Sunday, June 16, 2019

DJ Mixes Revisited: Architecture - Terry Francis (Pagan)

Where to start with this? Well, a good place would be that this set pretty much nails what tech house really is. I remember reading an old interview, probably from Muzic, in which Terry, or Eddie Richards, or Nathan Coles defined tech house more or less as good music which we play, irrespective of genre. Those were not their precise words, but more or less what was said. Going to Wiggle around that time meant bathing in the best of house and techno, but with a majestic groove ruling all. 

This was a great time to be alive. In 1997 I moved back to The UK from France, having been living in Paris for the previous three years. While over there I had been a Rex Club regular, attended the Soma parties put on by British ex-pats in and around the French capital, went to The Queen on les Champs Elysees A lot, both midweek and at the weekend sometimes, ‘Respect is Burning’ anyone? And loads of other stuff. I digress; I’d only been living in London for a month when I bumped into Terry in a bar in Clapham, one Friday evening, had a chat with him, (he’s just been named Muzic’s “Best New DJ” a few months earlier), and was given a spot on the guest list at the 414 in Brixton for later the same night. (The close  at the end of last month I believe).

Sorry to waffle, but context is very important. This little appetizer was an important step on the road to Wiggle, somewhere I didn’t go until a couple of months later I think, maybe early December? It was after going to watch Crystal Palace 1 3 Liverpool on the same day. (I had come over to London the Christmas before to go, but while staying at Hursty's flat in Camberwell, came down with as bad a case of the flu as I've ever had, and had to watch while everyone else went). Myself, John (Hassay), maybe Jim (Irving), maybe others, I don’t know, went to the London Bridge arches that night and got infected by the vibe. A rave in any other world, a temporary autonomous zone, somewhere to get battered, make friends and listen to great music as it should be played.  Sure, the bpms were often maxed out, but this helped to bridge the gap between house and techno. I can still remember tunes from around that time, although not necessarily from that night: ‘Web of Deceit’ by Primary Colours used to get a caning, as did almost anything with the stamp of Charles Webster on it.  The 20/20 Vision remix of ‘Lovelee Day’ by Blaze was omnipresent, as well as ‘When The Funk Hits The Fan (Mood ll Swing When The Dub Hits the Fan’. Heads down banging techno didn’t really feature, but that at the funkier end of the spectrum did. It was really all about making the music being played as syncopated and zippy as possible, while keeping control of the funk. Vocals came mainly in the form of snippets and samples, but often broke through in their own right, as shown in the mix by the peerless Francois K  remix of ‘Tout est Bleu’, and the great thing about ‘Architecture’ is that it perfectly encapsulates this. Easier said than done, which is why it’s never been managed as well since.

The mix in question is a roster of everything that caught fire back then. As well as those already mentioned, the quintessential tech house sound of the time is represented in the shape of Gideon Jackson, Pure Science, Two Right Wrongans, Skymaster aka Mark Ambrose and Aubrey. This was such a purple patch for British house music that it’s difficult to put into words how burgeoning the scene was. Moreover, Its influence cannot be understated; so many of the records released back then, and in subsequent years, either by specific artists or on record labels associated with them and the scene generally, regularly pop up in the sets of DJs trying to reproduce that vibe. These releases are also an investment too, regularly fetching top dollar on Discogs: Wiggle, Eye 4 Sound (recently revived), Plank, Surreal, Swag, End Recordings, London Housing Benefit, etc; This is a sound that has stood the test of time well, mainly because it fed the primal urges which were helped to flourish by the best MDMA. And that’s another thing: mind-bending psychedelics were always part of the equation. I have some incredibly vivid memories of so many of those nights, and remember so many of the people that populated the darkest recesses of the party, and I wouldn’t be able to, were it not for copious imbibition. But who was that girl with the scorpion tattoo from Ipswich?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Oscillate Tracks 003 - Johanna Knutsson, Karen Gwyer (Oscillate Tracks)

Title: Oscillate Tracks 003 
Artist: Johanna Knutsson/Karen Gwyer
Label: Oscillate Tracks
Cat Number: OSCT003
Genre: Techno

1: Hassel – Johanna Knutsson
2: Lysmossa – Johanna Knutsson
3: The Way You Drive – Karen Gwyer
4: Caught You – Karen Gwyer

This latest offering from Oscillate Tracks splits four compositions equally between Johanna Knutsson and Karen Gwyer, with each artist representing an individual take on one of techno’s many facets. Johanna Knutsson makes, on this evidence, warm, cold weather music designed to embrace the senses and tango with the emotions. Both of her tunes have a momentous melancholia about them which would be best appreciated in an open top sleigh riding full pelt across a frozen Swedish lake. Karen Gwyer’s tracks is more impressionistic, and a little bit chaotic, reigning themselves in by the skin of their teeth. The titles betray as much, but there isn’t much between them, each feeling like two sides of the same coin.

Monday, June 10, 2019

New Advances In Lizard Tech - Reptant (Craigie Knowes)

Title: New Advances In Lizard Tech
Artist: Reptant 
Label: Craigie Knowes
Cat Number: CKNOWEP17
Genre: Techno

A1: Lizard Theme
A2: The Raid
B1: Transcendants From The Outer Sphere

A name to watch after a slew of hat trick of ear snagging releases, Reptant slithers his way into the spotlight with this three tracker, courtesy of Craigie Knowes, which shows a versatility hitherto unknown in the reptile kingdom. ‘The Raid’ is an electro morsel, adorned with sonic non sequiturs that work wonderfully. ‘Transcendants From The Outer Sphere’ is a sparse little number which relies on gossamer taut breaks to drive it through the firmament, and ‘Lizard Theme’ feels like the soundtrack to some mudskippers having a rave back in the Devonian Period. A strong sense of uncertainty throbs beneath A2 and A3 in the shape of a welcome trance inducting bass. Reptant plays his hand well on this release, modulating the minutia between each tune.

Tropical Storm - Startegy (Idle Hands)

Title: Tropical Storm 
Artist: Strategy 
Label: Idle Hands
Cat Number: IDLE059
Genre: House

1: Tropical Storm
2: Evolu

‘Tropical Storm’ is like ‘Pacific State’, which doesn’t make it a rip off, or any less of a good tune, but it’s definitely like it, with the added input of pace and dub. Having said that, the percussion which underpins it comes across as a one man band on cake. ‘Evolu’ reminds me of a French tune from the mid nineties, like something off the ‘Super Discount’ series. It’s a much stronger track than ‘Tropical Storm’, layering on the sound slabs until a nice level of intensity is reached. A sunrise moment for the discerning raver.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Sissel Bass 4 Ever - Peder Mannerfelt (Peder Mannerfelt Produktion)

Title: Sissel Bass 4 Ever 
Artist: Peder Mannerfelt
Label: Peder Mannerfelt Produktion
Cat Number: PM008
Genre: Experimental, Techno, Synthetic

1: Sissel & Bass (Sissel Wincent Remix)
2: Sissel & Bass (OnScreenActor Remix)
3: Sissel & Bass (Cera Khin Mind Destruction Remix)
4: Sissel & Bass (Perc Remix)
5: Sissel & Bass (Perko Dub)

Another week, another remix package. This time it’s five versions of Peder Mannerfelt’s ‘Sissel And Bass’, a track that first appeared on the ‘Daily Routine’ album and is, compared to the remixes here, something deconstructed and post-impressionist. The versions on this release are much more cohesive, making use of the original’s motifs to lesser or greater extents. The deadpan vocal by Sissel Vincent is the dominant trope, with the pounding beat, high-pitched whoops and occasional deep “bass” vocal snippet orbiting, ready to pounce when needed. It’s an interesting package, but apart from the Perko Dub, relatively one dimensional. Still, the OnScreenActor Remix more than does the business, as does everything else, depending on your level of confrontational techno tolerance.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Dubonnet - Delroy Edwards (Apron)

Title: Dubonnet
Artist: Delroy Edwards
Label: Apron
Cat Number: APRON037
Genre: House

1: Live And Let Live
2: Fat Dynamics
3: Funny Styles
4: Dubonnet
5: In Orbit
6: How High Is The Moon

Marketed as “six tracks of real honest raw house music”, one is led to wonder what that, like “British values”, actually is? Delroy Edwards who comes from Los Angeles defines it thus: warm, analogue grooves steeped in melancholic dust and primitivism. Of course there’s more to it than that, but it’s a reasonable starting point. Truth be told, these are original, counter intuitively sophisticated soundtracks to quintessentially parallel urban dimensions, drawing on far more than their press release suggests. ‘Live And Let Live’ is a lovely, bittersweet loop composed of artfully conducted keys along which a kick keeps time. ‘Funny Styles’ sounds jazzy and abstracts within an offbeat pervasiveness. I could go on, but I wouldn’t do justice to the wonderful eccentricity of this release.

Raw Cuts Vol. 2 - DJ Deep (Deeply Rooted)

Title: Raw Cuts Vol. 2
Artist: DJ Deep
Label: Deeply Rooted House
Cat Number: DRH061
Genre: Techno

A1: Head Up
A2: Swingin’ With The P
B1: Porte
B2: Corridor Rodeo

Linear, taut and efficient, but not too clean, which I like; these weapons from DJ Deep’s sonic stud farm do the business with all the understated menace of an itinerant gun for hire. Whether the idea is to span all approaches and create as much mayhem as possible in the process, or to provide an object lesson in how to make a varied and effective techno EP which will at muscle to the mix and provide some stand out moments of its own to boot, I don’t really know. However, Mr. Deep has succeeded on both fronts and has also given a lesson in concise beat chemistry while doing so. Vive la France!

Plastic Attack - Ara-U & Radioactive Man (Asking For Trouble)

Title: Plastic Attack 
Artist: Ara-U & Radioactive Man 
Label: Asking For Trouble
Cat Number: AFT005
Genre: Electro

A1: Datatheft
A2: Failure To Communicate
B1: Daytime Robbery
B2: The Last Waltz

This is electro which surfs the electronic nether regions; occasionally dense and damp, at other times more expansive and unconfined. What joins the machine funk dots though, is a syncopated, grinding momentum that strafes the senses with methodical finesse. ‘Failure To Communicate’ recalls balmy evenings spent listening to Aux 88 through the medium of ‘Voice of America’ era Cabs. ‘Daytime Robbery’ is a slow, seedy cruise which evokes sundry imaginings of potential felonies. ‘Datatheft’ is a grinding, friction-filled fusion while ‘The Last Waltz’ takes the listener on a more energetic excursion beyond the rhythm.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Khonner Remixes - Deena Abdelwahed (Infine)

Title: Khonner Remixes (Digital Version)
Artist: Deena Abdelwahed
Label: Infine
Cat Number: IF2076
Genre: Experimental Panorama

1: Rabbouni (Enyang Ha Remix)
2: 5/5 (Lord Of The Isles Remix)
3: Ababab (Ital Tek Remix)
4: Fdhiha (Dawan Remix)

A remix package demands to be judged on its own terms inasmuch as what’s the point unless the track is going, to an extent, be turned inside out. So looking at this quartet somewhat through the looking glass, I have to say that I’m impressed. The broad scope of Abdelwahed’s artistry is reflected in the choice of versions on show here. There is a panoramic feel to each tune, none more so than the remix of ‘5/5’ by Lord of the Isles, for sheer depth it’s difficult to beat the drama of Enyang Ha’s take on ‘Rabbouni’, while both ‘Ababab’ and ‘Fdhiha’ provide more uptempo fare; the former being a bleak, industrial stomp, and the latter an acidic, breaks-infused big room banger.

Deep Analysis - Cygnus (CPU)

Title: Deep Analysis
Artist: Cygnus
Label: CPU
Cat Number: CPU 01001001
Genre: Electro

1: Her Majesty (The Universe)
2: Sheffield Bleep
3: Deep Analysis
4: Ultraterrestrial
5: Decent Of Man
6: Hallucinate Data

A label that has come to define contemporary electro and an artist whose retro futurism is an effortless evocation of a dark, humid, subtropical, funk-filled universe is an unbeatable combination in my humble opinion. And this is what we have here; Cygnus, whose singular vision is currently riding the zeitgeist of the digital nether regions isn’t putting a foot wrong at the moment and is in the middle of a purple patch that just gets deeper and more iridescent. Coming at you like the bastard son of Roger Troutman and James Stinson, this collection peaks on tracks like ‘Sheffield Bleep’, ‘Ultraterrestrial’ and ‘Hallucinate Data’  where vocodered, effects-laden vocals lay out electronic machine funk laylines. The other tracks are similarly characterized by an eerie minimal funk that implores the listener to read between the lines in order to find a portal to the stars by way of a parallel science fiction world mindset. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

My Master - Kris Baha (Pinkman)

Title: My Master
Artist: Kris Baha
Label: Pinkman
Cat Number: PNKMN33
Genre: Dramatic Electronic Melancholia

A1: Fuels The Fire
A2: Two Sides
A3: Chase Your Shadow
B1: Serve, Obey
B2: My Master
B3: Fuel

Listening to this release by Kris Baha, it’s impossible not to be struck by the attention to detail. The vocals nod heavily in the direction of body music bards, those on ‘Two Sides’ sound like estuary cockney . . . the arrangements are frictional, hopped up industrial, chugging along and mowing everything down in their path. There’s a monotonous, pervasive menace emphasized by the vocals when they’re deployed, and the stark, angular cold weather beats. This won’t be the sound of the summer.

Return To Telepathic Heights - A Sagittariun (Running Back Incantations)

Title: Return To Telepathic Heights
Artist: A Sagittariun
Label: Running Back Incantations
Cat Number: RUBINC004LP
Genre: Techno

1: Once Upon A Time
2: Watch The Skies!
3: Last Of The Crazy Baldheads
4: Zeus l, Prepare For launch
5: Life Is The Illusion, Love Is The Dream
6: Lazer Battle At The OK Corral
7: Version Excursion
8: Dream Stealers
9: The Mild Mild West
10: The Final Scene (Fades To Black)

A cursory look at the track list will immediately inform the potential listener of the equilibrium they are about to bear witness to. That’s a rather long-winded way of saying that this collection has balance and, as befits its soundtrack status, depth and ambience. Without going into the exhaustive detail provided by the press release, suffice to say that there’s a concept at work here, whatever the case this is a sumptuous peace of work, the sonic range of which operates on multiple sensory levels. Not everything is as might be expected: ‘Lazer Battle At The OK Corral’ with its John Wayne samples feels out of place, sandwiched as it is between the pounding ‘Life Is The Illusion . . .’ and the more reflective ‘Version Excursion’, but it works, thanks in no small part to its low end, which is just a variant vertebra on the albums spine. ‘Once Upon A Time’ and ‘The Final Scene (Fades To Black)’ serve as atmospheric frictional fade in and out bookends, and within their confines there are all sorts of stellar goodies with ne’er a bum note throughout. 

BTW, here's an interview I did with A Sagittariun many moons ago.