Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Primal Scream—
Echo Dek


Released 1997 on Creation
The Seth Man, June 2003ce
In the wake of their stunning, ably dubbed and flat-out fucked double album (daubed supremely with dab handed post-production mixage and vintage signal disorienters manipulated just in time for the then-approaching turn of the millennium) “Vanishing Point,” Primal Scream followed up one-two punch-like with its instrumental version companion album “Echo Dek” that exhibited an astonishing overspill of ideas from its double LP source.

Originally released as a white label vinyl album, a brown paper digipak, a box set of 4 singles and finally as a black inlayed jewel-cased CD that holds a track listing unique to all the other configurations, “Echo Dek” saw The Scream Team’s Adrian Sherwood manning the re-mixing board as a majority of tracks were taken from “Vanishing Point” and were promptly de-assembled, erased, cut up and reconstructed outwards into an even further and abstract dub orbit. “Echo Dek” is a falling dub/echo chamber zone messed all over with electro spew and processed noise intuitively woven inside and out the rhythm with an IQ of Einstein, the beating pulse of rock’n’roll and the feel of a Greenwich Town producer as Sherwood’s post-production alterations subverted it all with severe electronic trimming and exposed the rhythms for a studio tan while editing drop-in samples with exactness and G-force abruptness. This multi-layer burrowing of the backing tracks chips away blocks of its former structure and left the alternating samples free to run unbridled throughout.

Starting up with a pitched-controlled test tone that curves directly into snatches of synth arabesques, background wah-wah-ing and a slow drum drubbing is “Living Dub”: all slow, supine and curling languidly all over place as the version partner of “Long Life.” “Duffed Up” may be a remix of “Get Duffy” and/or “Trainspotting”...or neither. The opening harpsichord line is lightly reverbed and delicate, parting for the blaring, sampled rifferama of a fluid, near-tipsy horn section accurately placed over the slowly cracking, never swerving “Trainspotting” drum pattern that squares off and threads these two divergent sound elements together smarter than matching natural pearls on a strand. “Revolutionary” (aka “Star”) slips out from the ether quietly, retaining most of the horns as well as Augustus Pablo’s melodica from the original and all of its gentle vibe. “JU-87,” the first of two re-mixes of “Stuka” on the album cuts in with a jungle of drums as dive-bombing as the original and the nightmare-shaped Nazi aircraft namesake as well. Against a rhythmic sample and a continually rung queue prompting bell, chilling drums crack further and further away yet resound only louder and louder in a Grand Canyon-sized echo chamber. A slowed voice sneaks in towards the end with lurking intent and the combination of it all over the brashly rendered drums and percussion is some of the most imbalanced and disoriented dub produced in the nineties.

“First Name Unknown” is a re-jigged “Kowalski” rendered with half the bass and far more beats than its original on “Vanishing Point.” An added synthesizer line buzzes and burrows through distant drum machines that thrash and hammer the background studio air flat as a cross-cutting of phased noise trajectories swipe by. It’s here that the rhythms become the harshest ones of the entire album but the layer of synthesizer phrasings, modulations and the whole kitchen sink of cut and paste noise works together to create a liberating abandonment to leave your reeling senses behind. Lost fragments from ancient radio waves open up “Vanishing Dub,” a version of the MK-ultra-detached-ness that is “Out Of The Void.” But “Vanishing Dub” is even more spaced out: framed as it is by damp, subterranean grooves and low, low electric piano chords that cast successive shadows upon shadows. Several percussion rhythms resound in the back, accompanied by occasional deep bass thudding and booming. Leftover shards of Bobby Gillespie’s vocal intone through miles of cavernous echo, as though trying to grasp something just out of reach and the piece ends just before he can -- with a slowly melting icicle of a keyboard riffs that drips slower and slower -- until it just disappears like a dream. “Last Train” is “Trainspotting” disinterred once more with a sonic overhaul as a flurry of percussion defines the background while its unmistakable drum track takes some time to warm up to begin its unchanging solid groove odyssey through a tunnel vision of flying dub, dark shapes and distant voices that unsuccessfully call for attention. It runs on undeterred despite fragments of harmonica blatting, ringing telephones and threatening keyboard bass lines when a subtle electric piano line coming to the fore as a small, simple yet brave guiding light through the ever-darkening dub landscape of it all. The second re-mix of “Stuka” returns as “Wise Blood” with a single, irrigating noise synth scrawled distortedly all over the beginning and into a cracking snare as a Prince Far I vocal sample expands further when dropped into the huge vat of echo always at the ready. Aircraft FX swoop down amidst the dub clatter of echoed drums as that chillingly inhuman and repeatedly pressed queue bell is darkly reprised. Fragments of the former track go flying by with extremely uncalled-for echo abuse that turns “Wise Blood” into a place where every sounds seems to be either delayed or decayed...and that includes the drums, leaving the double bass/distorted-synth signal as the only element to keep things on course.

The extra track on this version of “Echo Dek” is entitled “Dub In Vain” -- in all certainty a reference to “Train In Vain,” the unlisted track The Clash concealed at the very end of side four of “London Calling.” It’s a re-mix of their ’72 Stones meets that “Spirit In The Sky” groove they called “Medication” that features an ever-expanding, spongy Moog treatment that bounces up and down giddily behind the naked backing track with extra big-assed electro drums thrown in just in case. Mouth harp briefly starts up a-wailin’ as though to keep the track’s original Mick’n’Keef integrity from careening altogether into dub freefall but it’s too late as the vocals pitch bend, stutter and echo-echo-echo-ECHO-o-o-ooooo over and out until the approaching end when a huge fuzz-bass starts propping up the whole mess as it collapses with over-echoed vocal war-whooping before it all signs off.

I’m grateful that Creation Records chose to spend so much effort and Oasis money on this project and gave it the special treatment and attention to detail it deserved. Thanks, Alan McGee: I really needed an album like this when it was first released, and I need and love it to this day.