Like an audio miner, Kris Needs heads off with his hard hat and a big shovel and we eagerly await his return with a bucketful of essential new tuneage… Oh look, he’s back
My first column written in 2016 and it’s taking a lot to stir much enthusiasm in the wake of Bowie’s passing. Next to his monumental past endeavours and ‘Blackstar’ (destined to be the year’s best album, even if he was still here), everything else sounded redundant… at first. But some light started coming through the clouds after a while, beginning with this intoxicating low-fi masterwork, recommended by Metamono’s Jono Podmore, a man who knows his electronic onions. Recorded onto cassette in Germany using just organ and distortion pedals, it’s one of those tantalising outings shrouded in mystery, which really capture the attention when they appear. All I know is it’s the follow-up to last year’s ‘Téléphone’ and it’s mastered by Matt Colton, the go-to engineer for everyone from Kylie to Aphex Twin. Make of that what you will. Otherwise, it stands on the compelling form shown by its three tracks. ‘Lou’ sparks into crackling life with meandering organ wedges, drenched in drone and distortion, given underlying rhythmic undertow by what sounds like a giant grasshopper zipping up his flies in slow motion. ‘Lou Gone Out’ harvests deliciously intertwining flotation melodies over tin tray percussion, before ‘See Through This’ injects rudimentary, muffled percussion over which the keyboards flare and morph into ghosts of acid house riffs. A lovely, evocative work in a world of its own making and well worth tracking down.
(One Little Indian)
One of the key elements in early 80s synthpop was a vulnerable desperation that breathed emotion into the machines, to hot them up rather than cool them down. Although Dan Sartain hails from Alabama and has moved in blues circles with White Stripes’ Jack White, the unmistakable ghosts of Suicide and Depeche Mode hover over his latest album in the soulful vocals, resonant pulses and nagging melodies. It is especially evident when he throws down a faithful replication of Alan Vega’s ‘Wipeout Beat’ and commences Gahan-homaging with a gripping trawl through ‘Walk Among The Cobras’. British synthpop blueprints from the 80s imbue the funereal inner city blues of ‘Cabrini Green’ and Soft Cell-recalling ‘Sinking in The Shallow End’, while Moroder icicle soundtrack ambience coats ‘Feigning Ignorance’. Equally at home sending in heavy metal guitar widdle and sending up trashy US teen-radio anthems, it’s a work of invigorating mischief, made all the more remarkable for being recorded last year in the Deep South.
‘Galaxies Merging EP’
Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, Dan Curtin was already becoming techno royalty over 20 years ago after unleashing a string of ethereal floor-demolishers on his Metamorphic label, plus landmark outings on Buzz, Strictly, Peacefrog and Soma. A surging stonker to seduce the sternest rectum, the title cut rampages onwards and upwards via sky-climbing riffs and merciless beats. ‘Mind Sweep’ plants alien carrot frequencies over a jacking clap-stomp before ‘To Modify’ injects frenzied vocal clips and skyscraper stabs over another shorts-savaging turbo-groove.
Tevo Howard’s Black Electro Orchestra
It’s quite amazing the effect some undiluted, spiritual house music can have on a grief-torn soul, but a few bars of Tevo’s lustrous, respectful remake of Madonna’s ‘Holiday’ were all it took. Sound unlikely? Not if you’re at all familiar with the contagious epoch-making original and Tevo’s prolific output in the last few years, which have included three albums and a welter of sparkling 12-inches. Here he takes the timeless bass riff and melody of the original to turn it into a late 80s-style Strictly Rhythm instrumental, with disarming results. ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This?’ traverses a similar path, with subtle electro beats underpinning the shimmering house textures, before ‘My October Symphony’ whips up a deeper beast swirling with classic deep house pads and textures. Tevo originally created the Black Electro Orchestra as an alias for collaboration, but has turned into his own covers project. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.
Woody Mcbride Vs Tim Taylor
During this column’s first stretch through the 90s, the testicle-shredding emissions from the fearsome Missile imprint topped the Greatest Trousers charts with every rip-snorting missive, so it’s immensely pleasurable to report the label’s first release after a seven-year absence. ‘Clone Dancer’ sees the reunion of two acid maniacs as Minneapolis’ Woody McBride and London’s Tim Taylor fire up the analogue kit and launch into a brace of 303-lashed acid flashbacks, vole-on-the-bowel techno warfare and gut-busting beats, blessed with the deadly magic ingredient which always characterised this most illustrious of labels. Equally great news is that flagship name the Pump Panel is back, still brandishing their monolithic, silver-glistening acid warheads.
Russia’s Panorama Channel duo have produced a perfect winter record, lead cut ‘Akosua’ setting up a jingling groove over which they build glistening sonic snowman, with a 10-foot marrow where it counts. As the treetop melodies unfurl, the warmth and passion being injected into every sweeping melody threatens to boil into meltdown, but it is expertly kept on a simmering plateau of unleashed euphoria. The set also boasts a cloud-bursting remix from Elijah Simmons, currently causing a ruckus in the pure techno hen house with ‘Otavio’s Dream’, the unfettered kek-detonation of ‘Island Simple Dream’ and unleashes Detroit leanings in the pulsating whoopee of ‘Kinly Estellar’.
‘Shake It Baby’
(Motor City Electro Company)
Rarely a column goes by without a new missive from Julian Shamou, aka DJ Nasty and his stripped down style of jacking Detroit ghetto-house. This latest outing doesn’t divert from the formula of sharp title sample planted over stark, jacking beats, with keyboard riffs goosing ‘French Kiss’ in a back alley. Steamy, sexy raw groove music for shaking booties to which, as ever, comes in Original and Instrumental incarnations.