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Take a Guided Tour Through Seminal Chicago House Club Shelter

Ahead of his new record, former resident Mystic Bill runs through the five records that tore the floor up night after night.
November 3, 2015, 3:35pm

Mystic Bill's a man who knows a thing or two about house music. Born in and raised in Miami, Bill proved to be the sort of lad who grabs a fake ID and ends up starting a whole new nightlife. It wasn't strictly house for him back then, though—that was still a largely localized scene at the time. Record pools were a thing though, and he found himself working at the Flamingo Record Pool, run by another Bill—Winter Music Conference founder Bill Kelly. One thing led to another and both Bills became besotted with the new sounds of Chicago.

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The more mystical of the two decided that he needed to be there, to really experience house in its true home. So he packed his bags, leaving palm trees and pools behind him, and made the move to Chicago. Armed with both an extensive record collection and a good deal of experience playing out in clubs, he managed to swing himself a residency at one of the scene's most important clubs, Shelter.

Opened in 1990 by promoter and club owner Michael Blatter, Shelter went on to become legendary. As did Mystic Bill. As often happens, he began to combine DJing with production, releasing records on the likes of Trax, Swing Street, and Relief. He's still playing out and still recording, and next week sees him drop new single "U Won't C Me" on one of the most prestigious imprints of all time: Strictly Rhythm. It's an absolute screamer at that—all 6am bassline heft and warehouse ambience. House like they used to build it.

To celebrate the release of the record, we asked Bill to put together a short selection of his favorite tracks from the Shelter days. These are pivotal, seminal records, records that made the world realise that, yep, house really was a feeling. Sit back and soak in one of the most enjoyable history lessons you've ever had.

1. Stopp - I'm Hungry (Disco Magic Records, 1983)

Mystic Bill: Party track! This was (and still is) the type of song that would get everyone up and dancing. A mixture of wacky vocals over electronic drums, and flanged out synth sounds make this track really stand out. Produced by Alessandro Novaga, who was also responsible for releases such as "Faces Drums" and "Electronic Drums" and groups like Camaro's Gang and Cellophane. I remember many nights when this song would come on and and the entire mood would change. This is a perfect example of the type of Italo music that influenced a lot of the early Chicago music.

2. Armando - Land Of Confusion (Westbrook Records, 1987)

To me Armando sort of took over where Phuture left off. His tracks have always been a big influence, and "Land Of Confusion" is one that has stood the test of time. The first time I had even heard of him was on WBMX radio in Chicago, and I will have to say he was my favorite DJs that ever played on there. His DJ mixes were just as good as his production. I met him several years later and even played a few parties together. He's one that may be gone, but never forgotten.

3. Le Melange Feat China - Tortured Journey Dub (Precision Records, 1987)

I was turned on to this by Ron Hardy who at the time was working at the Trax records pressing plant and had mentioned this release. It was like nothing I had heard before. I remember it sounding to me like some sort of Italo or new wave meets house. I really started seeking out other music by Marcus Mixx after hearing this. I feel like this track captures a moment in time, and just by listening to it again it almost takes me there. Definitely one of my favorite deeper tracks.

4. Bizzy B - 416 (Jack Street Records, 1988)

Solomon Bramlett is one of those Chicago producers that very few people are familiar with. From his early hip house releases to his work with Reggie R as Random Access (on Relief Records), his sound has always been fresh, inspiring, and on point. For a while you would hear this song everywhere in Chicago, from radio mixes to the clubs, it's definitely one of those tracks that never really left the city. The slick vocal stabs mixed with a sort of chimey bass and subtle acid line are what really make this stand out for me. Simple yet effective.

5. Gene Hunt - Studio 19 (Maad Records, 1995)

Originally released as "Studio 19" —and later released as "Freddy's Dead" on Dust Trax Records— this song brings together a deep melancholy sort of feel with a Chicago jack beat edge. I have a hard time comparing this to anything out there, the closest songs I can think of would be maybe "The Life Beyond This World" by G-Strings, or "I'm Sorry" by Sound Patrol (AKA Derrick Carter). I've been a fan of Gene's music since "Living In A Land", but this has got to be my absolute favourite of his.

Mystic Bill's U Won't C Me is out November 9th via Strictly Rhythm.

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