Years ago there used to be a great little second-hand record shop a few doors along from me on Glasgow’s Great Western road which specialized in House and Techno. Generally second hands shops can be ‘Hit and Miss’ but this one was pretty much Hit, Hit and Hit. I’ve never known whether the boxes full of Relief Records, Underground Resistance and a hundred other class acts was indicative of a sad lack of taste in other weegies or evidence of a massive recession that only seemed to be affecting Techno fans.
The shop also seemed to be a dumping ground for many of the city’s professional DJ’s looking to cash in on all those promos they had played out and now wanted to get rid off. You could always count on at least a handful of white labels being available. Sometimes they still had a badly photocopied press release hidden within the sleeve, occasionally a title or artist’s name scrawled on the label but mostly they were as naked as the day they were born – A black disk with a white label tucked inside a white sleeve. As anonymous as you could ever hope to get. And as the shop’s one turntable was usually either broken or busy most of the time you paid the couple of quid they were asking and went home to see what you’d got. Sometimes it was awful but sometimes you came up trumps.
And so we come to modern times where the idea of the anonymous white label seems to be making a bit of a comeback. Usually, these releases aren’t too similar – mostly they’re an aesthetic choice designed for public consumption, and any concept of them being limited to a few hundred copies is usually no barrier to getting your hands on them. Head Front Panel Records, an offshoot of Tabernacle, seem to have taken the fad to its logical end with this series of anonymous producers writing tracks without titles for EPs with no names. It’s lucky that the music isn’t quite so anonymous or we’d all have to pack up and go home.
HFP005 seems at first to come from the school of uncompromisingly hard and serious Techno of the sort that came about when legions of Jeff Mills fans back in the day got confused by the stone cold funkiness of a lot of the Wizard’s work and cut it out of their own productions, replacing it with the sound of hammers and chisels having a fight in a gravel factory. The first track does little to dispel this illusion. It’s a hard pounder designed to dish out peak time punishment to the willing with a kick drum so vast it threatens to flatten the subtle bleeps and frills that weave around it. Other commentators have mentioned a passing likeness to Mills and Population One, a generally fair comparison for as hard as the track is there remains a sense of expansive groove deep in its heart that keeps it from becoming too monolithic. The last track on the record, away over on the B side, is cut from similar cloth although it’s gives up more room for those space travelling elements to come to the fore. Again it wears its inspiration on its sleeve, but refuses to give over entirely to any sense of devotion. The kick is still huge but underpins a skeletal arrangement of bleeps and tweets that haunts more than it frightens and builds quickly into a snare blasted frenzy. It’s Old School in the best possible way.
These tracks bookend the real beauties on the record. A2 revisits the familiar snarling streets of the first track but couples the fury to a burning riff and wobbling bass that gives it a genuine Detroit groove that just won’t stay still. It has all the hall marks of a top of the night classic that mixes battering adrenal energy with real verve.
The opener on the B side is the most relaxed of the four tracks, coming over like Rob Hood one of his more playful moments. It slides on down into robot dancer territory, sounding for all the world like Future Disco should (if that term hadn’t already been nicked by EDM fans who wouldn’t know disco if it strutted past in tight leather jeans.) It’s a belter: a twisting Grade A groove of tomorrow funk that will keep the sweat pouring and the feet moving even as it affords a moment to breathe. Proper Techno.