Here we have Electribe 101`s lost album. Completed in 1991, but shelved after a final falling out with their then manager, “impresario” Tom Watkins – of Pet Shop Boys / East 17 fame / infamy. While many of the songs were later reworked – by cool cats such as The Grid and Spooky – and resurfaced as part of the group’s singer, Billie Ray Martin’s stellar solo career, Electribal Soul captures them as they were originally intended – smooth, sleek follow-ups to the truly timeless classics, Talking With Myself and Tell Me When The Fever Ended.
It`s a collection of highly strung / orchestrated heartbroken narratives, peopled by protagonists seeking comfort in the arms of another, searching for solace from the pain and hurt. Driven mad, made desperate by these demons. They are sexy, seductive pop songs, peppered by proper 1989 anthem pianos, rave`s bleep, and with all the drama of sci-fi-ed up schlager. Micro-dosed mini-operettas with a lyrical complexity not usually associated with “disco” or house. Warm-up and come-down compositions, whispered, sighed, and occasionally belted out, by one of dance music’s most distinctive voices.
Space Oasis is built on a buzzing, fuzzed, bass riff, perhaps inspired by Deee-Lite`s What Is Love?, over which Billie soars with full diva fervour. Dancing alone in a crowd, dreaming of a lover, of being loved, channeling a 1000 other tragic lonely souls, and delivering a trademark incredible, intense performance. The downtempo numbers boast heavy dub bass-lines. Foreshadowing the direction that the band would explore further in their next incarnation, the roots reggae fired, Groove Corporation. There are two big ballads, Deadline For My Memories and You And I Keep Holding On. The former details the debris of a break up. The latter is a lung-busting show stopper, that despite its flickering frequencies is steeped in the history of Memphis and Muscle Shoals. On Moving Downtown, Billie’s testifying like a Southern gospel preacher, above a melting pot of musical influences – Motown, Atlantic, and Stax – all stirred together – just like Primal Scream`s Screamadelica, or The Beloved’s Happiness – by the ecstasy-fueled second summer of love. There are parallels, too, between this “pop” and that of Generations Of Love-era Boy George and his More Protein label. Both George’s own releases and others on the roster, such as Eve Gallagher.
While Billie’s talent is allowed to dominate nearly all of the deliberately subtle productions*, the short sunset / sunrise worthy instrumental, Conquering Tomorrow, could easily have become a Cafe del Mar staple. Another highlight is Billie’s nod to her beloved Cabaret Voltaire (she once covered the whole of the pioneering industrial duo’s LP, The Crackdown) in her slow, sleazy, dialogue-sampling take on Throbbing Gristle`s creepy Persuasion. Polishing Genesis Breyer P-Orridge`s ode to predatory perversion into something darkly beautiful. Transforming the dirty “flasher” mac clad ditty into a simmering study of fantasy, obsession, and desire.
Electribe 101`s Electribal Soul will be released on March 18th, by Electribal Records.
*The other members of Electribe 101 – Brian Nordhoff, Joe Stevens, Les Fleming and Roberto Cimarosti – have been quoted as saying that “If a part bothered the vocals, it would go.”