TTW#20 - Chugga - Memphistophelis
Cassette only - limited edition of 250 copies
A1: Get Down
A2: Big Galactic Strut
A3: Theme for the Buck Rogers Light Rope Dance
A4: Sittin' On Your Face
A5: Sugar Crash
B1: Blue Icee
B2: John's Theme (Shock It)
B3: Big Pickles at the Skate Corral
B4: Wriggly Worm
B6: Fucked Up
Recorded: 1996, Memphis USA. All tracks by Lester Fuero and Jeff Hanes. Human beatbox on “John's Theme (Shock It)” by John Consigli. Original mastering by Terre Thaemlitz for Comatonse Recordings.
Illustration - Michiel de Vreede.
Comatonse Recordings press release, 14 Mar 2010:
“Fresh… for '96!” Memphistophelis by Chugga (a.k.a. Lester Fuero and Jeff Hanes) is a deliciously dated blend of trip-hop, 70’s disco, funk, Jeep-dub and lounge, mixed well and served chilled. Each track on Memphistophelis picks up on a different 70’s sound while tying in that unique Memphis combination of sparsity and orchestration. The album was mastered by an unlikely culprit - and friend - transgendered electro-acoustic/ambient/house Jack-of-all-genres Terre Thaemlitz (a.k.a. DJ Sprinkles). Although it was shopped around and two or three cuts trickled out over the years on obscure vinyl and compilation releases, Memphistophelis never found a home... until The Tapeworm. And what a suiting label indeed - nostalgic, obsolete, lo-fi... is this even in stereo?
“When we started making Memphistophelis we just wanted to emphasize that wicked Memphis 70’s sound - Isaac Hayes and crew,” said Jeff in a 1996 press release, “but as we got going we found ourselves working in all the old roller-disco camps we grew up with as well, from the DeLite label to Casablanca to shock-rock stylin'.”
“Memphis is a long way from the Bronx,” added Lester, “so the mixing we grew up with as kids had a strong pop-culture influence, although we thought it was really underground. K.C., Donna Summer, Sugar Hill and Funkadelic would all get thrown together, and we loved it all. We aren't stuck up about our influences - Memphis won't let us be. We keep the mixes lean with the best elements, slow down the groove and push that Jeep-bass. It’s evil and all Memphis - Memphistophelis!”
And Chugga knows about pushing bass, each track front-lining a massive dose of subsonic vibrations from Jeff's home-built Low Frequency Unit (L.F.U.) so that you’ll literally keep moving even when just kicking back.
“When Jeff first showed me the L.F.U. I just about shit my pants," laughed Lester, "That same sucker who flunked out of air-conditioner repair school with me had made the bomb!”
“The L.F.U. is a turd of a box that only does one thing,” added Jeff, “but it does it well.”
When Terre was asked what he thought of Memphistophelis finally being released by The Tapeworm, all he could say was, “Like a lot of other gay couples trying to have babies, it took those two lovebirds 14 years of delays and wondering. Congratulations - it's a cassette! I'm just glad I was there to witness the conception! What a night…”
Hailed as the funkiest rebels to ever flunk out of air-conditioner repair school, Memphis based duo Chugga (a.k.a. Lester Fuero and Jeff Hanes) combine the straight-on breaks of old-school hip-hop with 70's funk and 90's jeep dub. Their stripped-down approach to making music pays tribute to the mixing styles of 70's DJ's such as Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa, while maintaining a relaxed flow that works just as well for deep listening.
Chugga made their debut in 1996 on the compilation Abstrakt Workshop 2 (US: Instinct Records) with the dub-infused hip-hop break track “Old School Fattie.” It was followed by the 1997 release of their first 12-inch single, “Theme For The Buck Rogers Light Rope Dance” (Japan: Comatonse Recordings), which featured remixes by friend and mentor Terre Thaemlitz that went on to be cherished house classics, and was ultimately covered by the premiere European experimental acoustic ensemble Zeitkratzer. In 1997 there was also a track on the compilation Synthetic Pleasures 2 (US: Caipirinha), and a random 7-inch released in 2003 by the Austrian label Klanggallerie... and that's basically it. Oh, and most of those releases were pieced together from the same old Memphistophelis sessions.
When asked what they were currently up to, Jeff quipped, “Use your time machine to send that question back 15 years, when somebody might have cared.”
Chugga continue to reside in Memphis.
*Another inspired selection from the Tapeworm label, this time making use of some longstanding connections to Terre Thaemlitz aka DJ Sprinkles* Chugga are an immediately interesting proposition: two air conditioner repair school flunkies with a crazy homemade subbass device and a thing for slack, heat-hazed deep south funk and disco with a dub pressure. The pair of Lester Fuero and Jeff Haines hail from Memphis and made this sly tribute to their city “Memphistophelis” in 1996, gleaning eleven tracks of dope, lean and groovesome disco that's since been plundered for releases on Terre Thamlitz's Comatonse label and even covered by Austria's Zeitkratzer electro-acoustic ensemble. The full sessions never got a proper release until now though, suitably showing up now on The Tapeworm with a strangely out-of-time-and-place value which puts it in great stead among the labels disparate schedule. At the base of each track is Jeff's “L.F.U.” or “Low Frequency Unit”, wildly dominating the set with quivering subsonic pressure that mercifully benefits from Terre Thaemlitz's mastering onto tape to sound even more claggy and potent. Musically, their ideas are scraped together from classic samples and bagfuls of funk and soul snippets used sparingly to achieve a sparse yet close and humid sound dripping with a latent late night sensuality. Fans of Terre's DJ Sprinkles sound will find much to like here, as will lovers of Mark E or NewWorldAquarium. Highly Recommended.
Aquarius Records (US):
Latest slab of sonic wonder and weirdness from UK tape label The Tapeworm, this one from a duo called Chugga, a name that probably doesn't ring a bell, but most folks will probably know their partner in retro-sonic crime, musician/sound artist Terre Thaemlitz, the three have cobbled together this fuzzy, buzzy, old school assemblage of seventies disco groove, synthfunk, drug dub exotica, and while it most definitely sounds dated (it was recorded in the nineties after all), it's MEANT to, but real dated, as in seventies, not nineties, and it sounds pretty good alongside other contemporary retro groovers like Zomby, Martyn, etc.
Thick rumbling subsonic bass, woozy porno wah guitar, liquid basslines, simple stripped down drums, spaced out sci fi synths, cheesy electronic percussion, all woven into super rad instrumental grooves, some new wave-y and propulsive, others laid back and sexy and sultry, still others ethereal and skeletal, clouds of tangled melodies drift over warm low end rumbles, Latin percussion wrapped around lazy unfurling melodies, orchestral disco stabs, strings, organs, the songs slipping from lush and over the top, big production, to spaced out and sinister, spare midnight grooves. Killer old school dancefloor destruction for sure.
The Sound Projector (UK):
American duo of Lester Fuero and Jeff Hanes from Memphis with their unique brand of minimalist techno disco music. Not really my area, but these 11 instrumentals recorded in 1996 are extremely enjoyable, simple and purposeful, without presenting everything at a breakneck pace. Apparently Chugga are “retro” in a big way, aping the sounds and mixing methods of specific 1970s records and producers, most of which are unknown to me with my wheelchair and 15 sticks. Terre Thaemlitz did the mastering and some of the toons have playful titles such as “Theme For Buck Rogers Light Rope Dance”. Clever and sexy. 250 copies.