Jon Carter - "Viva Bugged Out" (Virgin)
House music is a lie. It's all that makes me smile really. That's not to say I'm not happy, there's enough grinding, swooning and funk out there to get me through any week. But so many songs are so unconditionally beautiful that they are just mind tricks, things to rely on to shut out everything else that's going on in the world and lock the door.
Inner City's 'Good life' is one of these songs. It appears towards the end of a Jon Carter Breezeblock Mix from December. And then, just when the mix is beginning to border on euphoric, the sound drops out a little. There's some kind of spectral cheering in the background, like some ghostly transmission and then a familiar riff kicks in, it's George Harrison's 'My sweet lord'. And mortality smacks you in the face. Is dance music all just a drug in itself? Is it healthy for escapism to be the one thing deciding what I listen to?
A few months later, X-Press 2 released 'Lazy' and it was clear to me that the best DJs have been playing on all our paranoia for ages. Is anyone in a club on ecstasy entirely confident that they're not filling some hole? Is anyone entirely comfortable? Did David Byrne think of this when he wrote, "imagine there's a girlfriend, imagine there's a job, imagine there's an answer, imagine there's a god"? Isn't that the reason 'Lazy' will be the song that unites the most dancefloors this year?
And if 'Lazy' has a competitor, it's probably Shakedown's 'At night', which has the same conflict; "seems I can't deny, some days just don't feel right, you know I feel much better, at night". The beautiful part is that musically these songs are swooning pop epics, and yet the lyrics stick out every time you hear them.
But "rhythmatic pause without cause" is the phrase that I can't get out of my head when I listen to the snapping drums and bongos that lurk around almost every track on this mix. It's a quote stolen from Fatboy Slim's 'Song for shelter'; a song that throws your imagination into action, holds you down, and forces you to think about the greatest moments in your life that may not have happened yet. I'm making it the definitive lyrical reference point for house music reviews right here.
Jon Carter is the most eclectic, most interesting, and most break your neck fun house DJ around. The trouble with dance music is that once people put a label on you, it's near impossible to shake it off. If Big Beat and Monkey Mafia were things to be ashamed of, then, with this album, Carter can point to his past with pride. There's a definite link to the carnival funk of those old big beat anthems on "Viva bugged out".
The first track on a mix album should always be a firm statement of intent. Here, Jon Carter picks 'Equitoreal' by Dubtribe Sound System. It's a dirty skulking house track that seems to emit funk from some old exhaust pipe. The highlight is halfway through, when the music drops out and a dry throaty voice rasps "lord have mercy on my soul". This album is not the glossy funk of Erick Morillo or French House, it's a raw Brazilian growl all the way through. The second track is Tone Theory's "If you wanna help me Jesus, it's alright", a tickertape dirty house lesson.
This whole album is completely filthy; it's a grinding, funky, and electric mix of house tracks you probably won't have heard before. It's the sort of music you'd think would be performed by greasy stubbly men with matchsticks in their mouth. There is no question this will give you a totally new perspective from which to view the colossus that is modern house music. This is music to make the sun shine, to make you feel really alive, and to make the speakers explode.