Having just launched his Cold Tonic label and club night Labour of Love, Irish DJ and producer Krystal Klear struck us as just the kind of guy who would have an arsenal of gems at the ready - and he didn't disappoint. Read on as he delves deep into his collection, and brings us ten tracks he doesn't actually want you to know about.
Krystal Klear: As any producer or DJ will tell you, there's a crate of songs that become something of a secret weapon, or a massive influence on your sound. It's these tracks that, generally, I don't want a fucking sinner to know about.
As a DJ, you always want to have your hidden belters. Those tracks that can really stand out. As a producer you never want to be perceived as a biter - and coming from a graffiti background, feeling over-influenced can seem like a cardinal sin - but I've decided to have an Oprah-style confessional; outlining a few bits that murder a dance floor, but also get my arse in gear in the studio.
Terrence Parker - 'Emancipation Of My Soul' (Intangible Records, 1995)
The personification of gospel piano house for me, and also a massive part of my "opening a set" arsenal. This record plays a role in both my DJing and production because, growing up in the nineties surrounded by shite Euro trance and house piano mash ups, I found were saved by records such as this one. If you have seen me DJ in the past two years, it would have been likely I opened with this one. The tempo re-builds to an absolute explosion of momentum.
Black Cock - "Juicy Sushi" - Black Cock Records (1995)
The world of disco edit aficionados is one to be truly respected so going by the title of this feature alone, it may seem naive to think the individuals within that scene wouldn't know this record. But, for the wider spectrum, it has always received a "Sorry mate, what the fuck is this?!", so I figure it's worth a mention. When Floating Points has his copy blackened out by a sharpie, I figured that that was enough of a co-sign that this record was worth holding down.
Black Cock Records was basically a pirate edits label ran by DJ Harvey, which released maybe eight or nine records that I personally know if - but with re-issues, I can't be certain. 'Juicy Sushi' is the perfect end-of-the-night belter. The build makes mixing it perfect with the 'Made In USA' vocal dictating to the crowd that it's time to go, moving into a carnival-like explosion of horns, funk, rhodes and a heavy beat. It seems to be more and more acknowledged these days in a club, but I figure that's more due to the similar re-edit by Theo Parrish, which a lot of people would be YouTube-researching I reckon.
Arttu - 'Space Trippin' (Philpot Records, 2013)
This one seems to have been totally slept on. Not only is there not a YouTube link available, but I have also never heard anybody play it. As I'm typing right now, I feel I could potentially be handing over a track that has made my sets over the past six to eight months. No major story behind the discovery of this record, though. I was just mooching around on Juno and came across it. Philpot generally have a nice selection of stuff I like to play but this one was perfect, particularly due to the industrial bass line driven house track 'Space Trippin'. The track sounds amazing on any system; retains elements of funk - well, to me at least - but could easily cross between techno, disco or house. Hard as fuck.
Mike Francis - 'This Love' (Concorde Records, 1984)
I can't be certain where I bought this record. Part of me thinks it was in 2011 at the RBMA trip in Madrid, but it seems like the kind of thing I would have stumbled upon on a trip to King Bee with Jon K. European funk here, in the form of Italian crooner Mike Francis bringing a blue-eyed soul vibe, to what sounds like something produced in a Detroit basement in late 1983.
To me, this track holds a lot of production influences. I love the subtlety of the vocal with the beautiful chord changes for the chorus, and the most relaxed guitar playing; shifting and sliding over the melody. Its the kind of track I would personally aspire to create. This record is a perfect example of why reading a book by its cover is a stupid trait to hold when buying records. The cover art is like a "Chesney Hawke maturing" LP, but it holds some beauties and, with a lot of stuff around this era (1980-85), it's always worth punting on the £1 quid bins.
Inner Sense - 'MoTP' (My Love Is Underground, 2013)
I discovered this French label through a friend of mine about two years ago, and grew to love everything on it instantly. It reminded me in ways of the Core Label by Dope Jams; in the ethos behind uncovering, repressing and releasing new and old house music of a certain ilk, of which all seems to be banging.
This track was released on a special 12", which they only were selling at three distinct parties at the beginning of last year. When I heard the previews on SoundCloud I broke my back to try to get one, but unfortunately It proved not possible and, with MLIU being vinyl purists, getting my hands on a digi-rip was going to be tough. I had given up on it until, during a chance dig before a gig in Ghent, I saw a copy sitting in the new arrivals bin. As every record buyer knows, that immense feeling of excitement and happiness smothered me.
Originally I thought this might have been Terrence Parker potentially under a different alias, but once I got home and did some research I quickly found out it wasn't. It's still one of my favourite purchases of the last year, and it's a great track to build momentum around. Everything any house head wants under one roof, basically.
Jaymz Bedford - 'Happy Music' (Gold Mink Records, 1981)
I was familiar with this track for a few years, but could never seem to get my hands on a copy. At the time I was travelling to the U.S a lot, so It didn't justify me purchasing it on Discogs as the pricing in the U.S is far better in certain spots for stuff like this. Yet like most obscure or rare groove 12" they get repressed, and this thankfully was in 2011. With production by Roy Ayers, this one holds great musicality throughout alongside a banging baseline. It's not a track that can be held in the mix for very long, granted, but much like P Funk records, it holds a solid 8-16 bar drum break before the fill. This record always gets a look in from me.
Freestyle Orchestra - 'Odyssey' and 'Twi-lite' (MAW Records, 1998)
These tracks have been a massive inspiration for my label Cold Tonic, and always get me super motivated to make music. Originally a production trio of Terry and MAW back in the late 1980's (then re-established in 1998), with a banging disco house cut of The Manhattan Transfer - 'Twilight Zone', and then a second 12" called Odyssey working around Ashford & Simpson's 'Bourgie Bourgie'. For me, both tracks embody everything I love and dream about the New York House scene in the 90s.
These tracks combine a sense of 4/4 uptempo-ness with an eerie underline, which often portrays a soundtrack to my impression of New York back then. It's the same reaction I get listening to the A Tribe Called Quest's 'Low End Theory' or Biggie's 'Ready To Die' in that it creates a picture in my mind's eye that has consistently influenced what I do.
John Blair - 'Momma Said Shut Up' (SAKB Records, 1985)
Back to my roots with this one in terms of it being a boogie stomper! It's not the easiest record to come by, but then again not the most expensive either. It's another Roy Ayers production too, which makes sense considering the similarities in bass sound and musicality.
This track portrays a great balance of borderline-George Clinton production in it's vocal melodies and squelchy bass-line, but then the hybrid elements of the violin breakdowns add a melancholic touch to it, especially in it a club. I've found it always brings the crowd which in a club add this melancholy touch to the night. It always brings the crowd right up, then mellows them out too. It's another 12" I always get inquisitive eyes glancing over at my Serato at mid-set.
The Love Unlimited Orchestra - 'Lift Your Voice And Say (United We Can Live In Peace Today)' (Unlimited Gold, 1981)
As I've been thinking about this selection, I've been tip-toe'ing through tracks, wondering what I want people to know and not know, but this one has to be put out there. It's got what I call "The Jon K Seal". 1981 has become a great year for finding records that are still relishing in disco production, but advancing it with modern technology and adding more of that funk sound; which was coming back to the dance floors slowly, then entirely taking over by '83 or '84. This Barry White production is a perfect example of it. The bass line holds a lot of White's characteristics, but has a touch of funk that makes it a steam roller on the dance floor.
The annoying bit about this track is that there is that slight element of disco schmultzy-ness to it, but the chorus brings a crowd together and the string and horn harmony is mind blowing. It's been a huge influence on my productions and frankly, if Barry White was all I had to listen to til I die, I could deal with that.
Urban Culture - 'The Wonders Of Wishing' (Eclipse Records, 1993)
I have to be totally honest. I don't know how well known or how well played this record is in terms of a global understanding. All I know is that, like the others, it seems to get the 'eyes-over-the-table' reaction, and I've only ever seen one DJ I know drop it. That was Ben UFO, so I figure I must be doing something right referring to it.
This one is a Carl Craig production on a sub-label of KMS, which to me is probably one of the heavier tracks from the roster, but from a DJ perspective it holds a tonne of good elements; from the vocal build at the beginning of Paris Grey from Inner City, to the melodic breakdown about three minutes in, then onward to the piano. This record is perfect to start really hard, then to ease up slightly for something really big.
Stuff like this are really influencing what I've being doing over the past two years, and especially what I'm trying to build with the music I'm going to release on Cold Tonic. For me, it's about no holds barred variety within dance floor culture. From a production standpoint, artists like Secret Ingredients, MAW, 6th Borough Project to early Carl Craig stuff, Prescription records and blue-eyed soul - like Ned Doheny or Mike Francis - all play part in the amalgamation of what Cold Tonic is.
Cold Tonic's first release, SQUAD/Turn Valve, is out now.
He's also bringing the infamous Dope Jams NYC duo Slow to Speak over for a UK debut to play his Labour of Love party at Glasgow's Sub Club on the 13th February, and The Ace Hotel in London the following day.