The concept behind the I Like It series is remarkably simple. Each disc features a handful of favorite tracks selected by a handful of electronic music producers. It works differently than, say, a Back to Mine or DJ Kicks release, in that the necessity of only being able to choose three tracks forces each artist to pick their absolute favorites. No attempt is made to segue or mix the tracks into anything resembling a cohesive whole, so the result is a fairly eclectic and quite schizophrenic entity.
But, as you might expect, the music on display is also pretty damn good. The producers in question—Trevor Jackson (who also produces under the name Playgroup), Pole, Rochard Dorfmeister and Trickski—are all seasoned pros with many years’ experience, in addition to massive record collections that inform the breadth and depth of their individual selections. In lieu of liner notes, the disc comes with “trading cards” for each producer, which include stats on the size of their record collections as well as other bits of related trivia, in addition to brief explanations relating to each of their chosen records.
Trevor Jackson’s selections, as might be expected from someone so intimately associated with the New Wave revival, all hail from the frothy storm of the 1980s. Colourbox lead off with their cover of Augustus Pablo’s “Baby I Love You So”, an effectively deep reggae track that presages the subliminally heavy work of trip-hoppers such as Massive Attack. Julian Jonah’s “Jealousy and Lies” is an electro-house ancestor with a funky, irresistably primitive 808 rhythm and a sultry vocal performance that presages every Trax hit ever recorded. Propaganda’s 10-minute “Echo of Frozen Faces” is an epic in the vein of the Art of Noise, albeit with a much stronger backbeat. It was undoubtedly a killer track when it was first released, and despite a few squonky synth noises the structure and build is remarkably prescient—this could still slay on any dancefloor across the land.
Pole’s three selections are, as anyone familiar with the producer might expect, weird and not at all what you may have expected. David Thomas’ “Monster Magee, King of the Sea” sounds more like something you might expect from one of the new breed of freak folk artists than one of the world’s foremost minimal dub producers. Imagine a shambling accordian melody accompanying a strange Muppet-like singer who intones the track’s title over and over again for just over two minutes: it’s still probably a lot weirder than whatever you’re thinking. And then we’ve got the Goats’ “Do The Digs Dug”, a hip-hop track from around 15 years ago (to judge by the political references to the first Bush administration) that seems unjustly forgotten, with an accomplished Daisy Age-by-way-of-the-Bomb Squad sound. Headset’s “Grasping Claw” is the only track that hints at Pole’s usual hypnotically minimal agenda, with burbles and blips rising out of a primal smog, accompanied by clattering snare drums and bilingual rapping—in both Japanese and english.
Richard Dorfmeister’s selections, on the other hand, are almost exactly what you would expect from such an iconic and distinctive producer. Freidrich Guida’s “The Air from Other Planets” is a solo piano jazz record that betrays its composer’s reputation as one of the most esteemed Mozart players of his day in its well-elaborated melodic structure, a far cry from the crowded space-jazz of the day while still appropriately mind-expanding. Allez Allez’ “African Queen”, much like Dorfmeister’s own production, features the distinctive combination of a deep, jazz-influenced groove and spacey, smokey melodic elements. Can’s “Shikato Maru Ten”, while only two minutes long, still manages to communicate that group’s distinctive and unmistakable dedication to the deep groove—a dedication, and an ethos, shared by Dorfmeister.
Of the producers involved in the compiling of this disc, I was least familiar with Trickski, but their selections prove their allegiance to the most sublime aspects of the old school. Walt J and Dave Peoples’ “Starting Over” is one of the very first Detroit techno tunes, and it still carries a commanding authority. Elbee Bad’s “Just Don’t Stop The Dance” is, similarly, a classic that still sounds utterly unique. The stuttering kick-drum juxtaposed with a quiet, whispering voice and a handful of extra melodic elements is a template that was decades ahead of its time—in the liner notes, Trickski compare the production to the Neptunes, and certainly there’s an argument to be made that this track presages “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by a good two decades. The P-Funk All-Stars’ “Hydrulic Pump” is a funky, percussive proto-house tune that confirms George Clinton’s status as a dance music innovator, as if such a self-evident fact ever needed confirming.
The compilers have chosen to round the disc off with a Tricksi track, “Hormony”. It is interesting that they chose to do this, considering the fact that I was least familiar with Trickski’s output prior to receiving this disc. Based on this sample, I think I may just seek out more, because there is a lot to like here: it sounds slightly retro, in terms of the omnipresent 1/32 note hi-hat tap, but there is also a thoroughly modern approach to melodic color that reminds me of the Chemical Brothers at their most trancey. Interesting stuff, and hardly a bad way to end such an exemplarary disc.
// Notes from the Road
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