Review: Ford Foster – Managed Expectations (Midnight Shift)

Ford Foster – Managed Expectations (Midnight Shift)

Somewhere along the road it seemed as if techno had decided that what it really, really wanted to do was stop getting munged, grow up enough to put ‘sensible electronica’ on its CV, and attempt to distance itself from its own enjoyably messy past.

Now, this is alright if you’re the sort of person who believes what techno needs to be doing is to be taken seriously by preening gonks who describe holding a party as ‘curating an event’, the ballsacks. You know the types: they all dress like the comedy existentialists in Tony Hancock’s The Rebel, all strange haircuts and black turtlenecks. This attitude has slowly begun to permeate a lot of the actual music, rather than just the scene it festers in. Those kicks which sound like the oxygen being sucked out of the atmosphere, the reliance on tonal shifts so small they’re only appreciable on an atomic level; The entire replacement of a dancefloor ethos with chin stroking.

Since when did it become acceptable to be boring? Techno is increasingly becoming like the sort of hard rock which is only ever listened to by guitar nerds not because they like the music, but because it features their favourite guitars, and any music which is enjoyed only by people who get a stiffy when discussing cable ties is pretty fucking tragic.

But the most heinous crime in modern techno is the utter lack of interest in anything remotely approaching a groove, that most fundamental of elements. Luckily for us, for all my over the top, ranty pronouncements, there have been a few traces recently of a kickback against the weighty seriousness, the cod intellectualism. Last week we had Kalla’s acid drenched, warehouse smashing Enter The Sponk on DABJ, and over the last year we’ve seen the likes of Tinfoil, Casio Royale and others slowly begin to bring techno back to a place where it can stretch out and do what it’s best at. Ford Foster has long been one of this crowd.

One of the things I like best about Managed Expectations is the way that Foster’s concept of techno is as informed by house as it is by anything more bone shaking. While there is an element to it which could be described as a throwback to a simpler, dafter time, the basic truth is that techno was always at its most lively when it was stealing colours and ideas from other strands of electronic music. And with Foster, his obvious loves for the more explosive edge of house – the Dance Mania, the Relief Records end of things – are used to fatten the funk, to provide the basic techno skeleton with the rude flesh.

Not that it ever descends into aping someone like DJ Funk or Tim Harper. In fact, beyond that there is a vein of smart experimentalism which lies just beneath the surface and helps distribute the grooves to new places, places which might actually surprise anyone who has paid attention to his work over the last few years. The tunes remain strong, raucous, but there is a certain laid back and diffuse energy which runs through the music, accenting the funk, carrying the usual madness in a slightly different direction.

Opener, Reputations perhaps runs closer to some of those aforementioned influences than the rest – a crackling, beat heavy runabout that veers into Relief era reductionism but pins a nervy vibe to the proceedings with a taut, whispery pad. Hold It In is the tightest tune here; predicated on a prowling bass it cuts out all the unnecessary to provide a focussed booster shot of darkened, midnight jacking.

And it says a lot about the music that Chicago legend Mike Dunn’s mix of Decisions – a gleeful burst of ambling cosmic acid, and as groove-licious as you could hope for from a bona-fide acid legend – doesn’t steal the thunder from the original, itself a wide-angled slice of sunshine drenched trippiness which double dunts the simple melody with the bass and soaks everything in nicely skewed strings, and rolls along with a similar vibe to some of the Detroit young guns have been throwing out over the last wee while.

If you’re looking for dark, Nordic, techno-angst, well, you’ve come to the wrong shop. For the rest of us, though, the boundless warmth, the countless grooves and the infestation of grins should be more than enough to seal the deal. Old school funk with new school threads. So good.

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