Walter Gibbons - Jungle Music LP

(Strut Records, 2010)


Gibbons, known as "the DJ's DJ" for his bass- and drum-heavy re-edits on New York's club scene, was given Jakki's "Sun...Sun...Sun" 7-inch release for early remix treatment. In his hands, three-and-a-half minutes of quirky disco cheeriness became almost ten of dramatic peaks and valleys, crudely scotch-taped together with a child-like lack of modesty or inhibition. 

Gibbons mirrored Kool Herc's progression, purchasing two copies of the same record to flawlessly beat-juggle short intros on belt-drive turntables. He recorded and razored reel-to-reel breaks, and played edits so seamless they felt like natural progressions of the original tracks.

The first half of Jungle Music witnesses Gibbons pushing the envelope within the confines of Salsoul requirements, while accidentally laying down the foundations for genre offshoots. The dense arrangement of "Get Up On Your Feet" by TC James & The Fist O'Funk Orchestra is splayed out, providing wormholes for a shape-shifting synths, cosmic guitar noodling and a proto-house kick drum, all forming a flawless arrangement that surely left an impression on his sometime live drummer, Francois Kevorkian. 

The second disc marks Gibbons' deterioration, physically (moving to Seattle, seeking sets at celebrity haunts like Studio 54), mentally (becoming a fervent born again Christian, rejecting the music he loved on grounds of morality), and personally (wrestling with his sexuality and contracting AIDS). He returned to New York, but abandoned his partially completed remix of Instant Funk's "I Got My Mind Made Up," leaving Levan to pick up the slack and find his greatest-ever anthem. 

Even so, Gibbons still managed to find his ground, making the latter half of this collection the richer of the two. Arthur Russell sought him out for collaboration, resulting in his seminal take on "Go Bang" and, what will be the pearl here for many, an unreleased mix of Russell's "See Though Love," which turns a haunting elegy of cello, voice and reverb, into a stunning early example of chilly minimalistic electronics. 

This excellent collection should go some way towards rightfully restoring Gibbons to the ranks of his contemporaries Levan, Moulton and Mancuso, and will hopefully introduce the new wave of disco fans to the man whose music was always a valentine to the most pure moment of dance floor abandon.