Charles Bals, a French man stuck in traffic between Berlin and Düsseldorf, is involved in film production, design, fashion, exotic records. I can hardly describe Charles’ style as a unique feeling and interpretation of Miami Vice TV series, tanned 80s, Waikiki beach, tennis, vintage neon salmon-pink and petrol colors, old cartoons and undescribeable flavors. In his own words “Been through all of disco and quite recently developed a taste for the failed disco attempts too, private records and border genres. Trying to make up new drawers incl Beachfreaks (hippie psych dance), Outsiders (private disco /fails etc) and Pugno funk (spaghetti western and that sort of)…”. Charles and his side-fists J. Evan Jordan and Danny McLewin (Psychemagik) are in the process of opening the gates to a unique online record shop, Beach Freaks, that addresses only the most demanding music collectors. Don’t miss our exclusive interview on Krossfingers with them soon. And now Charles shared with us five significant 7 inches!
Rendez-Vous – My Blue Bird (7”, 1977) [Baccara, Belgium]
So it seems you are in the last of all places and all of a sudden you bump into this girl. Turns out she’s just as unpredictable as the circumstances that brought you together. At first sight maybe not a straight beauty, even a little goofy at times, but mysterious and private – and yes, sexy. She makes you laugh and dance in strange places, claiming her very own territory of cool – in other words, unique, and of course you decide to take her home. But then, just before things are about to get a little too serious you realize she’s not the one for you. In fact you let go and decide to hook her up with a very good friend instead, as you believe they’d be the better match. That lucky fella happened to be me and legendary collector and friend, **** *****, is the man who finally paired us off. If you’d ask me how it feels to be in a relation with a 7 inch tall outsider girl born in an industrial part of Belgium in the late 70s, I’d answer: our vibe is electrified, wild, sometimes even a bit excessive and out of control, but mixed with moments of total ease and joy, where we sit at a bonfire, totally stoned, happily singing and letting our guitars play, until the acid kicks back in and the fantasy folk forest transforms back into a wicked spaceship with an infinite maze.
Tonica & Dominante – Tigre (7” 1979) [Dominant, Italy]
A thousand years ago, in the southwest, there was an Apache legend. It told of a hidden canyon guarded by Apache gods and rich with gold. As long as the Apaches kept the canyon a secret and never touched the gold, they would be strong…powerful. That was the legend. By now this canyon called DISCOGS became many vinyl tourists favorite destination and only few 1970s entries and scores are left to be marked on the map. But not too long ago, this shiny nugget by Italian duo Tonica & Dominante from the Amalfi Coast, got sold to me for 90€; and I consider myself more than lucky today. Bring it to the bank and they’ll kick the doors open for you. Even though I’ve been a resident on the Amalfi coast for six years, I still don’t have a clue what the two curly women on the sleeve are singing about. Something about a tiger, I guess, and about the Neapolitan accent on the flip. Released privately in tiny numbers on their own DOMINANT label, which also pressed a second single and their equally rare album. The sticker must be tagged “the very best of Italy” and for once it will keep it’s promise.
The Electric Connection – Cry Of The Lone Wolf (7”, 1979) [Casablanca Records, Japan]
In every other conversation about music people ask me how I felt about the last album by revolutionary pop duo DAFT PUNK. I reply that it took them five years to record something that will probably take all of my life to understand. I am among the few who found it a familiar nod to a familiar 70s fetish, which brings little new to the table. A disappointment because there remains an enormous wealth of musical innovation and genius from the 70s which has gone nearly untapped and I strongly believe a greater audience deserves to know more than the omnipresent few hits which got mixed, remixed, mashed and spit over and over again. We need to listen to new stuff, and there is so much “new” among the old, like this Japan-only release presented to you right here. I discovered it by using my favorite online digging technique: randomly typing my favorite word cloud into google. This time I must have combined the words “Groovy” and “Electronic” and what I found was a Japanese Yahoo auction with a 12” called “Groovy” by Electronic Connection. Cross checking, I found nothing on discogs nor any mentioning anywhere else and decided to roll the dice on the two cheap 7 inches on ebay first to see how high it would fly. Once that needle hit the vinyl, I witnessed a laid back electro mover of the highest order really. An über-modern production with the tightest drums, slickest keyboard arrangements and a stunning half vocoder-ed male voice delivering:
“I want to be alone, don’t leave me. I want to walk alone, stand by me. Want to be on my own, please help me. Why don’t you understand? Why don’t you understand? I don’t need anyone, please love me. I go all by myself, come with me. Why don’t you go away, be with me… and finally: nobody seems to understand that a lone wolf can be a lonely man!”
I mean come on, you gotta love this! Altogether both sides are stunning and represent a very accessible, unknown but up to date proto Daft Punk example released on the superiorly strong wax of the Japanese Casablanca label outlet. That Casablanca label? Yes. Both the 7” and the 12” feature an awesome fantasy illustration, of course, with a face in a cloudy night sky. It inspired the visual concept for my latest batch of mixes.
Cometa Music Hall – Cometa Music Hall (7”, 1978) [Phantom Record, Italy]
Speaking of “been there, done that” and “I Feel Love” again.. Not only did it change the game for every player in the industry, influencing the path and fate of dance music for decades, but naturally it also had a massive impact on every disco producer when it came out. An offspring of countless rip-offs and sound-alikes descended upon the global dancefloor. I’ve been collecting as many versions of this track as I could get my paws on, but started to notice one particular version of “I Feel Love” must have been sold to several labels. Recorded by some unknown band, this version flew under the radar of Moroder’s legal team for sure.
Countless exotic looking compilations from the late 1970s used this one version. I just hoped to find an interesting take on it and several times I thought I’d reeled in a new catch but ended up eating the same old fish. Apart from straight covers, there is that “I Feel Love” synth-recipe that can be heard in countless 1970s productions. Included is “Me And My Superfriends” by Black Hole, a rather unknown Brazilian disco band.
Even harder to find, and certainly one of the obscurest discoveries I ever unearthed, is a promotional 7” for an Italian club called the COMETA MUSIC HALL. I believe the venue is still up and running in the north of Italy. The production features a shitty Bee-Gees-esque singing attempt by some looser that would’ve been kicked off any high school band. On the other hand, it’s paired nicely with some charming lo-fi synths trying to do the Moroder “I Feel Love” signature trick and spiced up with some obligatory space effects, stellar winds and who knows what else.
“Come on baby into my fire. You’re my fear and i’m your desire.” is what you hear the singer yowl while you look at a breathtaking gatefold 7″ (yes, you heard me) with an insanely modern front sleeve, featuring a hipsterish logo combining Peruvian graphics with futuristic type and some absolutely insane shots of the club deco. In fact, the club interior and dj booth are among the boldest I have ever seen. According to a youtube clip showing some kids going there not long ago, they kept all of it’s impressive light installation running. Of course, you won’t hear any cool underground disco tracks, but more likely will have to arrange yourself around a house remix of “Lambada.”
Makes me wonder why, with loads of technology at hand, today’s clubs look less and less interesting. Sadly it feels like the more we progress in technology, the less “future” we get to see.. same goes for cars, but hey that’s another story.
The record here has been released on the Italian PHANTOM label, which destroyed most of it’s stock a few years back when nobody seemed to care and the owner thought it would be a good move to get the past out of the way. That said, it is a fascinating little label that focused on local artists and promoted clubs, restaurants and even a radio station called Radio Cosmo 101, through a stream of solid 7”s with great titles, great artwork and interesting lo-fi disco sounds. The chances of ever seeing a Phantom record though are as high as seeing a phantom in general – good luck busting this one!
Oxid – Bright Heron (7”, 1977) [Voom Voom Music, Italy]
Here comes a track so nasty I forget for three minutes that I’m no fan of anything in the ball-park of “funk.” But, lord forgive me, the divine sloppy drums, psychedelic bass, Dracula’s own organ and, most of all, the evil-est of all clavinets… it’s all there. To me, this is nothing but one of the best surprises I ever got from a B-side. This record was produced by one of the folks behind the equally interesting PHOTOCHROME 7” on Idea.
The boys involved in production just wanted to make the final statement here; keeping that nasty chord slamming and jamming till they ran out of wax. What would have happened if they’d found more wax? I shutter to think.. but for as long as it lasts it will chainsaw every dancefloor with invincible cool and utter distain.
Follow Charles on Soundcloud