“Bird of Paradise Garage” by Leila
So the new thing is disco. Which I’m quite pleased about, and the bandwagon ride is proving fairly pleasant. Fortunately unlike minimal or new-rave it seems that disco does actually exist. Thankfully this means that we can spend more time appreciating the records than shooting the breeze about what this thing called disco might actually be.
At a party the Sunday before last someone span a fantastic Larry Levan record (I never managed to track it down but I think it was called “Sun Shower” originally by Nami Simada). Anyway, this sparked a journey of discovery that began and ended at the relevant Wikipedia article, and the corresponding Beatport page. Sorry.
Levan was at the heart of the 1970s New York Disco boom – becoming primary resident at The Paradise Garage club (the birth place of US Garage). He cut his teeth alongside DJs such as Frankie Knuckles and Francois Kevorkian (Francois K). Levan’s sets infused British synth pop, Chicago house and the emerging sounds of hip hop. He was also a prolific producer and one of the first “remixers” – taking instrumental versions of songs, extending them with DJ friendly intros and phattening up the sounds for the club environment.
The final decade of Levan’s life was extremely tumultuous in which he battled with heroin dependency and watched many of those close to him die of AIDS. Written off as old-hat in New York, he did still find appreciation in Europe in the late 80s and early 90s where there was a resurgent interest in early disco and funk. He designed the sound system for London’s Ministry of Sound club and he died in 1992 of drug related health problems. Since then he has been widely recognized as being one of the founding fathers of dance music.
I’m new to Larry Levan’s sound so the following tracks are perhaps obvious choices, but they are all absolutely brilliant and seem not to have faded with the time. Check them out, right click and “Save Link As..” to download
*NEW ADDITION* A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of a brilliant documentary streamable on Youtube about the Paradise Garage, Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles. This is a must watch for anyone interested in early dance music culture and disco – First Part of “Maestro” on Youtube