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Bedrock

Foundations

(US: Available as import; UK: 29 Oct 2001)

 


John Digweed
Los Angeles
(Global Underground)
US release date: 29 May 2001
by Mickey Stephens
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Bedrock is John Digweed’s UK dance club, a moniker for his mix collaborations with Nick Muir, and the label on which he releases his work (as Digweed, Bedrock and Digweed/Sasha) and mixes collected from other DJs on his global travels. Apart from CD compilations like the Northern Exposure series, the Bedrock label also releases 12” vinyl mixes for Club DJs. Most of these are only available in limited editions in the UK and Germany. Foundations collects these rarities for the first time in one place.


Only two Bedrock pieces are featured, as bookends opening and closing the first CD: John Johnson’s re-mix of “Heaven Scent” and its superb, mind-screwing, follow up, “Voices”. On the rest of Foundations, Digweed acts as DJ in the sense of mood-sequencer, trip-controller and musical guide, playing other people’s work. Each CD contains 7 extended mixes of from 8 to 12 minutes, all in Digweed’s signature prog-house/prog-trance style.


The Johnson re-mix of “Heaven Scent” adds a four-minute intro of jungle percussion that is half build-up/half disguise, but when that fractured, celestial synth figure kicks in we are transported inexorably back to the scene in Groove where Digweed saves the rave. I enjoyed Groove and “Heaven Scent” is a classic dance track, but somehow the association, not just with specific scenes in a movie, but with a scene in which John Digweed, as himself, plays this track at a rave, robs it of the abstract indeterminacy that I like in dance music and permanently anchors its signifying power to one set of images and equivalences.


None of this will affect you if you haven’t seen Groove, and the remainder of disc one is a feast of progressive trance. Science Department’s “Repercussion” and the flip side “Persuasion” lead to a previously unreleased mix of Van M and Leeds’ “More”. Moon Face’s paranoid “Future Fears” has a Brave-New-World-like voice enunciating ambivalent commands: “Open the doors of perception and see the world as it really is”. Invitation to enlightenment? Future vision of psychedelic fascism? Contact lens commercial? You decide.


Disc one peaks on the original mix of Bedrock’s “Voices”, also featuring a spoken-word sample, which Digweed seems to prefer to melodic vocals. This time an interrogative male voice asks: “Do you hear voices? Do you see visions? Premonitions?” The gray, authoritarian character of the voice, the mysterious, X-Files soundtrack, and the paranormal theme of the questions comment ironically on the shamanic power of the DJ, who can certainly make audiences hear voices and, with the right mix of chemicals, trance-inducing beats and verbal cues, invoke visions and premonitions.


Disc two is packed with edgy gems. On “Force 51” and “Moondiver”, Austin Leeds creates stark, semi-industrial rhythmic patterns punctuated by comic bursts of electro noise: blurps, braaps and other flatulent sonic emissions. Steve Lawler’s “Rise In” is a contrasting, pastoral piece, divided into several sections, and punctuated by a vocal that describes waking beside the ocean and being drawn in and cleansed by its power. Saints & Sinners’ “Pushin’ Too Hard” picks up the beat, pulsating and driving us into the set’s more hard-edged, percussive closers: Alchemy’s “Bruiser” and Revolt’s “Moonlit”.


Foundations is the past of Digweed’s art. Los Angeles, another double CD set, is its future. From the first track it is clear that Digweed has moved into a darker, chillier beyond. There are still some familiar landmarks—the alien atmospherics and science fiction themes—but the naïve optimism of “Heaven Scent” and the campy, supernatural melodrama of “Voices” have no place in these cold, menacing, off-world, sound-realms. The speaking voices are still there, but they have grown distant: astronauts broadcasting in deep space on “Apollo Vibes”. To anyone who may feel Digweed has become pass&eacute after the high visibility he gained with the Trainspotting soundtrack and his Groove appearance, Los Angeles shows his edge cutting finer and deeper than ever before.

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