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This episode is about a club called The Funktion that ran for two years in the mid 90s in Cape Town. It is the story of the music I played there at our residency on Friday nights. But more importantly it is also a tribute to and remembrance of Matthew Buck who we unfortunately lost in 2019. Matt was co-founder of the Funktion and the heart of its music. This show is dedicated to him.
Track list and transcript
Andrea Parker - Fallen Arches - Mo Wax (1996)
Andrea Parker - Melodious Thunk
Transcript: Our story starts towards the end of 1995. Trevor Mitchell and Nick Birkby had been doing a night called Acid Jazz influenced by all things Gilles Petersen at The Lounge in Long Street but were outgrowing the venue. The ambient club I had co-founded and was resident at for two years had recently closed. We had decided to do a night embracing all forms of electronic music regardless of genre and were looking for a suitable venue.
Transcript: Trevor always had his ear to the ground and mentioned a new venue we should check out. Some time in December we walked into the Funktion on the corner of Loop and Shortmarket streets and spoke to co-owner Philip Bartholomew about doing a night at the new venue. I am pretty sure Philip was very sceptical of these chancers off the street at first. But we invited him to the Lounge to come and see for himself what we were doing. As luck would have it it was absolutely rammed with people and we were offered Friday nights to promote an evening of, well, anything goes really.
Transcript: Our first night at the Funktion was on 13 January 1996. It was called Elastica. We soon changed that name though.
Funki Porcini - It’s a Long Road - Ninja Tune (1995)
Funki Porcini - It's A Long Road / Poseathon
Transcript: Ninja Tune was a big part of what we played back then. Part of the nascent trip hop scene, which promised so much. "Fucked up, anything-goes neo-B-boy abstraction" as Simon Reynolds put it in Energy Flash. The track we are listening to now is "It's a long Road" by Funki Porcini which came out on Ninja Tune in 1995. Sad to say Ninja Tune of this era hasn't had much longevity. All your London Funk All Stars, 9 Lazy 9 and whatnot sound distinctly dated now. I still have a soft spot for this one though.
4 Hero - Escaping Categories - SSR (1995)
Various - Freezone 2: Variations On A Chill
Transcript: Only available on the second Freezone compilation, the awfully named Variations On A Chill, this track was a beautifully languid slice of downtempo loveliness. An unusual outing for 4 Hero best known for tearing drum and bass and jungle at the time. A staple of the early evening.
Nightmares on Wax - Stars - Warp (1995)
Nightmares On Wax - Smokers Delight
Transcript: Well we couldn't do this without something by Nightmares on Wax. And in particular something from Smokers Delight. Nights Introlude was probably played the most but I always had a soft spot for Stars. This is the album version but the remixes on the Still Smoking 12" are well worth your time. A classic of its time.
Air - Modular Mix - Source Lab (1995)
AIR - Modulor Mix
Transcript: Air's first release on the French Source Lab label. And what a beauty it is. This was later released on Mo Wax the highlight of which is a rolling drum and bass remix by Source Direct.
Bone Thugs and Harmony - 1st Of Tha Month (The Kruder & Dorfmeister Session Part 3) - Ruthless 1995
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony - 1st Of Tha Month
Transcript: One of the things that characterised this era was the general anything goes nature of music releases. I have always been a big hip hop and r'nb fan didn't play it out much. If at all. This record straddled those interests in so many ways. A mainstream hip hop group remixed by fairly obscure (at the time) stoner downtempo producers from Vienna. The Kruder & Dorfmeister mix of Bone Thugs and Harmony's 1st Of Tha Month. This 12" came out in 1995 and Part 3 which we are listening to now would later be included on the K and D Sessions. The kind of track that encapsulated the musical approach of Fridays at the Funktion.
The Mighty Bop - Mellow - Yellow Productions (1995)
The Mighty Bop Meet DJ Cam Et La Funk Mob
Transcript: Many trip hop productions of the mid-90s came from France, and in particular Paris. The Mighty Bop, whose track Mellow we are listening to now, was Alain Ho, better known as DJ Yellow, and Christophe Le Friant better known as Bob Sinclair and as part of Africanism. I have no interest in their other activities but The Mighty Bop released some sublime records in the mid 90s, perfect amalgamations of hip hop beats and beautiful melodies. This track is from a 1995 release shared with DJ Cam and Le Funk Mob. More about them later.
DJ Cam - Dieu Reconnaîtra Les Siens - Street Jazz Productions (1994)
DJ Cam - Abstract Hip Hop Volume 1
Transcript: All the way back to 1994 for this one. On Paris label Street Jazz Productions and Cam's second release. This track was an ideal one for moving into more beat-y territory as the night progressed.
Transcript: During the day the Funktion was a hair dresser, a coffee shop and a clothes store. More important to us was Grooves of Distinction, the record store started by Matt and run by Rob White. Rob and I met at the Funktion and have been friends ever since. He has been a huge influence on my musical endeavors.
Transcript: Rob was both record store buyer and resident DJ for Saturday's Deep house night at the Funktion. I spent so many hours browsing those shelves and there's a good chance that all the tracks we are listening to now I bought from Rob. Rob has very kindly sent some thoughts on Matt and the Funktion. We will hear from him a bit later in the show.
Major Force E.M.S. Orchestra Vs. UNKLE - Time Has Come - Mo Wax (1994)
Various - Mo Wax vs. Major Force: Time Has Come
Transcript: If there was one label, and sound, we were obsessed with at this time it was Mo Wax and I bought anything of theirs I could get my hands on. Launched in 1992 by James Lavelle (when he was 19 years old or something ridiculous) their early acid jazz productions quickly gave way to more abstract beat styles and a sound that embraced hip hop, electro, breakbeat and jungle. The label introduced the world to both DJ Shadow and DJ Krush, released the first Blackalicious album, and resurrected the career of Kool Keith amongst many things. Impeccably designed with graphics by Futura, layout by Ben Drury and typography by Swifty (also designer of Straight No Chaser our bible at the time), my Mo Wax records are up there with the most prized in my collection.
Transcript: This track is label founder James Lavelle's UNKLE project while Shadow was still a member, remixed by Japan's legendary beat crew Major Force who also releaed an amazing box set on the label. I could have gone with any Shadow or Krush record but this is probably my favourite Mo Wax track.
Le Funk Mob - Motor Bass Get Phunked Up (Electrofunk Remix) - Mo Wax (1994)
La Funk Mob - Breaking Boundaries Messing Up Heads
Transcript: By February 1996 we had changed the name of the night to Stretch. Bruno Morphet who was DJ'ing up the road at The Magnet was doing the flyer design and we started to get a bit more adventurous with the music selection.
Transcript: Still on Mo Wax this is a track by Le Funk Mob, French beat makers who would go on to be Cassius but we don't care about that bit. This is from the Breaking Boundaries Messing Up Heads EP and the remix is by none other than Richie Hawtin. A testament to the title of the release this double 10" had this mix by Hawtin as well as mixes by Carl Craig and Nightmares on Wax. If you ever wondered what Hawtin would sound like unleashed on some breakbeats here you go.
Transcript: Mo Wax would continue to embrace this cross genre approach on a number of releases commissioning remixes by the likes of Photek, Peshay, Wax Doctor and Hawtin once again, who would turn the truly boring Attica Blues' Blueprint into a menacing half speed electro work out.
Palmskin Productions - The Beast (Autechre Mix) - Mo Wax (1994)
Palm Skin Productions - The Beast (Remix)
Transcript: A decidedly average release is turned into a wonder of beauty and contemplation. Autechre remix Palmskin Productions' The Beast. This 12" also has two wonderful drum and bass mixes by Global Communication in their Links guise and by the Bristol trio of Krust, Roni Size and Suv. Another example of how genres were so fluid in the 90s. Cheap on Discogs.
Transcript: Mo Wax lost their way though. The sprawling incoherent Headz 2 compilation, the underwhelming Excursions sub-label and a disastrous deal with Sony saw it folding in 2002. But for a brief period in the mid 90s it was untouchable.
Move D - Amazing Discoveries - Source Records (1995)
Move D - Kunststoff
Transcript: While we primarily played breakbeat orientated records on Fridays there was also space for more four four type tracks. This is from Move D's Kunststoff album released in 1995. Very much a European record but influenced by Detroit. I always saw parallels between this and the kind of techno coming out in the UK at the time on labels like Likemind, Irdial, Buzz, Warp and Planet E. A beauty.
Transcript: Kunstofft was re-released in 2018. The vinyl and a digital release is available on Bandcamp. Otherwise, you know, Spotify. It's an amazing album.
Nuron - Mirage - Likemind (1994)
Nuron / Fugue - Likemind 02
Transcript: Speaking of Likemind this is Mirage by Nuron on the aforementioned label. I am not going to say much about this it speaks for itself.
Transcript: That's the impeccable Nuron who has recently returned after 25 years of silence. Check out his new release on De:tuned.
Ballistic Brothers - I'll Fly Away
The Ballistic Brothers* - I'll Fly Away
Transcript: So drum and bass and jungle. I have to admit to a lifelong obsession with early to mid-90s drum and bass and jungle. On some days I may say it's the best music ever made. At the Funktion we played the more Bukem/Fabio inspired end of the spectrum as it fit perfectly with the more downtempo beats and the house and techno we sometimes played. This track by The Ballistic Brothers is a perfect example of that sound. Skittering cut up beats, deep sub bass and a sublime melody to draw you in.
Transcript: I think this track was kind of lost to the jungle scene at the time as it was released on Boys Own, very much a purist house label, and made by members of Black Science Orchestra. Still, I played the hell out of it.
The Sentinel - Pulse of Life - Basement (1994)
The Sentinel - Heavy Vibes / Pulse Of Life
Transcript: Sentinel is Rupert Parkes, AKA Photek amongst other things. This is an early release on Basement Records. What can you say about Photek that hasn't already been said? Watch out for a show dedicated to his 90s work.
Transcript: Some time in 1996, I don’t remember exactly when, we changed the name of the night to Blu and Bruno Morphet designed a striking identity for the flyers based on Reid Miles' iconic Blue Note album covers, using a contemporary artist each week. Instead of Dexter Gordon we had Ol Dirty Bastard. It really was great work by Bruno and I think the designs hold up twenty-five years later..
Justice - Soothe My Soul (Blame's Mix) - White House Records (1994)
Justice - Soothe My Soul (94)
Transcript: Blames Mix of Soothe My Soul by Justice is as close as we would get to out and out jungle. An impeccable track that captures the sheer joy of music.
Lamb - Cotton Wool (A Guy Called Gerald Mix) - Fontana (1996)
Lamb - Cotton Wool
Transcript: Lamb was a duo from Manchester formed in 1996 by Andy Barlow and the singer Louise Rhodes. I don't know if they are still around. They made a mix of trip-hop, jazz, dub, breaks and drum and bass. This is from the Cotton Wool 12", a remix by one of my favourite producers A Guy called Gerald. A fantastic example of chopping beats for maximum effect. Trevor always played the original version of this but this is the one I went for. Such a pity jungle/drum and bass has devolved into the tedium of 2 step and liquid (surely contender for the worst genre name in history). But that's another show.
Abacus -Relics One - Prescription (1994)
Abacus - The Relics E.P.
Transcript: From the Relics EP by possibly the greatest house producer of all time Austin Bascombe. And on one of the greatest house labels of all time Prescription. We didn't play a lot of house on Fridays. Saturday at the Funktion was the deep house night. One thing about Matt was that while he never told us what to play, there was a pretty strict demarcation between Fridays and Saturdays. While we played a few house records we were very cognisant not to venture Too much into Saturday's territory. When we did it was very much in this vein.
House of 909 - So Much Love for you - Pagan
House Of 909 - The Children We Were
Transcript: My good friend Rob White
Rob White: I first met Matt back sort of late 1995, early 96. I just come back from living in London for a few years, been working at record stores or DJ'ing over there and was buying all the dance music for a place called look and listen up in Johannesburg at the time. Matt happened to be coming back on his way from one of his radio stations that he was installing in Africa and just happened to stop by the store. He was looking for some new electronic music that was interesting at the time. There was a lot of trip hop that kind of thing out. So I was the buyer for them. So I just recommended a whole lot of stuff to him. He pretty much bought everything that we had about 20 CDs or something and told me about this new venture that he was going to be opening up in Cape Town if I was ever down there to pop in, come visit and say hi and bring some records and come and DJ.
Rob White: As fate would have it about three months later, I decided to move down to Cape Town, sort of left Joburg, moved down there and went and saw Matt and got offered a gig there and I suppose the rest as they is kind of history. And that was the birth of the Funktion. It was already going for a month or two by then it was kind of like a multi-use space for lack of a better word and there was a cafe, there was Bartholomew's hairdressers in there. There were couple of racks of fashion. And then of course, our record store which was called Grooves of Distinction. G.O.D. Matt always liked a good joke. We specialised in bringing in stuff that nobody else was doing. We brought in a whole lot of things like drum and bass and proper UK deep house that no one else in Cape Town was getting or selling or actually to be fair was even interested at the time. You know, when we first started playing that kind of sound at the club, the Friday nights you know, it was Justin Slack, and Adam and Shukri and Nick, and Trevor. They were all kind of playing trip hop things like that. There was a little bit pof that being played around the corner at the magnet and then Saturday nights we were just playing super deep past kind of like a really underground UK house no one else was playing at the time.
Rob White: A lot of people used to come along to the Funktion and you know the DJs at the time they were quite well established playing all the big raves and things and you know, they never had a good word to say. Sleep house and this is so boring, etc, etc. and funnily enough we sort of had the last laugh in the end but yeah, that that's a testament to Matthew really. You know the sound system in there was incredible he installed it and maintained it would be there tweaking and just, you know, getting the sound perfect every night. The DJ booth was perfectly set up and the decks were properly serviced. We had a beautiful Soundcraft mixer and Crown amps and that crystal clear Tannoy system and that was all Matt, you know, was driven by Matt. There were other people involved of course, Phil Bartholomew, etc. But you know, the music side of things and the soul of the place was very much driven by Matthew Buck.
Rob White: He sort of believed in us, you know, when a lot of people didn't. He was pretty much my greatest mentor in my life and much of my success as a DJ and you know many things about my character, also are sort of tempered by him and his pretty leftfield sarcastic sense of humour, which kind of matched mine to a tee.
Rob White: Yeah. So the Funktion really, it was, you know, was mostly really started as a kind of just as a sort of labour of love, but then turned into well, for lack of a better word, the birthplace of a whole different sound that came from Cape Town and slowly but surely a lot of people came around, started to listen to it. And you know, even the ones that didn't they they were sort of like they had the ear of a couple of the other owners and managers and things this is boring. This is crap. This is shit. Let's get something else book me book me. And Matt stood by it, you know, he believed in it.
Rob White: The record store I mean, we sold, you know, a ton of records from there and a ton of CDs but it never turned a profit. It was so expensive to bring stuff in there. The rand really plunged to the pound in about 97. And regardless of that, you know, Matt gave me free rein over the ordering. There's never a time that I needed to double check something with him, you know, he trusted in me and that was always the thing with Matt, you know, he always kind of had belief in people he always believed in you. And that, that shone through with Matt, you could always tell the people that were that surrounded him or he was surrounded by, and I don't think it was a case of him choosing to surround himself with these people, you know, including myself, we all gravitated towards him because he just had so much integrity.
Rob White: I think that sums it up. You know, if there's one word that I would attach to Matt Buck, it will be integrity in everything he did. You know, the things that he built the people that he influenced, and his take on life was always, always just that one or two steps ahead of everybody. And he never sold out. He always stuck to his guns. And like I said, people gravitated towards that myself being, you know, one of the main ones, and I have so much to thank him for he was one of the greatest people I've ever known. And, Matt, wherever you are, I miss you very much. We all miss you. And thank you for believing. Thank you for the inspiration.
Transcript: So that brings us to the end of just a part of the story. Trip hop unfortunately became a soporific soundtrack to car adverts and the subject of a million chill out and lounge compilations. And gave us the deathly dull likes of Morcheeba, while drum and bass, well, I'll say more about its decline in another show.
Transcript: In the moment though this music was so important to us and The Funktion was the only place where we could play it. And Matt was responible for making that happen. For that we are eternally grateful to him.
Larry Heard - So Much Joy (Repose) (1997)
Larry Heard - The Calm & Chaos EP
Transcript: And appropriately to end, So Much Joy by Mr Larry Heard, a reminder of the wonderful times we used to spend.
Times We Used To Spend is a two hour ramble through my record collection making connections between eras, genres, melodies and rhythms.
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