I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the joys of digging through a record collection and the way in which those rows and piles of 12″s and EPs can almost come to be the strata of your musical obsessions through the ages. Records, like books, can hold many memories. I always remember the writer and comedian Spike Milligan talking about this in one of his war memoirs. Milligan had been a trumpeter in a variety of bands before the War, with a deep and life long love of Jazz. By the time he went overseas with his battery (he was a gunner in the Royal Artillery) he had accumulated a large collection of records which he left in the care of his parents. Unfortunately almost the entire collection barring one was lost when their house was destroyed during the blitz. Even 40 years later, Milligan wrote, on the rare occasion he could bring himself to listen to that lone survivor he had to go for a long, solitary walk afterwards in order to try to remove the almost overwhelming tide of memories and emotions from his mind.
Recent excavations of my collection have revealed a lot about my past loves and interests. One of the things that has stood out, though, seems to be the sheer amount of time I seem to have devoted to the British Techno producer Aubrey. Prolific is a word bandied about to describe many producers but in Aubrey’s case its pretty accurate. He started DJing back in the mid eighties and put out his first music right at the start of the nineties and seems to have hardly stopped since then, with his most recent release, Floating Point, coming out only a month or two back.
It was in the mid nineties, though, that he really made his bones with a succession of records across several labels (including his own excellent Sonic Groove imprint) that were picked up and played by a lot of people, amongst them Derrick May and, err, me. Those releases – Marathon, Taken Away, Orbit, Contact Funk, Digit Fidget (as Spanky Rodgers) amongst others – were some of the genuine high points of British Techno of the time and perhaps because of the cyclic nature of music, they still sound as fresh as ever.
The EP, Warehouse, was released in 1997 and more than holds its own with the rest of them. The eponymous lead track was a pulsing piece of liquid, tribal funk, made up of simple repeating patterns that blended and complimented each other to perfection. Although you could hear the influences easily enough if you wanted too, this was very much Aubrey doing his own thing, fighting against a trend of Detroit and Chicago copycats that was well underway.
The best track, though, and one of my favourite Techno tracks of all time, was the largely unheralded Rift Zone. It floored me when I first heard it. The power of the drums and the hiss and crackle of the percussion insured its place on the dance floor, but its the silvery incandescence of the synths that captures you, and the way they ripple like waves in an ocean of mists, underpinning the jazzy, melancholy funk of the lead that weaves its way in an out of the groove. It is so layered with texture and shade and emotion; electronic music as more than a means to an end.
It catches me then and it catches me now. so thick with the memories, so sublime in its evocations. Music to stop time with. Astounding.