There was a time, sometime in the early 2000s, that New York City lost its mojo. The city’s clubbers had turned their back on hometown heroes in favour of imported DJs from the UK, most of whom played dreary progressive house. The Big Apple’s own producers seemed to be stuck in some kind of time warp, either dropping so-so hip-hop or mediocre soulful house.
Then, sometime around the middle of the decade, all that changed. Daniel Wang and Metro Area reinvented disco, blending it with deep house and sparkling Detroit techno influences. DFA breathed new life into the city’s long-dormant punk-funk scene, in the process waking the rest of the world to new stirrings in dance music’s original Mecca. A whirlwind of disco edits and originals followed, along with strange dubbed-out cuts and vaguely Balearic offerings from a new breed of party-starters obsessed with joining the dots between the city’s musical past and present.
These days, New York’s underground electronic music scene is stronger than ever (though residents may argue otherwise). Looking from the outside, there’s so much going on that it’s hard to keep up. Crucially, a number of venues – Santos Party House being the most notable – have become a home for anything-goes parties that invoke the original spirit of house and disco.
Chief among these has been Mister Saturday Night, a party built on the forthright musical opinions and fearsomely eclectic vision of resident DJs Eamon Harkin and Justin Carter. Their impressive, finger-on-the-pulse eclecticism and brilliant booking policy – Theo Parrish, Omar-S, Four Tet and Optimo recently graced the decks – has seen Mister Saturday Night become arguably the hottest regular bash in NYC. Given this success, it’s little surprise that their fame has spread to this side of the Atlantic, with regular dates at Plastic People.
It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that they’ve chosen this moment to join the likes of Tim Sweeney, Eric Duncan, Runaway, Roy Dank and the Let’s Play House crew in launching their own label. What’s more surprising, perhaps, is their choice of artist for the first release. Next to no one knows anything about Anthony Naples; according to the blurb, he’s a “new talent who has become part of the MSN family”. Whoever he is, Harkin and Carter have shown great vision in signing him up. Mad Disrespect is an impressive debut; a cracking EP that neatly sidesteps convention and delivers house tracks brimming with ideas. It’s adventurous and innovative, but never shies away from its main purpose: making people dance.
The title track itself is particularly good. The snappy, shuffling beats recall classic New York house and mid-90s New Jersey garage, but with the addition of hissing cymbals more reminiscent of Detroit techno. The woozy synths and twinkling melodies are reminiscent of Detroit deep housers Marcellus Pittman and Omar-S, while the soulful vocal cut-ups doff a cap to UK garage and New York’s soulful house past. There’s crackle reminiscent of Theo Parrish, but the sparkling production sheen is more Mr Beatnick than Rick Wilhite.
The garage influence is more obvious on “Slackness”, a skittering, breathless composition that suggests Naples has a love of contemporary British bass music. The beats and intricately programmed percussion recall the halcyon days of Chicago jack, but the hip-hop cut-ups and vocal treatments scream UK garage. The waters are muddied further by a booming bassline, nagging drones and relentless disco cowbells. Heavy? You bet. Then there’s “Tusk”, a gently undulating concoction that sounds like a tribute to Detroit deep house. Its top end hisses with skittering cymbals – delightfully programmed to switch between complimentary rhythmic patterns every sixteen bars – while its mid range boasts the sort of warm, fluid keys reminiscent of Kenny Dixon Jr’s finest moments. It’s hard not to spot the jazz influence, but it never gets tiresome or noodly; it’s much more hypnotic than that.
1. Mad Disrespect