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Control Voltage’s Friday Five: New York’s Golf Channel Rocks the Tee Box

Juju & Jordash

Of all the lumpy cardboard mailers that the postman brings (with increasing, and distressing, infrequency, I might add), few get me quite as excited as those from New York’s Golf Channel Recordings. Helmed by Phil South, a Brit long since established in Brooklyn, Golf Channel just keeps keepin’ on as though nothing in the music business had changed in the past 10 (or even 20) years. Founded in 2007 with the release of Mark E’s now classic “R+B Drunkie,” a slow-mo house refix of Janet Jackson’s “R&B Junkie,” the label is resolutely vinyl-only, eschews press releases (“I leave that to the pros! Or the annoying people, depending on your point of view,” South told me), and puts out records only when the time is right. There’s no such thing as an official release schedule in the Golf Channel universe, no cranking out a record every month just to stay visible, as so many imprints do (often quickly extinguishing their creative spark in the process). One of the benefits of this kind of cottage-industry approach is that Golf Channel still sends out vinyl promos, and compensating for the irregular schedule, its packages are usually fat ones. The most recent batch comprised five diverse records; they’ll be trickling into the shops over the coming weeks and months.

All five continue to expand the already voluminous outline of Golf Channel’s sound, which runs from house and disco to soft rock and druggy meditations on Angelo Badalamenti. It’s more of an ethic than an aesthetic, really, rooted in a series of parties held in friends’ apartments and Chinese restaurants that eventually blossomed into the No Ordinary Monkey series. Longtime New York DJ/producer Prince Language described the familial vibe as “like Cheers with drugs” and dancing. With membership cards harking back to the days of New York’s underground discotheques and a sound influenced by Rub N Tug and DJ Harvey, the parties stressed a return to a slower, less cynical era, characterized by what Prince Language called “that old style of playing, which had been forgotten: just good music, going all night long.” You can hear those ideals at work across all five of these idiosyncratic releases.

In keeping with Golf Channel’s inconspicuous profile, there’s no streaming audio available for these tracks, but keep your eye on the usual retailers, which should post samples once the records are available.

Dominik Von Senger “Only Love Can’t Take Us Home” (Golf Channel Recordings)
I don’t know of any “dance” DJs who have ever spun Yo La Tengo in their sets, but “Only Love Can Take Us Home” proves that it’s hardly as far-fetched a concept as it might seem on. Imagine the New Jersey group’s “Damage,” from 1997’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, retooled for a loved-up crowd and a set of Klipschorns, and you’re pretty much there. Von Senger favors the same sort of ringing, slashing guitars, heartbeat bass, and cradle-rocking rhythms, plus his earnest (if occasionally unsteady) croon has more than a hint of Ira Kaplan in it, especially when he hits that yearning major seventh and hangs on for dear life. This is the second Golf Channel release from Von Senger, a no-wave and Krautrock veteran who played alongside Can’s Jaki Liebezeit in Phantom Band back in the early ’80s. The A-side’s “Welcome Stranger Mix 1” is “clubbier,” with lilting shakers and brushed percussion providing a driving pulse behind the eyes-closed reverie; the percussion-free “Welcome Stranger Mix 2” might be termed Balearic slow-core, although it’s way better than that might indicate: Imagine Low as played by DJ Harvey.

Juju & Jordash “Jewsex” (Golf Channel Recordings)
It’s safe to say that Jewish culture barely figures in the annals of electronic dance music, but Israeli-born, Amsterdam-based Juju & Jordash are out to change that. Their stunning 2011 EP Unleash the Golem Part 1 was a double meditation on Jewish identity and Zionist politics that invoked a magical clay automaton as both defender and destructor; “Chelm Is Burning” referred to a city known in folklore and Yiddish humor as the “town of fools.” The title of their new single sounds more lighthearted, but the music is as intense as anything they’ve put to tape. Over a shuddering bass ostinato, they raise a grand panoply of stabbing riffs and soaring counterpoints. It’s pure 1970s cop show, with a cosmic disco twist. “Clubsex,” an alternate mix of their live jam, strips down to essentials, while “Dubsex” hones in on the haziest bits and goes up in a wreath of smoke.

Spike “New Germany” (Golf Channel Recordings)
The Dutch musician known simply as Spike self-released his first album, Low Profile, in 1981, and for decades, its title pretty much told the story. Recording guitars, second-hand synths, drum machines, and various effects to 8-track tape, he was in many ways the epitome of the home taper — never mind that “home” meant, for many years, a series of squatted flats. (One early song even included the sound of a doorbell rung twice, uncannily in time with the music, by a visitor who had come to call during the session.) Spike put out four albums between 1981 and 1984 — Low Profile, Go Dutch, New Germany, and Producing the Goods — and they might have been forgotten, were it not for the Dutch DJ Abel Nagengast, who encountered one of the records in a flea market and tracked down the musician. Through Nagengast, Phil South eventually met Spike, who provided him with his original 8-track tapes for reissue (and an upcoming remix project) on Golf Channel.

“New Germany,” taken from the eponymous record, is a meandering dirge played on synthesizer, electric bass and primitive drum computer; it’s clearly of a piece with the untutored “coldwave” electro-pop of its era, but there’s a sense of naivete — or simply otherness — that sets it apart. Bright keyboard leads slip and slide over a cold, gelatinous funk, and it slouches through the changes with a sullen unpredictability. “Apollo 4,” from Producing the Goods, sounds more like the guitar-centric, funk-inflected new wave of its day. On the B-side, Golf Channel regular DJ Nature — a.k.a. Milo Johnson, an original member of Bristol’s Wild Bunch with Nellee Hooper and Daddy G — reworks “New Germany” into an off-kilter house jam complete with muted chord stabs and dubby moans. The result is prim and pornographic all at once.

The Rhythm Odyssey and Dr. Dunks “Instrumental Fantasy” (Golf Channel Recordings)
The Rhythm Odyssey is the synthy-disco alias of U.K. dance-music veteran Dean Meredity (Bizarre Inc, Big Two Hundred, Chicken Lips, White Light Circus, et al); Dr. Dunks is the solo alias of New York fixture Eric Duncan (Rub N Tug, Still Going, Thomas and Eric). They teamed up last year for a 12-inch on Japan’s Endless Flight; here, they return with a pair of singles on Golf Channel. “Instrumental Fantasy” expands upon the brittle electro-funk of Chicken Lips tracks like “Blanc Tape” by slowing the tempo and slipping down a spiral of congas and queasy synth work; six minutes long, it feels twice as epic. “La Chiave (Dub Mix)” unlocks a Pandora’s box of drum machines, shrieks, and dub delay.

The Rhythm Odyssey and Dr. Dunks “Circles” (Golf Channel Recordings)
“Circles” sounds like a tribute to the Italo-house classic “Sueño Latino,” right down to the chord progression, but slowed down and beefed up, suffused with ebullient synths and featuring a truly awe-inspiring breakdown. “Glow” has a similarly vintage feel, with sunny chords, lush counterpoints, harp glissandi, and an irresistible sense of motion. It’s Derrick May meets Metro Area.