V/A – Marguerita 1, 2, 3 (Clone West Coast)
The big repress news around here is probably the forthcoming re-releases of The Kilohertz EP and the Elektroworld LP by that electro super-group of yore, Elecktroids. While their exact line-up has always been one of those weird open secrets the scene seems to get it panties into a right old bunch about (and it was mostly the Drexciyan lads anyway), you can’t really take anything away from Clone’s public service reissue. Well, you can a tiny bit because Elecktroworld has been available in digital format for blooming yonks. But it’ll be nice to get our hands on Kilohertz again, and I guess for those of who value actual, proper, hold-it-in-your-hands-and-weep physical authenticity (and let’s be honest, most of us are in that particular club) it’ll be just lovely to get the album without paying some Discogs weirdo seven large for the privilege. Musically they’re both pretty important records, so we’ll have a little proper looky when they finally turn up.
It’s fitting that the Elecktroids material should reappear on one of the many Clone sub-labels. There have been a few outfits over the last couple of years who have made good on reissuing classic electro, some of them pulling out all the stops to secure licenses from a host of genuine underground beauties which seemed to have escaped everyone else’s attention. In Clone’s case they’ve built a reputation as an archivist of sorts for the billion-odd reissues of material from Drexciya/Gerald Donald/James Stinson, but they have also seen fit to repress music from other, perhaps less well-known sources, some of which occupies particular and important places in the history of the genre.
There have been reissues of material from the likes of Unit Moebius, the inventively fecund Dutch outfit who were a major influence on an entire constellation of European electro producers; last year saw Clone releasing a beautiful and absolutely essential retrospective of Le Car, the Detroit art-electro collective, and this year we’ve had re-releases of both parts of Detroit In Effect’s The Men You’ll Never See, which ranks up there with some of the best-in-show since the start of the millennium. And while it’s certainly true that there have – perhaps – been others who have delved further into the muddy past of the underground’s history and returned with rarer or even brighter diamonds, Clone reissues have allowed the strange jigsaw of this particular end of electronica to look far more complete than it could have been, and that’s before we even discuss the way they have continued to fly the flag for a huge amount of contemporary electro.
Their latest venture into the world of classic electro is perhaps even more interesting. Marguerita Recordings was a brilliant outfit operated by Ben Spaander – AKA Cosmic Force – which rocked out of Amsterdam from the start of the millennium until about five years ago. I’m unsure whether it’s still a going concern, although if it was I don’t suppose there would be a need for another label to license their stuff. They had a great run though, with a catalogue of extraordinary music, much of it from Spaander himself under a number of pseudonyms, or collaborations between himself and Edo Edens (who also recorded for the label as E8) and a small handful of other like-minded individuals. Beyond their own music, there were releases from a number of genuine luminaries such as Detroit In Effect, Dexter, and a mix CD by none other than DJ Stingray (who has played the hell out of a lot of the Marguerita tracks over the years). They even released a notable series of sampler EPs under the 030303 name which boasted an extravagant collection of big-name producers, with the likes of Mike Dredd, Neil Landstrumm, Legowelt, Like A Tim, Ceephax Acid Crew, and Luke Vibert all featuring. Now, by anyone’s standards that’s a special gang to feature on your label.
The three records of material Clone have reissued, though, keeps it in the family. There isn’t anything here by the more famous producers, but that isn’t a problem in the slightest because what we get is some of the most insane electro to emerge over the last twenty years. While a lot of the electro we’ve had from the Netherlands over the decades has been special, the Marguerita stuff seemed to take pride in being out there, following its own weird path into the future. Having said that, the links and influences on their own material and that of the US always seemed more pronounced than you tended to find with that of, say I-F’s Viewlexx/Murder Capital releases. Where the Viewlexx records are scratchier, and as in love with italo, disco, and a host of heavier (and often non overtly electronic) sounds as they are with electro, Marguerita Recordings championed a creation which was bouncier, brasher, and purer.
What we get here is essentially a collection of tracks culled from the earliest releases on the label, with Spaander, Edens, and their closest collaborators appearing under a number of guises, with the bulk of the tunes drawn from Eden’s work as E8, or from the single EP the pair released as Doubledutch. There are also a couple of other tunes featured from their work as Proskool, and a single track by Ototax which may or may not be its first time released anywhere – even with the aid of Discogs my old brain can’t seem to place it in a prior release.
And – oh, mate – this is a holy trinity of vinyl. While it’s perhaps fair to suggest that the quality is a little uneven here and there, there are so many riches on offer that you simply won’t notice or care. While there are a couple of tunes, such as E8’s H20, you wish had made the cut (hopefully Clone have held a bit back for a further release), nobody in their right mind could really object to the curation; and there is a simple thrill in having such utter monsters as Doubledutch’s Launch Detected or the compressed, nasty, brilliance of E8’s Micropacer 1 causing mayhem within earshot of each other.
Aside from these two giants the records provide a pretty good snapshot where the label’s head was at in its early days, and pleasingly indicates just why so many big names were lining up to work with them. This is electro which burns white-hot. Even the tunes which aren’t balls-to-the-wall mental, such as Proskool’s Hit $ Run, display a sleek and dirty sense of groove and fun which is worlds away from the dryness a lot of contemporary electro seems to find itself specializing in.
This is electro written to be played loud. Sometimes stripped down, acidic, and wonky – as on the single Ototax track Voices Of The Universe, at other times heavy-loaded and brutal, there is such a crowd of lunatic mindsets at play there can be little wonder they utilized so many pseudonyms.
Look, it’s getting late, and this piece is getting long, so I’ll finished by saying the obvious: go and buy all three right now. Clone deserve all your praise for these completely unexpected treats, and even though we’ve become a bit spoiled for choice with quality electro represses, these stand out as particularly fine examples of how unhinged, how massive, and how downright exciting it can be when it finds itself in the hands of people who are fuelled by nothing more than their own demented sense of what the music is, and what it can do.