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Critical Beats Down 5: The Cosmic Cassette Cult
Modernism always was, and is, safer in Europe. Especially Continental Europe. My baseless but well intentioned theory is that two World Wars, Fascism, Communism, The Church, and plenty more ism and jism meant that rejecting artifice remains an act of resistance.A crucial difference between the Modern and the Post-Modern which it is so insultingly confused with, is a contrast betwixt allusion and pastiche. Allusions refer to other works, but do not imitate them outright for novelty. An example might be comparing DJ Screw's cough syrup choked prelude to prison rape nightmare slowmo demolition of Phil Collins 'In The Air Tonight' - with an uptempo day blow glo cover something like this. DJ Screw has far less love and acclaim given the time and place of his death, then all the hip-plop chancers that pastiched his sacred sound.Daniele Baldelli has been subject to a somewhat similar blasphemy. Plenty of the right people got hold of one of the Cosmic cassettes Baldelli put out and that spread virally, much like clap on an oil rig, but mainly to an area restricted to Southern Germany and Austria. Yet his art is sometimes slower, and surely more complex, than nearly any other attempted in the Dance/Club world ever since. I had no idea who he was until 2005, when two elegant CD/Book things came out under the moniker of:Daniele Baldelli presents'BAIA DEGLI ANGELI 1977-1978The Legendary Italian Discoteque of the 70's'I think it was mentioned in The WIRE. I got both volumes and the liner notes by local legend Fabio De Luca, who really was there, painted a true picture that popped the Travolta balloons of too many false, self promoting histories about where what was first and why - usually featuring big American names. History is written by the winners, who usually did not deserve it.Here is part of Fabio's remarkable essay - original verbatim formatting and all - into a truly lost world. One taken down by too much fun not connected to the local Mafia in a sleepy sea coast town:"The Baia Degli Angeli. It's not exaggerate to say everything started there.The golden age of disco, clubbing, glamour: just everything. I'm not saying 'discoteques' were a novelty (although in Italy were still called nightclubs, or 'balere'). There was the Piper, in 1965, which instilled a little bit of 'swingin' London inside the ancient walls of the 'the eternal city', Roma. There was the Altro Mondo Studios, built up as a kind of spaceship or galactic island, which in '67 was making believe young riminesi (not only them, anyways) that Future with capital 'F', the one of Urania and the first sci-fi tv series, was just a question of weeks, or a couple of months at the most. But from the start the Baia was another story. Another world, too. It started in1974, on the edge of the still big '68 revolutionary excitement and also on the grandeur of his creator, Giancarlo Tirotti, a little local tycoon, well introduced in roman cinema's jet-set and a taste and elegance definitely 'international' and - for those days - absolutely new. Let's say it once for all: the New York's Studio 54 hasn't invented anything.Mixing 'stars' and normal people in a beautiful place, in a way that simply 'being there' was already an experience, it was a bright intuition of Tirotti three years in advance of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.At the Baia you could meet Hollywood's movie stars transiting in Italy,and by the way - before the conversion into disco, it was a sporting-club for the rich - with those totally white walls, the indoor and outdoor pools, the terrace where one could get a breathtaking view of Gabicce, it looked just like a Californian resort. Music - another news - was loud, really loud, and there was no rule of 'three slows & three shakes', something still in vigour in all the other clubs. And it was open till 6 a.m., you could watch the dawn at the Baia... listening to the new Philly Sound, played by Bob Day and Tom Sison the two dj's Tirotti brought from New York. Punctually, all the other djs from Rimini and Riccione would come at the Baia to listen what Bob & Tom were doing, and it was always a shock! Firstly for the records, which both of them were getting right from USA, and the tecnique, too... In those days, putting a piece of paper between the record and the turntable, in order to get a faster start and a better mixing, was just a revolutionary strike... The day Bob & Tom decided to go back to America, they themselves - like a Star Wars saga - had to designate a substitute for the Baia's consolle.It is 1977, and the chosen one is a young local dj already well known to the nightflies of the italian East Coast: Daniele Baldelli.In the meantime discomusic was spreading everywhere in Italy. The Baia - like a Fiorucci's dream come true - displays plexiglass dancefloors and a crazy dj-booth inside a lift that goes up and down all the night long... the people is dancing on the 4 floors, look around and feel like being in a very 'transgressive' tv show, like the famous Strix on sunday nights. Rivers of champagne and a lot of very suspicious little powders are flowing... Actors, intellectuals and starlets of the little screen are usual presence on the dance floors and sofas."...."It was a wonderfully Italian but not Italo take on 'Disco' - a genre I had not yet learned to respect properly. It included all kinds of artists and rip off records I'd never heard before. And in the same set list, and liner essay, was a clue to the alchemy Baldelli would perform next, and the fate of our still Missing Beats:"Getting this material was not always so easy.Usually the DJ would go to the same and only little musical store in his own town. Daniele Baldelli, instead would get on a train and run to Lugano (there was a store there called Radio Columbia) and sometimes would go to Paris where he could find imported albums. Another particularity of the disco nights in the 70's was that the fast music that you would dance to like "shake" would be alternated to slow songs. It was usually five shakes and five slows, then as the years went on it would be 30 minutes of shake and then slows."Where Daniele would turn up next, Cosmic, and the at least 120 tapes of Modernist sound collage, need exploration.The perpetual up, down and all around recyclers of culture do not just exist at the 'who can we sample for chart trash', but at the so cutting its not even bleeding yet edge. In a mostly Post Modern world, everything is a hall of mirrors - of inspirations for pastiche. Before mass international musical media and the internets, lots of local scenes emerged, self-defined, killed themselves, or died without being noticed. Long after the last embers have been pissed on and swept away, someone picks through them in hopes of a fresh angle. Cosmic got a look in around 2009. Just around the time other beats started to go missing.What clue, what smoking gun indictment or ticket to a better alternate history are in those TAPES? Tapes played to fraying insanity in some Austrian or Alsatian would be scenester who wanted more from life than Stock Aitken Waterman or just bad Italo, in his Citroen BX 19 car stereo to some Art School Girl. We'll turn back the clock, turn up the fog and Downers and find out.
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