Luke Slater – Freek Funk (1997). Monday morning on the way to work, I tried out Luke Slater’s album, Freek Funk, for the first time. Luke Slater came to my attention via a track on Quinoline Yellow’s Secret Thirteen Mix some years ago. This was a track from his 7th Plane alias, and the two albums recorded under it: Four Cornered Room and My Yellow Wise Rug have quickly become some of my touchstones for that early 90’s ambient techno/electronic-listening-music/post rave/artificial intelligence sound, call it what you will. As a stalwart of the British techno scene, Luke Slater has a formidable discography so rather than going on an all out splurge, I’ve tried to approach it in a measured way. I’ve listened to one from his Planetary Assault System alias, The Messenger (2011), which can be categorised as excellent, eyes-down four-to-the-floor Brit techno, and an earlier album Wireless (1999), where he turns his hand to big-beat/breakbeat – also banging, but not in a ‘head-banging’ way – it’s got massive beats but sheathed in a futuristic, slick, electro atmosphere.
So anyway, on to Freek Funk, which comes very highly recommended online. To be honest it’s impossible to give a reasonable summary after only one listen, especially when I didn’t get all the way to the end of the album (commute time) – but I can definitely tell it is quality: cerebral, thoughtful music that still has its feet planted firmly on the dancefloor. The sound of progress – techno pushing forward as it always should, even though it dates from 1997 (who cares?).
Various – Torque (1997). Gave this a spin on the way home. Think I must have picked this up while filling in some gaps in my drum’n’bass knowledge. I can never get my head round all the subgenres of d’n’b but authority has it that this is techstep – deep dark menacing bass, amens and other mashed up and mutated breaks. It’s heavy dark drum’n’bass and it’s quality. Not something I find myself listening to as often as I did in the past, but when the mood suits, there’s nothing better. Listen here.
Skee Mask – Compro (2018). I got this as part of an effort to listen to some ‘new’ music, after a brief realisation sometime last year that the end of the decade was approaching and I had barely listened to anything recorded in the last ten years. It came up as one of the top albums on Watmm’s end of year poll for 2018 and I’ve since seen it on many other lists. Completely lived up to the hype – not gonna say much more about it here, but recommended for any fans of electronic music: big expansive soundscapes, some of the beat-drive tracks are absolutely bangers. But a key feature of this album is restraint: none of the tracks lag, none of the beats are over-driven; everything melds perfectly and there’s a real narrative, from the early ambient tracks, to a midpoint-crescendo, followed by a wind-down. (Maybe what Autechre would’ve sounded like with Liam Howlett as a third member??).
Theorem – THX – Experiments In Synchronicity (2002). This is (was) a collaboration between minimal/house producers: Sutekh, Stewart Walker and Swayzak, overseen by Theorem I guess, as the record is in his name. Reading another discogs reviewer confirms this: “with the use of phone Lines, CDRs and FTP uploads, Detroit’s Theorem (a.k.a. Dale Lawrence) provided source materials and Swayzak, Stewart Walker and Sutekh tweaked, layered, arranged and produced the end result.” There was a time when I used to love this minimal, clicky, kind of house, but that was a long time ago and 2002 sounds like ancient history. It’s a step forward from Future Sound of London’s ISDN, but jeez: phone lines and CDRs make this sound antique. Anyway, I am thoroughly accustomed to listening to music outside of the context, time and scene in which it was created and in 2019 this sounds highly agreeable to me. The Swayzak tracks especially are just fantastic. Warm synth pads, enveloping bass and gentle but insistent rhythm – the continuous feeling of approaching a climax without being manic and euphoric. I mean…I’m just describing house music, or techno music…tech-house? Dunno, don’t care, just listen to Break in at Apt 205 by Swayzak.
Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out (1997). Heard of them for years, never listened and didn’t really know anything about them. Part of my recent quest to fill in some serious gaps in my 90s alternative rock. This was only my second listen so I won’t say much apart from: high-energy, frenetic punk rock basically. Her voice (or voices…I think two of the band supply vocals) is very distinctive and I could see it putting some people off. It doesn’t put me off, but I certainly won’t be putting this album on when I’m curled up on the sofa with a book and a low-cal hot chocolate. Looking forward to the songs getting under my skin a bit more, they’re clearly well written and the album’s got some real energy and anger I can foresee putting to good use.
Solar X – Little Pretty Automatic (1999). Only the second listen for this fella as well. I think this may have been another discovery courtesy of that Quinoline Yellow mix. From what I’ve read, it seems I was missing something from my 90s Braindance/Drill’n’bass collection. But this is Braindance, Russian-style. Won’t say much more yet as I may do a full review in future, but I can tell this record is going to be a lot of fun: the madcap experimentation and disregard for genre or form that categorises Braindance (and the like, I refuse to use the term IDM), but the 20 years that have since passed have bestowed on it charming naivety and wide-eyed innocence.