Ho, ho, ho, etc. Despite evidence otherwise, I love Christmas. It means I get to start worrying about my end of year charts which means having to not only try to remember which records I bough, but whether I actually liked any of them. Luckily all those lovely producers and labels out there make it slightly easier by simply refusing to release anything I’d like to buy until after new year when people might have some spare cash to spend on wax. Bah humbug, here’s my last round-up of the best represses for this God awful year.
Autechre: Incunabula, Amber, Tri Repetae (Warp)
God have mercy on my heretical soul, but I wasn’t entirely the biggest fan of Autechre when they first appeared. Actually, I was late coming to even that opinion about them. My money always seemed to be marked for something else, which meant there are some rather obvious gaps in my collection. That’s a shame because, as the years have gone by, I’ve grown far fonder of their sound, and become a bit apologetic about the way in which they were so unfairly pigeon-holed into the IDM ghetto by people (me included) who didn’t pay close enough attention. Regardless of that, Amber was a long time favourite of mine; a classic example of the fall-back album which would be dragged out late at night, on rainy Sundays, or any time I needed a dose of rueful alien sound-scaping. The other two albums I hadn’t heard in their entirety for a very long time and had forgotten exactly how effectively reality twisting they are, translating from genuine, empty horizon ambient, to tough techno, to spikey electro infused sound-forms to rolling, jazzy interludes and everything in between. I think Autechre are at their best with the slightly more barking material such as Incunabula’s Eggshell or the broken, hi-tech soul of Tri Repetae’s gleaming, majestic Eutow because they touch against more familiar sounds and show so clearly how far techno can go in the hands of people who simply don’t care about genre. The three, quite lovely, vinyl represses are about as brilliant as you would expect from Autechre and Warp, and also come with download codes for both the albums and a live set. I reckon Santa is going to be emptying a lot of these out of his sack come the 25th.
Ovatow: In Loving Memory of Juvenile Jay (Harbour City Sorrow)
Frustrated Funk seem to be ending a pretty good year with a little burst of represses – which is a very, very good thing as they are one of the most consistently brilliant electro labels on the planet just now and some of their back catalogue is up there with the finest to appear in the genre. We’ve had ERP’s Pith on the main label, and on the offshoot Harbour City Sorrow we have Duplex’s Below The Photic Zone and this cracker, In Loving Memory of Juvenile Jay by Frustrated Funk’s label head Kren under his Ovatow guise. It might only be three years old, but it’s the sort of electro record that deserves to be heard by a larger audience. I know that despite the huge impact the genre has had this year it can still be a tough sell. It’s frequently an awkward, strange music which doesn’t sit well with lots of the boring, by the numbers 4/4 yawnfests kicking around just now, but this should really be picked up by everyone. While Visitation Dub III is a fabulously weird, wild, and utterly de-constructed take on dub (leaving sod all for traditionalists to poke at) the pair of true electro tunes on here are near perfect examples of how haunting and powerful the genre can be. While there are trace elements of influences like Dopplereffekt, Rother and other giants, both tunes breathe fresh life into their takes, refracting their spiky energy into something nervously cinematic and full of contrast. I still marvel about quite how much beauty and drama Kren managed to get into their compact frames. More of this please. Much, much more.
Photek – Natural Born Killa (Metalheadz)
Well, shit. I was never a huge junglist. None of us really were up here, at least not in the circles I was in. But at least I can say that I certainly have a few stone cold D&B classics kicking around the house for which I put down to rare outbreaks of very good taste holding hands with even rarer open-mindedness. Like a lot of others up this way, however, I was infatuated with Photek for a while. I’m not sure what it was about his music that got in there under our techno-shields, but there was something about his warped and sophisticated take on the genre, mixed in with uber-geeky influences, which seemed to open the door for us a bit. Having said that, I’ve lost nearly all contact with that scene over the intervening years and have no idea what’s good in it any more. Still, I’m delighted to see the seminal Metalheadz are re-releasing some of their legendary crackers from the deep past, and this one is pretty high up there. Whilst I would be lying if I said it was my favourite Photek record, I lost myself plenty of times to Conciousness and the peerless The Rain. It’s still a lovely, primal blast of future dancefloor after all these years. I know this blog tends heavily towards other genres, but it’s Christmas. Go on, have a punt on this. Open your wallet and open your mind. Both will thank you.