Friday Night Tune: Chicago Jim – B2

The blog had its second birthday on Wednesday, an age I was more than a little surprised to reach considering how suddenly I started doing it. There had been a few months of thought given to starting a blog, but I had no clear idea what I wanted to write about. I toyed for a long time with the idea of just discussing books I enjoyed – a concept I still like, even though it would quickly descend into a mass of words about crap fantasy, Evelyn Waugh novels, and Russian classics. I had no idea I was going to write about records until I sat down to do it.

It made sense then and, to me at least, it makes sense now. Electronic music has been present in my life since before I left school (although if I’m honest a real appreciation of house and techno took a little longer to achieve). My listening in those very, very early days was limited to the handful of proper records you’d hear on the Peel Show, or various late night radio stations, and my growing love was no doubt fueled by romanticizing the moral panic and over-the-top reaction to acid house in the media, parliament, and wider society. Those records seemed strange and alien – utterly so compared to the mass of punk, alt rock and indy I mostly listened to. I was never into disco as a genre (although I never disliked it) but for all the oddness of electronic music, there was something in it that reminded me of the soul music I also loved. And once I made the connections between different generations of Detroit music, I was sold.

But that is prehistory, and while the memories of first love never leave you, refusing to believe that all good music stopped when you hit 21 is a more telling indicator of when you simply stopped caring than it is of anything external. The last few years have seen house and techno reaching new levels, and I genuinely believe some of the music around just now is up there with the best of the last 20 – no, 30 – years. Although you sometimes have to be obsessive to spot it, the genres continue to grow and fragment at a stunning rate – a mechanism which tends to dissolve much of the stagnation you get with entrenched tastes. I’d be lying if I said I liked everything that’s come and gone, particularly over the last couple of years. I enjoyed a lot of Outsider house’s worn take, but was aware how quickly certain surface noises came to define a lot of the music. The current taste for chunkier, polished house seems a reaction to that, but it’s beginning to go too far in the other direction, trading on a musical conservatism and endless reworking of ideas which were already boring by the time the millennium rolled around. I don’t expect to be waiting long before another splintering occurs.

Looking back on the records I’ve bought over the last 24 months, I’m impressed by how little of it harks back to the past. Sure, there’s a lot that would have sounded familiar in any DJ set played in ’96 (or ’86 for that matter) but there is so much that continues to broaden electronica’s horizons we often take it for granted. And when it does draw on the heritage, there is plenty that understands it’s the attitudes and the energy that matter, not the sounds.

One of my favourite records over the last two years was Chicago Jim’s album on Lobster Theremin. I got my hands on it later than I had intended and I almost meant to review it I never did. It’s one of those records which hides its real nature under a mist of experimentalism which can be misleading until you begin to delve into it. It’s one of the few electronica albums I can listen to all the way through repeatedly. The way it moves between moods and grooves, drawing on acid, techno and everything else, whilst remaining faithful to its clarity of vision keeps it stunningly fresh sounding no matter how often I hear it.

B2 is a solid groove delivered with lightness and mischief. It harks back to an era when it was natural to pull together the disparate strands of electronica’s extended family, but it rolls with a very modern vibe, taking all the history lessons onboard but propelling them forward and dousing them with a downbeat mood that toys brilliantly with the upfront nature of the beats.

So, we are two. Thanks for reading, because for all my delusion that I’m just doing it for myself, I doubt I would still be writing it if no one looked. We’ve embarked on another year of electronic strangeness, nonsense and stray moments of greatness so lets eat the cake, put away the birthday cards and get down to work. Those records aren’t going to listen to themselves.

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