Julian Cope presents Head Heritage


Released 1993 on Basic Channel
Reviewed by Lugia, 19/01/2004ce

In the tumult of the whole rave scene and its commercial transformation into "electronica" (a term I note that I detest!), there was a lot of stuff that didn't make it into the commercial pigeonhole, and remained a legend even among those in the scene itself. Such were the Basic Channel releases...a handful of 12"s which came out in the early-to-mid 90s which influenced the course of what came to be known as 'minimal techno' and which involved a shadowy creative alliance between notables in Detroit and Berlin. I say 'shadowy' because, from the info on any given Basic Channel release save for the first one, it's nearly impossible to tell what's up. Logos are photoshopped into blurs, track and artist info is either cryptic or missing altogether, and sometimes the record doesn't even play in expectable ways.

This release, in the midpoint of BC's creative arc before its transformation into the more straightforward Chain Reaction label/stable, is a very good example of what was going on here. "Presence" starts off like a typical four-on-the-floor techno track, and you'd be led to believe that that's all you have here. But it develops v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, as if this were some hybrid between techno and some sort of 'process' piece by the likes of Steve Reich. Over the beat and a continuous running sequencer, this jazz-chord pattern stabs in and out, morphing and getting filtered and tweaked, as what sounds like sheets of rain hiss across the soundfield off and on. This is less like what people expect out of techno and more akin to something hearkening back to an earlier 'Berlin school', to be honest...a definite feel from the likes of TD's "Thief" or "Risky Business" soundtracks has been copped here, with a nocturnal urban ambience that suggests some 3 AM high-speed drive in a downpour, city lights racing by blurred and glimmering. The ending gradually washes away into the hissing sonic deluge of rain against concrete and pavement. Unlike a lot of other crank-em-out DJ 12"s, this is evocative stuff, hypnotic and dark and edgy.

"Inversion", however, is another kettle of fish altogether. No kicks. No snares. No hi-hat. And the whole thing sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of a heavy water reactor. THIS doesn't sound like techno. No. THIS sounds like some missing outtake from, say "Cluster II". A rasping, repeating, primitive pulse very reminescent of sounds on that classic release holds sway here, as droning sounds softly fade in and out and echoed perspectives continuously shift in this cavernous reverberant space. If it had more going on, one would be tempted to refer to this as 'dubby'...but it's too sparse, spatial for that even though the delays do get their chance to kick things up around the midpoint. Eventually a subbass line does creep in and provide something vaguely resembling a cardiac-like 'beat'...but again, not exactly, as everything about this track can be described as 'vaguely'. One long subaquatic faze-out.

And by long, I mean LONG. This 12"'s two tracks come out at around the length of what would be a conventional LP. These are no little 7-minute rave-o-delic formula workouts, but concoctions of high trance that points squarely back at their kosmische-flavored origins. They're definitely a look into what techno MIGHT have been had the commercial machinery not latched onto it in the mid-90s or thereabouts and totally screwed it up/dumbed it down.

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