It was a top weekend at Bloc 09 in Minehead (big thanks to Piers and Rodaidh for inviting me). I caught as many sets and performances as were possible faced with four simultaneous major stages (all operating on Saturday night till well after nine on Sunday morning!). Egyptian Lover was pure 80s nostalgic electro fun; Russell (Haswell) did a brilliant set of contrasts at Cocadisco; and Aphex Twin + Florian Hecker should have been a lot better considering their respective talents. However, to my surprise, the best act by far was the entertaining Altern8 who, at industrial strength volume and with an infectious energy, put on a relentless non-stop show that made the early 90s, otherwise musically dreadful, sound almost relevant.
So anyway, it seemed fitting to include a dance music posting in the series: an album I consider the apotheosis of the genre.
Monet : Leave The Lights On (1987)
After Chris Barbosa heard the short drum break with its overloaded echo on Afrika Bambaataa's Looking For The Perfect Beat, he was inspired to create an entire track utilising that very sound. Much like Marshall Jefferson and many others of the era not having immediate access to musical equipment or studios, Barbosa went out and procured a Juno and a drum machine to realise his dream. What he then came up with was a thunderous track that would eventually manifest as Shannon's Let The Music Play; and an entire new musical genre, still much imitated yet never bettered to this day, was spawned: freestyle.
Let The Music Play was quickly followed by the even more astounding Give Me Tonight - a powerhouse demonstration of Barbosa's innovative genius of combining uniquely complex drum programming with vertiginously dramatic harmonies. Whilst Shannon enjoyed great mainstream commercial success in the US and around the world, the project soon became a hostage to major label demands to soften the beats, diversify styles, and do ballads and cover versions.
Happily, Barbosa set up the independent label Ligosa Records with colleague Mark Liggett, which gave freer rein to focus on his inimitable style, the highlight being Monet's album Leave The Lights On. Everything that you loved about early Shannon is contained within Monet's opus, but this time in bigger doses, louder doses, harder, more boisterous, and more melodramatic still (if that were possible). There's so much successful innovation going on during My Heart Gets All The Breaks, Give In To Me, Come On To Me, and other amazing cuts here that it puts the rest of the customarily simplistic and disposable club music genre to abject shame.
Less happily however, was that it was 1987 and the catastrophic worldwide alluvion of techno/house swamped the project, condemning it - and almost every other form of inventive electronic music that was being made at the time - to oblivion. I consider Chris Barbosa, a lovely and self-effacing person, to be one of the most important composers and producers ever.