(This article originally appeared in QX Magazine)
By Cliff Joannou
Tell us in one juicy sentence who Daniel Wang is...
Daniel Wang is a possibly typical California-born gay Chinese-American guy whose ten years in New York and ten years of living in Berlin have added up to a rather open-minded and musically entertaining DJ who plays mostly (but not exclusively) classic disco records – for the DJ world. Maybe not unlike what Margaret Cho is for the stand-up comedy circuit.
Well, that’s a mighty long sentence, but we’ll allow it. Now, finish this sentence: “Disco is divine because...”
Its classic incarnations from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, truly the meeting of the genius of jazz and classical forms with the rhythmic richness of diverse African rhythms, played and often mixed down by musicians and studio engineers who knew their trade, unlike the majority of laptop-based DJ/producers today who know little about either proper music-making or sound production.
Woah, tiger! Don’t hold back. You're also quoted as saying, "The whole of house music can be summed up in 200 pieces of vinyl." Like, wow. Please explain...
I still feel that way: most of house can be summed up in about 200 pieces of vinyl because the rules of the genre are extremely self-limiting. House is defined overwhelmingly as a machine beat with a mechanical repetitive bassline with some samples or vocals on top. Any real guitar, string or brass section, or real live drumming would be another territory. There are almost NEVER any proper chord changes or musical ideas, only jamming over a single non-changing groove. The best and strongest house records rely on their raw power and simplicity and the natural groove in the drum machines and synthesizers, like the Roland 909 and 303. And the rest is pretty forgettable. It doesn’t have to be a hit or even memorable to be good, but as a DJ and music lover, I would say, there aren’t a fraction of house records which have truly stood the test of time the way the great disco classics have. Not that I want to play only Salsoul classics or Dan Hartman's Relight My Fire over and over again, but…!
DANIEL WANG’S HORSE MEAT DISCO @ DALSTON SUPERSTORE TOP 10
1. MFSB - Old San Juan
I just got this CD reissue of my favourite MFSB album, their last from 1980. The album was apparently a commercial failure, this classic jazz and orchestral disco sound was no competition against Donna Summer or the Bee Gees. Because it was too beautiful and maybe too sophisticated, not suited for AM radios, more for stereophile dancing...
2. Jean Carn - My Love Don’t Come Easy
A new remix from 2011 by master Tom Moulton, reissued on CD, just found it at a local electronics market near my home in Berlin! Actually it's a 4 CD set, truly fantastic, 11 minute version!
3. Ben Cenak + Dream 2 Science - Dream2Science
A classic late night acid 303 track with hypnotic pads and jazz piano solo. One of a kind. Not disco. Simply gorgeous.
4. Ritchie Family, 1976 - Baby I'm On Fire
Album cut on Arabian Nights LP. I don’t like most of their songs really, too kitschy. But this one has a killer 106 BPM swinging groove and great arrangements!
5. Fancy - Slice Me Nice
Eurotrash disco 1984 just for fun! It's a cheesy take on Passion by The Flirts. But the sound production is awesome. And the lyrics about wanting to be a piece of cake...
6. Maynard Ferguson - Invitation/ Pagliacci
Massive fusion-funk workout 1978-style with ARP synths, flute solos, and a classic jazz motif strangely reminiscent of the Theme From Star Trek.
7. Karen Carpenter - Slow Dance
That early '80s slick production! Fat tinkly Fender Rhodes piano and a groove which is almost… danceable. Who cares when Karen's voice is cooing so gorgeously like that...
8. Jeanne Shy - Night Dancer
Big orchestral 1978 disco 12" clocking in at about 128 BPM, produced by Bob Esty who also did Cher’s Take Me Home among others. A bit over the top, but I love the instrumental break at the end.
9. Blaze - Can’t Win For Losing
The best of New Jersey soulful house music circa 1989. I love the instrumental version without the slightly rough vocals. This track seems a precursor to their successful later remix of Lisa Stansfield's first club hit with Coldcut, People Hold On.
10. Ron Trent - JourneyN2U
It makes me wanna dance! I think this is from year 2005 or so? A loopy trippy pretty house music jam! Just so we don’t get stuck in a 1979 disco time warp, you understand. Say goodbye to screaming divas and say hello to the trancey hypnotic spiritual groove of contemporary electronic whatever!
Join Daniel Wang at Horse Meat East this Friday 20th December at Dalston Superstore from 9pm - 4.30am
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