The story of a stunning—once overlooked—house tune from a weird, wonderful label.
In 2005, upon receiving copies of Conga, the third release on Sex Tags Mania, Bård Aasen Lødemel carried ten copies to a shop called Mix in his Norwegian hometown, Ørsta. Mix was a video rental outlet that sold sweets and baguettes, but staff were happy to stock copies of a new record by a local producer. (The local paper, happy to report on a new release from a homegrown musician, were the only media outlet to cover the release.) One year later, Lødemel, who's better known as Skatebård, went back to the store to collect the profits. "Only one copy was sold," he said this week.
Despite this slow start, the next few years would see Conga's eight-minute title track become Lødemel's most sought-after tune. An upbeat, soaring house track produced entirely on a laptop, it's also the best-known track on Sex Tags Mania, a remarkably diverse vinyl-only label run by the notoriously eccentric brothers DJ Sotofett and DJ Fett Burger. Like many new labels, Sex Tags Mania, which was barely a year old at the time, pressed relatively few vinyl copies. Interest was so low in those 200 copies that many were given away for free. "Before, shops were like, 'That record is a bit weird, we can't sell it,' DJ Sotofett said a few years ago. "Now, they're like, 'Wow, that record is really fucking weird! Give me 40 copies!'"
But within the Sex Tags universe, which stretches from dub and reggae to techno diss tracks, "Conga" is remarkably conventional. It's a house bomb made with 909 beats and organ samples, ingredients familiar to every house music fan. The synth bubbles as the energy dips and falls, coloured by dismantled organ chords run through a range of effects. It was produced during a Norwegian summer, but "Conga" has a lot in common with vintage US house—except for the laptop it was produced on. "I just had a really good TR-909 sample kit and some good organ sounds," Lødemel explained. "And a lot of stereo echo and reverb from plug-ins. That helped."
Like the classic house music it brings to mind, "Conga" is also very party friendly, especially compared with Sex Tags' many stranger releases. Due to regular DJ play and the increased interest in Sex Tags, copies of Conga became prohibitively expensive, eventually only available for more than €200 online. It's a sad fate that awaits many vinyl releases with a limited pressing, especially those from great labels whose early catalogue was initially overlooked. A recent repress, celebrating 15 years of Sex Tags Mania, means we can nab "Conga" for less than €10, which is a bit less than the price a customer paid for the lone sold copy at the baguette store in Ørsta 14 years ago. How much did Lødemel get from that sale in his hometown, exactly? About 100 Norwegian kroner.