A star-studded cast list and a grand conceit make up this ambitious clubland history lesson
Since its inception in 2007, Scotland’s fantastically named Bulletdodge Records has offered a safe haven for the kind of established-but-no-longer-cutting-edge producers who, like tireless DPD drivers, continue to deliver the goods. Carl Cox, the Detroit Grand Pubahs and Lenny Dee are among those who have found themselves in the vicinity of the Bullet:Dodge logo over the years, gifting label head Gareth Whitehead an enviably fat contacts book from which to compile a wishlist of collaborators.
Which is lucky because every track on ‘The Brood’, Whitehead’s debut album, involves at least one team-up. This is a record that begins proper with ‘How Can I?’ featuring Marshall Jefferson and Robert Owens and, via collaborations with Darren Emerson, X-Press 2 and Eddie “Flashin’” Fowlkes, ends with a cut starring rave culture renaissance man Adamski. Neither does it want for fresh talent. Bulletdodge stalwarts Mia Wallace and Werner Niedermeir are among a dusting of new names making their presence felt in the hall of the big-hitters.
Sensibly – or with suicidally grand ambitions, depending on your perspective – Whitehead presses his assembled talent into the service of a wider concept. As a label, Bulletdodge has always lived on the borders of house and techno, but here the divisions are made even more explicit thanks to what emerges as a tour of dance music history conducted by some of the genre’s best-known artists.
Thus, the pure Chicago house of ‘How Can I?’, complete with Owens’ oh-so-sexy vocal, is followed by a Brit-heavy stretch of deep house bolstered by X-Press 2 on ‘Why?’ and Darren Emerson on ‘What It Is’. Before you know it, we’re in Detroit, where the strings of Eddie Fowlkes on ‘Upsurge’ make up a potent reminder of the Motor City’s heritage. At no point does the focus leave the dancefloor – and to avoid the dreaded dance album pitfall is a feat in itself. Rather than opt for moments of respite, the tempo increases. By the time of the high-bpm closing stages, we’ve moved to New York, where ‘E2X’, featuring Lenny Dee and Frankie Bones, is a thumpingly good kickdrum-led homage to the city’s underground techno scene.
The fact that ‘The Brood’ doesn’t collapse under its own weight is testament to its quality as well as to its elegant negotiation of the styles on offer. In a sense, the album does what the UK rave and progressive house scenes did so many moons ago – it takes the two cities of Chicago and Detroit, draws a line between them, and maps all points between. Part tribute, part history lesson, you’ll be hard pressed to hear a funkier, more lovingly produced dancefloor destroyer all year.