16 April 2017, No. 248, Skyy, ‘First Time Around’

Your first time around you would have stopped to finish your cigarette on the sidewalk before ascending five steps and parting the crowds to get through the front door. The bass drums that started as a dull thud around Locust Street reached the peak of their streetside crescendo there outside the basement window. Like the one you’re visiting, the row home next door has couches on its porch draped with revelers drinking. Up five steps and through the front door you’d have found a DJ in the front room playing through a sound system just loud enough to overcome the noise seeping up through the floorboards, which floorboards vibrated in time to the basement bass drums alone.

Through an adjoining and couch-lined living room you’d find a butler’s pantry with two doors to your left and the kitchen at the other end, and then a door to a mud room before the true back door; in case you were passing through only to look for your friends, you could slip out the back and down a narrow path that after two turns emptied onto the same street from which you’d entered. (Turn the other way down the path and you’d hit nothing but unkempt thicket, though I’ve heard in the last few years it’s been trimmed back and both directions are navigable). If you’d have taken the door in the butler’s pantry immediately before the kitchen, you’d have been in a well-used half bath. The other door led to the source of the loudest music, and the unlit stairway turned ninety degrees before emptying into the loudest laundry room on the block, and another 180-degree turn brought you into the big room with ten-foot ceilings, Christmas lights, and a drunken, sweating crowd. Ooh, what a groove. And such a big room underground.

Those who bothered to push, stumble, or dance fluidly through the crowd and past the furnace found a long, sturdy workbench with a desk lamp suspended over Technics 1200s, more like a wash than a spotlight, and on this night there was me hunched over the “ First Time Around” twelve (No. 248 on our list) from which pew pew toms emanated along with the bass heard down the street. One of the first lessons I learned in digging was to buy every LP whose cover featured people dressed in weird costumes, especially space-themed weird costumes, and this tune is from one of the LPs that taught me the lesson. I think I pulled it out of a thrift shop called The Second Mile. But while the self-titled Skyy LP taught me to watch for space costumes, by the time I started playing basement parties at Haus 409, I’d learned the value of wide grooves and extended remixes and so I played more twelves. Which didn’t mean I stopped playing LPs altogether. I started avoiding them, but sometimes the album has the only version available, and if you’ve gotta hear that song, you’ve gotta play the LP.

Randy Muller, probably better known for his project Brass Construction, is also behind Skyy, with production, arrangement, flute, keyboard, and percussion credits, as well as writing credits for a number of the cuts on the self-titled album, including “First Time Around.” Muller also did most of the arrangements for the B.T. Express LP Do It (’Til You’re Satisfied), from which we’ll hear a cut in the late 400s with “Give Up the Funk.” I recommend the long-form Wax Poetics piece on Muller from Andrew Mason, so much so that I won’t bore you with extracts here. Muller is still around, too, as of this writing, in case you want to check him out on Facebook.

Before I checked, I would have predicted there to be at least one tune from Chicago-based Captain Sky on this list, but there isn’t. This is something I’ll have to rectify in the compilation of the second list. Regardless, Captain Sky is unrelated to the New York-based Skyy of No. 248, so who cares? I like the way you do it when you do it. I like the way you do it; wanna do it one more time? That free bass intro will make you feel like your whole world’s on fire.