Thirty Thousand Streets

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Moodymann at Need to Soul

So last night I trooped up to Cargo for Need2Soul with Al, where the enigmatic Moodymann was headlining alongside Benji B, who recently interviewed that other Detroit legend Juan Atkins for his BB6 Deviation radio show.

It's hard to know what to expect from such a individual, who is, as a personality, almost as cryptic as his mystically obtuse deep house jams. In an era of vapid celebrity, there does seem something almost heroic about Moodymann's celebrated reclusiveness (he's like an Alan Moore who writes house rather than comics) which falls into the same 'faceless' vein of fellow camera-shy Detroit reclusives Underground Resistance, and whom like the latter is often outspoken in a scene perhaps perceived as apolitical in the supposed inclusiveness of the dancefloor. This is perhaps epitomised best by his infamous 'whiteboy-baiting' liner notes on a Silent Introduction which could perhaps be interpreted as a topical sideswipe at producer Moby's liberal ransacking of the Lomax brother's field recordings of deep south blues singers on the album Play, (tracks from which later on ended up gracing a host of commercials, somewhat tarring the Go producing vegan's credentials in the process).

And Moodyman – or Kenny Dixon Junior's – rants on the proprietary nature of all things black seem to extend to recorded media itself, for he is a champion of the vinyl, as the 2000 release, Forevernevermore testifies - the rambling passages of mumbling, ambient clattering and near silence that interrupt tracks otherwise pristine on the LP release seeming less his evocation of musique concrete than a sly dig at those who chose to fork out for the shiny little coasters (that was my take, anyway).

Which was ultimately borne out last night, when he played a vinyl-only set from the DJ booth at the side of the room. We got in just in time to witness the beginning of his set, and hear him doing his laconic paper-comb-voice-mumble bit, waving a 12 inch aloft and affectionately referring to the crowd as "all y'all motherfuckers out there" (for which they seemed exceptionally delighted). In spite of his unshowiness, the man is clearly a showman of sorts.

As for the music. Well, anyone expecting anything too beardy was probably in for a letdown, as he played a surprisingly accessible two hours. The set opener was The Door's Riders on the Storm, segueing into The Family Stand's Ghetto Heaven, which acted as a bridge to mostly well-loved soul and disco numbers, such as Skyy's First Time Around and the Light of the World's funk-ta-fied cover of I Shot the Sheriff*.

Later on, having popped out for a drink and a roll-up, we retuned to find he'd upped the tempo somewhat, and was playing such proto-house electro-disco numbers as Telex's chugging Moskow Diskow and the prowling electronic whine of the sinister Sharivari by early Eighties Detroit act A Number of Names, followed some more straight-up house numbers.

After that it was up to Benji B to take the reigns, which he did with a Latin-inflected set, detouring into house later on, which I thought was good, if not exceptional. By this stage I was up on the stage for the second time, having been moved off once with everyone else by one of the bouncers.

After that I departed South to Camberwell, though ultimately ended up walking to Elephant and Castle, as all the buses were so stuffed to the gills with merrymakers. Even this though, failed to detract from what was an extremely enjoyable night out, if not quite the array of obscure delights I anticipated.

Based on my two excursions there so far, this is a really good night. Soulful, danceable music over a range of styles, without being particularly faddish. The venue's not bad either – I like the outside smoker's oasis, and the soundsystem bumps. I'll be back, soon enough.

*This track, incidentally, I identified with the Shazam application on my phone, which appears to 'know its shit'. I had rather assumed it would only be able make identifications of the order of whether something was Lily Allen or not, but the music database seems to be surprisingly good.

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