Brett Dancer is not your typical, underground label-owner. Peppering our conversation about Track Mode Records with terms like “market trends,” he doesn’t make it sound like his Baltimore-based imprint prides itself on no-radio-play deep and soulful house. When he started it in New York in 1993, Track Mode was originally meant to simply be an outlet for his personal tracks, but it quickly grew far beyond those boundaries. Now in its tenth year, the label boasts over sixty twelve-inch releases, five full-length albums and four compilation albums and shows no sign of slowing down.
So how has this relatively obscure project stayed afloat for an entire decade? For Dancer, the answer is simple. “From the beginning I’ve stuck with my music philosophy,” he says, “and I never deviated because of what became popular or which producers were hot. We put out quality music for quality listeners, and in the end, good music is just good music.” Dancer is so steadfast about this mindset he refuses to pigeonhole his sound by slapping a trendy label on it, believing this invites limitation instead of opportunity. He notes, “It isn’t a standardized type of music that someone can listen to and say ‘yeah, it’s this.’ We’re difficult to categorize.”
To commemorate ten years of quality music, Dancer and his fellow label artists are throwing a boat party this Sunday. Of course, this begs the question, why would an East Coast label celebrate its anniversary in Chicago with local artists such as Larry Heard and Glenn Underground? Another Track Mode artist, Craig Alexander, believes it’s for a couple reasons: “Not only is Chicago the birthplace of house, but Brett came to Chicago last year for the Fourth of July and loved it. People from the scene in cities like Detroit and New York flock to our city around this time so it made sense to do it here and now.” Whatever the reason, with a sticker price that includes food, drink and some of the best talent in the city, this is one celebration not to miss. (Dani Deahl)
“A Decade of Track Mode” features DJs Larry Heard, Craig Alexander, Glenn Underground, Anthony Nicholson, and Brett Dancer on a boat cruise from Navy Pier down the Chicago River and Lake Michigan on July 2. $50 cover includes entrance, open bar and buffet.