Review: Steve Poindexter – Street Fighter EP (LA Club Resource)

Delroy Edward’s LA Club Resources label has been one of house and techno’s most interesting musical projects since its inception in 2013. Although a substantial amount of the releases so far have leaned towards the rougher, noisier end of the spectrum, the rest of it has been pretty defined by the sort of raw, jacking house music that seems to have become a bit of an endangered species elsewhere.

The ‘Street Fighter EP’ falls entirely in that second collection, and is a continuation of Edwards’ desire to put out unreleased music by some of the people who have obviously been an influence on his own raucous and Ghetto-y style. Last year we had two records by acid house master Gene Hunt, both of which were the sort of proper banging house that scares the derp fans silly, and now it’s the turn of Steve Poindexter, another Chicago master and a man who has been responsible for more than a few moments of honest-to-God classic house in his time.

As with the Hunt releases, these new Poindexter tunes are actually picks of mid 90s material from his own archives. There is a cynical line of thought that suggests that if they had been good enough in the first place, we would have had them released many years ago. In the case of some of these archive jobs this is probably a handy thing to bear in mind. The difference here though, as with the Gene Hunt stuff, is that ‘Street Fighter’ sounds nothing like a bunch of old and forgotten tunes that couldn’t pass muster the first time around. If anything, considering the era of increasingly mannered and ever-so-very boring underground house we seem to be going through, they feel like a much needed intervention, and an injection of the rawest funk into a scene that seems more and more devoid of it.

let’s get this out of the way first. It might be music from Poindexter’s glory days, but there isn’t anything here quite as deadly as tunes like Work That Motherfucker or Computer Madness, but what there is still heavy-set with his trade mark bite and twist. The four of them are definitely cut from the same Poindexter cloth: Rough hewn bangers riding claustrophobic grooves and cut up with percussion that sounds as if it has been made from broken bits of scissors. The best of it is each of them still burn with a vitality that belittles their age.

In fact, you could drop Street Fighter, the opener, into any modern-day set and it would do some real damage with the sloppy, rising and falling riff that runs it’s length. It’s a lively banger; stripped down to a lithe bareness, it’s a testimony to what house music can do when you get rid of all the fat, reduce it down to a few functional parts and build it back up with grooves instead of empty sounds. Cats is a similar creature. Stark and bruising, it’s essentially nothing but an electrifying machine jam that gets right up in your face. It’s music to sweat too.

Sadaam’s Bush and Blazing Saddles stick to the formula but add in riffs full of squashed, warped melody and subtly acidic textures. In Sadaam’s Bush’s case it gives it a playful tone and exchanges the strident urgency for something more whimsical and chilled. Blazing Saddles, actually a collaboration between Poindexter, Johnny Key and Trackmaster Scott, is probably the highlight of the record. Loose, jacking and so very, deeply, stupidly funky, it’s the perfect late night warehouse corker. All it needs are a few strobes and it’ll be right at home. This is house music, the real thing; raw underground jams that are hard-wired to move the feet and the heart. It’s funny that a quartet of twenty year old jams is exactly what we all need, right now.

Event: Mystex Presents Dirty Mac, The Last B-Boy On Mars, @ The Poetry Club, Glasgow, 1.5.15

mystex

Yes folks, part two of a Friday night double header comes courtesy of my old Alma Mater, Mystex, ambling back from the misty great beyond like some weird funky shade with a clutch of burning tunes in one hand and an empty bottle of Buckfast in the other. Wilba and Spud provide the smiles and the vibe in support of a live set by Dirty Mac, the last B-Boy on Mars – a set which Mystex guarantee will be a special experience.

If the past is any indication of the future, expect dirty nasty beats and a wallop of twisted grooves. Doors open at 9PM down at The Poetry Club at 100 Eastvale Place, Glasgow G3, with free entry before 11, but only a very sweet fiver after. Dress casual and dance like you mean it.

Never thought I’d be writing up a listing for Mystex. It’s like a grinning Lazarus in dirty Converse. Excellent. That’s two full on nights this Friday. You’ll get a special award if you make it to both.

Event: La Cheetah & Missing Persons Club Present Joey Anderson @ La Cheetah Club, Glasgow, Friday 1.5.15

uk-0501-697908-0-front

Missing Persons Club have had more than their fair share of quality guests over the last couple of years, and this Friday they’re on their way to topping the lot when they and La Cheetah join forces to bring the one and only Joey Anderson north of the border for his Glasgow début. The US producer has consistently been on bang up form for a while now, and hit new heights with last year’s ‘After Forever’ LP for Dekmantel, one of my albums of 2015 and a record that took deep house and techno, and reworked them into something quite special.

I’ve got to tell you, I don’t know what to expect, but if his now legendary set at last year’s Dekmantel festival in Amsterdam is any indication it’s probably best to go prepared for galactic whirlpools of space-age funk and deadly silicon based grooves.

Support from La Cheetah and MPC residents. Doors open at 11 down at Max’s La Cheetah on Queen Street, and those good (well, on this occasion) folk fae the council have bestowed a 4AM licence on the proceedings, meaning you get an extra hour of drenching yourselves in sweat and getting mad with it – for free!

Tickets are a bargain at £8, available in advance from Resident Advisor. I imagine it is going to be mobbed, big time, so do yourself a favour and get down there early enough to physically fit into the place.

Probably also a good idea to not have to work on the Saturday and then leave it too late to take the day off.

Like an utter fanny would.

You’d think I’d know by now.

Friday Night Tune: Biosphere – Phantasm

When I wrote about Gkahn last week I was discussing the way techno differs from country to country, as if there is something in its basic DNA that is rewritten by elements of whatever scene and culture it ends up in. I guess this is true enough for others styles of music as well, even going as far back as the first explosions of Jazz. It’s certainly a natural enough impulse to take an art form and rework it until it makes sense to you and reflects something of your experiences and life. It’s these experiences and their reflection in other people that give rise to the various scenes that are out there just now; each similar in many ways but each providing something unique to the overall body of techno.

It gets more abstract when you talk about the role the environment, the physical and psychic landscape of a place, has in the creation of the music. Some modern productions are entirely about the environment. German multi-media artist Thomas Köner has released several albums built entirely from field recordings taken from distant corners of the word that are rich with the pulse and rhythms of nature. But this is a very pure example of what I’m talking about. Some modern producers, like Scottish techno artist Lord of The Isles, are less direct. In Lord of The Isles’ case, the combination of evocative titles, like Timber Lorries Emerging, and music that captures something of the mood of wild Scotland – a place largely devoid of man and yet so heavily touched by it – is used to create something with a powerful sense of place. Mind you, I wonder whether it would have quite the same feel to someone who, unlike myself, hasn’t spent a great deal of time in the more desolate parts of Scotland?

Biosphere’s second album, ‘Patashnik’, was heavily defined by the environment it was written and recorded in. Released in 1994, and now regarded as one of the best ambient albums (although exactly how ambient chunks of it were is debatable), ‘Patashnik’ had the fairly rare distinction of being a techno album that was picked up and embraced by the mainstream music media – particularly impressive at a time when, if you weren’t Orbital or The Orb, the NME and Melody Maker didn’t really want to know. It certainly had something. The following year a track from it, Novelty Waves, was featured in a Levi’s advert. How many techno bods does that happen to?

Part of the album’s draw – and the element the indy rock press seemed most excited at if the interviews were anything to go by – was that the album was created during the long winter that falls above the Artic circle in Northern Norway. Even without knowing this, though, you wouldn’t have been surprised. Even the tracks with beats are in shadow, punctured only by a brief glare of light in the nothingness. ‘Patashnik’ feels like it was recorded whilst under the real and almost physical weight of endless darkness and isolation. It’s a record where the need to be conscious battles the desire to escape into yourself – a mental hibernation that can only really end in the spring, and where the commonplace and everyday are distorted by the months of emptiness until they take on new and disturbing meanings.

Phantasm, which opens the album, unites that distortion of the everyday with touches of sci-fi influences that permeate ‘Patashnik’. It is a stark and desolate track, formed by those almost discordant bleeps, the weirdly hollow and unsettling strings and a rumble like distant pack ice grinding. The one touch of humanity, of something sentient in the half-light and vastness of the empty world, is provided by a sample from ‘The Krays’ of the brothers intoning ‘We had a dream last night – we had the same dream’. It doesn’t give any warmth, though: it makes everything stranger. This detached humanity seems unwelcome and unwanted. In fact, it seems alien. It doesn’t belong.

It’s this juxtaposition between the physical world and the world of the mind that makes the idea of the environment as a muse – willingly or otherwise – so interesting a concept, and it’s one that techno, with its brilliance at turning abstracts and emotions into frequency – is so good at realising. Hell, in some ways it’s the reason techno exists at all.

Review: Herva – Dreamers Of Unknown Tales (Don’t Be Afraid)

herva

Italian producer Herva’s run of form that began with last years ‘Instant Broadcast’ has continued into 2015 with ‘HTMYO’, a great mini album on All City Records, and this new EP on Don’t Be Afraid. ‘Instant Broadcast’ came as a well-timed bit of relief when it arrived in the autumn, and brought invention, humour and a fine ear for ragged grooves back into a scene that seemed to be saturated by increasingly brittle and affected house. Although the album was occasionally a little bit self-indulgent, Herva’s taste for collages of samples, weird beats and trippy, disorienting atmospheres gave us a record that sounded like an ambient LP that had finally found the drinks cabinet, got loaded, and decided to see what all that house music stuff was all about. Something else about it only became apparent after a few listens: for all the gleeful chaos on the surface, there were some moments of true beauty hiding within it, and there were some proper bangers too.

‘HTMYO’ was a departure of sorts from the album, but the differences are even more pronounced here, on ‘Dreamers of Unknown Tales’. The overall sound is no less messy and frayed, but there is a noticeable tidying up of some of the more wilfully bonkers moments. The madder elements that mark Herva’s sound still have a place here, but it’s just that they feel better weighted than before, like they were included because they were needed rather than because they sounded interesting or strange.

There is also something more purposeful to ‘Dreamers….’. The album was great but it wasn’t a record you could ever accuse of being overly focussed or bothered about being a unified whole. Whether this change is down to the shorter length, I don’t know, but ‘Dreamers…’ four tracks just seem to sit better with each other. Of course, the fact that they are pretty much all examples of what Herva can do when he feels the need to lay down some grooves helps with that too.

But it’s proper grooves of a certain, dirty vintage that are on offer here. There is a lot to Herva’s game that recalls the twisted tongue in cheek humour of peak period Rephlex, or the wilful, maddeningly great obtuseness of Luke Vibert. It’s tied in with a little something extra, though: a little Chicago fire, perhaps, and a bit of colder European experimentalism.

Of the four track here, only the opener, Dreamer Of Unknown Tales, carries the torch for the album’s wonky experimental ambience. The other three dump their mate early on and get away in a high performance dance floor motor. From The Inside rakes at you for an eternity with filthy breakbeat percussion and some hissing acid squirts before the kicks arrive and link everything together just in time for one of Herva’s dreamy and fractured breakdowns to soften the craziness. It’s like Unspecified Enemies having a fight with A Guy Called Gerald, but in a very good way. Nice and Crispy is a teeny bit house-ier, but heavy with collage. The snips of vocals writhe lazily around the thick bass and some latin percussion which drive the track with a golden sunset vibe.

Pissed Monitoring, finally, is a gloriously 1990’s acid muck about. The crumpled kicks and the freely roaming acid bass make the tune sound like the most functional thing Herva has done for a while, but it drips with a demented humour and vision that finally meets its match with a huge rave peel towards the end.

Tightened up, funkier, but with its heart still in exactly the right place, ‘Dreamer….’ is a class follow-up to the fun and creativity of the last two records. Come for the beats, but stay for the smiles.