Thomas Franzmann, the man behind aliases Zip and Dimbiman, launched Perlon in 1997, calling on a small group of producers like Baby Ford and Ricardo Villalobos that have since become the scene’s leading figures. For the last 20 years these artists have helped shape the minimal sphere, building a visionary label that remains one of electronic music’s best loved.
But Perlon is only one part of Zip’s appeal. For many people he flourishes best in his DJ sets, where he champions a style of deep digging that guys like Binh and Nicolas Lutz are now known for. In a typical Zip set you’ll hear a discerning mix of heady 90s house weaved together with trippy minimal via moments that pull at your heartstrings, usually delivered with a charmingly unassuming grin from behind the booth.
We’ve experienced this dancefloor magic in our Farringdon space and further afield – he’s a DJ we love so much we’ve followed him closely across Europe, from revered clubs like Concrete and Robert Johnson to Berlin’s Club der Visionaere and the home of his Get Perlonized! residency, Panorama Bar.
When we knew he’d be coming back to the club this year we were keen to speak to him for a feature discussing his label’s 20-year anniversary, but in Zip style we concluded it would be better to let his music speak for itself.
So ahead of his performance in Room One next weekend, we pulled out ten of the Perlon mastermind's best gems for our first Dancefloor IDs feature, a new series covering the music we’ve heard played by some of electronic music’s deepest selectors. Drawing together sublime 90s deep house, rare garage and some of his classic label cuts, these are just a handful of selections that prove why Zip is one of the world’s truly special DJs.
Keep Bouncin! – Benny Blanko [Playhouse]
Throughout the early 2000s Benny Blanko gave a new dynamic to Playhouse’s tested format, by adding breaks to house records for a label that was otherwise known best for its minimal. The crisp snares are the first thing you notice on Keep Bouncin!, but it’s the psychedelic melody that makes it so fitting for Zip.
Rapid Eye Movement – Gemini [Peacefrog]
Spencer Kincy, the producer known as Gemini, made some of deep house’s most groundbreaking records throughout the late 90s, and of his whole catalogue it's his stuff on Peacefrog that still ticks every box. Rapid Eye Movement dropped on the UK label in 1997, but it could just as easily have come out last week. For the few years he was active Kincy mastered an idiosyncratic house sound that was both emotive and spacey, two important qualities you’ll always hear Zip drawing for.
Bellwinch – Cheap Knob Gags [Cheap Knob Gags]
Even if you’ve never heard of the alias Cheap Knob Gags, you might at least know its founding members Allen Saei and Josh Brent, the British deep house producers known as Aubrey and Schatrax. Bellwinch is a classy hypnotic workout built on a loop of sharp hats and subtle key dings, which appeared on one of the techno singles they slipped out on their self-titled label in 1996. It’s the type of record where you could easily miss its nuances, and you’d probably never find it unless you knew where to look, but these are both common trends with Zip’s selections.
Sex 4 Daze – Mark Nicholas O. [Ringrose]
There’s a curious story behind Sex 4 Daze, a sleazy garage banger from the littleknown British producer Mark Nicholas O. Zip first brought it to light from the late 90s sometime in 2012, in turn causing the usual frenzy among record geeks once videos of this had appeared online. Ricardo Villalobos then started caning it after a tip-off from Zip, until the hype had reached such a level that Mark Nicholas O. ran a private repress of the EP. He’s since revived the label and put out new music on the Bannoffee Pies imprint, which says something for the impact Zip’s selections can make.
Pattern 13 – Roman Flügel [Ongaku Musik]
It’s almost inconceivable to think about how much Flügel has contributed to the electronic music scene over the last 20 years, including co-founding Playhouse around the time Perlon first broke. But our favourite record of his comes from the Tracks on Delivery series on his label Ongaku Musik, and as with much of his work, it’s all about the looping. The kick drum on Pattern 13 gives it a weighty atmosphere, while gorgeous chiming bells add the emotional depth dance music can often lack. It doubled in value online after a video of Zip playing it at Sunwaves landed on YouTube, but at this point that shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
Lady Science (NYC Sunrise) – Soul Capsule [Trelik]
We recently noted how this timeless Soul Capsule cut can often sound misplaced if the DJ picks the wrong time to play it, but for getting that lump-in-throat moment right we can’t think of a more apt selector than Zip. This makes sense given its standing in minimal house history, and it has the same level of emotion and nostalgia that define Zip’s best early morning sessions. To put this record into its best context, the first time we heard it out was during the sunrise of a Zip and Ricardo Villalobos back-to-back set at Robert Johnson almost five years ago – it speaks for the effect it had that we still remember this moment now.
Moove – Max Brennan [Cide]
UK producer Max Brennan was mainly active through the late 90s and early 2000s, releasing a string of experimental deep house records that have since earned him a cult-like status. Most of this appeared on the Japanese imprint Sublime, but his best release was his debut for the small label Cide in 1996. The most memorable cut was the exceptional synth massage Moove, where Brennan strikes a balance between emotive and playful with his signature Playstation-style vocals. Whenever we hear this rare bomb, our minds instantly cast back to the most magical performance we’ve ever seen from Zip: the night of his fabric 67 launch party back in 2012. Zip pulled out all the stops during his Room One closing set; this selection played towards the end of the night showed us just how far down the rabbit hole he likes to go.
Something Strange – Paul Johnson [Dance Mania]
Paul Johnson is one of the best house producers ever, and Something Strange might be our favourite record of his. Both Paul Johnson and Dance Mania championed the type of ghetto house you’ll now see labels like Numbers. reviving, but Something Strange is more emotionally-rich than anything he usually delivers. A big part of this is the groaning organs, although the vocals certainly help: on any other record you’ll find him crossing boundaries with lewd sexual slurs, but for once here there’s a distinct human feeling to his seductive whispers. As usual, it reached an inflated price online after Zip was heard playing it; we’re sure the recent repress from Dance Mania was also a direct response to this.
No Day – Baby Ford [Perlon]
No Day is one of the best records Zip has signed – it’s also probably Baby Ford’s finest moment as a solo producer. Like most of Adshead’s work, its simplicity is part of the reason it makes sense: clean claps and bleeps mean it works on the dancefloor, while warm, snaking chords are equal parts heady and melancholic. It’s one of Zip’s favourite late-night weapons, and he’s not the only world-class DJ who plays it: it also regularly pops up in the bags of other minimal-leaning selectors like Rhadoo, and Craig Richards.
Dans La Nuit – Horror Inc. [Haunt/Perlon]
Marc Leclair has always had a singular voice. His work as Akufen is easy to identify once you know his sound, while his jazzier Horror Inc. material can always be spotted from a mile. Dans La Nuit is Leclair in typically delicate and spooky mode, meandering through an 11-minute interlude that could easily soundtrack both lights up in the club or breakfast the following afternoon. The EP on Haunt has been pretty difficult to get hold of for a while, but its appearance on his debut LP for Perlon in 2013 means many more of us now own it on vinyl. Thanks to Zip for sharing another masterpiece with us.
Zip's gems are also available to listen to as a full playlist via our YouTube channel.