Words by Rafe Arnott (Q&A contributions by Silvia Gin), all photography by Silvia Gin unless otherwise noted. Image above: Jeremy Gilbert, one of the founders of Beauty and The Beat, enjoys a laugh with his two daughters while spinning vinyl at their London home.
This article is made possible through the support of Audio Note UK. Their assistance in enabling non-mainstream, high-fidelity journalism is key to Resistor Mag publishing the stories it does.
The act of playing back music has been happening since primitive man could recognize rhythm in the beating of their own hearts and tap out its approximation for entertainment. A beat is chromosomal by nature – it's why our species history is closely intertwined with using them through the ages. Whether it was setting tempo for oarsmen to achieve ramming speed on a Grecian Trireme, the accompaniment of ceremonies around birth, death and marriage in African tribal rituals, or encouraging a throng of bodies to move on a dance floor – the beat has shaped our history in myriad, complex patterns for thousands of years. Not the least of which is a private party started in New York City in the '70s which became known around the world as The Loft, and over the last five decades spawned countless imitators and spin-offs, but only a handful of anointed successors. One of these being London, England’s Beauty and The Beat, whose history and story transposes an unlikely arc of audiophiles and all-night dance parties successfully intersecting and is the subject of this first instalment in a Limited Series on music culture.
This utilization of a beat, a rhythm – an emotional dialogue through music and lyrics – has been responsible for setting people’s bodies and minds in motion as long as there has been language. The advent of the radio or recording onto wax cylinders was the beginning of democratizing what was once an in-person, one-time only event. The playback of recorded music revolutionized the listening experience and turned it into something which could be shared after the fact. The sounds of big bands and swing rode the waves of amplitude modulation in the ‘30s and ‘40s, then as the vinyl record became standard, turntables and the seven-inch album brought youth together to worship at the altar of the jukebox through the ’50s. With the widespread implementation of frequency modulation, the mastering and pressing of the LP, and the ascendancy of rock in the ‘60s and ‘70s, a new mode of listening was established: high fidelity.
Photos above: Left – Mancuso in an undated photo, circa early '70s. Right – 647 Broadway; the home of Mancuso's first parties. Images courtesy unknown/nyclgbtsites.
Over the years, advances in consumer hi-fi technology (turntables, receivers, amplifiers, speakers, etc.) allowed music lovers (or gear heads) to acquire sound systems that previously would have been the sole domain of recording engineers and broadcast professionals. And while underground parties and clubs had been around for several ages by the late ‘60s, off-the-shelf equipment that sounded better than clubs of the time accelerated the blurring of lines between commercial dance venues and personal entertainment spaces. Oddly, few seemed to be using high-fidelity gear to fill dance floors on purpose. Clubs at the start of the ‘70s featured sound systems (and attitudes towards sexual orientation, race and socio-economic standing) that left something to be desired for many with lifestyles invested in the scene. People like New York City antiques dealer, music lover, record collector and audiophile David Mancuso, for example.
While it wouldn't be disingenuous to suggest it was dissatisfaction with the quality of sound, negative stereotypes and societal status quo of popularized discotheques that led the 25-year-old Mancuso to send out 36 invitations to a private party at 647 Broadway on Valentine’s Day, 1970, the reality was far more practical: he needed money to pay the rent for his Manhattan loft. This wasn’t the first time Mancuso had held parties in the space, that had been going on for years since he first took the lease around 1965, but things were tight, so out went the hat. The rent party, popularized in pre-WWII Harlem, (music, dancing and a monetary donation for the host to satisfy the landlord) contained all the elements required to achieve critical mass for what would eventually become The Loft. That first rent gig Mancuso christened Love Saves the Day – as both a nod to the 14th’s Saint, and a tongue-in-cheek reference to what the punch might have been spiked with – was the genesis for him developing a recurring space where everyone was equal; sex, politics, money, age – it didn’t matter. The common denominator was music and dancing.
The crowd was a rich mix of classes, colours, and sexual tastes with two key things in common: they were hard-core dancers and they were utterly devoted to the Loft. Their high spirits preserved the Loft’s house party atmosphere and helped establish its reputation.”
– Vince Aletti, Village Voice, 1975
Photo above: Studio 54 in the mid '70s. Image courtesy NYPost.
Born out of wedlock during WWII and raised in a Utica orphanage until he was five, Mancuso carried lessons in spirituality from those years with him for the rest of his life. It was after all, a nun at the orphanage who shaped his ethos for throwing a party. Sister Alicia was the one who would engage Mancuso and the other children with activities centred around food, treats, balloons, dancing and playing records on a turntable… hallmarks of The Loft. In fact, it’s been noted Mancuso considered himself less a DJ than musical conductor. Many first-timers to his parties were surprised at what a simple affair it all was. No alcohol, hundreds of balloons for decor and often, children running around the dance floor. But it was a simple message of happiness and acceptance that Mancuso was endorsing, a message based on those formative orphanage parties, and one many connected with at a time rife with violent pushback to the Vietnam war, domestic civil rights chaos, and a feeling that the light of hope the ’60s had lit was waning fast. The importance of Mancuso throwing that initial rent party, and its subsequent occurrences is of no small import to the social designs of freedom and inclusivity that formed within disco, house and deep house. The Loft influenced clubs Studio 54 and Paradise Garage, inspired DJs David Morales, Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles to push socio-music boundaries… Love Saves the Day was a defining moment in the flow of history for global dance culture.
Why this was so unique and became so celebrated, first in NYC and then Chicago, Detroit, London, Paris, Tokyo, etc., probably had to do with the fact that breaking down sexual, racial and class barriers to create a safe space, coupled with a fetishist-level fixation on sound quality had never been mixed with dance music culture. Of course, clubs were loud and a place would shake with bass, but the level of nuance, transparency, presence and texture offered by Mancuso’s tube amplifiers, AR turntables and Klipschorn loudspeakers offered aural discoveries hitherto unknown for many ears. Ron Trent, a Chicago DJ and producer who befriended Mancuso in the ‘90s described his sonic efforts in an interview as being driven by “what [David] would call 'the historical image,’ where you could actually 'see' everything," said Trent. "David's perspective was trying to get you to walk into ... the studio session while they're making the song." Also, Mancuso wasn’t spinning typical fare for the club scene. His ability to subtly navigate the night’s musical energy patterns mixing experimental electronic, ambient, jazz and world music with floor-filling dance albums was the stuff of legend, and he always maintained the music played must be soulful, rhythmic, and impart words of hope, redemption, or pride.
Photo above: Cedric Lassonde (far left), and Cyril Cornet (third from right) with part of the BATB crew of friends who have helped make the party happen for 15 years. Brothers Aneesh (second from left) and Amit Patel (second from right) run London's slow-music mecca Brilliant Corners, the Giant Steps travelling sound system, and the Idle Moments shop (vinyls/audio equipment/rare wines and drinks). Image courtesy Miguel Echeverria.
It was the shared realization of The Loft gestalt that 33 years later brought together three figures who would end up carrying the torch Mancuso had lit decades earlier. Cyril Cornet, Jeremy Gilbert and Cedric Lassonde pooled their intellectual, musical and social talents to start what would become one of London’s longest-running and storied dance parties – Beauty and The Beat – in June, 2005. Prior to formally connecting with one another in 2003, the three had intersected in shared music culture circles in, and around, London – unwittingly mapping a Venn diagram of sorts before finally meeting on the dance floor at one of the London Loft parties Mancuso was hosting. This English offshoot had started in 2001 as part of an LP launch for UK label Nuphonic that – with help from former Loft co-host and close Mancuso friend, protégé, and artistic collaborator Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy – had produced two compilation albums titled David Mancuso Presents: The Loft. It was this experience which in turn led Murphy, Gilbert and celebrated music-culture author Tim Lawrence to kickstart another long-running London dance party – Lucky Cloud Sound System.
“By the time the crew around those parties had evolved into Lucky Cloud Sound System,” wrote Gilbert, “the three of us were ready to put on a night of our own. The house parties were just getting too big for our houses. We were also learning enough from David Mancuso about the fine art of hi-fi audio to try to put those lessons into practice.” Gilbert related it was a lengthy process, “…For me personally that first BATB party came at the end of possibly the toughest six months of my life. I had ended up with responsibility for putting together the sound system for Lucky Cloud. The Lucky Cloud/London Loft parties having started in 2003. In late 2004 we (Tim, Colleen and myself) decided that we would take the plunge, borrow a load of money, and buy our own sound system instead of hiring in commercial club systems as we had been doing. As I say, I had ended up with the job of putting together the system for Lucky Cloud, having to go from knowing nothing to being something of an audio-expert in a very short space of time, with David trying to explain to me some difficult concepts that he understood intuitively and intimately, but wasn’t always able to get me to understand using mere language. [He was] staying at my house for several days at a time when the London Loft parties started, and he knew exactly what he was doing. He would get out his bits of audiophile kit and plug them into my home system and blow my mind with them, and very quickly he’d got me hooked.”
Photo above: Gilbert using an Isonoe ISO420 rotary mixer and a pair of Technics 1200 MKII turntables fitted with Jelco tonearms at a BATB venue before the pandemic hit. "There are weeks when I don’t have a lot of mental space for music at all and others when I’m thinking about it for several hours each day." Image courtesy Miguel Echeverria.
Gilbert equated these experiences as essential in preparing Cornet, Lassonde and himself for properly organizing their own event, which became less idea and more fact when the three jointly purchased some serious hardware. “We helped Cyril to purchase a pair of Klipschorn speakers like those used at the New York, London and Japanese Loft parties,” wrote Gilbert, adding “Cyril getting this pair of speakers really seemed to symbolize and concretize the possibility of us doing some kind of party of our own, as he was the first to realize clearly.” Sadly, Mancuso passed away in November, 2016, but his energy, perspective and focus on what matters to truly make a party successful is hard-wired into Beauty and The Beat. Despite not being able to host the party since 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions, Cornet, Gilbert and Lassonde are as energized as ever to keep the beat going, to keep people moving and continue the party started by Mancuso with those 36 invitations on that cold, February day in 1970 so long ago.
The following is a Q&A with Cyril Cornet, Jeremy Gilbert and Cedric Lassonde, founders of Beauty and The Beat. Thanks to BATB cohort and photographer Silvia Gin for making it happen.
Resistor Mag: Why is making people dance/move important to each of you?
Cedric Lassonde: “Dancing is ingrained in us really, it’s something we’ve always been doing. For me personally it’s been a way of life for nearly three decades (bar the recent lockdown times), be it as a dancer on the floor, as a host behind the decks – or both – that culminated in a 10 year period (the ‘00s) during which there were parties every single weekend, often more than one, with half of these being house parties. The constant strive for quality communal dancing is really what has come to define me, Beauty And The Beat, and the extended community around us. Most if not all of my friends I have met through music and dancing. Jem (Jeremy), would be much better than I to go deeper into this, but it’s a historical fact that people everywhere have been gathering to dance together for millennia, it’s part of human nature, a visceral social need.
“Epiphanies of all kinds can happen on a dance-floor, from a strictly musical point of view (like getting lost in a record despite having heard it hundreds of times before) to moments of collective euphoria. It’s a cheesy thing to say, but there really are moments when you believe you can change the world, like when tracks such as “Promised Land,” “A Love Supreme” or “Truth and Rights” are dropped at exactly the right time. And there aren’t many more powerful experiences in life than the connections made on the dance floor. Not only with the music being played, but also with the people around you simultaneously sharing the same experience. It’s a cosmic thing really. Life doesn’t get much better than finding yourself on the sweet spot at the Loft dancing to "Keep On" with your mates, which is something the three of us have done together dozens of times. That’s why we do what we do.”
Cyril Cornet: “I’m not sure we make people dance. People decide to tune in, participate and bring their energy to the party. It’s more like an invitation to dance. Movement, dance, is a way to connect mind and body, it can be very empowering. Bring this to a collective level and that experience can become a life-changing experience. Being able to facilitate this is a way to give back what we all got from living such moments. It’s humbling really.”
Photo above: Cornet at his home, “[Music is] a relationship that has become more complex over the years (like good wine). I often have fun trying to match a soundtrack with every moment in life. When it works, it is very much joy inducing – in a Deleuzian way. Same on the dance floor, when the music fits the moment."
Jeremy Gilbert: “Yeah, I wouldn’t put it in terms of making people do anything. It’s important to us to enable people to do it: To create the opportunity and offer a space and share the music that affects us so powerfully. It’s about sharing something, and creating the opportunity for other people to share it with us and with each other. On some level there is a sense that this is a particular vocation for us. There are lots of ways that people can be brought together, can be given opportunities for collective joy and physical sociality. But the particular records that we play are often ones that nobody else is going to play, and which can only be played properly on a system like ours. If we don’t do this then nobody else will, and it’s important that it happens.”
Silvia Gin: What are your most important memories related to music?
Cedric Lassonde: “As a teenager it was probably a gig at the Zenith in Paris (on the 21st of March 1996, I’ve just checked) with the holy trinity of Stereolab, Beck and Sonic Youth. At the time this was the ultimate experience for me and my mates who literally grew up on these artists. We drove from Clermont to Paris and back after the gig, four hours both ways, that’s how excited we were. In retrospect this gig kind of closed a chapter for me, as I started to move away from indie rock and electronica shortly after, and to get more into the Great Black Music as well as global grooves and music fusions of all kinds.
“A few years later, in New York City, early 2000, I was taken along as a guest to a party organized by Loft members – a party which turned out to be a game changer. It was in a recording studio in Chelsea with a top sound system, top acoustics, friendly people and incredible dancers. The music was a mixture of Loft classics, from Fela’s “Upside Down” to Prince’s “Sexy Muthafucker” and a whole bunch of others I didn’t know at the time. It was my first deep LSD experience, and I still get goose bumps remembering the way I heard “City Country City” that day. I just had never experienced music on such a deep level before, and there was clearly no way back after that.”
Photos above: Left: Gilbert on organizing records – "At any one time I usually have about two full boxes of ‘new’ records that I haven’t yet decided how to classify or whether to play them out soon." Right: Cornet on his LP collection – "About 50~60 per cent are classified by genre, usually maxis separated from albums. Their spots are quite set. The remaining 40~50 per cent have a more ephemeral, fluctuating place. These, usually are Edge records, where two (or more) genres meet."
Jeremy Gilbert: “There are too many to count really. My musical memories mostly revolve around hearing particular tracks that had a really striking effect on me when I heard them, rather than having anything to do with the context. But all through my teens hearing one record after another that was new to us (even if a lot of them were old) was like the central experience that I shared with most of my friends, and once I started buying records, going out, and DJing, it just felt like this carried on. I could isolate particular memories like listening to Joy Division on my Walkman for the first time while walking around a Northern English town when I was 16 years old, or hearing various records on pirate radio or in record shops in London when I was in my early twenties (e.g. hearing Scott Hardkiss’ first single at Fat Cat in Covent Garden in maybe 1994), or hearing various records at the Loft for the first time. But honestly since we started doing BATB it would be the case that every month I’m hearing new records that I’ve found or Cyril or Ced has played which have had just as powerful an effect on me. That’s the whole point, to some extent.”
Cyril Cornet: “A key memorable moment for me was on a (very) late night during my first stay in London. Not many of us were still standing, but I was listening to Ken Booth’s “Set Me Free.” It was a real cathartic moment, getting over a trauma with an overwhelming sense of joy. It’s incredible that that song in particular, a pretty sad one really, unlocked such a deep positive feeling. Listening to K Frimpong’s “Mu Na Yi Wo Mpena" in Plastic People on a Saturday night, would certainly be right at the top of a very long list of strong memories entangled with music.”
Photo above: Cedric Lassonde at home with part of his music collection: "The key is quality not quantity, and to have a collection which always evolves. Some records you will always need to have and come back to, but others are just temporary for different moments in time..."
Silvia Gin: Is there a song or an album that really marked you?
Jeremy Gilbert: “Not really. Miles Davis’ On the Corner has been a kind of touchstone for me since I was about 19, but it isn’t really a dance record.”
Cedric Lassonde: “In terms of albums, in order of discovery, Sonic Youth’s Teenage Riot, PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love, I Am’s L'École Du Micro D’Argent, A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, The Congos’ Heart Of The Congos, Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Forces Of Victory, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?, Parliament’s Mothership Connection, Moodymann’s Silent Introduction, Alice Coltrane’s Journey In Satchidananda, Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges’ Clube Da Esquina, Sun Ra’s Lanquidity, Gerard Lockel’s Gwoka Modenn, Aziz Inanga’s N’Kala. The list, of course, could go on forever.”
Cyril Cornet: “Not in order and to name but a few, Guem et Zaka Percussion, The Gladiators’ Proverbial Reggae and Back to Roots, Kamal Abdul Alim’s Dance, Alice Coltrane’s Journey In Satchidananda, Love’s Forever Changes, Rick Panzer’s Music for … The Complete Jazz Dance Class, Os Tincoas’ Os Tincoas, Dr. John and the Night Tripper’s Gris-Gris, JD Emmanuel’s Wizards, Kutiman’s Wachaga…”
Resistor Mag: What are your psychological relationships to music like? What percentage of your mental energy goes to thinking about music – regardless of context?
Cedric Lassonde: “I’m a bit scared to go too deep into this, as this could reveal some serious music addiction issues. Let’s just say that fortunately I do have some other hobbies and interests, but that music occupies a good chunk of my day, every single day. The more you learn and discover, the more you realize how infinite music is out there. I do listen and think about music a good few hours every day, actively, not just in the background. Whether it is looking for new music (pretty much daily), researching about a particular project, artist or genre, reading about it, debating (sic) about it, planning a mix or preparing records for a party, listening to mixes/radio shows on my commuting rides, wondering why I didn’t play a particular track at the last party, etc. It is intense to the point that it can become a love and hate relationship. Though mostly love of course.”
Cyril Cornet: “It’s a relationship that has become more complex over the years (like good wine). I often have fun trying to match a soundtrack with every moment in life. When it works, it is very much joy inducing – in a Deleuzian way. Same on the dance floor, when the music fits the moment. Back to the question; sometimes it’s uplifting, sometimes deeper than others, more physical or mental. A great companion for life.”
Jeremy Gilbert: This really varies from week-to-week depending how much I have to focus on other things. There are weeks when I don’t have a lot of mental space for music at all and others when I’m thinking about it for several hours each day. It’s really noticeable that if I haven’t had time for it then I get kind of listless and depressed, so I try not to let that happen too often.
Repetition, and the differences in repetition, are important for the establishment of landmark records. Sometimes you connect straight away with a piece of music, sometimes you need a few times. It’s about providing the time (and space) to do so."
– Cyril Cornet
Photo above: Cyril Cornet behind the decks at BATB. Image courtesy Miguel Echeverria.
Resistor Mag: How did you all meet?
Cedric Lassonde: After I moved to London towards the end of 2000, my brother came to visit (and party) a few times, and he often brought Cyril along, a friend of his from university. Both would eventually make the move to London, and for a few years we were all living together in various houses, one of them being referred to as the ‘Deep House’ (because the parties were deep you see). We met Jeremy when we all got involved in putting on the Lucky Cloud Sound System parties, which started in June 2004. A year and countless house parties later (either at Jem’s, Cyril’s or mine) we decided it was time to expand and started Beauty And The Beat.”
Jeremy Gilbert: “What Ced said. I had been holding big house parties for years that had become quite famous amongst friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends. But one reason I got involved in organizing the Loft parties, to be honest, was that I felt like the people coming to these parties were too conservative musically and I wanted to find some other people who would be into it when I played more interesting music. I made friends with Ced and Cyril pretty quickly and it was kind of amazing how our tastes in these matters converged and complemented each other. From a personal perspective, my little experiment turned out to be much more successful than I could have reasonably hoped for.”
Cyril Cornet: “What the boys said… under a pair of speakers.”
Resistor Mag: Are all of you involved with making music as well as collecting it?
Cedric Lassonde: “Making music not really, but collecting for sure, though collecting is not the right word, as none of us are collectors. We play the records, we don’t just put them on shelves.”
Cyril Cornet: “I second the comment about collecting music, vinyls take too much space for that. Not making music, but we do run a small label (Beauty & the Beat), each release contains some new, contemporary music from extremely talented artists like Soundspecies, BlackBush Orchestra, Kay Suzuki, Jan Schulte or Breakplus.”
Jeremy Gilbert: “In the nineties I played guitar regularly and was in a kind of experimental post-rock band with some friends, but by the end of that decade I’d already come to the conclusion that hosting parties was a lot more satisfying (it was the difference between getting your mates together to come and listen to you play a 30-minute set in some pub in Camden or getting them together for a 10-hour party in your house). I really enjoy the process of being involved with the label, even though I do less work for it than the other two. It feels like a natural extension of playing music at parties and an organic way of being involved in its actual production. As the others have already said, we’re not collecting for the sake of collecting. It’s a very unusual relationship to the music that we have. I think there are very few people around now who are thinking of themselves primarily as active selectors rather than as record collectors who happen to show off their collections in public sometimes, but who are using almost entirely vinyl rather than digital files. But that’s what we do.”
Resistor Mag: Describe your music collections (genres, pressings, comps, 7-inch, 12-inch etc.). Are you all strictly vinyl?
Cedric Lassonde: “International sounds from all over, all styles and genres, with a bias towards hybrid music that fuses genres, and all things cosmic, psychedelic, soulful and spiritual. Be it jazz, funk, reggae, African, Caribbean, house, techno, rave, ambient or folk music. Anything that’s good really, and no time for purism. Strictly vinyl at BATB to this day, though I’ve recently started enjoying playing with both USB and vinyls when playing other events (90 per cent of my digital files are ripped from my records anyway). Original pressings are usually better, though not always, plus sometimes they are unreachable, so well produced comps and reissues are always useful. I don’t care much for mono pressings, but I absolutely love 7-inch. Ultimately we always try to play the tunes we want in whichever format they sound best.”
Jeremy Gilbert: “I can’t put it better than Ced really. Exactly the same.”
Cyril Cornet: “On a similar tip, original pressings when possible but really whatever sounds the best on the system.”
Resistor Mag: Could you estimate the current size of each of your LP collections?
Cedric Lassonde: “I could, but I don’t think it matters. The key is quality not quantity, and to have a collection which always evolves. Some records you will always need to have and come back to, but others are just temporary for different moments in time, and I enjoy the process of getting rid of records I don’t feel I need anymore in order to get new ones.”
Cyril Cornet: “The skimming and effort to reduce the size (by a few hundreds of records) in the collection is a process that has been really formative in the last couple of years.”
Jeremy Gilbert: “Agreed. The issue is increasingly how to find the time to weed out records and move them to new homes rather than just accumulating more. But that’s also because there is always more music out there that’s incredibly high quality.”
Left: Lassonde said he still buys a lot of albums despite Covid-19 restrictions, which have been in place most of the last year in the UK. "As far as I’m concerned the lockdown hasn’t changed much in the way I source new music, which is mostly done online these days."
Right: Gilbert said despite his love for physical shops, his lifestyle makes visiting them prohibitive. "... as someone who would never have had time to be DJing regularly if I still had to spend 90 minutes on the tube every time I wanted to buy a record and bring it home again, I really don’t miss it."
Resistor Mag: How do you organize your collections?
Cedric Lassonde: “By genres (jazz, disco, hip hop, ambient, rock, gwoka, zouk, makossa, Afrobeat, etc), countries (Brazil, France, Italy, Cabo Verde, Guadeloupe, Haïti, South Africa, etc.), formats (7-inch, 12-inch, LPs) and feelings (cosmic, Balearic, late night, Loft, Plastic). Most records can fit in several sections of course. There are also always several DJ bags worth of records lying around (ie; not in the shelves), of the newly acquired and the ones I feel like playing out at the time.”
Cyril Cornet: “About 50~60 per cent are classified by genre, usually maxis separated from albums. Their spots are quite set. The remaining 40~50 per cent have a more ephemeral, fluctuating place. These, usually are Edge records, where two (or more) genres meet. Those are classified by types of vibe, time of the day, moments in a night or even sometimes the types of moves they inspire. They are the records I like the most. Unfortunately, due to the clarity of the classification method, I occasionally and momentarily lose track of their location… I keep doing this because it brings movement within ‘order.’”
Jeremy Gilbert: “Pretty much exactly the same as Cedric. At any one time I usually have about two full boxes of ‘new’ records that I haven’t yet decided how to classify or whether to play them out soon. I always hope that one day I’ll get it together and be so organized that I can empty both boxes and only have very recently-bought records in them, but this might not happen until both my kids have left home.”
Photo above: Lassonde believes Beauty and the Beat is about stretching the sonic envelope as much as creating a safe space. "Once you have carefully taken care of all the ingredients (friends, family, sound system, atmosphere and decoration) you have the dream setup for musical experimentation."
Silvia Gin: Has the music you seek and buy changed since parties and musical gatherings stopped?
Cedric Lassonde: “It has changed quite drastically actually. In comparison to previous years, I haven’t bought many 12-inch during these past 16 months at all. Whereas in the past I would religiously check every week what new releases were coming out on the dance music front (regardless of style). The lockdown has put a drastic pause to this. No point looking for fresh disco bangers when there are no dance floors to look forward to. Most labels have put their dance-orientated releases on hold too. But the album and reissue markets have flourished during the pandemic, as people (myself included) were looking for immersive music to play and listen to at home. So, that definitely meant more experimental ambient and spiritual jazz LPs, and less twisted dubstep white labels, no doubt.”
Cyril Cornet: “It’s a combination of having more time (I’m still extremely grateful for this) and being less dance-floor focused. The Long Player format has definitely taken a bigger place in the listening experience and henceforth in the search for new music. A lot of jazz, Brazilian music, ambient and field recordings have ‘resurfaced’ from the shelves and sounded new to my ears. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to Bernie Krauss’ The Great Animal Orchestra during the first lockdown.”
Jeremy Gilbert: “Just exactly the same story as Cedric for me. Also, to be honest, I don’t have the money to buy loads of obscure 12-inch while we’re not putting on parties that can help pay for them. But yeah, everything Ced says applies to me.”
Resistor Mag: Is fear of repetition inherent to being a selector? How do you combat it?
Cedric Lassonde: “With the amount of tunes we have accumulated over the years, plus the constant supply of new music, I don’t think there is much fear of repetition for any of us. It would be do-able to play entirely different sets every single time, which can be interesting for sure, but with a monthly party like BATB it’s important to have some records that get played more than once. They need to become recognized by the crowd in order to build an intimate relationship with our regulars. Over the years, dozens of such records have achieved the ‘BATB classic’ status, Kassav’s Lagué Moin being one of the most iconic. Outside of a regular party, a touring club DJ playing back-to-back gigs every weekend a decade ago would have struggled not to repeat his/herself with only a finite amount of records at their disposal, but this is not the case anymore at all with the advent of the USB.”
Cyril Cornet: “Our friend Alex Pewin more than once noted that, these days, we don’t really give enough time to new tracks to become classics. Repetition, and the differences in repetition, are important for the establishment of landmark records. Sometimes you connect straight away with a piece of music, sometimes you need a few times. It’s about providing the time (and space) to do so. Each record that we play will have different entries which means that the same track can sound quite different from one time to another. The way you can enter a track depends on what has been played before, the context in general. Using an audiophile sound system lifts an auditive veil off these entries and allows a wider range of music to be played. How many times have we told each other, “It’s the first time I’ve heard that track like this.””
Jeremy Gilbert: “The others have already said it really. The idea of the ‘classic’ is really important to the tradition that we come out of: The familiar tune that acts as a unifying force for everybody at the party. But we could easily never play the same record twice.”
Photos below: Left – Gilbert shares how to clean an LP on a VPi HW-17 machine with his daughter. Right – One of the two Klipschorn the trio bought with Cornet that helped kickstart Beauty and The Beat.
Resistor Mag: Can you describe BATB?
Cyril Cornet: “It’s a house party, taken to a ‘club’ level with a lot of attention given to sound quality. The music played often contains organic elements and has a psychedelic edge to it.”
Cedric Lassonde: “It’s a house party where the music is deep, eclectic and groovy, the sound will blow your mind and not your ears, and everyone is welcome.”
Jeremy Gilbert: “I can’t put it any better really. It’s a house party for 250 people, of course. It’s important that people realize that before they come.”
Silvia Gin: Cedric, you once told me BATB was a workshop for musical experimentation. Can you explain what you meant?”
Cedric Lassonde: “Putting these parties on, going around the clock from 9 a.m. to 9 a.m. every single month, is a lot of collective effort. Load up the van, unload. Set up the sound system, disco nap if you're lucky, party (that's the easy bit), set down sound system. Load up van, then unload across four different locations. We have all wondered on numerous occasions what keeps us doing this. What’s the reward? Then we wake up a few hours later on Sunday afternoon thinking “This was the best party ever!" Quite a feat after 150 parties or so, and that’s exactly what keeps us going. Once you have carefully taken care of all the ingredients (friends, family, sound system, atmosphere and decoration) you have the dream setup for musical experimentation. It’s easy to play bangers, and we obviously do play a fair few, but what’s equally interesting is to be able to play records which you wouldn’t be able to anywhere else (bar say Precious Hall in Japan). The sound system is as good as it gets, the vibe is right and the crowd is ready to follow you anywhere. When you can play a four minute Afro-spiritual Acapella track from Haiti at peak time, or a bonkers 12 minute live version of “Chameleon” and have the floor screaming for more, you sure know why you’re doing this.”
Jeremy Gilbert: “Yes that is it really. The experiment is often to see how far we can create a soundscape that is danceable, but also very rich and surprising. It is incredibly satisfying when one of us plays a record that we know probably wouldn’t be played anywhere else on the planet that night, and it really works.”
Cyril Cornet: “It’s also a social experiment, really. Once all these ingredients are in place, no two parties are ever the same.”
Resistor Mag: The Loft, Lucky Cloud Sound System and now BATB… a continuum?
Cedric Lassonde: “The Loft is the roots of everything, the rhizomes from which LCSS, BATB and AOF sprouted.”
Jeremy Gilbert: “Yes.”
Cyril Cornet: “Yep.”
Silvia Gin: Am I wrong in saying BATB has elements of both the disco party and the sound system culture? They could seem quite distant scenes. What elements have you inherited from both scenes and how do they work together?
Cedric Lassonde: “It’s very correct indeed. BATB comes directly from LCSS which comes directly from The Loft, be it in terms of openness, political and social awareness, and of course the way we present music at a party following the three bardos of the LSD trip. The sound system culture is reflected in the strong community of helpers (the ‘BATB family’) which has built around us over the years, and without which the party wouldn’t be able to happen. Also, as a huge roots and culture fan, and having been a regular at Notting Hill carnival since 1998, I’d say that the way these selectors (be it Aba Shanti or Channel One’s Mickey Dread) play the tunes has been very influential. One deck, one siren, no headphones – nothing more is needed when the tunes are killer. Sometimes it’s nice to blend two records together for a long time or to mix records perfectly (as is customary on the disco/deep house scene ), but ultimately what matters the most (by far) is the music and the programming, not the technique.”
Jeremy Gilbert: “I think also the way in which the physical sound system is integral to what we do very much connects us with sound system culture. I really don’t like trying to play on any other system – I feel like the system is our instrument in a way, and knowing how a particular record will sound on this system is a big part of our art.”
Silvia Gin: What are the essential ingredients for a good party?
Cyril Cornet: “Ladies toilets.”
Cedric Lassonde: “Friends, sound quality (system + acoustics), decoration, welcoming staff and security, and good music played the right way.”Jeremy Gilbert: “All of the above.”
Photo above: According to Lassonde, "Over the years, dozens of records have achieved the ‘BATB classic’ status, Kassav’s Lagué Moin being one of the most iconic."
Resistor Mag: If it’s about the “one big party” as Mancuso put it, are people today still turning on and tuning in, or dropping out because of a shift in attitudes following 15 months of Covid-19 life?
Cyril Cornet: “I heard recently on a web radio show that pop-up parties were taking place in the desert, or near the Red Sea in Egypt. Because of the natural beauty of those places, the proportion of psychedelic music (more in terms of textures) played tends to increase. Looks like some are still tuning in. All three of us have a strong connection to nature and have been playing music in a psychedelic way since the start. To me, that “One big party” refers to life, but a thriving and interconnected life. Coming to BATB is one way to connect to it, although of course, not the only way. There’s no doubt that people will still be seeking to turn on and tune in, because that’s what life is about.”
Cedric Lassonde: “It's too early for us to say as the parties haven’t resumed yet, but I’m pretty confident that if anything, the need for turning on, tuning in and dropping out will be stronger than ever once this finally happens.”
Jeremy Gilbert: “I’ll be very surprised if this isn’t what happens.”
END OF PART ONE. READ PART TWO HERE.