Best of the Represses – Nov 2017

So I’ve been away in India for a bit. Not so much ‘finding myself’ as avoiding getting run over by psychotic bus drivers, motorised rickshaws, and camels, whilst eating twice my own weight in garlic naan. And although I’ve come back home with one of the meanest colds I’ve ever experienced, I’ve also returned with an unwillingness to give the benefit of the doubt to this whole repress malarky anymore. Seriously, label folks: this is about the third month in a row I’ve had to scrape around to avoid writing about endless disco edits and re-releases of watery 90s deep house. My brain, feet, and other less remarkable bits of my anatomy demand old school sonic fun and it just ain’t happening. It really isn’t. And with that, here’s the cream of a very, very, slender crop:

Model 500 – No UFO’s – Metroplex

Metroplex’s anouncement that it was going to start repressing some it’s classics was pretty much acclaimed by everyone with ears. Unfortunately the whole project seems to have gone off the boil a bit, with a number of scheduled bangers failing to appear. Even worse, the long-awaited repress of No UFO’s does that currently fashionable dirty trick where the original’s full arsenal has been ransacked to make room for stuff that, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, really isn’t all that great. In this case, both version’s of Future’s screwy, sleazy funk have been tossed out and replaced with remixes of the title track courtesy of Moodyman and Luciano. Both are unwanted and unneeded. While the Moodyman version is just -just- about passable, it tries too hard to straighten out the unstraightenable and turns in something fairly limp but bearable if you squint at it enough in low lighting. The Luciano version, though, is gash, and seems designed to be played in a god awful wine bar setting at 6.30 on a Wednesday night. For shame. I mean, if you hate Juan Atkins that much, why not just kick him in the nuts and leave the rest of us out of it? Luckily, the original versions of No UFO’s still sizzle with the same cyborg electrofunk energy they always have, their sense of fun, adventure, and machine-mysticism undiminished by being more than 30 years old. Buy for these two examples of effervescent genius and pretend the rest of it doesn’t exist.


Cube 40 – You Make Me Function – Was/Is

Although I’m not entirely sure of what came first, I think it’s safe to describe Cube 40 as a side project of Air Liquide’s Cem Oral and cocreated with his brother, Cam, way back in 1995. This is actually one of two Cube 40 represses which came out recently but, strangely, this one appears to have been a limited edition. The other, Bad Computer came out on another label and should also still be available.

You Make Me Function is, simply, a bunch of fun that really doesn’t try to do anything other than shift its arse around a wee bit. There is a really strong vibe of very early Relief records here, and its funk-slinging dumbness also works up a bit of a Dance Energy sweat which is all the more interesting because it predates the whole darn massive ghetto house DM explosion thing by a year or two. But even though bumptious Chicago second wave house is the obvious influence there is a bit more to it than that – little slivers of sound from Plus 8 and early European experiments in the genre tie it all together. I think Fun House on the B side is actually the better of the two tracks, kicking it out with the sort of wobbly acid shuffler that entire nights out once built themselves on. Maybe not the classiest thing you’ve ever heard, but if you can listen to it without smiling you’re dead inside. Dead. And you probably really like the Luciano remix of No UFO’s too. Get out of here, you bum.

Microthol – MicroKosmos (Anniversary Edition) – Trust

I wrote a bunch last month about the way in which Bandcamp was on its way to becoming a great resource and archive for all sorts of old music no longer available. I had planned to write a bit about some dinky Fastgraph stuff I found on it a while ago, but it seems to have been removed for God knows what reason. Never mind, because DJ Glow’s might Trust has supplied us with an even better option in the shape of Microthol’s debut album from 2006.

This is simply spiffing; a mix of vibes, atmospheres, and energies which take in a number of genres. MicroKosmos locks down a heavy mass of invention and sophistication with some potent grooves – some delicate, some prowling. While the electro forms the core of this collection, it reaches out towards EBM, Detroit flavoured techno, acid and all manner of gorgeously synthy madness. Comes complete with some excellent additional remixes from Dynarec, Marco Passarani, Alexander Robotnik, and Old Man Glow himself. While each of them is great, the Passarani and Robotnik reworkings really hit the spot. Just superb. Get it now.

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Best Of The Represses (Sort of) October 2017

One of the drawbacks of focussing on vinyl reissues is that it quickly becomes difficult to see the wood for the trees. Over the last couple of years we’ve been blessed with a lot of represses. Some of them have been interesting, most have been OK, and a very small number have been superb examples of labels going for broke in providing us with occasional items of genuine splendour. This year Clone’s reprint of its Le Car retrospective, Auto Reverse, Warp’s sterling repress of Lifestyles Of The Laptop Cafe , and Boidae’s remastered collection of work by The Mover stand out as releases that have hit all the right marks. These records represent not only simple re-releases of old material recently commanding high prices on various on-line vinyl bazaars, but also as examples of how good it is when you see some love and slightly left-of-centre thinking put into it.

It’s not always like that, though. Too often represses are hawked out to labels who, regardless of their actual intentions, seem to delight in poor presses, sound quality, or even a lack of any of the original art. This last one might not seem important – we are talking about an aural medium after all – but for many people buying new copies of these old records the artwork remains an important hook, something that elevates the record to new territory.

Electronica remains a strangely fecund environment for represses; the nature of the genre, it’s reliance on limited original presses of 12″s, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them nature of so many of the acts and labels, and the fact that, particularly in the earlier years, it was a genre which took the ethos of true label independence to a level perhaps unseen since the thirties, meant that for most of us a lot of the music we heard out and about, and perhaps only fleetingly, is largely lost, except perhaps to a small, select group. Compare this with rock music where it seems even the most forgettable third album by whatever 90s outfit you care to name is kept in circulation forever because the labels are large, wealthy and – most importantly here – stable enough to do this and it’s no wonder that electronica is thriving on represses. Whether the hunger stems from rekindled memories or a desire for musical education, the need so many of us have to reconnect has led to heavy archaeology in the garden of lost musical treasures.

But while a remastered vinyl reissue probably represents the best everything, we tend to forget it isn’t the only way to get your hands on old music. Discogs, eBay, and other markets has given us unparalleled access to the originals. Whatever your views and experiences, you can’t argue against what the opportunity provides, even if your choice 50 quid slab of early nineties Dance Mania arriving packed in what appears to be crisp packets does take a bit of the excitement off.

A lot of labels have realised that there is a thriving market in sticking out old material in digital form. For those of us less bothered by the need to hold the holy artefacts in out hands this has turned out to be a godsend. You can pick up superb music from a galaxy of great labels relatively cheaply, passing on cash to the label rather than to some insane Discogs weird-boy. The downsides are in the quality control. For every label who works hard to create a decent transfer, there is another content to stick a scabby vinyl rip up and charge for it.

I’m slowly coming around to the idea that buying from Bandcamp might eventually be the best of the lot. Aside from feeling virtuous that the larger portion of you money is going to the labels and, increasingly, the producers themselves, it seems to be on its way to becoming an archive of the lost and unusual. There is so much good stuff there if you look for it. Unfortunately, this is Bandcamp’s Achilles heel: its search function remains, to put it bluntly, shite. Whether it stems from a slightly hipster-ish desire to dump you in a realm of music with the intention of having you blindly stumble into things, or whether it’s simply because a decent, modern, search function is beyond them, I don’t know. What I do know is it can be needlessly hard to get anywhere unless you know exactly what you’re looking for.

It’ll get better as more people use it, I expect. With the likes of Underground Resistance currently working themselves up to getting material on the site, and a host of producers coming around to its tangible benefits, this side of Bandcamp will grow exponentially. Whether it’ll ever replace the thrill of buying a long desired 12″, I can’t say. Probably not – there’s a thrill there that digital files can’t really replace. What is certain though is that it’s about time we started widening our horizons to the possibilities because a reliance on physical represses by the largest labels will ultimately limit us to an increasingly small pool of music, and may well see some real treasures lost forever. Next time you’re thinking of splashing out on the 150th repress of Acid Trax with one slightly different mix on it from the last one you bought, why not just buy it digitally and use the savings to buy some wicked tunes from the past that you might not necessarily have gone for from Discogs? Even better, remember that today’s new music is tomorrow’s old, and support some up and coming label or producer who are doing good stuff right now. Why wait 20 years before recognizing the talent in front of you?

Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be writing wee reviews on this, aren’t I? well, I’ve pretty much spunked my word count today so we’ll just have the one.

Being – July 1995

Dave Paton is probably better known these days for his work as Wee DJs, but 20 years back he was known as Being and was responsible for some quite crazy music. It’s difficult to know with Being’s stuff quite where the ambient ends and something harsher, less ethereal begins, but it’s this tightening in the throat and gut which makes July 1995 such as great compendium. In many ways it’s of its time: rougher, heavier rather than deeper, but lost in a universe of its own creation. It has the feel of a truck load of slightly broken machines singing songs, and whispering threats, to each other, but it’s never less than utterly captivating.

From Shify’s fluid, jazz touched, and increasingly snarling ride into the vacuum, to Berl’s compressed, zero-point wobble July 1995 mixes up its influences. You can feel Detroit’s silver spirit floating high over the music, and little quick silver flows of dub, true old-school ambient, and something even more esoteric cut their courses through the precise and haunted emptiness of the tunes. This is electronica like you don’t really get any more. It’s utterly disinterested in the ways of the world, entirely content creating fresh and lonely horizons to explore.

My favourite here is Cat, a deep and pulsing exemplar of a particular, (and increasingly forgotten) strand of UK electronic music which, rather than recoil from the dancefloor, understood that those same touches that made you want to move your body could also make you want to move your mind. Absolutely sublime.

I met Dave once. It was in Drummonds in Aberdeen in 94 or 95. He was a friend of a friend. Played a blinder of a set. Asked me to swap seats to he could keep an eye on his gear. True story. What lives we lead.

Best Of The Represses – September 2017

Alright. Let’s get down to brass tacks. Firstly, anyone who missed the last lot of Frustrated Funk represses (I don’t know how you could – there were pure hunnerds of them) can now, once again, attempt to pick up some fine, fine, fine electro from the likes of Plant 43, ERP, Lost Trax, Cybonix and others. ERP’s Pith and Cybonix Make This Party Live are particularly fine records. Do us all a favour and pick them up. I won’t tell you again, you nuts. Strictly Rhythm’s attempts to out repress Trax sees them bringing Phuture’s ace Rise From Your Grave back from the dead. All the cuts are pretty sweet, but my choice is the brilliant ‘wild pitch’ mix which’ll still roll over any floor like a ghost train of pure funk. New Yorican Soul’s The Nervous Track also seems to be doing the rounds again, which is nice as I’ve got a soft spot for it, especially the Ballsy mix. That the veg, folks, now on to the meat!

Ross 154 – Fragments (Applied Rhythmic Technology)

Released originally all the way back at the dawn of time in 1993, Ross 154’s lovely Fragments makes a remastered return to the living world. In many ways it was a record well ahead of its time. While some people have described it as IDM, I’ve personally never been sure that’s the right way to go. While a lot of other ambient tinged records of the era were certainly no slouches in flavouring the sonic broth with muscle cut from other genres, Fragments remains a bit unusual in the depth and breadth of its influences. Sure, the crimson-sky flickers of the actual ambient fragments remain as delightfully hazy as ever, but what stands out now is how freaky modern the complete, ‘proper’ tracks sound as they pull through broken electronica, dinky, ravey warmers, almost Ninja Tune style experimentalism, and slow burning groove-outs. Stand out for me has always been Mayflower, a tune where the subtlest – and cleverest – of melodies informs some ultra-fine, silky, funk and sounds as if it has stopped just for a moment in Detroit to ask directions to deep space.

DJ Stingray 313 – Cognition (Lower Parts)

OK, not that old really. It’s, what, a couple of years? If you don’t have it already, though, you really should take this opportunity to land it. What’s always interesting about Stingray is that his take on electro really doesn’t sound like anyone elses. Even after all these years. Yes, there are still touches here and there which reminds you of his eternal links to Drexciya, but he long ago phase-shifted past that and into a realm entirely of his own creation. This EP captures him at his peak; less opaque than some of his material occasionally is, it’s a wonderful testament to the scope of the genre, ranging as it does from floor shaking 4/4 fired tracks like Acetylcholine to Dendrite‘s fractured, ghostly, footwork toned workout. The best track though remains Kon001’s remarkable remix of ErbB4 which takes the lush techno-soul of the original and wraps it in shadows and colour, and just the tiniest, almost visible, shades of ancient Model 500. It’s a thing of genuine, stunning beauty. It was my tune of the year a while back, and listening to it again, it still bloody well is.

Syncom Data – Den Haag EP (Syncom Data)

I don’t know why, but something about Syncom Data has never really filled the wings of the wider world For those in the know, though, both the band and the label have long been held has purveyors of some very fine music which maintain a brilliant ability to provide particularly singular takes of well-known genres be they minimial, acid, electro, dub, or just about anything that takes their fancy.

The Den Haag EP first appeared on the label about 13 years ago, and the prices of an original were beginning to head towards idiot-land on Discogs. Thank God for the repress as this is a stonker. I don’t even know how you’d describe it properly – a sort of acidy belt of wonky electro which simply couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks it is. Stuff like this – entirely headstrong, and original in both take and execution – doesn’t come along very often. It is a very Glasgow record (being the sort of thing I would expect to hear in certain clubs here) and I can’t really think of higher praise than that. From Abenteuer Im Abendschein’s spooky, freaky deaky skank to Den Haag’s machine funk which sounds entirely created from broken radios and a knackered washing machine this is a record which does a job on both the feet and the brain, and will leave your ears wondering what just happened. Superb, cheeky, and deadly serious.

Best Of The Represses – August 2017

Well, heck. I should admit something right now: I’ve kind of being running around a lot over the last month and have barely had time to look at any records at all, let alone gather up a sweet posse of represses. About the only one I’ve felt any real excitement about is the return of is DJ Bone’s Riding The Thin Line which I covered away back in what now feels like another life time but is now available from the linked site above as well as all your favourite stores. It’s a genuine classic and you’d be an idiot of sorts to pass it up. Elsewhere, the rumours of Direct Beat represses seem to actually have some truth to them, with the Aux 88 lads themselves revealing the existence of Direct Beat Classics, a new label which’ll print up a bunch of, uhh, Direct Beat classics. No news yet what records will actually be getting touched with a beam of magic sunlight but they’re pretty much all gold so it’ll be good whatever happens. Not quite so brilliant is the way the much vaunted Metroplex re-releases seem to have funtered out into nothingness. We had high hopes of some real doozies being pumped towards us, but the way in which the above mentioned DJ Bone release (originally on Metroplex) was shunted off to another label has us a wee bit concerned. Mind you, Juan Atkins has been rocking around the place for the last few months with his old muckers Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson on a big time Belleville Three tip so perhaps once all that’s over things will get going again. Anyways, Here’s some stuff I’ve snuffled around in for your perusal.

LNRDCROY – Unthank 8 (Unthank/Firecracker)

As regular readers probably know, I am apparently the last person on Earth who is still to be convinced by the merits of the whole Moodhut/Vancouver thing. I don’t get it. God I’ve tried, I really have, but far from feeling it as some sort of charge towards on-point futuro-authenticity it kind of strikes me as the soundtrack to a really underwhelming afternoon in the sort of coffee shop that chunders on about how they roast their beans before selling you a thimble of tepid, bitter, bum water for a fiver. AAAND relax….

I exaggerate (mostly), and their have been one or two records over the last couple of years which I’ve almost liked, and there have indeed been a smaller subsection of those which were pretty darn good actually. Chief amongst these have been LNRDCROY releases, either complete records or occasional tracks cropping up elsewhere. This repress is of his 2015 release on Unthank, a label which goes to almost insane lengths to provide the sort of overall experience in terms of artwork and all that jazz which makes you want to weep at all the blank-label-with-stamp records you own. It is a fitting union for LNRDCROYS deep, fluid meditations, and this is one of those releases where the concept of ambient really does harken back to a concept of space and beauty.

Both Donny On The River, and Freedom For Antboy II pitch and yaw in the nothingness, rising and falling with simple emotions which keep them hanging there in starlight. Terragem’s silken thunder, in comparison, is far more direct, and reaches back towards both early techno and the first steps of IDM to cook up a tune which sounds like a long-lost warehouse anthem still dancing on in the ruins of a carpet factory somewhere on the M25 even though a million sunrises have come and gone since a strobe last flickered across it. Beautiful and gentle, and utterly entrancing.

Gemini – On The North Star (Peacefrog)

As great as Peacefrog’s run of represses have been I’ve found it a little hard to get excited about them all, particularly knowing that the records from their back catalogue I’d love to see re-releases seem to be forever just out of reach. As cute as a lot of the house they recently restored to our record players has been, it’s done nothing to alleviate the hunger I’ve got for some of their techno from bods like Luke Slater, DBX, or Purveyors Of Fine Funk. And the fact they still haven’t gotten around to repressing Eddie Flashin Fowlke’s quite frankly brain squashingly brilliant Stella 2 is a crime, an actual crime.

Still, having said all of that, they have repressed On The North Star, a record which in my opinion is quite possibly the best thing Gemini ever did. I wrote about it way back in 2014 not long after I started doing the blog and it’s been a constant around these parts for many years.

Part of North Star’s beauty is the way in which it isn’t really a Chicago record. While it certainly has all the hallmarks of its home city, it actually draws from further afield for influences on which to build its magic. Most obviously, perhaps, is how techno it actually sounds; there are moments on North Star where the universe falls away leaving only the faintest tug of gravity to keep the music on course as it reconfigures itself into some of the finest high-tech soul to ever not come out of Detroit. Elements of it feel closer to Kenny Larkin or Octave One than to Paul Johnson or Glen Underground, and it’s probably heretical to suggest that it’s all the better for it.

Aside from the crackling heft of X, this is a record which places an amazing importance on the way melody interplays with the grooves, as if one could not fully exist without the other. Day Dreaming and Snow Drop both haunt a hazy world, following their own quizzical natures, but neither are mere wistful dawdling; the rhythms in both are complex, frequently flipping on their axis to drive a sophisticated funk. A Blue Night is Rhythim Is Rhythim whittled down to the barest components, the extra space filled with moonlight. This is house music as something utterly new – an alien, forward facing hybrid which was reaching out to the future. And I don’t think it ever got as close again. Pick it up now before it’s too late.

Model 500, 3MB – Jazz Is The Teacher (Metroplex)

**********STOP THE FLIPPING PRESS****************

Literally just as I was writing the nonsense above, my good friend Terminal313 alerted me to this which I had pretty embarressingly missed. What can you say about Jazz Is The Teacher? I wrote about it way back last summer, and I still stand by every word. This is one of a handful of genuine classics which went on to become one of the hallmarks of the genre. It did so because instead of coming to ecapsulate a particular time or scene, it instead became a sonic symbol for everything techno was supposed to be, that meeting ground between soul and art and electronics, their bonds tightened by a shared hopefulness and romantic notions of ‘tomorrow’. And quite aside from all that it remains, after a quarter of a century, one of the most recognizable techno tunes ever written. It’s not just that track which is legendary: Bassmental is both pounding and delicate like strands of frequency unspooling from a cooling supernova, and Cosmic Courier is very possibly better than Jazz Is The Teacher, an almost Platonic ideal of Detroit techno, a dream quest through the singularity. As collaborations go, I doubt whether this group of Atkins, Mauriz Von Oswald and Thomas Fehlmann will ever be bettered.

Best Of The Represses – July 2017

Blake Baxter – When We Used To Play (Mint Condition)

Mint Condition have now officially ruined this repress malarky for every other label by actually making it interesting. Where, once upon a time, various outfits could chuck out endless re-releases of well-known hits from yesteryear, safe in the knowledge that they’d be lapped up again and again, Mint Condition have arrived on the scene and promptly spunked all that cynicism right up the nearest whatchamathingmy with the simple act of releasing a slew of interesting selections that seem all the more exciting because they aren’t really titles that you would have thought of if asked.

Anyways, This is one of two Blake Baxter represses appearing on Mint, and it’s a blinder. The other record, When The Thought Becomes You, essentially a re-release of his Prince Of Techno EP with a slightly different track listing, is probably up there with Sexuality as his most loved track – and that’s fair enough; it’s an eternal jam, as beautiful as it is groovy and a permanent reminder of just how intoxicating techno can be. But I’ve always loved When We Used To Play the most out of the three. I’m not sure why, only that I know it does something to the hairs on the back of my neck and drags me back through time to when I first heard Baxter’s music. It’s a great release, and every track is a corker, but it’s worth it for the breakbeat mix alone which is a true work of wonder. Buy now and try to work out why Baxter isn’t held in as much esteem as the Belleville three – if not more.

Keith Tucker – Detroit Saved My Soul(Mint Condition)

Look! It’s Mint Condition again, and they’re proving everything I wrote above! Gorblessem! While their release schedule is brilliantly off-to-one-side, this repress of Detroit Saved My Soul, first released on Glasgow label 7th Sign back in 2005, is a real treat for the electro heads. Seeing as Keith Tucker is better known for his work in Aux 88, Optic Nerve, Alien FM, DJ-K1, and a legion of other names, that aforementioned electrohead just happens to be me.

First thing to say here is that it’s a slightly curious feeling record. That’s not a bad thing – quite the opposite – but it’s not wall to wall technobass banging. In actual fact, this is an exploration of a slightly different side of Tucker’s musical personality. And although he brings an impressive, effortlessly cool slice of Detroit electro-futurism to the party in the form of Elektronik (and provides a snapshot of sorts of the musical links between Model 500 and Aux 88), the other two numbers are equally worthy of your time. The title track itself kicks on with a slick, laidback groove that’s part prowling, darkened house, and part pure Detroit techsperimentaion, all strung together with a shadowy energy which wouldn’t be out-of-place on either of the Baxter records I discussed earlier. My Metal State closes things down with a swirl of deeply introspective techno-soul which’ll climb through your mind like it’s looking for somewhere to hide from the world. A very different side of Keith Tucker. Get on it.

VA – Rhythms Of The Pacific (Pacific Rhythms)

This much more recent release (from 2014) seems to have got a wee bit of a much-needed repress recently, which is great because the original seemed to sell out pretty darn quickly all over the shop. I’ve never really bought into the whole Moodhutty/ Vancouver thing. I’ve tended to find a lot of the music either a little hazy and insipid, or a lot less fresh and new than some people claimed. Still, there’s no doubt of the scene’s popularity, and Pacific Rhythm’s little run of VA samplers was generally quite a good collection of tunes by an interesting bunch of artists.

LRNDCroy’s Time Zone, which sounds like Joey Betram’s Energy Flash shot full of tranks, and Hashman Deejay’s wonderfully scruffy and low-rent mix of Memory Man’s Memory Man are both great and ear opening additions to the canon, but it’s the other two tracks which do the real damage. Cloudface’s Panter Blue is acid house reduced down to the absolute minimum of drum track, a 303, and a weird springing noise. It needs nothing more to do its job as it wobbles around, always looking like it’s about to fall flat on its face. Cheeky and pretty damn funky.

The genuine highlight though is LNRDCroy’s opener, Sunrise Market, which is a tune so haunting and warm it should be considered worthy of that most overused sobriquet, ‘classic’. It really is. Not only a high point of LNRDCroy’s own work, but one of the real moments of the last few years of electronic music. An absolutely timeless piece of drifting, new-age funk which serves to prove that deepness needs soul in order to work its magic. Gorgeous.