12 November 2003

On a more positive note, I've been loving this new collection from Rephlex, called appropriately enough "Rephlexions! - An Album Of Braindance!". As I don't keep up with everything that Messrs James and Wilson-Claridge deem fit to release, I find such compilations most informative.

This is a much more satisfying selection than 2001's "The Braindance Coincidence", which didn't seem to gel, possibly due to the varying vintages of the recordings. For instance, u-ziq's "Swan Vesta", although still a perfectly enjoyable example of class-of-94 home-brewed techno in isolation, seems somewhat dull and simplistic when sandwiched between AFX's remix of Baby Ford's "Normal" and Vulva's "Happy Birdie! Sad Birdie!".
"Rephlexions" hangs together much better and obviously some care and attention has gone into the track selection and running order. All the artists featured display their own (however subtly) distinctive approach whilst forming an overall cohesive philosophy of sound that goes someway to explaining the ethos behind Rephlex's release schedule. As Grant Wilson-Claridge states in this months interview with David Stubbs for The Wire, "if you compare one of our compilations with one of (Warp's) , you'll see the difference between us". Certainly, there's a playfulness and subversive humour running through Rephlex's roster that provides a nice counterpoint Warp's often more ernest worldview. I couldn't imagine the gloriously unselfconscious '80s electropop of DMX Krew on Warp for starters, and with "I'm All Alone", Ed DMX serves up another delightfully angst-ridden ditty that just manages to stay the right side of outright pastiche. Speaking of pastiche, I have mixed views on the Gentle People's retro-exotica, but here they convince with "Emotion Heater (Tiki Mix)" that sits somewhere between Martin Denny and the Beach Boys' "Diamond Head".

Glitchy drill 'n' bass is still very much in evidence, although the work of Yee-King and D'Arcangelo reveals a more emotional and pastoral side, seemingly following the blueprint of Aphex's "Richard D. James Album", whilst Aphex himself provides possibly the least charming track, "Mangle 11", which sounds like a "Druqks" outtake. Hard, fast, noisy... but ultimately unlovable. I'm waiting for some more of those beautiful piano experiments, Richard.

Cylob and Bogdan Raczynski provide more topnotch home-brewed madness and Luke Vibert fucks everyone over with his brilliant "Remember This", recorded under his Amen Andrews moniker. It's an absolute thrill from start to finish, that choon. Me love Luke. If I was a girl, I'd definitely shag 'im, regardless of his eating habits and facial hair.

Leila makes an appearance with the wondrous "A"; a dark, twisted nightmare of a track. There's something about her work that makes me think it's by a bloke. It's not that women can't be experimental electronic artists - people like Delia Derbyshire and Pauline Oliveros set that precedent decades ago - but Leila's anal production techniques and cloying atmospherics feel sort of masculine to me. But who am I to discuss sexual stereotypes? I hate football but my wife's a rabid Everton fan. Go figure....

Perhaps the biggest surprises are the 'classical avant-garde' pieces by Robert Normandeau and Ensemble, which perhaps hint at James and Wilson-Claridge's desire to be seen as part of a lineage from Cage, Stockhausen and the like. These tracks work well in the framework of 'Braindance' music, providing suitably abstract interludes to the more percussion-obsessed styles that Rephlex has always thrived on.

Here's to Braindance. Long may it reign....