“Rude Movements” by Sun Palace: How a U.K. jazz-funk jam session became an underground dance classic

by Will Sumsuch

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Once in a blue moon, a record comes along that changes the world. In the sphere of popular culture, it’s easier to point at a certain song, lyric or sentiment which upsets the status quo, providing enough impetus to send the mass flying off in new directions. But in the murky world of underground (especially electronic) music with its multitude of influences and reliance on sampling, it’s somewhat harder for us all to agree on an exact moment at which those big shifts occurred. Yet the more we discuss the culture and history of dance music, there are a small number of records which provoke a near-reverential reaction from DJs across the entire spectrum.

“It’s too perfect to play, if that makes sense.” –Sleazy McQueen

When I started to investigate 1983 jazz-funk gem “Rude Movements” by Sun Palace, I wasn’t quite prepared for the response I received. Sampled by a multitude of artists (most notably Kenny Dope for the Bucketheads’ “Whew”) and played regularly by the crate diggers I grew up with, the track had been in my consciousness ever since I can remember, but I’d never really sat down and listened to it properly. Once I started asking people about it, the outpouring of emotion was immediate and potent. Devotees of “Rude Movements” are truly in awe of it and even the most coherent of musos seem to struggle to find the words to describe it. It was almost like listening to people attempting to describe an alien artifact that fell to earth.

“Every instrument and each part is perfect; no fat, just muscle. It transcends many different levels. I’ve heard it played in disco and house clubs, at house parties and weddings. It has a basic, endearing quality that is indescribable and irresistible. Food for the mind, body and soul.” –Phil Asher

“Rude Movements” was given life back in 1981 by Mike Collins and Keith O’Connell, a pair of musicians who’d both moved to London from the North of England in order to further their careers. Originally calling themselves Rude Note (referring to “bent” notes played on the guitar and on the synthesizer using its pitch-bend wheel) the two wound up sharing a flat together in Wood Green in which they wrote and rehearsed obsessively together on a daily basis. Their early recordings were exclusively instrumental in nature simply because neither was a confident vocalist, utilizing early drum machines because neither played drums.

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Mike, a former club DJ, immediately saw the potential in one particular jazz-funk piece, essentially a repetitive electric piano and guitar jam, performed over a simple drum pattern he’d programmed on his brand new Roland CR78. The pair hired an eight-track machine to record a demo (later titled “Raw Movements” and now seeing the light of day for the first time). Convinced they had something special, Mike and Keith committed fully to the project, hiring Utopia Studios and their illustrious Neve mixing console to beef up the sound, as well as enlisting harpist Fiona Hibbert to play on an alternate mix of the track. The bill for these sessions totaled £4000, a sum which was unheard of at the time for an unsigned, instrumental project essentially constituted of a couple of guys jamming over a drum machine. Signed in 1983 by Passion Records, a mix that included harp and lush chords titled “Winning” was chosen as the A-side, while the more stripped-down and hypnotic take “Rude Movements” was consigned to the flip-side. The label named their new “band” Sun Palace and an odd little 12-inch single, cut firmly against the grain, was sent out into the world.

 

“I think in the U.K. we took a lot of our homegrown soul, funk and jazz-funk for granted, then when you hear American DJs like Mancuso, Levan, and Krivit showing their appreciation it makes you realise how much talent we had and the unique sound they developed. This record in particular has its own unique, magical quality and goes against the grain with itss mid-tempo pace and long drawn out breakdowns, epitomising a special time in U.K. jazz-funk history. A sure-fire desert island disc!”
–Seamus Haji (Big Love)

Across the pond in New York, audiophile and lover of all things spiritual and off-kilter David Mancuso discovered the record, premiering it at his already legendary Loft party. The airy, spiritual nature of the track, coupled with the utterly pristine sonics made it an early-morning staple in Mancuso’s sets; now viewed by many as one of the original “Loft classics.” And so goes the story: Loft devotees Nicky Siano, Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles and Danny Krivit went on to take the eclectic and inclusive spirit forward, infusing it into house music and everything that came after. “Rude Movements” embedded itself in the very fabric of electronic production, influencing arrangements, mixing and programming to this very day, possibly even defining genres as it travelled. Listen to the way classic deep house cuts like “Forever Monna” by Chez Damier and Stacey Pullen develop and arrange themselves over time; that special “Rude Movements” magic is surely hiding somewhere in the mix.

“‘Rude Movements’ is one of those rare songs which can make the world stand still. Time passes around you while you’re enveloped in a perfect groove… like a beautiful exhalation.” –Sleazy McQueen

Thirty-three years since it first appeared, U.K. label BBE tracked down producer Mike Collins, who by happy coincidence had recently unearthed original demo versions with the intention of revisiting the project. The label soon got much more than they bargained for, with Mike finishing off previously unheard Sun Palace demos, finally surfacing with a double vinyl album, bringing the story of the first record he ever made to a wonderful close. But as has been demonstrated over the last three decades, the story of “Rude Movements” will likely never end, as future listeners are rendered speechless by the track’s indescribable enchantment.

“It was the long, spacial arrangement and the simplicity of the band set-up that intrigued me, it sounds futuristic and retro at the same time. It has a timeless quality that is quite rare these days. I’d imagined dance floors like the Loft, Cosmic in Italy, Paradise Garage, Warehouse parties all playing this at one point during their lives. It has a Krautrock, cosmic and boogie sound all rolled into one, except it was made in the U.K. It makes you feel like dancing. I doubt I will ever stop playing it.” –Phil Asher

Still producing and playing to this day, Mike has enjoyed a rich and varied career, programming, playing and producing for Ryuchi Sakamoto, Björk, and David Bowie among many others, as well as becoming one of the world’s foremost authorities on the music production software Pro Tools. You can learn more about Mike’s incredible life in music on his website.

More information about the release of Sun Palace’s Rude Movements / Raw Movements can be found on the BBE website.

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