A GUEST POSTING FROM SWISS ADAM
The final ICA of 2016 during which there have been so many top-notch guest contributions covering all genres. Today’s is again, something a bit special and epic. When he dropped the e-mail to me, Swiss Adam said “Please take this off my hands- I keep changing it, adding songs, taking them off, re-doing it. It’s doing my head in.”
Anyone who has ever turned their hand to an ICA will know exactly what he means…..
Andrew Weatherall ‘Just What Is It That You Want To Do?’
‘We want to be free. We want to be free, to do what we want to do. And we want to have a good time. And we want to have a party. And that’s what we’re gonna do. We gonna have a party’
Anyone who’s paid even the most infrequent visits to Bagging Area will know that I hold Andrew Weatherall and his work in high regard. For well over a quarter of a century he’s been one of British music’s true maverick and creative spirits, a dj, producer, remixer and writer who has trod his own path, often turning away from the light and the easy money towards something darker and more interesting. As an artist whose fingerprints are all over well over 650 tracks reducing this to a mere 10 is nigh on impossible.
I’ve decided to break his work up into logical chunks, themed around different phases, starting off with a two-disc set. The first takes in his remix work, some early ones from the late 80s and early 90s where he made his name and then some recent ones. Both demonstrate why remixing, in the right hands, is so much more than just adding a clubby drumbeat to a guitar or pop song. The second pulls together his 90s group Sabres Of Paradise (with Jagz Kooner and Gary Burns) and his 90s/00s next step Two Lone Swordsmen (with Keith Tenniswood). This still involves leaving out massive chunks of his output which we’ll have to return to another time.
Disc One: Side One- The Early Remixes
So to open, no Loaded. Seems counter intuitive I know. Loaded is a masterful record, a call to arms and a call to the dancefloor. It gave Weatherall a big break and ensured Primal Scream had a career. But this is better. Ten minutes of perfect, bubbling gospel house with the Reverend Jesse Jackson sample and Screamadelica’s mission statement- ‘all those are just labels, we know that music is music’.
Saint Etienne’s waltz time cover of Neil Young turned into a dub odyssey, spliced in the middle by the reggae sample. The two halves- dub first, song second- pull the bass and rhythm to the fore and make something very special indeed.
After Screamadelica, Weatherall went on to sprinkle his magic production dust over One Dove’s debut album and genuine lost classic Morning Dove White. He then further re-worked his own productions on the singles. I could just have easily included the Guitar Paradise Mix of White Love here (and if I’d waited 24 hours to submit this probably would have) but this 10 minute excursion is cinematic, dub influenced pop. New genre for you there.
The Orb taken to bass heavy extremes with a righteous Misty In Roots vocal sample. ‘Roots music, music which records history, music which tells about the future…’
This is something else. Taking the guitar riff from MBV’s spectral Soon, a crashing sample from West Bam and the chunkiest rhythm Weatherall re-defines the guitar band remix. Everything turned up as far as it needs to go, everything in exactly the right place. Still sounds massive today.
These are the big hitters from his early years- and miss out some other superb remixes- two totally essential versions of New Order’s Regret, Finitribe’s speaker rattling 101, a housed up S’Express, Sly and Lovechild ‘The World According To… Weatherall (which I love), Happy Mondays, The Grid, some magnificent Jah Wobble remixes- any one of which could be substituted for something from the above. Not to mention Loaded.
Disc One: Side Two- The Recent Remixes
I was going to open up Side Two with Weatehrall’s majestic remix of Primal Scream’s ‘Uptown’ (Long After The Disco is Over). It is full of sweeping New York in the 70s strings summoning end of night euphoria/melancholy. After a few years laid low this was proof the creative juices were flowing again. But Primal Scream opened Side One so it’s only fair to cast the net a bit further.
Moby made an album of white-robed pop and asked Wayne Coyne to sing some lyrics about drug addiction. Weatherall threw everything at this remix, from the joyous intro to the bubbling arpeggios, turned the verses and choruses around, added krautrock synths, breakdowns, layered gospel vocals, some sliding, keening sounds, a load of echo. Raise your hands.
More dub. A beautifully bouncy bass extracted from a largely acoustic Steve Mason record and then looped, reverbed and echoed out into space.
This record is utterly insane, starting out like True Faith and taking in a deranged vocal. It sounds like the best few minutes you could ever spend off your tits in a dark room with flashing lights, dry ice and strangers all around you. NB This is a good thing yeah? Every vinyl copy of this 12” single went up in flames in a warehouse fire in 2011. That’s how hot it is.
Fuck Buttons make a very intense kind of noise from toy instruments and computers. Weatherall fine-tuned them a little, stretched them out and added a rhythm. In a way this is his My Bloody Valentine remix redone for the 21st century.
Mike Garry’s wonderful poem for Tony Wilson, a celebration of the Factory boss and ‘Manchester music, marijuana, majesty and Karl Marx’, was set to music by Joe Dudell, a string quartet version of New Order’s Your Silent Face. Weatherall took it back to the electronic roots of Power, Corruption and Lies. Released to raise funds for cancer charities and The Christie hospital- go buy it.
Apologies to Wooden Shjips, Toy, Moby and Wayne Coyne and a host of others who have been rejigged to perfection in recent years- another disc, another night.
Disc Two: Sabres Side
1993. Based around a chord sequence from an L.B. Bad track Sabres Of Paradise put out this 12” single and moved electronic dance music forwards (again). Almost classical in structure and executed beautifully. If this was the only thing Sabres did, it would be enough. Add the ambient Beatless Mix and David Holmes’ piano-and-majorettes madness and you could fill one side of a C90 and listen to it non-stop on long bus rides to work. Which I did.
This single came out in 1994 and bursts out of the speakers with a hip-hop drumbeat, a huge surging horn part and then some spiralling guitar parts. On the front foot for seven minutes, the end section twists and turns trippily, on and on and on.
Haunted Dancehall, Sabres’ 1994 album, was a soundtrack through the capital in the footsteps of our hero Nicky McGuire. This track starts out with a jerky drumbeat and builds from there, drawing the listener into to its circular funk. Don’t go looking for the novel the sleeve notes quote from, or our hero Mr McGuire. Neither exist outside the haunted dancehall.
More deeply dubby stuff, this time a 1994 B-side. It’s partner Return Of Carter is equally good.
Twisted voodoo dub with horns that snake and skank all over the place, partly inspired by Trinidadian calypso star from the 1940s Wilmoth Houdini. Bacardi paid a ridiculous sum to use this on an advert- the song survives such tawdriness. The money paid for a studio.
Disc Two: Swordsmen Side
The first TLS album covered many musical bases-this track with a bassline so large you could ride it, is ominous and menacing and provides a stylistic link between Sabres and the Swordsmen. For further exploration go and listen to the stoned, paranoid guitars on Enemy Haze or the Kraftwerk go London techno of Beacon Block.
Double bass led electronic funk and a skippety two step beat- the sound of the flightpath estate (a studio above a dry cleaners near Heathrow Airport).
From an album, Tiny Reminders, where Weatherall and Tenniswood ploughed their mutant, minimal techno about as deep and far as it could go- I genuinely could have picked any of the twenty tracks from this record- comes this dusty, downtempo slice. A catgut guitar, a slo-mo drum sample, some percussion, a steel drum.
Stay Down was an lp of short, sub-aquatic, ambient-techno songs. This was the last song, a gorgeous marriage of static, quiet noise and fluttering dub.
And then on Wrong Meeting in 2007 Weatherall gets the electric guitars back out and steps up to the mic to sing (actually he’d done this on the previous album From The Double Gone Chapel). Dub-rock and post punk, a full live band, rockabilly influences… this sounds a bit like early New Order had they come from West London rather than Salford.
I’ve bent the rules here, two discs is cheating. I could easily stick a third one together (various tracks released under other names during the 90s would be contenders) and a bunch of remixes done by Sabres Of Paradise and Two Lone Swordsmen that merit inclusion. A fourth would include the recent work (an e.p., a couple of albums) under his own name and as The Asphodells (with Timothy J Fairplay) and Woodleigh Research Facility (with Nina Walsh and Youth). But then we’re into Imaginary Box set territory.