Nova, Nebulae, Aurora

Let’s start the week with something very long, hypnotic and uplifting. In 1992 this single by Lemon Interrupt (aka Underworld) came out on Junior Boys Own, Big Mouth on one side and Eclipse on the other. Eclipse is the pick of the two for me- thirteen minutes starting out with chugging beats, sweeping strings and a voice intoning ‘nova, nebulae, aurora’. As it unfolds the Underworld keyboard sound starts to phase in and it becomes progressively more acid, and progressively more absorbing. A bit like shooting through the Channel Tunnel but between planets. Thirteen minutes well spent.

Eclipse

Advertisements

Flow Like A River Of Bass Vibration

The Irwell again, above, photographed from the same bridge as yesterday but facing south rather than north.

River Of Bass is the opener to Side D of dubnobasswithmyheadman (or track 8 on cd), possibly the best album of the 1990s. River Of Bass glides into being, all fluid and loose with Karl’s vocals half whispered/half sung over the top, their most ambient track. Sub bass that entrances and mesmerises. Calming and reflective.

River Of Bass

Various Artists

These Various Artists compilations have so far all come from a similar time frame and this one is right in there, the Junior Boys Own Collection from 1994, a round up of singles released on JBO between 1991 and 1994. Heller and Farley appear twice in their Fire Island guise (Fire Island, off Long Island , New York is and was legendary for its gay scene and clubs) and also as Roach Motel. Underworld contribute three songs under two names (Lemon Interrupt and Underworld) and pre-Chemicals Ed and Tom showcase the monstrous Song To the Siren and X-Press 2 are represented by two pieces of essential early 90s house.

This compilation is pretty ubiquitous in 1994, a good round up of a label with its finger near the pulse. All these tracks could be heard in Manchester’s clubs- not always the same club but somewhere between the Hacienda, Home, the gay village and various other darkened rooms these tunes would never be far away. There But For The Grace Of God is Fire Island’s disco house, a 1979 disco-funk classic from machine updated by Farley and Heller, camp as fluffy bras, crop tops and silver trousers.

There But For The Grace Of God

Rez is one of the greatest records of that period. Or any period. Beyond sheer brilliance, it is in some ways a full stop. The ever circling squiggles, the hi-hats and snare, the rush of the chords, all seem to say ‘where else can you go after this?’

Rez

Vine Leaf

This post follows on (coincidentally) from Drew’s on Friday where he posted a different mix of the same song. William Orbit’s Water From A Vine Leaf is a long progressive house tune from 1993 with a Beth Orton vocal. Over twenty years on it sounds good to these ears, still has a freshness about it. This remix is even better than the original mix though I think. In 1993 Underworld were on top of their game, Emerson, Hyde and Smith capable of turning out ten minute remixes that reshaped the source matter and drove it onwards. This one adds a certain moodiness to Orbit’s original version, perfect for the dancefloor and the headphones. Underworld really should compile their best remixes- they had so many from this time.

Water From A Vine Leaf (Underwater Mix Part 1)

Straight To Your Heart

There was a time when I didn’t really see why One Dove’s beautiful and mysterious Why Don’t You Take Me needed remixing, even though it was Underworld (and Secret Knowledge) doing said remixing. Weatherall’s production and Dot’s vocal were so right mucking around with them or removing the vocal seemed wrong. But the first Underworld remix, a slow one and a long way from the usual throbbing pulsing Emerson sound, is really good, building slowly over eleven minutes with a repeated synth part.

Why Don’t You Take Me (Underworld Remix)

And the second one is nearly fifteen minutes of throbbing and pulsing and dark corners and dry ice- those hi hats and kick drums keep pushing it on and on.

Why Don’t You Take Me (Underworld Up 2 Down Remix)

And while neither of them are as wondrous as the original, they exist to do a different job.

A Shining Future

The new Underworld album Barbara, Barbara We Face A Shining Future is a real return to form, the duo sounding completely re-energised and refreshed. I’m not sure that they really recovered fully from losing Darren Emerson, their songs since his departure have sometimes seemed a bit below par to these ears, lacking something. Their new regime of writing a song a day for this one, being spontaneous, has paid off. The album strikes a balance between the first few songs that have pounding drums and buzzing synths, Karl’s chants and found lyrics sounding more and more like a dancefloor Mark E Smith and the second half which starts off with a slow South American inspired instrumental and then for the final few songs turns euphoric. It’s also a shortish album, only seven songs but focussed and concise. Lead single I Exhale, an almost glam sounding stomp, has been out for some time now. You’ve probably heard it already but there’s no harm in hearing it again.

Lines

Luca said in a comment on yesterday’s post that to him house music is Brutalist architecture, a connection I totally get. Some music- Underworld’s for example and a lot of techno- isn’t abstract expressionism in the Jackson Pollock vein, it’s linear, straight lines, horizontal lines, parallel lines, railway lines, street lights on motorways shooting off in the distance in the dark, it goes from here to there. Those unchanging beats, sequenced basslines (they’re called lines for a reason), pulsing synths with minimal changes off the always heading forward route- forward momentum rather than the splashes of colour and drizzles of Pollock. Underworld’s Dark And Long (this version is off the e.p. and is nine minutes plus long) is just what I mean.

Dark And Long