The radio is a memory machine. It is an airborne exchange of information between celestial host and terrestrial audience. Radio is a medium which configures collective cognition through mass media, harmonizing voice and anonymous ear. The magic of radio exists in its connectivity.
For many in their formative years, this connection occurs within the emancipated preserve of college radio. Beats in Space began and perseveres in this preserve, though its reach now extends beyond campus to wider culture. As a student, Tim Sweeney began broadcasting on WNYU in 1999. Twelve years later, Sweeney created a label under the same name, preserving waveform memories permanently to wax.
Paradis’ “La Ballade de Jim,” the first release represented on BIS: 001 - 020, a compilation surveying the first twenty Beats In Space Records releases, embodies the consideration and sophistication a twelve year history lends a label. A driving, memorable bassline; blurred, drifting keys over an interminable sequencer, presented with crystal clear production. Decisively understated, it offers an overwhelming possibility of what is to come.
The bounty of releases beyond range from aquatic slow burners (Dukes of Chutney’s “The Smiling Cheshire”) to sweeping Balearic compositions (Tornado Wallace’s “Desperate Pleasures”), to outrageous expressions of club-generated sublimity (Crystal & S. Koshi’s “Break the Dawn”).
The label’s most recent offerings prey on the heavenly-hearted with House of Spirits’ (the nom de plume of Tom Noble) anthemic “Holding On,” the existential / extraterrestrial acid lovers with Palmbomen II’s self-titled album, and the person who just likes to take ecstasy and dance next to the speaker all night while T & P’s(Tim Sweeney and Phillip Lauer) “Shoot The Freak” sets fire to all synapses.
It’s clear what makes these releases harmonious. In keeping with the sensibility coveted by Sweeney during his time on air, there’s an attitude: a little bit rude, but softened with sensitivity. There is a sense of motion, narrative and duration; a dedication to crescendo, a theatricality that never yawns. An appreciation for melody, but not at the expense of propulsive percussive textures.
There is an ambience in this music that suggests and searches for space. Not necessarily the cosmic kind of space (though we never upturn our nose to galactic grooves), but the kind inhabited by and for dancers. BIS releases are drenched, or at least dipped, in the particular nostalgia experienced as one meets the eyes of a friend across a crowded floor and the memory of an entire relationship rushes through blood in a wordless, serotoninic moment.
The striking balance between consistency and singularity in the musical quality of each release is matched by carefully considered artwork. Every BIS record is afforded a visual component created by equally distinguished artists who, finding themselves in the ever-expanding orbit of the BIS family, extend their services with pride.
The level of consideration inherent to Tim’s selection process for the label seems to have slowed, even stalled his aging process. He is still the same teenager he was when he first stepped into the WNYU studio. And though firmly and foundationally ensconced in the NYC and international dance music world, Tim is still something of an outlier, someone who remains awkward, determined, and curious.
The first Beats In Space compilation, BIS001 - 020, is now available on double CD and digital formats.