Four of the most prolific audiophiles in electronica have come together to release a two-hour mix proving not only that music abides by no boundaries, rules, or expectations but also that artists, too, can share the AUX. Jamie xx, Four Tet, Floating Points, and Daphni took their talents to NTS Radio: an online underground radio station that clearly respects the Four Agreements with their tagline, “Don’t Assume.”
One record at a time, the mix tests the capacity of sound. Entering through an atmosphere of ambiance, the music traverses the boundaries of what one might find sonically appealing. Full vibrations run abound from all contributors, creating a space welcoming to infinite possibilities.
20 minutes in, the listener is in a completely different realm; abundant, soulful energy erupts. Jazz flute, funk horns, and vocals penetrate the space in an effortless sonic flow. The journey progresses into psychedelic rock, European folk, all while staying completely consistent in the task at hand. The mix isn’t demanding, but it does ask something of the listener: their mere attention. This is a mix not to hear but instead, to listen. With the mix, these four experimental geniuses have exuded a nod to true librarians of music with seamless poise.
Legends Carl Cox and Eric Powell remain heroes in the house and techno sphere. Despite clocking in three decades each behind the decks, their passion for their craft and drive to continually move forward musically allows them an endurance that has stood the test of time. Paired with this endurance is a profound connection with their dance genres of choice, stemming largely in part from their roots.
Jazz, soul, funk, and disco are as deeply embedded in house and techno as they are in Cox and Powell’s musical backgrounds. Both their parents exposed them at a young age; Carl, for example, recalls a childhood playing classic records at family gatherings. Similarly, Eric’s hunger for jazz and funk led to him sneaking out of school to ravishly consume new albums. Hearing of their pasts greatly clarifies the present — it seems as though curating and purveying these soulful sounds that moved them so much, in one form or another, was a path they were both meant to travel down.
Three decades after earning their stripes on the DJ circuit, it’s time for Powell and Cox to pay respect, and revive the jazz/disco/funk side of them. Their evolution subtly made its introduction a decade ago, when the two began throwing their Mobile Disco (MD) parties across Australia. Throwing events simply wasn’t enough, however; there was a desire for something deeper, more tangible. Thus, both icons converged their talents and creative vision into a brand new project based around the Mobile Disco brand: MD Funk Connection.
The main M.O. of the project aside from its event arm is to gather new and old live artists currently upholding the music that is the backbone of Cox & Powell’s existences, and output music alongside them. Based off the first single, what we have is a refreshing endeavor that elicits an organic, empathetic response in its listeners. They’ve taken Mass Production’s classic “Shante,” and remastered it with a bit more of a modern flair that preserves the original’s integrity. In the future, more original works are expected.
Curious as ever, Dancing Astronaut flagged down MD Funk Connection to spill some details on the project’s inspiration, the profound influence their roots have played in their dance careers, future plans, and more.
Obviously both of you are very familiar with just how much funk, disco, & jazz have influenced/helped the birth of dance music. We’d love to hear you guys give us a history of this influence in your own words!
We both have West Indian heritage – Carl’s parents are from Barbados and Eric’s dad is from St Kitts, Carl grew up in the south of England and Eric grew up in the north of England, listening to soul, bluebeat, reggae, funk and jazz.
In our teens we went to All Dayers – Caister/Blackpool Mecca – great times and great music. Amazing self contained bands – Slave, Mass Production, early Jeff Lorber Fusion, Funkadelic, Parliament, Maze, Brass Construction, Eric says he always thought he was a rebel sneaking off from school to listen to new jazz/funk albums. A ten year old Carl Cox would play records at his dad house parties. Spending your last five pounds on an album, having to walk home because you had spent your bus fare on records. When we old enough to go out, it was at the end of disco for some people, but looking back it was the start of house music, with the benefit of hindsight you can see the musical progression.
What is it about jazz and funk that make them such soulful and timeless genres, in your opinions?
The musicians, the singers – gospel vocals mixed with experimentation of jazz and the locked down groove of funk – the perfect storm allowed the genre to grow and develop.
Who were your favourite musicians growing up that have played the most influence in your sound?
Nile Rodgers, George Clinton, Ronnie Laws, Randy Muller, all grooved based producer musicians and all little bit different – Nile Rodgers and Chic was disco with soul, George Clinton the ultimate funk producer, Ronnie Laws, including his sisters and brother Hubert Laws, Debra Laws, Eloise Laws, Randy Muller and Brass Construction almost rock but never with out his unique brand of funk, probably our favourite producer was Jimmy Douglas – he was so young when he produced “Slave” Eric Powell thinks those albums were his heaviest influence especially “Snap Shot”.
Carl’s favourite “Slave” album is “Just A Touch of Love”
On that note, did you two have any specific songs, artists or eras within funk/jazz/disco in mind to emulate while writing ‘Shante?’
Shante is a version of Mass Productions “Shante”, its a track we had been playing at our Soul and Funk parties, other tracks are “Welcome Aboard” – Webster Lewis, “Lovers Holiday” – Change, P-Funk All Stars – Hydraulic Pump
Who are your favorite acts in jazz and funk at the moment? Dream collaborators for future tracks?
We have a house/disco collaboration with Nile Rodgers that we are working on, we would love to work with Jimmy Douglas, on the U.K. side we are also hoping to do something with the Incognito guys and we are really excited about a revisit of a George Clinton classic – we got access to the original twenty four track tape.
We read that MD Funk Connection arose from your Mobile Disco parties that you’d throw in Australia. Any plans to bring those parties out to an international setting?
We are just about to do a “Mobile Disco” party in Bali, the location is off the hook – Ulu Cliffhouse, absolutely amazing venue, Both of us are looking forward to doing something in Europe and the States in the near future.
Tell us more about the decision to create a whole project around Mobile Disco in general. Why is now the right time to unleash it, and was there a particular moment that made you want to evolve the project past simple parties in your localities?
We have been doing our soul, funk and disco parties for ten years now, after seeing the response to some of those classics and the hard to find tracks we personally thought we were at a stage were we could re-imagine some of the tracks, write some originals, we have got a fantastic producer/engineer in “Joe Roberts” in the U.K. and Chris Coe in Australia plus an amazing array of musicians in both Australia and the U.K. – the timing was just right for us and we think that we could do justice to the soul funk disco genres.
What is your methodology for recording music under the MD Funk Connection project? Do you employ live instrumentation? Do you write through jam sessions and edit on the computer, or are all your sounds synthesised already and you mostly produce as you would a usual track?
So far all the tracks have been live musicians, We have a brain storm, talk to Joe and Chris, work out if we can find the right musicians and vocalists, then off we go – it is really exciting, its a different way of working than when you are solo in front of the computer. We are still into writing tracks in front of the computer but this gives us a slightly different creative outlet.
Which record stores are your favourite for finding jazz & funk records for your collection? What other places do you go to to search for records?
We both have extensive record collections, its more about disappearing sorting through our vinyl, coming up with tracks and artists that we forgot about. A track might come to mind then its scouring online retailers rather than going to record shops, we don’t live that close to any vinyl stores.
When did you two first start building your collection of jazz and funk records? Carl, I believe I read you began during your childhood?
We both started as kids – very young around nine years old could have even been younger, its amazing how similar, both of us would ask for albums for birthdays and Christmas.
If someone wanted to know more about jazz and funk, which tracks would you tell them to start out with?
Expansions by Lonnie Liston Smith, Jazz Carnival – Azymuth.
What other plans and ideas do you have in store for MD Funk connection in the future?
Its pretty organic project – no rush, enjoying ourselves in the studio, working with live musicians – we are finishing of a reggae track at the moment, the next track will be on a latin tip maybe.
Raised in the cultural hotbed of New York City, Break Science‘s Adam Deitch and Borahm Lee have long brought their city’s rich musical history in jazz, funk, and soul directly into their catalog. As two essential members of Pretty Lights Live, Deitch (also of Lettuce) comes armed with his thunderous breakbeat style on the drums, while Lee brings a seasoned trip-hop/dub aesthetic on keyboards and laptop. As Break Science, the Denver-based electronic duo combine their respective styles into a perfectly interwoven sonic treatise of thought-provoking, highly-textured, bass-pumping songs.
The C3-represented artists do not release new projects often, given their busy schedules with touring and their other acts. So when they do, it’s an easy bet that the project is fresh and soulful, expertly polished, and, above all else, extremely danceable. Break Science’s debut EP, Further Than Our Eyes Can See, for instance, included verses from some of today’s most conscious vocalists — including Brooklyn’s Talib Kweli and Jahdan Blakkamoore, Sierra Leone’s Bajah, and India’s Falu. Now in the midst of their 5-date US tour, the electro-soul duo is releasing their first LP in almost five years, Grid of Souls. The eclectic 10-track album showcases their diverse sonic range and deeply rooted beliefs in interconnectedness and consciousness in such a way that is bound to make a mark on the modern musical landscape.
Kicking off the album with powerful vocals of Raquel Rodriguez on the synth-driven “Cruise Control,” Break Science fuse generations of New York’s rich musical legacy with their own deep-rooted connection to hip-hop heritage. Other highlights include “Guiding Light,” where the duo puts their heavier bass and trap vibes on full display, along with a more rhythmic offering on “Light Shine Down,” a track tinged by influences from 80s electronica and synthwave sounds.
Deitch and Lee took time out of their busy touring schedule to answer a few questions with Dancing Astronaut on Grid of Souls, speaking to the album’s underlying messages and driving stylistic components, along with their time in Pretty Lights, how working with Derek Vincent Smith has influenced their own individual sounds, and their US tour with the groundbreaking lighting talents of Lazer Shark.
It’s been five years since your last LP release. Why have you waited so long?
B: Shit it’s been 5 years? I thought it was only 4.. I guess we were waiting till we we had something good to say. Well we got a few things we wanna talk about now and we plan on releasing more music this year.
A: To get it right! To get all the fine tuning, mixing, mastering takes time, especially with our touring schedules. Glad we waited until it was right!
What do you feel the album is attempting to say?
A: The album is a musically psychedelic trip into interconnectivity that is undeniably danceable and also can make one think.
B: Understanding the beauty in the diversity of life and seeing the unbreakable wires which bond us all together.
Stylistically, the LP is a beautiful blend of melodic and glitchy synth-laden funk, soul, and jazz. How do you feel your musical styles have evolved since your Seven Bridges LP in 2013 and what does Grid of Souls bring to the table that’s fresh and new?
B: We like bringing different styles together to create something new, but also like to stay anchored in the music that we came from. We continue to push this concept on this record.
A: The technology has evolved, our musical minds have evolved, our lives and musical styles/tastes as well. Borahm and I have met in the middle with our musical influences and styles to create a unique piece of art that will hopefully stand the test of time.
Tell us about working with Lazer Shark on the new music video. Will he be joining you guys on tour?
B: Its always incredible to work with our friend Lazer Shark. He has already joined us for some dates this year with more on the horizon. He never ceases to inspire us and furthers his extension of expression with his video for our single.
A: As one of the most profound, creative and risk taking lighting and content designers in the modern era, Lazer Shark has taken our visual game to the next level with his video for “Cruise Control” and our live show.
Both of you are essential members of Pretty Lights, and it seems the album’s major theme embodies some of the beliefs that run deep in the PLF: interconnectedness, consciousness raising, new age spiritualism. How has that influenced the new LP? In subtle or overt ways?
B: D is a long time friend and collaborator and we all work together because there’s a likemindedness there, which shows in many ways.
A: As we move closer to a collective consciousness as a species, every piece of art that directs people’s energies in that direction is extremely needed and necessary. We are inspired by artists of all genres and mediums from Alex Grey to Kamasi Washington that have deeply spiritual vibes embedded in their art.
Describe the album in just a few words.
B: An extrasensory musical excursion thru emotionally charged atmospheres
A: A journey into the future of electronic/analog music that can lift the spirit, move your body and spark one’s mind.
KSHMR is expanding his sound in a more mellowed, yet equally attention-grabbing way. The former Cataracs member has paired with vocalist Sidnie Tipton for a dynamic, pop-infused number titled “House Of Cards.”
Similar to the famed Radiohead song of the same name, “House Of Cards” works a subdued romantic angle, in which Tipton’s warm, soulful lyrics of intimacy and risk-taking flow over catchy guitar riffs and powerful horns. Notably lacking in the big room elements that led to KSHMR’s fame in the mainstream, this new piece signals not just a potential change in direction for the iconic artist, but it also displays his productive range.
Notaker has dropped Too Smooth featuring Grey MTTR on Monstercat today. This song is not your average Notaker track, and that excites me. As much as I love an artist’s signature sound, what I love to see more is for them to go out of their comfort zone and try something new. That being said
Recently, Deorro’s record label, “Panda Funk” has released a new single produced by Garabatto titled “Infected.” The new track is very soothing yet relaxing, providing an essence of true vibes. Charlee Muse’s vocals complement that track, adding some soulful melodies to the new work. Garabatto’s bassline truly morphed into the vocals phenomenally, perfecting an eccentric
Jazz has enjoyed one of the smoother forays into the electronic production spectrum. With soulful catalogs from the likes of Gramatik, GRiZ, and Haywyre gaining popular traction year after year, the crossovers between jazz and soul’s inherent room for improvisation and rhythm continue to be explored in exciting new ways. One such explorer, Netherlands-based producer Inverted Silence has dropped off a playful new electro-soul cut titled “Fusion” that wraps together funky bass licks, swelling drum kicks, and impressive key work. Proctoring a multi-layered DJ tool perfect for live settings, Inverted Silence delivers one of his most impressive singles to date on “Fusion.”
The emerging artist, real name Midas Klare, grew up with a background in both computers and music, making his production style a natural extension of his comfortable strong suits. Evident inspiration from 8-bit game culture, matched with a fine-tuned ear bring about Inverted Silence’s latest “Fusion,” available via Tasty.
Dillastrate has arrived. Real World – the new single from their forthcoming EP, Black Diamond is in all good online stores from today and is accompanied by a ripping video. The duo combines modern digital sounds with analog soul, bringing you the best of both worlds. With an intimidating range of styles – from delicate soul
Disco remains at the forefront of dance music four decades after its genesis, thanks in part to the genius and innovation of Dresden-born artist Purple Disco Machine (PDM). With his debut album Soulmatic, Purple Disco Machine — also known as Tino Piontek — challenges the notion that the aforementioned genre was laid to rest with the bell bottoms and tie dye of yesteryear.
“To me, disco is such a fantastic musical style [in] that it transcends nostalgia. A genre which has musicality and musicianship at its heart should be celebrated, and I think, like many others, that those values are still relevant in today’s electronic scene”
Soulmatic celebrates disco’s timelessness by blurring boundaries of genre, interpolating classic disco with funk and deep house elements in classic PDM form. This kaleidoscopic aspect of his new project both appeals to dance music fans from all corners, and allows the artist to stay true to his disco roots while keeping a foot in modern times.
“On Soulmatic, I tried to make it so that every track touches upon some aspect of the ‘Disco’ genre. From the classic stylings of the 1970’s & 80’s, through Soul, Boogie, Funk into classic House, Filter Disco and Nu Disco,” he explains.
Crucial to the pervasiveness of disco in today’s dance culture is the art of sampling, and Soulmatic‘s first single “Body Funk” is no exception. The track nods to disco legend Sylvester by sampling the drums and bass-line of his hit “Do You Wanna Funk” and combining them with vocal samples from Hot Streak’s “Body Funk” over a classic Moroder-esque Italo-disco beat.
Purple Disco Machine comments,“‘Body Funk’ has been a key track for me since I first recorded it back in early 2017. I play it every set and it is a proper crowd anthem every time. It is crazy to know that it has spread across many different types of DJs, from Black Madonna to Dimitri Vegas who both play it!”
Soulmatic‘s second single “Devil In Me” is equally as unifying as “Body Funk” in that it showcases a melting pot of decades subgenres and tastes. On “Devil In Me,” PDM reimagines his own 2013 hit “My House” with a new vocal top line, and the result is a euphoric nod to dance music of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Not only does “Devil In Me” thrive on a late night Ibiza dance floor, but its sensual vocal courtesy of Joe Killington introduces the track to a wider audience. Killington’s beckoning voice gives a modern flair to the track’s classic disco roots, laying nicely over the original sample from William Bell’s “Private Number.”
The producer shares, “I always felt that the sample in ‘My House’ was so strong [and] that the record could go a lot further than just the club. To do that, it would need a vocal top line. So when it got signed the record company hooked it up. I think it really works, and now I have two different yet complementary records in my catalog.”
“Devil In Me” is representative of Soulmatic at large, using Joe Killington’s intoxicating vocals to transform a classic soul groove into a modern club anthem. Immediately after “Devil In Me,” Soulmatic‘s fifth track “Pray For Me” calls on contemporary R&B talent CeeLo Green to bring PDM’s Daft Punk-esque beat from a soulful loop into a late night heater.
In the form of vocoded vocals and keyboard notes, Daft Punk flavors also pop up on the album’s opener “Music In You” featuring Lorenz Rhode. Additionally, Piontek pays homage to earlier musical eras on “Memphis Jam” by enlisting New York‘s Golden Age of rap icon Kool Keith for a luxurious overlapping of off kilter rap and soulful grooves.
From whichever decade, genre or taste he draws, Purple Disco Machine succeeds in shifting happiness and togetherness back into dance culture’s center focus with Soulmatic. His debut album upholds the integrity of traditional disco while reaching a mainstream dance audience, cementing it as one of today’s most innovative releases.