02 October 2005


A Fistful Of Forgemasters

Any mention of Robert Gordon and The Forgemasters is guaranteed to send a shudder of awe rippling down my spine. Although Gordon was involved in a variety of production/remix projects in Sheffield thanks to his pioneering work at FON studio, it's his Bleep 'n' Bass productions around 1990-91 that will always hold a special place in my heart. Despite a pitifully small discography, The Forgemasters (Gordon with Winston Hazel and Maher) left a devastating legacy. The very first Warp Records release was their "Track With No Name"/"Shall We...?", a perfect vacuum-sealed package of ice-cold electro-percussion, spine-tingling ethereal riffs, sensual snatches of breathy femininity and of course the merciless sub-bass frequencies. One of the greatest records of it's time. Although they never recorded for Warp again, in 1991 Network released the "Black Steel" EP, featuring a jittery remix of "Track With No Name", along with the absolute killer tune "Stress", rightly highlighted by Mr. Reynolds in Energy Flash as one of the key recording of the genre, featuring the same kind of unearthly textural patterns that made LFO tracks like "Freeze" so spellbinding.

Network also released another seminal Gordon EP, "The Mood Set",this time in collaboration with 'Living Legend' Richard H. Kirk, under the alias Xon. "Dissonance" remains the absolute stone-cold classic here - a brutal electro-throwback, with morphed snatches of Cybotron's "Techno City" weaving through the dense, alien sound-matrix. Gordon's working relationship with Kirk was extensive during this period, including regular remix work for the still-active Cabaret Voltaire and, in particular, his definitive interpretation of "Testone" (by Kirk's other side project Sweet Exorcist) known as "Test Four", which is so essential it's practically the official version now. Hallowed ground...


Who were F-X-U? I've no idea. They released the "Steel City" EP on the Made On Earth imprint, which suggests a Sheffield connection. I don't actually own a copy of that (it's one of those releases I feel I really should own, but never got around to tracking down). What I do have is a white label copy of "The Scheme" b/w "The Chase", featuring some very "LFO"-ish synth melodies and some pretty raw sub-bass with a violenty sharp attack time. The 909 patterns and proto-trance riffs are efficient but unremarkable...a bit similar to some of the early Belgian stuff from Spectrum and CJ Bolland. "The Chase" features a crude mono-synthetic approximation of the true 'test tone' bleep riff. Without doubt F-X-U were a second-division bleep act, but still this is an interesting period piece that may find it's way onto the decks at some point on Thursday...