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LA-4A’s top 10 record digging finds

Dive deep into the stories behind some of the producer’s prized record collection.

Kevin McHugh is an artist of immense depth. His back-story reads like that of a musical polymath, from his time as a DIY-inspired teenage Fugazi fan in Washington DC, before running his own parties and booking shows in New York for Mos Def, Sonic Youth, Mogwai, then moving to Berlin in 2004 to help Richie Hawtin build the first Plastikman live show, using his knowledge of technology and audio-visual installations. It was after that McHugh took on production, first as the minimal-inflected Ambivalent, and then as LA-4A to create raw machine-based acid and techno that fosters the no bullshit sentiment of his early days in the DC punk scene.

Only first putting the LA-4A alias to use in 2013 when he launched the “roots techno” focussed Delft imprint, McHugh has since crafted a certified floor anthem in ‘Invader’ (a favourite in sets of Mike Servito, Gerd Janson, Erol Alkan and Bicep) and has released music on Delft from Matrixxman, Vernon Felicity, Alden Tyrell, Vin Sol and JPLS.

McHugh’s first album as LA-4A, Phonautograph, dropped earlier this month, and is undoubtedly the apex of his work under that title. Profoundly personal, the LP incorporates a multitude of tempos and motifs, skirting techno ambience, searing electro and more experimental numbers. There’s one common thread however – the fantasies of futurism sparked by the hardware of 1980s techno. As McHugh explains: “Now that the devices in our pocket have more technology than entire studios once had, and our present day abilities are beyond the imaginations of that era, I feel the need to embrace the simultaneous obsolescence and relevance of these tools. The tracks on the album are all inspired by technologies that helped create a ‘tomorrow’, but were quickly obsolete by the time that tomorrow arrived.”

McHugh’s DJ sets are also a spectacle to behold, weaving through a number of styles, and informed by his voracious musical appetite. An avid digger, he’s been kind enough to take us through the stories behind 10 of the most prized records in his extensive collection, as well as providing his own pictures and Discogs links to boot. Sit back and make some time, you’ll want to get through the whole of this…

1. Jacktripper – LaSalle Trax Vol 2 – Jack

LaSalle-Trax

I found this and the Vol 1 in a crate in Detroit. Jack Tripper is a Canadian guy, and I remember hearing about him from Hawtin. When I found these I had been looking for about 4 or 5 years already, one of those things where you don’t even need to listen, you just bring it to the register with sweaty palms like you’ve won the lottery and can’t imagine all the ways life will be different after this moment. The track ‘Godzuki’ is just menacing and unlike anything else.

2. Underground Resistance – The Return of Acid Rain – UR

Acid_Rain

No one can overstate the immense impact that Underground Resistance has had in electronic music. They are synonymous with techno, and calling them an influence would almost feel arrogant – they are an influence to everyone, whether they know it or not. LA-4A has obviously been steered in some ways by UR, though not always consciously. Acid Rain is an example of a UR record that just takes no prisoners – Detroit acid funk, electro, banging drums and 303s. I would die to make a record like this one day. Absolute legends.

3. Drexciya – Aquatic Invasion – UR

Drexciya

On the UR tip, I can’t miss out on mentioning Drexciya. These records have a massive hold on me. This is one I caught in Japan and actually traded for some LA-4A records, which felt like such an incredible full circle for me. There is a lot of Drexciya influence in my latest LA-4A album, but I don’t know if anyone can ever reach the level of brilliance in these records.

4. DJ Power Out – Serge EP – Geometric

DJ_Power_Out

I picked this up at Main Records in Offenbach. The guys there have become friends, as I pass through any time I’m in the area. It’s a fairly regular occurrence that I’ll drop in and spend several hours there on my way to a gig nearby. This is one of the many things I’ve found. It’s this awesome blend of Chicago house and techno, which I would say is a terrain LA-4A tries to balance as well. This record is slamming and ravey, but funky and bouncy at the same time. It feels like Damon Wild and DJ Funk made a record together. ‘Hangover’ is a track that just keeps climbing, and it drives crowds wild.

5. House of Gypsies – Sume Sigh Say – Inhouse

House_of_Gypsies

This one has a good story attached. Many years ago, Magda had a residency at a club in New York called Open Air. She would invite friends of hers to come DJ and I was playing once, an early slot. A guy came up to the booth at one point and said “hey that guy over there wants to buy your records”. I politely said they’re not for sale, and I’m busy playing them anyway. He kept pressing, “that’s Todd Terry and the airline just lost all his records on the way back from Ibiza, he likes your tunes and wants to buy them.” I said, please tell him I am a fan, but I can’t part with my records. I’ll gladly write down all the titles and he can find them at Dance Tracks down the street.” Three weeks later a package of InHouse records showed up at my door, and this is one of them. He really didn’t need to send those, but I am always impressed and grateful that he did.

6. Various Artists – Acido 001

Acido_001

In 2004 I was living in Berlin and I would try to pick up things I knew I couldn’t get in New York. I hadn’t heard of Dynamo Dreesen, but there was this absolutely mental Peter Grummich track, and it just seemed like a really fun group of artists. Since then I have picked up every Acido release I can find when they come out. I tend to have a lot of 001 records, and later realised that the label has grown into something really cool, like Studio Barnhus or Avian or Dystopian. That’s the beauty of record shopping. Buying something just because it’s nice music and following those artists as they grow is just part of the deal.

7. Westside Box Savants – Panzerkreuz 1006-1

Panzerkreuz

Westside Box Savants is another Danny Wolfers / Legowelt alias and they’re mostly dope acid house rhythm tracks made with his arsenal of hardware. Panzerkreuz is a sub-label of the Dutch label Bunker, who are responsible for so many of the inspirations behind Delft. I love a good old-school rhythm track, especially a nasty 808. These are low-fi and dirty and noisy and not always necessarily banging, but they are great tools to knit together parts of a DJ set.

8. Elektro Music Department – Anti-Establishment 02 – Italic

Italic

Kotai is a major influence, no question. His acidic stuff is so raw, and he always has this really punk attitude in everything. This is one of his aliases, Elektro Music Department. There’s a B2 track on here that is one of the sexiest, trippiest most all-time minimal tracks I have ever heard. I absolutely love it, and every time I get a (rare) chance to play it, someone turns their head sideways and approaches the booth to ask about it.

9. Fuzz Face – Far Out – Communique

Fuzz Face

This record is a classic of US acid techno. The guys who make up Fuzz Face – Woody McBride and DJ Hyperactive – are patron saints of the midwest rave scene, and Communique was one of the labels that put out many classics of that era. I remember knowing this from an old mixtape somewhere and when I found it, and a few other Communique records, I bugged out. Sadly, this is only one half of a double-pack, and I would rather pay the Iron Price than the current Discogs price, so I’ll have to keep digging.

10. Out of the Ordinary – Play It Again Remix – ZYX

Out_of_the_Ordinary_Remix

I love the sticker: “Der Oberhammer” (like saying “the ultimate bomb”)!! This is a super strange late-80s bootleg mega-mix edit I found in a used bin in Germany. These sorts of DJ tools were popular back before sampling and intellectual property laws caught up with things. It uses a loop of Liasons Dangereuses ‘Ninos Del Parque’ with a bunch of samples of acid classics like Phuture and Wee Papa Girls plus some freestyle jams like ‘AEIOU’. It’s a secret weapon, but it’s one of those edits that could use another edit. Maybe when I have time I’ll try to take out the pruning shears and shape it a bit.

Phonautograph is out now on Delft. Grab it on digital and vinyl.

Featured image: Lars Borges