DJ Sun knows how to release an album right. For the past three months or so, the Houston turntablist, producer and radio-show host (KPFT's Soular Grooves) with an enviable address book and a local residency almost every night of the week -- not to mention a multiple Houston Press Music Award winner -- has been updating his Web site at soulargrooves.com with "One Hundred Days to One Hundred," all sorts of content related to his upcoming full-length and first release since the 2009 EP Para.
Picking a couple of dates at random, on January 4 Sun wrote about his connection to the song "Memory Lane" from Nas's 1994 LP Illmatic, and his thoughts on critic Marc Anthony Neal's "Memory Lane" piece in the 2009 collection of Illmatic essays Born to Use Mics, which led Sun to ponder both sampling and father-son relationships. Sun spent part of his childhood in the South American country of Suriname, and on November 24 wrote about kaseko, a body-moving type of Caribbean music indigenous to that nation.
Saturday evening, Sun will officially launch One Hundred at CHA Champagne & Wine Bar (810 Waugh) with guest DJs DJ Melodic, Derek Jones and Marin Perna of Brooklyn Afrobeat band Antibalas (who now lives in Houston), as well as Tim Ruiz and Leah Alvarez performing One Hundred centerpiece "Heart Seed," and a video collage culled from "One Hundred Days" by Trevor Southard and Urban Circus.
"I am really stoked," Sun says via e-mail. "I am getting a nice groundswell of support from Houston and it feels good! On top of that, it's my birthday on the 19th."
Rocks Off asked Sun to give us a guided tour of sorts around the many nooks and crannies of One Hundred. There were so many, in fact, we had to split One Hundred into two helpings.
I have travelled countless times to D.C. for my standing engagement at Eighteenth Street Lounge (home of Thievery Corporation). In doing so, I always catch a train to Brooklyn and literally stay in the basement studio of Eric Banta (E's E from Names You Can Trust, a small label in Brooklyn.)
The goal: to make music together. We collaborated on the production of "Tomorrow." He is an amazing studio guy and was at the helm most of the time nailing every aspect of how I envisioned the song.
This is altogether an homage to old-school hip-hop, disco and funk. The intro the way you hear it, will sound familiar to old-school hip-hop heads, but that will not return again and gets chopped up throughout.
"Come on and Get on The Groove" -- kinda speaks for itself with a throwback nod to some strings and horns to invite you like Homer was coaxed into "getting into his groove"? At the end I wanted to vamp out with some scratching...
Put on your rollerskates and let's do this! By the time the strings and groove crescendo out of the intro, I hope that you're all laced up and ready to go! Tim Ruiz (three-time Grammy winner with La Mafia, and accomplished jazz musician) laid down the bass on this track.
I aim to throw in something in each track to make sure you don't get too comfortably nestled into the groove, for example around 3:02 a little bridge that has me transform scratching a vocal on from a vintage Bollywood soundtrack to make it sound like a horn.
"Mi Hay" is, in my Surinamese dialect, another phrase for saying "I'm faded." With the atmospheric undertones I want to take you where the narrator is. Tim Ruiz adds Cuban Tres and some keyboard doodling to complete the effect... have a nice trip!
Another ode to old-school hip-hop but with another little mid-tempo disco tribute. "Some Girls Dem Always Dancing Slowly" -- I want you to visualize that slow movement with a juxtaposition of the claps and four-to-the-floor kinda vibe... you know, "Move, but just don't go too fast!"... I play organ stabs on this track to supplement some build, crescendo energy.
This started as a track that I wanted to pair with The Are (Russel Gonzalez, local platinum producer for LL Cool J, Keyshia Cole, and great friend!) to do a 45 with him doing a version in his own interpretation on one side and me doing the other. It was a last-minute track I submitted to Tim Ruiz, who in addition to playing additional instruments also did the mixing for most of the newer songs.
I gave Tim an instrumental and he asked for my blessing to do some additional work and add Leah Alvarez' vocals. In order to strengthen the drums I went to eBay to find an Elektron Machinedrum -- the only track that has the Elektron on it. Leah nailed the vocals; Tim was magical on the additional arrangements and additional instruments.
The Are ended up doing a boom-bap-styled remix which found a release as a remix to the single. We are planing to do a Spanish AND Portuguese version...
This was an earlier production that I really liked and wanted to include. Whereas most of the songs were done on the MPC-1000, this one was done in earlier days when I worked with the MPC-2000. I'm doing key stabs and found a "broken" key on the very end of the 1971 Wurlitzer piano I used that with effects creates a contrasting menacing sound to the dreamscape.
Another earlier track which is the longest on the album. I like layering -- building layers as songs develop so that some sounds you don't hear until the very end of the song when it all comes together. Mark Sound (aka Mark Speer) and Jessica Zweback were in the studio with me. I did the chords -- the kind of menacing, droning keyboard hits, and organ washes in the background.
The bridge is beautiful work done by Jessica Zweback from Skyblue '72. She just got on the Korg and doodled, which I recorded in the MPC and sequenced as I saw fit. Mark recommended that instead of using a regular piano on some of the chords, to use a Sitar patch from the Korg. Brilliant suggestion.
At every turn you hear more buildup of layers. This seems to be my most downloaded track up to this point - one of the most popular ones.
This was originally about a three- to four-minute song, but I felt like it repeated itself too much. Another nod to some Bollywood action. The song again builds to after the minute mark and then kicks into gear with some boom-bap, at which point we fade out...
Come back Thursday for Side 2. Actually, make that Sides 3 and 4.
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8 p.m. Saturday, January 19, at CHA Champagne & Wine Bar, 810 Waugh.