RELEASE DATE: 2014-12-01
As the great Louis Armstrong said: there are only two types of music, good and bad. If there’s any one who knows where to find the good stuff it is Tirk Recordings founder and A&R man Sav Remzi.
Over the last two or more decades, a belly full of passion and a superbly open-minded approach to music has led Sav on a magpie-like flight across the land of music, unearthing both new and under-represented artists from the past, touching on soul, disco, house, hip hop, reggae, electro, funk, jazz, Afro-beat and many uncanny fusions in between. With more than just an ear for great music though, he has made a career of reaching out to the music makers themselves and convincing them to let him introduce their work to a new audience. Seemingly always a conduit of taste and artistic talent, its fair to say he has a knack for channeling good music to both people and scenes.
I was first introduced to Sav in the basement of The Blue Note. The year was probably 1994 and as we talked Gilles Peterson was exploding the minds of most of the two hundred people in attendance. I later found out that Sav was instrumental in helping make The Blue Note a hub of essential and pioneering club nights, if not the first venue of significance in the new cultural landscape of the rapidly changing Hoxton. This was where the Metalheadz forged their name, and where the likes of DJ Food, Harvey and Andy Weatherall helped cement reputations as rebel DJs who would always tread their own paths.
By 1995 Sav had set up Nuphonic Records with musician and Ballistic Brother Dave Hill. Their first release and almost every one there after felt fresh and a relief from the monotone sound of the by now mainstream dance scene. The label laid down the blue print for the underground nu-disco scene that is still flourishing today, whilst also curating and capturing the music and inspiration behind some of club culture’s most important nights, releasing compilations from the likes of David Mancuso and his Loft parties, Larry Levan and Paradise Garage, Norman Jay and Good Times.
Working at Jockey Slut magazine at the time, just around the corner from their offices, we were shocked when Nuphonic shut down in 2002. The label played a key role in the music scene in that part of east London at the time, but more importantly it was a champion of soulful and imaginative music, and alongside exceptional re-issue labels like Strutt, was helping turn a new generation of vinyl collectors on to the originators and innovators from the history of the music we loved.
But change was in the air, seismic vibrations were being felt through the music industry and many cherished labels were struggling to adapt. By the time the birth of Tirk was announced in 2003/4 the shift in the foundations of the music industry was unstoppable. Record labels needed to reinvent themselves or wither.
But of course there was still plenty of good music that needed to be heard. Tirk was going to be another label that could be trusted. A label dedicated to exciting underground music whether it was made on a Jupiter 8 or a Les Paul. It had to be eclectic, if not adventurous, but still true to Sav’s roots, or as he puts it: “People kept sending me good music that I felt needed to be put out there… Tirk was my chance to venture into new areas of music, be more experimental, whilst still retaining the soul boy at heart that drives everything I do.”
Starting with the post-punk funk of New Young Pony Club’s ‘Ice Cream’ and Fujiya Miyagi’s Transparent Things’, and a brilliant compilation from disco perverters the Idjut Boys, Tirk hit the ground running. Venturing into new forms of music, but still seemingly near the edge of the zeitgeist of contemporary music, the label went on to bring together an international collection of maverick music makers.
In its ten year history: Tom Findlay from Groove Armada has cropped up as Sugardaddy and Morten Sorensen; Greg Wilson has demonstrated why he is master of the edit; Richard Norris’ sent his Time & Space Machine into orbit; the Human League’s legendary producer Martin Rushent clearly showed that he still loved electronic music with ‘Itchy Hips’; Maurice Fulton continued to prove that his genius is a truly warped one; and original Blockhead Chaz Jankel wowed with previously unreleased tracks and a Todd Terje re-edit of his anthem ‘Glad To Know You’.
At the same time a new wave of producers/artists also found a home at Tirk. NYC’s Drrtyhaze; the SoCal grooves of Sorcerer; Sam Annand’s Architeq; The Love Supreme from Italy; modern day pop troubadours Tim Chad & Sherry; Space – the original galactic disco Frenchman in helmets; the sublime electronica of Acos Coolkas; and the vital energetic disco punk band Escort – all continue to give Tirk a currency in the blurred boundaries and sounds of today’s underground music and night-life.
Good music will always be sought after, but it often needs a helping hand to find its audience. Quite what Louis would make of Tirk is anyone’s guess, but listening to this compilation and to the last ten year of the label, thank heavens there are still people like Sav helping connect the good stuff to our ears.
Rob Wood, September 2014