I took a time out with the represses over the last couple of months of 2015. I found I was struggling to fill the space with very much I was interested in. Last year seemed to go in cycles: a few great and imaginative reissues followed by a glut of more predictable material. From a personal point of view, it has been great seeing records by Underground Resistance, Pametrax and others making their way back into the big, bad world, and I know that there is some genuinely interesting stuff coming along (hopefully) in 2016 as labels begin to push beyond the obvious, digging up gems that you might not have heard of but remain important influences on the scene.
On the whole, though, I feel a little disappointed. Other genres, and other ends of the scene, appear to have been better served by a much wiser approach and higher curatorial standards. Of course, you could claim that looking at the music from an academic angle is maybe the wrong way to go at it, but there remains a slight wistfulness that we didn’t get more we wanted (alright, I admit it, more of what I wanted). I suspect part of the thinking just now owes something to vinyl’s much vaunted – but slightly misleading – resurgence. Perhaps once the desire to own a 12″ copy of those over-familiar tunes is out-of-the-way, the hunger for a deeper and more rewarding trawl through the shared heritage might grow stronger. Let’s hope.
Clarence – Hyperspace Sound Lab (Clone)
Just about the only repress from the end of 2015 that I was interested in was Hyperspace Sound Lab by the much missed James Stinson who later went on to Techno sainthood as one half of Drexciya. Long out of print, stupidly rare, and fetching the sort of prices on Discogs which make you question everyones sanity, Clone have done everyone interested in the development and history of Detroit’s finest a massive favour by getting it back in the stores once again. Far rougher than Drexciya, and coming from a tougher and more down-to-earth place, the 4 cuts here still have enough little echoes of the future squeezed in amongst the raw beats, vocals, and growling basslines to elevate it far, far, far above the status of curiosity. And for all the unkempt edges it contains more than enough energy and sparkling grooves after 25 years in the shadows to convert even the most fairweather of dancefloors. There are still copies out there. Get on it.
Gesloten Cirkel – Moustache Techno Series 001 (Moustache Techno)
The trickle of reissues coming from the Netherlands over the last year is well underway to becoming a flood. Already in 2016 we’ve had Clone’s release of a pair of class Unit Mobius records which delve right back into the legendary electro-punks past, and they’re to be joined in the near future by I-F’s Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass. Gesloten Cirkel has been sailing down his own little river of represses recently, and this reissue of the mysterious Russian’s second release is a pretty good one. A darker, more pared down sort of electro than that we have grown used to over the last couple of years, Moustache Techno Series 001 drags acid house moodiness, fairytale-land rave, and dirty, stomping grooves into a weird grimy soup that almost disguises the peak, devastating precision of Gesloten Cirkel’s funk. Almost, but not quite.
Gherkin Jerks – 1990 EP (Alleviated Records)
While not as rare as it once was due to a repress only three or so years ago, Gherkin Jerks 1990 EP remains, alongside Stomp The Beat, one of Larry Heard’s best releases. While I don’t think it’s quite as good a record as Stomp The Beat right off the line – the other record being rawer, more experimental, and acidic – 1990 EP is definitely an important one for the way it blends those harder tastes with the deep house vibe that Heard has become so influential with. More important than that, though, is the way it reminds you that the deepness without the grooves is usually just wallpaper. The entire record is a testament to that, with the funk flowing underneath the emotional sunshine of the melodies and occasionally touching upon the same ground as that explored by Detroit’s high-tech soul. Music from a genuine master.