10: PATRICK COWLEY / JORGE SOCARRAS
Catholic is what happened in the late 70s when visionary disco producer Patrick Cowley teamed up with Indoor Life vocalist Jorge Socarras and a couple of refugees from Sylvester’s band. The group’s tracks had never been made public before, and would’ve remained the stuff of anecdote had it not been for German techno producer Stefan Goldmann. On a trip to San Francisco a couple of years back, Goldmann was handed a CD-R by local DJ Ken Vulsion (what a name) comprising tracks that he’d sourced from reels of unreleased Cowley material when helping Megatone owner John Hedges move house. Going crazy over what he heard on the CD, Goldmann tracked down Jorge and convinced him to let him release an album’s worth of the material on Prototypes, the reissue arm of his Macro label.
“I think it will be a shock for Patrick Cowley’s fans,” Goldmann explained prior to the album’s release. “It’s way beyond his Hi NRG Disco stuff – a post-punk, new wave, experimental Cowley. The range of styles is pretty wide, but it totally makes sense. There are very sparse, almost Basic Channel style tracks with stripped down electronic percussion grooves. Then there are some tracks that sound like the blueprint to Metro Area. And then there is stuff that sounds like punk with sequencer bass lines. It’s all still very synthesizer-based, yet very adventurous.”
09: VARIOUS ARTISTS
5: FIVE YEARS OF HYPERDUB
There’s something particularly special about a catalogue with a distinct aura that emerges, piecemeal yet cohesively, a few minutes’ worth of black wax at a time. Another recent example is Digital Mystikz and Loefah’s DMZ label; an older one is Warp Records’ early output of Northern ‘bleep’ (considering Warp, by its fifth birthday, had already moved on to release over 20 albums, it’s briefly tempting to wonder where Kode 9′s Hyperdub would be now given the same economic climate for music).
The retrospective component of 5, a two-CD package, does a perfectly good job of illuminating the thematic strands that make Hyperdub’s identity so recognisable. Prominent among these is an apparent fascination with the synthetic and the virtual: electronically generated sound by default tends to give the impression of situation in an unreal space, but rather than glossing over this, producers such as Burial intensify its boxed-in, disorientating effect; meanwhile Zomby or Samiyam’s lurid sonic is what results from stripping away the tonal shaping that allows synthesisers to approximate anything in the natural acoustic world.
08: VARIOUS ARTISTS
It’s pretty mad to think that Warp is now 20 years old. Twenty years since Forgemasters’ ‘Track With No Name’ emerged and proved in one fell swoop that Britain could take the US techno sound and make it its own. This lavish boxset shows how just far the label has come, and attends to all its various tributaries and preoccupations, from the early (and still incendiary) bleep ‘n bass gear through the “electronic listening music” era, the post-trip-hop “beat” years and its latter day incarnation as a broad-minded major-independent akin to Rough Trade or a Domino – indeed, a stable that can comfortably play host to both Autechre and Grizzly Bear.
What we love about this anniversary release is the amount of music there is: so many of these expensive box set things are all design and no content, but Warp20 remembers that its buyers are music-lovers first and foremost. We’re still trawling through its wealth of unreleased material, special locked grooves, greatest hits and a disc of in-house cover versions ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE ARE FLOATING IN SPACE: THE BLACK EDITION
Simple, really: the greatest rock album of the 90s reissued with a ton of bonus material and housed by Farrow Design in a sexy black update of their original medical-style packaging, blisterpack n’all.
06: TERROR DANJAH
GREMLINZ: THE INSTRUMENTALS 2003-2009
Gremlinz, a triple-vinyl compilation of key instrumentals by Terror Danjah, one of grime’s most talented and fanciful producers, is great – how could it not be? You get Terror at his most pitch-bent and twisted (‘Haunted’ and ‘Code Morse’, with the amazing and underrated DOK), his most jagged and pummeling (‘Stiff’ and ‘Radar’), and his most iconic (‘Frontline’). He dabbles in 80s electro (‘Planet Shock’), jungle (‘Reloadz’) and spaced-out funk (‘Limbo’), all the while sounding like a perverse genius who never should’ve been let out the asylum, let alone onto national radio.
05: ROBERT HOOD
The etching on the original Axis pressing of Minimal Nation reads ‘Music for the progressive’. Fifteen years after its release and those words hold true: reissued on Robert Hood’s own M-Plant label, replete with bonus tracks, Minimal Nation still sounds as forward-thinking as ever.
This EP-cum-album wrestled Detroit techno from its expansive future-soul origins and remodelled it as a kind of fast, ultra-streamlined and Teutonic-influenced systems music; it paved the way for some of the most interesting records of all time, and – it must be admitted – some of the most tedious. For Hood, minimalism wasn’t just a gesture, it had a personal and a political meaning: “It’s a direct reflection of the way the world is going. We’re stripping down and realizing that we need to focus on what’s essential in our lives.”
True saying. But still, as any Hood devotee will tell you, ultimately Minimal Nation is about one thing and one thing only: funk. Never before or since has techno grooved so hard.
04: YURA YURA TEIKOKU
HOLLOW ME / BEAUTIFUL
(DEATH FROM ABROAD)
Yura Yura Teikoku are apparently huge in their native Japan, but have virtually no profile in the West. Big up Death From Abroad, then, for their canny licensing of the band’s brilliant Hollow Me album, with the Beautiful EP tacked on as a nice addendum. The music is just gorgeous, stripped-down and rhythmic pop that summons Roxy Music, Pavement, The Beatles and Guided By Voices. You’ll want to check it out.
03: ANTHONY ‘SHAKE’ SHAKIR
Shake has been making music since 1981, and worked with Derrick May and Carl Craig as producer, writer or engineer on several early Metroplex tracks, as well as performing management, A&R and – he’s often joked – janitorial duties for the label.
Alas, the Detroit native to date hasn’t achieved the fame or commercial success of his peers, partly due to persistent health issues preventing him from DJing as regularly and widely as he would have liked. Nonetheless, over the past two decades his inimitably tough, swinging grooves have proved to be a profound influence on house, techno, electro and dubstep producers around the world; this lavish compilation from Rush Hour is a timely tribute to a cult hero who continues to evolve and inspire.
THE ROOTS OF EL-B
Burial’s hero, engineer behind Groove Chronicles’ sickest moves, principal of the Ghost crew and peerless evolver of the 2-step rhythm: Lewis Beadle’s reputation precedes him. He entered 2009 commonly repped and namechecked by the dubsteppers and future-garage types he so obviously influenced, but with his best recordings difficult to track down and own. Tempa and Martin Clark soon sorted that out, putting together a handsome, exhaustive CD retrospective and a limited vinyl sampler that no DJ on Earth should be without.
12345678: THE CATALOGUE
(EMI / KLING KLANG)
This remastered and repackaged anthology of the Dusseldorf dudes’ “catalogue” regrettably skips over the formative manoeuvres of Kraftwerk, Kraftwerk 2 and Ralf und Florian, and begins instead with 1974’s effervescent Autobahn, taking us through the subesequent full-lengths – Trans-Europe Express, Radioactivity and The Man Machine – that redefined pop and made possible pretty much all the music you know and love. Hell, even the oft-maligned Techno-Pop sounds terrific now. If you don’t own these records, do yourself a favour and buy 12345678 right now; unlike so many things you spend £60 on, you won’t regret it. Ever.