Science Lessons

You try to convince yourself otherwise, but life is full of surprises. Now my favourite surprises are those odd, little ones which simply cause you to arch your eyebrows like some lost James Bond.

Like assuming my Kylie's on/off soulmate James Gooding's some vacuous party animal, and then discovering him going on about Michel Houllebecq, and being by himself with his books and records.

Or realising there is a new Nightmares On Wax record out, and that it is more than a decade since their fantastic debut set, A Word Of Science, was first released.

Now, if Joy Division's Closer came out more than a decade earlier still, and little progress has been made with guitars and drums since, then it can be argued that few electronica records have proved to be as enduring and as much fun as A Word Of Science.

Of all the Warp-related classics, like LFO, Black Dog, Speedy J, Autechre, Sabres, Plaid, Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, and so on, the Nightmares On Wax first full-length offering sounds the freshest.

And they didn't even need to produce an LP, for their 'Aftermath' single was enough to secure for eternity a place in the pop god gallery, and its thunderous bass hook still resonates and uplifts.

Yet A Word Of Science covers an incredible amount of ground, and effortlessly set the agenda for a decade, touching on dubbed house, skewed hip hop, funky downbeats, and without any precious claims to be pioneering.

The record itself namechecks the Unique 3 and Ital Rockers, names that evoke distant memories of a North East creative surge, bleep culture, and exploring a UK response to the house and techno music coming out of Chicago and Detroit.

The record also mentions the Age of Chance, and there is still a story to be written about the interface between the pop underground and the urban dance music played out in clubs.

I have to confess I have not heard the new Nightmares On Wax set, and I suspect it is not for me. I would, however, urge anyone who has tapped a toe or nodded a head to DJ Shadow's beats or Boards of Canada's bleeps of late to explore some roots and pick up A Word Of Science in a high street chainstore for a song. At least these interminable sales do provide a valuable public service.

© 2002 John Carney