We’re only a few weeks away from December now, and any dreams I had for 2015 becoming the big year of the electro resurgence are beginning to fade away into the lengthening shadows. Mind you, although I think it’s a bit of a shame the same old shit – boring, chunky disco-y house masquerading as something underground, and directionless techno – continues to dominate despite many more interesting takes on the same themes, I can’t deny that there has been a lot of great electro this year from a variety of sources. The big wave may not have broken, but there was a proper swell, and I hope it continues to grow in strength.
See, I think there is something happening out there. Aside from the great new electro currently being released, there has been a small, but noticeable amount of classic material finally making its way onto new presses. It’s next to nothing, of course, compared to house’s regurgitation of its own past, but it’s important, not only because some of that music represents a watershed moment in electronica, one where the futurist promise of the movement really began to propagate new forms that lived and died on their own terms, but because they remain a testament to the singular fact that even if you borrow liberally from the past, you don’t have to sound like you’re living in it.
We’ve had an ocean’s worth of Drexicya repressed over the last couple of years – although a few more of those proper original 12″s would be great – and I’ve wanted to see Aux 88 and other artists from the Direct Beat roster get a bit more time in the sun, but recently I’ve been paying a bit of attention to the darkened European end of the genre. It’s one that was almost more symphonic in nature than the bulk of the Detroit stuff, more in keeping with the same sort of wintry, almost introspective feel that’s been present in other European arts all along the post-war period. It has little in common with that technicolour 70’s New York summer vibe a lot of older, classic, original electro has. In a sense, it’s electro-noir, a soundtrack to the concrete grey of northern European nights; bleak and tired, and very familiar to a lot of us.
Anthony Rother was always a master of this, of capturing the glamour of the empty sleaze and bringing out the rarest glimpse of colour in a world that was emerging from its decade long anxiety. While his more recent work has perhaps less to recommend it, his earliest run of releases always felt shaped by an urban environment locked into a perpetual dusk, and the music slowly emerged as a more nihilistic counterweight to producers like I-F working on the other side of the border.
Redlight District, his third EP, is probably his best work, along with the brilliant Sex With Machines album. It also has that rare distinction of containing not one, but two stone cold killers within it, for Destroy Him My Robots with its icy, nervous melody provided the true blueprint for so much electro that was to appear in the last years of the 90s.
Redlight District itself is just about as cold as electro ever got, and about as far from the day-glo optimism of so much modern house as you can imagine. From the vicious yet utterly dispassionate vocals, to the frigidity of it’s growling bass and the chill edge of the precise, razor like percussion the whole thing is a testament to what happens when you pay attention to the bits of the world you aren’t supposed to notice. Repress this please. Repress this now.