HOUSE HUNTING #69 – KASSO

Italo flow from a production powerhouse.

HOUSE HUNTING #69 – KASSO

Italo flow from a production powerhouse.

So since the last instalment I’ve been reppin’ at record fairs (three in two weeks last month!) including the Ransom Note Record Fair at MOTH Club – check out this More Downstairs mix which was broadcast live from the fair playing records raided from the crates of all the hustlers in the house! So been on a stockpiling sabbatical stashin’ slices and coppin’ cherry-picked cuts through hustlin’ hauls at house calls and Gumtree grabs all over London Town. Havin’ a breather this month but I’ll be bringing the choice crates to Dansa’s Sunday socials at Styx this summer (with serious selectors Nick The Record and Mark Seven in the house) plus another Ransom Note Record Fair this time at Hackney Wick’s hip haunt Number 90 Bar & Kitchen on Bank Holiday

Sunday 27th August – save the date in the diggin’ diary! Will post details on that one soon so hold tight but in the meantime here’s the House Hunting record fair roster for summer – I’m sure if I can fit around work there’ll be more to be added so stay tuned…

So on my crate cruises and rack raiding recreation been mainly sourcing scores for record fairs however done a few trades with my choice cop scoring the seldom seen soca styling of Sade’s ‘Taboo’ by The Rebels on Straker’s Records – a choice Calypso cut outta The Caribbean… As well as that paradise platter scored some Floridian funk and Miami heat from my main man Scotty Starlite at Endless Planets but these jam-hot joints didn’t last long in the crates! However, I couldn’t resist keeping a clean copy of Michael Sterling’s electro-funk flavoured ‘Desperate’ on his Success stable all about them blazin’ cop sirens on this synth-soaked score. Back on a house-tip and David at my next door digs The Little Record Shop scored a haute house haul with a load of Nu Grooves including legendary label mainstay Bobby Konders’ ‘House Rhythms’ and ‘Rydims’ Eps which for a tenner a pop can’t complain plus Major Problems’ ‘The Effects Can Last Forever’ EP which houses the Adonis-sampling ‘Overdose (The Final Trip)’ – boss bassline a la Beltram. Popped in again the other day and still a cache of choice Chicago cuts (Dance Mania, Jack Trax et al) and more NYC necessities so get David’s gaff on your rack raiding radar! My fave find however was when I jetted on a crate crusade to Gary Dennis’ Essex emporium Crazy Beat Records. Though it’s in the outta limits of Zone 6 at the end of the District Line I take a diggin’ detour at least every couple of months to replenish the racks and the soul. Now dealin’ black crack in my spare time I’m always scoping out scores for my regulars with all the wax wantlists I’ve got though I’m still on the lacquer lookout for myself. This time was no different as though dug out decent digs for my record request line I found for myself a mint copy of Kasso’s eponymous debut LP. This particular pressing was the more uncommon US issue on Delirium complete with clean labels and original green cover (in shrink-wrap swoon…) so at under a score had to be copped! Coincidentally I’ve got the Rams Horn pressing available for sale but this one I’ll definitely be keeping in the House Hunting vinyl vaults… For me Kasso laid the foundations of Italo (and arguably house) with iconic Italian composer Claudio Simonetti at the controls. Kasso was just one of many of his production projects but before we get into his Italo flow though let’s hark back to his beginnings and the many phases of this production powerhouse’s career…

Though Italian, Claudio was born and raised in Sao Paulo as his Dad Enrico was a famous musician and TV entertainer and at the time was based in Brazil so it was only natural that music would be his chosen path… After moving back to his homeland in his teens he studied composition and piano at Rome’s Santa Cecilia though his real love was forming and playing with garage rock bands – his first band Il Ritratto Di Dorian Gray was inspired by his love of Oscar Wilde. Anyway, after completing his mandatory military service he formed his new band Oliver (inspired by Oliver Twist) with Massimo Morante also recruiting Fabio Pignatelli on bass and Carlo Bordini on drums. After a brief stint touring the UK and the university circuit in ’74, they moved back to Italy and signed up with Italian imprint Cinevox. With Carlo Bordini not playing ball by refusing to sign the contract, Il Ritratto Do Dorian Gray alumni Walter Martino was recruited to replace him and the progressive rock outfit now went under the name Goblin. Fate would have it that haute horror auteur Dario Argento’s advances to Deep Purple and Pink Floyd were turned down for his forthcoming debut horror film ‘Profondo Rosso’ (translates as ‘Deep Red’) so after Goblin’s producer lent Dario their tracks he gambled on the Goblin score as he weren’t happy with Giorgio Gaslini’s attempts to soundtrack the picture. It turned out to be a marriage made in heaven as the soundtrack sold over three million copies and was at the top of the Italian charts for 15 weeks – which was ironically knocked off the top by Claudio’s Dad with his Gamma score that Goblin featured on. Post-Profondo Rosso and Goblin also composed soundtracks to more Horror scores including hookin’ up with Dario Argento again for his international hit ‘Suspiria’ (where they experimented even more using instruments such as the Greek bouzouki, Indian Tabla and Mellotron keyboard) plus George Romero’s cult classic ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ which they replaced the original orchestral score on the recut as George Romero was impressed with their interpretation. Check ‘em out here for a live rendition of ‘Profondo Rosso’ and their other horror scores…

After ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ in ’78 Goblin gave up with the progressive rock sound synonymous with the 70’s as Claudio wanted a change of scenery. He hooked up with Giancarlo Meo to form Easy Going which would be influenced by the burgeoning disco scene in NYC. The Easy Going name was inspired by a gay discotheque in Rome open earlier in the decade circa ’71 with the ethos of their productions to capture the essence of the club – even the cover artwork a mosaic from the club’s dancefloor. Though their eponymous LP had the orchestral sweeps, live instrumentation and backing singers synonymous with Disco a la Salsoul, by utilising a futuristic-filtered vocoder and space-age synths their Italian touch gave it a distinct feel that’s captured perfectly in ‘Baby I Love You’. Also seek out the later LP’s ‘Fear’ (the title-track the one) and ‘Casanova’ with the choice cut being ‘Gay Time Latin Lover’ pure camp chintz! Though he was initially considered crazy for releasing dance and disco records in Italy, Claudio was instrumental in initiating Italo and a year later in ’79 his efforts were realised when the synth-fuelled score for Vivien Vee’s ‘Give Me A Break’ was a transatlantic hit. Though their vocalist was originally supposed to be an Italo-American model that Claudio and Giancarlo wrote an album’s worth of songs for, she bailed on them so they turned to Giancarlo’s girlfriend Viviana. Despite not speaking a word of English and getting help from an American girl, she still became a star stateside with her look and unique accent adding to the allure and attraction. He purposely made his artist and track titles as English sounding as possible to have more mass appeal especially as heads wouldn’t believe that Italians could produce disco. Like Claudio’s Easy Going records, the Vivien Vee vinyl was also released on Banana Records which would become an Italo institution with Claudio being the label mainstay.

Moving on from their muse Vivien and for me more choice Claudio Simonetti scores include his Capricorn cuts. Though initially following the formula that proved successful with his previous pseudonyms, with the early Capricorn records (such as ‘Maybe No’, ‘Pow Pow Pow’ and the eponymously-titled EP) all being licensed to Sergio Cossa’s Emergency Records, it was ‘I Need Love’ releases in ’82 that proved a huge hit. Despite just being a demo recorded on an Akai 4-track complete with a Roland Jupiter 8 and drumulator, this primitive production laid the house foundations – though the vocal version with Claudio on vox was a hit in NYC all about the instrumental which found favour with DJ deities such as Chicago’s Hot Mix 5 and Detroit’s Electrifying Mojo. Also worth checkin’ out is the Crazy Gang track ‘Telephone Computer’ on the ‘We Are The Crazy Gang’ LP (proper proto-techno that sounds like a long lost Cybotron cut!) plus his score to the credits of the Italian series ‘College’. Let’s get into his legendary lacquer here…

Anyway, let’s get back to this week’s House Hunting hot-pick…. As we’ve already touched on though he’s a production polymath with an armada of aliases, it’s Claudio’s killer Kasso kuts that do it for me. You can really feel his Brazilian roots comin’ through on his debut Kasso LP as these tracks have a sun-kissed swing that take you straight to paradise with tracks like ‘Brazilian Dancer’, ‘On The Sea’ and the title-track being prime examples of his paradisiacal productions. However, my choice cuts on the LP include ‘Walkman’ (though I ain’t a fan of maxi issues the UK or French pressing of the single release worth coppin’ for the cover art alone with the piano in paradise) and ‘One More Round’ which was rinsed by all the Chicago DJs including Frankie, Ronnie and WBMX wizards the Hot Mix 5. As this one was such a choice cut in the Chi it was rereleased 5 years later on Germany’s Haristol Records & Tapes with Frankie Knuckles turnin’ in a ’86 House Mix’ laced with overdubs and Chicago flow yet still capturing the essence of the original serious slice of summer (House Hunting hint flip for the house mix of ‘Walkman’ by unsung house hero and Gherkmaster Brett Wilcots) – a seldom seen slice score if you see buy on sight! As well as Frankie, Chi DJ deity Derrick Carter sampled it on the aptly-titled ‘One More Time To Enjoy It’ giving it his signature swing which you can cop via his Classic cut ‘The Unterschrift EP’. Let’s have another round…

Another Kasso kut that laid the house foundations (and arguably electro and freestyle) was ‘Key West’ that was no doubt inspired by the pastel paradise of the Florida Keys. As opposed to the more organic output this one has a more synthetic feel and was a huge hit at John “Jellybean” Benitez’ joint The Fun House – so much so that he released a re-edit that was more to the floor. Anoraks anonymous alert – as well as the original blue-label release there is also an additional limited red-label lacquer for the completists… Though you’re probably more likely to hear out ‘One More Round’ and ‘Key West’ whether in their original or remixed forms there’s still some more firm faves that are worth a spin. These include the synth styling of ‘Dig It’ that is reminiscent of early eighties NYC boogie bombs, the Balearic bliss of ‘Dancing On The Beach’ and the Adriatic anthem ‘Sound Of Rimini’ which is no doubt a homage to Rimini’s roots as the realm of Italo housing iconic Italo institutions such as Baia Degli Angeli and Discoteca Paradiso… So if you don’t know where to start with your Italo inventory you can’t go wrong with Claudio Simonetti and his timeless Kasso kuts that have played an influential role in the genesis of genres including Italo and house leaving a lasting legacy… Judging by half of London’s club nightscape using plants’n’palm trees in their flyers and playing tropical tunes in vogue so my advice just use a Kasso cover for the artwork and rinse the sounds of Rimini for some proper paradise…


 

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