everything, and I mean everything here. Shibuya in particular was a diggers paradise. Shop walls adorned with promo 12s of Loft classics that I never knew existed. Pretty sharpish I wasn’t only buying, but selling. Right now, however, with a skeleton service of international flights and tourist doors still closed, it`s a very different story. 

Moton Kanes Spanish Home

Malinga Five – Malinga – 2008

On their earlier releases, Moton`s “disco-adjustments” could sometimes be difficult to discern, and the 12s arguably simply straight bootlegs. However, later outings saw them elegantly extend rarities, such as this jazzy afro gem. A joint that juxtaposes a gentle groove with mad, Moog-y, sing – and shout – along sections. 

Moton Malinga copy

Mary Mundy – Love Is Gone – 2009

Moton Love Is Here

A glorious gospel party-starter, that was recently legit reissued by Moton alumni, The Patchouli Brothers, here renamed, Love Is Here. An irrepressible, piano-pounding, exuberant, euphoric, ecstatic epiphany.  

Miriam Makeba – i’mm you’mm we’mm – 2013

Moton I You We

A heavenly, hypnotic, harpsichord-led chant / hymn to unity. File next to Letta Mbulu`s David Axelrod-produced, West Wind. 

? – Feel Good – 2016

Moton Feel Good

This smooth soul / funk, brassy big band construction is proper acid house / Balearic backroom business, that boasts a strong, strong, vocal. The seamless extension transforming the tune from something understated into an anthem. 

Marc Roberts – UNO – 2022

Moton Marc Roberts 1

King Of Nice Days takes the aforementioned King Errisson track, and harnesses all the familiar OG elements to a robust 4 / 4. Perhaps in homage to Moton herself, its a disco delight turned disco`s revenge. Two tunes on the new E.P. head back to Brazil. Maia Amor is a swirling, orchestrated boogie, that patiently holds onto its horns for a soaring, solo-filled finale, while Star Max is a sultry, sophisticated serenade that sounds like Steely Dan covering Michael Jackson`s Billie Jean. My personal pick, though, is UNO, which has Marc teasing his way through a forgotten album track by troubled troubadour, John Martyn. Reconfiguring the song – cut from the same perky pop cloth as Chris Rea`s Josephine – as a chugging, mid-tempo, bona fide loved-up Balearic Beat. 

Marc Roberts` E.P. is out now, on Moton Records. You can find copies at Juno and Phonica. If you’re in Japan, Strada are taking pre-orders. 

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