On the unlikely off-chance anyone has been wondering where the writing’s gone over the past week the truth is I’ve been a bit poorly with a chest infection which, combined with being at work, has knocked me for six and left me with as much desire to listen to techno as Mary Whitehouse has for taking a job in a dildo factory. Honestly, I was a misery; tripping my nuts off every time I coughed up a minger from my deepest lungs, pathetically trying to convince myself that consumption is very much a desirable affectation for a writer, and generally feeling a bit murdered by simply being awake. My apologies to that guy whose gurgling ‘cheer up big man! It might never happen!” a couple of days ago almost led to the phone box he was leaning against being violently inserted up his arse.
Still, it’s that special day in the calendar today, the 3rd of the 3rd. It is, once again, 303 day! We couldn’t let that pass without comment could we? As much as we would like to…
Anyway, I’m going slightly left field for this one tonight. Tata Box Inhibitors were never really acid in the traditional sense – nor, if I’m honest, in any other sense. A Dutch act (I think) they came to prominence with a trinity of EPs back in the early and mid nineties on the now long gone Touche label. Across Plasmids, Protein, and Insane/Ribosomal they created a sound which felt as if it lay at a tangent to the greater mass of the time. They were open to influences from a wide range of sources – house, acid, techno, and early trance all had major roles in shaping their sonic blueprint. Perhaps because of this they received support from a surprisingly wide range of DJs, with acts as disparate as Kevin Saunderson and the Chemical Brothers picking up on their tracks. In Saunderson’s case, the tune Ribosomal featured on his still utterly enthralling Transmissions From Deep Space Radio mix CD, finding a natural home on what I think is still the very best of the classic X-mix series.
Music wise, Tata Box Inhibitors were unafraid of letting the tunes weave out as long as they needed to, and it’s rare to find any that clock in at less that six or seven minutes, and frequently weigh in for far longer. They were fine DJ tools for jocks who knew how to hold the mix whilst the mood grew and morphed, and their subtly trance-like structures channelled energy into the way they seemed to build into infinity. In later years there were a number of remix packs released which swapped out their more incandescent moments, often for something earthier and conventional. While these packs (which existed for Plasmids and Insane) have their rare joys, and are worth tracking down if you have the inclination, they don’t hold a candle to the originals.
Plasmids (Placid Mix) from the first EP is perhaps their finest track. A true classic of the era, it builds just as relentlessly as any of the German acid of the Harthouse school, but without recourse to the often harsher, metallic vibes which characterised that label. Instead, it invokes something wider; a feeling which runs parallel to the spacey pastel colours of prime Balearic house and trance but tempers it with a thrillingly crunching power.
What makes the record such a belter though is the way the breakdown, about six minutes in, turns the whole track on its head. As the music evaporates, leaving only the wash of a single pad hanging in the emptiness and a tightening in the gut as you await the blizzard of hi-hats you know full well are coming, it doesn’t give any hint of the fury with which the sudden introduction of the 303 will devastate everything in its path. It’s the way it brushes aside the hypnotic beauty of the track up until that point while suddenly completing the tune which makes it so perfect. A single hungry and predatory line which snakes and slithers, positively drips with dark, bleak drama. In an instant it turns the tune inside out, presenting us with the flipside of the wide-eyed joy the rest of the track fooled us into believing. Absolute bang.
Happy 303 Day.