When I first moved into an apartment in San Francisco in 1995 and had nothing but the stuff I brought from Ireland with me, and my land phone had just been connected, I picked up the phone and cold-called Cajual Records in Chicago; the first label I ever called, in fact. The person who picked up the phone was a guy named Rob Kouchoukos. He, along with Ivan Pavlovich, were Cajual’s promo men and the people to talk to if you needed to be added to their mailing list. Rob added me and I started receiving promos from Cajual, Prescription and Balance in order to review them for XLR8R.
The following year Rob and Ivan parted ways with Cajual and started their own label with Spencer Kincy, aka Gemini. I was very excited for them and eventually very impressed with their early releases. The very first release was the “Happiness” EP by Free Energy, a project name used by Josh Michaels, aka Iz, a San Francisco based dj. It contained the infectious title track and got Guidance off to a great start. Then came strong releases by Projekt PM, Fresh and Low, Blueboy, Larry Heard, Don Carlos and many, many more talented producers.
After maybe the first 6 months of releases I was so impressed with Guidance I told Ivan in a phone conversation that I felt the label would become the benchmark for deep house as a whole. By ’97 or ’98, while I was the electronic music buyer at Amoeba, distributors like Watts and Nemesis were regularly using phrases like “has Guidance feel” in listings for deep house records on other labels. My prediction had come true and Guidance really had set the standard for deep house in the mid-to-late ’90s.
Some time in late ’96 Ivan asked me if I would write the liner notes to their very first compilation. I remember flying to London in December of that year and trying to come up with the first lines of the blurb in my head. Here is the finished product below. I haven’t spoken to Ivan or Rob in many years, but I loved their label and their vision. Along with Large, Cajual and Prescription Guidance really helped put Chicago back on the map after NY labels like Strictly Rhythm, Nu Groove and Emotive had stolen the crown for a minute.
Liner Notes For Guidance Recordings Compilation, “Hi-Fidelity House Imprint One
There was a time when the globe looked to Chicago as the sole producer of house music, now Chicago looks to the globe and the house community that it spawned. That network of shared ideas, constantly evolving notions of rhythm and the common revelation of the new has spread out over the world. From the condensation filled warehouses of Chicago’s Southside to dimly lit basements in Glasgow’s city center, and from a bedroom studio in Vienna to independent label offices in Toronto. House has its regional flavors, but it is no longer a regional commodity. In fact, it is not a commodity at all, it is still, pardon the cliche, a feeling.
Those who have the feeling know it is experienced as strongly in California as it is in Galway, that it needs no hierarchy to oversee its progress, only willing minds and ears to accept its constant evolution. Evolution, that is the key word, an acceptance of the new and a passion for the mutation of nuances and sounds. That is the element that labels like Guidance bring to the music, our music. The search for the new might mean several long distance calls to Paris, bubble-packed envelopes from Boston or trying to track down producers in London. This search is executed without ever leaving your front room, your studio or your dj booth, but it is a significant journey nonetheless. In amongst the ads in music magazines, the hype chart listings, and the thronged music stores, there’s the music: pure and simple.
Guidance isn’t the only label to accept the international nature of house music, but it is part of a new wave of labels who are actively going out of their way to embrace the global aspect of this culture. Only this kind of thinking will debunk regional stereotypes of how music should sound and enable producers to expand their range of styles. The offerings on this collection come from well known producers of the deep like Larry Heard, Don Carlos, Wamdue Kids, and Austin Bascom; and from relatively new names like Projekt PM, Fresh ‘n’ Low, Callisto, and Kevin Yost.
What’s important here is a tradition, a musical feel; originated by people like Larry Heard, carried on by producers like Don Carlos and kept alive in the present for the future by the younger generation of house music enthusiasts. However, this compilation shows that the blueprint of house may still be with us, but those who keep it alive also improve it, develop its sounds and use their technology and imagination to contour its abstract messages to an increasingly abstract world. Music for your ears, your heart; music for those who wish to pay attention in an inattentive world. Listen. Chris Orr, San Francisco. January 1997.