John Beltran / Ten Days of Blue (Live at Dekmantel) / All Good Music 

John Beltran released Ten Days Of Blue in1996. Twenty-six, twenty-seven, years ago. In the summer of 2022, John performed the album in its entirety, for the first time, live at the Dekmantel Festival in Amsterdam. The recording starts with crowd noise. A rumble of excitement and anticipation. Then silence. Before the opening orchestral chords. The sound of sampled surf and seabirds. This is followed by fidgeting, urgent, but delicate, fragile, hang-drum-like patterns. Poignant, peaceful. Somehow both a rush and a calm. Back in `96 I don’t think there’d been anything quite like it. While the record had its roots in other music, Ten Days Of Blue introduced its influences to a wider, younger audience. 

John Beltran Ten Days of Blue (Live at Dekmantel)

The album was licensed to Peacefrog. An imprint that I, and tons of others, bought on sight, initially for pioneering UK techno, produced by people such as Luke Slater and Steve “Stasis” Pickton. The likeminded US sounds of Dan Curtin. In the year that Ten Days Of Blue debuted, it was part of a Chicago-heavy roster that included Glenn Underground, Stacy Kidd, Paul Johnson, Gemini and Tim Harper. John’s set stood in contrast, apart from these dance-floor destroyers, as it echoed Steve Reich’s classical counterpoint and Manuel Gottsching’s E2-E4. Derrick May had, perhaps, previously touched on these things with his Transmat 12s, but Ten Days Of Blue established a new template, that countless artists would subsequently build upon. Plus proving that there was a definite market for this elegant stuff amongst folks who would normally only invest in big room bangers. 

John Beltran Ten Days of Blue (Live at Dekmantel)

In several places the live rendition actually adds more robust rhythms, such as snapping snares to the Sci-Fi symphonics of December’s Tragedy – making it a more obvious homage to Mayday’s Icon. With even a little Strings Of Life in there. What sounds like a happily clapping  and clicking TR-808 now drives the frantically fluttering Deluge. Tabla joins Gutaris Breeze’s haunting horn harmonies and tumbling steel pan tones. Flex features fierce snarling acid. The flickering title track pays tribute to Kraftwerk’s Tour De France, and similarly, on Venim And Wonder, percussive vocal snippets mimic said seminal side’s heavy breathing.* Its signature bells woven, though, around whale song. Soft Summer is still a delight of deliriously dancing sequences. Molecules moving, caught in rays of light. The concert, of course, ends in cheers and applause. 

John Beltran Ten Days of Blue (Live at Dekmantel)

All of these pieces are deeply engrained in my memory, as I played the original LP over and over. The mid-90s seemed to be a golden age for emotive, melodic, electronica. Ten Days Of Blue is a record that I cite often in reviews. A landmark that maybe everyone should own. Introspective, but with its eyes on clear skies, it’s totally, absolutely, uplifting. 

John Beltran Ten Days of Blue (Live at Dekmantel)

John Beltran’s Ten Days of Blue (Live at Dekmantel) is out now, care of All Good Music.

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