Wednesday DJ Sun, who has as good a claim as anybody we know on the title of Houston's Chillest Citizen, was kind enough to walk us through the first half of his brand-new (and first) full-length original album, One Hundred. Full-length is right, too: One Hundred stretches to 19 tracks, including a couple of remixes, but it all flows by in one richly textured groove layered with hip-hop, soul, funk, exotica, disco, reggae and a few surprises. Go listen for yourself.
To go with his abundant guests (see part 1), Sun scored one more coup when New Jersey-based expert engineer Dave McNair agreed to master One Hundred. McNair's credits stretch into the hundreds, including artists as far away from each other as Buckwheat Zydeco and the Jonas Brothers, plus tons of Texas stuff (Old 97's, Jon Dee Graham).
Some years ago, the president of the Recording Academy's Texas Chapter at the time and McNair happened upon Sun's Monday-night gig at Cafe Brasil. Evidently they stayed in touch.
"Dave does not hurt for work, to put it kindly," Sun says. "An amazing stroke of great fortune."
Now, as told by DJ Sun himself, the second half of One Hundred.
This is another earlier track. Some more throwback homages included in this song, with a pulsating beat. During the making of this I had some really long nights of staying out, visiting friends, even playing video games on a Sunday night til the sun came up.
The drive back home from being up all night and some surreal moments during those drives were the inspiration for the title. Again, something to throw you off at 2:55, another transform scratch of some horns to kind of break things up a bit.
"F Train To Church"
On those trips to Brooklyn, I would get off the train from D.C. at Grand Central in Manhattan and catch the F Train to Church Ave. In this song I tried to capture all the sounds that I was used to hearing in NYC, from the time I first visited (1973) through the times of last year, making regular trips.
[Collaborator] Tim Ruiz called me one day that I was in Brooklyn and said, "You should get recordings of the F train as you are boarding, etc.," so I used my iPhone to record some of the recordings and the train taking off and stopping.
This song, I really just wanted to make a boom-bap cut. I scratch in the phrase "'Cause I'm a Fly Brown Brother" throughout. Because of the texture of how the song came out, I wanted to offer a raw live bass and give Tim Ruiz a feature on what seems to be his instrument of choice: the bass. He nails it, again! Two "Fly Brown Brothers" on one track?!
More homages: old-school hip-hop, jazz-funk, disco, a lil "yardie" (Jamaican) intro... I found a phrase on a live dancehall record: "Going Down to Texas!" [and] caught a little bit of the sentiment and the times at which I moved to Texas.
Tim Ruiz added some arrangement magic -- the 808 kick at the intro, the spacey washes! The melody is something that actually runs in reverse to add a little something to throw you off. The Jamaican "guest" ironically exclaims "Live and Direct from the Disco"... "Mmmmmm!!"
"Mark's On the Keys"
This one is named after Mark Sound (aka Mark Speer). I was enamored with a track by Bows (from the Cassidy album), which used a drum pattern that I wanted to replicate. I did that by patching some drums from a drum-sounds record and taking some jazz drums.
To contrast the hard-hitting drums I wanted something that I KNEW Mark could pull off: dreamy keyboard soundscapes. I had him lay down some keyboard strokes and again took them into the MPC 2000, after which I created the sequence which I saw fit.
I like resolution in songs (it's the source of my live band: Resolution) and found ways to try and resolve as best as possible to reflect Mark's magical keystrokes.
This is the remix of the third song on the album. Leah Alvarez does the voice oves. I had just bought a Rhodes from Gilbert [Alfaro] of Spain Colored Orange and wanted to get an accomplished piano player to play on it.
Having just met Meghan Hendley from Tyagaraja, I extended her an invitation to play and she laid down some keyboard phrasing to the drum track (which is the same as in No. 3). I effected the different things she did on the Rhodes and created various elements: the melody, chords, bassline (which Tim enhanced with his own Moog), stabs, etc. - all getting different textural treatments. The Bollywood scratch remained.
A complete departure in sound from the original "Break." Oh! I play a little Farfisa on here as well, a vintage organ I scored from a "retiring" musician...
I just wanted to actually have "fun" with this one... no, really! I may be sounding corny by now. Omari Soulfinger did a video showcasing Houston and some of the spots I played at during the time. And yes!: a fun and crazy video. Search it on YouTube.
Picture a 1970s all-Japanese jazz band playing music in a very traditionally "American" way, dressed to a T in "American culture"... That's all I'm going to say about this one. And that I play some of the keys on here, mostly the chords and the respones on the "call and response" [section]. Having grown up in Suriname, surrounded by a lot of African-influenced music, I'm very affected by the "call and response."
I wanted to just create pulsating, crescendo-building, hyper track, layered at each turn [with] driving percussion, pulsating (did I say "pulsating" earlier?!) bass line. And then to add a little something something: some weird keys from the Korg and to top it off, some samples from a French instructional record... Voila!
"Heart Seed" feat. Leah Alvarez and Martin Perna
Martin Perna, founder of Antibalas and Ocote Soul Sounds, recently moved to Houston (his wife took a position at Rice U). We had been friends before, but since he relocated we have become fast friends. I asked him to do a flute solo on "Heart Seed" for the bonus track. He nailed it!
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DJ Sun's One Hundred release party is 8 p.m. Saturday, January 19, at CHA Champagne & WIne Bar (810 Waugh). Guest performers include DJ Melodic, Derek Jones, Marin Perna, Tim Ruiz and Leah Alvarez, plus a video collage culled from "One Hundred Days" by Trevor Southard and Urban Circus.