Luke Slater, along with Tony Child, Karl O’Connor and a small handful of others, stands as one of a select few Techno producers whose artistic vision would seem to remained undimmed despite more than twenty years of releasing records. That all of the three above named tend to be from the harder edge of the Spectrum is perhaps an interesting coincidence, although there remains a distinct possibility that the uncompromising nature of much of the music tends to be a product of a more uncompromising mind. I can’t say for sure whether this is the reason for their continued longevity or not. The fact is that despite the reasons why they remain for many people the epitome of British Techno, and, in a less distinct sense, British electronic music in general.
Slater is nowadays best known for his work as Planetary Assault Systems – his longest running guise – a project that in many ways provided a partial blueprint for the work of a host of younger producers such as Shifted and Sigha who have been trading much in the way of deeper but still fairly heavy Techno over the last five years or so. As much as the PAS project has garnered much success and critical acclaim, though, I’ve always thought that Slater’s best releases were a trinity of records released many years ago on Djax Upbeats under the name of Clementine.
It’s difficult to fully explain quite how seminal Djax Upbeats were. It would probably take me a whole article in itself to get that across (hey, there’s an idea…) Suffice to say that for a handful of years in the early to mid nineties there was probably no other label in the world that was putting out quite so many astounding records by some of the very best US and European talent on a weekly basis. For those of us on this side of the pond the label was an education: Claude Young, Mike Dearborn, Armando, K Alexi, Ron Trent, Like A Tim and countless others put out some of the very best music of their careers under the Djax Banner. And although the label increasingly sailed too close to sub Gabber inanity, by that point in had done more than enough to seal its fame a hundred times over.
The three Clementine records were important releases at a time when British Techno was really beginning to find its feet. Although there are elements of influence on the music from Detroit and Chicago, none of them descend into the slavish devotion that was an unfortunate hallmark of the era. Just as importantly they provided another facet to a British scene that was largely dominated by rave and the various genres it created.
One of the things the music did take from the States was the idea that the velocity could be separated from any heaviness. Although all three records contain their fair share of true out-and-out bangers, they were mostly marked by an intelligence and sense of space that still remains something of a rarity in harder music. Some of the tracks, in fact, can even be looked at as precursors to the terribly named IDM scene that really began its ascent in the mid Nineties.
Approaching Fulfilment was perhaps the stand out track on Time Explored, the third and final Clementine release on Djax Upbeats. By today’s standards it might seem fast but it is never aggressive. The fluid, broiling roll of the drums and the crackle of the percussion provide much for the body, the whole tune being predicated on a vast, ceaseless groove. The Bassline is part Aphex twin in the way it gives structure but never feels entirely part of the proceedings; truly the ghost in the machine. But its the synths that give meaning to the stampede: Distant and cloudy, they form an emotional explanation for the madness and in doing so they drag the music to another level entirely. They don’t make them like this any more, mores the pity. British Techno has rarely been as pummeling, as groovy and as down right beautiful as this. The holy trinity as masterpiece. Essential music from one of the legends.