I’ll try not to get all weird or wibbly about this, but it’s not everyday you get to review a record by one of the Belleville Three, especially when it’s under one of their most successful monikers. Sure, Juan Atkins still puts stuff out on a semi regular basis and his last release, Borderlands with collaborator Moritz Von Oswald was pretty special. As for Derrick May…well, maybe he just forgot how to plug his sequencer in or something like that. I personally suspect he’s been pumping out clattering gabber for years and getting off on the fact that nobody knows. On the whole though, a new release by one of these genuine originators should be a cause of national celebration, and I’ll fight any man, woman, child or deep house fan who says different.
But back to the job in hand. As regular readers will probably know, I hold Kevin Saunderson’s E-Dancer work in high regard. Stupidly high regard, in fact. For all the brilliance of his other work as Big Fun, Tronikhouse, The Reece Project and so on, you always got the feeling that Saunderson kept the best tunes for E-Dancer. They were always looser than techno, harder and more futuristic than house, and incorporated so many other elements that you would need a PHD in music to categorise them all. Touches of disco, a heavy dose of rave, smatterings of breaks and tribal drums, and thick applications of his trademark Reece bass all came together to build tracks that levelled dance floors and left you feeling that you’d just heard them for the very first time, no matter how familiar they were. What makes this new release extra special is the fact there simply hasn’t been any new E-Dancer material for nearly 15 years.
It’s a big tune. Cavernous, in fact. And it would be heavy too if it wasn’t for those little elements that Saunderson has always shown preternatural attention too. If there is any techno producer out there who seems to understand the Pattern Burst maxim better than Saunderson – ‘The Kick Provides the oomph, but the percussion provides the wriggle’ – I’ve yet to hear them. The percussion here ties the whole thing together. It never goes the whole rave hog in the same way it did on Pump The Move, for example, but on Foundation it soaks everything in sunshine, throwing light onto the hazy darkness of the bass and the kick as they compete to pound you into submission.
It is surprising that anything which shifts itself with such abandon could be considered sultry or sensual. But it is. They way the bass moves and rises from the gloom provides it with an emotional kick that’s only just tempered by its sorrowful tone. Elements of it are familiar from previous work on tunes like The Human Bond or even Powerbass but Foundation is a far more obvious muscle flexer, and favours grand gestures over implied suggestion. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but there are a couple of moments where it forces the tune into feeling just a touch overblown, as if the fierce focus that was always a hallmark of E-Dancer’s best work has been, literally, lost in the mix a little.
Minor quibbles aside, Foundation is a pretty healthy addition to the E-Dancer canon. No, it doesn’t sound exactly like it would have in 1996, but that is no bad thing. It’s still looser than techno and it’s still harder and more futuristic than house. And it’s still, undeniably, E-Dancer all the way.