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.