Detroit makes its presence felt on this disc with Music Box regular Derrick May’s percolating remix of Model 500’s ‘The Chase’, while it sounds like his flickering magic at work on Neal Howard’s ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ (He did a mix on the 12” but the tracks were mislabelled so could be). Neal’s piano-pumping ‘The Gathering’ is also here. The omnipotent K-Alexi Shelby is from Chicago but made his debut on Derrick’s Transmat with the stripped-down 303-fest of ’Vertigo’, while second wave Detroit producer Jay Denham debuted as Fade To Black on Carl Craig’s Fragile imprint in 1990 with the In Synch EP from which comes the sub-aquatic Motor City turbo-scuttle of ‘The Calling’.
Back in Chicago and Chris Westbrook’s ’Make U Scream’ was an early sex-house classic (which I sampled for the first Secret Knowledge single), here in its S&M 303 orgy Deep House version. Liddell Townsell’s ghetto-tech presaging ‘Get The Hole’ and Jack Frost’s naked acid ‘Cool & Dry’ complete another gem-studded disc.
Incredibly, the really big guns come out on CD5’s Work The Box, of course referring to Hardy’s club which inspired many to make tracks in the hope the DJ would insert them into the devastating sets which saw him crank both speed and volume to shattering levels. The disc starts with Mr Fingers’ ‘Distant Planet’, marking the set’s only appearance by the mighty Robert Owens, one of the greatest soul voices of all time, who whispers and cries his way through a typically unearthly Larry Heard backdrop. Then it’s into the club’s dark maelstrom with another Marcus Mixx outing, remixed by Hardy in 1988. ‘The Spell’ throws up more coruscating beats [dominated by reverbed-to-fuck handclaps], contrastingly topped with African-flavoured marimba sequence and sepulchral synth lines. This was minimal in the true sense; sometimes just two ingredients on the go, but spiritual carnage. 1985’s ‘Sensation‘ was the only record released under Ron Hardy’s name and rarest of all Trax releases – pure groove rampage as a juddering sequence hops aboard his trademark heavyweight drum dynamics.
After Jack Frost’s characteristically stark ‘Clap Me‘ (foreshadowing the Richie Hawtin school of 303 control) and Santos’ nasty ‘Work The Box’, Laurent X’s piledriving 1987 acid classic ‘Machines’ represents the crucial House Nation label, later joined by the deeply resonant bass torpedo of his ‘Drowning In A Sea Of House’ (“Help!”). These both came from the same EP and he only made one other (‘It’s Magic’) but both tracks are sublimely executed masterworks of simplicity and imagination. Both the Laurent X tracks are followed by Phuture, the group which started it all. First, ‘We Are Phuture’, which brought voices to the fore over a slamming behemoth of a groove and rising acid, then all 12.25 of ‘Acid Tracks’, the tune created by Pierre, Spank and Herb by accident as they fiddled with Tyree’s 303 one day, hoping to make something Hardy could play. After persisting, it became the anthem for both his club and a movement. I got mine in New York’s Vinyl Mania the week it came out, persuaded to buy when told it was dangerous when I was in the shop. Even now, its malevolent squelch and toupee-whisking flutters send shivers down my spine. Credit also has to go to Marshall Jefferson, who banged it into shape and slowed it down for New York.
Two clock-stopping anthems to finish, almost the calm after the storm as Jungle Wonz’ ‘Time Marches On’ weaves its magical combination of poignant vocals and deep house resonance, before Mr Fingers’ ‘Can You Feel It’, the most emotionally-charged end-of-nighter of all time and only possible finale to this monumental collection.
I appear to have gone on a bit here but I’ve been obsessed with different kinds of music for over 50 years now and can safely say the body of work contained here ranks among the most unfailingly exciting, emotional and fascinating I’ve ever heard. This is the box I’ll take to my grave. Faultless so getting nothing less than an ultra-rare ten out of ten.
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