Gene Hunt/Steve Murphy: Split Grooves Vol4 – Wilson Records

It’s been a weird week. Everything from schizophrenic Spring time Scottish weather to unseemly spats on social media have contributed to a feeling of lethargy and sleepiness. It didn’t help that the number of records I fancied buying let alone reviewing seems, in the digestive period since the much over-hyped Record Store Day, to have dropped away to zilch.

Usually it would take something warped to get the fires burning again, anything to excite the jaded hunger we all feel when we’ve overdosed on something we love. Alternately, sometimes it’s better to get a little bit of what you actually need rather than what you want. Turns out what I needed were a bunch of straight up House Jams.

Gene Hunt occupies that space in electronic music that usually walled up with words like ‘legend’. The man is indeed that – he’s probably forgotten more about House music than most of us will ever know. His early work tied a Detroit sensibility to the thrust of proper Chicago House, appearing on labels widely spaced as Trax and Djax Upbeats. Recently Hunt has curated a pair of compilation albums – Gene Hunt Presents Chicago Dance Tracks – built up of tunes that never got much exposure outside of their native Chicago. Anyone with an interest in House music should beg, borrow or steal copies.

Hunt opens his side of the record with Get Down, a writhing, pumping old-school jacker that does exactly what the title says. It’s the essence of simplicity: a descending bass, thick as a tree trunk, choppy fragments of funk guitar and a sample so obvious but so perfect it’ll be stuck in your head for weeks. Below all that are the huge drums built purely for the dance floor and full of the little touches and frills that’ll keep you wriggling.

S And S is the comedown to Get Down’s boisterous fun, although it should be noted that it’s still a proper mover. Wonky synths glide over the clanking beats, leading into a riff so plaintive and heartfelt it captures you almost unaware. When people talk about late night music, the sort of tunes that can only make true sense when you hear them in a darkness drenched club at three in the morning, this is the sort of thing they mean, whether they know it or not. A perfect down-beat counter to the opener.

The B-side of the split goes to Steve Murphy who is often to be found on Chi-Wax and Lobster Theramin ( a label currently enjoying a bit of a surge at the moment.) Despite the name, Murphy hails from just outside Venice. Not that you would know it from his two tunes here – both are as deep and jacking as any genuine Chicagoan House you would care to mention.

Relaxed Groove opens with heavy storm-cloud synths and the deepest of sub bass grunts that usher you into the vocal cuts that wrap around the rhythm with the precision of a master craftsman. I have to admit that it took me a couple of listens to get into it. At first I thought it an impressive piece of Big Room House – and it is – but there is a subtlety to it in the way it builds and glides that belay such obvious pretensions. Let it wash over you, carry you forward and up, and it’ll do its work.

I Killed the Love is the best of the lot – and that’s saying something when you’ve got a pair of Gene Hunt monsters holding court. Like Hunt, it welds the vibes of Detroit and Chicago together. It’s dominated by a robotic, jacking riff that whiplash across the brutally functional drums with the reverbed vocal hanging back in the space. In its own way it is as simple as Get Down, loftier, perhaps, but no less funky. A tune for the strobes of your favourite hole-in-ground club to freak out to. Proper House – just what I needed.

General Ludd: Hit It – Clan Destine Traxx

So far my only experience of Glaswegian label Clan Destine has been through the Dark Acid trilogy of 12″s they put out last year. It was a pretty good experience, it has to be said. No, strike that: it was a great experience. If you haven’t tracked them down you, you really should. six sides of wax spread thick with some of the most dark side, amorphous takes on Acid you will probably ever hear from some seriously on-point artists. Tuff Sherm, Jamal Moss, Torn Hawk and WORKER/PARASITE pulled out all the stops and delivered a modern vision of Acid House refracted through an almost pitch black prism, but they weren’t the whole story.

The second release also contained tracks by Tropics Of Capricorn and Golden Teacher, which is important because they provide the composite parts for General Ludd, a duo who began life in Glasgow School of Art – otherwise famous for the eclectic nights held within its union, and the sheer number of Turner Prize nominees and winners it has generated. It’s also contained within a building by Charles Rennie Mackintosh but I’ll leave it there because I am apparently the only person alive that thinks he was a hack….

Anyway, aside from their critically aclaimed releases on Optimo Music as part of the Golden Teacher collective, The duo first came to the world’s attention in their newer General Ludd Guide with The Fit of Passion EP on Brookyn’s Mr Saturday Night. The killer track on it, Woo Haa, a fun drenched chunk of disco infused House that exposed them to a bunch of new ears as the record made its way into many a strange flight case. Expect it to be cropping up in many end-of year round ups come December.

Hit It, their full debut for Clan Destine, is probably as far from that sound as its possible to go. Neither of the two tracks are anywhere as accessible, and I wouldn’t put much money on this one joining it’s sibling in too many of the more strait-laced record bags either, which is a shame, really, as there are more than a few dance floors out there that could do with a dose of some serious freak-funk.

Hit It itself is less a tune than an extended experimental rhythm piece that probably owes more to genres like free style jazz and Jazz-funk than I know. It storms into being with fierce tribal polyrythms battering out a path through a very urban jungle. It never stays in one place very long, the frequent – sometimes subtle, sometimes blunt – changes in direction wrong foot you constantly, just as the curls of police sirens and layers of whooshes and taped-warped samples add a layer of haze to the strangely hypnotic effect. It has the vibe of a Warhol experimental piece, an oddball home movie of a voodoo ceremony in the dank heart of the city. It’s startlingly organic – the sort of free form madness most House producers would only admit to considering in the depth of a fever dream.

Kick Out is the straighter of the two, swapping the bruising and disorienting tribal storm for deceptively reassuring technoid patterns. a toxic spill of fractured, chewed up beats accompany the same brain fuzz of sirens and reversed, whispered, scuzzy taped madness. The snap of the hand claps, and the hiss of the percussion gives it a sense of direction missing from Hit It, even before the sample of MC5 materializes for a moment of stark aural warning and the tune morphs into a deep and viciously jacking killer. It’s the sort of music you imagine CBGBs and the Bowery would have been thick with in the seventies if that Proto art punk crew had discovered drum machines and sequencers instead of guitars and heroin. This is what you get if you cross the heart of a dancer with the peacock strut of a fallen angel. Deliciously malicious.

Friday Night Tune: Eric Ericksson – Synchronized Minds

One of the joys of owning records, as opposed to MP3s, is the fun of whiling away an ungodly amount of hours digging through them. Like the pages of a very particular photo album, each record is a snapshot of a moment in time. It even elicits similar responses, except that instead of asking yourself why you ever thought it was a good idea to wear dungarees (Hint: it isn’t EVER a good idea to wear dungarees) you end up trying to remember why you ever spent so much money on compilations of No-Hit Acid House Wonders, or when, exactly, it was you were quite that into Tech-Step drum n Bass.

The reason I’ve been digging tonight – and the reason this weeks FNT is delayed – is that I was looking for something and came across a sleeve for a Mike Dunn record sans the actual record. This happens on a fairly regular basis around here, but it’s usually something I welcome as I get the opportunity to go digging. A couple of months ago whilst on a similar mission I found a copy of House of God by DHS I never knew I owned, and so far tonight I’ve found a second copy of Preacher Man by Green velvet that looks like it’s been mauled by a dog, a Schatrax white label, a copy of the Beats International compilation (“Beats with Bleeps!” it says on the sleeve – How can you not love that?) thick with tunes by LFO that I’d forgotten and this, Synchronized Minds by Eric Ericksson.

For a large part of the 90s, Fragile records, the label on which this appears, was a rare instance of an off-shoot being at least as important – if not actually more so – than it’s parent label. What made this all the more remarkable is that Fragile’s parent was Transmat, the label owned and run by the legendary Derrick May. Transmat is one of the most important homes of electronic music in history, not only for May’s own material, but for a host of some of the most important music to come out of Detroit.

Fragile, though, more than held up to the legacy. For almost the whole of the 90s it put out classic after bona-fide classic, perhaps reaching its high tide mark in Aril Brikha’s Art of Vengeance EP. And while there probably aren’t many who would claim that Synchronized Minds reaches quite that height, I personally don’t think it’s far off.

Although Ericksson may be Swedish, Synchronized Minds is a tune entirely born in Detroit. From its shambling groove to the darting riffs to the bursts of orbital synths so resonant of Carl Craig or Juan Atkins there is only one city on earth that this could be about. The trick Ericksson pulls though – the one that has proved so hard over the years – is that he gets that the sounds are the easy part and that real work, the real movement of the music, lies in the feel and the way the best Detroit Techno use the past as a propellant for reaching out to the future. Sublime.

And before you ask: No, I have no idea where that Mike Dunn record is. I’d better get back to looking for it….oh the hardship.

Event: Patrice Scott @ Missing Persons Club – La Cheetah, Glasgow, 25.4.14

Detroit Producer and Sistrum Record boss Patrice Scott graces the decks in teeny wee sweat-box La Cheetah tomorrow night for Missing Persons Club. Expect an evening both Deep and Jacking as Scott gives us his take on High-Tech Soul. Scott has been responsible for some steller intergalactic grooves over the years and this should be a very good night in the company of a genuine Detroit great. Support from MPCs own Julius Funkhouser.

There are a few early bird tickets available at £6 until tomorrow. Prices are £8 b4 12 and a ten-spot after.

Doors open at 11, La Cheetah, 73 Queen Street; Glasgow.

Go Down. Make it Count. Lie in Kelvingrove Park and recover on Saturday in the sunshine and curse the bawbag with the bongos who is ALWAYS THERE. Heck, I might even go myself. it’s about time for my yearly shuffle.

I haven’t done one of these for a while. Letting the side down so I am. Back on it now, though.

Nicuri: A Lucid Dream – Mora Music

The East coast of the United States has become a fertile breeding ground for all manner of electronic music over the course of the last few years. I imagine it always has been. In the past there can be little doubt that the sounds coming out of New York were overshadowed by Detroit and Chicago (even if those cities didn’t quite deserve the consistent adulation they received) and for most of us European sorts the concept of East Coast Techno probably meant Adam X and Frankie Bones, and their fierce take on the genre.

Nowadays it’s a little different. Much of the most interesting music currently working its way across the European underground probably started life in Long Island, or Brooklyn, or as with Nicuri here, New Jersey. And whilst the tones and aesthetics of the industrialized sound favoured by X and Bones are still to be found in a huge mass of contemporary New York Music to a greater or lesser extent, the New Jersey scene that came to prominence on this side of the pond due to the work of producers like DJ Qu, Jus Ed and Fred P has flourished with its deeper, House-ier vibe.

Nicuri first came to our attention over here with Ridindatneedle, a single track of low slung House on Strength Music’s Semesters EP in 2008. It was very nearly the stand out track on that release, and would have been by far the best thing on it had Semesters not also contained Joey Anderson’s incomparable Hypno-funk number Three Analysis. Since then Nicuri has turned up on other samplers but full releases seem to have been missing, with only one other EP to his name. Luckily, Mora Music have gone some way to redressing the balance.

A Lucid Dream is Deep House done the way God intended. Where so often Deep House ia a genre that seems to only exist for the In-Crowd to nod their heads to whilst awaiting service in one of those soulless clubs that pride themselves on their VIP areas, A Lucid Dream is the real thing. Ocean waves of Synths and reverb roll above the Abyssal depths, breaking over the reef like bassline that occasionally rises above the upper frequencies like the banks of a broken shore. There is much here that echoes what other members of the New Jersey crowd have done but feels fresher at the same time: the sign of a healthy scene.

Moments is the flip side to A Lucid Dreams aquatic trip. Crunching drums up-jack the tempo and the heat. More dance floor ready than the A side, it recalls some of DJ Qu’s more prowling tunes. The shuffling proto-acid line in particular carries the track upwards into the storm clouds gathering above the horizon. It never quite works itself up into a bona-fide mover of the modern sort, but that’s part of its strength and beauty. Nicuri is a man who seems to appreciate the how otherwise colossal sounds, shown here in his synths, can be tailored to something more introspective and haunting without ever letting it slip into something mawkish or showy. For all its gracefulness, Moments is an effective and functional bit of music, inhabiting that space where House and Techno collide and the mind, body and soul all work as one.