Our new monthly round-up of top trackage – courtesy of the man who invented the phrase “trance trousers”
Before I start, a word of explanation. Throughout the 1990s, I wrote a weekly column for the old Black Echoes broadsheet in which I attempted to review every dance record that came my way. All on vinyl, sometimes up to 100 in a week, many of them exclusives and often costing me a fortune in the import shops. Taking my inspiration from the great James Hamilton in Record Mirror, who used ridiculous metaphors to describe tunes in ways other than “banging”, the column coined the phrase “trance trousers” [among many others – Ed] and never looked back as it celebrated throwing unbridled passion and toilet humour into dance music writing.
Now, at the kind invitation of Electronic Sound, Needs Must returns after 18 years to a far different world, with much more music out there and the thrill of the chase practically trampled by the internet. Hopefully we can still locate that original spirit which fired those seminal missives and helped shape modern electronic music.
God Of The Machine
Founded by Mr C and Paul Rip in 1992, the Plink Plonk label was a trailblazing fountain of techno innovation at a time when we really needed it. Paul, who was also behind the legendary Clink Street parties that kick-started acid house in London, has now started Specimen as an outlet for his ongoing belief that techno should be pure, atmospheric and constantly inventive, as well as always adhering to that essential deep space party ethos.
God Of The Machine’s ‘Warpaint’ is Specimen’s third release and is a welcome showing from criminally overlooked Detroit techno veteran Derrick Thompson, aka Drivetrain, who has appeared on a myriad of imprints, including his own Soiree label and Plink Plonk in 1996 and 1997. The original version of ‘Warpaint’ homages Derrick’s Native American ancestry, particularly Chief Quazi-Train, the son of Sioux legend Crazy Horse. Those ancient spirits imbue a luminescent throbber where hippo Y-fronts bass underpins a masterclass in edgy groove tension.
The remixes are something of a Plink Plonk reunion, starting with Hijacker (Megalon) uncorking a glacial electro hybrid laced with deep strings and acid skidmarks, before Motor City master Santonio unleashes a thunderous old school growler splattered with robot bath flatulence and steely Detroit stabs. Mr C, who has never stopped producing quality electronic music over the last quarter century, then turns up in his Mantrac guise with one of his spaced sci-fi outings, where classic old school tones such as 808 cowbells rub circuits with hall-of-mirror vocal flickers and a woozy bassline.
Finally, on the digital version, Paul Rip pops on his Black Art hat and lets fly over the chant loop with a glorious collision between contagious acid yelp patterns and simmering Basic Channel riffage. Dynamic, panting, lysergic and sexy, it caps a superb package.
James Kumo first appeared in 2008 and has released sparkling deep techno on labels such as Ann Aimee and Metamorphic, as well as his own KMusic imprint. Here he uncurls a lustrous floater marked by cloud-like synth swirls, under which he constructs intricate webs of morphing riffs and cosmic latrine detonation, plus a spacier dub version. Dan Curtin, another inestimable Detroit legend and a man responsible for many of the major electronic peaks of the 1990s, is on ferocious form for his remix, steeling up the groove to bring out the track’s central spectral ectoplasm. Liverpool’s Binny meanwhile lovingly injects uncanny Detroit production touches into a second remix, with tone bends, moth’s underpants percussion tickles and flickering textures.
‘We Get Down / Well’
Gary Martin was another friend of the old Needs Must column from Detroit, carving his own idiosyncratic flight path with releases on his Teknotika imprint in the early 90s. These were often distinguished by funked-up turbo-grooves, intergalactic strings and underlying steam-heat pressure, occasionally timed to go off with spectacular results on the more discerning dancefloors. I remember his ‘Disco 2000’, recorded under his Gigi Galaxy alias, positively laying waste to the late, lamented Voodoo in Liverpool.
It’s good to see Gary still at it and releasing tracks on DJ 3000’s label. These two trailer his upcoming ‘Escape From South Warren’ album, starting with a no holds barred killer which will rip into the heart of the floor with its classic house testifying, percolating tribal funk momentum, militant snares and scrotum-esque suction motifs. It pushes all the buttons for a guaranteed lift-off before DJ 3000 strips down for a heady early hours treatment with his trademark sweeping strings. ‘Well’ cuts in with goat circumcising hi-hat action to become an evocative Detroit night-stalker, which Robert Hood then snatches and remoulds into one of his inimitable bare wired cavorters with flicking hats, looped-up vocals and bison bowel bass flatulence.
For the last 25 years, Ninja Tune have maintained a barrage of forward-looking tackle bent on pushing the boundaries and causing mischief. A little while back, they started the Technicolour offshoot to release 12-inch missiles of a techno nature; like a radioactive tentacle with a direct link to the original organic punk spirit of acid house, in particular.
For ‘Explora’, Florian Kupfer takes 10 minutes to build a compelling web of analogue madness using just a mangled vocal phrase, warped percussion and a vicious machine loop, invoking an eerie glow-worm masturbation ritual as the pulse swells from subliminal to snarling before climactic mayhem is achieved with organic malevolence and precision. He then continues his brand of circuit abusing foul play through three further tracks, adding up to a blissfully cathartic sonic orgy.
‘Sounds Of The City’
(Motor City Electro Company)
Julian Shamou, aka DJ Nasty, who recently enjoyed Disclosure sampling his ‘Pass Out’ for their ‘Bang Out’ missive, revisits his 2004 Detroit mega-hit to provide two merciless prongs of raw techno steel, honed to a sonic skeleton and charged with the unique brand of energy that has imbued the Motor City since the MC5 in the 1960s. The original is high on the bpm scale, hijacking and speeding up Basic Channel motifs and ramming white-hot electrodes ‘twixt its buttocks. No drop, vocal, melodies, just a mutant disco string stab and scorching latent groove power. There’s also a 125 bpm mix for more earthly dancefloors.
One of the things I loved about doing this column back in the day was when a new label found its way into the Fat Cat record shop in London and suddenly became scorching hot, partly due to its mystery and unavailability (or after Andrew Weatherall had blown the roof off Sabresonic with one of the few copies). I’m reminded of this because a huge buzz has recently swelled around the White Material imprint started in Brooklyn by Young Male and DJ Richard in 2012, not least because they’ve never been able to afford to press more than a few 12-inch singles at a time.
The fact that this music is shot with an indefinable element that says techno is about to go somewhere else helps. It’s astonishing to hear how much modern techno uses new technology to simply retread and refine innovations made over 20 years ago, but White Material records go back to the basic electronic elements and fuck with them with gleeful abandon. Morgan Louis’ latest EP is a case in point – aggressive, savage, simple and jacking, a low-flying torpedo coming from dangerous waters spiked with opiates and trunks-munching groove sharks. Pure electricity harnessed for ill purposes.
It’s good to be back. And next month we might even see the return of the Needs Must chart.