I didn’t actually run any Funky Alternatives round ups during 2021. Instead I managed to find enough to say to post most of this year`s releases as stand alone reviews. Also, I tried to squeeze these tracks in with the balearic beats, where I could, `cos if I really stayed true to Alfie, Leo, Nelo and Esteban`s OG BB blueprint, that`s where they should be – rattling, raucously in between the house and the pop.
Chris Carter remixed Daniel Avery’s tribute to Andrew Weatherall, Lone Swordsman, turning in something as unique and kinda chaotic as the early `90s “big bass-line and fuck off breakbeat” work of the man himself. Andrew`s brother Ian, teamed up with Duncan Gray, as IWDG, to cover New Order`s In A Lonely Place, again in tribute, both to Andrew, and their dad, who also sadly passed away. With proceedings going to Andrew`s amor, Lizzie, and charity, everyone involved – David Holmes, Sean Johnston, Keith Tenniswood – brought their emotional A game. All of the mixes are amazing but it was Sean’s dynamite Hardway Bros Axis Dub that helped dance away the tears and heartache.
There was also a posthumous release from Mr. Weatherall, YW Eleven, on DisDat, that seemed to shed light on the icon`s love of Depeche Mode. Andrew`s long-standing studio partner, Nina Walsh, then delivered a sublime song-based set, from the relocated Woodleigh Research Facility.
Mr. Avery was one of those to remix David Holmes` Hope Is The Last Thing To Die – perhaps the defining musical statement of the year. Much more than merely a two-fingered salute to the profiteering powers that be, it was a call for resistance and revolution – made plain by its accompanying artwork and brilliant video.
David’s old friend, and engineer, Gary Irwin released his debut LP, The Kempe Stone Portal, as The Vendetta Suite – scouring his considerable archives to release what was effectively a showreel. The four sides of vinyl featured JAMC-inspired fuzzed up rockers, quality kosmische, deadly drops into dubwise, and ecstatic euphoric house.
Andy Bell was another artist who hybridized motorik with dance-floor 4 / 4s. His epic long-player as GLOK – Pattern Recognition – as a concept, plotted the course of a raver`s week – from party to “hungover” hallucinations, through anticipation, excitement and party again – and as such, every track could easily be slotted into a mix.
Roy Of The Ravers` Le Soleil Roy double-pack on Emotional Rescue was also a varied package. Feathers was the first to tickle my fancy, a wonder of wistful Woo / Nick Nicely-esque psychedelia, but with repeated plays I’ve discovered that the “bi-phasic” Versace 101624 really, truly, rocks.
Intimate Immensity, the last album from Tom Relleen and Valentina Magaletti as Tomaga, since Tom sadly passed away in 2020, contained one of my favourite tracks of the year, full stop. The ten tunes centre around racing percussion – rapidly tapped and struck gongs – married with modular oscillations. The ringing of iron and steel, gamelan, tribal, tones, cymbals, marimba and vibes, dancing with piercing, singing, sine waves, and an electronic pulse and throb. The results switching between crystalline calm, a tranquil tinkling of temple bells showering, new age and Kitaro-like, and a sharp drum-driven Sci-Fi funk. The Snake adds Ray Manzarek`s Vox continental, vamping a Middle Eastern / North African melody, for a stoned psychedelic skank. Very Never (My Mind Extends) features the vocals of Vanishing Twin`s Cathy Lucas, and is freaky, Broadcast-esque, plugged-in folk. The King Of Naples is full of dark jazz juice. These polyrhythmic rumblings taken together have the feel of a shamanic ceremony, an exorcism of evil spirits, complete with Martin Tomlinson`s occult invocations, cries and yelps. British Wildlife recalls Basquiat`s Gray, their Drum Mode. Is the piece`s purpose to repel ghosts? The proceedings peak with the title track. Tough drummed, and with a descending bass-line, twisted cosmic / kosmische details, plus Agathe Max`s soaring symphonic strings, it`s one of those tracks that just captures the urgency, the transience, and melancholy, the wonder of life. Stirring, heroic, and achingly beautiful, there have been days when I’ve listened to this on loop. Sometimes wishing it were longer, knowing that it`s perfect as it is.
There were more than several super singles and essential E.P.s. Richard Sen resurrected his Coma tag for the end-to-end burner that was Night Train To Cairo, on Klasse Wrecks off-shoot, Grafiti Tapes. Imagine Tyrone Brunson and Blancmange sharing a hookah. Justin Robertson did over D:Ream`s Meet Me At Midnight in damn fine dusted, dubbed-out fashion – think The Orb`s Towers Of Dub, The Revolutionaries` El Bamba in outer space, Weatherall & Hugo Nicolson`s rework of Jah Wobble`s Visions Of You. Rude Audio brought the ruckus from Brixton`s frontline, Railton Road, authentically recalling the pioneering pervy proto-electro of the aforementioned, Mr. Carter and co-conspirator, Cosey Fanni Tutti – with the bonus of a bonkers reimagining from Hugo. T-WOC supplied six shots of superior novo new beat for Strangelove.
If ever there was a successor to those original `80s Funky Alternatives compilations then Tolouse Low Trax`s Kiosque Of Arrows 2 on Bureau B was it. A compilation that canceled / blurred the borders of geography and time, to cherry-pick, and commission, eccentric electronics from all over. Collecting obscure cuts from France`s Lueke & Lippie, Italy`s DsorDNE and Stupid Set, Kaoru Hirose and Viola Renea from Japan, Spain’s Macromassa and Javier Segura, the UK`s Techno Twins, and late American poet, Lydia Tomkiw. Pretty much all of it had me shook.
Moody, avant, arty, but accessible precursors of techno and “trip hop” – very likely created on healthy doses of acid and speed. Stuff that`s loudly echoed in the music of artists such as Eevo Lute Muzique`s Wladimir M, and a sound associated with, integral to, Dusseldorf`s Salon des Amateurs, a sound which “Tolouse” most certainly helped to shape. Syncopating synthesizers with spoken word on slomo mutant machine maneuvers. Where ritual percussion percolates beneath ZTT, Propoganda-like pop, and whispered ambient lullabies segue into classic guitar-driven post-punk. Venus In Fur`s romantic waltz could have found its way onto a Jose Padilla Cafe del Mar tape. Every track on the comp is outstanding, an ear-catching conversation piece.
On the reissue front, the expanded edition of Coil`s 1991 album, Love`s Secret Domain, was also big news. Even if you didn’t own the original LP, it was worth possessing for terrific previously unreleased versions of tracks like Teenage Lightning (the solo Spanish guitar take is well balearic) and Chaostrophy, plus a beautiful “Ruff” reading of Dark River.
While it came out late 2020, copies of Martin Rev`s 3 Raw Takes didn’t arrive in Japan until 2021. Well, that`s my excuse, and it`s too good not to include here. Released on Jimi Tenor`s label, Puu, an off-shoot of Sahko, the 12 comes packing a pair of prime party-starters from a parallel universe. Sophie Eagle is bouncy bass-led disco-not-disco, off-beat, odd-ball, house, basically. The mid-tempo Venise is laidback, peppered with pitched-down rave klaxons – a la Psychotropic`s David Mancuso favourite, Only For The Headstrong – and samples – I think – Timothy Leary. On the other hand, it could also be Marti`s own wired whispers.
D:Ream – Meet Me At Midnight (Justin Robertson`s Temple Of Wonders Mix) – D:Ream
Glok – Maintaining The Machine – Bytes
Primal Scream – Shine Like Stars (Andrew Weatherall Instrumental Remix) – Sony
T Woc – Goddy – Strangelove
Martin Rev – Valise – Puu
IWDG – In A Lonely Place (Hardway Bros Axis Dub) – Rotters Golf Club
Secret Soul Society – Yo We’ve Landed (Hardway Bros Remix) – Paper Wave
Roy Of The Ravers – Versace 101624 – Emotional Response
Andrew Weatherall – YW Eleven – Dis Dat
Coma – Night Train To Cairo
Glok – Closer – Bytes
Glok – That Time Of The Night – Bytes
Daniel Avery – Lone Swordsman (Chris Carter Remix) – Phantasy Sound
Rude Audio – Railton Ruckus
Woodleigh Research Facility – Alchemy – WRF
David Holmes – Hope Is The Last Thing To Die (Mixes) – Heavenly Recordings