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.

Best Of The Represses: June 2017

Sorry for the lack of updates. I’ve been working, on holiday, and watching things go weird in my down time. I’ve also been taking stock of the big wide world of electronica and thinking about things. All sorts of things. Anyway. Here’s three choice picks for this, the allegedly the first month of summer:

DJ Bone – Riding The Thin Line (Another Day)

This has been up there in the top five of my personal repress wishlist for a very long time now and I’m delighted it’s finally available. Originally released on Metroplex, this is simply DJ Bone at his peak. A Peerless blast of brain twisting techno and electro, from the cosmic-tribalist stomp of Shut The Lites Off to The Funk with it’s tight, stark, and sparse collision of wiry beats, bass wonk, and robots-gone-feral vocals this is a record you really shouldn’t be without. The whole thing is close to techno perfection as you’re going to get without dying and going to techno heaven. Shipping at the end of the month, although you can get the DL right now if you buy from the Bandcamp page. I don’t know why you’re even still sitting here reading this.

The one thing that confuses me is why this isn’t part of Metroplex’s own current repress schedule. While I’m obviously happy to have it again in any forms, the nerd in me would love it to have the original art. Anyone know why? Answers on a postcard to the usual address. I bet the magic word here is ‘licence’. I’m beginning to hate that word.

D’Arcangelo – D’Arcangelo EP (Suction Canada)

Another record which has made the jump from its original home is this 1996 EP by Italian outfit D’Arcangelo. First out on the much missed Rephlex, it’s not hard to see why it found a place in the Aphex Twin’s own stable. Pushing between bone snapping, hard as nails, experimentalist industria, and something akin to Kraftwerk having a happy picnic in the country, there’s no doubt it’s a brain masher; the way it jumps from the mind shredding heaviness of the A-side to the complex, smiling, and frequently beautiful, melody led material on the B might leave you wondering what the hell is going on, but it’s also indicative of a pair of producers rich with ideas and who weren’t scared to keep themselves out in front of the genre trap.

While the searing Somewhere In Time still does the damage after 21 years, the real keeper here, for my money, is the gorgeous, snare-flaring, Diagram VII (80’s Mix). That such a trippy, wistful and grinning piece of sunshine can wander into existence after the record’s distortion drenched openers is a minor source of amazement. That it sounds like the theme to a long-lost 80’s travel show, or a schools program about European countries, just makes it even better.

Glenn Underground – Atmosfear (Peacefrog Record)

Peacefrog’s much discussed repress schedule is finally getting some steam up. We recently had a bunch of Theo Parrish and a Moodyman re-releases, but the label’s back catalogue contains so many bona-fide classics we can’t help but lick our lips in excitement over what might be coming back out further down the line. Most people will be ferverently praying for a nice fat vinyl reissue of DBX’s Losing Control but there are so many more possibilities you could go mad from thinking about it.

Glenn Underground’s Atmosfear should hold most of us over for the time being. Heck, it should do more than that because this really is a pretty special album. This isn’t ‘deep house’ – it’s just house done the way it used to be done: soulful, fluid, iridescent, and chilled. While listening back to it for the first time in a long, long time, you might notice it runs to chunkyness here and there in a way you don’t remember, but it still brings enough charm and panache to win over all but the most diehard of macho, black jeans wearing, technopods.

Tunes like the sunset tinged Israelee Night Falls aren’t simply classics, but are ingrained now in house music’s conciousness. Elsewhere, the jacking Colouration, and Soundstruck, weave funk around the most louche and laidback beats imaginable. Bonus shout out to the slightly tongue in cheek title of May Datroit and its wee homage to a city not too far away.

Best Of The Represses – May 2017

Almost half way through the year already. Not much more you can add to that really is there? As far as recent represses are concerned the quality is in the eye of the beholder, and my eye IS pure quality so I’m pretty sure, once again, there are only the slimmest of pickings.

It isn’t always going to be like this though. A rumour, floating on the breeze like the lightest feather of hope, says that several represses of classic Aux 88 material are on the way. How real this is, God only knows, and whether any more Direct Beat material will later be available is unknown. Regardless, it’s a start. And long overdue. Elsewhere Metroplex’s current policy of releasing their own records continues, even if it has gone a little strange. Represses of Rob Hood’s seminal The Vision project, and Juan Atkins’ own Jazz Is The Teacher are inbound from Metroplex itself, and DJ Bone’s phenomenal Riding The Thin Line EP will also be out again in July. Except not on Metroplex….the repress will be handled by UK label Another Day. No, we don’t know why. Neither does DJ Bone for that matter. The important thing is that we’ll be able to buy it again, but the geek in me would rather still have the Metroplex artwork in place. Oh well. There’s also a bunch of Theo Parrish stuff kicking about, so there’s that.

Right, here are some quick picks for your ears to get all excited about.

Photek – T’Raenon (Applied Rhythmic Technology)

Of all the electronic genres which have come and gone over the last 30 years only Drum and Bass still feels unwilling to swap its rare promise to shock for the comfort of middle-aged musical life. Listening back now to some of those older records you can still be struck by their fierceness, and the fact that they still sound like little else. Even so, represses of classic D&B has yet to reach the same heights as house and techno. I think that’s a shame.

Still, we’ve had the occasional little blast, and ART deliver a pretty special addition here in the shape of Photek’s T’Raenon. Released originally in 1996, the record came in the middle of a phenomenal run which is book-ended by Natural Born Killa (itself repressed last year) and Modus Operandi. While T’Raenon maybe isn’t quite as strong when it comes to the insane, cinematic darkness and twisting beats that Rupert Parkes is known for, it still carries a gorgeous and haunting potency which time has done little to diminish, and is some of the deepest, most liquid funk to come out of the genre. Kanei on the flip kicks it down a notch with a tune best played at sunrise on Mars. Get more of the back catalogue out, lads. Please.

Mystic Bill – Track From The Vault Vol 1 (Mint Condition)

William Torres, AKA Mystic Bill, seems to be going through a little bit of a renaissance at the moments as this record is, by my count, the fourth or fifth to appear in the last couple of years after a long time when his name would draw recognition from only the oldest of heads. It’s a good thing too; this is house music done right, with no quarters given, and fuelled by a deep and abiding love of jacking machine music. Released way back in 1997 on Relief Records (as Classics From The Vault) it’s actually a pretty primo primer for the better sounds which came out of that most capricious of labels. Funnelling in almost ghetto style rhythms, tight silicon soul, bursts of spacey jazz, and touches of acid, it jumps across the gap of the last twenty years to end up sounding every bit as vital and modern as that record you bought yesterday. In fact, it’s probably better because it carries within its DNA enough attitude to floor a dancefloor full of elephants. Worth buying for the shuffling, grimy, acid-tinged funk of Late Night At The Music Box alone. Shout out to the Trax Mystic Bill sampler which is just out as well – some damn fne music there too.

Orinoco – Stolen Moments (Flash Forward)

Although this was actually repressed a year ago as a sort of limited edition deal, there seems to be some new copies of it floating around, which is good because this is a very special record. Out way, way, WAY back in 1991, Orinoco hails from Italy, and was picked up by pretty much every one of those DJs you’ve heard me banging on about, including Derrick May. And if that isn’t a seal of quality I don’t know what is.

It’s one of those rare records which you can describe as being ‘of it’s time’ without being cruel. It’s a wide-eyed affair which draws on acid, tribal techno and something Orbital-like to create some warm, twisting music which just seems to float there in your head. While Stolen Moments and Echo are a pair of wobbling belters, replete with the sort of dripping chord progressions, dreamy synths and bleepy leads that’ll have you rethinking whether dungarees and bandanas were as shite an idea as they now seem (hint: They ARE as shite as they now seem) they both sound like nothing else around just now. The other two tracks, Orinoco itself and the quite frankly brilliant Tribal Echo will just do a number of you and leave you doing one of those embarrassing shuffle dances around the house. Buy it and rejoice as reality turns into a rubbish and wonderfully compelling day-glo, early 90s dance music video featuring fractals. Lots and lots of fractals. Lots of fractals.

Best Of The Represses – April 2017

Bring me your represses, your…actually, that’s all. Just bring me your represses. And don’t be bringing me rubbish ones neither. We only want the good stuff here.

The Other People Place – Saturday Night At The Laptop Cafe (Clone Aqualung)

With all the predictability of night following day, Clone follow Warp’s recent repress of the legendary Lifestyles Of The Laptop Cafe with a re-release of this companion 12″ from 2002. To be honest, I suspect part of its fame has come from a combination of James Stinson’s untimely passing, and its relative unavailability over the years. Sorrow & A Cup Of Joe is a pleasant, downbeat slice of electro tinged deep house that many people have hailed as a classic. While I’m not sure it’s quite as good as its reputation suggests it’s impossible to fault it too much, particularly since it pulls of a rare trick in sounding even more contemporary than many of the tunes being released right now. Beyond that, any electronic tune which manages to sound so utterly downbeat yet hopeful deserves a couple of minutes of your time, and everything I said a month ago about the album is just as relevant to this release.

Mystica Tribe’s Telepathic Seduction on the flip is the more vital of the pair, with Stingray bringing some seriously low slung swing and dappled evening sunlight to a tune which wobbles nicely through some almost R&B-ish movement until it falls asleep under the stars. It’s really pretty nice, and worth a look if deep house in disguise isn’t really your thing (I raise my hand here). If you’re a sad-case completest ( I raise my other hand here), a tightly bearded hipster, or simply curious about what all the fuss is about consider this the opportunity to fill your boots.

Gemini – Le Fusion (Another Day)

Spencer Kincy’s Gemini project was one of the truly great sources of house music to emerge from Chicago in the mid nineties as the city’s second wave began to get into its groove. Originally released on Cajmere’s Cajual Records, Le Fusion was one of the corner stones of Gemini’s enduring fame and even today it still carries with it a sense of being both well out on a tangent as well as being ahead of its time. Soundwise it rolls between bumptious, tweaked, Relief styles jackers, and trippy, oddball, thickly rhythmic workouts which are far more experimental examples of house than you tend to find in today’s rigorously codified climate. The opening track is perhaps one of the finest distillations of this grooving madness ever committed to vinyl, with its woozy fairground organ and malicious, descending double bass brewing up the warped and nervous energy as our host holds court in French. While it sound absolutely demented – and it actually is demented – that never detracts from the fact it’s a stone cold killer. And for those of us who like shit to be done right, this release has apparently been licensed from the reclusive Kincy himself meaning that – unlike with a lot of releases bearing his name – he’ll see royalties for it.

Cybonix – Make This Party Live (Frustrated Funk)

Frustrated Funk brilliant series of classic electro represses is really getting into gear now, and if you have any money left following their recent re-releases of E.R.P, Plant 43, Ovatow, Duplex and others you’d best throw your last pennies at this slice of genuine old school Detroit electro.

In comparison with the other names I just listed, this is a thicker sound, but although it shares a lot of common ground with its home city’s sweaty techno-bass there is something even more swaggering at its heart. I’ve never been exactly sure what that is. Perhaps it has something to do with the way it sounds as if the techno influences came second to old school electro and hip hop, or the way Cybonix throw down a more humanized emotional element which gives the music a messier, less precise and far more chaotic sense of fun than is found in other, more Kraftwerkian strands of the genre. It doesn’t matter. All you really need to know is that Make This Party Live is a bonafide classic and it’s good to have it back.

Strengthening the original three tracks of the original release further is Let’s Bang from the band’s debut Cybonix In Effect. It’s a very nice little bonus, adding both a little history and context to the rest of the material. Every tune is a banger, but the standout is the rude grooving, Shake Your Body with its pumping bass and moody piano riffs. A very nice and welcome addition to a growing roster of old electro making its presence felt once again.

Various – V-Max Records (Warehouse Finds)

Finally a special shout out here to Glasgow’s Rubadub who apparently stumbled across a bunch of 12-inchers in their warehouse from the brilliant V-Max label and got them back into circulation. I’m not sure which ones they found, but I got my hands on a bunch of Heath Brunner material under both his Silicon and H&S guises.

This is some world-class electro, but numbers are pretty limited I would imagine, so if you want some, better start hunting before it’s too late. My pick of the bunch is Silicon’s Static EP – You’re unlikely to hear anything as good as this masterclass in stark, warp speed electro for a long while. What Brunner does it astounding – so few elements so much groove. There is almost nothing there but magic. Get on it now or cry like a wean for ever onwards.

Best Of The Represses – March 2017

Drexciya – Grava 4 (Clone Aqualung)

It’s Drexciya. Don’t really know what else there is to say, so I’ll say it again: It’s Drexciya.

OK. Look. There are actual reasons why you should buy Grava 4, chief amongst them is that it really, really was the end of, well, I was going to say era but that makes it sound like the death of Britpop or something. It was the final gleaming of something which lent fresh meaning to a genre already growing lazy and formulaic despite being less than 15 years old. And although it perhaps lacks something of Drexciya’s early, rougher, musical journey, listening to it now is a profoundly exciting and unsettling experience which reminds you once again how much further Donald and Stinson had moved beyond everyone else. Whether it’s the sleek, soulful electro of 700 Million Light Years From Earth, the signal from deep space which is Cascading Celestial Giants, or the low slung, prowling, Powers Of The Deep this is Drexciyan electro refined and widened. There have been countless imitators but no one ever sounded like Drexciya because the moment you try to copy them, it just turns to dust. Just buy the album.

Sueno Latino With Manuel Gottsching Performing E2 E4 (Dance Floor Corporation)

I loved Sueno Latino way back when, but I’m a little more ambivalent about it nowadays. Perhaps that’s because I heard it so many times. I don’t know. It’s still a great tune, and one of those big numbers which no box of records is probably complete without, even though that begs the questions of why you wouldn’t already have it. Ah, but such logic is not for fans of the repress…

Anyway, I guess the track you favour is tied into the era you first heard it. For me that obviously means the take by Big Derrick May, and his version probably remains the best known, at least to those of us who were kicking around in clubs when techno and house really, really began to explode. The three other version here are all pretty good, each of them providing the tune with different qualities and different angles. But no matter what mix does it for you the best, all of them rely on the tune’s undoubted daybreak warmth and light for their soul and emotional centre. Aside from Dezza’s take, my personal favourite here is probably the Winter mix – a loose, freeroaming and gigglingly lopsided slice of happy-go-lucky simplicity and sunshine. As fine an example of all that was good about Balearic house as you’ll find. And as an added bonus every track comes with a free aviary of loons. Much loonacy in fact. Ho Ho!

ERP – Lunar Ruins ( Harbour City Sorrow)

Fact – if it hadn’t been for electro labels, the state of represses in 2017 would be shocking. They have collectively done us proud so far, which is a damn sight more than I can say for the rest of the ill-bred family. Frustrated Funk offshoot Harbour City Sorrow have been doing some particularly impressive work recently when it comes to reprints, and the return of this 2011 release by ERP is especially welcome, seeing as – by even his unusually high standards – it’s a pretty damn fine record.

ERPs’s track record when it comes to deep, engulfing electro is well known, but this is something else. Title track Lunar Ruins, and Into The Distance are both spectacular bursts of deadly yet soulful alien-machine music, organic but disciplined and so deep that your feet will never touch the bottom. But the real stand out here, I think, is Mimosa Canopy, where the breaks are replaced with a tight, grooving 4/4 that acts as a springboard for some of the most gorgeous bassy noodlings you will have heard in quite some time. It’s a track which touches on the stellar themes of Juan Atkins, Drexciya and a host of others, but emerges from the wormhole as something exquisitely, uniquely, fresh.