The late nineties was a particularly uncertain time for techno. As the sheer amount of records began to reach critical mass, it paradoxically started to become much harder to find anything as ground breaking, unique or simply as interesting when compared to the pioneering days at the other end of the decade. With hindsight such a state of affairs shouldn’t be that hard to fathom; the mass uptake of the genre, both in terms of a fan base and those actually making the music, tended to dilute the strengths of the various sub genres. Fiercer strains of techno began to fall into the trap of cookie cutter mediocrity marked only by an increase in their brutality and noise. For other, subtler genres – many spawned by IDM – the music became increasingly tepid as it slowly diverged from the founding ethos.
But it wasn’t all bad. How could it be? Away from all the techno that shamelessly aped the sound or speed of Jeff Mills or Surgeon without trying to understand the meaning or the attitude there were still a large number of records being released which kicked against the contemporary conservatism and managed to bring something new to the table.
I forget where I picked up CiM’s ‘Series 2’ EP on Headspace Records. I had been vaguely aware of the previous release but had never bought it, being somewhat devoted at that time to the sturm und drang of ghetto house and reborn electro. The irony was that another tune by CiM’s Simon Walley – the fire-storm electroid funk of Multi Ordinal Tracking Unit by Unspecified Enemies, the outfit he was part of along with Louis Digital – was being pumped out on a fairly frequent basis at Club 69. Not that I knew it at the time. In fact, I never even made the connection until recently.
There were clues, though. Although Edit Micro Tune is a far less furious piece of work than Multi Ordinal Tracking Unit, both are thick with Walley’s fingerprints. There is something kindred in the way the drums circle the rest of the music, gathering up the pulse of the bass and the flow of the leads, redirecting and adding immediacy.
In Edit Micro Tune’s case, the track orbits the heavy gravity well of Detroit techno and British IDMs binary system without dropping too far towards either. The drums are tough, rattling and very certain of themselves, lending the tune a rhythm that borders on tribal techno territory but might actually be closer to the pop and flare of early acts like LFO or Orbital. The real meat, the actual sustenance, though, is in the scattered light of the pads and the majestic swoop of that glorious lead line that is as pure an example of high-tech soul as you are ever likely to hear.
Multi Ordinal Tracking Unit enjoyed a re-release a couple of years back by Numbers, who also have another Unspecified Enemies record in the works. Personally, I’d love for some of those early CiM records to get the same treatment. I can’t help but feel that given the current mood for repressing so much old material, and the hunger people seem to have for electronic music’s increasingly archaic past, maybe the future might be better served by bringing something like ‘Series 2’ back into the stores rather than the millionth repress of ‘Acid Tracks’. Given the choice, I know which one I’d go for. Every damn time.