UE.39: Cedric Woo
For a selector like Cedric Woo, the old adage “It’s not just the records you play, it’s the way you play them” rings true.
My first encounter with Cedric came during last month’s heralded Houghton Festival. Already a couple of days into proceedings, the energy in our group had dipped a little so we turned to the warm and elegant environs of the Brilliant Corners yurt, in search of inspiration and somewhere to replenish leg juice. Far more than just a stop-gap, this diversion would turn out to be our highlight of the weekend.
On entering, the sounds of percussive roots music reverberated around the amber-hued tent and between the swaying mass of loose, mellow, yet utterly absorbed bodies. Warmth in people, temperature and sound emanated from the room; we’d found what we were looking for and had been met with a vibe that stopped us fully in our tracks. We slinked our way to the front in search of immersion from the impeccable Klipschorn speakers that punctuated the booth, by now pushing out the sounds of vintage US house from Larry Heard and Blaze with a soft yet firm resonance. The man behind the rotaries, playing each record in its entirety yet with a remarkable sense of continuation between every transition, was Cedric Woo.
Unwittingly, we’d just fallen hook, line and sinker for the Beauty And The Beat vibe. Run by Cedric and friends Cyril Cornet and Jem, BATB is a party in the vein of the New York and London loft parties first inspired by the likes of David Mancuso, Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy and their globe-trotting acolytes. It describes itself as “a full-on, freeform, no-limits, psychedelic dance party”, with a wide-spanning music policy and analogue sound system more evocative of a house party than a club. Lo and behold, we found ourselves in the midst at the very next instalment at Total Refreshment Centre.
Let’s be absolutely clear here, we’re extremely late to the party on this one. BATB has already been running for over twelve years and this fascinating and comprehensive retelling of the party’s origins and history to date is well worth a read. But the ethos behind the party is a simple two-pronged concept: superior sound quality and an unwavering focus on the vibe above all else. There’s very little in the way of technical trickery behind the decks. Only rarely is so much as a filter employed, and even then just for a passing moment, and you’re just as hard pressed to hear much in the way of beatmatching. It’s a party for dancing, plain and simple. It’s a party that throws out all the noise, hype and distraction from modern day clubbing, and replaces it with an emotive, introspective selection of worldly rhythms, all played at a natural pace for their mature, sexy, diverse and sartorially tuned-in audience.
“I think that very often the music we play combines a sense of rhythmic density and relative complexity with a degree of accessibility and melody…but this isn’t a fixed rule” (Jem, BATB)
Cedric and BATB may hark back to a lost era in dance music, but it’s one that’s clearly in high demand – they typically pack out whichever venue they’re visiting way before midnight – amongst the dearth of decent venues, and the prevalence of appalling sound quality and flat, uninspiring programming in London today. So when, like Cedric, you’ve been mentored by the great Mancuso himself, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to have much time for subpar nightlife.
Originally from Clermont-Ferrand, a small university city just outside of Lyon, Cedric’s move to London on the turn of the millennium saw him co-found the VOICES collective, a similarly multifarious event that ended up at Plastic People with guests like Daniel Wang and Victor Rosado. He’s since been a participant at the 2005 Red Bull Music Academy in Seattle, become involved with the Brilliant Corners gang – a likeminded audiophilic crew within which he appears to have found a home – and most recently appeared on Boiler Room alongside tropical outfits Flamingods and Meridian Brothers. And just in case you thought it was only about the music, he’s also a champion triathlete and ironman. All about that balance!
We’re honoured to host here a magnificent two hour recording of Cedric’s set from the last Beauty And The Beat, earlier in September at Total Refreshment Centre – and it’s really quite the journey. From percussive West African workouts to blistering Brazilian boogie, jazz that ranges from the smooth to the spiritual, golden era disco to Latin lamentations, all the way through to early house and breaks, there’s such variety that one can only really group them together as ‘physical’ music. Bring your dancin’ shoes.
João Cirilo – Po D’Terra
Gal Costa – Relance
Rabo De Saia – Ripa Na Xulipa (Extended Charles Maurice Version)
Mamba Percussions – Samba
Don Cunningham Quartet – Tabu
The Sahib Shihab Quintet – Seeds
Nat Adderley Septet – K. High
Kasra V – Fantasy
T.P.O. – Punk Inc. (Hiroshi’s Dub)
Lord Of the Isles – Sunrise 89
Young Wolf – Kabuki (Spiritual Version)
Leonidas & Hobbes – Heavy Weather (Balearic Acid Mix)
Mr Fingers – Can You Feel It
Rah Band – Messages From the Start
Peter Hunningale – Untamed Dub
Stevie Wonder – Love Light In Flight
Blindboy – I Dream
Mickey Hart – Island Groove
Maria Rita – Lamento Africano / Rictus
Sanzah – Sounouh
African Vibration – Hinde
Junior Murvin – Jack Slick
Alton Ellis – Ain’t That Loving You
Eric Brouta – Machine A Lanmou
Arnold Blair – Finally Made It Home
Image credits: Miguel Echeverria