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Arts + CultureMusicNew Music: With 'The Invicta Remixes,' STR4TA's Brit-funk slides...

New Music: With ‘The Invicta Remixes,’ STR4TA’s Brit-funk slides around the dance floor

Revered selector Gilles Peterson and bassist Jean-Paul 'Bluey' Maunick's album 'Aspects' gets a cosmic retouch

I don’t care how far down the daisy chain we venture to make DJs modern. Trending. On-brand. Viral.

Becoming “entertainment portals” that make souffles on Instagram stories or doing the Stankey Leg on TikTok don’t do Nathan for a skill set. All that industry buzz-speak nonsense evaporates when quality DJs get to biz. Years of hands-on training, skills accrued from good, bad, and most certainly terrible gigs alike—add a quick and dirty Ph.D. in reading a crowd from the school of “no slipmats at the venue” that helps road-tested jocks fulfill the one requirement: Mixing records in a public shared space.

That’s the job. I said what I said. Nobody here stuttered.

In light of recent global health ongoings, this art form, mixing two records that procures an audio frequency resembling the third record, has become a form of healing sorcery. Pure magic. Forget bitcoin for a sec. Live shared experiences carry the virtues of a newly valued currency.

The funky crew at Phonobar

This came to mind over Halloween weekend, stepping into Phonobar to hear some friends play records out for the first time in a long while. Jonah Sharp, JOHNJOHN, and DJ Guillermo.

They are SF royalty behind the decks. For over 25 years each one, on a different and separate night, has enlightened dance floors to things not yet peaking in the culture. These gents are kinda like musical sports bookies, who can’t help but deliver the future before it trends.

As I’m settling in, chopping it up with Jacob and James Earle, Jonah lightly squeezes in “Wheel Me Out” by Was Not Was, a disco not disco flag bearer that still sounds as funky, quirky, and off as ever. Audio balm to my soul. Our table, of course, as if on cue, starts to talk about WBLS, 80s Black radio in New York City… and then it happens.

Jonah starts dealing. Going down a Brit-funk K-hole featuring a whole bunch of selections from this year’s STR4TA release interspersed with other era tracks I’ve only heard via compilations or pause tapes. “Do you hear what he’s doing right now?” I shout over our conversation. Jonah is weaving through time, applying all the tricks, making the journey seamless. These records are not designed like a house or techno record, meaning, it ain’t easy to mix in and out of. Jonah employs all the tricks, a toolbox full of skills. Drops, fades, blends, quick-cuts, Mancuso pauses, cue points, mixing in key… all to weave about this sturdy transonic thwack.

But more importantly, he knows every damn groove of the record. Without that, you’re not mixing Jack. Patrons, late into the night, finally catch on, this recontextualization is not a podcast mix. It’s the gentleman, who’s gone out his nutter, been in the front of the room for a good hour now, giving that last cocktail its extra boost. Folks start moving and swaying, as to say “Ah, OK, now I get.”

This kind of selectivity, improvisation fueled by expression, delivered that 1am-compelling stretch of swing and unguarded rhythmic pandemonium. This is the IRT vibe that we’ve all been waiting to be re-introduced to.

STR4TA, the brainchild of long-time friends and collaborators Gilles Peterson and Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick debuted their New Wave jazz funk album Aspects this past March.

The Invicta Remixes of that record were released last Friday, providing alternate entry points, using an astute lineup of contemporary producers and wunderkinds alike, who keep the ’70s/’80s musical timestamp fluid, traversing the course of 40 years. 

The pink cloud mood of “Dance Desire” by Steve Conry (of Ten Lovers Music) and Japan’s finest Cuban-inspired percussionist Takashi Nakazato kicks things off: this rhythmically unfussy take uses a cowbell-modified arrangement, orchestrated by Colin Curtis. It could open and close out that romantic engagement, built for two.

Funk, cosmic disco, spaced-out dub, and stepped-up broken beat get added to the original STR4TA formula over the course of the release, making these nouveau arrangements a bit more diverse, spectral in scope with varying depths, allowing varying eras of dance music to politely wrap themselves around the stellar originals. Presenting a canvas that is just as colorful as the original but instead employing different techniques for unique aesthetics.

Off the top, it’s just a treat to hear so many snippets of the masterful bass playing from Bluey all over these 12 tracks. It’s an intended direct complement to the player from all the producers. David Lee’s alternative dub of “After The Rain” integrates those deep riffs in his cosmic synth arrangement, it’s a move that repeats itself over many selections.

Yet Dave Aju’s stepped-up reworking of “Dance Desire” pulls the ultimate zag on The Invicta Remixes. While most of the collaborators choose to strut the arrangements around in bellbottoms, Aju’s crisp hits, jutting verve, punching bass, attacking piano lines, and lingering melodies ride this tune into the 4am future-funk. Knocking the disco dust off that thang, pointing in the direction of Dego and Kaidi Tatham’s humid syncopated style of production. It’s a proper flex.

You can purchase The Invicta Remixes here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.
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