Like several other British labels, Numbers have built a reputation for a fine sense of genre agnosticism which has taken them from house and acid through to dubstep and all points in between. Even by their standards though, the 2012 re-release of ‘Multi Ordinal Tracking Unit’ by Simon Walley and Louis Digital’s Unspecified Enemies project was a real shot across the bows, representing both a move into a harder techno landscape and an opportunity to re-release a relatively obscure record that had played a major role in the musical education of several label members via Paisley’s infamous Club 69.
Where ‘Multi Ordinal…’ was a bruising collision of Detroit inspired funk and crunching electro beats, and a fierce and audacious reworking of Motor City nous to take into account the snap and snarl of British techno, ‘Everything You Did Has Already Been Done’ – a selection of cuts culled from a late nineties live set that had previously existed only on tape – rolls up with an even more furiously morphic take on a bunch of rough and ready influences.
The live feel is undeniable. It’s in the way the tracks dive and rise, shadow boxing with what was their envisioned form until they kicked off in unexpected ways. Although ‘Everything You Did..’ takes the pungent rhythms of ghetto house as a starting point, it doesn’t take long for the duos own warped and playful sense of musical direction to assert itself and begin the task of layering other ideas over the top. MS 45, a broiling funk soaked killer starts of like a piece of tribal house on steroids with the clatter of percussion carving room for the slithering bass until the chipmunk vocals and jacking grooves punch it into the skies over Chicago.
Chip Mode is less pounding but hardly more delicate. A loose limbed, gangly beast that owes as much to jungle and breakbeat as ghetto, it wrong foots the listener over and over with its steadfast refusal to settle for one thing or another. The vox and the strangely subtle pads add a vibrancy and also delicacy to the stomping kicks.
Liquid Floor simply devastates everything around it, and it must have caused panic in the room the night it got played. It batters forward like DJ Funk at his peak, calling to mind tunes like Run (UK), or Work That Body in particular. Just when it seems to be getting out of hand it collapses in on itself, colouring the black light with sunrise shades that threaten to go all Sueno Latino on us for a moment. It’s a massive change of direction that makes perfect sense, soaking the tune with a hidden warmth and expansiveness not immediately apparent from the first thundering minutes.
Lifestyles Of The Minidisk Era has an oddly schizophrenic edge to it, like too many frequencies trying to come through a radio at once, and just when you think it’s grooving off towards the electro horizon, the beats switch into a broken 4/4 stance before twisting back into something more classically breakbeat later on. It never lets you rest, especially once the crazed timestretched vocal snips start intruding on your consciousness. The blackest of humour, like the Aphex Twin doing jungle or Luke Vibert doing, well, Luke Vibert. It’s unsettling and ferocious.
A great record and one with an energy that has been noticeably absent from almost every other release this year. Maybe that’s the live element, maybe not. Or maybe it’s the fact it’s a document from a time when things were looser. Given that, I wonder whether the Numbers boys could coax Unspecified Enemies into doing something new? Now, that would be something special to look forward to in 2015.