In this weeks show we will explore the history of remixes and contemporary re-edits. It’s amazing stuff – old boogie pants with new shoes.
In the clubs the sounds currently enticing you onto the floor, whether you recognise them as such or not, may well be re-edits. Records, both familiar and obscure, culled from the disco era, or in some cases even earlier, are being rearranged and presented, via the aid of modern technology, as something fresh.
“It’s become the main genre we sell,” says Simon Rigg, manager of London dance music specialist Phonica Records, who guesses that up to 40% of his current vinyl stock comprises reworked versions of older music. The same tale comes from Alec Greenhough, who runs distributor Toko and All Ears Ltd.
“A lot less imagination seems to go into new dance music these days,” says Danny Webb, dance music purchaser at Manchester’s Piccadilly Records, where re-edits account for a similar percentage of dance vinyl sales. “I think DJs would rather spend their money on older records that may have been re-edited as these have, [and] in many cases been tried and tested on dancefloors by DJs over many years.”
The acts constructing the re-edits, names like Lovefingers and Nitedog, have become familiar to the cognoscenti. Alongside peers like Danny Krivit, Idjut Boys, Prins Thomas, Yam Who?, Theo Parrish, Ashley Beedle’s London Heavy Disco Review, Mudd, Erol Alkan’s Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve and labels such as Moxie, Bear Funk, Noid, Soft Rocks, Supreme Edits, Mindless Boogie, Automan, Lobster Disques and Ugly Edits, these contributors are changing the face of dance music, yet receive little fanfare.
“Most of these re-edits only come out on limited edition vinyl runs,” says Rigg. “You can’t buy them as downloads, so the audience is restricted to the dedicated few.” And perhaps it’s best that way. Reworkings of tracks by high-profile artists such as Stevie Wonder, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones would surely land some of these producers in hot water were their work any more visible.
In the United States re-edits have been part of a DJ’s armoury since the days of 1970s . Originally a simple re-arrangement of an existing piece of music, the intros or percussion breaks often extended, or fey-sounding bridge sections omitted, they were made purely for the enjoyment of the clubber or for the DJ to show off. Today, things have changed, producers choosing to add extra percussion, or even getting hold of the original multi-track recordings of the source material in order to create a more radical reworking.
The majority of such activities are unlicensed and some wonder whether the major labels, who own the rights to much of this material, are complicit in this burgeoning trend, or are at least turning a blind eye. “I think for quite a while now, because it sells in relatively small numbers, vinyl has been viewed as a marketing tool,” reckons Greenhough. It is now also a huge portion of music sales, and last year for the first time in decades, physical sales of music are outgrowing digital sales.
These rejigged products certainly have the capability to reinvigorate forgotten back-catalogue stock, and it’s totally understandable why these re-edits should be surfacing now. Easy-to-use computer programs are the enablers for those bored with standard house music and are instead searching a world of older music via the internet before ultimately representing it in a dancefloor-friendly format. The sounds contained in the edits, often a dark and slowed down take on disco, marry perfectly with the punk funk of DFA Records, the midtempo grooves of Hot Chip, the leftfield dance music of Hercules and Love Affair and peers.
Trailblazing DJ Frankie Knuckles once stated that house music was “disco’s revenge”. But via the medium of re-edits, disco seems to have returned to compete with its offspring. The playlists of much of current UK clubland – disco re-edits, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, early European electronica, Talking Heads, Compass Point productions, DFA, Ze Records and NYC punk funk – bear a closer similarity to the glorious melange Ron Hardy was spinning in Chicago’s proto-house club The Music Box than anything we’ve heard in house music clubs this past decade. Maybe disco didn’t require retribution after all, perhaps it just needed time?