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Beats per minutemen
Unlocked Groove gets connected, Satellite Records changes hands, and Wayne Marshall gets bookmarked

Despite the press’s disinterest and Boston’s endemic rock-town posturing, the MIT-bred DJ collective UNLOCKED GROOVE has thrived and grown for almost five years: it now encompasses some dozen artists who collaborate, share sounds and trade secrets, and combine their promotional power to spread the word on one another’s events, gigs, and recordings. (The whole gang gather every Friday at River Gods in Cambridgeport; the individual members play all around New England.) The brand of minimal techno favored by UG has recently come into vogue, appearing on the playlists of some of the world’s top DJs. But though such music is often stereotyped as solemn — made and consumed by solitary units in lonely bedrooms — Unlocked Groove is a social animal with the shared idea that minimal can be communal and, most important, fun. In Boston, it was UG that brought this music out of the bedroom and into the street. And the collective may finally be about to come into its own, with debut releases coming soon on a newly minted Unlocked Groove record label.

UG had its roots in an eponymous radio show on WMBR hosted by Cameron Marlowe; Marlowe also formed an ’MBR show with Dan Paluska called Electronic Experiments dedicated to electronic music made live on the air. And Paluska helped design the Fotron 2000, a light-drawing robot that produced the cover art for the Juan Maclean’s Less Than Human. The duo graduated to throwing underground parties at the old Fallon ambulance garage, at 332 Mass Ave in Cambridge, and "sort of forced our way in," says Marlowe, at the Cellar, a legit club that hosted their first weekly night, "The Appliance of Science." AoS continued for more than a year with weekly guests, some of whom (Stewart Walker, Greg Schiff) have gone on to greater heights. Meanwhile, word about Unlocked Groove was spreading, and the crew grew to include New England Conservatory’s Jay Flower (a/k/a Keepalive) and Mike Uzzi (a/k/a Smartypants), MIT’s Ben Recht (a/k/a Localfields) and Heemin Yang, and long-time Boston-based producer Todd Gys.

As you might expect from an MIT-centric group, Unlocked Groove is well schooled in new technology: these guys have the most current software and the latest samples, and share it via an Internal file-swapping network, or "filepile." (They’re also known to swap people: Recht and Uzzi sometimes perform as Localpants; Marlowe and Yang team up in Scorchio.) Unlike collectives that might favor one genre, Unlocked Groove’s music spans dub, techno, and trance but sticks with a particular sound: minimal, smart, and bubbly. No matter what the members are up to, that clean, techy vibe is a trademark. "I feel like we’re pulling each other in different directions instead of agreeing on what’s ‘cool’ or ‘hip’," Marlowe says. "But at the same time we’re not being drawn and quartered by a difference of taste." That’s reflected in the first Unlocked Groove 12-inch EP, which features four songs from six UG members. Test pressings came back this week, so it’s on schedule for a fall release. Another 12-inch due in the winter will have cuts from Scorchio (Yang and Marlowe are at River Gods this Friday, August 26), with a remix by Fred Gianelli. It may seem like a modest beginning, but as Uzzi chuckles, "We’re not necessarily profit-oriented. We want to put out quality dance music [records]. We want people to play them. And we want people to like them."

SATELLITE RECORDS, one of the nation’s premier dance-music and DJ-gear outlets, last week announced via e-mail that it was divesting its three retail shops in New York, Boston, and Atlanta to focus on its on-line operation. PAT FONTES, manager of the Boston store, will soon become its owner. Fontes says the e-mail came as a surprise but the sale is "about 85 percent confirmed." And in financial terms, he continues, "it’s a good thing because it’s all brand new. We can start off with a clean slate. I’m trying to pump whatever I can to keep the store alive. I’m into banging, man." Respect the architect . . . Conceived as an Adidas promotional item, the book BEDROOM ROCKERS is now getting a hardcover pressing. Subtitled "Where DJs Call Home," the tome surveys five cities: Miami, New York, Washington, Portland (Oregon), and Boston. The Hub section has features on DJ BRUNO, EDAN, DJ KON, DALI, and eight others . . . FREEZEPOP have a new 12-inch. The synthcore groop expand their sound on this dainty, limited-edition, silkscreened slab. With three remixes and a cover of Depeche Mode’s "Photographic" (plus an autograph!), the $15 price almost seems like a bargain . . . If you have yet to bookmark WAYNE AND WAX, the muy informativo blog of Wayne Marshall, do so now. (It’s at wayneandwax.blogspot.com.) There are only a few truly informative riddim-and-music blogs, and Wayne’s got the reggae diaspora on lockdown. He spins at Enormous Room’s "Beat Research" this Monday, August 29.

David Day is the label manager for Forced Exposure and one-half of sQuare productions. You can find him behind the decks Thursdays at Middlesex Lounge and Fridays at Enormous Room. He can be reached at circuits@squar3.com

Issue Date: August 26 - September 1, 2005
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