|There was a time when on hearing a record like 'Where The Traffic Goes' by the Jasmine Minks, I might zealously write words like: "this record reminds me of why I loved music in the first place." By which I meant to imply: "This record is imbued with the spirit of Punk Rock, that primal redemptive purging rush of sound which moved me so much when I was young." I confess now that I was aware that my words could be construed as meaning: "this record sounds like the sort of pop noise I first fell in love with, back in the days", and I guess it is hard to deny that there is an element of truth in that. However, the simple fact is that 'Where The Traffic Goes' did touch upon or tap that same sanctifying surge of power that so sparked records like 'Your Generation' or 'All Around the World', and it was something worth recapturing.
So, if I say that the Paul W Teebrooke LP 'Connections' reminds me of why I first fell in love with electronic whatever, you might get the gist of what I'm say8ing, and whilst I've no qualms in invoking Black Dog, Autechre, Speedy G and that Warp electronic listening series I'd rather say 'Connections' captures something that's been in short supply in the world of electronica lately. Let's be honest! As great at the Photek LP may be, like 'Entroducing' it's merely an act of consolidation rather that the great leap forward and, inexorably, the highlights are the previous year's 'Hidden Camera' cuts. Yet, 'Modus Operandi' is still several light years ahead of the rest, except As One and Paul W Teebrooke, though you could be excused for not noticing! Released on Kirk (As One) Digeorgio's Op-Art label, 'Connections' is the work of Steve Picton, who you maybe know as Stasis, suppliers of the sublime highlights of Mo Wax's 'Excursions' series, and who you should know provided the best LP of 1996 in 'From The Old To The New'. 'Connections' continues exploring in the same way, subtly surprising in its beats and arrangements. Nothing sinister or too oblique, just warming in its fresh feel and approach. The best LP of 1997? Perhaps, although I guess it would have to be either the Sea And Cake or Luscious Jackson, with either of the two As One LPs as outside bets.
I know I have perhaps not been keeping my ears as close to the ground, or at least that particular place, but I do not seem to be catching so much stirring music and, well, I always want more than music. That has been the appeal of Mo Wax, and give 'em their dues for '97 was worth it for the Liquid Liquid compilation and As One's 'Planetary Folklore'. Now, Chain Reaction has caught me. I cannot pretend to be up to scratch with the label's precursor Basic Channel, although I do love the mysterious compilation CD and the sense that you're trying to hear something that's not even there. As compelling and confusing as some free jazz or punk's outer limits, and as disorientating and unsettling. The best aspects seem to be embodied in the Various Artists' 'Decay Product' CD in the labels generic metal tin. So, again, that connection back to punk rock and PIL. There was a brilliant Bobby Gillespie quote recently, bemoaning the stranglehold of corporate concerns and the dearth (though not death) of imagination, though acknowledging that there is always hope while there's kids making strange noises in their bedrooms or their garages. He could have been referring to Berlin's Various Artists, a young guy with a name like J. Alfred Prufrock who has put together a sensual, scouring selection of sounds which will take some beating. In keeping with the Basic Channel tradition, there is a swing from disembodied techno through to spacious echo caverns where the silence is only disturbed by clicks which may just be the imagination playing tricks. Where VA truly succeeds is on the middle ground of 'melted' with its dislocated rhythm and rolling repetition which would not sound out of place on a Stasis record, and on 'Erosion 2' where the Jamaican '70s dub vision is updated for a late night small town walk home. 'Decay Product' is essential and only slightly less so is Vainquer's 'Elevations', the work of Rene Lowe, another alchemist who looks like an escapee from A Certain Ratio when they were The ones exploring rhythms and sounds, scratching around for something new. Vainquer, who was responsible for Basic Channel classic 'Lyot', proffers a more direct split between upbeat minimal excursions, disquieting enough, and sound sculptures which are dark and dense, full of foreboding. The strangeness and spaces are all the more striking now that everything seems so overstated and elaborate. Track down these CDs, play them alongside Tortoise and Suicide and the new Impulse! reissues. I think it's good to hang onto the sense of why you needed to listen to music in the first place, but just remember that you don't need to keep on listening to the same old sounds.