Despite BOE Recordings now being in their 8th year of existence,’Leagues To Light Years’ has the distinction of being label head Ben Boe’s first solo release. There have been a handful of tracks and remixes here and there but nothing that gave us more than the briefest glimpse of Boe’s personal talents and tastes. In a scene largely dominated by labels that began life as applications of techno’s much vaunted DIY ethos or even as stylish vanity projects, there is something a little bit heroic about a label owner who seems largely content to stay in the background and let his stable of artists get at it instead. And although I’m happy to concede that it’s much more common than it once was (particularly amongst British labels, interestingly,) it still awakens a certain amount of curiosity.
Still, with a network of producers that includes Kris Wadsworth, Perseus Traxx and Anaxander, BOE Recordings haven’t really had to rely on home base for some great material, which makes Boe’s belated début on his own label even more interesting. Given the label’s core philosophy of releasing underground music influenced by Detroit and Chicago, it’s no surprise that ‘Leagues To Light Years’ gives a heavy nod to classic US house and techno. In saying that though, none of the three tracks are slavish in their devotion. The influences may be common enough but they are delivered with a lightness of touch that pleasingly adds to their understated feel.
Ganymede is the more open of the three, riding in on the subtle crunch of the kicks amid the occasionally tumbling tom. Beyond the jacking of the first couple of bars the tune soon blossoms into a rising piece of high-tech funk the likes of which we don’t hear enough of any more. By turns warm and sleepy it propels itself onwards and upwards on the back of some classy, wobbly 313 bass towards the sunbeams of synths which light up each element that falls away, fluttering back to earth, and illuminating the tune’s heart.
DEEeeP-r is somewhat denser. What it lacks of Ganymede’s symphony of light, though, it makes up for with a throbbing real-world groove that builds itself up from the gloriously old school bassline; always shifting, never settling, the bass rides the snap of the percussion, the wispy pads and the smudged vox like it was born to it. It puts me in mind of Gemini at his loosest – and that’s never a bad thing.
Atomic Fuzz comes as a vinyl only extra, which is a laudable enough idea even if it seems a bit unfair to keep it exclusive given it’s quality. It’s the most ambitious of the three tracks and swaps the wide vistas of the US influences for something much closer to the moodiness and blending of styles that remains a hallmark of British electronica even now. The interplay of the break beat and the icy pads suggests IDM, but the roll of the perc and the heavy tech-steppy warp of the bass push it beyond that and into a twilight where touches of drum n bass and garage sparkle in the half-light. It is quite possibly the best thing here and more than enough reason to get your hands on the vinyl rather than just settling for a digi.
Whatever reason Boe has had for holding off on his début doesn’t matter now. The joy of the two main studies is undeniable, but it is Atomic Fuzz, with it’s serious understanding of the flow and mood of something beyond the classic (and yet fun) influences that lodges in the heart and mind. Tasteful rather than raucous it’s a strong record that gets inside the fabric of high-tech, soulful funk. With a bit of luck we won’t have to wait another eight years for the follow up.