LIBRARY music. It’s the crate-diggers’ crate-dig, the study of the deep connoisseur; that (formerly) unloved, workaday, copyright-free realm of production music, originally only of use and interest to the makers of TV programmes – and a useful session payday to everyone from electronic originators such as Delia Derbyshire and Ron Geesin to Pentangle guitarist John Renbourn. Music to be heard, but not seen, as it were; to be perceived as part of something else. Never music to be popular in itself.
How wrong that perception was as, from the Nineties onwards, deep diggers such as Johnny Trunk joined the dots and realised televisual nuggets such as the theme from The Tomorrow People could be traced back to music library issue records; they also proved a boon to hip-hop DJs as here was a rich vein of royalty-free breaks and loops by some of the finest musicians of the Sixties and the Seventies, ripe for mining. Library music was hot almost overnight.
Now an established go-to source, London label Def Pressé began a series in partnership with legendary library label KPM entitled Source Material back in September with Damu The Fudgemunk’s excellent beats n’ conscious lyricism on display in Conversation Peace.
The second is upon us this week: and sees New York-via-Denver breaks scientist Deca helming an eight-track EP entitled Source Material.
Where Damu concentrated his mining solely on the iconic green-sleeved KPM 1000 series of records, many of which are now worth a small fortune, Damu also ranges out into the KPM Themes International series and the Conroy Recorded Music Library, sourcing from the likes of Alan Hawkshaw.
“As a huge fan of the library genre, it’s a true honor to be included in this series,” Deca says. “The first production library records I ever picked up were KPM, so to be given free rein to sample anything in the archive along with music from Themes International and Conroy was an incredible experience.
“It was definitely a challenge going through such a huge archive and narrowing down what I wanted to use. I ended up listening to damn near everything in the archive.
“It was important to me to do justice to such legendary labels that some of my all-time favorites had pulled from; Madlib, Dilla, De La Soul, Doom, Ghost and Raekwon, the list goes on.
“I tried to flip some of the lesser known things that, to my knowledge, hadn’t been used by other producers, and I also sampled a lot from the KPM and Conroy records I own that I had never gotten around to using.”
Divin’ in, “Sleepwalker” sets the tone for proceedings with a slooww break loping perfectly, crowned by some beautiful flute – it’s kinda partway between The Gallery music from Take Hart, Guru’s Jazzmatazz and the effortless cool of mid-Sixties Blue Note. It’s very library and very crisp. This crisp, in fact. Press play:
“Summer Song” has one of those so-sweet-it’s-actually-eerie do-be-do-be-doo vocal hooks, almost creepily gauche and smiling in a Harpers Bizarre/ Stepford Wives way, set against a great shufflin’ break which gives you a anchor into the normal; whereas the following “Wellspring” is Gang Starr P-funk meets rare Italian soundtrack; cracking, breathy little vocal interjections and a clicky bass make for a coolly erotic 107 seconds.
“Melee” goes deeper like David Shire meets Money Mark: a miniature for a windy night downtown in the Big Apple, whrn the newspapers and the debris are kicking up from the gutters; bass-heavy, lo-fi organ windin’ and grindin’ through slurred brass stings and pops and glimmers of synth. An instrumental hip-hop nugget to be proud of.
The light, fly beats of “Right Of Passage” soon give way to “Belladonna”, which sounds exactly as you think it ought: spare, empurpled and night-shaded. A pimp roll of a break is exhorted into city backstreet atmospheres with resonant flute and just the right amount of organ cool. We’re into Nicole Conte and Sven Wunder imaginary retro soundtrack territory – almost.
“Slow Healing” is also nocturnal, a chill organ over a lazy break with chittering subsidiary production, someone, somewhere across the block in lone contemplation at the Fender Rhodes, offering a simple but addictive motif out into the night. An all-too-brief EP concludes after 20 immersive minutes in the taut, spare funk swing of “Set Course.”
And that would be my only criticism, actually: with a handful of tracks here only clocking in north of 2 minute 40 and the bulk nearer or even below the 2-minute mark, these eight tracks are amuse-bouches which really leave you wanting more. If you were an early Ninja Tune head, maybe recall the way the debut album by The Herbaliser pointed the way to so much beyond some of the snippets contained therein. Same here. You want Deca to take these out to four, five minutes, really let the atmos roll. Maybe that embroidering is yet to come, another day, further down the line. Frustrating and excellent, too. As it stands it’s a brief, lovely thing, a DJ tool perhaps in turn.
There’s more to come from Def Pressé Editions with releases by The Roots’ Stro Elliot and J-Live on the launchpad for the future; while sister label Def Pressé Editions-KPM Originals will see new albums composed of entirely new, sample-free compositions, and will include releases by the wonderful Bastien Keb, whose The Killing Of Eugene Peeps so wowed us here at BSM last year.
Deca’s Source Material EP will be released digitally by Def Pressé Editions on November 19th and is available to pre-order here.