Best Of The Represses – June 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.

Best Of The Represses: Feb 2017: The Other People Place and Le Car!

The Other People Place: Lifestyles Of The Laptop Cafe (Warp)

Warp continue their recent run of loving represses with an album that has become a holy grail of sorts for many people. Lifestyles Of The Laptop Cafe was originally released in 2001, a little more than a year before the untimely death of James Stinson, and has gone on to be regarded as a true classic of electronica. While the digital version has long been available, the original vinyl version has commanded the sort of Discogs prices over the years that have kept it in the preserve of the sort of loopy, dirty fingered obsessives who frighten animals and smell of mouldy record sleeves. Well, no longer. Now we can all own a piece of history.

But is it as good as the Discogs prices and the cool kids say it is? well, yes and no. Listening to it again after many years, and with a level of attention I was never able to give it in the past due to not owning a copy and having to hear occasional bits and pieces, I’m struck by the way it feels so very alien to Stinson’s work as either part of Drexciya or even his own Transllusion solo project. Musically I find the Transllusion material to be more interesting; while it is very much sticking to convention in its electro framework it feels somewhat more exploratory and inventive, a more logical step forward and away from Drexciya whilst being less abstract and opaque than a lot of his partner-in-crime Gerald Donald’s later work.

The thing is, that doesn’t really explain Lifestyles… in a particularly useful manner, and is less of a guide to its qualities than I would like. What sticks out when listening to Lifestyles… now is the way it doesn’t really feel like any other eletronica album I can remember hearing. It is a record which renders any discussions about underground versus overground moot because, at its heart it is neither. What it really is is a set of songs which would have fitted nicely on something like Later…With Jools Holland, and preformed in a profoundly non-electronica setting. It is, in several ways, a far more mainstream feeling album than we normally see around these parts.

This isn’t an attack, because the very qualities which see it coming up lacking against many of the classic electronic albums of the age which birthed it are the same ones which allow it to transcend to another level. While there are one or two moments on it which strike me as a little mawkish, the overall feel – the intimacy, the emotional depth and maturity of the creation – is sublime. In a way, this is electronic music which has grown up and moved on. And in an era where certain producers are praised for attempting to do something which is seen as ‘more than techno’ and are considered somehow more important for doing so, this is proof that at least one person managed to do it a long time before, and without the fanfare. Perhaps not the timeless album the peanut gallery believe it to be, but an important and haunting guide to a world many of us who listen to machines have forgotten existed.

Le Car – Auto Reverse (Clone Classic Cuts)

It seems as if the machine gods have listened to my prayers because so far this year there have been several represses of material I would never have expected. Clone, a label who so often come up trumps when it comes to rereleasing classic and important electro, have done it again with this collection culled from the back catalogue of Detroit outfit Le Car.

It should be pointed out that this isn’t the first anthology from the band. A CD compilation called Auto-Biography, released in 2000, is also available if you’re after it and willing to spend the money to get your hands on it. The CD is – possibly – a little bit better; just as comprehensive whilst containing a couple more tracks from 1997’s Automatic album. But that’s just gravy, really, and doesn’t detract from the excitement of getting these tracks back into our sticky hands on a lovingly put together vinyl set after all these years.

And what a set this is. The music spread out over a pair of remastered 12″s, and featuring a 16 page booklet containing a track listing and art from the original releases. I’m also told that a limited number of the packs also contain a 7″ of Erase That Thought randomly sealed before release. How limited and how random I do not know – mine contains one and I’m rarely as lucky as that.

Musically Le Car always stuck out. A Detroit act, they rarely sounded like it. Blending the electro of their home town with synth-pop and a far more overt Kraftwerk sound than anyone else around at the time. They released a number of cracking little EPs and an equally good album throughout the mid and late nineties which never quite got the respect they deserved, possibly because they sounded so far away from either Detroit’s own techno-bass sound or the European electro-noir which dominated the era. They were groovy, catchy, and poppy; frequently winding up the brain with scritchy little tunes which sunk their teeth in and wouldn’t let go. The Auto Reverse collection is pretty damn good, and while I’m not overly bothered by the slightly unnecessary inclusion of some of the 30 or 40 second long ‘jingles’ at least you can say they’ve gone for a certain level of completeness. Special shouts here to the snappy and moody Malice, the rolling, grin inducing wonky-pop of Warm Humans and the scratchy, ever brilliant electro-funk of Fony. If you have even the slightest interest in electro, then this is essential. If you don’t, get it anyway and prepare to learn something important. Electro with soul and a sense of fun. So good.

Best Of The Represses – January 2017

Here we are at the fat end of 2017 with an entire year of new music to assail us, thrill us and more than likely annoy us a little bit too. I’ll be honest: On the whole I thought 2016 was a little bit on the dull side when it came to represses, although there were a few crackers and surprises buried under the piles of more obvious re-releases.

Now, I don’t know exactly what’s in store for 2017, but for those of us who enjoy a bit of electro nonsense it looks like we might be well served with a 2LP retrospective of Detroit’s excellent Le Car coming very soon, and a reissue of Drexciya’s final LP, Grava 4 coming in March. Even better, We will be finally getting a vinyl reissue of Other People Places Lifestyles Of The Laptop Cafe. For many this is something of a holy grail, representing – aside from the great music – the last work of Drexciyan hero James Stinson. Beyond electro, Derrick May’s seminal Transmat label is gearing up for a wee run of represses, which looks like including the label’s best ever release – the Ikon/Kao-tic Harmony doubler. I’m hoping if they do well Mr May might be tempted to start shunting out some of the Fragile back catalogue too. Also, following a press release from Submerge on the subjecet of increased issues with pressing and distribution, we are soon to get the Underground Resistance and Red Planet catalogue released as remastered digital files via Bandcamp. Lovely. All we need are for Metroplex to put out more of their classic records and we can all go to bed happy.

Ultradyne – Antarctica (Exterminador Records)

Anyone with a nervous disposition can look away now, for Detroit’s Ultradyne are not an outfit which caters for shrinking violets. Even by the once fierce standards of Detroit’s more militant acts, the music Ultradyne offer is fast, furious and hard. This is a reissue of their one and only album, originally available on their own Pi Gao Movement label all the way back in 1999, and it still feels tight with the nervous energy which characterised the last days of the second millennium. Even in its quieter, subtler, moments the tunes play host to riotous, seething bursts of sound which disorient and pound. It’s in the faster tunes that everything comes together though. Whether its breakneck, swirling techno, razor-sharp electroid hunter/killers, or rogue industrialized slabs of funk which defy such easy categorization, Antarctica is a singular vision, a snap shot of electronic music taken right on the very edge of sanity. Much, much recommended. Listen and learn.

The Exaltics – 10 Million Light Years (Solar One)

Solar One had a very good year last year, with some truly special records encompassing work from the likes of E.R.P, Gerald Donald and The Exaltics themselves, to say nothing of a pair of splendid samplers which included off-kilter hits of acid, techno and electro from a host of class acts. 10 Million Light Years is a special 10th anniversary reissue of the labels first ever release, and comes on splendidly weird dye injected coloured vinyl which goes a long way to offsetting the fact it’s a creepy 10″ (and yes, 10″ records are creepy. You know I’m right on this so don’t argue.) Encapsulating Drexciyan overtones, and blending them with something more overtly European 10 Million Light Years shifts its electro skeleton on its axis until it becomes a far more esoteric beast. Haunting rather than deep, stalking rather than either frosty or pounding, but never losing sight of the grooves which underpin it, the record remains a surprisingly accessible burst of sleek and future-proof funk powered by machines with alien DNA.

V/A – Stilleben 045 (Stilleben Records)

OK, so this is a bit of a cheat on my part. Originally out in 2014 as a digital only release, the vinyl version finally landed late last year and was promptly buried somewhere in my stack until I remembered it over the Christmas period. Apologies if you can no longer find it anywhere other than Discogs. Still, it’s certainly worth tracking down, even if it’s just to get you acquainted with a label which is slowly moving back into gear after a couple of quiet years. Various Artist samplers are, of course, all the rage just now in electro, but even by current standards this is something of an all-star release featuring two tracks from Swedish electro pioneer and Stilleben head honcho Luke Eargoggle (one with Weltwirtschaft), an absolutely fine, free funking groover from E.R.P and a storming, Detroit wired, midnight rambler from -=UHU=-. Each track digs into a different vibe and shows how wide open the genre can be.