Away from the crowded regiments of the big, hungry labels, there are a whole bunch of smaller operations that are continuing to turn out interesting, important and fun recordings. It’s tempting for some ageing fool like myself to splurge purple prose about the early days, when tiny vinyl only operations (like there was much choice back then,) changed the face of music, but it wouldn’t be true. This Golden Age, if it really existed at all, was a momentary spark that soon dulled and faded in much the same way as the much mythologised era of free parties was soon enough co-opted by monolithic superclubs and gangsters.
In fact, I would go as far to say that we are now heading into something that does actually look like a golden age. The number of tiny labels kicking out astonishing music is rising every day. Small independent operations like Proibito, Bad Mums Club, Trilogy Tapes, Semantica and others are showing that you don’t have to buy into the Apple-centric nonsense that its iTunes or Death. Whether your kicking out fresh releases on vinyl or digital doesn’t really matter. What matters is that people seem to finally be taking hold of the reins of power and just getting on with it, without worrying about what the crooked and corrupt music industry has to say about it.
Italian gang Early Sounds Collective, would appear to be such an outfit. Whilst their output is minimal, their two or three releases over the last couple of years have revealed a keen understanding of the form and function of modern electronic music. The first volume of their label sampler came out almost two years ago and sailed closer, on the whole, to what seems to be now called ‘Deep House’, even lightly touching upon disco. This second volume is harder, more rugged, more experimental perhaps.
The four tracks on offer here owe something to the electronic past; slices of true machine funk birthed my men hunkered down over arcane gear and wires in the darkness of secretive sound labs. There is something of the spirit of Detroit experimental Techno-soul in each of them, and of the merging of that attitude with more European sensibilities that happened at the start of the 90s. MFO’s Mephisto Frequency Oscillator is a good-natured romp that barely pauses to work out what it wants to be as it fluctuates between hard Techno and more laid back Acid. Soak by JRMS is cut from similarly roughly spun cloth but tighter, more focussed. It churns its way forwards with some strangely jazzy percussion and a bass riff that is three parts gravel to one part sound.
MCMXC’s Damn is wonkier. There is a Detroit vibe here as with the others, but it’s more Plus 8 than Transmat or Metroplex: Something in the cascading bleeps and cowbells puts me in mind of that labels early releases. It’s a nice builder that catches the light as it grows.
Best of the lot, though, is Leskin’s Outer Intrusions, a future classic that looks forward even as it acknowledges the past. driven drums and some gorgeous synths that are at once full and bright, but fragile and dreamlike. The main riff is as full grooved Techno Soul as anything Eddie Fowlkes or Blake Baxter have done for a while. It’s a winsome, ever so melancholy beauty that remains in the mind even as the music has faded away. High Tech Funk from Low Tech ethos, it’s the jewel in Early Sound Collectives machine cut crown.