Having covered a couple of releases from Northern Ireland based labels in the last couple of months I have already remarked on what seems to be a bit of a taste developing out that way for a form of house and techno that combines a fairly old school approach to a more contemporary nous. Now whether or not a handful of records is really enough for me to start talking up the existence of a scene is by the by. The real point of interest is the feeling that there is something going on over there which is a bit at odds with elsewhere in Europe, where knackered house, resolutely route one techno, or weird amalgams of both, seem to be in ascendancy.
One of the elements I’ve enjoyed in those other records I’ve covered – and one of the things that is shared here with Nightshift – is a certain desire to get back to basics, for music that reminds us why we fell in love with sounds coaxed, cajoled and threatened out of machines. There is, I think, a slight danger of sinking into homage when it comes to such a venture. Given the current climate for regurgitation that might not be such an issue as in the past, but the chance is always there that the music comes of second best to mimicry.
Not that this is a problem facing Therarelowry. Although this release on Kinfolk certainly alights on the faded excitement of nights gone past, it doesn’t allow itself to fall too far into that trap. Rather than shamelessly copy, it feels more like a love letter to the curious romance between man and machine, revealing an understanding of where the organic and the hardware comes together.
It is also, on first listen anyway, a downbeat affair. Nightshift (Meltdown mix) brings a low riding energy to a tune that is part woozy disco, part acidic trip-omatic head music like Model 500 getting lost on its way through a deep space wormhole and ending up at some vast outdoor party on the southern downs at dawn in the early 90’s. It is deceptively physical too with the fat bass all but inviting heavy-duty body popping. Beyond that, the smudges of pads lend a depth, offsetting the tight groove with the glow of sunrise and affording space for the 303s to smokily rise into the foreground.
Morning After is a less intense affair and recalls some of those sensual acidy tunes that used to be the bread and butter of early Plus 8. In fact, there are touches here and there of Speedy J when he was still a force to be reckoned with, and the tune stands as a testament to an emotional core within techno that is often ignored these days in favour of tricks and noise. It’s a lithe and affecting number, building itself on the simplest of conceits. The meat is in the bounce of the bass which rises and falls in thickness and immediacy. The soul, though, is in the strings that hang languidly in the half-light; barely changing throughout the tune, they offer warmth and explanation with the lightest of touches.
The closer, Nightshift (Soft Rocks Acid Fuzz Mix), is a subtle reworking of the original, lending more space to the 303s and adding a swirl of haunting middle eastern pads to the mix which pushes the tune into a hazy netherworld of scrambled senses and emotions. Regular readers probably know my views on the ubiquitous and often unnecessary remix but here it works well, stripping away the originals straighter leanings and emphasising the trance-ier elements, bringing forth fresh meaning and new ideas.
Unguarded and understated, Nightshift is a wee gem of a record that gets inside your head. One of those rare treats that seems even more special for being unexpected. This is the Good Stuff right here.