Riverside parties on a docked boat likely bring to mind high-class Parisian affairs, a lá Grant wooing Hepburn in Charade. Enter Turntables on the Hudson, a weekly club offering courtesy of two impressive and down-to-earth music selectors, Nickodemus and Mariano. While the Friday night social has occasionally changed venues along the west side of Manhattan (even going to, gasp, landlocked locations), for an amazing five years it has maintained the spirit and essence of the boat party: freedom, positive vibes, and dancing; its longevity is especially remarkable considering the increased policing of clubs and enforcement of antiquated cabaret laws in New York City. Nickodemus and Mariano have released annual compilations in celebration of the community of DJs, musicians, dancers, and appreciators that have made the weekly gathering a success, focusing mostly on music produced from within their tight-knit circle of friends and supporters. However, Turntables on the Hudson: Fifth Anniversary Edition branches out to feature “party anthems” that have graced the circuit over the years. While not as intimate in nature as the past four releases, Fifth Anniversary compiles certifiable hits that will move even the most stolid body.
The set opens with a grab-bag of goodies from the past year, each track flowing seamlessly into the next, but left unmixed (like about half of the disc), allowing the listener to appreciate each song as an individual composition. Shaka lays down a bouncy beat-box track, as Origin hums and swings through “Music Man”, a wonderful introduction that invites the audience to come take part in the inevitable musical love-fest. With the bait in place, Max Sedgley’s mega-European-hit “Happy” is the tackle to reel the listener in. Building off heavy keyboard riffs that sound like wooden planks clanging against each other, the track is guided by a garage-y vocal that ultimately leads to an explosion of horns, swirling Superman Lover strings, and a pulsing backbeat. The track received a recent revival, aided in part by its use in ITV Euro’s coverage of football and a Fatboy Slim remix, but the certifiable anthem stands on its own here. Banda Favela’s breezy “Samba de Ile (Waiwan Mix)” broadens the aural palette of the collection, introducing the neo-Brasilian rhythmic elements that have driven many a dance party over the last decade.
Beyond this opening salvo, the compilation proceeds to dig towards a deeper pulse, slowly elevating the energy level. Dutch trio Kraak em Smaak’s “Keep On Searching” is another selection from ‘03 that rides a great rhythm, a chunky offbeat guitar, and clavinet. Wait for the 3:30 minute mark when a whistle and flex-a-tone hit calls forth a vicious backbeat that bumps the funk along. Veteran production group Baby Mammoth appears with its Wu-Tang-esque “And I’ll See You”, a dubby affair from 2001 that emerges from a sped-up Impeach the President-style break. Fuzzy vocals and spacey melodica provide just the right amount of atmosphere for this bouncing bass groove. The chill-out nicely sets up “O Nosso Amor”, a Bahia-Carnival-informed track that builds towards a snare ensemble solo. Of course, it takes a Swedish group, S.U.M.O., to contribute the strongest Brasilian-flavored track. A tamborim rhythm leads a four-on-the-floor thump before an entire samba school explodes into ultra disco cool. The powerhouse track provides a great lead into the tangy “I Feel Music” by UK-based Harlem Zip Code. A Fifth Dimension-ish vocal wooze floats in, while the hard-hitting bass guitar and drum combo maintains a steady thump. The mix hits its peak with Mark “Trouble Man” Pritchard’s “Strike Hard”, which turns Fela-style chants into phased out fury over an upside down inside out keyboard riff that chases its own beat. The song remains within the familiar fours, but the effect of the riffs is altogether arrhythmic and intoxicating. The tempo is cooled with the pseudo-South-Asian-flavored “No Mercy” by Italian guitarist/producer The Pleb, and the raga rhythm and dubbed out upbeats of “Sunday Paper” close out the set.
In going for the hits, Nickodemus and Mariano are practically guaranteed a hit, but their sparse mixing and choice selection makes for a highly enjoyable mix. Comprehensive credits on each track will lead the inquisitive listener to discover more delicacies from each of the talents represented on this compilation. However, for the heads, this mix is perhaps not the most necessary; the bulk of these tracks are still available in their original formats. For those who do not want to spend the money on purchasing each of these 12"s, but would like the tracks on a couple condensed slabs of vinyl, this compilation unfortunately only exists as one EP. Nevertheless, Fifth Anniversary exists because it is a celebration, more than a comprehensive collection. And for that, cheers are in order for Turntables on the Hudson. All the best for five more!