Review: Moodcut – Tame Cats (Nous)

One of the striking features of those ‘Our Favourite Label’ articles that seemed to pop up on a whole bunch of the bigger web-zines over the last month has been the inclusion of a number of labels who simply didn’t exist a year or two ago. I don’t know why that is so strange to me. The House and techno underground has longed thrived in the hands of tiny labels working out of living rooms, kitchens and cafes. The visions of a tiny group of people making just enough money to pay for the next release whilst they work nine to five in proper jobs have time and time again redefined what electronic music is and what it can be.

Greek label Nous have come quickly into the fold on the back of a slim number of releases that should by now have seen its membership card to that little gang which includes Lobster Theremin, Moodhut and a few others arrive in the mail. I don’t think I’ve covered anything by them before. The limited number of presses for each release, bolstered by fervent word of mouth praise has seen each new record snapped up before I’ve generally been able to get too close. I lucked out with ‘Tame Cats’ by English producer Moodcut, though. Which is just as well as it seems to be following the footsteps by other Nous alumni such as Route 8 and Spoiled Drama in vanishing from sale almost immediately.

Musically Moodcut is part of a growing trend where house producers have reappraised the history of their genre in terms of the sounds, the meaning and how it was put together in order to better serve its future. At this point in time, when there are wars being fought for the soul of house music, its reassuring to know that there are still plenty of artists who don’t simply plunder the past in search of learning from the most obvious of lessons.

‘Tame Cats’ is a record that is aware of how things went, but is more interested in where they’re going now. There is a definite shimmer of Detroit to many of the tunes, and a most Chicagoan strut, but it never overwhelms the music. Late Night Ham, with its clattering claps, its murky, popping bass and winsome lead makes a virtue out of it’s finely skeletal arrangement, coaxing out a clever little groove that blossoms under the later, understated synth stabs. The remix by Mood B reworks the tune into a late 80’s swinger, invoking ghosts of clubbing nights long gone beneath the rolling, swelling pads and the flutter of straight-to-tape magic. It primes the tune, giving it more legs without ever compromising the promise that lies at its core. A rare victory for the remixers art.

Likewise, with the B-side, Moodcut’s own vision of Space Dub contrasts nicely with the reworking by French house master Coni. The original delves a similar seam to Late Night Ham but in a more up front manner. It recalls some of the better records from Guidance, the long gone house label run by Spencer Kinney, in the way the esoteric and the kinetic are blended together. The growing pad, in wavering flux, tightens the atmosphere, keeping it on a knife-edge for almost all the tunes length. It glimmers with a Neuromancer dream of the future.

The Coni mix plunders the vibe and warps it into an airy drift of Detroit funk that runs close to Stacey Pullen at his most golden. The pads and the call of the riff accentuating the fizz of the tribal percussion. Like the Moon B work it alters without losing sight of the original meaning.

The pick, though, is Stucks in Socks which adds the gentlest touch of disco pump to the groove, shifting it up a gear without losing the subtle air of introspection that lies over the whole record like a fine mist. A good release; Perhaps not yet the finished article but not far off at all. Gently persuasive with a tenderness of touch and faith in its own path.