Comprising a slickly minimal website, a boutique label, a "Dirty Sound System" DJ duo and a free-for-all blog, "Alain Finkielkrautrock," the Dirty universe is a discerning but never self-serious media conduit fuelled by what could be called a resolute love for music; one that synthesizes enthusiasm, impeccable taste, demented humor and a profound lack of concern with the vicissitudes of the dance music scene.
Thus those behind the Dirty name don't seem to give much care to many of the concerns you'd think were fundamental to the enterprise, like PR, scrutinizing the scene or keeping tabs on their contemporaries. "The point is not to run a record label, the point is to release music that we love," says Guillaume. "In other words, we are very bad in marketing, communication, etc...Some other French labels do this way better than us. Our only ambition is to release music we'd like to hear. We like Sarah Records' 'small, handcrafted' aesthetic, the idea that each release is worth releasing. That's why the edits and Discodeine stuff are released on vinyl, that's also why all edits releases are hand-numbered."
The release that first set the Dirty crew apart from the rest of the lost-classic nu-disco populace was Pilooski's edit of Frankie Valli's "Beggin'." This emotionally urgent blue-eyed soul number was neatly spliced for maximum rhythmic insistence, producing a hot-blooded, heart-tugging rave-up that met with untempered accolades. An effortless crossover, "Beggin'" was first-rate dance music that you didn't need subculture cred or specialty training to get.
Pilooski's edit of the garage-rock monster "Nobody But Me" by the Human Beinz is "Beggin's" trippier evil twin: the two-second drum intro gets wound up into an extended Jaki Liebezeit minimalist kraut-groove, then—by way of loops and spaced-out overdubs—the song's burning hippie shake morphs into a noise-laden percussive trance-out. It's a mesmerizing transformation that clearly involved a great deal more labor and attention than the many re-edits on the shelves today that are content to simply loop a few drum breaks and kill a sax solo or two. "I'd been doing edits for myself for a while, like [the] tape deck kinda thing. Of course I love Ron Hardy, he had futuristic visions well before anyone else," says Pilooski. "This trance loopy thing that goes on forever, it was just so ahead of [its] time in terms of editing, even if there were people doing some editing 15 years before him. The first edits I really could relate to were certainly the Black Cock stuff, they just had everything: they were taking things from every kind of music...the psychedelia, the fucked-up/raw side of things...really something I could relate to."
A standout compilation of sleazy, shimmering laser boogie that jacks into Baldelli's original "Cosmic" sound, and adds more orgasmic slow-burn glitz.
Dirty Edits Vol. 4 EP
Aside from the essential "Beggin'" edit, this EP also contains re-workings of Cat Stevens' electro oddity "Was Dog a Doughnut?" and the churning, silvery workout "Euro Vs. Dollar" by Octet.
Dirty Edits Vol. 5 EP
The edit of Amon Duul II's "Kismet" here goes from swirling folk-psych to Orient-inflected head-nodding space funk, effectively bridging the folk-funk of Glastonbury's "People" and the disco strut of Jackson Jones' "I Feel Good (Put Your Pants On)."
Discodeine – Texas Gladiators EP
Dirty's first release of original material showcases lessons about song structure learned with an editing knife in hand: The groove build-ups on these wobbly electro-disco shakers are controlled and relentless.
Photonz – "Trembler / Trembler (Discodeine Remix)"
Portugal duo Photonz enter the Dirty fold with a compellingly out-there noise-laden track that sounds like Black Dice up in the club; Discodeine reworks the original's rhythmic flutter and hairy loose-cannon lead synth into a wired-tight stomper.
Never content to repeat the past, the Dirty edit squad is bent on unlocking history's unpredictable secrets. "Editing tracks is also a good way to highlight their modernity." says Guillaume. "For example we featured a track on our next compilation that was released in the '70s in France that would fit perfectly in a Villalobos DJ set." The Dirty catalog shows how to allow subterranean energies in old songs to blossom. An edit can be a means of re-igniting the past without letting the present swallow it whole: rather than a remix, which can drown out an old track's singular character; an edit, in the hands of the Dirty crew, is more like a translation that gets stuck between two languages on purpose, allowing the new term to compellingly resonate with the spirit of the old. For example, Pilooski keeps his edit of Amon Düül II's "Kismet" about the same length as the 1978 original, but only by way of nixing its entire first half, a wonky prog-rock vocal number reminiscent of Genesis and Yes, and allowing the remaining instrumental section twice the amount of space to unfurl the grooves of its spacey, head-nodding ethno-funk. While the edit sounds ripe for a generation of ears weaned on sampled funk rhythms, its orchestral prog flourishes give it a fresh, untimely vibe, making it tough to pin down: Is it a track by an older group touched by the sound of the future, or a new group looking to jack into the past? The edit ends up throwing these questions out the window, leaving you with the joy of a killer track you can hardly parse or categorize.
The unfettered selector spirit is also in full effect on the team's album compilations, like the "Dirty Diamonds" series Sorge and Goux put together for Diamondtraxx, which included recent tracks by indie acts as well as nuggets both beloved and forgotten. Their latest full-length curation, Dirty Space Disco, put out by Tigersushi, takes the sleazy slow-mo cosmic dance sound pioneered by Danielle Baldelli as its basis. Baldelli's groundbreaking mixes in the early '80s are arguably some of the strongest precursors to Dirty's intuitive schizo-eclectic style.
Attend a Dirty Sound System event, their new b-monthly at Social Club for example, and you'll catch the two label heads spinning "free jazz to spacey disco, acid house, krautrock, sunshine pop, folk, rhythm'n'blues, music soundtracks...it depends on how far the dancefloor is ready to go." The Sound System showcases the efforts of two self-proclaimed "selectors" rather than "DJs": "the 'selector' thing is about humility, we see ourselves more as music lovers that play music than as professional DJs...the DJ sets depend on the audience and how far we can go really... most of the people want to simply have a drink and dance and we're against the 'let me teach you music' thing..." It's a noteworthy sentiment coming from a crew who could easily sit you down and school you for hours on aural arcane. Instead, they opt for stylish release design and a pronounced lack of background info, as if too much knowledge were a buzzkill.
Behind the modesty—the claims that the duo aren't "real DJs," and "just putting out music we love"—lies the confident sophistication of a close-knit team of weirdo music lovers inclined toward wanton genre-bending and insider irreverence. Dirty's releases appear accompanied by the instruction to file under: "extended disco unclassics, diskrautrock, deep folk, northern soul treasures, codeine disco, industrial balearic bonus beats, dirty diamonds, musique de secte. musique raëlienne." Their cavalier humor can be found throughout the Finkielkrautrock blog, where amidst interviews, lost vinyl diamonds and other sonic erratum, a blog post about Terry Riley's psychedelic loop masterpiece "You're No Good" identifies him as the "King of Edits" avant la lettre, and sums up the track with the equation "My Bloody Valentine + Discodeine + Turzi + Harvey."
As fertile as the edit-world has been, it's not surprising that the game of re-working the past is no longer enough to contain Dirty's creative energies. The first step beyond the edits/reissue agenda was the Texas Gladiators EP by Discodeine, a duo consisting of Pilooski and Benjamin Morando. Gladiator's two tracks, "Ring Mutilation" and "Tema di Gamma," set the template for much of the original material releases and remixes that followed: a relentless disco-boogie swivel gets welded to searing, sizzling electronic fuzz and pulse, as if you took a West End 12-inch and rubbed it on a light-up plasma globe, leaving you tingly and wired all night. With characteristic provocation and brio, Dirty claims the Discodeine sound fights "against the current nu-disco wave that only regurgitates the worst of the genre," and that it is "mutant and futurist disco: dark and sensual like a religious office in a strip club." Look no further for the perfect soundtrack to your next lap-dance confessional.