Review: Mark Forshaw – Explorer EP (Computer Controlled Records)

Acid house in 2014 is one of the genres that has both benefited and suffered from a rekindling of interest. Benefited because undoubtedly resurgences tend to be a pointer of where the scene is going in terms of sound and vibe, and also because some of those original artists might also see some of the money long owed to them finally making its way to where it should have gone in the first place. And suffered? Well, that is less easy to quantify. Much of the true acid underground still remains locked away as we face yet another repress of Acid Tracks, and such constant reissuing probably doesn’t help in the long-term. Familiarity really does breed contempt.

But while it is increasingly easy to file away any idea of revival in the ‘Flavour of the Month’ drawer, it is being disingenuous to a handful of artists who are doing something interesting in the genre and whose role in the scene pre-dates current fashions. Mark Forshaw appears here with the Début release for new label Computer Controlled Records following a small treasure trove of releases for the likes of Mathematics and as part of the Phantom Planet Outlaws trio alongside Binny and John Heckle. Along the way he has garnered a reputation for some finely twisted acid and techno that draws obvious influences from the past without ever sinking into the mire of nostalgia.

The Explorer EP subverts contemporary mores by taking a nicely skewed pop at current influences. To be sure, there is much here you will recognise, but what is most noticeable is the way Forshaw has drawn on forms that have often remained off-limits for one reason or another. This isn’t really a testament to Chicago even though it’s acid of a particularly virulent breed. What is striking is how British the acid sounds. These aren’t love songs to a city half a world away or 25 years in the past. These four tracks roll like the soundtracks of Shoom or the Hacienda brought forward in time.

This is most noticeable in the epic roll of Table Etiquette with its choral synth and the 303 chirping out a playful melody instead of a normal lead line. There are, of course, American influences still present. Something in the strut owes much to Marshal Jefferson’s understanding of how machine music could be a song instead of a track. It’s Anthemic, the cheekiness surging beyond the great swell of the bass line.

Magnetic Highway continues with this trampling of the expected. It takes a wee bit to find its feet, and a wee bit longer for the listener to lock into the groove. But what a groove it is. A pure end of summer Ibizan belter replete with squealing guitar peels and sun-kissed synths collapsing in on themselves. Once upon a time tunes like this would find themselves on Top Of The Pops come thursday night. For a bright moment this music was the mainstream, the binding factor in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. It is in this that Forshaw has found a gem of memory rather than in simple sounds or rhythms. It’s a lesson, in fact, in how to looking backwards should influence the future.

H1 1P cuts out the sunrise optimism and drags us down into a low prowler of Bam Bam-esque grooves and snapping percussion. It’s the dark side of Magnetic Highway’s smiling moon. You know me. I’m a sucker for thundering toms and snares. And H1 1P delivers in spades. There is no pretence to it. It’s an old-fashioned acid jacker that relies on the growl of the 303 to deliver the mood and in that it is perhaps a little simplistic compared to the two previous tracks. But the funny thing about music that works on the body is that it rarely cares about what the head thinks.

Take off does at first seem to be a similar beast, but it builds fairly quickly into an almost overpowering piece of psychedelic acid that layers the throbs and squeals over each other until it becomes a dense tableaux where it’s easy to become disorientated and lost in the noise. There is still much to recommend it, but it doesn’t really hold up with the other three tunes, feeling less fully realised, less ready to do its job. It doesn’t distract from the strengths of the EP, however. An assured record from Forshaw and Computer Controlled. A definite subversion of the contemporary direction.