Record stores are one thing that cannot be replicated digitally. There's something special about walking into your local shop, chatting with employees, and finding the album you were looking for after months of searching. The smell of vinyl in wooden crates, the sensation of flipping through hundreds of records, and the collage of cover art create an unmatched feeling.
The shops also play a vital role in helping local artists promote their music: The purchase of records supports not only the stores but also the music scene as a whole. However, that symbiotic relationship is now in danger. When the COVID-19 crisis ends, the art and culture scene might find itself on the bureaucratic back burner of financial relief before anything is done, and record stores, in particular, need their own bailout. For now, independent record stores, whose margins were already razor-thin before the economic collapse, might need to rely on the generosity of others to ensure they remain intact.
Already stepping up to the plate to help is Miami-born and -bred DJ and producer Danny Daze (AKA Daniel Gomez), who has pledged 50 percent of the sales of his latest EP, Propaganda & Manipulation, to the Miami shop Technique Records.
"Record stores are extremely important to the scene," Daze says from his apartment in Amsterdam. "They push good music. They push us to go and get back to just simply listening rather than saying to ourselves, 'OK, who's the biggest Instagram DJ?' For me, it's very important to make sure stores like Technique Records survive. We've done a lot of shows and pop-ups with them. They've been supportive since day one. I felt the first thing we needed to do was to help them out."
Though open since only 2017, the Upper Eastside record store has been supportive of Daze and his label, Omnidisc, from the get-go.
"If we wanted to sell merchandise or do a pop-up, [Technique] was behind us," Daze says. "Some record stores just don't represent that way. It's not just because they supported the label; it's also the fact that I know what it takes, even in this day and age, to keep a record shop running. I'm hoping it tells people, not only in Miami but around the world, that we need to support each other during this time."
Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Daze was gearing up for a busy touring schedule. At the moment, his next show isn't set to take place until July — that's if the virus has been thwarted by then.
"It all happened within a week," Daze says. "As soon as I saw that big events were canceled, I took a seat and said, 'OK, this is happening.'"
Despite his international acclaim for producing an amalgamation of sounds — from electro to techno and everything in between — for a slew of renowned labels, he's still championing the Miami music scene.
"It's really important for us now to understand that this really has an effect on the culture and the scene. I know some DJs that are actually going to have to get other jobs," he says.
The EP will help lighten the mood surrounding the closure of local shops. Daze has provided the opportunity to explore new music under stressful conditions. Propaganda & Manipulation — slated for release May 6 — is a hodgepodge of cataclysmic overtones that don't scream dance-floor hit but have enough rhythm to make them familiar enough to play in a club. "My goal with this EP is to take people out of the dance formula," Daze says of the process of producing the record. "I just want people to say, 'What the hell is that?' in the club — in both a good and bad way."
The four-track EP begins with the aptly titled track "Mindfluck," an audible oracle of what's to come. It may not be the typical Daze-style EP listeners were expecting, but it can easily hold its own. The eight-minute track shifts between spatial synthesizer etudes and heady noises akin to the likes of Nina Kraviz or vintage Richie Hawtin and ends with a euphoric, trance-like style that elevates the pounding bass and organized chaos of the track.
"I've been in a kinda psychedelic, hypnotic... brain-dance kind of realm when it comes to the music and where Omnidisc is going," Daze explains." I don't really want people to be expecting your typical techno."
The second cut, "Simbiozes," is a left-field techno stomper built on a steady drum pattern, hard-hitting bass, and abstract squeaks and hymns. It quickly hypnotizes the listener into a dancing frenzy — even if the dance floor happens to be at home.
On the B-side, the title track time-warps the listener to the days of raving in dank warehouses. A piercing synth fluctuates during the six minutes of out-there techno. An intangible vocal peeks its head out every so often, while a pulsating rumble gets stuck in the back of the listener's head. The record finishes on a down-tempo note with "Planet." It's something you could listen to on a run, with a gritty, almost British-style hip-hop drumbeat that offers synergy with the industrial-sounding blend of electronic music.
The EP is a collaborative effort with Daze's Omnidisc colleague RHR (AKA Roniere Santos). A Brazilian native, RHR connected with Daze through a mutual Miami acquaintance after Daze heard early production work from him and saw potential.
"I could tell by the sounds he was using and the rhythm he was producing that he was worth putting time into and getting to know," Daze says.
RHR's work on the tracks "Planet" and "Simbiozes" all but solidifies his chances as an emerging producer.
A winner based on its merits, Propaganda & Manipulation may still draw criticism from more techno textualists who might not appreciate the bohemian organization of it. Still, it's a bellwether for DJs who, for a change, find themselves with plenty of time to produce music.
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"There's going to be a lot of albums at the end of this year from a lot of different artists," Daze says. "I've been meaning to dive into effects I wanted to learn and synthesizers as well. It's good in that sense, I guess."
However, Propaganda & Manipulation is proof that Daze's dogged support for his city is pure and everlasting. He's trying to support a scene from which he still culls inspiration.
"I know people may not consider the art and music scene a life-and-death situation, but art, for me, is a very big deal. And when we get out of this, I want art to still be alive."
Propaganda & Manipulation will debut May 6 via Omnidisc.