I apologise for this being early. I’m away for the Easter weekend and I doubt I’ll have much fun editing a blog on an iPad when I’m at the mercy of a particularly mercurial WiFi connection. Never mind, this weeks tune is a goodie.
I first heard Astral Dreams not long after it came out in the early/mid nineties when my friends and I came into possession a mix tape that became legendary in our circle. The tape, which became known to us as ‘Sacred Beatz’, was by a fella called Graham Slater, a Glasgow based DJ from way, way back. Contained across it’s 90 minutes was the blueprint for how we listened to and understood Techno. In the twenty years since I first heard it, I have very rarely heard a more fluid mix, especially in the way it ran amok over purism (So often the po faced enemy of dance music) as it happily welded Acid, deep vocal House and breakbeat to what was at the time state of the art Techno. And because I lost the tape before we entered the Spotify era most of the tunes remain unnamed. This one, though, this one I know very well.
Laurent Garnier has been at it even longer than I have. Astral Dreams remains a focal point in a run of great records Garnier had at the time, bookended by the likes of Acid Eiffel and running through some classic mid nineties jams like Crispy Bacon , Flashback and The Hoe. Even then his production prowess was probably overshadowed by his skill on the decks, and he was one of the first big name DJs to become famous for his marathon sets.
The tune is a perfect choice for a Friday night on the still icy edge of summer; full of promised warmth, it starts innocently enough with a simple beat and that curious, ringing single note that leads us into the growing madness. And mad it is. There are very few tunes out there that are as wonky and fun. In fact, it pulses with the daftness of it’s heartbeat, the riff growing stronger and stronger, rising in volume and potency until its joined by the lunacy of a borderline white noise bark, like the rawest frequencies allowed out to raise merry hell without supervision. And so it goes, building and falling until that final, almost plaintive reverberated note brings it to it’s exhausted, happy end.
What is interesting is the way it tramples over the lines. Is it Acid House? Techno? It’s both, in fact, and neither. It can almost seem like a relic of a more innocent time, when people were not quite so involved with the concept of genre – something that has become a curse of modern electronic music – but this is no relic; it’s every bit as full of life now as it was when it first came out in 1994. It’s stupid, it’s joyous, and, like a long buried shell from the Techno wars, it still does the damage. Classic.