No Luck Club’s Subtle Advance

No Luck Club’s Subtle Advance
Photo: Kristopher Grunert
Many turntable records tend to be a little overwhelming, as DJs flex their textbook skills and demonstrate they’re all up on their flares and chirps. Vancouver trio No Luck Club contains two turntablists, Matt Chan and Paul Belen (the latter won his city’s DMC final as Pluskratch), along with laptop technician Trevor Chan, and this crew is out to set new tones.

As a duo, the Chan brothers’ 2003 album Happiness ably demonstrated the moving rhythms that could be conducted between a sampler and turntable. Their second release, Prosperity, is again pieced through various turntable manipulations that mimic instruments rather than tricks, but this time things are conducted on a grander scale thanks to a new member and expanded aspirations.

"When we started working, we wanted to arrange it like a classical composition, where they have different suites and movements," says Trevor Chan. "I think we had the right idea, but I don’t think the execution is that great. I think the first three-quarters stuck true to the idea, but by the end we said ‘Fuck it, let’s just finish this record.’” Self-doubt aside, what NLC have accomplished is a full-bodied album that ranges from funk, sinister hip-hop and hypnotic rock to orchestral suites. "The main idea was to put out a record with diverse music on it. We’ve never really stuck to one sound because that’s not what we’re interested in. After we make, say, a funk song then the last thing we want to do is make another one. Maybe one day we’ll have the patience and more focus to stick with one theme.”

Turntablism is moving away from its roots in hip-hop, a trend that No Luck Club fully embrace. "That’s our vision of creating scratch music," says Trevor. "There are so many different ways of playing rock music, right? You can have basic blues style or you can have things tripped out like My Bloody Valentine or Sonic Youth. It’s all over the map, so why can’t you do that with scratch music?"

But in the move to set scratch music apart, some have taken it too far, leaving traditional music behind. "I remember about five years ago the big thing was scratch notation," Trevor says, recalling a form of sheet music for turntables. "It’s cool that you want to create some sort of standard that everyone can write by, but at the same time why do you want to make something different? There’s music notation already. I don’t want to set scratching apart — I want to incorporate it into the larger musical spectrum. We’re using it for texture, rhythm and lead harmony. I hope by the end of the day people find that more interesting.”

Such a common musical language would put groups like No Luck Club on equal footing with musicians everywhere, be it a violinist or a drummer. "I think at the end of the day I’d like us to be like a classic jazz band that would just sit in on a session one afternoon, record them and boom! There’s your record," says Trevor at the thought of incorporating even more instruments into the fold. "We’d love to be an orchestra or a big band, but obviously you need to have certain name recognition and you have to be a certain draw before you can bring that many people on the road with you. It’s tough enough touring as a trio.”