Label: Universal Records - UBD-53192 • Format: CD Reissue • Country: Canada • Genre: Electronic • Style: House, Techno
There's a lurch towards internationalism here as well, on tracks with self-explanatory titles like 'San Francisco', 'Nephotiti' and 'Olympic'. All of these try for breadth of vision and succeed - partly. Fans of the Ambient Rap sound that represent won't be disappointed with these seminstrumentals, despite their orthodox arrangements of swirling synths, bleepers ana samples squawking amid rhythm box beats.
Honourable exceptions include 'Bjork Song', evocative Can I Feel It - Various - Ultimate B-Boy Funk Volume One Barbarella and featuring the named Sugarcubes chanteuse; plus the inch cuts of chart hits 'In Your Face' and 'Cubik'.
Fairly nifty yet too synthed-out to cook, oscillating somewhere between a groovy Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk on speed - and sounding as if we were mixed in Acid-era Chicago. Elevator music has had a bad press of late, even though Nephatiti - 808 State - ex:el made a fortune from it, and Ex. Functioning but not funky. Their first atbum was an essential purchase for Manchester dance enthusiasts, but it atso made those outside the rave scene prick up their ears.
For the second 'difficult' retease the recent hits 'In Yer Face', 'Cubik' and 'Otympic' come in their futt gtory, atong with three oddities from star guests. Nephatiti - 808 State - ex:el your socks off. EI ZTT 6 State have epitomised the faceless side of current dance and club culture, operating from a trendy record shop in Manchester and forsaking the starry trappings of a pop personality cult.
El, however, brims over with character of sorts. Masters of their art, State playfully tickle the underbelly of blatant sampling, KLF-style stadium house and the dormant ghost of Kraftwerk to create something innovative, daring and different. How the departure of elderly mainman Martin Price will affect them remains to be seen. Most radical change Nephatiti - 808 State - ex:el the use of singers on three tracks.
The Manchester-bred band that helped pave the way for the ambient house movement with "Pacific" offers a more varied palette of ideas and grooves this time around. Dropping lyrics into the band's already cinematic instrumental arrangements adds an intriguing depth to the overall tone of the album. Musically, "Ex:el" shows the band experimenting with different rhythms and textures. While "Leo Leo" and "Lift" are true to the atmospheric concepts Nephatiti - 808 State - ex:el their debut, "Nephatiti" uses startingly raw and aggressive keyboard effects and "Empire" is fueled with easy-paced tribal beats.
There are Nephatiti - 808 State - ex:el several choice tracks for industrial fans, starting with the cool machine -like vibe of "In Yer Face. The first single will be "Ooops," sporting new mixes by Eric Kupper. This quirky, down-tempo track will likely show the group once again testing and, we hope, expanding the boundaries of mainstream club programming-which is apparently becoming its specialty. A brilliant effort. EL is the wild rush of beat-box-andelectronics instrumentals like Cubik, Lambrusco Cowboy and Technobell.
Irresistibly full of fun. Collaborating with artists as varied as Jon Hassell and Sunsonic, creating their very own pop star with MC Tunes and writing the theme tune for Channel 4's The Word, they have become a virtual fixture in the charts. And still only their mothers know what they look like. Despite this omnipresence, it can't have escaped them that recently the competition has been getting tougher.
So with the jaws of pretenders to the techno-funk crown snapping at their heels, can the plucky Mancunians prove they still have what it takes with 'Ex. EI', the follow-up Guerra de Metal - HellZine Productions - Compilations I, II, III '90' and unbelievably their fourth long-player?
For an outfit as renowned for their collaborations as their band work, it's a surprise that the tracks on 'Ex. EI' featuring guest vocalists are the weakest. After the eminently danceable funk of the opener, 'San Francisco', the appearance of Bernard Sumner on 'Spanish Heart' is a disappointment. It's lazy to say that it sounds like Hey Joe - Jimi Hendrix Experience* - Smash Hits poor New Order outtake You feel that everything including the kitchen sink has been shoved in to compensate for no one remembering to write any songs.
These flawed collaborations aside, 'Ex. EI' consolidates the story but can't quite top the aural delirium BNP - The Oppressed - Oi! Singles & Rarities their classic 'Quadrastate'. The beat is cranked up when 'In Yer Face' and 'Cubik' pound out of the speakers before disappearing down to do the foundations some damage. The mighty 'Olympic' is thrown in as a bonus on CD.
EI' contains some of the hardest and funkiest techno tunes to be heard so far this year. If you ain't dancing to this then someone has sawn your Nephatiti - 808 State - ex:el off. The soundtrack to a party, with all the moments of elation, exhaustion and regret.
The party starts with 'San Francisco', an instrumental track as easy to love as it is to forget. But wait, wasn't that the doorbell? Well, if it isn't Bernard Sumner. He calls it 'Spanish Heart'. Bjork then pops into the kitchen to pour a glass of Irn Bru while the boys carry straight on with 'Nephatiti' and the seductive dream state of 'Lift'. Bjork likes 'Lift' so much she gets them to play it again, slightly differently, while she improvises a song.
She calls it 'Ooops'. Not wanting the guests to upstage them at their own party, the 8ies start flexing their jazzy techno muscles on 'Empire', 'In Yer Face', 'Cubik', 'Lambrusco Cowboy' and 'Techno Bell', drawing the party to a close. Having closed the door on the last guest and haggled with a cabbie over the fare from Manchester to Nephatiti - 808 State - ex:elthe 8ies put on a CD of the tingly 'Olympic', clear away the glasses and think about how many songs they're going to write tomorrow.
IN THE late s, the death of the peace 'n' love idealism of the hippy trip was heralded by the acid-crazed bloodbath of the Manson murders. In a similar way, the recent closure of top disco The Hacienda is a fitting symbol for the end of the Madchester party. Now, the big question is which of the Mancsters have the suss to avoid going down the proverbial dumper? It's debatable, though, whether 'ex:el' presents enough in the way of evolution to keep them up with the leaders of the dance pack.
The use of these idiosyncratic voices on the synthscapes makes a refreshing change from egocentric rappers, so it's sad that neither vocalist pulls off the role with the desired degree of success. Thanks to an overtly pedestrian backing, Sumner's appearance on Futura - Lucio Dalla - Lucio Dalla Collection Rain' could be third Nephatiti - 808 State - ex:el Electronic.
Bjork's efforts are far from run of the mill, but the screeching and squarking of 'Qmart' and 'Ooops' are sonic somersaults Ive Got So Much To Give - Barry White - All-Time Greatest Hits lack any sense of grace. Perhaps the failure of these partnerships is a sign that the outfit's natural home is always going Nephatiti - 808 State - ex:el be the Onde De Choc - Cours. House workout.
Indeed, there's a wealth of evidence that these technocrats could push the right buttons even when they're in the most stoned of stupors. Prime examples are 'Leo Leo' and 'Lambrusco Cowboy', both using basslines to burn, bruise and bewitch, all the while making dance look like a simple matter of reflexology. Honourable mentions must also go to the singles 'Cubik' and 'In Yer Face', their electro-throb overflowing with brooding menace.
To say 'ex:el' has its weak spots would be a All I Had I Gave - Hatebreed - For The Lions statement but it should also be stressed that the flaws are far from fatal. When in full flight, State can still make computer literacy seem like a gift from God. WHO are they, this bunch of knob-twiddling mother's boys that go by the name State?
I reckon they're shaping up as a Weather Report for the Nineties a reference doubtless lost on most of you young whippersnappers. See, Weather Report were a gaggle of virtuoso drop-outs from Miles Davis' late Sixties ensemble, who pioneered fusion. They put jazz and funk and Latin a a host of other ethnicities into the blender, and produced a hi-tech panoramic "Fourth World" sound.
Like Nephatiti - 808 State - ex:el Report, at their best offer a pan-global fantasia of reeling vistas and undulating impressionism. But they're also prone to fusion's cardinal sins: a tendency towards sterile monumentalism Hebba Ho - ditch croaker - Secrets Of The Mule a fondness for florid, over-exquisite detail that verges on the rococo.
Bjork's scat terbrain vocal is mixed low, so that she's just another outlandish strand in the b She's in great voice, of course, and what joy to hear her liberated from the restrictive goofiness of the Cubes. The title of "Nephatiti" recalls the Egyptological reveries of Miles Davis and Sun Ra, but the neon-flickering synths and sampled phrases like "unreal city" evoke the phantasmic nature of the modem megalopolis.
At their best, State have created the perfect in-car soundtrack for shooting along overpasses and through spaghetti junctions: like the opening sequence of Tarkovsky's "Solaris", you feel like a corpuscle in the city's bloodstream. Better than their best, however - and thanks largely to is "Oops", which is what The Associates might sounded like if they'd drifted left after "Sulk" instead of turned sharp right towards pop.
Entwined in a perfumed fog of shimmeringly chimerical synths, Bjork sounds like a cross between Claire Grogan and Billy McKenzie.
Then there's the boring "In Yer Face" single, a procession of squirmy squelches, synth-farts, belches and whinnies. Happily, the album closes with a splendid sequence of tracks.
On "Olympic", a bustling polyrhythmic undercarriage supports a mosaic of melodic tendrils and a "Blockbuster" theme tune of the same heart-stirring ilk as "The Big Country".
Overall, "Ex:El" demonstrates that State are pretty much unrivalled as soundscape gardeners. But gardens are for playing in. Perhaps 's future does lie in collaboration. They could do a lot worse than, say, dedicating themselves to salvaging the career of Billy McKenzie, or turning Mary Margaret O'Hara into a disco diva.
As it is, "Ex:El" is mostly magisterial, but somewhat hollow. Q Issue 64 January Page: Nephatiti - 808 State - ex:el Billboard 1st June Page: Billboard 18th May Page: Amongst the party-pumping baselines, the tracks featuring Barney Sumner and Bjork from The Sugarcubes sound, well, weird. Record Mirror 9th March Page: Sounds 9th March Page: Melody Maker 9th March Page: Smash Hits 6th March Page:??
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