This latest instalment finds our esteemed columnist knee-deep in goat’s scrotums, masturbating ducks and hippo flatulence… oh and some corking tuneage
A major highlight of 2015 has been the monthly missives fired out by Jazz Village in its systematic reissuing (on heavyweight vinyl) of the 11 studio albums that Magma have released since forming 45 years ago. The programme climaxes with this monolithic motherlode in a claw-shaped box; the ultimate consolidation of the French group’s astonishing combination of extreme cathartic energy and electronically hot-wired soundscapes, with 12 CDs capturing them in their live element before five decades of Parisian home crowds. Led by singer, super-drummer and studio polymath Christian Vander, Magma were lumped in with krautrock when they first appeared, but soon showed they were in a league of their own with dazzlingly complex otherworldly epics such as ‘Köhntarkösz’ and ‘Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh’ (performed in Vander’s fictional Kobaïan language as part of several main concept storylines). Some of the most intense and ecstatic music of all time is to be found here, including the band’s major works as nature intended. The cataclysmic ‘De Futura’ alone, a truly hair-raising duel between Vander and demonic early bassist Jannick Top, is one of the reasons why I can’t take much other music seriously.
(One Little Indian)
This was an early classic when I started doing my original Needs Musts column in 1991, heralding many subsequent appearances by the Scottish outfit. It was also among the first of many from Andrew Weatherall, who I still rate as the most creative producer and inspirational DJ this country has ever produced. After last year’s revamped reissue of their Balearic stomper ‘De Testimony’, Finitribe resurrect ‘101’, the track that really made their name and slaughtered so many crowds back then. The 12-inch kicks off with Weatherall’s ‘Intensity Mix’ from the B-side of the original single, plus there are versions by Robot 84 Set, Jokers Of The Scene and Pixelife, who apply their own science to the distinctive synth riff.
If Weatherall has always presented uncompromising vision and restless passion, then so has Andrea Parker, whose Touchin’ Bass imprint was another regular in my 90s columns and foretold the following century with its relentless twists on the electro blueprint. To Andrea, electro meant taking electronic music to its furthest extremes. Now she’s started Aperture to take things even further – as grippingly illustrated by this evocative set of charred, undulating soundscapes by Milan duo t.e.s.o., aka Matteo Castiglioni and Jacopo Biffi. Formed last year, this brutalist follow-up to their ‘Over A Neutral Landscape’ debut seethes, fractures, pulses and belches, sometimes dropping to beatific floatation through a ruined future city before the ghostly beats kick through again, usually via tangled circuit undergrowth transmitting from some subterranean enclave or even Ken Dodd’s bottom. It’s completely unlike anything else out there. When any melody does poke through, it’s spectral and alien, but also shot with the soul that these two obviously pour into their craft.
‘Odyssey To Anyoona’
Just hearing the poignant opening chords and ethereal vocals takes me back to those gloriously oblivious nights around 1993, when Jam & Spoon had invented a new form of electronic music which later got called trance (and was abused to hell and back). ‘Odyssey To Anyoona’ was the duo’s golden peak, building beautifully into a colossal, time-stopping drop which could make dancefloors cry with the sort of joy only those lucky enough to have been in the middle of it will know. Chico Secci and Greg See’s reworking of the track presents a more compact 2015 version, which still can’t fail (though minus the peak-on-peak drop of the full 10-minute original). A nice memorial to Mark Spoon, who passed away suddenly in 2006.
‘The 3Rd Decade’
After the recent remixes of 1993’s ‘Phosphene’, veteran German techno stalwart Thomas Heckmann uncorks his first new tackle as Drax since 2002. Built to singe a goat’s scrotum from 100 yards, the three tracks pack a lean analogue punch, starting with the scathing 303 snarl-up of the aptly-titled ‘Acid Brick’, then humping the nearest blue whale with the pummelling electro-kick tattoo of ‘Razorblade’, before finishing the job with the coruscating shred and advanced hippo flatulence of ‘Low Machine’ (again perfectly titled). Takes no prisoners
Continuing the theme of rampant 303 abuse, Detroit enters the fray with Marshall Applewhite teaming up with jungle producer 8EN to form Acid Witch. The duo explore common ground of old school acid and hardcore on the unusual seven-inch format, making their statements direct and to the point. ‘Acid Witch Theme’ harks back to early 90s warehouse rave darkness with a volley of squelches and berserk cackling over its booming groove. This is acid taken back to its basic form with stark jacking percussion (complete with pattering snares), while a twittering 303 soils its shorts and shags a passing raccoon in radioactive frenzy before sinister strings complete this concise exercise in brutal mayhem. ‘No Escape’ boasts duelling 303s, split between channels like two masturbating ducks haranguing each other, and bowel-evacuating drums, all offset by fluty gargling. Primitive, arcane and demented, but skilfully pulled off.
From the swirling strings and resonant bass of ‘Dreams Of Another Planet’, it’s apparent that Marvis Dee (half of the Slowburn duo I reviewed in September) has struck on the seam of timeless deep space techno gold that never fails to intoxicate both melon and nether regions if done with aplomb. When he does it again on ‘Jungle Trip’ and then on four further excursions, you know you’re onto a winner.
‘Make It Better’
Anonymous London duo (who emerged in 2011 on Tsuba) pop up on Lower East with some unashamed disco plundering for the female vocal and a sultry throb in the raw under-carriage. 4Lux’s Gerd shines on the clanging, low-level resonance of his dub mix, while Lower East honcho Cozzy D unzips a percolating banana of a rework and the bonus cut, ‘Ethos Of Love’, hurls a pulsating house cake.
Yes, I did once coin the phrase “trance trousers” and this third missile from the mysterious Belgian’s label sports them in his own bewitching cut, complete with spangled cod-piece and haunting melodic underpants amid the groove’s hypnotic turbo drive. ‘End’ is dark, compulsive and quintessential early hours nirvana as it tunnels deeper into the subterranean lair of the luminous mole’s stiffy. ‘Scherzo’ injects futuristic synth motifs and mournful strings with fabulous dynamics
‘Roadblox (Paula Temple Remix)’
As this month’s column seems to have a 90s flavour, I’ll finish with Paula Temple’s devastating remix of a track from The Prodigy’s ‘The Day Is My Enemy’ album. I was The Prodigy’s DJ an incredible 20 years ago, so it’s reassuring to still find them causing a commotion. It’s also almost unbelievably great to hear a remixer bent on wreaking such unashamed, Cameron-castrating havoc, as Paula revs up a ripping techno surge using Maxim’s vocal, slashed with siren arpeggios and delivered with killer light-and-shade dynamics to create a harsh and claustrophobic warhead for modern times. Paula’s second mix meanwhile removes the vocals and forges into deeper vistas. Defiance is in the air and it’s brilliant.