Friday, September 28, 2007

Not another Acid House compilation

Don't ask why but everything has gone Acid House at Tunetourist HQ today. Maybe it's got something to do with the UK's Guardian newspaper catching on that the spirit of the movement is now firmly resident in post-Wall Berlin (sample quote: "Hedonistic freedom will always hold special significance for those who have known the absolute lack of any freedom"). But, in a brief break from our usual fwd>> agenda, we're going back to its earliest incarnations for inspiration.

Seldom though has the sound of 1988 - 90 as we recall it been captured adequately on a compilation album; even Soul Jazz's "Acid" comp beat a well well-worn and geographically focussed path through jackin' Chicago house. So, we hereby launch our manifesto for the first truly as yet un-compiled history of a certain strain of the movement we're happy to call Acid House.

Manuel Gottsching - "E2 - E4" (Disk Union reissue)

Let's kick off with the daddy of them all, Manuel Gottsching's majestic "E2 - E4"; 23 minutes of otherworldly inspiration that hit this member of Krautrock act Ash Ra Temple like a thunderbolt, sometime in 1981. Yes, 1981. If you don't recognise this minimal exercise in modal groove in its original form, you may recall it from the endlessly re-issued 'Balearic' dance classic "Sueno Latino" which first landed in 1989 and which rips off Gottsching's vision wholesale. Here, you can listen to 25 years of electronic music being mapped out in gently undulating grooves with an insistence and restraint that dance music has only had the courage to return to in recent years.

Neal Howard – “Indulge” (Network)

Some Derrick May track or other, usually the sublime "Strings Of Life" or bleeps 'n' bass-defining "Nude Photo" ought really to crop up at this point but instead we've opted for lesser-known Detroit-producer Neal Howard and a track called "Indulge". It was licensed to Network Records - a key UK distributor of the Detroit sound in the UK throughout the late 80s and early 90s. Usually the internet yields something on most artists, however minor. Here though, we have little supporting information for you. Nonetheless, this feels more like an unofficial follow-up to "Strings Of Life" than anything Derrick May released and points the way to the lusher techno soundscapes of second-wave Detroit producers like Carl Craig. Originally recorded in 1988 it still sounds wonderfully fresh.

Ron Trent - "Altered States" (Warehouse)

Sadly, Ron Trent is now probably better-known for meandering cod-spiritual house music of the kind proffered by Joe Clausell et al but once upon a time he was capable of delivering this aircraft hanger-proportioned epic techno belter. Later, he'd go on to more or less single-handedly define 'deep house' through the early nineties output of his Prescription label and seminal releases with Chez Damier, like "The Foot Therapy EP".

Suburban Knight - "The Art Of Stalking" (Transmat)

Another in our admittedly Detroit-centric take on the Acid House story which hails from the Motor City. This 1990 release from James Pennington is our only track from a foot solider of the legendary Underground Resistance. Included here because it neatly prefigures the 'dark side' sounds that would invade the euphoria rush of rave in '91.

Soft House Company - "What You Need" (Irma Casa Di Primordine)
Sha-Lor - "I'm In Love" (Gentie)

The Italo influence that soundtracked the sweaty joy of Nude nights at the Hacienda throughout '89 and '90 is summarised as well by "What You Need" as any other track. Don't ask us to tell you any more about it... Same goes for this '88 classic from Sha-Lor which was reissued by Mike Pickering's Deconstruction label in '89 and is one of the Hac's most enduring vocal house moments; one of the few that's still an absolute pleasure to hear. Beautifully dubby and restrained, it’s hard imagining such an elegant record rubbing shoulders with Black Box on Manchester's most hallowed dancefloor.

Nightmares On Wax - Aftermath [LFO Remix] (Warp)
Ital Rockers - "Ital's Anthem" (Bassic)
Renegade Soundwave - Thunder (Mute)

The Northern bleep moment is rightly remembered for LFO's eponymous earth-quaking debut and Nightmares On Wax's double-headed assault, "Aftermath/I'm For Real". On our alternative guide we leave both of those to other comps and opt instead for LFO's sublime remix of Nightmares On Wax. See what we did there. "Ital's Anthem" was one of the heaviest tracks to force its way inside our young ears back in 1990. Released by the Leeds label that ran parallel to Sheffield's Warp for a while, it is techno as understood by kids more accustomed to reggae 'blues parties' than 'Balearic' beats. Can you see rave coming yet? Finally, 80s industrialists Renegade Soundwave were uncommonly inspired on their 1990 release "Renegade Soundwave In Dub" which yielded "Thunder", another proto-rave anthem that, oddly enough, used to get mixed into Jimmy Somerville at the Hacienda.

Rum & Black – “Slaves” (Shut Up & Dance)

Finally, one that clearly points us off in the direction of jungle, when the East London kids got involved. Here's where things began to fracture and, arguably, Acid House span off in different dirctions. The London 'summer of '88' lot were already sneering about sweaty 'Acid Teds' but the break with 4/4 beats and increasing importance of breakbeats really seems like a good place to leave it.

Better than "Old School Euphoria", we hope.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Let’s go back, way back…

The soundtrack to the original hip hop movie Wild Style gets a re-release for its 25th anniversary next month. Not the first document of hip hop culture, the 1982 film and soundtrack nonetheless seems as good a place to start as anywhere. Hugely influential in every respect, the tracks here from the likes of Cold Crush Brothers, Busy Bee, Rammellzee, Double Trouble and DJs Grand Wizard Theodore and Fab Five Freddy seem to blueprint most of the music that followed from the Beastie Boys to A Tribe Called Quest. Musically, Wild Style still finds hip hop stuck in the disco instrumentals phase of the Sugar Hill Gang era and the backing tracks - produced by Blondie’s Chris Stein - are largely indistinguishable.

The film also gets the deluxe repackage treatment with Rhino releasing a version with remastered audiovisuals and extras including interviews with the film’s stars, the aforementioned MCs and DJs themselves, and footage from the 20th anniversary reunion concert.

If that isn’t enough to satiate your hunger for back-in-the-day hip hop goodness, the 'rhyme inspector' Percee P releases his long-awaited official album debut this month on one of our favourite labels, Stones Throw. We say ‘long-awaited’ but, really, most people gave up waiting 10 years ago. Percee is frequently described these days a ‘fast rap’ legend, known for a style that recalls the mighty Big Daddy Kane for his Vesuvial way with the adjectives. It’s a long story but somehow Percee managed to play his part in both the late 80s and mid-90s hip hop boom periods and this album, appropriately titled “Perseverance”, manages to summarise much of the best of both. Stones Throw’s special weapon, Madlib, steps up to produce and sounds great delivering a more straight-up set than his recent jazz and beatstrumental excursions, making this one of the strongest artist albums the label has released in a while.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Kompakt action

This time of year is always busy for techno’s renaissance label, Kompakt, the Cologne-based Empire founded by Michael Mayer, Jürgen Paape and Wolfgang Voigt. It’s around this time that they unleash the latest in their mammoth double CD “Total” compilation series – this year its “Total 8” – and throw a big bash at Popkomm and the C/o Pop event in Cologne. This year they follow it all up with a secondary strike from two of the label’s biggest artists, working under the combined moniker of Superpitcher, Michael Mayer and Superpitcher release “Save The World” next week, but more of that later.

“Total 8” has been the subject of some critical griping amongst the indie community and admittedly it’s a somewhat hit and miss affair. But there are plenty of reasons here to seek out the best of it. Jürgen Paape brings classic stalking and stabbing Cologne techno restraint to "Nord", while Robert Babicz’ remix of label star Gui Boratto’s "Mr Decay" bounces with the kind of irrepressibly groovy micro-twitches you’d expect from Spanish producers like Alex Under.

There’s nothing from indie darling The Field but the label’s acclaimed shift into gently sombre emotional terrain is represented instead by The Rice Twins. "Can I Say" already pegs them as potential crossover darlings with its elegant rethink of trance’s cruder emotional touch points. Amongst the record’s less inspiring moments, Aril Brikha’s overrated tribute to Berlin’s great techno shrine "Berghain" is wheeled out, but a more fitting tribute to the drama and dynamics of that legendary dancefloor comes from DJ Koze’s wonderful "Mariposa". Building through quietly intense swathes of noise that merge the functional drone of machines with the unexpected melodies they might sing as they work, it comes on like a symphony of engines learning to take their first graceful flight. Hear it in Berghain and you might fall over.

Supermayer’s “Save The World” is a step into new terrain for the label, Mayer and Superpitcher shaking off the confines of the Cologne sound to stretch out into more organic textures, live instruments and groovier disco territory, all whilst maintaining the label’s trademarked restraint. Superpitcher brings club dynamics to Mayer’s deft control of texture and the pair of them may be just the men to graft new, more organic sounds onto the over-familiar minimal framework and find something new within. They still find time for a few straight-up Kompakt-style bangers – “Saturndays” is as good as any club 12” released so far this year and “Planet Of The Sick” and “Two Of Us” won’t upset the purists. Elsewhere though, there are a few surprises, foremost amongst them the “Billy Jean” reconfigurations of “The Art Of Letting Go”.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Klaxons win Mercury Music Prize

Congratulations to Tunetourist favourites the Klaxons who won last night’s 2007 Mercury Music Prize. We won’t mask slight disappointment that it didn’t go to Bat For Lashes who, along with Amy Winehouse, gave the performance of the night but no doubt the prize’s mandate to award innovation is as well served by the Klaxons as anyone.

It was a clear surprise, though, to both band and the assembled industry throng, the room letting out a gasp as Jules Holland announced the winner. Jamie Reynolds – with sutured and strapped foot from his recent stage dive misadventures - James Righton, Simon Taylor-Davis and Steffan Halpern were by turns endearingly touched, shocked and awed, pathetically gurning and aimlessly posturing, as they collected the award. It was as if midway through their natural response the amphetamines kicked back in and they remembered an earlier pact not to ‘do a Gwyneth’ if they won, but completely forgot how they'd planned to make a rock’n’roll impression in the first place.

"I think they have rewarded forward thinking music," Jamie Reynolds said after the event. “We have made the most forward thinking record since I don't know how long.” Somehow we failed to feel quite the same thrill as when Dizzee Rascal surprised the event in 2003, winning with his genuinely radical “Boy In Da Corner”.