Electro is a genre that has gone through so many changes that its roots in funk, boogie and hip hop look increasingly distant with every passing year. Although there are a number of acts who have remained faithful to the orginal musical ethos, there can be little doubt that the period of the greatest change, and of the most importance to today’s electronic music scene, lies with the mid nineties explosion that fused the basic, traditional sound with driving drums, acidic bass and the potent, celestial thrum of electronic Detroit to create a musical form that more than held its own on dance-floors otherwise in hock to hard, loopy techno and the weaponized dirt of ghetto-house. Whether it was the claustrophobic grooves of Anthony Rother, the pure breed acid stomp of Aux 88 or the unique, other worldly spell-weaving of Drexciya – to name but three of many – the effect of the music was profound in the way it altered forever the DNA of the genre. Whether the genre has continued to be motivated by such electronic evolution is open to debate, however, and it is perhaps down to a failure to keep moving forward that the scene eventually began to sink back into relative obscurity, with only the big names of the original nineties explosion continuing to gleam in the light of major public interest.
Jeremiah R’s mini album for Tabernacle records, ‘Underwater Title’ is probably not going to challenge current preconceptions, nor is it likely to win too many converts to a genre that in the eyes of many people has already seen its best days go past. This I think is real shame, but it actually says more about the lack of current interest in anything too far outside the accepted norms (as big a problem in the underground as in the mainstream, I’m afraid: it just manifests differently) than it does about the genuine quality of this beautiful and largely unheralded collection of pieces which brings together strands of electro and deeper techno before uniting them with a lyrical and orchestral feel that puts to rest the sense that electro often tends to lean too far into the direction of body music. It’s not something I believe in – hell, it’s not something that anyone who has ever heard Drexciya can believe in – but there you are.
Essentially, ‘Underwater Title’ is a fine balance between the break beat fuelled tracks and those tied to the 4/4. What pulls them together is a depth of emotion that owes a debt to early techno at its most introspective and romantic. There are touches scattered through the seven tracks that recall Carl Craig’s subtler work, or Atkin’s hypnotic exploration of inner – and outer – space. Not that name checking legends such as these tells the whole story. Jeremiah has his set of influences just as we all have, and yet he never lets them get too much in the way. Blue Algae for example, is replete with Drexciyan touches, the fluttering interplay between the percussion and the snares gives the haunting, ever heightening introspection of the lead the life to extend past the humdrum into the spiritual. On Pineal Gland Stimulation the sparkling synths fall like shooting stars upon the swelling pads and lively kicks, drawing everything together into a silver rush of hope and adventure.
It’s these themes that are returned to time and again. Such openness, so expansive and yet fragile. It might not be so apparent on tunes like Phase Space or Far Sight where the big square wave bass lines roam the sonic planes but the tenderness is always there, in the ripple and drizzle of the pads and the leads.
Electro is a genre that for all the undoubted quality material that is still being released in its name can often seen like a cul-de-sac inhabited by those who don’t really care how the outside world perceives them. And yet here is an electro record that subtly propels itself into the stars. The greatest influence it takes from the past isn’t to be found in the sounds, nor in the drive of the rhythms but in it’s desire to push itself past what is expected. In that sense – and although it might not necessarily sound it – it is a deeply experimental record that is truer to that great spark of mid nineties electro life than any other dozen records which trade on the pounding beats or acid snarl alone.