Going through your record collection, especially when you haven’t done so for a while, can be an eye-opening experience. Until recently I hadn’t really been aware of exactly how much I liked the work of Aubrey. The evidence was there though; a stack of 12″s from several different labels, chief amongst them his own Solid Groove. I don’t know why I was so surprised. A number of his tunes long ago made it into my personal top twenty, and there are several of them from way, way back that I still play on a regular basis today. Looking through his entry on Discogs was another surprise – mainly because I suddenly discovered how many of his records I didn’t have. Prolific doesn’t begin to cover it.
What I always loved about this most underrated of producers was that he was in possession of a sound that was completely his own right from the start. And while it naturally developed over the years, it was always recognizably his; lighter, perhaps, than the bulk of the techno from the same era, and an early adopter of some house-ier elements for sure, but always built out of grade-A grooves and shot through with loose psychedelic colour that beckoned towards wide open vistas of adventure and experimentalism of a very different sort that was to be found in a British scene still largely in the grip of IDM and braindance. The discovery in 2014 that he was kicking Solid Groove back into gear again was exciting, but tempered with the usual worries that it wouldn’t – couldn’t – be as good. The world has changed, after all, and electronic music is a very different beast now.
Those worries can be put to bed, and Time Level Bypass fits as well into Solid Groove’s back catalogue as you could hope. Aubrey’s sound also remains his own – wonky grooves accenting touches that, although thoroughly Detroit or Chicago in tone, are from somewhere else entirely in feel. Part of this is down to the fact that although the music is serious, it never takes itself so – a simple lesson that many producers never quite get. Once again there is evolution on show and Time Level Bypass seems somewhat tighter than Aubrey’s music once did, slightly grittier too. The grooves, always at the absolute heart of his work, are pronounced, pushing and pulling with aplomb.
It’s purest techno, but warm and self-aware even when it’s getting its head down to work as it does on the twelve-minute long title track. The tune itself is gloriously messy and half-submerged, always on the verge of sinking entirely into its loopy energy. But it never does so, always restraining itself and throwing itself a life-preserver in the many little touches that heave it upwards. It is, in fact, classic Aubrey; very much the sort of wobbly builder that always caught you unawares and left you glad that it did.
No Matter What is more focused. Dragging in a disco vibe along side something of mid period Kenny Larkin, bouncing on the robotic buckle of its bass and splinters of synth that are ever ready to step up and take the track away into deep space it delights in the simple pleasure of doing the right thing and hitting the right note straight off the bat, all of which builds up into a proper shuffler, totally insistent in its fuzzy charm. 104 goes deep, a soulful, thoughtful number that stops itself from getting too introspective in the way it morphs and alters itself every now and again, moving towards a tribally jam one minute before looping back on a cheeky Mills-on-a-dub-trip tip the next but never losing sight of the jam’s aquatic, emotional centre.
Yeah, both music and the world change, but it seems Aubrey doesn’t – he still sounds like no one except himself, and he’s once again off into his personal universe of frequency and grooves. For those of you who don’t know him, this is a class starting point. For those of us that do, its business as usual. Yes.