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Casa del Popolo’s Body Meta nights take us back to a time when dance music had no labels

Crédit photo : Dimitri and Nico Sé (Photo by Maica Armata)
Casa del Popolo’s Body Meta nights take us back to a time when dance music had no labels
These days, a pubescent fan experiencing an ‘EDM’ epiphany at Ultra, Electric Daisy Carnival or any other dance festival juggernaut can expect weeks of painstaking homework just to keep up with the scene’s lingo. Thugstep, moombahcore, complextro, vaporwave – are we still even talking about beats? As the lucrative dance music landscape continues to attract an unprecedented amount of attention, both with the EDM set (Avicii, Krewella) and via dance-schooled UK producers (Disclosure, Rudimental, Duke Dumont), two established local music connoisseurs decided to “throw away the rulebook” and invite Montrealers to a monthly celebration of a bygone era in dance music: 1975 to 1995.
 
Award-winning author, music critic and former MUTEK man Dimitri Nasrallah and Fur Trade Recordings co-founder and producer Nico Serrus have been hosting their monthly Body Meta nights at Casa del Popolo since last fall, dropping a veritable patchwork of “ethnographic recordings from Northern Brazil and Algerian Rai alongside '80s mutant disco, Factory Records-era house and, say, the latest from Motor City Drum Ensemble or Late Night Tuff Guy.” It’s the perfect setting to make new, feel-good rhythmic discoveries – just don’t count on Shazam to register much of it. Nightlife.ca asked Dimitri and Nico to sing the praises of dance music, circa 1975-1995. 

Why the name Body Meta?
Body Meta is the title of an Ornette Coleman album from 1978.  On it, his trio fuses a number of styles – jazz-funk, R&B, African rhythms, free jazz, angular guitar, more – into what is the most danceable album in his catalogue.  His open-ended fusion approach to dance music on that record was the spirit we wanted to bring to our Body Meta sets.
 
What are some of your earliest, most indelible memories of being touched by a tempo?
Dimitri: 1987. My dad had a cassette deck and big headphones that I was obsessed with. I must've been 9 or so. For some reason, the Pet Shop Boys single “It's a Sin” was on one of his tapes. That was probably the first time I paid attention to music meant for dance floors.
Nico: 1989. Was a young kid, a friend brought a Technotronic cassette to school. I just couldn't stop listening to it. At the point, I listened to New Kids On The Block and stuff like that. Funny thing is, I’ve been told that when NKOTB played Montreal in the '90s, Technotronic was the opening act.
 
Your monthly covers two decades’ worth of infectious grooves. To all those young’uns who can’t imagine a time before Daft Punk or Disclosure, how would you describe dance music’s bygone days?
Well, we actually take the spirit of the 1975 to 1995 era of dance music, and apply it to the last four to five decades of grooves. But we focus on that period because DJs of that time, from Nicky Siano to Ron Hardy to Tom Moulton to Walter Gibbons, needed to be way more open-minded than DJs today in pulling together different types of music to make their marathon sets. Dance music since 1995 or so fundamentally changed. It began breaking off along genre lines – house, techno, the ever-morphing breakbeat culture that connects jungle to the latest bass music – that allowed sound to branch into increasingly specialized categories. So these days, a house DJ has many different sub-genres of house to work with, without ever having to venture outside house music. It’s extremely hard to arrive anywhere new when you’re working within long-defined rules. With Body Meta, we wanted to go back to that mentality where dance music as a whole was still undefined.
 
What’s the most transgressive track in your Body Meta record crate?
Dimitri: Explorer, "No. 8" (1982)

This is actually Tony Carey, keyboardist for the '70s prog-rock group Rainbow. He had no idea what he was doing here. In 1978, he ended up in Germany and used the Explorer sessions as a way to learn studio techniques for his fancy new synthesizers. The results didn’t make sense at the time, and were never officially released. But today we would call it proto-techno.
Nico: Angelo & Eighteen, "Flight 2" (1972)
Don't really know who those guys are and I’m always amazed that the track was made in 1972. What a beat!
 
Dance music Hall of Famer Frankie Knuckles passed away recently – a true trailblazer (some would even say “Godfather”) for that early house sound that’s key to the Body Meta brew. What’s your all-time fave Frankie cut?
Dimitri: Jamie Principle, "Bad Boy (Unreleased Mix)"
Frankie Knuckles produced this track, as he did most of Principle’s work. It’s an unreleased mix, so it’s not as clean as other work. But I like how rough and skeletal its sounds, closer to minimal wave than house music.
Nico: Mitchbal & Larry Williams, "Jack The House (FK Remix)"

It's from '85-'86 but only came out in 2012 on Still music.
 
What’s your recipe for dance floor emancipation? Who brings what to the DJ booth?
Dimitri: When we began, I brought more of the older obscurities and disco edits, while Nico brought more of the loopy, house flavours. But very quickly we’ve begun to overlap in our record-buying habits as a result of playing together. We tag-team for the whole night, trading back forth every track or two, so we’re always engaged with what the other is doing. It’s all very spontaneous. We play to the feeling in the room as opposed to what we plan in advance.
  
A dance record from the 1975-1995 period that remains criminally overlooked?
Dimitri: Marcel King, "Reach for Love (New York Remix)" [1984, Factory Records]
Nico: Chris Simmonds Project, "Work It (Mike Huckaby's Reworking It Remix)" [1993, Definitive Records]

 
Given that your night is all about unearthing long-forgotten rhythmic delicacies, care to school us in each of the following genres:
1) An Afrobeat cut we might hear at Body Meta:
Dimitri: Rob, "Boogie On" (1977)

He might as well be Ghana’s answer to James Brown.
Nico: Ebo Taylor, "Children Don't Cry"
 
2) An indelible dub cut:
Dimitri: Yellowman, "Disco Reggae" (1984)
More a dancehall toaster than a dub, but as the title indicates, he’s trying to bring a disco vibe to dancehall. And that’s right up our alley.
Nico: King Tubby, "A Rougher Version" (Jamaican Recordings)

It's actually a rare dub version of Burning Spear’s "Wadada." I could’ve picked any other track from Tubby though, for that bass.

3) A standout disco track:
Dimitri: Scherrie Payne, "I’m Not in Love (Girl, You’re in Love)" [1982, Altair Records]

A gorgeous fusion of disco and Motown.
Nico: Kiki Gyan, "24 Hours in a Disco" (Soundway) 
I just love the crowd's reaction every time I drop this.
 
4) An infectious early house record:
Dimitri: Seven Grand Housing Authority, "Love’s Got Me High" (1995, Intangible Records)
Soulful and jackin’, with an impossibly catchy hook about a feeling everyone understands.
Nico: Soho, "Hot Music" (Kool Groove Records, 1989)

That record never leaves my bag. I love everything about it: the jazz sample, the beat, the vocal sample. Kind of garage-house in its own way.
 
Body Meta 
Saturday, April 26, 10pm–3am
Casa del Popolo | 4873 St-Laurent