Discogs is working with RE:VIVE and Red Light Radio in Amsterdam, following renowned DJs as they mix together a selection from one the biggest record collections in The Netherlands. RE:VIVE is an initiative from The Netherlands Institute For Sound and Vision that brings archives and musicians together to create new productions inspired by old collections. You can read a full account of our exploration of Sound and Vision’s archive here. This write up is based on a conversation I had with Kléo right after her set.
Parisian Clélia Zida, AKA Kléo, has been manning the bar and programming the music at Amsterdam’s Café Belgique since she finished art school. It’s a pretty old school café in that they only have turntables (no CDJs) and the only way to know who’s playing that week is to check the back door of the bathroom upstairs. There are a lot of vinyl heads in Amsterdam so she manages to arrange a wide array of selectors. “We’re always open for anyone to play at Belgique. It should feel like a café, it should fee approachable.” This sentiment also comes through her style as a DJ and in everything we spoke about when exploring Sound and Vision’s 300,000 records.
“I was always into music, although in the beginning I was buying mostly CDs, I would buy them from the local CD store. I never started DJing until much later. When I was studying art I had no time, no space, no budget – no nothing. It would have been impossible even to think about it. I barely had a room and even then I had to move every 6 months, ‘Amsterdam style’”. Having just joined the roster of artists at Wilde Artists she plays gigs pretty regularly now, although she stuck with the physical formats of music. “I don’t use any streaming services, I only really listen to my records. I listen to mixes online but that’s really it for digital. I only play with vinyl as well, no CDJs.”
When I asked her about why she doesn’t play anything digital she says she simply never learned how. “I learned to play with turntables, and I buy records because I like to go to stores and to dig, and I guess that’s just what I’m the most comfortable with.” She says friends have tried to get her into CDJs but she finds it all too complicated, it’s not her comfort zone, which is where she likes to be.
Since her boyfriend is also a DJ, her house is literally full of records. “Right now we’re in the middle of reorganising our records because the libraries are full, so there are a lot of piles on the floor! Basically it’s just growing all around the libraries. Lately I’ve noticed I’ll just have like five piles on the floor, which are basically just five of my bags, and these are the ones in my hands and I’m busy with these records so I just keep switching them around. But then I don’t go back to my library for a while, and then when I go back I’m like whoah shit I have this!?. But it’s fine, just being busy with one thing at a time, you know. And it’s always nice to rediscover your own stuff. I like that too.”
Clélia still does a lot of digging though. “I dig mostly in stores but, but also some online digging. I use Discogs to find stuff I don’t have from a label or artist I like. I’ll go through the whole catalog because I’ll keep hearing stuff about a label or I’ll have one track I like, and you think maybe there’s more of this, you know. And then you’re going to go and dig for it.” She’s never counted her own collection, but assumes there must be at least a couple of thousand in there. “Nothing like this though” she says scanning the Sound and Vision archive. “This place is incredible, I think it’s really important to archive stuff. A lot of the stuff I found in here is classic music and belongs to be in an archive. It will be classic in 200 years still and I hope someone has a copy of it.”
For this mix it was impossible to take the obsessive compulsive route of checking every release from an artist or label, 300,000 records is just too many to go through. I asked her what her approach was; “I just hit the shelves. I’m quite organic in my approach, I really try to go with the feeling. It’s important to me to be intuitive. I don’t think too much about this stuff basically. I don’t want to. I just want to keep going my direction and see how it goes. The most important thing to do is to look for the music that you like. Not everybody’s going to like it but hey that’s how it is, you know?”. She did come with a bit of an idea of what she was looking for, she even printed out her Discosg Wantlist and asked the archivists to check their digital register to see if anything matched. “I was also hoping there would be a lot of releases from The Netherlands, labels like Injection Disco Dance Label, but actually it’s a really big mix in here.” In the end she just followed her ears. “The possibilities here were just so wide, there was so much variety in the archive. I just had to stick to what I know as a DJ. Certain grooves that I like; basically what I would buy myself or play in a set. Otherwise I would have gotten lost in here.”
The first record she brought to the table was This Is The Place by T-R-P, released on MG Records, a Belgian dance label specialising in New Beat and Acid House that was very active for a brief period in the late 80s. Thierry, Ronald and Peter (T-R-P), only released a few other records together, but were all heavily involved the technical production of a lot of Belgian Europop and Euro House. “You can hear in the track that I played from this one that these guys had access to some pretty serious gear”. The classic Acid House combo of a Roland TB-303 and a TR-606 will be familiar to most, but New Beat is a little more niche. It was quite specific to the Belgian club scene from around 1987 and into 1990, with its greatest popularity in 1988 and 1989, right when MG Records was releasing. It typically has a slower beat than later club music, just like the ‘Dance Mix’ Kléo played here. According to the Discogs Reference Wiki, New Beat had a significant, reciprocal influence on the stabby, buzzy ‘rave’ aesthetic in Techno music, and influences from New Beat evolved into the foundation of trance music (e.g. Age of Love’s “The Age of Love” and Revelation’s “First Power”/”Synth-It”).
“1982, 1983 – these are my bingo years!” She says pointing at Laurice Hudson’s Feel My Love. “I can’t really explain why but for me a lot of stuff I find from these years is just right, you know? The sound is right, the vocals are right, the grooves are right. It’s out of the Disco sound of the 70s so it has this feeling of a turn in it. It comes right out of the 70s but there’s something already starting to shift in the arrangement, and even in the vocals, that’s starting to go towards where Electronic music ended up.” This release will fetch a handsome sum on Discogs if you’re one of the lucky few to own a copy. “I already knew it, it’s a bit of a classic in some circles. It’s not that rare but also not that well known, it’s just one of my favourite Boogie tracks.” She’s quick to mention that for her playing records is not about rarity. “It’s also nice to shed light on things that are just classic dance records, hits from other eras that have been a bit forgotten about. They are also classic and they now belong in an archive, as well as the rarities.”
The last record she showed me was a UK pressing of Do You Know Who You Are? by US duo Virgo.“I knew the instrumental version of this one, it’s pretty well known, but I’ve never heard the vocal mix. Like the other stuff it just has that feel, but here there’s something vulnerable and sensitive to it as well. It’s not all locked together, it’s really organic. That’s what I like, organic feeling dance music.”
Thanks a lot to the team at Sound and Vision for holding on to all these records for so many years, and for opening the vaults to let us all have a peek. And thanks to all the Discogs Contributors that catalogued the releases, artists and labels mentioned throughout this series. Without you we wouldn’t be able to connect the dots. There’s always more music to catalog so if you have anything in your personal collection that’s not yet on Discogs, add it to the Database so everyone can find it.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.