I began pulling together these Funky Alternatives round-ups because folks had started sending over sizable quantities of electronic music that was mixed to a darker hue. I mean, EBM will always be an important / crucial part of what makes the balearic beat actually bang – but more than a few industrial edged numbers in a row and you`re talking a slightly different “vibe” – sets that expand out into either a sustained, sleazy, druggy chug or peak with panel-beating techno.
I took the title for these selections and reviews from a series of LPs released through the `80s on 400 Blows` label, Concrete. The first volume of which included the tune – Chris & Cosey`s October Love Song – that famously landed Andrew Weatherall his inaugural DJ slot at acid house shrine, Shoom. It was therefore perhaps obvious that the influence of the sadly prematurely departed icon was gonna loom large. Weatherall`s lasting musical legacy is present not only in his own posthumously released productions – the E.P. for Moton off-shoot, Pamela, End Times Sound on Byrd Out, and Love Vinyl`s essential Fort Beulah N.U. box set – but also in the music made by his friends and collaborators.
Andrew`s long-standing studio partner, Nina Walsh, broadcast speaker-rattling electro bulletins throughout the lockdowns from her Woodleigh Research Facility. Standouts for me ranged from the poignant Woodleigh Lament to the mysterious Middle Eastern Karramesh, to the brilliant Play Bingo With Me, featuring the poet Joe Duggan.
Weatherall`s confidant, spar, and co-pilot of the A Love From Outer Space parties / events, Hardway Brother Sean Johnston appeared to throw himself into work. Every month there seemed to be a fresh project or remix: A Mountain Of Rimowa, MD Hastings, Fjordfunk – transforming Coyote into Basic Channel, roughing up the balearic of Rheinzand and Afterlife, and teaming up with bassist Martyn Walsh as La Ruta. Omerta from the latter E.P. mixed The Stooges with New Order to anthemic effect, while Sean`s rework of Ess O Ess, for Kinfolk, carved the duo a brand new Totem, fashioned from a fabric part Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong`s `70s psychedelic soul, and part Primal Scream`s E-poch defining Screamadelica.
Artists endorsed by Johnston, and included in his sanity saving monthly ALFOS Emergency Broadcast Service, also appear here. Deviant disco citizens such as Spain’s Señora – who released the long-player, Fósil, on Lurid Music – and Athens` Anatolian Weapons – who continued to weave ancient and modern together in a way that, to my ears, perfectly illustrates this slo-mo psyche sound. Digitally prolific on his own Bandcamp page, he also contributed Ela to Feel The Drive`s debut 12, and wowed with this remix of Errortica`s Master Slave for Les Yeux Orange.
If ALFOS is an “an oasis of slowness in a world of increasing velocity”, then Dusseldorf`s Salon Des Amateurs for sure is another temple of mid-tempo`d boom. Ruf Dug payed tribute to the celebrated venue`s machine / drum rituals, and he also released the dub majesty of Stalker`s Empire.
Within the bionic bass`d brutalism of Butter Sessions 2020 broadsides I found Roy Batty Jr.`s Treast – something I used to open pretty much every time I played to a dance-floor*, whenever I was in Tokyo. Its trippy, wistful woodwinds invoking the ceremonies of past shaman such as O Yuki Conjugate. The Melbourne-based imprint also supplied the sax-y house-not-house boompty-boompt of Polito`s Sublunary.
Man Power`s Me Me Me launched Last Magpie`s Kissing Stones – an album’s worth of big room tunes that looked back on rave from the benefit of hindsight – and seemed to realize – a tad misty-eyed at times – even before the current COVID crisis – that we`d never quite see the like of those halycon daze again.
Archival releases / reissues weren’t that abundant, as I guess – while doffing its cap to predecessors – this is a confection of contemporary creations – modern music made for dancing, pandemic permitting, now. However, The New Morning`s Emotional-ly Rescue-d `90s Bavarian cosmic certainly fit the bill – as did their break-heavy remix of Psycho Radio Vs LC Anderson’s Bad Reputation.
The fizzing fractals and teasing twisted tones of Khan`s Blue Box, on Second Circle, also definitely didn’t come across as dated at all.
*Tokyo`s clubs and bars by and large have remained open during the on-going pandemic – taking every possible measure to ensure customer safety and limiting numbers. Folks are of course exhibiting considerable caution anyhow, so events are still happening but have generally been quiet.
Roy Batty Jr – Treast – Butter Sessions
Khan – Warm Leathereth – Second Circle
Señora – Codigo Y Marfil – Lurid Music
Anatolian Weapons – Ela – Feel The Drive
Señora – Segundo Sexo – Lurid Music
Andrew Weatherall – The Moton 5 – Pamela
Ruf Dug – A Night At The Salon – Ruf Cutz
Khan – Slow Stepper – Second Circle
A New Morning – In Harmony – Emotional Rescue
Fort Beulah NU – #2 – Love Vinyl
Polito – Sublunary – Butter Sessions
Errortica – Master Slave (Anatolian Weapons Remix) – Les Yeux Orange
Woodleigh Research Facility – Karra Mesh – Rotters Golf Club
Woodleigh Research Facility – Play Bingo With Me – Rotters Golf Club
La Ruta – Omerta – Days Of Being Wild
Last Magpie – Redemption – Me Me Me
Andrew Weatherall – The Unknown Plunderer – Byrd Out