Various Artists – Test Pilot Volume 2 (Vielexx)
It’s now nearly twenty years since Viewlexx dropped the first volume of Test Pilot and in the two decades since its reputation has climbed to near legendary levels, even receiving a recent repress as part of the sudden burst of activity surrounding the label’s anniversary.
This brand new follow-up is a very different sort of beast, however. Eschewing the stark and menacing Den Haag electro that made the original such a monster, it looks elsewhere for its inspiration. Yes, the foundations are still very much electro, but this time it’s dosed up on disco and italo as well as the harsher clatter. While the rhythms remain tight, and the synths still hail from some internalized European soundscape, there is a looseness to much of it, perhaps even a little euphoria, which is suggestive of the massive impact that characters like Legowelt have had on a new generation.
Certainly it indulges itself in a similar nostalgia for the mad Euro sounds of yesteryear than Danny Wolfer’s has claimed as his own alongside his more Chicago indebted material. The old fluid, funky rage of I-F that ran in rivers through the original is relegated here to only an occasional moment. In some ways that’s a brave move, what with the original being held in such high esteem.
It’s a change perhaps best exemplified in Tandy Ogmo’s Everybody Work your Body, a pounding italo monster predicated on a vocal snip looped to the point of madness and a certain Soviet functionalism. It’s a brutally hands-in-the-air, high tide moment that demands you do what you are told. A good tune, sure; kind of a cold joy but one that will wreak havoc on dancefloors. Elsewhere Panama Brown comes closer to that classic Kraftwerk on acid feel with Theme From Panama Racing Club, weaving fragile and icy percussion into a tapestry of synths and melodies. Robert Auser’s The Force builds on familiar Viewlexx motifs to create an oddly mournful but pretty effective take on the same.
The one that will probably draw most punters in, though, is Gesloten Cirkel’s Asleep. That might well be for the name alone, but it’s still a cracker of a track, reinstating as it does some of that virile Den Haag acidic skank that we all know and love. Downbeat and with beauty fluttering around on the slight, breathless synths, its dominated by the slowly unfurling acid line which melts through the heavenly airs and builds slowly into a pure born killer. It’s one of the best things he’s done for a while and is a highlight on a record that, while strong, never really seems to reach for the same heights as its much-loved predecessor.