House Hunting #33 - T.P.O.

After a jam-hectic schedule at work, Aiden gets a chance to check out some house hotspots...

House Hunting #33 - T.P.O.

After a jam-hectic schedule at work, Aiden gets a chance to check out some house hotspots...

So after a jam-hectic schedule at work finally got a chance to check out some house hotspots for a deep dose of dusty fingers over the weekend… I had a works meal in Soho on Friday evening so in-between that and a cheeky visit to a boozer for a swift one with the Thunder posse I deviated to Berwick Street for some rack raiding recreation at Reckless Records. As ever my house radar went into sensory overdrive when I detected a fresh batch of Windy City wax in the racks. They even had the house Rockin’ House Holy Grail ‘Love is Happiness’ by Jaquarius aka Rodney Bakerr who featured in House Hunting #11 – anyone got a spare £75? Jesus even I have limits…

However with time ticking I furiously flicked through and my heart skipped a beat when I scoped that distinguishable blue sleeve and acid yellow label that is synonymous with one of my choice Chicago labels – Gherkin Records. This particular one was ‘Set Your Mind To It’ by Gallifré (aka Chicago House enigma Brett Wilcots) featuring Jimmie Lee on vox though it’s all about the lush, sensuous soundscape of the ‘Mr Fingers Jazzy Instrumental’ by House forefather Larry Heard – I can even cope with the sax in this one this is how you produce a jazz/house hybrid! House Hunting favourite Mark Seven sums it up perfectly stating that ‘it comes off like a mellow Galaxy II Galaxy’ to which I agree as it definitely captures the essence of that UR classic – melt away here…

It was priced at £25 which ain’t bad as one of the rarer Gherkins but the guys at the counter let me have it for £20 so happy with that and another Gherkin added to the jar… I could have featured that for this week’s edition however I eulogised about Gallifré/Brett Wilcots last year in House Hunting #9 so some Gherkin flavour there if you fancy a bite. Anyway, the next day headed east with Tonya (the Mrs) for some cocktail couture as we hardly seen each other all week. As in Hoxton conveniently we were in the locale of Love Vinyl so as acid auteur DJ Pierre was doin’ an in-store session so we took a jaunt to this wax haunt to check him out and of course for some crate crusading…

Surprisingly on this occasion I didn’t scope any record on the House Hunting hit list – nothing really grabbed me so just got down to DJ Pierre droppin’ some of his classic Phuture and Wild Pitch productions that never cease to amaze… After that session I still wasn’t satisfied that I didn’t find anything so Jake let me ascend the heights of the Love Vinyl loft to see if I could unearth any wax jewels up in this hallowed turf. Time to get that iPhone flashlight out and dig deep in the dark depths… The first rack I raided I immediately pulled out the Burrell Brothers’ eponymous ‘Burrell’ LP complete in mint condition with shrink intact and original sticker yes House Hunting quota met – someone give me a slap! Anyway, here’s a few of my choice cuts from the LP which were precursors to their legendary house productions on NY institution Nu Groove and their own stable Citi Records.

However, being a Nu Groove nerd I’ve referenced the Burrell Brothers many a time in House Hunting and I’m sure I’ll cop more of their records in the near future so we’ll leave them there for the time being… I went on gettin’ my fingers dusty and on the next rack amongst a load of killer disco/boogie records pulled out a mint copy of ‘Together’ by Interceptor aka Murk mainstays Ralph Falcon and Oscar G – though Tonya was being a wax widow waiting for me finding this will more than compensate as she loves a Murk vocal.

I thought that record may make a decent House Hunting piece but I didn’t stop there as I had to check every box, rack and unit to ensure I didn’t miss anything… After half hour delving deep it hadn’t proved as fruitful as my initial finds however just as diggin’ through the last box I pulled out a rare Japanese 12” by T.P.O. on Major Force that though was warped and scratched up (I would say ‘VG’ condition) I had to cop as you know I love some obscure allure. So I took my 3 finds to the counter – the Burrell LP was priced at £6 and Jake said that both the Interceptor and T.P.O. 12” he’d let me have for a tenner a piece. I sensed a deal so offered twenty quid for the lot (and of course some House Hunting promo) and Jake agreed so a proper House Hunting haul nice one! I’m gonna opt for the T.P.O. 12” to wax lyrical about this week as with all the interest in Japanese house records at the minute (Soichi Terada, Shinichiro Yokota, Manabu Nagayama et al) I’d like to bring outta the shadows this elusive side of the Far East soundscape…

So who are T.P.O.? Well, the initials stand for ‘Tiny Panx Organization’ (‘Panx’ a play on ‘Punks’ with the letter ‘a’ signifying anarchism) and comprises of Kan Takagi and Hiroshi Fujiwara. Labelled as the ‘Godfather of Harajuku’, Hiroshi was influential in bringing Western street style over to Tokyo after jettin’ over to London (staying with none other than Malcolm McClaren and hanging with Wild Bunch alumni Nellee Hooper and Milo Johnson aka DJ Nature) and New York and immersing himself in the cities’ respective post-punk and hip hop scenes. If you’re into your streetwear styling and crepe couture chances are you’ve heard of Hiroshi as he brought over emerging street brands like Stussy (a House Hunting fave) to Tokyo and was instrumental in evolving a scene that encompassed fashion, art, DJing and skate culture under one seamless umbrella, whether it was being part of hip hop label Major Force, founding his own haute streetwear brand ‘Goodenough’ or nurturing his protégé Nigo who went on to form the ubiquitous ‘A Bathing Ape’ brand. I used to repeatedly watch and obsess over a video my Mum had of a Hiroshi Fujiwara interview – been well over a decade since I watched that need to check it out again…

Anyway, I’m not as hip as I was back in my youth so we’ll leave the fashion kicks there and get back to the music. Hiroshi’s T.P.O. partner was Kan Takagi who was one of the chief lyricists and core members of the production posse and File Records Inc. subsidiary Major Force (along with K.U.D.O. and Toshio Nakanishi aka Tycoon To$h) primarily focusing on hip-hop. Like Hiroshi, Kan’s roots were in punk so found a kindred spirit and through Major Force were a significant influence on the burgeoning dance scene in Tokyo and the zeitgeist of the Harajuku youth. Though in Japan they were obsessed with Western culture conversely many in New York and London saw the emergence of Tokyo’s nascent style and music movement as the epicentre of cool – not least James Lavelle who got Major Force involved with his Mo Wax stable in the nineties, even releasing a 5 x LP Major Force retrospective box set in dedication to the label.

Bringing it back on a house tip and it’s all about the T.P.O. ‘Hiroshi’s Dub Remix’ 12” which is the one of the most collectable records on the label and has become something of a Discogs speculator special – not to be confused with the later presses on Nite Grooves and Disorient featuring Joe Claussell and Boyd Jarvis interpretations. Though it features a Satoshi Tomiie mix it’s all about the ‘Tokyo Club Mix (Light Of Love)’ on the flip proper B-side bliss that builds to an ethereal crescendo that transcends the usual house fare – I’d be lost in a moment if this was dropped on a club soundsystem…

With this week’s choice find having various mixes of the tracks ‘Punk Inc.’ and ‘All The King’s Men’ doused in that funk-fuelled hip hop flavour that is synonymous with Major Force, again it’s all about  the ‘Hiroshi’s Dub’ version of ‘Punk Inc.’. Listen carefully and you’ll notice it’s reminiscent of the aforementioned Hiroshi’s Dub Remix 12” – with its organic drums, yearning synths and blissful keys it’s another paradisiacal production that was definitely a precursor to that later record. As a proper Japanese obscurity I couldn’t track down this production on the web so I’ve got down with technology and set up a Youtube account so I could upload (proper mission…) and share with you as it needs to be heard. So I present to you a House Hunting exclusive in the form of the Hiroshi’s Dub of ‘Punk Inc.’ check it out here – watch out having a Youtube account could prove dangerous…

As well as being a style visionary and production extraordinaire, Hiroshi was also a killer DJ – which lead him on to remixing revered artists such as Yellow Magic Orchestra and ultimately his own productions for Major Force. Though currently he is firmly focused on fashion with as ever a plethora of projects and collaborations (check out his website for some high style kicks) he has become disillusioned with DJing and grown outta it. A shame, as he’s a superior selector – check out his archive of mixes from the 80s and early 90s here. I’ll leave you with this killer house mix he recorded on Kiss FM back in ’89 definitely takes you back – just remember as well as being the Godfather of Harajuku, Hiroshi Fujiwara also reigns in the Tokyo house hierarchy… 

Aiden d’Araujo

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