Our fearless audio adventurer Kris Needs lowers his sound goggles and embarks on a low-level sortie across a curious musical landscape keeping his eyes peeled for recorded marvels along the way
‘Raw Movements/Rude Movements’
Back in 1981 there was a tune called ‘Rude Movements’ that so enraptured dancers at David Mancuso’s Loft parties, and subsequently the likes of Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles and David Morales. It was created by two Brits in a north London bedroom after guitarist Mike Collins acquired a Roland CR-78 drum machine whose primitive percolation fitted beautifully under Keith O’Connell’s Prophet 5 and Fender Rhodes piano. Deploying space-jazz synth and guitar over the kind of warm, glistening riffs that feel so great at six in the morning, it became an obscure anthem, acknowledged as a landmark early electronic dance classic. A highly-sought after rarity, the track occupies a whole album, with the original demo joined by further incarnations, plus unheard gems such as ‘Street Beat’ (influenced by ‘Planet Rock’) and several more examples of that early 80s synth sound in its infancy.
‘Nothing Else Matters’
After introducing himself with a 10-inch single on a label called Blorp, Fred Sheperd, aka No Moon, unleashes his first EP, showing quite brilliantly that electronic dance music’s late 80s/early 90s sonic visions are in rude health with yet another generation of acolytes. The space voyage theme has been done many times, but Fred pursues his own take weaving interstellar textures and celestial melodies over floor-napalming grooves that he’s pulled off one of the year’s electronic highlights. The four tracks start with lift-off on ‘Manc1010101’, dropping sensitively lethal percussion action under an ever-climbing pyramid of rich, swirling layers to euphoric effect. By the title track, he’s out near Jupiter, navigating space birds and rogue acid before ‘Listing Lazily To The Left’ sees him landing in a cosmic jazz space symphony, bolstered by billowing Detroit keyboards and conjuring Miles Davis standing on Saturn playing his trumpet to the stars.
‘A Pink Sunset For No One’
Recently the opening act on Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression tour, Brooklyn solo guitarist Sarah Lipstate, aka Noveller, presents a brave 21st century continuation of Robert Fripp’s late 70s Frippertronics mixed with shades of Phillip Glass, Eno, John Martyn and even late American Primitive guitar pioneer John Fahey. She’s marinated in experience, playing with Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca to show how a young musician can take to the much-abused instrument armed with a battery of foot pedals and create their own unique sound. Her follow-up to 2015’s Fantastic Planet unleashes a veritable orchestra of soaring melodies, glistening swirls and dense circuit undergrowth on such evocative titles as such as ‘Trails And Trials’, ‘The Unveiling’ and the title track. A familiar instrument given yet another lease of life rebirth on one of the year’s electronically-produced peaks.
Purveyors Of Fine Funk
‘Soul Message EP’
When Dan Curtin’s Space EP arrived on his Metamorphic label in 1992 it was considered part of the ongoing Detroit invasion, even if his area code revealed he hailed from Cleveland, Ohio. He then unleashed a barrage of galactic high-tech stonkers on labels ranging from Peacefrog to Strictly Rhythm. By the mid-90s, he was releasing tackle under his house alter ego Purveyors Of Fine Funk, including the ‘Space Is The Place’ EP on Peacefrog and 2001’s The Silicon Dawn album for Nepenta. It’s cause for celebration to find the name returning on Metamorphic in scorching style. After getting under way with the shorts-squelching space-disco storm of the title track, his trademark complex inter-woven combustion elements rear through ‘Genius Of Touch’, organ-propelled ‘Subaffection’ and testicular jacking of ‘Soul Mode’; deadly examples of the hypnotic groove in the hands of a master.
‘Made In The Machine’
Frozen planet Moroder synths, relentless motorik pulses and frenzied 60s proto-prog organ riffs are just part of the fun on the latest idiosyncratic missive from Brit-psych veteran Gary Ramon, who has been leading various Sun Dial line-ups on various labels for years before landing on this German label. After the synth-squiggling masturbating hog-fest of ‘Meltdown’ and trunks-freezing glacial drift of ‘Contact’, he gets down to serious space-trawling business with mutant techno (‘Ascension’), Hawkwind drama (‘Aurora’), eerie Mellotron-scapes (‘Regenerator) and epic hypnotic eastern hypnosis (‘Eclipse’) before the motorik hoodoo of ‘Dark Planet’ is ambushed by barbed circuit cannibal swoops and malignant whirrs. A towering example of how to blend old psychedelic elements with ghosts in the machines.
‘Degreelessness/Now We Know’
Nathan Fake debuted on James Holden’s Border Community imprint in 2003 with backyard bog elegy ‘Outhouse’, displaying a restless way with his machines that mushroomed on three albums and more recent releases on his own Cambria Instruments label. Riding scrambling snow flurries of organ, fluttering synth and dub-splattered broken percussion, ‘Degreelessness’ throws recognisable beats out the window to highlight the internal rhythms between the keyboards, mutant percussion explosions and strange busted guitar-sound scratchings. He’s joined somewhere in this anarchic alchemy by the dismembered vocal shards of New York’s Prurient, aka Vatican Shadow. ‘Now We Know’ constructs a warm sway, starting electro in beat flavour before hitting a shadowy glaze of spectral techno, which still manages to emit a warm glow and momentum all of its own.
Mike Dunn Presents MDIII
’88-90 Proto Acid EP’
Debuting in 1987 with ‘Dance You Mutha’ and hitting with the ‘Magic Feet’ remix package in 1992, Mike Dunn is one of Chicago’s acid house originals, sticking close to the underground with his late friend Armando then never deviating from the old school cause. His latest outing revisits tracks cut in the late 80s that are as basic as this music gets, built on a primitive drum machine pattern and a malevolent Roland TB-303 bass machine to create short, scathing sketches that sound more alien than ever with the passing of time. ‘Acid Mayhem’ and ‘The Final Dayz’ are first degree acid funk while ‘The El Train’ homages Chicago’s raised track lifeline by upping the groove to locomotive velocity. ‘Going Nowhere (1st Take)’ betters it with masturbating stick insect percussion, savage claps and spewing acid. As raw and basic as this music gets, presented in the grand tradition of Trax Records acid EPs.
Dany Rodriguez Invites Ben Long
‘Intergalactic Frequencies Chapter 1’
Fired up by his triumphant Galaxies Compared album (one of the sets of 2016) and this year’s bulging mole’s jockstrap of juicy EPs, Belgium’s Dany Rodriguez has launched his Invitational sub-label to accommodate collaborations with like-minded artists he admires. He shares the first release with Space DJz veteran Ben Long. Dany kicks off with two excellent deep techno space shuffles of his own; racing aloft on the ethereal organ fireflies of ‘Cosmos’ before the supremely atmospheric ‘Aerospace’ billows clouds of space dust, globule pulses and weightless keyboard ectoplasm from its back passage. Ben’s pair begin with the self-explanatory ‘Sounds Like Saturn’, upping drum pressure before ‘Planet X’ recalls 90s vole-on-bowl minimalism with an elastic spring-groove and cerebral ketchup ejaculations.
The campaign to save the Clerkenwell club, whose licence was revoked after two drug-related deaths, has resulted in this staggering 111-track collection, compiled after many who had played there, from techno’s finest to outer limits experimentalists, were asked for a new or unreleased track. The response was overwhelming and includes such names as Coldcut, Slam, µ-Ziq, Terry Francis, Howie B, Marc Houle, Perc, Mr C and Nathan Fake. Reflecting the club’s devotion to the whole electronic spectrum, it’s a wildly diverse array of artists solidifying against another corporate body blow to electronic culture and deserves your support. But, in a year that can see a reality TV tycoon become President, nothing can be sacred any more. Happy Christmas!