HEO – Memories of the Future 1992-1999 (Hooj Choons)
It’s a great story, how one of the most lauded house labels of the 90’s seemed to disappear after such immense success. It’s a great story, because nobody really seems to know why.
Many have conjectured as to what label boss and co-founder Red Jerry is doing now, and what happened to the immense 136 track back catalogue which was effectively one of the greatest curated soundtracks, to what many consider, to be the greatest decade of house music; the 90’s.
What we do know is Hooj Choons made a brief comeback in 2007 with a re-release of Medway’s ‘Resurrection’ and then in 2011 ‘The Wasp EP’ by Dopefish but a consistent return never materialised.
It was with some shock when the rumour mill started to rumble about the return of Hooj swiftly followed by this release of orchestral reconstructions of selected Hooj Choons classics under the artist name HEO (Hooj Ensemble Orchestra). The rhetoric is brief but the updated story is the Hooj Choons catalogue owners wanted orchestral versions of some of their favourite tracks featured on the label. Something different, a creative way to interpret these much loved tracks.
My own personal dislike of orchestral renditions of electronic music is fairly well documented. I don’t see the point in reinventing what is essentially a DIY, punk ethic, hedonistic medium into a genre that can never capture the kick-drum-banging, bass-rumbling, syncopated goodness that emerged from that heady scene.
I have no issues with the use of real orchestras in electronic music. So when I peeled off the first layer of this release I was pleased to see that these versions were hybrid, orchestral but retaining some of the original (or replayed perhaps) electronic elements.
There are some great choices here too, ‘Cafe Del Mar‘ (of course!), but ‘Fruit of Love’, ‘Love Stimulation’, ‘Seven Cities’, ‘Sacred Cycles’ and my favourite Hooj Choons release; ‘Stage One’.
The excitement around this release has been immense, and you have to recognise that it’s a brave move to re-imagine a classic back catalogue on this reemergence of a much loved label.
The quality is extremely good too, I actually like some of these versions better than the originals which have (if I am brutally honest) dated slightly.
However, I cant pretend that I wasn’t disappointed to not have a more traditional approach to re-imagining this body of work. In saying that I have revisited this release in quite a few different environments and it does work very well. The melodies hold together outside of the club environment and that has to be the true endorsement of the original works. Let’s also recognise what seems to be an unbelievable amount of effort that has gone into this one release in what must be a back-catalogue whispering, fondle of love to the originals.
There is a further whisper that the more traditional remix approach to these tracks may not be far away. Let’s look forward to seeing how justice can be done to the same stellar back-catalogue and how the originals stand up to today’s hyper-scrutinised environment.
In the meantime, be thankful for creative and imaginative people and the reemergence of the Hooj Choons label. The world is a better place with ‘the occasional providers of half decent house’ back in it.