A formative mix
While Websta’s update took us all back to the halcyon days of the late 80s my influential LP is somewhat less memory taxing, emerging in 2002. Not only that, it isn’t even an album, nope, it turns out an influential record for me is infact just another mix cd.
I’m not sure what you were up to in 2002 but for me it was an unsettled time both musically and in general. If you cast your mind back you will no doubt recall the ‘funky’ house that seemed to flood Auckland at the time. It seems hard to remember now what with Luciano playing Junior Jack records and Auckland being saturated with ‘electro/tech’ djs, but at the time I really hated funky house. Oh yeah I also pretty much hated vocals over any dance music whatsoever. This has taken a long time for me to change my opinions on. Being a somewhat gloomy nerd the parties and popularity of the house scene wasn’t for me, and I was generally into snarling drum and bass and breaks records, spending many friday nights down at fu bar.
After some flirtations with house during the 90s including an enduring affinity for the french types of motorbass and alex gopher I had more or less given up hope on it during the early years of this decade. Crucially though I had also begun discovering reggae and dub (thanks in the main to bfm’s specialty shows such as downbeat and stinky grooves). By 2002 I was also starting to realise that drum and bass was starting to become a bit boring for me. Maybe not so much boring as it was either funky and lightweight or ridiculously epic and over the top heavy.
So the scene was set when sometime British tech housers Swayzak mixed a double cd titled ‘groovetechnology 1.3‘ for a now defunct website called Groovetech. I don’t recall what groovetech was or did and don’t really care to. I was aware of Swayzak from their decent work on albums “Snowboarding in Argentina” and “Himawari”. However they pushed the boat out a bit further for this double cd, creating in the process a mix that made me aware of so many producers I love today, and (more importantly) introducing me to house that could be heavy and menacing, but still subtle and melodic.
The first cd kicks into hypnotic minimalism straight away with Phillipe Cam’s ‘Western’. Having drawn you in, Swayzak bring in some more melody over the next few tracks – an early highlight for me being Akufen’s clanky deep houser ‘Architexture’. From a simple loping beat and catchy drum patterns Akufen layers echos and eventually melodic chimes over the top. Things take a trip back into the darkness from here, with Styro 2000’s ‘Pelati’ (early Swiss house minimalism!) and Headgears excellent menacing ‘Believers Goodbye’ (great early work from one Mr Konrad Black). Ellen Allien and Basic Channel (with the sparsely booming ‘Q1.1′) follow. Delay 05 and Closer Musik (early work from mr Matias Aguayo) both pop and echo their way through.
Just as the machine music is becoming uncompromising Swayzak throw another melodic curveball in the form of Villalobos’ early classic ‘808 bass queen’. I love this track, even though Villalobos has produced much of genius since, this is perhaps still my favourite track from him, with sparkling twinkly melodies and heavy dubby bass swirling along with the tracks title being repeated in a mantra of ‘bass bass bass..”. Another classic comes next with Luomo’s ‘Synkro’ – one of the best micro house producers of the time with a rolling track that goes for 8 minutes and could go indefinitely. Another micro-house pioneer ends the disc with Herberts ‘back to the start’.
Here is Luomo with ‘Market’ (no ‘Synkro’ on youtube, but Market is on the same LP, vocalcity).
And here is Basic Channel’s awesome Quadrant Q 1.1:
Wire’s Colin Newman along with Corrado Izzo sets the introspective theme at the start of disc 2. Stephan Laubner (aka STL) kicks off the beats with the queasy ‘portside waves’ and Convextion continues with an amazingly atmospheric dub techno track ‘crawling and hungry’. Dub techno is a pretty big theme on this disc with another pioneer Robert Henke aka monolake’s track fragile up next. Wolfgang Voigt aka Studio 1 kicks in the repetitive dub shards of ‘lila’. This track from 1996 seems remarkably ahead of its time – given its resemblance to tracks like ‘Berlin Dub’ from mixworks which are sounding so fresh today. Some electro tracks -including Bitstreams’ amazing ‘monolith’ (and M. Mayers ’16 and 4′) follow.
The mix pauses entirely and then restarts with son.sine’s ‘upekah’. This is a beautiful record by Nz’s own leyton aka epsilon blue/rotor. The track starts with echoed record crackle and hiss, which builds up and out into a 4/4 beat, which acquires a heavy dub bassline and some chords, before dub tech echos hit. This track has a special serene feeling. It makes me think of the sun rising over the sea in the coromandel. I also get a nice patriotic kind of feeling that a New Zealand producer and label (the great ‘nurture recordings’) play a part in this mix. The track also mixes almost seamlessly with Round Four’s ‘Found A Way’ – which is the last track on the mix. This track, with Basic Channel at the helm and Tikiman on vocals really makes the dub techno connection obvious. It is also a great way to end the mix.
Here is son.sine’s Upekah:
Here is the awesome ‘Found a way‘ (can’t embed that one unfortunately).
It is pretty hard to go back to the mindset I was in at the time, I have been subsequently dulled by years of house and techno – but listening to this mix today there are still many great records to my ears. This mix predated by a couple of years the trend towards ‘minimal’, and over just the last year or so dub techno has come to the forefront again from the likes of deepchord and Brendon Moeller. This mix basically introduced those genres to me. Swayzak’s mix is really special to me for introducing so many artists who’s work I would go on to love, as well as helping me realise that house music could be subtle and heavy and experimental and dubby and all that good stuff. It isn’t mixed very well and it isn’t exactly ‘funky’ but that doesn’t worry me now and certainly didn’t at the time.