15 years of Discovery

15 years ago this weekend, Daft Punk released their 2nd full-length studio album Discovery on the world and the world has never really been the same since, the dance music world anyway.

After transforming dance/house/electronic music as we know it with their landmark debut LP Homework, many fans were expecting a sequel of sorts for their sophomore release.  When the first single “One More Time” was released approximately three months before the album, it became one of the most instantly polarizing records in dance music history.  Purists were stunned by the duos foray into the world of Auto-Tune and the overall “commercialized” feel of the single.  Others thought the move to be quite brilliant, and look to it as the moment when Daft Punk truly crossed over from an underground house act to a mainstream phenomenon.  Let’s not forget that this is the record where they introduced us to their now standard robot helmet guises.

With the release of Discovery, fans now had a full-length concept album to embrace, which also served as the soundtrack to the accompanying anime film Interstella 5555:  The 5storu of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem produced by Daft Punk and legendary Japanese animator Leiji Matsumoto.  The duo spent about 2.5 years recording and developing the album and it certainly sounds like it.  To this day, I believe it is the slickest sounding purely electronic album that has ever been produced.  Every note, transition, nuance and sound is EXACTLY where it’s supposed to be with a beautiful sheen that makes the metallic font used for the album cover ever more appropriate.  Beyond the tracks released as singles, the album has wonderful moments of, yes, DISCOVERY, including “High Life”, one of my favourite DP tunes, “Voyager” and even the tongue-in-cheek 10-minute long closing track “Too Long”.  The list of guest performers is relatively short when compared to those featured on their collaboration-heavy fourth album Random Access Memories, but if that list is comprised of house legends Romanthony, Todd Edwards and DJ Sneak, clearly something is being done correctly.

Sampling made up a huge part of the record and I will not go into what was officially cleared and what was not; you may debate that among yourselves and, if necessary, use that rubbish Discovered bootleg disc which allegedly contains all the samples used.  Half of them are wrong anyway, and include tracks thought to be sampled on Homework and Human After All.  The point is, rather than simply looping samples and adding a beat to it (which they both did to great effect on their Roule and Crydamoure labels and releases), they ADDED and built songs around the samples putting their own brilliant touch to each.  They have stated themselves that this was meant to be a FUN record, paying homage to the sounds and musical styles they most closely identified with in their youth.  Indeed, it is difficult to find a moment on the album that can be described as introspective or deep and that’s fine.  What we have are 14 tunes that blend together to create a timeless listening experience and considering the lasting impact the songs have had, this may very well be the duos most instantly recognizable release.  “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” was employed to great effect in Kanye West’s “Stronger“, 6 years after its original release.  I personally can attest that “One More Time” is my most played Daft Punk song as a DJ.  Countless television and radio programs have used excerpts of the albums tracks as bumper or background music.

I won’t bother with a track-by-track review of this magnificent album.  Instead, check out the video above so you can rediscover the beauty of this important, genre-bending and ultimately satisfying release for yourself.  ONE MORE TIME.

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thekeytothehousemix 2012 – Mixed by DJ Shawn Austin

It’s been a great year here at thekeytothehouse so here’s my way of sending another big thank you and a little Christmas present to all of you!

This 75 minute DJ mix features many of the tracks that have been featured in my posts and reviews here on the site including:

Happy Days – P.J., Do You Know What I Mean? – Fresh Tunes #1, I’m In Love With You – B.K.S., Music Sounds Better With You – Stardust, Lovelee Dae – Blaze

I definitely wanted to give this one a classic feel, and I hope you enjoy the trip back in time including a simply incredible house re-edit of one of my all-time favourite tunes, “Why” – Carly Simon courtesy of Redondo, a duo to watch out for in 2013.  Please be sure to check out my Soundcloud page for the full track listing and more of my tunes and remixes.

I’d like to wish everyone who visits this page warmest wishes for a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2013!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from thekeytothehouse!

DJ Shawn Austin

It Shall Be(Original Mix) – Shawn Austin

Well folks, things are going beautifully here at thekeytothehouse with well over 300 page views and nearly 60 page views of our Eric Prydz presents:  Pryda review alone!  I appreciate all the support and remain grateful and humbled by it.  In that regard, I hope you all will enjoy the new track I finished up this past weekend called “It Shall Be”.  It’s a funky, techy, at times minimal tune, and I hope fans and DJs alike will give it a spin and, please, let me know how you feel about it!!!

It is available for free download and so far, has been getting a great response.  Big thanks to my Twitter superfan Frank Sinop for his compliments and for consistently supporting the blog.  Please leave your comments below on on Soundcloud and you can check out all my tunes at www.soundcloud.com/shawnaustinmusic.

Again, many thanks to all of you for the love and support.  You are always welcome in this house!

Classic House Series, Episode #6 – Let Me Show You – K-Klass

One word to describe this one back in the day:  CHOON!!!

This was one of the gems that used to keep me glued to Chris Sheppard’s Pirate Radio shows during the mid-90’s.  The main reason:  THAT PIANO LINE!!!  “Piano-house”, as it is sometimes called, had its share of moments, but this was the big one for me.  “Let Me Show You” was one of those tracks that started with a burst of energy and it simply doesn’t let up over the course of the tune.

The group known as K-Klass consists of Andy Williams, Carl Thomas, Russ Morgan, and Paul Roberts.  Williams and Thomas met Morgan and Roberts at La Hacienda in Manchester during the 80’s and decided to team up to make some house tracks.  Their gear was very basic, an SH-101 and a Tandy mixer, but this didn’t stop them from making some of the best house music of the early 90s.  The group’s first hit, “Rhythm is a Mystery”, reached number three on the UK singles chart and “Let Me Show You” hit number 13 in 1993.  Since then, they have gone on to release a slew of well received singles and albums, worked with the Pet Shop Boys on their album “Bilingual” and have produced top-notch remixes for the likes of Candi Staton, Rosie Gaines and a classic remix of “I Hate That I Love You” from Rihanna and Ne-Yo.  That one is a personal fave and you should definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

“Let Me Show You” became a rave anthem and a subsequent crossover success.  It is a beautiful combination of a high-energy rhythm section, some powerful synth stabs, vocals from frequent K-Klass collaborator Bobbi Depasois, and the piano hook that sucked people in and never let go.  Many times have I seen a dancefloor scream and raise their hands to the air when the hook comes in and an explosion of madness when the drop comes.  K-Klass remixed and re-released the single in 1999 with a new club mix that has a speed-garage vibe and certainly can hold its own against the original.  However, it is still the original that I find myself reaching for when it’s time to give a party a good kick in the pants.

This is no doubt a seminal tune from the early-90s house era and one that deserves to be pulled out time and again for some pure dancefloor madness.

Classic Canadian House, Episode #2: Happy Days – PJ

It was 1996 and most of the popular “dance” songs to play at the time were predominantly Euro and dance-pop records of the day, but every now and again a house record would come along that slowed things down just a little bit and gave a dancefloor the chance to appreciate the groove once again.  I was working with a mobile company at the time and shortly after meeting the owner, I asked what were the big records he was playing at the time.  He rattled of a list of names, but one that stuck out was “Happy Days” – PJ.

The record started of as a project of Paul Jacobs, who was a university student in Toronto at the time and also DJed and produced on the side.  The bulk of his better known work including “Spanish Fly” and the “Soul Grabber” series, was released on the now-defunct Aquarius Recordings label, also based out of Toronto.  The label had taken an unique approach to their marketing:  vinyl only with very vague black-and-white labels containing only the Aquarius logo (a variation of the zodiac symbol), the producer’s name and the name of the E.P. and a release date from 1970-1979.  The flip side of the vinyl label would contain a photo of the artist whose music had been sampled for the tracks, and on other occasions a random picture of the producer from some point in their childhood years. Aquarius was seeking to bring back the essence and spirit of the disco 12-inch single with their designs and their releases which prominently featured disco samples, and their minimalistic approach probably helped with any sample clearance issues the label might have.  A number of Toronto producers released their early material on the label including The Stickmen, Nick Holder, Mitch Winthrop, and Miguel Migs and Aquarius continued releasing productions until 2003.

“Happy Days” began life way back in 1981 with the release of a track also called “Happy Days” by North End feat. Michelle Wallace.  North End was a project of disco producer Arthur Baker and “Happy Days” was their biggest success.  The success, though, came only after a the track was remixed and re-named “Tee’s Happy” on the b-side of 12″ releases.  This version saw most of the vocals stripped away and the groove was brought to the forefront.  The b-side was played regularly at the legendary Paradise Garage by the equally legendary DJ Larry Levan and quickly became an anthemic track at the club.  Listen above and you’ll hear all of the chunks sampled in the original and remixes over the years.

PJ’s release is not a complicated arrangement; the original (and IMHO best) version simply lifts a section of the guitar solo from “Tee’s Happy” and loops it for about four minutes with a little bit of filtering over a house groove that progresses along with the sample.  The track basic elements filter out, only to have a loop of the chorus (“Happy days, and thing are still okay, we’re going…”) come slamming back in to carry the track to the end.  A lovely little horn loop is added in two sections and is actually one of my favourite elements of the tune.

From my first listen, I knew this was a hot track and the simplicity of the arrangement and the vocal hook would make it appealing to a much broader audience than just the underground disco scene.  It took a minute to catch on, but eventually I would see dozens of people making their way to the dancefloor every time that funky guitar loop started inching its way out of the speakers.  The 12″ release actually contains three cuts, the original and two remixes also from Jacobs that expand on the original concept by extending and adding new samples from the North End track offering several good quality mixes on one release.  The track would go one to be remixed and re-released dozens of times over the years, as recently as 2011, in fact, but I’ve never found a remix that truly matches the pure brilliance of the original.

The tune also received massive support on Canadian dance music radio and was eventually the first Aquarius track to be released on CD single.  Acclaimed house label Defected even snapped it up for overseas release and it quickly became an anthem the world over.  “Happy Days” truly was one of the first tunes to put Canada on the map as far as house music was concerned, and it really hasn’t lost its luster over the years.  A lot of tracks are given the label “timeless”, but this one almost defines it.

Classic House Series, Episode #5 – Magic Feet – The MD Connection

In the early 1990s, there was a strong underground rave culture thriving in Toronto and with it came certain records, both locally and via imp0rts, that became seminal classics in the scene and helped define the vibe of the Toronto house sound.  With a new wave of new DJs embracing the developing sounds of Toronto’s house scene, one of those records was “Magic Feet” – The MD Connection.

Back then, there was only one club in the city where you could go and hear good quality electronic music and actually want to stay until the very end of the night.  Now known as the world-renowned Guvernment Entertainment Complex, in the early nineties it was simply called R.P.M. and served for many years as Toronto’s answer to legendary clubs like Chicago’s Warehouse and New York’s The Loft in terms of breaking new music and creating hits Toronto house-heads could call their own.

“Magic Feet” had a certain attitude that made it stand out against the other jackin’ house tunes of the time.  A prime example of what could be done with basic gear and a good idea, the track is not much more than some Roland 808 and 909 drums, a single note acid line repeated throughout the track and a crushing, balls-to-the wall kick that came in twice on the last bar.  Originally released as part of the “Tracks That Move Ya” album released by veteran house producer Mike Dunn under his MD Connection pseudonym, “Magic Feet” got regular rotation from nightclub and radio legend Chris Sheppard at his weekly shows at RPM and on his groundbreaking Pirate Radio show which dominated the weekend airwaves in Toronto during this period.  Here’s an excellent interview with the man himself from the New Music:

Given Shep’s knack for knowing a good tune when he heard one, Toronto DJs would flock to Play De Record on the weekends to grab the tracks they heard him spin the night before and copies of “Magic Feet” were in constant demand, whether legally or on white label.  The repetitive one-note acid line would play an important part in another classic Toronto house anthem with Sheppard himself having a hand in the production(more on that to come).  The tune, interestingly enough, gained something of a reputation outside of the clubs in Toronto and could regularly be heard at high school dances and formals around the city (especially if you were at one of the ones I played at back then).  It was included on the second installment of Chris Sheppard’s acclaimed “Techno Trip” series which at the time was one of the few releases to feature a proper CD version of the track.

It’s difficult to explain exactly why this tune did so well; it’s a hard, heavy, nasty piece of early techno, to be exact, but whenever I’ve played it, people usually get the idea that it’s time to just lose it for a few minutes and kick up their feet to this battle-tested party weapon.  It’s simple, and it works.  What more could you ask for?

Classic House Series, Episode #4 – Do You Know What I Mean – Fresh Tunes #1

This track asked a simple question and everyone knew the answer the second they heard it:  YES!

You can’t help but consider this record when looking at the greatest classic house tunes of all time.  This one drove the dancefloors crazy when it was first released in 1993/1994 and it still does serious damage to this day.  Pressed up through various labels over the years, the track found the most success with its release under the classic Fresh Fruit and almighty Strictly Rhythm banners.

The simplicity of the track is one of the major reasons why it has aged so well over the years.  A good and proper house groove (which would later become the backbone of a Toronto house classic, more on that to come), a three-note bassline, and a vocal sample lifted from Colonel Abrams’ classic “The Truth”.  Throw in some steel vibraphone chords, strings and a an insanely catchy organ riff and you have a tune that forms a HUGE part of my definition of classic house music.

Fresh Tunes #1 (#1 Fresh Tunes depending on the label) was comprised of René ter Horst & Gaston Steenkist a.k.a DJ Zki & Dobre.  In addition to the classic piece of house, the two producers would also enjoy huge success with their release “Give It Up” as The Goodmen and over a decade later would drop one of my all-time favourite trance tunes “Stringer” under their Riva moniker.  The duo has recorded under at least 10 other aliases including Jark Prongo and the Rhythmkillaz.

The lads definitely hit the nail on the head with this one.  I remember dropping this back at Mixdown Mondays at Humber College in Toronto back in 2006 and a girl came running up to the stage to tell me I had just played her favourite song.  You can’t buy moments like that which is why I always enjoy giving this one a loving spin and it can work just about anywhere.  This tune is pure good times and I’ve seen it take the vibe to the next level in many clubs and everyone who gets on the floor to this one will have a smile on their face the whole time.

Have you got a story to go with this classic house anthem?  Post your comments below and tell us about it!