- With DJs seemingly everywhere—from hotel lobbies and packed clubs to clothing stores and brunch spots—how to differentiate between the newbie, the competent mixer and the serious vinyl obsessive daily combing Discogs? It's only a slight tweak of nomenclature, but Dekmantel's new Selectors series seeks to put some space between the oft-abused DJ tag and the form's elite few, focusing on the deep knowledge and record shelves of the latter versus the increasing interchangeability of the others.
As his 2011 DJ Kicks mix shows, Danilo Plessow, AKA Motor City Drum Ensemble, knows how to move from cosmic jazz to sweaty basement house to otherworldly regions of dance music in just a few pieces of vinyl. His Selectors collection nicely establishes what lies ahead for the series (future editions will come from Joy Orbison and Young Marco among others). Plessow wastes no time in whipping out some cherished records that go for more than a month's rent. Take 20 Below's "A Lil Tribute To The Moody Black Keys," a mid-'90s track from the UK. As the title puts it, the keys are black and in a minor mode, casting a contemplative hue over the big, bouncing kick and claps. A dusty guitar shimmers atop it all, giving the body-jacking song a tingling, heady feel.
That dichotomy characterizes two other mid-'90s tracks: DJ Slym Fas's "Luv Music" and House Of Jazz's "Hold Your Head Up." The former, which was originally released on Terrence Parker's Intangible Records, has a thudding beat, bits of flute and rippling jazz chords. When that high-frequency tone wafts in, it's like being abducted by a UFO and sent floating into space. A similarly piercing sinewave opens House Of Jazz's deep house classic. With a glorious gospel vocal urging you to "hold your head up," the track reminds us that house's original goal was to inspire and give fortitude to its downtrodden listeners, not merely soundtrack a night at a club.
The first half of Selectors 001 is rare, unimpeachable house. After Risque III's seductive "Essence Of A Dream" (K-Alexi's slack vocals makes someone like Galcher Lustwerk seem uptight by comparison), Plessow veers into disco, jazz and funk. Both Licky's "African Rock" and Ahzz's "New York's Movin'" are in the orbit of late-'70s NYC, connected to producers Peter Brown and Patrick Adams and the Queen Constance label. They, too, are built from mesmeric one-chord guitars and horns, foot-stomping drums paired to sweeping strings and synth lines that waft upwards like fluffy pink clouds. Both records would otherwise set you back several hundred dollars.
Perhaps Plessow's most zealous share on Selectors is Raphael Green's "Don't Mess With The Devil," a syncopated, horn-laced gospel-funk number with a message: "Don't let the Devil fool ya." In the comp's press release, Plessow admits that tracking down a copy of that record entailed calling up a church in St. Louis, asking the now-Bishop Green for a copy of his lone private-press edition from 1979. It's the perfect example of dedicated digging that truly distinguishes the DJ from the selector.
01. DJ Slym Fas - Luv Music
02. House Of Jazz - Hold Your Head Up
03. 20 Below - A Lil Tribute To The Moody Black Keys
04. Risque III - Essence Of A Dream
05. Licky - African Rock
06. Raphael Green - Don't Mess With The Devil
07. Ahzz - New York's Movin (Instrumental)
08. Bill Deal - Freak n Freeze