21/04/2020 This week I have been mostly listening to

Jodey Kendrick – EDM A2, EDM B2 (2013). Don’t be misled by the EDM abbreviation; this pair of releases, strangely badged as if compilations by a selection of artists, but apparently solely the work of Jodey Kendrick, contains some of the best breakbeat-acid-eletro Braindance I’ve heard this side of the Tuss EP. (Well, until James Shinra came along).

EDM A2 opens with two Drexciyan analogue electro tracks, credited to Alain Kepler and Black Narcissus, respectively, before things really pick up with Men Part 2 by ‘Rob Kidley’, with a spasming acid synth and twisted robotic vocal manipulations, that Aphex Twin was fond of using for a time. Elsewhere we have Steinvord-esque breaks on Data-Sync and Coronet (yeah I know Steinvord didn’t exactly invent that style but that’s what it reminds me of). PH Lop sounds as much like the Tuss as it’s possible to sound. The final four tracks of this collection are essentially ambient; at least in the sense they are beatless – rather than any implication of relaxation – the atmosphere they evoke is disorientating and unsettling.

EDM B2 feels more like a coherent album somehow, the tracks form more of a narrative structure and there are more melodies on display. But there really isn’t much to choose between two releases. If you want classic analogue synth tones, spluttering breakbeats and frenetic acid lines look no further.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Don’t Get Lost (2017). The extensiveness of the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s discography is unfortunately equally matched by its inconsistency. No doubt a reflection of Anton Newcombe’s (creative locus and one permanent member of the band) personal struggles with addiction, mental health, the music industry and all the rest of it. By some counts, Don’t Get Lost is their 16th studio album. 

As far as I know, Anton Newcombe is clean and sober, and now living full time in Berlin, with his bespoke music studio. And is making some of the most accomplished and consistent music of his storied career. So one way of broadly demarcating the BJM’s discography is into pre and post ‘stable Anton’. 

In my not so humble opinion, their Shoegaze debut Methodrone is the strongest from their earlier period, along with the riotously psychedelic (but patchy) Take it from the Man! and Give it Back!. I don’t know how many ‘breakouts’ a band can legitimately be said to have in a career, but it seems 2014’s Revelation represented a critical one – in both musical quality and widening their audience – and it was their first to be fully recorded and produced in Newcombe’s Berlin studio. 

Don’t Get Lost has the same beautifully warm layered psychedelic production. You can hear the attention to detail that has been lavished on achieving authentic reproduction of the various genres and styles paid homage to: 70s Psychedelia, Dub, Krautrock, etc. In fact so much attention has been lavished on the atmospherics that it seems little was spent on writing any particularly catchy songs. There’s no What you Isn’t or a Food for Clouds, two of the most emotionally triumphant songs off Revelation. 

But that isn’t really meant as a criticism as I don’t think catchy songs is what the BJM were going for here. If you’re looking for a beautifully crafted homage to droning, driving, psychedelic Krautrock – with plenty of leftfield electronic curveballs on the side – you’re lost no longer.

Underworld – Dark and Long (1994). I don’t know why it took me so long to listen to this release. One of the dangers of being so album-focused means I do tend to overlook EPs and other releases. There are dozens and dozens of versions of this EP, each containing various remixes and other original tracks. I was less interested in remixes of the track, Dark and Long (which I know and love as being one of the best ever opening tracks on one of the best albums ever by any artist) and more interested in hearing some vintage early 90s Underworld – so for clarity I’m talking about the April Records version with Thing in a Book, Spoon Deep, etc. 

Any boy, does this deliver. I’ve only listened to this twice through, both in one day, but I can tell already this is going straight on the top shelf alongside Dubnobasswithmyheadman and other classic early/mid 90s electronic releases. Thing in a Book is like an entire self-contained techno set – ideal for sunset (or sunrise, for that matter) in Ibiza, Goa, or if one isn’t lucky enough to be in either of those locations, fuck it, it would do very nicely for sitting in the back garden of a terraced house or driving round the ring road.

Spoon Deep is an alternate version, of sorts, of Spoonman from Dubno…. Or at least, it contains elements of that track, but it’s so much more than a remix. At 18 minutes, it’s another one that feels like an entire set. There is really no one who can touch Underworld in this mode: full on, relentless, epic, euphoric, transcendent Techno. I was only listening to this on headphones sitting sedately in my living room, but whatever you’re doing this is a ‘drop everything and fucking listen’ kind of a track.

Underworld have gone through several incarnations in their long existence, but this period from around 92-94 must be one of their most fertile, during which they challenged the limitations of what ‘dance’ music could be. By combining emotional depth and building tracks on an epic scale they went far beyond high energy rave music, transforming it into something truly monumental.

Nina Kraviz – DJ Kicks (2015). I first listened to this a few years ago, in preparation for seeing Nina Kraviz DJ, as the closing act for a 24 hour rave, with Jeff Mills headlining during the first part of the ‘night’. Jeff Mills was incredible as always, but I don’t remember anything in particular about Nina Kraviz’s set – and I had slept a few hours in the interim between her set and Jeff’s the night before – so it can’t be solely due to the effects raving for 24 hours straight. 

My finger is firmly off the pulse of contemporary dance/club music, but to my limited awareness Nina Kraviz seems to be something of a big name these days. A DJ Kicks mix made for CD is rarely going to be much like a proper set, but regardless of the limitations of the form, this is an interesting mix of deep minimal warehouse-friendly techno. Over the course of the mix, Kraviz develops a trippy, spooky vibe by splicing various acapella versions and samples of spoken passages over a beat that is raw and industrial yet still locked into a groove. Some classic artists (Adam Beyer, Aphex Twin, Armando) feature as well as some more obscure selections from the fringes of Northern Europe. Recommended.

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