Natalie texts me, she’s just pulled up outside. ‘Here now burnsie!!’
‘Two shakes of my bottom,’ I reply. We’re on our way to a 21st, somewhere bayside. One of the hosts (it was a joint 21st) is James. He’s the one I bumped into in Budapest last year in the wee hours of the morning. ‘Is that Luke Burns?’ I remember him saying, his voice coming at me from shadows, a streetlight holding him aglow. Neither of us knew we were in Budapest, or in Europe.
It’s a good little story. Natalie and I try to remember when we each first met him. We can’t quite recall. We do know the party is going to be ‘hipster as fuck’ and this doesn’t surprise nor discourage us. It feels good to get to a house party again—something I always say when I arrive at one, pushing my way through a gate I’ve never touched before, sheepishly navigating my way through some garage or garden path.
The idea is a bit rubbish, that to turn 21 is the burgeoning of our adulthood. Boy oh boy, does it make me feel young. It’s the sound of young people, definitely no longer teenagers, but not quite adults, talking excitedly about life; it’s the site of people sitting on the grass, rolling cigarettes and drinking tinnies; it’s a fire; it’s music; it’s a fair evening, just cool enough for a jacket. The presence of a blue sky, friends, alcohol and even just the slight smell of tobacco on the air hauls me back in time. I take a deep breath and feel good.
The music is different to what I’m used to. What am I used to hearing being spun at 21st’s? The same boring suburban garbage. What I heard this evening was what I think of as a mix of House and Nu Disco. James and his friends take turns mixing vinyls. He’s tall, 6’1 or 6’2 maybe, and he looms over the decks in shorts and a massive, outstanding short-sleeved shirt that I wish I could pull off. Admittedly I know little about the music so I asked James later for some recommendations, for somewhere to get me started. Like the gentleman he is, he was happy to do so. In total he recommended five different labels.
The first is Dark Entries Records, working mostly with reissues from the 80’s and 90’s. They’re ‘bangers,’ James tells me, ‘that for whatever reason, never got huge.’ Recommended is Victrola and Severed Heads to start with. This stuff feels slightly like a novelty, but it’s still good. Next is Fit Sound, based in Detroit and headed by Aaron ‘fit’ Siegel. It’s House/Techno/Experimental, and I’m told to start with Siegel himself, A Drummer From Detroit, and Marcellus Pittman. I love Siegel’s “Carmine” straight off the bat—there’s always something about a soft, ambient synth moving in the background that gets me (and reminds me instantly of Aphex Twin). A Drummer From Detroit’s “Part One” seems like an obvious place to start and offers what you think: drums. It’s tribal, it’s groove and it’s sustained by the bongo loops, good percussion, accompanied by wailing guitars and strong keys. “Part Two” (same link) I like even better—good vocal samples, groovy bass line, and the keys are fun.
I have a feeling I’m going to be listening to a lot of Marcellus Pittman. At a glance he looks like a prolific producer and I’m won over immediately. Pittman also appears under Sound Signature, a label that I take to be rather iconic, having been around for about 20 years and headed by Theo Parish, a well-known producer known for his genre jumping. It’s ‘complex, gritty, dynamic, arty house and techno,’ James tells me. I come across a track titled “Lost Angel“. It has that simplistic build I like, minimalist and meditative. I quickly discover that Pittman and Parish have worked together to produce tracks like “Questions Comments”, part of a three-track 2002 vinyl release. I know Parish works with Jazz also. I’ll have to look into this.
There’s still more for me to explore. Mood Hut, springing out of Vancouver in 2012. Newer, and releasing stuff from a range of different genres. I’m told to start with Aquarian Foundation, Pender Street Steppers, and Jack J. And lastly, there’s Tusk Wax, a rather curious sounding label that, according to James, is run by ‘one bloke in Nottingham, limited to 4 track house/disco/edit compilations, no digital, no repress.’ That considered, I’m going to have to hunt down the tracks, previews of which are here (also, mixes). Tusk Gold, Tusk Wax 1, 19, and 20 are my recommended starting points.
But enough of that. Back at the party, the people are different, I do realise, from those I’ve happened to mix with. I feel more at home for some reason, more than I do farther out in the suburbs. Of course, I love the friends from my youth, from east-side. It’s the general difference, a feeling. There’s a staggering uniformity about the outer suburbs, facile and crude. The closer in you go, the greater difference you encounter.
I think this and I quickly inquire of myself, ‘is it just wealth you like the look of?’ Is it some kind of liberal bias associated with the coast and inner suburbs, the city? I don’t know. I’m not sure that I care. It does, however, make me yearn to move on from the burbs, the land of listless dreams. The land of the same.
Natalie drives me home. Free wine and beer has its way with me and I’m jolly and talkative. We carry on about the music and whatever else. It’s a 40 minute drive back home. We say goodbye and I step onto the street, my street. I walk down the drive, feel the crunch of the stones under my boots, hear the familiar sound. I dig my hand into my pocket, feel for the right key. I don’t turn on any lights. I tap the walls as I go, feeling my way through the same rooms—the same as ever in the dark.
familiar, familiar, familiar.