Short little short I made whilst enjoying a frankly astonishing day out on Record Store Day. Soho turned into a block party and needless to say, it was most effervescent. Thanks to all at Soul Jazz for the hype.
Drexciya: Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller III LP (Clone)
More unquestionable genius from Drexciya. Didn't realise that Clone could eek out a third collection of material from this welcome re-assessment of the influential Detroit artist. But they've managed to fill it with numerous "oh, this track" moments, some of which I've never heard before. So the first surprise is the surprisingly previously unreleased 'Unknown Journey IV'. It's elasticated bassline and striking horn lead sounds like it should have seen an earlier light of day. This is swiftly followed by the sombre electro classic 'Bubble Chamber'; room-filling rimshot echo and ass-slapping snares that's guaranteed to leave red marks.
'Sea Snake' just oozes sheer joy with its child-like simplicity in terms of melody and rhythm. 'Aqua Worm Hole' is possibly their most uplifting and optimistic track ever. And another unreleased track makes an impact….'Flying Fish' is angular 80's pop clunkiness par excellence. Amusingly my favourite Drexciya track of all time ('Black Sea') has yet to make an appearance, maybe in the next volume? Anyway, whatever, just purchase this.
Aera: Offseason Traveller LP (Aleph)
In the wash of 12"s that land ashore week in week out, I've no idea why I was drawn to works of Aera (aka Berliner Ralf Schmidt). Maybe initially it was the distinctive 'A' logo of the label - resembling an upturned anarchy symbol. But then it was the propulsive clarity of his particular and peculiar brand of techno that retained this humble narrator as a loyal listener. So was naturally eager when his debut album dropped.
The opening few tracks throw you off the scent as they take a meandering almost casual vibe that encompasses audio tourism and slowed-up breaks until it abruptly (but not disjointedly) shifts gears with the superb album-highlight 'Leaving the Fiction'. From then on its ever inventive re-assembly of house and techno can't be faulted. 'Iguazu Express' and 'Tunguska' are the highlights. The former sounds like smooth house via Latin America, whilst the latter mutates from 4/4 into collapsable jazz.
Minor gripes aside (short running time, few more club-fuelled tracks wouldn't have gone amiss) this pretty boss stuff. Sonically adventurous palette gets distilled into an effortlessly functional dance narrative.
DJ Stingray 313: F.T.N.W.O. LP (Weme)
Uptempo, adrenaline-inducing electro from the more militant end of the electro spectrum. DJ Stingray dons his balaclava and his sawn-off shotgun to terrify us with paranoid skits, horrific machine abuse and an undeniably bleak outlook on life (incidentally, the title of the album stands for "Fuck The New World Order"). Tracks like 'Denial Of Service' are bursting with drum-machine scuff and street-level grit. But amusingly it's the tracks that have no intention of scaring the shit out of you that work best. 'Reverse Engineering' is moody sombre electro that you've no doubt heard a million times before, but never as good. Whilst the last track 'Remote Viewing' is an arpeggio night-drive in extremis.
Autechre: Exai (Warp)
Angle of entry is crucial for this. Those who've already subscribed will no doubt revel in whatever the Rochdale duo of Sean Booth and Rob Brown (aka Autechre) have come up with. Whereas others will scratch their heads and wonder why on earth people would want to put themselves through such awkward entertainment. So either camp should quite rightly ignore what I have to say. It's the 'undecided / adventurous' that would probably find value in whatever will be said in reviews.
Their reputation and longevity means that they still command a large audience, which is pretty impressive considering that no-one really listens to (this particular strand of) electronic music these days. And despite terms like "massively influential" being thrown about when it comes to describing them. All I hear in terms of influence is a bunch of lame copyists who depressingly come nowhere near to the benchmark that they've established over course of 11 albums in 22 years.
Having personally fully engaged with the likes of power electronics, noise and computer music in recent years, I always saw them acting as a bridge between all those 'outsider' genres and the teen-friendly mouse-driven antics of
IDM, electronica, electronic music. And despite the lofty academic connotations associated with their music, I considered their work as a extreme example of how a street-level genre like hip-hop might sound in the hands of those with the right tools.
'FLeure' seems to be an intriguing if albeit awkward intro. But it's the sudden settling of rhythm and playful melody midway through 'irlite (get 0)' that brings both shock and relief. The album's furtive moves to nudge this record closer to a skewed dance floor continues with 'jatevee C' via a lopsided groove. 'T ess xi' fizzles with avant synth pads that glide over an ever-so-disjointed electro beat before disintegrating majestically in a wash of morose drone.
'vekoS' sounds comfortably like classic Autechre circa 'Tri Repeatae'; where they repeat that trick of crafting machine funk from the sounds of rusting metal - robotic, ecstatic, inverted dance. They always knew how to soundtrack the end credits and luckily we get not one, but two majestic pieces. 'bladelores' takes out disc 1 on an impressive high; an emotive, epic, pixellated crescendo that just seems to get better with repeat listens. Their entire oeuvre compressed into 12 minutes of binary enlightenment.
'1 1 is' mercifully gives us a few seconds of silence to recover before an artefact-ridden 8-bit breakbeat comes into focus. Wafer thin notes are violently sheared off the lead riff exposing increasing amounts of decay and fuzz. Memories of their full frontal assault that was their 'Oversteps' tour come flooding back as soon as 'Spi 9' engages. Fighting to take the crown for the angriest track they've ever made. It's maybe not quite the headfuck of 'Bine' or 'Gantz Graf' in terms of ferocity, but comes pretty close.
'Cloudline' could have sounded like a session straight from the album 'Amber', when they were at their most ambient. But takes serene orchestral sweeps and smudges them until they've dissolved into the canvas. And I might be going slightly insane, but I swear I could hear a funk b-line in there somewhere. It wrong-foots us into calmer avenues before the penultimate 'recks on' swaggers in. Sounding like ghetto-blaster era push-button hip-hop, this is the most danceable track I've heard from them in ages….reminded me of their wonderful DJ Food remix from yesteryear.
The elegiac march of 'Yjy Ux' is their swansong and it's deceptively involved - much more so than all thats gone on before. But this time beats are given a rest as melody is dissected and spliced. Piercing tones, rapid-fire arpeggios and stop / start basslines all fight it out for supremacy. Each eventually depleted of energy and just leaving traces of their activity suspended in stasis.
The spectre of hip-hop is ever more evident on this, what I think is their most definitive and accessible statement yet. In the venn diagram of Autechre and Gescom - their more beat driven alias - this highly personal and quite beautiful album represents the intersect.