Photography by Niamh Moriarty
Photography by Niamh Moriarty
Virgo Four make their Irish live debut tomorrow night at The Grand Social, with support from Lunar Disko’s Andy Doyle, Fatty stalwart Nico Keano and Pablo from Downtownsounds/Fatty Fatty.
Here’s a brief and concise history of these pioneers who almost got left behind…
With the recent resurgence of interest in Chicago house music in the past few years, Virgo Four are amongst the most significant winners. Their self titled debut was re-released by Dutch label Rush Hour in 2010, and has been feted as one of the finest LP’s ever to emerge from a genre far more focused on the 12 inch single.
The band comprised just two members, Eric Lewis and Mervyn Chambers, and they were lucky (or unlucky!) enough to record on the iconic Trax label, which released so many of the genre’s timeless classics. Trax was also notorious for questionable business practices – paying some artists small advances for records that would sell in their tens of thousands, not to mention printing tunes onto used vinyl, resulting in a frustratingly muddy sound quality on many of their releases.
Thanks and praise are due that V4′s first single ‘Do You Know Who You Are?’ did not suffer too harshly from this policy. Built around a circular, swooping synth motif, it stands today as one of the true jewels in house music’s crown – beautiful, melancholic yet hugely uplifting music that sounds like it could have been made yesterday.
The other moments on that first Trax EP aren’t half bad either – take your pick from the driving, acidic ‘In A Vision’, with it’s propulsive Karftwerkian hook at centre stage…
Or the hypnotic, funk fuelled minimalism of ‘Take Me Higher’ and the slowly building piano led surge of ‘Going Thru Life’…
Having recorded that EP as Virgo Four, they then followed it up with another under the moniker ‘M.E’, another 4 tracks of haunting melodies and big 4/4 kicks, like the eerie ‘School Hall’
and the sinister dancefloor call of ‘Ride’
These 8 tracks were issued as an LP by Radical Records in 1989 under the name ‘Virgo’, creating much confusion due to house pioneer Marshall Jefferson’s project of the same name. After that, the duo kept on making sweet music with each other, but found it difficult to get distribution deals for it, with just one EP emerging under the moniker ‘Ace and The Sandman’ in 1992. It lived up to the high standards they had set themselves with this glorious, acid laced deep house gem…
The band then faded into obscurity, and little or nothing was heard from them for nearly two decades. Since Rush Hour’s reissue of the original ‘Virgo’ album three years ago, however, they have been all over the world, playing gigs in the four corners of the globe.
They and their new label put some of those unreleased tracks to fabulous use on the appropriately titled ‘Resurrection’ album in 2011, a compendium of thirty tracks that they had worked on over the years. The lead track ‘It’s A Crime’ was remixed to some effect by Caribou, bringing the band’s glorious sound to even more eager ears.
While some feel ‘Resurrection’ didn’t quite hit the heights of the work on Trax, there was still plenty to recommend it – the blunted tones of ‘Sex’, for instance.
Or the strange, elegiac ‘Moskaw’
The band are apparently working on new material as well as continuing to excavate their stash of tapes for lost and hidden gems. Check them jamming it out for The BoilerRoom, a lovely little taster of what you might expect from them on Saturday at The Grand Social. See you down the front!
It’s finally here! The second installment of Pablo and Shoey’s ‘Rejigs’ series has landed, featuring 3 more lovingly reconstructed floorfillers for the front of your box…
The lead track is a fierce electro-boogie workout that’s been sampled on pop rave standards like Snap’s ‘The Power’, Moby’s ‘Go’, Bizarre Inc’s ‘I’m Gonna Get You’, and somewhat more credibly by KRS-One’s Boogie Down Productions crew. As usual we sliced out loads of the cheese from the original and concentrated on the hypnotic groove. Then we cheekily knocked loads of the famous samples together to get ‘em juiced before unleashing the kind of chorus that will leave tears all over the dancefloor at 3am.
‘TP With The ILL Behaviour’ pays tribute to Detroit house producer and turntable legend Terrence Parker, recreating a section of one of his mid 90′s mixtapes where he slams a well known hip hop acapella on top of some swish euro-disco to devastating effect. We got Dublin hip hop whippersnapper Paddy O’Halpin aka Handsome Paddy in to help recreate some of the itchin’ and a scratchin’, and he sounds absolutely razor sharp on this one. The whole thing is simply built for a loose and sweaty hands in the air moment at your favourite scuzzy late night hovel!
‘Let Me Love Ya’, meanwhile, is all about the bad ass early 80′s boogie bassline, wailing diva vocals and psychedelic funk guitars that just won’t quit. In their trademark chopped up style the outro seizes on a brief vocoder led section in the fade out and stretches out for a hypnotic five minute coda that will send ‘em all home happy…….
We’re looking forward to seeing it spread it’s tentacles to the four corners of the globe just like ‘Rejigs Vol 1′ did. We’ve also signed off on the first installment of our long trumpeted ‘Downtownsounds Classics’ series, with one screaming disco classic given the Pablo and Shoey treatment and one 15 minute 21st Century epic for the first one, complete with natty full colour sleeve design. Watch this space, and we mean it this time.
In anticipation of Downtownsounds 10th Birthday celebrations in Kennedy’s on March 5th we will be celebrating their decision to bring back Maurice Fulton for a 4 hour set by posting some mixes of his productions.
Dr. Scratch has many different guises and styles so instead of trying to do the impossible and cram it all into one exhaustive marathon mix we thought it would be easier and more economical to do three separate mixes, each touching on a different sound.
First up, it’s melodic flute and jazzy guitar licks with that patented Dr. Scratch STOMP thrown together to give a flavour of Fulton’s own unique, ballsy house sound.