Basically, Traxbox takes the form of those first 75 A sides running over eight CDs, followed by their b-sides on another eight discs. It’s a mighty achievement in itself that, with the aid of serious collectors, the compilers managed to gather all these records together as some are impossibly rare. Then, considering how they were infamously pressed on recycled vinyl of varying quality (compressed dung beetles fossilised in the grooves), the painstaking remastering (and often reconstruction) process by Dutch company Arjan Rietvink Digital Mastering (up to five people working for three months) is nothing short of jaw-dropping. I’ve got some of these on original vinyl and, doing a comparison, it’s like the mud’s been scraped away, bass and brightness amped up, with no clicks and spits as the stylus encounters an embalmed mosquito’s stiffie.
The painstaking process is described in the book, along with Bill’s history of house music and Trax, track guide and reprints from Soul Underground, the fanzine which gave underground house its biggest UK coverage. Also, long time rabid record collector Jonathan Woodliffe talks about how, while working as an assistant at Nottingham’s Arcade Records and DJing at the city’s Rock City venue, he built the rare vinyl goldmine which provided many of the originals for the set. Extra copies still had to be tracked down on the world’s collectors’ network to plug holes and provide multiple copies which, when necessary, were edited together to erase the most drastic aural glitches. These tunes have never sounded so good.
Playing through the set chronologically, it’s fascinating hearing the evolution of house music from primitive beginnings on disc one through the birth of deep house, acid squelching and piano vocals. There’s a fascinatingly detailed track by track by Bill Brewster in the book, so the info’s all there but here’s what you get…
TX101 Le’ Noiz – ‘Wanna Dance’
Produced by Jesse Saunders, whose 1984 release ‘On And On’ was the first house record with its simple beat-box sample cut-ups. This basic DIY success planted the ’I can do that’ idea in the heads of kids like Marshall Jefferson, who went out and bought nine grand‘s worth of new technology to do it. Trax was actually formed out of an agreement between Sherman, Z Factor producer Vince Lawrence and Saunders, who was still running his Jes Say label (which, might have been the name of this label if events had taken a different turn).
Like many Trax records, this maiden voyage track is the sound of someone pissing about on new technology. Jesse and Vince had just got into the joys of sampling, building a bulbous electro-funk groove recalling On-U Sounds outings of the time. The vocal is a guy asking ‘Wanna dance?’ then Bugs Bunny replying ‘Certainly!’ What better way to start than with the cool carrot-cruncher?
TX102 Jesse Velez – ‘Girls Out On The Floor’
One of the delights of this set is the hidden obscurities getting aired for the first time. It’s great to get those much-heard timeless anthems in crystal clarity but outings like this example of how Chicago was also pretty enamoured with Latin hiphop have been buried to all but the archaeologists (like Joey Negro, who sampled it for his Hed Boys project in the early 90s). The cheeky girl-boy dancefloor battle romp is joined by the guitar riff from Kurtis Blow’s ‘The Breaks’ and cuts a mean rug (as does the hectic rush of the flip’s Dub, again featuring enthusiastic spoon-on-a-tin-cup cowbell action). Tragically, reveals Bill Brewster, creator Jesse Velez committed suicide before his first record could be released, ending the career of a promising Latin house pioneer.
TX103 Le’ Noiz – ‘I’m Scared’
Jesse again, this time in cahoots with Duane Bufort, his pal from his DJ stronghold the Playground club, uncorking some weighty primitive house drum patterns and clanking monster riffs, topped with kid uttering the title. The dub is called ‘Get Out’.
TX104 Jack Master Funk – ‘Jack The Bass’
Farley Jack Master Funk debuts on Trax with the label’s first proper house outing. Many already knew his name as one of the Hot Mix Five DJs on radio station WBMX, playing a seminal mix of Italo disco and early house, Farley into jacking in its rawest form. Riding the sinister riff which would become a central house music motif, the A side is a tough, menacing jack track. The flip’s ‘Jack The Dick’ [credited to Jack Master Dick] marks the birth of porn-house, sounding like the guys are having a blast having just discovered the vari-speed control, speeding up the phrase ‘suck my dick bitch‘ like lascivious chipmunks or slowing it to a murderous leer. You can almost hear the schoolboy snickering. And there’s an acapella!
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