Boomkat Product Review:
A genius play on dance music history and semiotics, Jack Callahan’s cult Die Reihe project lands on Demdike Stare’s DDS label with a mad deconstruction of site-specific House classics, backed with a side of properly uncanny distilled crowd noise from a 1996 revival of The Loft clubnight. Mindboggling, conceptual and thought-provoking gear thats highly recommended if yr into Terre Thaemlitz, The Automatics Group, Mark Leckey, Theo Parrish, Stockhausen, Sensate Focus, Sam Kidel, Klein.
Die Reihe has been used as an outlet for Callahan to explore his wildest ideas, examining and abstracting a different musical element on each release. 2019's "106 Kerri Chandler Chords" compiled chords from the house legend's extensive back catalog and arranged them to be replayed by the SEM Ensemble, mutating the concept into a brand new piece of minimalist modern composition; on 2016's "Housed" (released on NNA Tapes), Callahan chopped up 250 house tracks and rebuilt the chords into glitchy plunderphonic epics; before that, he put Lex Luger and Zaytoven drum fills under the microscope on 2015's all-timer "Trap Studies” - an album we’ve rinsed and sampled endlessly since it came out.
'Loft Classics Vol. 1' examines House music from two differing vantage points, zeroing in on the relationship between vocals, memory and crowd interaction. It follows directly from his 2020 release "Karaoke Darmstadt", a suite of "karaoke versions" of mid-20th Century German new music, where Callahan stripped away the vocals from pieces by Luciano Berio, Henri Pousseur and Pierre Boulez. This new tape adopts an inverted route, using the Spleeter source separation library to strip away the music from disco and house classics, leaving just the vocals in place, backed with a synthetic backbone of digital detritus.
The opening track is an interpolation of Bini & Martini's 2000-released Ibiza staple 'Happiness (My Vision is Clear)' that removes the powerful diva vocal from its slippery house backdrop and re-plants it in a juicy bed of filtered SuperCollider bleeps and whirrs. It sets the scene for the rest of the side, as Callahan extends his technique though Brainstorm's 1978 disco belter 'Journey to the Light', Andwella's 1970 single 'Hold On To Your Mind', Level 42's 'Starchild' and Trussel's Fred Wesley-produced 1979 hit 'Love Injection'. For each track, Callahan's process is broadly the same, but the mood of each piece is completely out on its own. According to the liner notes, it's Callahan's way to deconstruct the nature of the "classic" as it pertains to House music - the result reminding us of the way in which Mark Leckey’s 'Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore’ documented a history of dance and rave culture disembodied from the experience itself.
Side B is where things get properly unsettling and thought provoking - a room recording of a short-lived iteration of The Loft on Avenue A in 1996, processed by David Kant in Santa Cruz to remove [almost] “everything but the ecstatic sound of the dancers with special care taken so as not to incriminate anyone.” What remains is the captivating, residual thizz of bacchanalian babble harvested from sweaty bodies and yielding a strangely voyeuristic, displaced PoV on the party, and the inherently hauntological nature of revival night simulacra that have since become ubiquitous. The most intriguing moments are when we can just about perceive the crowd singing along to something that isn't quite there, bringing the first side's experiments into deeper focus.
"Loft Classics Vol.1" isn't so much about the literal aesthetic sound of classic House music, it's about the feeling in the room, the sense of togetherness, the interaction between the DJ and the crowd and the expectation we bring to our own listening. It's a sobering examination of the contemporary nostalgia fetish - and how it's used to limit and diminish progress - and points fun at the concept of cultural churn while simultaneously doing something risky, radical and surprising. It's deconstructed club music for sure, but you won't find any broken bottle sounds inside.