As anyone who follows me on Twitter probably knows already, during the week I got this thing into my head about something I called ‘Hellfire Gospel Techno’. As far as I know, it hasn’t been copywrited by Beatport yet (although give it time and I’m sure it will be), and I’m not even entirely sure I know what it means. It was just a phrase that popped into my head one day when I was feeling a little bit bored.
I’ve been going through various non electronic genres recently – a wee bit of rap, some old delta blues and a fair amount of soul. I got into a whole bunch of this stuff for the first time when I was about 13 or 14, and in many ways delta blues and soul were my first musical loves. I wasn’t particularly trainspottery about it; I certainly couldn’t sit you down and take you through the early history of rare Atlantic records 7″s, for instance, but at the end of eighties before I started paying attention to acid house, and before I got obsessed by hardcore punk rock, I was as big a fan of Motown as it was probably possible for a fairly weird and awkward Highland kid to be.
At that point in time, when the nostalgia industry really began to get onboard with the idea of a 60s revival, I found myself following the threads from the likes of the Beatles, The Stones and Hendrix (especially the Stones and Hendrix) back towards the music that had such an influence on them – Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf tapes were bought and listened to so often they got chewed up, and from there those threads lead even further back, reaching all the way to the 20s and the 30s with blues men like Robert Johson or Blind Willie Johnston or the sublime Skip James. And although the sounds of the big Motown artists were as far from those of the early delta kings as Kyle Hall is from Otis Reading, there was a kindred energy and emotion that tied the whole thing together.
Part of what prompted me to look back was a sense that a lot of the house and techno I’ve been listening to seems to place its emphasis not on the emotional content (or some form of ‘spirituality’ if you like. It’s actually a word I dislike, but there you go) but on other elements. Sound design, such a huge and important part of modern electronic music, is often an overly intellectualized activity that seldom seems to leave much room for gut feeling. It often seems a very internalized way of working, and one with which it can be easy to lose sight of a bigger picture. It’s hard to get to fussy about this though. After all the sounds, the frequencies, are what makes house and especially techno so exciting.
I’ve got a hunger for electronica that makes me feel like I do when I listen to something like Hendrix’s Monterrey cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor, or Skip James’ Crow Jane or Smokey Robinson’s Tracks of My Tears – music that seems redirected onto the record from somewhere outwith ourselves from beyond simple genre games, constructs and clichés.
Sure, I know it’s not exactly a rarity in electronica. Of course it isn’t. And I know there are still acts who are doing exactly this sort of thing. My pick tonight, though, is a pretty literal interpretation from Underground Resistance – a band who still have a far greater claim to the title of ‘Hellfire Gospel Techno’ than perhaps anyone else. First Intergalactic Baptist Church hails from the double Turning Point EP. It was an interesting and often overlooked part of their work. The record is full of these deeply soulful touches – even more than their work usually is, and the natural rage that UR often channelled into their music is used here to accentuate a gloriously incendiary piece of full on proper techno evangelism that owes far more to soul, gospel and Funkadelic than is usually found in the scene these days. It just burns, and it seethes with funk. From the rolling bass, the brilliant yet ever so slightly downplayed vocals to the long, tight grooves of a church organ going for broke this is a silicone based saviour of the highest, highest order. Let it wash all over you like a baptism in sound. Praise be.