V Is For Victor is the first collaboration between Keith Tenniswood – AKA Radioactive Man – and Freerotation resident Suade Bergemann, and from the off it feels a wider take on electro than we have recently been used to. Whether this is intentional or not I don’t know. Collaborations can take even the most singular musical vision of one of the participants away on a tangent, first time pairings even more so.
In some senses Victor Valiant echoes and learns from lessons presented by older music and artists, such as James Stinson and his work as The Other People Place. While V For Victor never departs traditional electro to anywhere near the same extent as Stinson did on Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café, it taps at a similar seam. The tunes on V For Victor exhibit a looseness and warmth, and an almost downtempo vibe, that is rare in the genre, and a little eye-opening when considering Radioactive Man’s recent canon of molten, mutant, stormers.
But more interesting is the soulfulness which sits at the heart of the record. It tugs on the direction of the tunes, and scoops out space for itself between the beats, lending the sense that this records true influences were to be found in crackly old funk and rare groove records rather than technobass or hip hop or rave.
Even the parts of the album which are very much ‘proper’ electro, like Anti-Flash, or Conway, tip their hats to the prevailing mood. Anti-Flash drags a slithery bassline through a complex street map of beats and rogue tones, occasionally putting you in mind of a fractured and tripped-out Boris Divider. Conway strips everything down to the beats and wobbly riff for the sort closed-eyes workout that could make itself at home at any point over the last 20 years while remaining very contemporary indeed. Its slowly building sense of malice, its snake-hipped movement, and its quiet restraint, mark it out as one to keep an ear on.
If we’re being entirely honest, though, it’s the other half of the album which elicits the most interest. Influences are opened up, rhythms loosened. On Dragonfly we’re shepherded down tight, midnight streets by jaggy, swaggering, acid funk, dipping into a bag of psychedelic fun as we go. Tanker further widens the gulf between V Is For Victors two parts with a jazzy, groove infused high-tech boogie that dances with the ghosts of genuine old-school electro while Mike Banks watches on.
Olympus is in another place entirely. Languid, dripping with little touches of colour, Olympus is a slender tune coiled around a massive, wandering, bass and coaxing shapes and textures into being. It falls somewhere between future-dub and some sort of deep-space noir dreamt up in the early 70s. Even the occasional flutter of vocodered lyrics drift into just the right place. Deep and genuinely woozy, it’s a highlight on an album that takes delight in stripping electro down and rebuilding it into something that feels as old as it sounds new.