Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Reload - A Collection of Short Stories

A Collection of Short Stories

Released 1993 on Infonet
Reviewed by Lugia, 31/05/2004ce

Reload: "A Collection of Short Stories"
Infonet INF 4 CD, released 1993.

1) Teq
2) Peschi
3) Ahn
4) Rota Link
5) 1642 try 621
6) Ev-i-loy
7) Akzinor
8) Mosh
9) Ehn
10) Psychophylaxis
11) Le Soliel et la Mer
12) The Enlightenment
13) Event Horizon

One does not normally associate 'head' music with techno. This, however, is one of those rare and astounding exceptions, and truly a lost classic of the form.

Reload is the psuedonym of Global Communications' Mark Pritchard, although it should be noted that on many tracks here, he was joined by the other half of that duo, Tom Middleton. So technically, this is mainly a Global Communications album. But the real assessment is that this isn't exactly an album, anyway.

Why? Because along with the CD itself, there's a booklet of actual...yep...short stories, intended as accompaniment to the CD. Or is it the other way round? I'll quote from Dominic Fripp, the author of the stories:

"In this volume, each musical composition represents a story, in the same sense that each is based on a set of characters, situations, and experiences from fact and fiction, which provoke and evoke an emotional response. Far from being music, each piece is a portrait and a legacy."

Got that? Yeah...this is not dancefloor fodder, people. Rather, this is one possibility of where techno COULD HAVE gone, had the commercial necessities of the clubs and raves and so on not seized total control of the genre. There was a subcategory of this called "IDM" or "Intelligent Dance Music" for a while; "A Collection of Short Stories" definitely fits there, but even goes beyond that concept in scope. It actually fits best into the category of 'soundtracks', but whatever this is a soundtrack to presumably does not exist outside of the minds that created it or the mind of whoever may be listening to it.

There's a lot of different currents and textures afoot in here. Everything from straight-up dancefloor to Berlin kosmische-isms to ambient weirdness to pure spacemusic to industrial soundscaping to futuristic techno-electro-jazz come to the fore in turns. And in a few cases, several tracks graft together to form a suite-like construct that resembles nothing so much as a literal soundtrack to some short film or film scene. And samples bubble up here and there...sometimes recognizable, such as the "...something wonderful..." bit from "2010" found in "The Enlightenment/Event Horizon" (as I mentioned, these are two that 'run together'), and others as little obscure snips, sometimes ominously-placed, as in the bits in the whole "Rota Link/1642 try 621/Ev-i-loy" sequence.

It's not an easy album to describe due to the ebb and flow. While some tracks are seemingly pretty straightforward, like "Ahn" with its Detroit-inflected techno leanings, that same track also contains some very fragile and pretty things to it that you'd not consider 'techno'. And that sort of switcheroo is a constant throughout...you think you know what you're listening to, but...well, no, not necessarily. Musically, there's definite skill abounding on this. And the sources being drawn from are so diverse that, even when you DO hear something that you potentially recognize where the idea may have come from, those influences are so skillfully-worked that you can't come to any other conclusion than the one that says that there's real musical mastery here.

But is it 'head music'? Oh, hell yes. The 'imagination exercise' of combining the music and the very strange, sci-fi-styled writings of Dominic Fripp's stories puts this squarely in the 'mind-trip' ballpark, if the music left any doubt. And it's definitely 'unsung'; as I noted in a review I did of this album for Amazon.com some years back, Reload's effort here is very much something of a 'high-water-mark' for the whole techno scene, and one that was definitely lost to view in amongst the commercialized crapola that was to come in the following years. It's a direction...one might even call it something very related in mindset to prog...that COULD have been followed and really SHOULD have been followed but which sadly wasn't. So now it languishes as something for the cognoscenti, those who can see beyond the 'rare' tag it often gets from the collector's market to the core of real music and its attempt at serious high-concept art within. Damn shame; I would take ONE MORE "A Collection of Short Stories" over 1,000,000 Chemical Bros. or Prodigy or F(r)atboy Slim albums any day of the week!

If you're someone who's come to the conclusion that techno was and still is something totally dismissable, try and find a copy of this. It will majorly fuck up your preconceptions...but at the same time, don't rush out and expect to find much more in techno like this, because there's scant-damn-little that ever got in the same zone in ideas or quality. It's fairly close to a unique experience...sadly.

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