LEFT OF THE DIAL LABEL LAUNCH with BASIC SOUL UNIT , JASON ULRICH and MOONSTARR at Supermarket (268 Augusta), Friday (March 18). $5. www.dorightmusic.com. Rating: NNNNN
Toronto's place in the dance music world is a bit odd. We're known for our disproportionately large party scene, where even the most obscure subgenre has some kind of audience, in some cases larger than in the city of its origin. Unfortunately, these numbers haven't been reflected in the quantity of dance music actually being made here. But in the past few years there's been a surge of new labels, and one of the highlights is John Kong's Do Right Music.
Like Toronto, it's a mishmash of styles and cultures, and its specific identity is pretty hard to pin down. Even so, Kong felt there was a more electronic and DJ-oriented style that needed its own forum, so he's created the sub-label Left of the Dial, whose inaugural release will be a 12-inch by Basic Soul Unit (aka Stuart Li), who recently started his production career with Iwanai Music's debut release in 2003, as well as its most recent.
"I really like what Stuart is doing, because it's hard to define - I can't really pin it down, which is what Left of the Dial is about," Kong explains while the three of us sit in the back of Supermarket, where he's the musical director. "Left of the Dial refers to the radio dial, the college radio stations. It applies here, but I don't know about anywhere else in the world. To me, this is a Toronto label, and it has to reflect that.
"College radio was pretty much the only radio influence on underground dance music, and still is. There's no commercial radio support for it, really," adds Li as he sips his tea.
The Oceans EP won't get on official release until April, but the promos will be out this weekend, so you'll probably be hearing it soon. On this record, Li shows more of his Detroit techno influence, though it's still very much rooted in deep house. It's melodic but still minimal and beat-oriented.
I also got a sneak peek at what will be Left of the Dial's second release later on this year, a quirky jazz-techno single by the extremely prolific and underrated Stephane Vera. Kong fell in love with the tracks when Vera sent them out in one his occasional e-mails to his contacts - one of those spam lists none of us minds being on.