I’m currently enjoying (or should that be enduring?) a two-week spell at my parents’ home in East Yorkshire. Despite every moment here providing some affirmation of either my (or everyone else’s – it has to be one or the other) limitless insanity , there are certain advantages to returning to the pastoral setting of my childhood. For one, I find myself reunited with what I once hubristically referred to as my CD 'collection' – that maddeningly erratic, plastic-encased colossus which describes a ten-year arc of ambition, love, learning, prejudice and pretension. Note: The first album and single I ever bought were actually cassettes, which in this age where three-year-olds are au fait with Ipod shuffles, makes me feel rather old.
The album, if you’re wondering, was Crossroad, the best of Bon Jovi, and the single ‘Here Comes The Hotstepper’ by Ini Kamoze. Both classics in their way. Bon Jovi were a laughing stock before Crossroad, sure, but a loveable one; after that formidable comp celebrating ten years of unsurpassed poodle-rockery, they just went a bit weird and crap (‘These Days’ was a real point of departure...). I blame Jon’s terrible solo album Destination Anywhere for giving him delusions of seriousness and, admittedly, the onset of old-age probably played its part (isn’t Tico Torres, like, 82?). But fuck me, at one time they really did know how to write tunes; I mean, forget ‘Living on a Prayer’, sullied by a decade of inclusion in even the most streamlined cheese cannon, but the rest – I mean, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, come on – amazing. You know, there are teenagers in the Third World who worship Jon Bon Jovi with the same arrogant assurance that we make of a God of Villalobos…Anyway. Before I try and manoeuvre out of this embarrassing cul-de-sac, can anyone answer an unresolved enigma (well, two) of my childhood – did Richie Sambora have absolutely shitloads of plastic surgery over the course of Bon Jovi’s career, or did I just imagine that? And was the band’s latterday bassist called Alec John Fuchs, or did I imagine that too?
My point, I think, was that being at home I have the opportunity to re-acquaint myself with those CDs which I acquired in my long, hormonal schoolboy daze (I think that pun was intended.), before file-sharing existed for me (I missed out on the whole Audio Galaxy embargo) and when vinyl meant my dad’s shit records in the garage. So, while there are some aural diamonds cluttering my shelves, there are also some real howlers (and I don’t mean, like, Spice Girls albums, but really bizarre, economically determined choices like Tim Buckley’s worst album, Ry Cooder’s most anodyne set, etc, etc)…The Englishmen among you might correctly attribute the acquisition of these audio atrocities to years of shopping at HMV, with their hit-and-miss seasonal sales which at the time felt magical – this was where, for £4.99 a pop, you picked up your Grace, your Blue Lines, your Blood on The Tracks, but also a whole load of other shit which you still haven’t listened to the whole way through. Let’s not forget that even five years ago, the internet wasn’t quite the resource it was, and how was I to know that The Future was probably the wrong Leonard Cohen album to start off with? Anyway, this is all off the point. I think. The item under discussion is, basically, the Super Discount album which was produced, overseen and released by Etienne De Crecy (pictured above) back in 1996. Now, this was kind of when Gallic dance fever was about to break out of the Paris underground and take Britain by storm – mainly Daft Punk and Air, but all kinds of other shit hanging on their coat-tails. I remember buying the ‘Da Funk’ single, I’m sure only because I digged Spike Jonze’s unforgettable dog video (a few years later, like everyone else, I’d realize it to be one of the greatest tunes ever, dog or no dog). So yeah, Daft Punk we’re in ascendance, and Moon Safari was on its way – and eight years on, you can say what you like about 10,000 Hz or, Christ, Talkie Walkie, but that debut album (OK, excluding the Premier Symptomes thingy) remains an unassailable blast of brilliance, pure class – I mean what sounds, what style, what substance, what proto-electro irony… Alas, the fruity Frenchmen were never to scale such dizzy heights again. Anyway, Etienne De Crecy, whose sojourns into house, dub, hip hop and downbeat techno with Motorbass and La Chatte Rouge had already been met with sincere chin-nodding from those in the know, blasted on to the world stage with a record which remains, for me, one of the most immaculately conceived, designed and executed projects to ever be called a record. Basically (and forgive me if you know all this already), De Crecy assembled his mates who were making waves on the then still fairly underground French dance scene (Alex Gopher, Air, Minos Pour Maine Bass, Mr Learn, Mooloodjee), commissioned a track or two from each of them, knocked off a few himself, and compiled them all under the simple title Super Discount (though intended simply as the title of the collection, it’s taken ten years for De Crecy to realize that Super Discount is a far more recognizable moniker to do remixes under than his own name). The sleeve was amazing, a lurid black-and-yellow parody of the pile’em high sell ‘em cheap superstores and signs which you find everywhere (especially on the Continent). Even some of the tracks themselves yielded to this overall theme of cut-price commerce, with titles like 'Tout a 10 Balles' (Everything at 10 Francs) and 'Fermeture Definitive' (Closing Down Sale). The whole thing, dare I say it, had an affably postmodern je ne'sais qua (in a very, very 90s way), but all this would have meant nothing (except a lowly life in the real life Super Discount bins of motorway service station shops) were it not for the revelatory brilliance of the music contained therein. The housier tracks are, of course, more aligned with the fast, filtered proto-Stardust sound that was the toast of the time, than the slightly pitched-down electro grind that we naturally think of as house on this side of 2002. De Crecy’s productions are quality: ‘Prix Choc’, with its jazzy chords and brushed snares riding a frenetic kick, topped with a warped sample of a fella saying "Sensimilia…Marijuana" is maybe a little bit juvenile conceptually, but musically it's sublime, with a truly louche groove emerging beneath twinkling xylophones and a sound which is so, so, so delightfully French. It’s unlikely I’d play it out now, but I credit my re-discovery of this piece of stoner-house six years down the line (NOTE: when I bought this album as a fourteen-year old, absolutely everything but the Air track (and the aforementioned lyrical frisson of ‘Prix Choc’) went entirely over my head) with winching me out of the trip-hop ghetto and into the ever-expanding coterie of 4x4 delights which I now consider my first language. That isn’t to say that there isn’t any trace of what we’d loosely define as trip-hop on Super Discount – in fact, it’s all over the fucking thing, but in its most refined and elegant forms (De Crecy’s remix of Air’s ‘Soldissimo’, a vocalless first draft of the Moon Safari weepie ‘All I Need’, is particularly superb). More satisfying to my ears now are Alex Gopher and Mooloodjee’s wonky disco-house hybrids, and the unabashedly French filter-fest of ‘Le Patron Est Devenu Fou!’ (by Minos Pour Maine Bass). In short, the whole album’s superb, a gallery of immaculate, detailed and diverse productions, each deeply invested with the spirit of dub; turn up the bass, light up a funny cigarette and pretend it’s sunny outside (if it isn’t really) for maximum listening pleasure.
Download:Etienne De Crecy - Prix Choc (Price Shock) // Disques SolidAlex Gopher - Super Disco // Disques SolidMooloodjee - Les 10 Jours Fous (10 Days of Madness) // Disques Solid
…But that’s not the whole story. As you’re probably aware, Monsieur De Crecy returned (after a solo record, Tempovision, that was dubious in places but not without merit – check the awesome ‘Scratched’) in 2004 with, wait for it, yes, Super Discount 2. The album featured a more stripped down cast of players than the first outing, but with the notable contribution of Philippe Zdar (formerly of the De Crecy-affiliated La Funk Mob). In a clever update of the first volume’s cut-price theme, each track on Super Discount 2 took its name, rather endearingly, from a file sharing service – Bit Torrent, Soulseek, Audio Galaxy and so on. Of course, by the time this record emerged, electro-house was the going rate in credible 4x4, so you would expect Super Discount 2 to have been totally behind the times, right? Well no, because if anything, it played its future-acid house hand a little too forcefully, with the dubby, relaxed intimacy of its precursor jettisoned in favour of straight-up electronic house. This made for some stunning tracks, but, I guess, also abysmal sales: the release was so low-key that it probably entirely escaped the notice of the generation who went mad for the first volume, and even if it did reach them, a lot of them were no doubt put off by its alien, electro-ey topography and absence of nineties chilled-out vibes. The electro-house bods, meanwhile, were too busy panting at the Phonica counter, waiting for a new Tiefschwarz remix to arrive, and failed to buy as many copies as SD2 deserved to sell. Still, ‘Fast Track’ became an underground hit (a staple of Erol Alkan’s sets at the time and fused brilliantly to the 'Never Be Alone' acapella on his Bugged Out! CD) before being tarted up and sanitized with a female vocal for a re-release thrown at the Tongy hordes. Forget that version, though, because the original is a total winner, boasting one of the most insane and effective build-up/breakdowns I’ve ever encountered in my deep-fried experience. Only problem is, as the title suggests, it’s a little fast….'Poisoned’, the track he did with Zdar, is an uplifting, bouncy house track distinguished by its cartoonish orchestra of manic acid lines, and ‘Grokster’ is a competent electro track with a fat, faintly dystopian synth riff which’d do the business at 5am. De Crecy isn’t exactly on the dole (he’s recently turned out a nice remix for WhoMadeWho, as well as a few smart earners for Moby and, oddly, The Bravery), but I can’t help but feel that he doesn’t get the recognition, or adulation, that he deserves. Fact is, Super Discount 2, in the ludicrously rich climate of electro-houseishness we occupy, is pretty workaday; however, Super Discount 1, any time, any place, is am absolute fucking masterpiece. I mean, just listen to that Alex Gopher track above…So says I, anyway….[EDIT: One of our sage readers has pointed out that, in all my De Crecy-praising, I completely neglected to mention he and Gopher's totally stunning Dynamik mix of Kraftwerk's 'Aerodynamik', which came out in 2004 and was absolutely massive with everyone from Erol to, well, me. I don't have an mp3 of the track, but as soon as I do, I'll put it up - because if you haven't heard it before you're missing out on a bonkers rave anthem of the highest, highest order.]
Download:Philippe Zdar & Etienne De Crecy - Poisoned // Disques SolidJulien Delfaud, Alex Gopher & Etienne De Crecy - Fast Track // Disques SolidEtienne De Crecy - Grokster // Disques Solid
A lot of you probably have the mp3 of this by now, but if not, it’s my great pleasure to introduce to you the A-side from the new High Feelings 12”. High Feelings is a newish label which everyone’s calling “Sweden’s answer to Whatever We Want”. The comparison isn’t as lazy as I imply; both labels peddle epic, discofied re-edits of old psyche tracks, both have quality artwork, and both have ludicrously small press-runs for their releases. It’s the last feature which is, in some ways, most definitive - and it would be easy to see it as nowt but a cunning strategy to achieve cult status double-quick, were it not for the pretty inarguable quality of the music itself. This new 12” from High Feelings is reminiscent of Otterman Empire’s last one on WWW (Private Land/Texas Radio) – an obscure, harmony-drenched rock track (‘Go to California’ by a Norwegian band called, er, Motorpsycho) given the requisite nip, tuck and expansion by the High Feelings people to elicit some of the ol’ boogaloo on the dancefloor. Not one that I’ll necessarily be playing out, granted, but it’ll do nicely for breezy West Coast vibes when the summer finally catches fire and spending evenings outside getting high won’t seem odd at all. Makes me wonder though, when are all these disco re-edits going to dry up? I’m not against them, but will a point come when there isn’t actually anything left to re-edit? Furthermore, what’s the next generation of disco fans going to make of the noughties’ extreme, all-encompassing disco edit fetish? Will a kid in 2040 know the difference between the Otterman Empire edit and the original Doors track? Will people be releasing re-edited re-edits of re-edits? God knows. Let’s not even think about it now, it'll just make my head hurt.
Download:High Feelings - Leave Norway // High Feelings
No one hates Radiohead arcana more than me, but I’m curious about the tracks on the latest ultra-limited 12” to be lifted from the Exit Music compilation – interpretations of ‘Nice Dream’ and ‘Airbag’ by the prince of found-sound provocateurs Matthew Herbert (pictured above at Sonar last year) and RJD2 respectively – bound to be interesting, but probably not worth the Ebay price tag the vinyl will probably have acquired by now. I keep meaning to do a massive post on Matthew H, but I never get round to it and I don't really have sufficient mp3s to do him justice - my love for the man is based less on his crackpot sample odysseys and more on the devastating, minimal laptop sets he does live (Does anyone have a Herbert DJ mix that they could ysi me? I would be UNBELIEVABLY grateful if someone did...). Elsewhere, there’s a new EP on the shelves from a TAPE favourite, Kango’s Stein Massiv, whose past, none-more-wonky offerings on MBF and Trailerpark have invariably gone down a treat. The new one from this potty purveyor of fjordfunk (his word, not mine) is called Letbeint Liten Sak, and it too is on Trailerpark. Buy the vinyl from the usual outlets, I’ll post a track if/when I get hold of it.
As always, check the links on the sidebar if you need more mp3s/bloggishness – I should draw your attention in particular to Skull Juice, where Alex has kindly put up Erol’s long-awaited ‘Horrorhouse Dub’ of Daft Punk. It’s very silly, but you know you want it….