Fred Wesley, "House Party (Full Length Version)"
Dinosaur L, "#5 (Go Bang!)"
Steve Miller Band, "Macho City"
David Mancuso presents The Loft - Volume Two Disc Two
Death hangs over 2016 unlike any year I can remember. Alan Vega, Tony Conrad, Prince, Pauline Oliveros, Pulse night club, Ghost Ship, Leonard Cohen, David Mancuso. It's perhaps fitting in a year filled with such dark political rumblings that death would take center stage. I wish I had the perfect words to pay honor to all of these lives, the perfect words to make sense of this nightmare of a year. I don't. In fact, as you can tell by the lack of posts, I am struggling to say much these days. Luckily, this is a blog dedicated to music, which gives me a natural counter to silence. All of the names above, through the music they made, shared, spun and housed, offer examples of music's power, its ability to bring us to together, as sounds to break the silence of apathy and hopelessness.
I think a lot about David Mancuso these days, as his story connects to my own interests on so many levels. Disco, urban history, politics, acoustics, nature, sound, technology—all of these concepts emerge in his biography. I can't really add much to what far more knowledgeable and interesting writers have already said, but I can share this second volume of David Mancuso presents The Loft compilation, as it offers vivid reminders of those sounds that break the silence of apathy and hopelessness. Like its predecessor, this 2CD / 4LP set was compiled by Mancuso and his friend and associate Colleen 'Cosmo' Murphy in an attempt to give listeners a sonic sense of a night in The Loft. This means a disc for the early set and one for the late night into early morning. I wanted to re-thematize the two discs through the music samples above, highlighting the two aspects of the music that reinforce our vision of The Loft as a utopian space and provide an outline for future Lofts—joy and experiment.
Disc 1 centers on joy for me, as its highlights are great examples of the disco sound that evokes images of packed dancefloors and ecstatic dancers. Give a listen to Fred Wesley's "House Party" and tell me that you are not overcome with the desire to get up and dance, hang with friends and strangers, live and love. This one, off of Wesley's 1980 self-titled album, is a reminder of the fine line that separates Motown, soul, funk and disco. Wesley blurs it in fact, as he was a member of James Brown's early line-ups, George Clinton's Funkadelic & Parliament, and Bootsy Collins' Rubber Band, playing trombone on some of the funkiest horn sections that have ever existed. This track was a disco favorite; its rubbery bass, bright horns, infectious vocals and filthy groove were perfect for those dancefloors and dancers. I don't know how else to explain this, but it elicits the same feeling I get when I see a french bulldog in real life—pure joy, a guaranteed smile on my face. The second selection, Demis Roussos' "L.O.V.E. Got A Hold On Me," is an example of that classic disco sound, which is another way of saying pure joy; synths, strings and soaring vocals come together to create a 10-minute paean to love that reminds you of just how damn good the disco template was. Roussos is not a household name (or at least he isn't in my household), but the Greek singer was in a prog band with Vangelis in the early 1970s before becoming a Europop star later that decade. Sproingy bass and consistent beat keep the gorgeous vocals, violin, clarinet, and electric piano from soaring off into the heavens. Fantastic.
Disc 2 reminds us of just how eclectic and downright weird The Loft could get musically. Deep house moves into latin jazz into dub into downtempo into soul and you don't blink an eye. The two tracks I highlighted are two of my all-time favorites and emphasize just how much Mancuso and The Loft provided a space to experiment and reimagine dance music. We've already mentioned Arthur Russell in the look at Volume 1, but I couldn't help but share Dinosaur L's "Go Bang" as well. I am not talented enough to capture how amazing and unique these 8 minutes are; it's a noise funk banger that is what I imagine disco sounds like on Mars. The liner notes describe the concept behind the track, in which Russell experimented with an early form of sampling, copying the beats from previous songs. Russell came up with a formula to alter the beats every 24 bars; over this structure, the band improvised, coming up with this original version that would serve as the source material for Francois K's better known version. As Chris Menist says in the liner notes, like this early attempt at sampling, "The Loft was in some ways a giant experiment that went right". In that light, make sure to listen to Steve Miller Band's "Macho City," the 16+ minute ambient disco number. Yes, that Steve Miller. The joker who took the money and run one. I implore you to listen to this one, as everyone needs this in their life.
I want to close with one more quote from the liner notes, this one a testimony from the late NYC DJ and producer Adam Goldstone, that connects to one of our great interests at Pound for Pound—quiet.
"The Loft differed from the other discos and parties not only in the type of records you'd hear and the manner in which they were presented (i.e. in their entirety, without mixing) but also in the volume at which they were played. It wasn't about bludgeoning you into submission with decibels there. The music was played at levels that would be considered quiet anywhere else, which not only resulted in clearer sound but also allowed everyone there to really listen to the music instead of just letting it surround them like really loud aural wallpaper. In this way, it was almost as if you had to do some of the work yourself. But it also meant that we were able to sit right smack in front of the speaker, normally a rather foolish idea if you want to keep your hearing, and let the music wash over us completely, yet we didn't have to worry about going deaf, and we could have a conversation right there if we wanted."
I don't have anything profound to say about this, other than a heartwarming sense of connection with Mancuso, The Loft and its many denizens over the decades. The inclusion of The Orb also confirmed a kinship. Thank you David. Thank you for The Loft. Thank you for breaking the silence. Thank you for providing so much joy for so many years. Thank you for providing a space for people to experiment and feel safe doing so. Thank you for everything.