Wednesday, March 18, 2009


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.



Vincent said...

I had absolutely no idea that you were into Shannon. This was the stuff I listened to as an 80's kid back in the day. Only you!

Bleep43 said...

Nice one for dropping "Void Vision". Finished the weekend nicely, and was probably an apt description of my mental state at the time.

Nick said...

Altern 8's recent Edinburgh set was apparently really good, wish i went now...

Thomas Bey William Bailey said...

I don't know if Farmers Manual still has their "RLA" live arvhive online, but one posting features / featured a quite spirited and funny DJ set from Mr. Haswell- coincidentally followed by an MC announcing an upcoming Altern8 set.

Anyway, hearing Haswell mix together pre-'Killing Joke tribute' Ministry, booty bass from DJ Assault, Giorgio Moroder's 'The Chase' and Human League (!) with slightly more critically accepted fare is a blast, and a nice refutation of the consensus that 'noise' artists are humorless flagellants...