Sassy J draws attention to dance music inspired by soul, jazz and funk on this exceptional compilation.
While a conversation about these knotty issues was unlikely to produce any firm conclusions, especially after a few bottles of wine, it does present a basic question. As a DJ, how do you respectfully borrow from cultures to which you don't belong? On Patchwork, the new compilation for Rush Hour named after Sassy J's long-running club night, the Swiss DJ gathers unheard music, mostly from black artists, with whom she's built lasting relationships. Paintings of each musician adorn the gatefold edition of the compilation. Rather than spotlighting one selector's impeccable taste, Patchwork feels like an ongoing conversation between Sassy J, the artists who have shaped her and the listener.
Judith Biffiger has been talking about the artists she includes on Patchwork for years, sometimes decades. In an issue of Rush Hour's in-store zine, House Of Music, she shouts out Gifted & Blessed as one of her "favorite contemporary artists." Here, the unclassifiable Los Angeles producer provides a bittersweet, ambient techno exclusive called "The Projector." In the same article she called Georgia Anne Muldrow "mind-blowing." The unreleased "Always," on which the future soul queen rhapsodizes on her studio grind, is another coup for Patchwork.
But the lingua franca between Biffiger and the artists who appear on Patchwork is soul and jazz. Sassy J grew up singing along to Stevie Wonder. Jazz, too, was the teacher. Bern hosts the oldest jazz festival in Europe, and Biffiger's jazz musician father brought home records and stories from all the greats. Perhaps that's why the jazzy, melodic broken beat scene initially caught her ear, leading to pilgrimages to London's influential CoOp party.
She has since hosted CoOp cofounder and London dance music legend Dego at Patchwork parties and designed artwork for Dego & Kaidi. Naturally, the duo (as 2000Black) comes correct with a warm, unreleased scene-setter, "Plastic Jam." "Mirror Images," from Dego's 4Hero collaborator Mark Clair's debut album as Nu-Era, is top-notch UR-style techno. She also includes her studio debut, a broken beat-flavoured collaboration with Alex Attias called "Jelly Bubble Rise."
These days, Sassy J is as likely to appear at Panorama Bar as she is Giant Steps. In the past she's broken up her selections into "Kaleidoskopes Mixes," which focus on downtempo tunes, and "Dance Floor Meditations Mixes," her club selections. Both sides are indulged here. There's a deep spiritual jazz cut from Carlos Niño ("Mushroooooomslive") as well as a loping hymn for the endangered Amazon from Azymuth's Ivan Conti ("Amazon Orison"). On the other hand, there are twitchy, minimalist drum tracks from Wah-Chu-Ku ("Phereo In The House") and Aardvarck ("Aap Noot").
Beyond DJing, Biffiger is known for her explosively bright handmade clothes—she's made one-of-a-kind jackets and sweaters commemorating the likes of Theo Parrish, Sun Ra and Moodymann. In doing so, she's paying tribute to the musicians who have shaped her while weaving them into her own, singular Patchwork. In gathering new music from her musical heroes-turned-friends, Sassy J's debut compilation feels like the musical equivalent. It's a life-affirming tribute that gives equal footing to her own vision and the artists who continue to shape it.
Fri / 10 Jan 2020
01. Farrah Boule - Mother Of Mantras
02. Warm - Blue Sunrise
03. 2000Black - Plastic Jam
04. Hanna - Spaceland
05. OJA - Alex Attias & Sassy J - Jelly Bubble Rise
06. Nu-Era - Mirror Images
07. GB - The Projector
08. Aardvarck - Aap Noot
09. Mr Fingers - Survivor
10. Georgia Anne Muldrow - Always
11. Carlos Nino & Friends - Mushroooooomslive
12. Ivan Conti - Amazon Orison
13. Nwachukwu - Phereo In The House