These two compilations, eight sides of vinyl, sixteen tracks, document not only the musical passion, and peccadilloes, of DJ / producer / remixer Andrew Weatherall, though the ages, but also the evolution of the label, Heavenly. An imprint, an enterprise, an empire, born in the same Balearic Beat melting pot as Primal Scream`s Screamadelica – that of clubs like Future, and Shoom, and crazy raves on the Creation Records office roof. The collection charts a three decade collaboration that started in 1990, with Sly & Lovechild`s The World According To…A shot of stripped back, sexually charged house. Powered by a throbbing bottom end, and muted marimba. Sitar sounds and gospel samples – from Aretha Franklin`s One Lord One Faith – making its psychedelic, spiritual allusions, transcendental aspirations plain. A synergy that sadly concluded prematurely with a dub of Unloved`s Devils Angels in 2019. Where the noir Killing Eve score is spiked, sedated, and run through seemingly rusty machinery, taken over by ominous bells tolling.
The early `90s entries are fine examples of just how fast dance floor vogues change. Jumping from the blissed-out loved-up 98 BPMs of Saint Etienne`s Only Love Can Break Your Heart to Flowered Up`s epic Weekender – The Who’s Quadrophenia for the E generation – mad, mashed, totally trashed, on poppers and powders – and the Sabres Of Paradise`s teutonic trance transformations of Espiritu`s latin pop – racing with percolating percussion, punctuated by temple gongs, drum rolls tripping over themselves a la Plastikman`s Spastik – in the space of just a couple of years.
There are only two selections from the mid-90s to the late 2000s, reflecting Heavenly`s refocus on press and promotions, and the success of their club night at Turnmills, and bar, The Social, on Little Portland Street. The Two Lone Swordsman`s take on Saint Etienne`s Heart Failed (In The Back Of A Taxi) is grungy, grimey, electro. An occult oscillation peppered with the duo’s very particular magick. Slithering, shuffling, sinister, its bass-line a relentless buzz. When I listen to a lot of Weatherall`s late `90s / turn of the millennium sides, his work with Keith Tenniswood, and David Harrow as Blood Sugar, that to be honest, I didn’t really get at the time, I now hear their influence in a fair bit of current contemporary dance music, and frankly I’m freaked at how far ahead, how prophetic they are.
From the other end of the decade there`s Doves` Compulsion. Speaking personally, this was a big one. Shamanic shouts and lightning / thunder strikes shower down on an impossibly groovy Radio Clash-esque b-line. Crunchy rock riffs join rhythm guitar jangle and subliminal Stratocaster shredding – flexing like Shriekback`s spine. Building, breaking down, then sending in all sorts of detail for a climax just like those Ecstatic early `90s remixes. Andrew`s amazing overhaul of Primal Scream`s Uptown, in 2008, had caught everyone by surprise, and his conjuring with Compulsion quickly followed. Both seemed to signal Weatherall returning from the void. Relinquishing, at least in part, the dark world of pummeling panel-beating techno and obsidian machine-funk, lightening up more than a little, and perhaps re-embracing the Balearic. Matey, I don’t mind telling you, I was overjoyed. I`d been a Guv`nor groupie, a cheerleader for The Chairman, from `89 to `94, but burnt out, dropped out, and stayed away from a scene that felt way too coke-y. I`d been there, done that, and I didn’t like it. I`d kept and eye and an ear on his new music, and checked the track-lists of mixes, but for health reasons, and still haunted by hazardous habits, I had to maintain some distance. Self-preservation, rather than self-destruction, had kicked in. I`d followed Weatherall from the daze of him spinning Dizzi Heights` Would I Find Love to hammering Hardfloor`s Aceperience, but I couldn’t follow him anymore, and keep breathing. Uptown and Compulsion, yeah they were still druggy, but they echoed the dubby “alternative” stuff that he`d played at clubs like Shoom – records that in his hands had helped shape, redefine, Balearic in London, and very likely beyond. While some of the directions he took along the way felt like deliberate two-fingered salutes to his past, and folks who had him pigeon-holed, who couldn’t keep up, these two tunes were kinda like “Come back, all is forgiven.” As if he`d exorcised a few demons – insecurities, and an uneasy feeling at the perceived undeserving adoration and acclaim. That he no longer disliked, or questioned, himself, that much, and was ready to be embraced and loved again.
Likewise a deal soon after, with PIAS in 2010, seemed to revitalize Heavenly, in terms of releases and roster. From previously concentrating on two or three artists, the catalogue opened right up. Worked over by Weatherall LCMDF`s Gandhi is all arpeggios and anticipation. Synths, both gated and symphonic, set chugging to disco hand claps and the sequined stomp of platformed glam rock boots. Two years on and TOY`s Dead And Gone is given an extended kosmische caress – Andrew converting the cut into a collision between NEU! and Cluster. Vintage valves warming the mellow, melodic motorik. Gwenno`s Welsh language Chwyldro is made to move at a gallop. The ride softened by cello and a Gaelic bagpipe-like lick. Into 2017 and Mark Lanegan`s Beehive is similarly uptempo, the ex-Screaming Tree`s blues bellow rebuilt on a house 4 / 4, and an amped up, pumped up, contrabass line. Techno, Motor City rhythms, bashed out on packing case drums, while wrestling with a wall of distorted six-string noise. From the same year, Confidence Man’s Bubblegum bumps and bounces like Tom Tom Club`s Genius Of Love updated, half-cut and horny, insane on cocaine, wired with wonky synthesizer action and wicked guitar, Sugarhill congas, and a slowly evolving 303 snarl. Their Out The Window balances electronics with human elements, bluegrass picking and a full choir, coming together in an evolving, ascending, anthem. The Orielles` Sugar Tastes Like Salt is dynamite dub disco. Its sharp, nagging riff, and cool, cool, bass, smothered with sampled cavorting party commotion. Cries and yelps that fall just short of Happy Mondays` “Call the cops”. Weatherall truly twisting the band’s melons, man. Twelve months later, Audiobooks` Dance Your Life Away is cut from the same cloth. The bassist paying homage to New Order`s Peter Hook as spring reverb rimshot ricochets surround psyche organ swirls.
These compilations don’t run chronologically, traveling instead backwards and forwards in time. It`s a telling testament I guess to Andrew`s commitment to his underlying “vision” that none of it sounds dated, and that you can`t see the join. Working in close cahoots with Heavenly, and Creation, he was and is the undisputed originator of the Balearic indie-rock dance crossover. Forever the champion, crown king, of the post-punk new wave funk.
Heavenly Remixes 3 & 4: Andrew Weatherall Volumes 1 & 2 can be ordered directly from Heavenly Recordings.