Bringing an end Electro Week with a Friday Night Tune was a little harder than I thought it would be. Not because I couldn’t think of anything to talk about but because there is too damn much. For a genre that seems to keep itself to itself there is a welter of great stuff out there, not only from the distant past but from right now.
I’ve already covered two records this week that hail from quite different ends of the genre, and I could probably do little else from this point in than write about electro. There have been some corkers over the last year or two, chief amongst them releases like Plant 43’s cinematic, dark stepping and astounding ‘Scars of Intransigence’, Ekman’s brutally stark ‘Heimwee’ (both on Shipwreck – a label that demands a closer look if you haven’t done so already) and most recently ‘Insane’ by Arcanoid on Detroit Underground, and ‘The Adventures of Garry Gritness’ on Clone. These are just the tip of the iceberg, and each of them brings something different.
One of the things I love about electro is that it is so difficult to categorise. To paraphrase AJ Ayer (I think) ‘I understand exactly what electro is until I’m asked to define it’. It’s a creature that skulks in many shadows. All you ever get is a fleeting glimpse of something lithe and dangerous but rarely do you ever see the whole beast.
So here’s my quandary: what tune to represent this most blurry of genres? the early hip hop infused bump and grind of classic 80’s electro? The acidic bark of Aux 88 and Detroit techno-bass? Drexciya’s afro-futurism, or something cold, esoteric and European like Anthony Rother? Naah, let’s go with another stone cold killer, a tune that deserves to be thought of as one of the best: Crosswalk by Technasia.
If Crosswalk were to be released now, it would rightly and immediately be regarded as a proper classic. Not that it wasn’t well-loved and known at the time, but when it was released way back in ’97, it had it the unenviable task of making its presence felt when the number of great electro and electro inspired tunes numbered in the scores, if not the hundreds. 1997 was right on the cusp of the revival and the twin poles of Europe and the USA seemed united in a common love of breaks and snares and 808s.
Except this isn’t either the USA or Europe. Formed in the 90s by Parisian Charles Siegling and Hongkongian (is that the correct noun?) Amil Khan as an attempt to add Asia to the international dance community, Technasia took electro and hard as nails techno, and put them through the ringer of their own experiences and influences. Although the electro side of their sound was never as clearly pronounced as their excellent Detroit influenced techno releases (2000s Force still remaining a spectacular stand out), Crosswalk, from their first release ‘Themes From a Neon City’, lingers in the memory.
For many people, myself included, the first exposure to this tune came from Dave Clark’s 1998 ‘Electro-boogie Volume 2’ mix, a mesmerizing weave of breaks and bass that still sounds every bit as insane as it did when it first came out. Hell, any mix that opens with Dopplereffekt’s ‘Sterilization’ and closes with Aux 88’s Majestic ‘I Need To Freak’ is going to be pretty special.
But one of the things that made Crosswalk stand out from the pack on that comp was it’s wide open spaces. Where other tracks on ‘Electro-Boogie’ dripped with austere and seething fury, and cut you with whipping, venomous breaks, Crosswalk bubbled with warmth and fun and possibility. It’s a joyful celebration of a sound that takes the electro form and turns it into a classic example of high-tech funk. It’s larger than life, just as it is completely life affirming, and it provided the perfect counter point to the street walking slam of techno-bass and the bleak, affected, electro-static sneer of its European cousins.
Play this on Easter morning when you’re munching chocolate eggs and dipping into ‘Ben Hur’ on the telly. It might not allow you to make sense of where rabbits fit into the Jesus story, but at least it’ll remind you that Christ wasn’t the only thing to die and be reborn. Electro did too. Praise the holy snares!