From humble beginnings in some of Manchester’s long lost venues, Aficionado have mutated over the years through multiple locations and incarnations. For the full lowdown, check Jim’s excellent interview with Jason and Moon. They’ve hosted guest DJs and live acts from across the spectrum of great music including the likes of Todd Terje and Bing Ji Ling, Andras Fox and Horsebeach, plus many more besides. Despite these changes over the years, the cult of Aficionado, the night, the concept, the label… the feeling, is still strong. So, 25 years in, Jason and Moon have taken stock, while still doing what they always have - looking forward but with a nod to the past. Taking the choicest musical morsels you’ve never heard and bringing them together into a mystic brew of pure joy.
There was a time when compilations were verboten at an Aficionado night, but then they never were ones for sticking to the rules. Even when they were their own. So it seems only right to bring it all together with this selection. Amongst the offerings, there’s a beautifully presented double vinyl package in collaboration with the folks at Warm, who know a thing or two about a compilation. So much musical endeavour is accused of being style over substance, but somehow Aficionado have always managed to combine the two. With the nights and the label, musical quality is always front and centre. And yet, they've always kept a certain visual panache, ably assisted by the wonderful art of Topsy Van Salkeld giving ‘Nado its signature look.
Musically, over the years, Jason and Moon created an environment that gave them, and their guests, the freedom to play what they wanted, how they wanted. Serious about the adventure, but with a sense of humour underpinning it all. If serious fun is a thing, then this is it. They provided the cover of an ethos, a way of thinking that allows the weird and obscure to exist, but not at the expense of being accessible or danceable. This selection epitomises the ‘Nado spirit that has prevailed for the last quarter of a century.
Capturing the vibe of an Aficionado night for the home listening experience, the music here twists and turns, forward and back via swirling acoustic solos to soundtrack-esque excursions, jazz covers of soul classics to Latin dance and back again.
No doubt the long list of tracks that didn’t make the cut would make some playlist, given the tightness of this selection. There are road tested heavy hitters from the various ‘Nado dancefloors over the years mingled with newer tracks and exclusives from the extended family. The four sides of vinyl make for a perfect introduction to the uninitiated as well as treasure trove for the hardcore lifers.
Side A focuses on guitars in their most subtle and emotional incarnations. Held By Trees ‘In The Trees (Ambient)’ provides a typically dreamy introduction. Its ambient, textured moody guitar and piano dreamscapes precede Stanley Clarke’s ‘Desert Song’. His virtuoso jazz guitar from 1976, taking soloing to another level. Obscure covers have always had a place in the world of Aficionado and Jan Akkerman’s take on ‘Ode To Billie Jo’ makes absolute sense here. The Dutchman adds his subtle touch to the classic Bobby Gentry number. On a more expansive tip, Alan Debray does his ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’. Stepping into a wonderland of swirling orchestration and guitar-led soundtrack lushness, all Spanish horns and sweeping strings.
Side B takes a more modern approach to that early evening sound. The High Tower Set’s ‘Departure Lounge (Nothing To declare)’ is a cheeky Harvey mix of an overlooked release on Black on Black - resolute groove material. In a similar vein, J Walk contributes with ‘Cool Bright Morning’. Making a local association and linkage in so many ways, popping up as he did on Jason’s other label (Before I Die) with his Mellotronique release. As the tempo rises this slow burner feeds into Canyons’ ‘Akasha (Begin Remix)’ with its subtle instrumental synth pop, gently throbbing bass and keys. Space-music with suitable wavy vocals from Lee-Ann Curren lifted from a surfing movie then remixed by Begin aka James Holroyd.
Waves and ‘Summer Sunday’ keep that line of continuation going. Music is all about connections, doffing a cap to the notorious weekend sessions that made ‘Nado what it is? Pure West Coast sunshine on record. Speaking of the yellow stuff, for a blissed out journey, rarely does Paul Murphy fail to deliver, ‘Summer in the Woods’ takes a looping acoustic guitar and overlays a joyous female vocal to perfection.
Side C arrives with Trevor Herion’s ‘Love Chains (Instrumental)’. Things are now moving in a more scuzzed-up funk direction, throwing in deep bass lines and head nodding drum snaps. Korallereven moves further into the night time feels via ‘Honey Mine (Lissvik Remix)’ with its off-reggae atmospherics. Now comes some dub, Georgio Tuma is ably assisted by the ever distinctive voice of Laetitia Sadier. They send things to a rolling simmer with ‘Through Your Hands Love Can Shine. Last up on side C, The Superimposers provide their usual Wonderful Sounds with the anthemic ‘Seeing is Believing’. Psychedelic organ and righteous message of freedom all present and correct. Finally, what better fit for any sunshine section than music from Hawaii? So, Cecilio & Kapana slot in flawlessly with the B side of their 1976 release, ‘Someday’ .
As the waves lap into Side D, nighttime beckons. Teacher feeds the Latin fire with ‘Can't Step Twice On The Same Piece Of Water’, its bending bass and spoken word interludes providing more serious fun. Moving into the depths of the dance, Kalima add more Latin jazz shapes with ‘Shine On (Gilles Peterson Vibrazonic Dub Mix). GP adding the spaces to this 1990 Factory release - joining the dots between Manchester and Manuas. And then it’s done. Closer ‘The Traveller (Part 2)’ by Haggis Horns calling back to the Superimposer’s 60’s influenced rhythms but with just a little disco nod. Time to give into the groove, and lose it in the moment.
Listening to this compilation, the progression from track to track just underlines the skill, no, art, of selection. The best DJs can take a thread and lead the way. There’s no force required, the music does the heavy lifting. Nudging through the tempos and styles, asking questions but never leaving the listener behind or disappearing down a rabbit hole of self indulgence.
Moon says their mission is complete (maybe?). Together with Jason, they have never compromised, stuck to their principles, doing what they believe in. If this is to be a swansong of sorts then it’s a more than fitting tribute to what they’ve built. But, with such a passionate partnership as this, and a world of music out there still to discover, never say never feels more appropriate…..
Available 17 November on Warm's Bandcamp and various physical locations.