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808 State - Prebuild

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Artist: 808 State

Album: Prebuild

Label: Rephlex

Review date: Dec. 2, 2004

Having already reissued Rebuild, 808 State’s 1988 debut and a batch of early New Order remixes, Rephlex has dug further into the vaults to produce Prebuild , a collection of unreleased studio recordings, demos, a radio session and 808’s first live performance. Dating from 1987-88, these tracks provide an intimate glimpse into the birth of the UK acid house scene, from its Chicago-aping birth to its eventual darker excesses.

Though the scene did produce a streak of experimentation that went on to influence the likes of Aphex Twin, etc., does such a release warrant attention outside of fan circles in this day and age? “Automatic” and “Ride” answer in the affirmative; both early studio sessions combine the industrial edge of Cabaret Voltaire and edgy isolationism of Detroit’s Mayday clique with traditional acid house antics. Neither session stays still long enough to become placid, each twist adding a new layer of effects and rhythmic manipulation.

Surprisingly, the most disappointing tracks are the two released on 12” as The Lounge Jays, “Massagerama” and “Sex Mechanic”; both sound extremely dated with a combo of embarrassing sexual moans and annoying vocal samples cluttering the entire affair with a generic and clumsy vibe.

Perhaps the most personal insight into the early stages of 808 is provided with three of Gerald’s famed attic recordings. Within the confines of his mum’s attic, Gerald Simpson mapped out the sound of UK electronics for years to come, working with homemade speakers and cheap synths prior to 808’s inception. Though their sound quality disappoints, the enthusiasm and energy within the noisy confines of each of these tracks is a joy to behold. There are cases when the subpar recording quality adds to the mystique of the sound, as is the case with the two featured radio sessions, “C.I.S.” and “K.Narcosa.” Both have a dreamlike state of sound, where shards of sonic residue leap out from the persistent bleed of drums and bass.

The live 14-minute finale, “Thermo Kings,” combines all that has come before in an all-out acidic assault on the senses, as near random phasing and shrill effects pile atop one another while a sole 808 anchors the near chaos by kicking out an insistent rhythm. The piece develops improv-like qualities as the members wrench out all manner of frequency manipulation to further the ensuing din. What follows is an aural map of the directions artists on labels like Warp and Rephlex would take in their initial five years of inception. Therein lies 808 State’s most important accomplishment, mapping the route for future bedroom electronic manipulators everywhere with their own experimental tone, celebrated fully on Prebuild.

By Everett Jang Perdue

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