Thursday, 21 December 2017

We Roll 100 Deep (2017)

I don't normally bother with downloads for all sorts of reasons far too dull to expand upon, but Peter Hope seemed fairly insistent that I give this one a chance. I don't really know him beyond facebook, but he's always struck me as a man of taste, so I conceded seeing as it was a freebie. I was a bit bemused when the fucker turned out to comprise thirty tracks amounting to over three hours listening, but sod it - I burned the thing onto three separate CDRs and took it out with me on my daily cycle rides in preference to hearing it on the PC whilst sat on my arse. That was about three weeks ago, and this is pretty much the only thing I've listened to in all that time. It's a bit on the long side, but this material really got its hooks into me.

We Roll 100 Deep is a free sampler of tracks issued through New York Haunted, a net label run by a Dutch producer called Drvg Cvltvre and specialising in experimental house and techno, it says here; so yes, I'm a bit out of my depth, although not so much as I thought I would be. We're well and truly into the era of techno as waveforms copied and pasted between different parts of a screen, but thankfully it's still doing what it did when I had a bit more of a clue, and - amazingly for something with three decades of history - still moving forward, still finding new ways to get your back up off the wall, as Kool & the Gang would have it. This stuff isn't quite so minimal as the last time I poked my head around the corner of the door - which was admittedly a while ago - and the first thing which began to sink in as I listened was the sheer diversity of music.

There was a point back in the early nineties when it became obvious that at least a few of those purporting to expand upon the legacy of acid house had actually forgotten how acid house once sounded, and how you might not hear the same beat twice in an hour because the form was still prone to experimentation, crucially avoiding the formulaic; so not everything was strictly four to the floor bass drum and hi-hat bum-tsk-bum-tsk-bum-tsk-bum-tsk. I suspect most of that tendency came from young men with expensive samplers who liked the idea, but er - well, no - I'm not actually going to get out there and dance, I mean it's not really my thing…

Anyway, the repetition of having the same track remade over and over again seems not to be a problem with New York Haunted. About half of these do all sorts of things with beats you might not expect to hear on a piece of music aimed at a club environment. The emphasis is on grooves and atmosphere, the more hypnotic the better, pounding bass and an alien clatter - not much in the way of tune, but then it's not something which seems necessarily missing. Equally, there isn't anything which really just does the same thing for eight or nine minutes. There's an evolution going on in most of these tracks, and the evolution of something which feels so organic that it's difficult to equate it with zeros and ones on a computer screen. If it doesn't always sound like techno as I recall from Villalobos and Shackleton and those guys, it strongly feels like it, even when we have tracks which seem to share DNA with Throbbing Gristle or Nocturnal Emissions or some obscure krautrock act pissing about with a sequencer. Then there's RSS B0YS' Y00R00B 0N which sounds like techno would have sounded had it been born in North Africa rather than North America; and MEZE's obligue Miami bass take on PIL's Religion; and Damaskin's Signal doesn't even have a beat, although I suppose you could sway around to it, and it took me a few listens before I even noticed.

Peculiarly - and I suppose luckily - the hardest track turns out to be pH2's Plastic People, Man, a beast of a beat which could quite easily have been slipped in between Phuture and Mr. Lee without anyone realising; and I was about to thank Peter Hope for the tip and for bringing that particular track into my life when a spot of last minute homework enlightened me to the fact of pH2 actually being himself. I suppose it seems obvious when you think about it.

Three hours of music is probably a bit of an imposition on anyone's time, but not when it's this good - neither a single duff track, nor even really anything which settles for copying something you've already heard. This one feels less like a download and more like a fucking amazing night out.

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