The basic components of this experience—good company, music, food and drink—are central to Reyenga's own listening sessions, which have assumed a legendary status among his circle of friends. Many of these sessions were held at Reyenga's old apartment on Haarlemmerstraat in Amsterdam. "At the time I didn't have a job, and people would drop by and we'd spend all night smoking, drinking and listening," he says. The apartment was tiny, but its central location among Amsterdam's bars, hostels and coffeeshops meant Reyenga could get full use out of his high-end soundsystem. He and his friends listened to all kinds of records, though the focus was mostly on ambient, new age and oddball disco.
Alongside Abel Nagengast and James Pole, Reyenga runs Red Light Records, a small, specialist vinyl shop hidden in a seedy, tangled neighbourhood of the kind you'll only find in Amsterdam, where brothels, pubs and bike shops share space with an imposing church. The shop grew from Red Light Radio, a successful online station that operates out of the same complex. Since 2013 he has also run the Music From Memory label with Nagengast and Jamie Tiller. The label's success has surprised even Reyenga—records from the likes of Gigi Masin, Vito Ricci and Gaussian Curve have earned Music From Memory a strong following.
These days Reyenga lives in an apartment in Amsterdam's east, with one high-ceilinged wall filled with records. There is sleek, modern furniture, an indoor plant and no TV. His records are ordered by genre (soul, funk, disco, ambient, etc.) and country (Greece, Japan, Italy, Holland, France, Spain and South Africa each have their own section), and then further refined according to the colour and design of the sleeve. It was here that I spoke with Reyenga about a few of his favourite records. Most of them were rare; all of them were interesting.
Tell me about this record.
It's funny, we found a copy of this a while back and sold it in the store. It had a note written on the sleeve by Michel himself. It was a note to a friend of his and it said: "This music really sucks. I'm drunk. Have a listen and see for yourself." Something along those lines. And I've heard through someone who has spoken to him that he hates this record. But it's so good!
It's odd to think he didn't like this. It's lovely.
Yeah. It happens a lot—it was the same with Leon Lowman. [Music From Memory issued a Lowman retrospective in 2013 called Liquid Diamonds.] He said to us: "Why are you interested in this middle-of-the-road music that I made in the '70s?" But after the record came out, he listened to it with his girlfriend and got in touch and said it sounded nice.
It's interesting that music that was once dismissed as too weird, even by the people who made it, can find a home today.
A lot of music that was made back in the day has more meaning or resonance now. This is what fascinates me with '70s and '80s music: it's just a vast landscape of oddities. You can find so much weird music. It circles back, too, and people have started making this style of music again. You could easily release this in 2015.
There seems to be a vogue for housey South African records at the moment. I've heard the VO tune "Mashisa (Dub Mix)" quite a bit recently, for example.
Alister Johnson, a friend of Brandon [Hocura] and Gary [Abugan, AKA Invisible City], went to DJ in South Africa some years ago and he had a dig there and found this record. He put it in a mix that I really liked. That's how I know it. I was lucky—I contacted a South African record dealer and it popped up so I bought it, but it really never turns up anywhere, and I don't think it's even on Discogs. Another friend of Brandon and Gary, his name is Dene, he's now in South Africa digging for all the bubblegum stuff. Some of these records are pretty interesting musically, and also because they never left the country, I think because of the anti-apartheid boycott or something. They are so hard to find, you just don't see them really.
How do these records occasionally pop up then?
Dene has been living in South Africa for six months trying to dig. There are no real record stores there anymore. But if you find it, you'll find tons of copies, or you'll find backstock. I think the South African stuff is pretty hip at the moment among diggers. Before that it was, and I guess still is, Nigerian boogie. I'm really into African music, and I have a lot of it, but it's not as much fun anymore. Whenever I see a record I'd like to have, it's like €300 for a decent boogie record. The prices are out of control. It's the same with any music nowadays: there are so many chancers.
Discogs opportunists are part of the landscape now.
You see it with new music as well. After the third repress of Gigi Masin's Talk To The Sea, we had a period where it was sold out everywhere, and immediately there were copies for €70 on Discogs. I had to make a note on Discogs: "Don't buy this, we want to keep things in press." As long as there is demand, we'll repress, for the artist and for everyone's sake.
This is a very special record to me. This track is so emotional. I'll listen to this until I die. This is coming out of the period when me and Jamie [Tiller] were really interested in dusty experimental and new age music. We worked our way through Spanish, German and Greek music, then Italy.
When you decide to look at what's happening in Italy, or any country, how do you go about that?
It's not like we only do one country at a time—you always look for records from any place, made at any time—but we have phases. With the Italian stuff, a lot of these things were available on websites for cheap. Gigi Masin's Wind, for example, we bought that for €20 from an Italian website. And it's super rare. It was never commercially released. So we had our Italian period, which Gigi came out of, and this is another one of records from that time.
You run a record store, and you also have a personal collection. So when you're digging, how tempting is it to—
—get high on your own supply?
To give you an indication, I did this one digging trip with Jamie Tiller. We drove through Germany all the way to Vienna. We bought about 600 records on that trip. And maybe we both kept five records each from that batch.
So it's at the point now where you can set the bar pretty high?
I'm not a hoarder. I have sold lots of records from my collection over time. I sometimes bring a little batch of stuff I don't listen to anymore to the shop. At some point I had maybe 8000 records. Now I have about 4000, which is still so much music. I tend to go for things that are close to my heart rather than having shitloads of vinyl. And I'm not a professional DJ, so I don't need to buy new records for dance floor purposes every week.
You could fill your house with records but you'd never listen to them all.
Since I've had the store, I've thought about what I actually listen to, what I actually play out. Sometimes you have an emotional attachment with records you played out in the past, but maybe five years down the line they don't do the same thing to you anymore. I've sold so many house records. When I do play out, I'll take the same Larry Heard records I always bring [laughs]. And what I like so much about DJs like Beautiful Swimmers is they play killer house records, but they're often $2 house records.
This is the artist Vladimir Ivkovic is reissuing on Offen Music, right?
Yes. This guy made some incredible music. This one that's playing now, "Facedance," I think people like Madlib would die for this. He made this in Yugoslavia in the late '80s. Vladimir's knowledge of music from this era is second to none. His parents had a nightclub in Belgrade, and he was able to access to Rex Ilusivii's archive because he is a trusted family friend.
So much attention on '70s and '80s minimal music is focused on New York. But people all over the world have made that kind of music.
It's the same with any genre. Psych rock from Thailand. Every country had its jazz-funk scene, its wave or electronic scene. There's new wave from Argentina, you know, and crazy electro-acoustic avant-garde stuff from countries like Cuba and so on.
Yasuaki is connected with Mariah, right? You have that Mariah record, too?
Yep. The marimba on this track ["Umi No Ue Kara"] was played by hand, which is kind of insane. I know this from Jamie Tiller—he used to live in Japan, and he made some amazing discoveries there around the time we got to know each other. I also had Chee Shimizu visiting me in Amsterdam. We used to do digging tours through Germany, and he'd always bring me these really good Japanese records every time. So Chee and Jamie were both showing me crazy Japanese records. This is eight minutes long and it's so tight.
Do you play this kind of music much when you are DJing?
Not that much. A bit. But when I DJ out I'm usually pretty straightforward, party-focused. The Salon [Des Amateurs] was always very wild, you could play whatever you want there.
You released "Montezuma's Rache" on Music From Memory sublabel Second Circle, which is a song with close links to the Salon.
That track was made six or seven years ago. It has always been big in the Salon. I got the file really early on, so I've always been playing it. I forgot about it, then I was DJing in Manchester and I played it and people were climbing the walls and jumping on top of each other to this track. I told Jan Schulte we have to put this out. So that's basically why we started Second Circle.
I also have loads of early Stabil Elite stuff, which they made in their basement, that never got released and probably not many people have heard. The Düsseldorf scene was amazing at that time. When I would DJ at the Salon I'd mostly stay at Gordon Pohl's house. He was jamming with the Stabil Elite kids, who were 19 or 20 at the time. They are massive talents. That's what I like so much about Düsseldorf: there is this generation, this scene of heads and kids who make music.
The Salon is at the centre of that.
It all comes back to Detlef [Weinrich, AKA Tolouse Low Trax]. He was way ahead of the curve with booking live acts and DJs at the Salon. And he's the guy who plays records where it's like, "What is this?" He has an extreme curiosity.
You found this one trawling through Discogs. What's your method of doing that?
I'll use the filter to just search through Discogs' "explore" option, where you can use these all these settings, like every experimental/minimal record released in the UK in 1986. This one was a total guess—a €70 guess. I got lucky. It is an incredible record the whole way through. It's from 1988, but it sounds a bit like a late-'70s prog record. I tried to get in touch with the Implosion guys, perhaps for a reissue, and I found a didgeridoo player in Venice with the right name. It was the same guy. He said he was going to reissue it on his own label, but it never happened. Still, I hope this can happen via Music From Memory as more people need to hear it.
There seemed to be a few interesting things happening in Venice in the '80s. There's Gigi Masin, and Antinote put out that Paki & Visnadi LP recently.
When I saw Imaginary Choreography, and that it dated to Venice in 1984, I thought they must know Gigi [Masin]. I asked [Antinote founder] Zaltan, and yeah, it turns out they do know each other.
I wanted to ask you about Gigi. From releasing that compilation, to his role on the Gaussian Curve album, it has been some journey.
It's so amazing for him. When we were planning to release Talk To The Sea, we thought, this is amazing music, but can we sell more than 500? After the third repress, we hit 2500, and I thought we'd hit the roof, but the demand was still there, so we did another run. And then another.
Since then he's appeared on PAN, on the Lifted LP.
And he worked with Tempelhof [on 2014 album Hoshi]. He's out there now.
It's nice to think it can be traced back to Talk To The Sea.
When we met him he was saying, "I have my family life, I have my job, and when I make music, I make it in the attic for myself." For 15 years he did that. After Wind, he didn't want to work with people anymore, he didn't want to deal with the music business. He did it for himself. And that's the beauty of it. It's so honest and raw, and that makes it beautiful.
How did Vito Ricci respond to the release of I Was Crossing A Bridge?
Vito, he's in heaven. He released one obscure record in 1983 and now he's gotten lots of attention. Everyone knows about him, 20 years after he made his music. For me, that's the main reason to do what we do.
You're playing "Blazer" by Project Sandro. Where did you pick up this record from?
This takes me back to a really cool time. From the early 2000s onwards, internet communities sprung on, well before Facebook started. There was Dream Chimney, a small website with an amazing database that was really nice graphically.
Who ran the site?
It was run by Ryan Bishop, a guy from San Francisco. And the Sentrall label was linked to California and Dream Chimney. For a while everyone was on there—Lovefingers, lots of European collectors. There's a wealth of information. It's a funny forum as well. I'm not really visiting the site anymore, but there was something like a golden period, I guess. Same with CBS, which was great. I met some amazing people through that forum but it was also very nerdy. I think they invented internet trolling. There were these really gnarly guys giving you shit [laughs].
When did you buy this?
It was when I went to Japan in 2006. It was only for sale in Japan, and when I was there this was in the shops. That bell-y loop was wonderfully taken from Al Di Meola's "Sequencer."
This is an all-time favourite. Phenomenal deepness. I still remember being at the Utrecht Record Fair, buying this, and listening to this back at my house with Jamie, Chee and my good friend Basso from Hamburg who were all there digging at the fair and staying with me.
You can hear a similar Mediterranean vibe to Finis Africae. I can imagine this would be primed for one of your listening sessions.
With listening sessions, anything strange or otherworldy really works. When you're together with someone, you have an interaction. You play records in a way you wouldn't normally play if you were on your own.
It follows a theme or a conversation.
Exactly. Today I had all these records planned [to play], but it has ended up going in a different direction. I think it's kind of fun that way. It all has to do with the way you listen to stuff and the way you get together and focus on listening. It's not one record or one track on a record that influences someone, it's more the vibe of having a place where you could listen to records all night long. And don't get me wrong, I love to party, too, I love to get completely lost on a dance floor, that's what everyone wants—it's the essence of dance music. But with listening sessions you can listen with likeminded people. And with clubs and parties, it's never about the DJs, it's about the crowd. A party is as good as the people who come to dance. And the best DJs play records like they are playing them to a bunch of friends.
This is incredible. It has a spoken word on top that's done in three or four languages. I played this at Brilliant Corners in London recently. To hear this on the Klipschorns there was a revelation. This guy, Joel Vandroogenbroeck, did a lot of amazing stuff. He did tons of the Coloursound Library records, Detroit techno sounding stuff, everything. Brainticket was a pretty well known krautrock band. I think this one was only released in Italy.
The panning is kind of wild.
In Brilliant Corners it was swirling around the room. There's a really good message to the lyrics as well. Super psychedelic.
Homowo - Highlife Music
This is a €10 find here in Amsterdam.
I've heard some of your friends in Amsterdam are very keen to get their hands on this record.
It was released on a Dutch label, that's why you can find it here. James Pole, my colleague at Red Light Records, found this locally the other day. He's new to the shop, and he goes out and he digs hard. He's like me when I first moved to Amsterdam. He goes to all the shops and flea markets constantly.
This has a very distinctive hook, I've heard this in a couple of mixes recently.
Another tune on this record, "African Soul Power," is a big I-F tune. He plays it a lot.
So it's not a record where there's only one killer track.
No, the whole thing is great. The African stuff, it's amazing, it's endless. That's the beauty of music: it never ends. You can spend your life discovering new music. I remember speaking to Beppe Loda once and he said those words: "It never ends." He was like, "Tako, I've had two million records in my hands in my life, and it never ends." Nowadays, there's so much amazing new music coming out, too. There's so much great experimental and avant-garde or just beautiful music out there. My girlfriend, she made an amazing mix entirely out of recordings made under the ground, and in caves and shit. It really interests me, stuff that exists outside the pragmatic realm of music, outside of DJing, pure sound or music. It draws me in. If you imagine the body of music with no obligation to make people dance, there's a lot to explore.