Every week or thereabouts, Mutant Dance Moves takes you to the shadowy corners of the dancefloor and the fringes of contemporary electronic music, where new strains and dance moves are evolving.
Back in 2009, UK exile Harvey Bassett was down and out in Venice Beach. While Harvey was revered in DJ circles (he was a resident at Ministry of Sound and his oft-booted Sarcastic Study Masters mix CD influenced the eclectic DJing styles of everyone from James Murphy to Prins Thomas) he hadn’t released any new music since the late '90s. It was then that he received an email from Mark Barrott, who had once been a member of the Future Loop Foundation and was now residing in Uruguay. He asked Harvey for some tracks and Harvey returned to the studio, coming out with his Locussolus project in 2010.
Barrott himself was a willful exile as well, having stepped away from the British dance music scene for a minute, living in Berlin and Italy before winding up in South America. And he had finally gotten to cooking some new tracks as Rocha. “I sat at kitchen table in Uruguay with laptop and keyboard waiting for the shipping container and wrote ‘Hands of Love,’” Barrott said. “But I couldn't get a deal for it anywhere, so I decided ‘Screw this, I'll start my own label and do it better than anyone else would anyway’ and thus the monster was born.”
That monster (named for Todd Rundrgen’s noisy pop classic) is the much-respected dance label International Feel, which celebrates its third birthday this month with a handy two-disc compendium of the label’s output. The label’s output has ranged from the aforementioned DJ Harvey to Todd Terje remixes, with cuts featuring Theo Parrish and unknown entities named Hungry Ghost and Boys from Patagonia. Needless to say, two discs can’t hold all the weird wooly music they’ve released in that timespan, but it still provides quite the trip.
Reaching out to Harvey after having readied the Rocha single felt like the natural next step for Barrott: “Having decided to start a label, I really wanted it to be super bespoke and do everything to the highest standard. I knew we had to start as we meant to go on, hence the first single having 180g vinyl, hand drawn artwork from Yuko Kondo. And if you want to make a lot of noise and show people how serious and passionate you are about all of this, who else would you want on remix duties but the Cult leader himself? I didn't know Harv at all beforehand, I just reached out with a respectful, sensible offer and he said yes.”
The highlights on this set are high indeed: Quiet Village’s Joel Martin and Matt Edwards sample Jim Morrison’s baritone and dedicate the sprawling “American Dreamer” to Dennis Hopper. And while the Terje remix of this year’s “I Travel to You” is yet another killer entry on the man’s CV for 2012, the inclusion of Tim “Love” Lee’s “Fully Bearded Dub” version is similarly heavyweight. The twitching boogie reworking of Locussolus’s “Throwdown” by Com Truise is ideal for island sunsets as well as just chewing ‘shrooms on a beanbag in your bedroom. Some of my favorite tunes from the imprint didn’t make the cut –including Quiet Village’s feverish remix of Bubble Club’s “The Goddess,” Welcome Stranger’s hallucinatory take on Rocha’s “Feel the Love,” or Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas’s Bananarama-quoting remix of Locussolus—but they are small quibbles.
“Living in Uruguay and now rural Ibiza, I deliberately shut myself off from big city living and any 'scenes' that would, potentially, influence my creative thinking,” Barrott says of his manner in making and processing music. “When I'm making music, I never listen to other music, because I become too much of a sponge and it terms of label strategy and vision, the same thing applies. The benefits of living in South America meant that I only had a two dimensional perception of the label via the internet and I really was surprised once I came to Europe this summer and spoke to people face to face and got a real feel how the label is perceived.” There’s a fine balance between beats and chill-out as typified by IFEEL Studio, yet another studio creation of Barrott. “It’s me making the music I love: wonky 70's library music with a hint of Boards of Canada and a pinch of Balearic seasoning thrown in,” he explains. “I’m about to spin that off into a full blown album project, albeit under a different name.”
The comp also serves another purpose beyond collecting International Feel’s finest bits of the past three years: “Putting out the comp was also a line in the sand, to give me some breathing space to decide what's next.” Barrott left Uruguay for some downtime in rural Ibiza, where he’s slowly coming around to what might be on the horizon for his label. And what is he doing with his free time? “Hanging out, making music, going for walks, swimming in the sea, meditating, listening to cricket on the radio,” he says, before adding: “And also watching the madness of mainstream society from a safe distance and inventing new wonderful, weird worlds to invite people into.”