HOUSE HUNTING #66 - KANO

Our crate crusader returns with a bang.

HOUSE HUNTING #66 - KANO

Our crate crusader returns with a bang.

So Happy House Hunting new year it’s been a while! My crate cruising been on the back-burner over Xmas as work taken over but with wax withdrawal kickin’ in only a matter of time before I sought some second-hand solace…  However, before we get down to that since the last edition we launched the House Hunting x Ransom Note release 'The Music Got Me' by house hero Boyd Jarvis! As well as the original '83 instrumental, the record houses remixes including the ridiculous 'Re-Spaminated Record Mission Dubb' by Nick Record & Dan Tyler (Idjut Boys) and the bonkers 'Bawracid Version' by R$N mainstay Bawrut - proper prime package shout to all who have copped a copy!

Not content with meeting House Hunting quota complete with shrink-wrapped sleeves and hype stickers, if you support us and score this slice off the R$N Bandcamp you'll also get a limited-edition insert with a love letter to Boyd's legacy - most have sold out in the shops and we ain’t got many of these left so don’t sleep this one definitely one for the collectors! Shout to all involved and big love to Boyd for giving this project his blessing... 

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago loads of heads were losing their s**t as Worldwide’s Gilles Peterson announced he was to donate his surplus slices to a load of charity shops in North London – though just down the road from me could have gone on a charity shop crusade but I had more pressing matters. On the first weekend of January my rack raiding radar hones in on Alan’s half-price sale at his East Finchley emporium so for three days his stock all half-price – serious sale so had to make a perusal pit-stop. Typically, was doing a full weekend at work however called him up on the Friday to see if could stay open till 7pm – he still had a full-house so jetted straight outta work but as I got to Oxford Circus tube it was closed no way congestion crisis! Fast-forward half-hour later and it was still closed so got on the blower to Alan to say look like it weren’t happening… 

Just as I got off the phone the station re-opened so thought let’s do it I’ll time to jet on a rapid rack raid! I managed to make it for just after 7pm and thankfully the gaff still open so joined the last-minute lacquer loiterers for some half-price hustlin’. I went straight for the house section for some knee-deep diggin’ but slim pickings looked like these racks had been rinsed… I did find in the back of the NY rack the Junior Vasquez joint ‘Free Your Mind’ under his Ellis D guise with my choice cut not being the fierce Sound Factory tracks but the E2-E4 sampling early-hours ether of ‘It’s Paradise’ – even though I’ve got for a couple of quid had to be copped… I turned my attention to the disco racks which were surprisingly still jam-hot full so time to unearth some house roots. Within a few flicks I already pulled out Tony Cook & The Party People’s Halfmoon hotplate ‘Do What You Wanna Do’ complete with our main man Boyd Jarvis on the mix along with WBLS wizard Timmy Regisford. As well as that proto-house pressure also scored some Italo flow courtesy of Kasso with the B-side Banana bomb ‘Dancing On The Beach’ – take me to early eighties Rimini! Conscious I was now the last customer and Alan had a busy day didn’t want to take he p**s so my flickin’ fervour was at fever-pitch. As I was raiding the last rack I clocked a distinctive company cover and on double-checking the record it matched the sleeve - the amount of disco digs that ain’t in the right jacket! The record in question is Kano’s killer cut ‘I’m Ready’ on Sergio Cossa’s Emergency Records and yes in the original Disco Emergency sleeve with that cacophony of colours and high heels – the red and white-striped sleeve synonymous with the seminal stable came later. Anyway, anoraks anonymous aside, this one was my fave find as Kano kuts scarce - though already own a copy I’m sure someone will hit me up for one… Let’s get into that and my choice cops at Alan’s here…

Despite that being a decent haul I didn’t feel satisfied as was a rack raid rush so had to hit up another shop. I had a New Year’s clear out with loads of my club couture now seeking sanctuary in Crouch End charity shops however Tonya had a brainwave why not exchange some old gear for some black crack – good shout! So I went way out west to the Retro Man Clothing Exchange in Notting Hill and exchanged a load of cookie cutter clobber for vouchers – get twice as much in vouchers than £££’s so was the right thing to do. With vouchers in hand I waltzed round the corner to the Music & Video Exchange and headed straight for the racks. I clocked the Chicago House record divider and within a few flicks pulled out that rare pink Gherkin flavour – yeah the Frankie Knuckles remixes of Mondee Oliver’s ‘Don’t Walk Out On Love’ but at half a ton my vouchers vanished! Just a lil’ left for the gherkin-affiliated spine-tingling slice ‘Just Another Lonely Day’ by Blakk Society aka house leviathan Larry Heard on his Alleviated imprint (the main man playing live in London soon hold tight…) and not content with that on deviating to the disco racks I unearthed another copy of Kano’s ‘I’m Ready’! So scored two in the space of a few days – these will be housed in the House Hunting crates for the next Ransom Note record fair next month details soon stay tuned… Let’s check out the Kano B-side and those choice Chi cuts…

So with the Kano double-dig I gotta compose a House Hunting love letter to these Italo-Disco deities. Though not strictly house I love that Italo flow… In my teenage years I remember Gilles Peterson hosting crate chiefs Madlib and Peanut Butter Wolf on his Worldwide Show (loved Wednesdays at Midnight) and amongst the hip-hop, funk, electro etc I never forget when they dropped the House Of Music hotplate ‘Stop’ by B.W.H. and I was like “what the f**k is this?!”. Need to raid my mum’s vaults got it on minidisc somewhere… As the internet was more in it’s infancy (I didn’t even have a PC back then) and there was no tracklist those were the days you just hunted down hotplates and played to record shops your tapes/minidiscs – no-one had a clue with this cut and even after discovering years later still not found an original pressing and no ain’t crackin’ to the Discogs dealers! Anyway, Italo was born out of the emergence of accessible electronics and synthesisers – with the backlash of bloated NY studio disco and the expense of US imports  the Italian’s solution was to have their own take. Influenced by Godfathers such as Giorgio Moroder, Cerrone and Kraftwerk, they concocted a Mediterranean meltin’ pot of disco, Hi-NRG, New Wave and Synth-Pop complete with heavily accented euro-english vox and vocoder adding to the camp chintz of the genre – an early example being the pulsing power of Telex’s ‘Moskow Discow’ released in ’79 hop aboard the disco train! 

Though not currying flavour with the majority in Italy and considered no more than a fad, jettin’ over the Atlantic it was a different story. Before the house foundations were laid Chicago’s DJ dream team The Hot Mix 5 rinsed the synth-fulled slices of Italo with their WBMX weapons including Doctor’s Cat’s ‘Feel The Drive’, Hypnotic Tango’s ‘My Mine’, Klein & MBO’s ‘Dirty Talk’ and my choice Tony Carrasco cut ‘Love-N-Music’ under his Ris guise – all about the sorrowful synths on instrumental with that boss break! No doubt these do-it-yourself, primitive productions were a precursor to the Chicago House sound and even were a source with Jamie Principle’s ‘Your Love’ jackin’ the bassline off Electra’s Emergency hit ‘Feels Good (Carrots & Beets)’ plus had a hand in other key 80s US scenes such as Detroit Techno and Miami Freestyle. When reading about Italo pieces they usually cover the same records (Alexander Robotnik, Casco, Dharma, Jago, Mr. Flagio et al…) so here’s some obscure allure that I scored in collections last year that are my Italo flow faves – why I sold all these on I don’t know…

Let’s bring it back to Kano otherwise I’ll lose it and give a full Italo inventory… The Italian trio of Luciano Ninzatti, Matteo Bonsanto and Stefano Pulga formed Kano in ’79 and a year later released their debut 12” ‘I’m Ready’ on Emergency Records. Kicking off with a funk-fuelled bassline, the track jets off on a galactic groove when the space-age synths come into play complete with futuristic filter on the vocoder – interstellar Italo! A cosmic fusion of disco, funk and R&B, the track was a hit with the breakers in the emerging electro scene and exposed the Italo sound to a wider audience peaking at #21 in the Black Singles chart. The B-Side ‘Holly Dolly’ ain’t bad either… They followed the  formula with ‘Now Baby Now’ complete with the Sylvester-esque ‘Super Extra Sexy Sign’ on the flip. However for me their other choice cut is the relentess rockin’ of ‘It’s A War’ that’s a fierce frenzy of guitar wails, killer keys and laser-synths interjecting throughout complete with those space-soaring breakdowns proper proto techno! Whether the Italian pressings on Fulltime or the US licences on Emergency, they’re not the easiest to track down so you can source the lot via their eponymous debut LP. 

A year later they released their ‘New York Cake’ slice which is worth scoring just for the ace artwork alone – the glowing neon cake cover perfectly capturing the essence of the LP with a sprinkling of disco dust and electronic undercurrent running through. Though more polished that its predecessor, this cake has some choice cuts include the squelching synths of ‘Can’t Hold Back (Your Loving)’ and the LP finale ‘Don’t Try To Stop Me’ which with the vocoder, soaring falsetto and space synths is classic Kano – this is a cake you’ll be going back for more…  They changed tack again two years later in ’83 with recruiting Glen White as the act’s frontman who already had some Italo pedigree lending lyrics to Dr. Togo’s ‘Be Free’ and previously appearing on the aforementioned ‘Can’t Hold Back (Your Loving)’. The West-Indian born singer was touring with European travelling musicals which led him to Milan and ultimately Kano. He features on their final album ‘Another Life’ with his vocals elevating tracks such as the Italo anthem ‘I Need Love’, the bubblin’ bass and neon haze of ‘Dance School’ and the schizoid synths of the title-track which also had a single released on Fulltime. There was also the ‘Queen Of Witches’ 12” on Fulltime too but flip for the superior special remix of ‘I Need Love’ my kinda Italo flow – check out that and all the killer Kano kuts here…

After the ‘Another Life’ LP release there was just one more Kano single – ‘This Is The Night’ which though had Glen White fronting it wasn’t produced by the usual Italo trio but Maurizio Sangineto who was at the controls of Firefly and Valery Allington. Naturally it ain’t got the Kano touch though worth checkin’ the electro flow of ‘Semblance’ on the flip. Away from Kano, Luciano, Matteo and Stefano had a load of projects and pseudonyms on the go with their System Music releases being my fave joints whether it’s the serious Sphinx slice ‘Collision’ or Dharma’s prime platter ‘Plastic Doll’ – samplespotters yes that is the break from Upfront’s ’83 boogie bomb ‘Infatuation’ but this Dharma drama was here first. Luciano and Stefano also combined for Gaucho’s  stripped-down percussive proto-houser ‘Last Forever’ which was a DJ Harvey hotplate and later received a remix by Ralphie Dee of Nu Groove and Fourth Floor fame. All these System Music scores were Hotmix 5 hits in but their productions weren’t just Windy City weapons. Jettin’ over to New York and pulling up to King Street Jimmy Ross’ funk-fuelled ‘First True Love Affair’ was rinsed by Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage with the DJ deity even mixing it himself – showing the Italians could turn their hand to the signature sound of disco synonymous with NYC. Following this formula was their ‘Funky Bebop’ funk bomb on Fulltime which was also released on Emergency – love the vocoder on this one! Check out their Italo inventory here…

Though they released their Kano singles simultaneously on Italy’s Fulltime and NYC’s Emergency I’m going to focus on the latter as my double dig on Sergio Cossa’s choice stable. I love this label as it blurred the boundaries between boogie, disco, Italo and electro, laying down the house foundations whether it’s the Northend necessity ‘Tees Happy’ (with Better Day’s Tee Scott on the mix), the boogie bliss of Chemise’s choice cut ‘She Can’t Love You’ and Shannon’s 808 anthem ‘Let The Music Play’. However after initially launching in ’79 Emergency exposed Italo to the US licensing many of the obscure allure on Italo imprints such as Baby, Banana, Fulltime, Il Discotto Productions and Mr. Disc Organization. Examples include Pino Presti’s ‘You Know The Way’ (which incidentally has just been reissued by Best Record Italy), Bo Boss’ ‘Tequila’, Valery Allington’s ‘Stop’ and a cache of choice Claudio Simonetti slices including his Capricorn cuts and the chintzy ‘A Gay Time Latin Lover’ as Easy Going. Let’s get into all the early Emergency Italo here…

Come the mid-eighties and with the emergence of house and techno, the idiosyncrasy of Italo soon faded with Kano disbanding and Luciano, Matteo, Stefano and Glen pursuing other projects. Though falling into relative obscurity save for the collectors and devotees, of late there has been a real upsurge of Italo interest with prices rocketing in the more obscure and collectable cuts. Heads are appreciating that Italo was an intricate ingredient in forming the roots of house with Kano not just the forefathers but the kings of the genre leaving a lasting legacy – their influence still felt over the years with their productions sampled countless times and even being exposed to a younger generation with their ‘Can’t Hold Back (Your Loving)’ cut appearing on GTA V of all things (that was a “You What?!” head spin when overheard a mate playing it proper music programming can’t beat console crime-committing to Italo!). I’ll be reppin’ at the Ransom Note Record Fair again next month (details soon hold tight!) and I’ll have some Italo and Kano kuts with me so if you want to start or top-up your Italo inventory hit me up! I’ll leave you with Italo icon Glen White singing some of Kano’s killer hits - can’t beat a live Italo video…


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