Celebrating 25 Years of Relief Records: Our Favorite Tracks

This past weekend, Relief Records hosted a stage to celebrate Relief’s 25th year in the business. When Relief put out its very first release, “Velvet Tracks” in 1993, it was un-foreseeable for an underground label to last so long. Over the years, Relief has put out tracks from Green Velvet, DJ Sneak, Latmun, Paul Johnson, Prok & Fitch, & more. Keeping close to it’s own roots, Relief Records began in Chicago, thus it seemed only fitting to hold this historic party at Chicago’s Mamby on The Beach. In a promo video, Green Velvet discusses the label and his ties with the festival event.

Relief Records has always been prideful of its hometown. Most artists signing onto the label are Chicago residents. Therefore, Relief carries the Chicago flag high. Relief reaching this milestone is much larger than just one company. This is an honor shared among inhabitants of Chicago and the fans of the Chicago house scene that started it all. This is a celebration of the city that immortalized Frankie Knuckles, Farley Jackmaster Funk, and Julian ‘Jumpin’ Perez on the legendary WBMX radio program. The same city that stopped everything to hold an annual event every year to celebrate Frankie Knuckles’ life since his death. Knowing the city as the birthplace of house is necessary to understand the emotional sentiment some may have for a label that celebrates it’s home.

Beginning as a development from Curtis Jones’ Cajual Records, Relief started from nothing and became one of the most well-known house and techno labels. Curtis Jones aka Green Velvet is one name that even the new people in the scene will recognize. The label has helped introduce many newcomers and has created careers for those that still continue keep the roots of house music intact. From its inception in 1993, Relief has become one of the most well known labels with a legacy that transcends many.

OneEDM would like to congratulate the Relief family and give thanks for everything they have done for house, techno, and everything in between. A simple top 10 wouldn’t give enough respect to such a prolific label, so here’s the top 15 tracks picked by our staff. Relief has much more to provide than just Green Velvet and it is important to celebrate every facet of the family. In chronological order, come on a journey with us through time to celebrate Relief through the years.

  1. Green Velvet – Preacher Man (1993)
    Although originally serving as a B-side to the Velvet Tracks Vinyl, “The Preacher Man” is one of Velvet’s biggest breakthrough tracks. Featuring the raving and ranting of a reverend, the passion-filled ditty served as a tongue-in-cheek house classic. There is not much to say about “Preacher Man” that nobody has said before; however, one thing is certain: one could not imagine a better release to start Relief records with.
  2. Boo Williams – A New Beginning (1994)
    A consistent face of Relief, Boo Williams always brought his house flavors. In this release, he classically brings together both techno and house grooves to create a great track for atmosphere setting. The low synth waves bring a deep feeling entwined with a dance heavy beat. It builds up a melancholic emotion on the dance floor. In the rest of this EP, Williams explores a sporadic energy that establishes its place in history. Not just for Relief Records, but for house in general.
  3. Green Velvet – Flash (1995)
    “Good evening parents. Tonight I’m going to take you on a tour to club Bad…”. For over 20 years these words have given goosebumps to millions. No list is complete without Green Velvet’s legendary release, “Flash”. While the track may sound a bit dated in terms of sound quality, a number of remasters and remixes have kept the track relevant to this day. A sound that was way ahead of its time at its release. It will still be the sound of the future, even in the distant future.
  4. Paul Johnson – Speech Impediment (1995)
    The Stop Trippin’ EP exhibits dark techno at its finest. Although most people are familiar with his happy “Get Get Down” sound, Paul Johnson has proven that he can travel into darker soundscapes. Johnson’s productions on Relief are no exception. A instant favorite off of the EP, “Speech Impediment”, has a high pitched sample. It uses unique methods to transform a typical vocal sample to create a sped up tape recorder effect. The fact that this was done in a time when electronic was still relatively new is mind-blowing. The rest of the EP is as equally experimental and wild. It is highly recommended that you check it out in its entirety.
  5. Gene Farris – Blind Rage (1995)
    The Farris Wheel EP was the first EP that introduced the masses to Gene Farris. Beginning with “Blind Rage”, the main groove is swept up by a gust of noise and pelted with heavy techno percussion. It’s like reaching the eye of the storm. The track settles on a calm melody before being swept up by the winds again. The rest of the EP has its own highlights such as the unique Doppler effect on “Pitrippin“, or the percussion hits on “Excitement is Found“. After the success of this release, Farris became a mainstay on Relief Records. The track even went on to release on Cajual as well.
  6. Gemini – Native To America (1997)
    As a long time veteran of Relief Records, Gemini has built quite a decent repertoire with the label. One of his biggest Relief releases was 1997’s Imagine-A-Nation album, which marked his first double-vinyl release to the label. The title track, a smooth funk influenced anthem, uses a famous sample from Family Tree’s self-titled track. “Native to America” uses traditional instrument samples to get a real soulful groove down. Wherever Gemini is today, he is certainly missed.
  7. DJ Rush – Science (1997)
    1997 also saw the release of DJ Rush‘s Loco, a 5-track EP that displayed the erratic nature of Rush’s productions. Our favorite cut off of the mix was “Science”, a pensive track that seems to inspire more thought than dancing. Much like the name implies, the track sounds like an astronaut’s exploration through space. A grungy synth pattern lingers in the background waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting listener. It’s pleasing to know that DJ Rush still plays high energy tracks to this day.
  8. Green Velvet – La La Land (2001)
    Aside from being one of Green Velvet’s biggest singles, “La La Land” serves as more than just a dance track. “La La Land” results from a near-death experience from drugs and a supposed conversation with god. All which prompted Jones to take an anti-drug stance. His iconic chorus of the effects of “little pills” still echo in clubs all over the world 16 years later. While most don’t even realize the track is against drugs, the amount of people who’ve found inspiration to give up drug use immortalizes the impact its made. It has even seen reworks from unexpected fans of the next generation.
  9. Snap Mode – The Prince & The Pauper Go Dancin’ (2001)
    With a disheveled lead synth line, a deep bass kick, and high speed snare and high hat combinations, this Snap Mode B-side requires no introduction. Snap Mode, an alias of Hugo Moya, brought us a destructive techno belter in the form of “The Prince & The Pauper Go Dancin'”. Found on the Orbit Groove 12”, it remains to be one of our favorite to-go-to records to this day.
  10. Lester Fitzpatrick – Mental Abuse (2001)
    “Mental Abuse” is a crazy riff with a 133 BPM beat that smashes dance floors. A female voice comes in with a familiar utterance of “I’m losing my mind…” that one might recognize from the Green Velvet classic “The Stalker“. Mental Abuse is no cover; however, with a much more bombastic techno sound, there are no other similarities. Lester Fitzpatrick also has other releases, including some under his Mind Burn alias, which are also a great listen.
  11. Curan Stone – Come Back (2004)
    In curating this list, we wanted to limit the Cajmere/Velvet tracks; however, Curan Stone is a worthy mention on this list. Curan Stone is a lesser known alias used for more band oriented songs. “Come Back” is among our favorites of his, with a dark industrial sound you’d be more likely to hear in a crossover between Prince and Nine Inch Nails. Featuring depressed, obsessive vocals placed over a distorted guitar riff that howls for attention; The track is both commanding yet apologetic. “Come Back” features all the elements of Jones’ signature sound, while channeling it through a new medium.
  12. X2 – Time Elevation Rhythm(2006)
    X2‘s run was scarce. While there were not many releases under their belt, the releases they did have were genius. “Time Elevation Rhythm” appeared on the X2 & Saturn V Primitive Cypher EP, and brought a raw acid sound that blended nicely with techno. Sadly I haven’t been able to find much of X2 since…
  13. Green Velvet & Patrick Topping – Voicemail (2014)
    As a track that helped make Patrick Topping a household name, “Voicemail” earned its way into this list. Serving as a continuation of the Green Velvet classic, “Answering Machine“, the track is built around the same characters’ narrations over a dark techno beat infused with Toppings’ signature style. At times it is techno, at times it is tech house. The genius of this track is that the lines between the two genres are thinned so much, and Topping’s input is all over it. It was also great to hear what happened with our good old friends Taniqua, LaShaan, and Tyrone!
  14. Gene Farris – The Way U Like (2015)
    Gene Farris makes the list again, this time with “The Way U Like”. Although “The Way U Like” sounds like a revamp of the classic Detroit Grand Pubahs’ “Sandwiches”, Farris somehow makes his version sound completely different and more lustful (which is a job in itself) than the original. “The Way U Like” is a dirty warehouse stomper that sounds like it was made in a dark alleyway. Whether you listen to this in a church courtyard, or a sketchy street corner, Gene Farris still shows relevancy in today’s age.
  15. Latmun – Everybody’s Dancin’ (2017)
    Being the perfect artist to showcase the quality of Relief records today, Latmun shows us why he is being heavily supported by Green Velvet today. Last March, he dropped his Everybody’s Dancin’ EP which included a heavy self-titled track. “Everybody’s Dancin'” features a crisp, clean bassline atop an 80’s rap chant, filled with the right amount of white noise. Today, Latmun is one of the faces of the future, showing a bright future for Relief Records.

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