Music

Armando: Trax Classix

Cosmo Lee

Long-unrecognized Chicago acid house pioneer finally gets his due.


Armando

Trax Classix

Label: Trax
US Release Date: 2005-03-08
UK Release Date: 2005-03-14
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

The importance of Chicago's Trax Records to house and techno music cannot be overstated. The term "house music" comes from DJ Frankie Knuckles' legendary parties at The Warehouse in Chicago, and in the mid-to-late '80s, Trax Records became Chicago's premier house label. Trax was notorious for not paying its artists, awful-sounding pressings on recycled vinyl that often had bits of paper stuck in it, and a strange tendency to package and sell its records in other labels' sleeves.

Despite its faults, Trax revolutionized dance music by putting out the first acid house records, so named for their "acid lines", severely tweaked riffs on the Roland TB-303 synthesizer. The 303 failed miserably at its intended purpose as a bass guitar emulator; its production run lasted less than two years. But it was cheap (at the time), and it made sharply expressive sounds with knobs that were the electronic equivalents of wah-wah pedals. Combined with the TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines, the 303 acid sound influenced an entire generation of house and techno producers worldwide, such as Hardfloor, Josh Wink, Richie Hawtin, and 808 State.

Armando Gallop was one of Chicago's pioneers of acid house, producing classics like "Land of Confusion" and "100% of Disin' U" (sic). But his sporadic output and his death at 26 from leukemia kept his fame within DJ circles, and he never achieved the widespread recognition that peers like Larry Heard (aka "Mr. Fingers") and Farley "Jackmaster" Funk enjoyed. Trax Classix attempts to right this wrong by compiling and remastering his long out-of-print singles.

Compared to today's electronic music, the production here is startlingly primitive. The sounds are rather dry, with little reverb or effects. Tunes from this more innocent era were often named for their samples; "Don't Stop", "Turn my Shit Up", and "Here We Go" have vocals that say exactly those things. Often, the ingredients are simply a 303 grinding away on top of a 909; this is minimalism by necessity, rather than by design. But the results are funky, driving, and, of course, tweaky. As a working DJ, Armando no doubt knew dancefloor dynamics, and to keep tunes moving, he places well-timed changes and percussion fills, such as the killer shuffled hi-hats a minute into "Turn my Shit Up". Hooks are simple, strong, and insistent, to the point that out-of-key divas sound not just acceptable, but downright spicy, creating a lack of resolution that prevents repetition from feeling repetitious.

For a collection of singles (i.e., "tracks") intended for DJ use, Trax Classix is surprisingly listenable. Some of the tunes have been remastered from original vinyl pressings, and the remastering job is competent. A few jarring pops and crackles remain that could easily have been cleaned up, but perhaps retaining them provides a more "authentic" Trax sound.

The timing of this compilation is perfect, given the recent acid house revival on dancefloors worldwide. As the voice-over in "Pleasure Dome" and the dark pads in "Land's End" (Green Velvet), the chopped up diva samples in "100% of Disin' U" (early Moby), the whispered vocal in "Don't Stop" (British acid house), and the filtered 303 in "Get Crazy" (psychedelic trance) show, Armando's influence has never waned, but has just gone unrecognized until now.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image