Buying music digitally is one of those strange little facets of the modern world that manages to be both incredibly useful and highly unfulfilling at same time. There is an odd emptiness in buying files. Perhaps it is the immediacy, the speed at which you can harvest music; sit at a computer, spend an hour or so flipping through sound clips at Boomkat or Juno and end the night with a dozen new EPs to go through. The thrill of getting your hands on new tunes wears off quickly, and descends towards a task of pure acquisition. Of course, many of us are just as bad when it comes to vinyl. I have far more records sitting in the ‘to listen’ pile than I already know what to do with, and the existence of that pile won’t stop me from buying more. But there is also an inherent wait to buying records. You order them online and let the postman do his job, or you get off your arse to go into town to an actual honest to Christ shop and dig through the crates. Either way seems to elicit a feeling of accomplishment, and of doing something useful – although bank managers and significant others might well disagree.
One of the real boons of digital distribution however has been the way many forward thinking labels had some time ago begun to preempt the current hunger for reissues. Discogs is great, it’s a fantastic resource, but you are always at the mercy of sellers who couldn’t give a shit about how accurate their personal rating systems are, how out of whack with reality their pricing policies might be, or whether or not the state of the record has anything to do with them once it leaves their hands.
Although digital reissues are not always free of a similar level of cynicism – particularly when it comes to shite quality transfers where the music is simply ripped at low bit rate from the original vinyl, replete with pops, surface noise and plenty of artifacts, rather than going through the hassle of remastering from the original DATS or recordings to take advantage of the new format (not always possible, I know) – it has still allowed an increasing number of classics some fresh time in the sun. Some labels have gone to town big time on this; almost the whole of Djax back catalogue, for example, is available digitally, and the number of absolute corkers from the likes of Warp is rising every day.
Even better is the opportunity it affords for music that did not garner the level of adulation it probably deserved the first time around to have another go. Yes, it’s certainly true that an awful lot of tunage got ignored to begin with for the very best reason of all – it was rubbish – but that doesn’t mean it all deserves to be tarred with the same brush. It’s easy to forget that for all its dead ends, digital distribution can also be a gateway to discovery, and a great one at that.
DJ Lhoie’s Sonic Assault EP was one of these. Originally released on DJ Bone’s Subject: Detroit label way back in 2004 it remains, from what I can see, Lhoie’s only ever release. Born and brought up in the Philippines before moving with his family to the States, he seems to have hooked up with Bone at some point and that is all I know. But his place on the periphery of Detroit techno doesn’t cheapen the fact that Sonic Assault is an insanely good release. I stumbled over it a few months ago when I was looking for something else and quickly became obsessed with each of the three tunes. In particular, it was Sublimental that did the permanent damage; the combination of light speed beats, shining invention, and the sometimes whimsical nature that was a trademark of Detroit techno reinterpreted into something quirky and fresh took hold of me and wouldn’t let go.
As is so often the case, it’s entirely possible that Lhoie went on to create a shed-load of well-known records that I’ve simply missed, but I don’t think so. And if I’m right that this was his only release, it’s a real shame. I hope someone rectifies this.