Review: Robert Crash – Under Party (Dog In The Night)

Perhaps more than any other genre, Electronic music is the domain of the independent mind. From bedroom producers and DJs to pop up record labels there has always been such a strong belief in getting on with it and doing things for yourself that even Indy rock looks positively corporate in comparison. These days that attitude seems to be on the increase and each new week seems to bring a fresh clutch of labels pushing new talent towards us.

Dog In the Night are another of those labels that have appeared out of nowhere with their fingerprints seared off. For all I know they may be some post modernist trick of EMI or Virgin to get themselves a slice of the pie but I doubt it. Their first release (or their second, if you go by the catalogue numbers) was the Detour EP by WV. It was a good record, perhaps more solid than groundbreaking and pitched somewhere between straight Techno and Experimentalist tribal funk. There was enough in it, though, to suggest that Dog In The Night know their stuff, and it had a certain zing that put it squarely up there with the current scuzzy New York vibe. Track it down if you can, it’s more than worth a buy.

This second (or first) record, Under Party by Robert Crash – better known as IFM’s Fran Mela – has a similar starting point to Detour, but falls resolutely into the left field. Similar to Detour, there is much here that has common ground with Lo-Fi experimentalism, but with an added swagger that recalls some of classic Chicago’s darker, more uncompromising moments. Opener Candem Town, for example captures the nightmarish sodium glare of Frankie Knuckles’ Baby Wants To Ride whilst occupying a vastly different psychic space; it’s pace surgically removed, and the occasional acid chirp and murky vocals twisting the mood it becomes a tune for the far side of the party.

Elsewhere the speed is upped and the record dips into genuine – but very dark – House territory. Brike Lane throws trebley synth chords down on you like kids throwing bricks down from a flyover onto oncoming traffic as the percussion clatters along. Toys Slip is a corkscrewing acid number that uses the vocals as a tool for disorientation – a trick used to great effect several times across the record. Vertigo is the quietest number – perhaps surprisingly – it it’s ever so slightly dubby feel. The ricocheting clanks and waves of distortion lending warmth rather than violence even though it carries the elastic funk of Vereker or Funkineven.

Let Disco is probably the stand out, which is probably a difficult thing to argue given the quality of the others. It’s a unfocussed roar of sound tied to a loose groove that fades in and out as the mood takes it. Just as you are beginning to lose it to the strange rhythms the tone alters on the back of maudlin chords before it again grows restless and storms back to where it came. Playful and funky and strangely euphoric, it’s like nothing else on the record. Let Disco indeed.

Friday Night Tune: Gemini – X

Discogs is a dangerous place for the unchaperoned record obsessive, no matter what their poison. Its bland, functional front end is nothing but a doorway to a realm of scarcely imagined temptation and once you’re in there is no real escape. Sure, you can avoid it, sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months, but sooner or later the hunger will reawaken inside you and you’d better get your wallet ready, and your prayers, because your on your way to a poorhouse made of wax.

I’ve been good around Discogs, allowing myself only scant purchases over the years. But the pull is always there – that junky feeling, and the whispers…oh Lord, the aching seductive tones….

Like most people, I try to use it as an online archive of what I own and what I would like to own. Discogs is great for that. That and checking prices. I came across this EP, On The North Star by Chicago legend Gemini in my stack at home a few weeks ago. I hadn’t listened to it in years. It’s in not bad condition and I went onto Discogs to stick it in my archive. As I did so I checked the price – £100.

Is it that good? No idea. I used to love it, though. across its four tracks it builds on what would probably now – wrongly – be called Deep House. Blue Night, for example, is pure Detroit Techno pushed and pulled by Chicago nous. Day Dreaming is a glorious, Bass led mind rush of spiralling and effervescent tweets and chirps and Snow Drop a gorgeous, dreamy trip through the latest of late night moments.

X was always my favourite, though. Opening with a simple beat courtesy of some of the finest overdriven and crunching kicks you will ever hear, it builds so subtly over its 9 minute length that it comes at you like a soft padded mugger. It exists at the interchange between House and Funk. The grimy, sampled bass fluctuating in harshness as Gemini works the filters over and over, constantly bringing to boiling point before he brings in another Wonderful element. And when the snares come to life a couple of minutes in the whole thing transforms in a loose limbed jacking monster. Even in its more tender moments it never quite leaves you: a snarling guitar snaps out at you, demanding you keep your eyes and ears focussed.

Gemini -AKA Spencer Kincy – all but disappeared before the high tide of the nineties crashed against the new millennium. But he left one hell of a body of work in the few years he was active. I don’t know why he chose to vanish – I’ve heard rumours and stories – but it remains a shame. He was one of the originators, one of that second generation of Chi-town producers alongside the likes of Cajmere, Paul Johnson and Boo Williams who had such a profound effect on the direction of House. Kincy’s influence is still strong today whether or not that truth is conceded – listen to X and tell me you can’t here a generation of modern House and Techno in its sounds and grooves, tell me you don’t hear this record when you listen to Kyle Hall or Jay Daniels.

Some of his work has been re-released in recent years on a couple of different labels, all of it more reasonably priced than this one is on Discogs. Would I sell it? Nope. Some things are more precious than money no matter what the profiteers of the internet might think. This one is a keeper.

Review: Monocorpse – Demo 2013 (Fort Grofusch)

Following the continent wide jump to the right this week, my mind has been heavily occupied by thoughts of Europe. Mainly, I’ve been going through a lot of music and marvelling in the way the scenes of various countries have each taken the basic blueprints of House and Techno and, informed by their own tastes and ideas as well as those of their neighbours, have gone on to create new forms of electronic music that have furthered the sound into new and diverse areas.

The Netherlands, which concern us here, have long been the home of fearsome Acid Techno and Electro, straight up and experimental in almost equal amounts. Whether we’re talking about the slightly horrific Natural-Disaster-In-Musical-Form of Gabba, I-F’s Blackhole electro or Legowelt’s analogue adventures in pure sound it’s arguable that The Netherlands have probably had an impact of the continents development of electronica to rival Britain and Germany whilst being very, very different in feel and tone.

Monocorpse’s album, Demo 2013, is more of that mix of the straight up and the experimental. Billed as an electronic interpretation of a 1985 documentary about Voodoo called ‘Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti’ by the Ukrainian born film-maker Maya Deren, it’s a heavy, sometimes murky journey through shade and texture. The meat of the record, the actual Techno tracks, are inter-spaced with clips from the documentary – often wild drumming and chanting under coldly dispassionate narration which gives the clip the gleefully disturbing feel of a travelogue from the edge of belief. They work well; the juxtaposition between them and the Techno gives space and light to the album, partly rendering a slight air of disorientation when you come up to breathe.

The tracks themselves are dark and stalking. Some, like Arrival or Conflict weld Acidic rhythms and shapes to snaking analogue and wurlizter-esque synths that threaten with their madness. Others, like Departure are shuffling, half-stepped rituals designed to blot out the sun. Beyond that, tracks like the serrated, distorted November 2nd border on cosmic horror; final, untranslatable communications from a collapsing star.

At first listen it might seem that the claims of interpretations of Voodoo are weighty, perhaps slightly unfounded. But the cadence of the ritual is deconstructed, woven into the fabric of the music at a fundamental level, in such a way that the tunes themselves become the writhing rhythm. This is most obvious in the brace at the centre of the record, 1st Offer and Serviteur, where the subtle oscillations of the Fog thick sub bass shepherd crackling drums into territories most recently visited by the likes of Ancient Methods. 1st Offer itself is a rolling, pitch black tribal stomper, possibly the finest moment on the album, a snarling hymn to abandon. 3rd Offer, a few tracks further on, is the counter position; a creeping loa of smoke and metal, watching and waiting for its way in, that is no less potent in its quiet violence.

Whether Demo 2013 fulfils its own brief as far as interpretations go is probably going to be a question the listener will have to decide for themselves, and anyone expecting a storm of polyrhythms and chanting are likely to leave with a tinge of disappointment, but for those looking for sound informed by the dark dream of belief, there is plenty here to be going on with. A soundtrack of extremes from the Underground.

Review: Breaker 1 2, Ekman, – Ratz In The Back (Berceuse Heroique)

Second of our two part Berceuse Heroique extravaganza follows on from Tuff Sherm’s Smugglers Bureau EP with a pair of dirty, nasty underground monsters. As a label, Berceuse Heroique are beginning to really find their feet and pull in some scary talent to provide the sounds. It’s even more impressive when you realise their relative youth – the label has only been in existence for a year or two but, in that time, they have already furnished us with some amazing stuff.

Breaker 1 2, as I’m sure the world knows by now, is a guise of Greg Beato who first slammed into our consciousness last year on the back of a pair of snarling, acid drenched records for Apron, which bookended a slightly less stellar release for L.I.E.S. His debut as Breaker 1 2 last year on Canadian label Forbidden Planet seems to have divided people as well, although it couldn’t have divided people too much as yet another repress seems to be on its way. For my money, I thought it better than the L.I.E.S release. It seemed a more rounded record; the world-weary, grimy synth pop of DMT and the downbeat, reflective late night House jam of 2 showing us another side of the producer.

Ratz In The Back is closer to the brutal analogue wet-work of the Apron releases than either of the others. In its own way the track is almost a textbook example of how to do searing, Lo-fi House (which is entirely correct, given that Beato is one of it major proponents,) from the strutting nihilistic drum patterns to the downward sawing bass line and the wicked, ear bursting squeals of pure frequency that lacerate the tunes body like whips. It’s like having some nasty, weird eyed monstrosity come around and sprawl across your couch. It rolls in without invitation and leaves you bloodied and shaking, wondering what you’ve done.

The B-side is the domain of Ekman, who seems to have become something of a regular fixture on Berceuse Heroique. Fuck Your Rock And Jack Your Funk is the Housier of the two tunes on offer – but not by much. The curling synths are like some demented take on the Knight Rider theme, existing to frame the Bass which is so fat most modern speakers will be hard pushed to take it. If anything it’s even darker and uncompromising than Breaker 1 2’s work. The wicked, filthy acid line crawls through the track like a cenobite on a stag night, ensuring everything it touches turns into a hollow-eyed freak, while the vocal whispers its intentions as it caresses your throat with a switchblade. A Jack track from the borderlands of the abyss.

There is an article currently kicking around asking why EDM and the underground can’t just kiss, cuddle and get along. Well, if you have to ask, you will never know. But if an answer to such a stupid question is still needed, the publication in question should just play this and then ask it again. This is the sound of the underground. Not a single glowstick in sight, but a nightmare load of razor blades instead. Excellent jacking viciousness.

Friday Night Tune: Remy and Sven – Piano Power

One of the many methods by which House and Techno have propagated over the years is through the ubiquitous DJ mix. These days it’s incredibly easy to find a couple of hours of your favourite Jockey doing his thing. Five minutes on Sound Cloud or any one of a hundred blogs and websites will probably give you enough music to last you a lifetime. Back then, in the much romanticised ‘olden days’, you really only had two options – hope the DJ you wanted to hear was going to be playing at a club you could get to, or track down a Mix tape.

These dodgy C-90 tapes, usually with a poorly photocopied cover, were the life blood of the scene for many people. Aside from allowing you to hear what all the fuss was about, they gave access to music you might have ordinarily missed. I can’t count how many times I’ve been fired up enough to spend hours digging through record crates, armed only with a track or artist name (many times not even that) vaguely hoping I might get lucky and find one single tune I’d heard on a mix tape by Richie Hawtin, or Jeff Mills. The business minded major labels have always been against people releasing mix tapes – and, these days, against people posting podcasts and suchlike online – but the underground has always understood such things only help a scene to grow. I cannot even begin to say how much I’ve spent on records over the years as a result of tracking down something I heard on a tape, and I know I’m far from the only one.

My favourite mix was, unsurprisingly, one by Derrick May. It went by one of two names: Derrick May: Live At The Technodrome, or Derrick May Live In London 1993. It’s the thing that finally made me decide to try my hand at DJ’ing. It was a master class on what was possible with a couple of Technics, a mixer and a bunch of records. It kicked through House and Techno and early Trance without the slightest pause, 90 minutes of pure energy, slamming tunes like Star Dancer by The Martian into Stella by Jam and Spoon.

Anyone who thinks that Digital DJs alone have the means at their disposal to reshape and remix tunes on the fly with samples and loops, well, they should track down a copy of this tape. I’ve never heard any Tracktor DJ do stuff half as inventive and insane as May manages here. He batters and twists and coaxes threads from the music that shouldn’t possibly exist, weaving them into new shapes that flourish but for a moment until he tears them apart and starts again.

Piano Power by Remy and Sven was one of those tunes that I hunted for afterwards. The track is perfectly weighted in May’s hands as a means of cracking into the frankly crazed medley of mixes from Music Takes You Away by Lil’ Louis. It feels, with its rolling piano riff, that it should be little more than cheesy big-room House but coupled to that bassline, those rolling drums, and a velocity that approaches 140 BPM, it becomes transcendent.

Alas, although I own many of the tunes on the tape, I lost my one copy of it years ago. Such a blow. It was incredible. Often emulated, never bettered. If anyone can furnish me with a copy of the full 90 minute monster please, get in touch. It’s too good not to share.