Having long been a fan of those rare early moments when acoustic soul and jazz turned towards the electronic, I've enjoyed glimpses in the 1970s-era work of Sly Stone, Herbie Hancock, Timmy Thomas, Stevie Wonder, Shuggie Otis, and Gil Scott-Heron, and of course the many projects associated with Prince throughout the '80s, before the soulful bedroom producer became a kind of norm by the '90s. When I first heard about this compilation more than five years ago, a Dante Carfagna-curated collection of D.I.Y. private-press black electronic soul from the 1970s and '80s, I was hooked, and Personal Space is by far one of the best and most compelling comps that we've had on our shelves in a long time. Carfagna is a legendary crate digger, DJ, archivist and writer (an editor at Wax Poetics), who also compiled Midwest Funk, Chains & Black Exhaust and a few releases for the Numero Group. On Personal Space he pulls gems out from the depths of garage-sale soul. The only name that some may recognize is Jeff Phelps, whose two tracks here are also on his recently reissued LPMagnetic Eyes (Tomlab). This Texas bedroom producer created four-track, drum machine soul that merged rap, new wave, and industrial elements into an outsider odyssey that has been name-dropped by Dam-Funk and Nite Jewel.
All seventeen of these nuggets create a needed exploration of the black American electronic outsider world that existed far away from the discos, bars, clubs, airwaves, and major labels, mainly just an inspired person with a simple home recording studio, a good idea for a song, and a few bucks to get it pressed on vinyl. These are beautiful, weird, raw and wonderful recorded moments of the black experience in funky experimentation from Newark, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Cleveland, Cincinnati, L.A., and Princeton across a ten-year period, from 1974-1984. I could go into detail about the standout moments, but honestly every second of the whole damn thing is worth talking about, so I'll leave it at this: any fan of Minimal Wave (the label and the genre), Numero's funky discography, freestyle, boogie, electro, new wave, early hip-hop, the history of the drum machine, or modern outsider music, do yourself a favor and buy yourself two copies, you'll no doubt wear one of them out. An all around hit at the store, and the beauty of these songs can't be overstated. Honestly, recommended for everyone.
-Daniel Givens (May 10, 2012)
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