V/A – Soma Compilation 21 – Mixed by Gary Beck
Label: SomaScore: 9/10
Where do you start with Soma? For a start, the label is now Britain’s longest running independent dance imprint. Few have stayed the course with such passion and suss as Slam duo Stuart Macmillan and Orde Meikle, who still A&R their label’s output themselves with backroom honcho Dave Clark making it happen, while continuing their long-running Pressure nights in Glasgow and that heaving tent at T In The Park.
Since launching in 1991, Soma has steadily built one of the most formidable bodies of work in the whole of house and techno, notable for names sticking with the label for life (maybe with the exception of a certain Daft Punk), while also discovering and airing bright new talent. Gary Beck caused a stir with his Soma debut album last year and has come up with his first commercially available mix CD to present highlights of what the label released in 2012.
It’s an expertly crafted set in the grand tradition of rising to a peak and coasting back down but executed with such smoothly intricate subtlety the tension, big moments and cathartic release seem to manifest like some kind of metaphysical gush from the massed todger squads of Olympus. Gary literally brings his mix in from a speck in the distance with the sepulchral, ghostly shimmer of ‘Tonality Of Night – Spiral 1’ from DeepChord’s Sommer album, which proceeds to exchange sonic particles with the twinkling melodic bends of Joe Stawarz’s swirling Ambivalent Byways Mix of ‘M17’ before toughening into acid house throb mode for Heiko Laux and Steve Rachmad’s ‘The Viking’, a masterwork of sparking turbo-dynamics. That’s followed by the classic catalogue highlight of Scott Grooves’ ‘Mothership Reconnected’ homage to Parliament-Funkadelic as reworked by Claude VonStroke, the early 80s New York synth motifs of Mark Henning’s smooth-sailing ‘You’re Digging into Me’ and pressure-cooking loincloth-detonation of Pig & Dan‘s ‘Origami’.
From here it’s deliciously uphill all the way, with Mark Reeve’s surging ‘Dice’ and Gary’s densely-packed ‘Algoreal’ unleashing the set’s most cataclysmic battle weapon, compounded by the merciless lower frequencies of Alex Under‘s ‘Addendum‘. The set winds up by revisiting three solid gold classics by names who’ve been with Soma since the earliest days. Funk D’Void’s majestic ‘Diabla’ given a roof-raising Final Track of the Night Edit by Christian Smith & Whebba, Silicone Soul’s timeless ‘Right On, Right On’ replanted in the garden of radioactive testicles by Mathias Tanzmann and Ricardo Villalobos sprinkling his magic over Envoy’s ‘Seawall’.
While many of their contemporaries have fallen into money-grabbing Vegas parody or just vanished, Slam’s Soma Records remains an embodiment of the original exploratory spirit and passion which gestated in the bedrooms and bunkers of 80s Detroit, moving with the times while burning bright as ever. That one of the year’s best mix CDs can be delivered by a bloke who’s just released his first album is further affirmation of their unifying greatness