Zwei Jahre Sprechen
This time two years ago, the world looked substantially different. There was no timetable for leaving the EU; Trump’s bid for the most powerful gig in the world was little more than a ludicrous political roadshow that allowed us to more clearly identify what arseholes look like en masse; and Chris Massey had yet to launch his Sprechen records label.
Now, that last point might seem spectacularly parochial, even for a site that willingly explores the fringes of the musical underground but, listening to Zwei Jahre Sprechen, a retrospective of the past two years available on tape cassette and, thankfully, digital download, it becomes clear that the label has been doing its best to bring light to the world in pretty dark times.
It’s also clear that it’s been fighting the good fight on many fronts. The range and scope is deep and wide, encompassing disco, house, techno, italo and Balearic; the connective tissue comprising a willingness to explore the myriad ways to keep people on their feet and out of the sun at five o’clock in the morning.
The lighter moments here are full of life and happiness: Spanglish, James Rod and Chris Massey’s offering featuring Danielle Moore of Crazy P, is possessed of a bass sound rooted in UK soul, but given orders to march – specifically to the dancefloor.
Neil Diablo’s upfront, driving “No Thrills” also has hints of the 80s about. The precision drums and sequenced bass bring to mind both New Order and Shannon. If that doesn’t sound like a natural pairing, then this proves that it is. Echoed guitar ricochets around the track adding texture and tone before an acid line drops and we find ourselves moving at unexpectedly high speed. It’s incredible fun.
Gina Breeze’s “Make Me Feel” keeps the foot down and the pace up, using a familiar vocal sample in a track that, along with releases such as Tusky’s recent 90s Wax 12”, seems to be at the vanguard of the move to reimagine the 90s through a contemporary filter. I’m all for it, middle-age brings with it the need for the odd aide-memoire.
It’s not all bangers and flash, however. With “Kaleidoscopic Orange Lights In The Attic” German-based producer Homeboy gives us a track we can submerge ourselves in. In less capable hands, this could have ended up being overwhelmed by its stablemates, but Homeboy injects just the right sense of impetuous playfulness – like Manuel Gottsching high on nitrous oxide.
Kohib’s “Hot Pants and Dance Shoes” is a superb, low-slung, robot chugger that sits surprisingly well alongside the linear drive of “Jupiter”, and the flute-led bass banger “Before the Diamond Turns to Dust” by Planet Jumper, which chucks everything into the mix. So much so that it threatens to overburden itself at times, regaining balance at the crucial point every time.
That’s a neat trick and one echoed by Rave-enka on “på kryss og på tvers”. About halfway through, I was left scrabbling around as the incoming drums sent me spinning while I tried to hold on to the rhythm of the keys. As with most things, a massive acid line helps to stitch everything back together with a groove that would see the most committed of pacifists punching the air.
These are tracks for the wee, small hours. Tracks for when only the committed punters are still around. This is music for the part of the night where things get interesting. Tracks for closed eyes and swaying bodies. Tracks that refuse to let the night end.
It’s not just that Zwei Jahre Sprechen is an incredibly well-programmed compilation (although it is), or that the quality of the songs here is so high (again, it is). What’s really interesting is the positive echoes of the past in these contemporary pieces of music. There are lessons everywhere: cues to be taken here; keys to be found there… If only we’re willing to listen. If only we’re willing to learn.
It’s one hell of an MO for troubled times…