The Best Of House

OK! So don't rush out and buy these because, er, that would be a mistake. However, it would probably cost you about twenty pounds and into the bargain you'd get (quickly counts) sixteen completely awesome tracks. You'd also get a whole bunch of other drek in which the good "underground" stuff is hidden, the worst of which is the British stuff. These compilations on the Serious label came out in the late eighties and are made up quality tracks from New York, Chicago and Detroit mixed in with the first wave of chart-topping dance hits which were cut into the selection like talcum powder into imported cocaine. That's not an entirely sensible analogy for a clean-living dude like myself to make, but you've got to admit it's an accurate one.

There's a good, if radically confused, piece at Pitchfork about IDM this week. Simon Reynolds writes a good introduction and then a bunch of people come up with poor suggestions about what, in their manifold ignorance, they consider to be good IDM records. What the feature doesn't mention is that IDM in the UK was a reaction to just this dynamic that is audible in the Serious compilations. A bunch of arrogant, overly-socialised cunts and posers discovered the marvellous and magical things that were coming from the USA. They were largely oblivious to their artistic majesty, and proceeded to rip-off, wreck and dilute what made them magnificent by promoting randomly-selected commercial rip-offs (also from the USA but of commercial sources) and their own cheesy home-grown attempts. You only have to listen to the WARP Influences CD to understand what, in its original and purest sense, IDM was. The geeks at the back of the room who upon listening to the mess the London "elite" had made of their music had been scratching their heads and whispering to themselves in confusion "Oh no, that's not it's all about..." They simply wanted to reconnect to the original spirit of the music.

It took a while for the UK to develop a music which was actually the same in spirit as the original American music (as mad, fucked-up, bleak and tracky as the best music coming out Detroit, Chicago and New York). In that early transitional phase before Ardkore kicked in, and "the people" began to understand the same dirty Drug/Music relationship that had long been grasped by the likes of Ron Hardy at the Warehouse, we had to tolerate a lot of a shit.

This is why the Ardkore - vs - Detroit argument is fundamentally incorrect. Of course Ardkore had more in common with Detroit than with anything else! That's why Mark Ryder's M-D-EMM "Get Acidic" came out on Transmat along with the closely 'nuum affiliated Bang The Party's "Release Your Body". That's why Kevin Saunderson licensed Nexus 21, Manix and Blame. That's why 4 Hero put out "The Deepest Shade of Techno". That's why all manner of Ardkore heroes were Detroit Techno fans from the more obvious Fabio and Bukem right the way through to the unruly Dillinja. And in some very real senses British IDM, as I argued in the sonics of the Fragments mix, was the twin brother of Ardkore. They were two faces of the same coin. That's why you have Aphex making "Pac-Man" or Mark Pritchard graduating from Shaft's "Roobarb and Custard" to Global Communication to say nothing of the Nexus 21/Altern8 switch-over.

I used to own all these Serious Records in a massive box that I picked up in Glasgow in the nineties for, ooh, was it a tenner? It also included the two excellent Acid LPs (more on that soon). Then, because it contained a lot of shit music, I dismantled the box and kept what were my favorite two discs (can't remember precisely which ones but I always loved The Keynotes "Let's Let's Dance" and Cultural Vibe's "Ma Foom Bey"). Then, of course those two records didn't have sleeves. So I threw them away and picked up the actual LPs with their charmingly shit artwork. Then a dealer by accident sent me another one I didn't have - at which point I had three of the five discs with their sleeves. So then I decided, fuck this, I need all of these to form a perfect set around which I could draw a magic circle. I found one from a dealer on Discogs - and they are ubiquitous and cheap.

With the last one I went analog and I cycled down the canal to Vinyl Pimp in Hackney because their website showed that they Volume 3 in stock. My phone died on the way down there and so I had cycle through Victoria Park asking people if they had a phone on them and if so would they awfully mind pointing me in the direction of Felstead Street. I had to do this twice, once to get me to the right exit of the park, the second time to get me across the motorway to the shop itself. It's a pretty weird unit with a modular synth studio in a section of it and a coffee machine too - typical hipster nonsense really. They only have a very few records on sale and although expensive, extremely good and interesting ones - definitely worth a visit. It's a storage unit for a ton of records really, not a shop. I had to get the guy who was making coffee to call his boss and tell him where "The Best of House Volume 3" was in the mass of vinyl at the back. I paid the princely sum of £1.49. Quite a little adventure. For someone who is allegedly not buying vinyl any more I seem to spend a lot of time doing just that.



On hearing that Mick Jagger had described the wrinkles on his face as ‘laughter lines’ – George Melly retorted ‘Nothing is that funny’.


Detroit Compilations

Where it all started. Faultless. Great track after great track and Derrick's side-long DJ mix of everything to boot.

And then the Second Wave. Much harder to find back in the day. Invaluable for Carl Craig's beautiful "Elements" which for a long time was unavailable elsewhere.

Networks seminal "biorhythm" compilation.

Not just Detroit music, but three tracks from Detroit and one from Chicago's Neal Howard who had a strong Detroit connection. Notable too for two from Mark Archer and Chris Peat. These before the dissolution of Nexus 21 and the unstoppable rise of their rave alter-ego Altern-8. Everyone had a copy of this. Features the best version of Rhythim Is Rhythim's "Emanon" which is unavailable elsewhere.

More early, useful, Network/Kool Kat business. For a long time the Transmat stone tablets were extremely hard to get hold of - on scarce imports or occasionally at record fairs only - so something like this was a god-send. Studied, yes studied, very closely.

And the later "expanded version" on R&S. A little unwieldy. The Buzz Transmat "Relics" Compilation was nicer but I've sold my copy of that. Which I regret a little.

Great early KMS compilation. Some choice Transmat licensing too. Features Janet Street-Porter's squeeze Normski on Magic Juan's "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah". Never liked the second "Made In Detroit" KMS comp which I sold a long time ago.

Mark and Dego 4Hero's loving tribute to Detroit. Some UR and more third wave tracks. All of these before the pounding, usually boring, minimalism of Rob Hood and Jeff Mills.

Utterly awesome, faultless, indispensable Damon Booker Retroactive compilation. Retroactive, possibly the hippest record label ever. A friend came by the house a couple of years ago with the beautiful Sarah Gregory in tow and I rushed up to my study to bring her down my copy of "Wrap Me In Its Arms" - both of us standing there slightly embarrassed. Classic record geek behaviour.

Like "Equinox" above, this "Panic In Detroit", is another lovely comp by Belgium's Buzz. Tinges of Soul and Ambience but not in a cartoon-ish "we're funky and intellectual" way.

Very good +8 records compilation. I used to have the second, less good one too.

Carl Craig's amazing Planet E label's first compilation. The LP of this beauty was never available at Fat Cat when I went in. That's where I bought a lot of my Detroit Techno. Puzzlingly I had the "Bug In The Bassbin" twelve which shopped with it - so they must have become uncoupled. I think I have all the twelve inches though... (sighs) I'm just so cool...

The second E Planet Compilation also fantastic.

And a great roundup of Carl's Paperclip People releases. Bought as new, the £7 sticker was from when the house was burgled and I found it in the local record shop! Tsk.

Ho, ho! The Detroit "Retro" compilation. When things were moving so fast that retro meant four years ago :-O Bloody lovely record. And super helpful geek-tastic breakdown of KMS/Metroplex/Transmat releases with catalogue numbers on the inner before this kind of information was to be found at the press of a button.

Gorgeous, gorgeous collection of Detroit and the techno diaspora. Contributions from UK man dem, Neuropolitique, As One (Kirk Degiorgio) and B12 as Redcell as well as Derrick, Carl, Stacey and Kenny.

And this dream-dish. Utterly unmissable.