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V/A - The Orb and Youth Present Impossible Oddities: From Underground to Overground, The Story of WAU! Mr Modo

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Artist: V/A

Album: The Orb and Youth Present Impossible Oddities: From Underground to Overground, The Story of WAU! Mr Modo

Label: Year Zero

Review date: Nov. 24, 2010

Alex Paterson was a roadie for Killing Joke in the mid 1980s, Martin “Youth” Glover the band’s bassist. The two men, along with road manager Adam “Mr. Modo” Morris, saw the world during the second half of the decade, when Killing Joke’s sound was shedding the loud rock that mixed punk, goth and new wave and embracing a more stern, fastidiously industrial approach. The touring allowed this trio into entry into clubs and afterparties during the ascendancy of house music. They recorded boombox tapes of the Hot Mix 5 in Chicago and Tony Humphries in New York City. Then, sufficiently inspired, they went home to London and got involved in this new game themselves. They came up with an acronym which stood for, among other things, What About Us. They gave the name to a label, started making and releasing music, and put it into the hands of DJs and clubs and radio shows. These sorts of right place-right time instances must be capitalized upon.

And so, 10 years after punk punctured England, acid house came along to sweep up the youth in a wave of euphoria and reinvention. The price of electronic samplers and sequencers plummeted, in essence getting behind, and pushing along, the revolution. The act of sampling took on the feeling of reverence, of finding a way to fit formative musical experiences into the beat rather than creating the beat itself, a far cry from the skeletal nature of the east coast hip-hop originators. There was a lot to celebrate. After the first waves of the craze had passed, the makers of this music found their legs in Ibiza, then Goa, and in the hands of the DJs and minds of the revelers who flocked there.

In lieu of finding a more unwieldy title, this genre-spanning collection of O.G. acid house from the WAU! Mr Modo label stretches 25 tracks across three hour-long CDs; two straight compilations and a third featuring catalog material mixed by The Orb. Paterson and Youth contributed to many of the tracks within, along with a rotating cast of house regulars, including The KLF’s Jimi Cauty. This set’s minimal notes allow the music to do the talking; in lieu of proper credits, we’re presented with names like Sun Electric and Paradise X and Uncle 22, with house divas, jack beats (“Superjack” to be exact), dub influences and ambient projections both successful and misguided.

It’s worth taking it all in. There’s hardly a bad one in the whole collection, and the great ones – particularly the opening salvo, an unreleased demo version of “Little Fluffy Clouds” that completely changes the mood and feel of the track to something deeper and more grounded – provide an interesting balance to the ridiculous, off-rhythm shoehorning of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” into Eternity’s “Blackcurrant” or the ambient mix of “Hotel California” by Jam on the Mutha. Everyone gets a shot at redemption, though. Eternity tips the scale with “Ashram House,” a swirl of Eastern sitar wrapped around busy 4/4 beats and wild rides across waveforms with the transform knob – which you’ll find is scattered with Kraftwerk samples and the underlying electro-throb of Donna Summer’s “I Need Love,” unwrapped at the end as a gift for DJs to segue into.

Someone I know once summarized that acid house was, at the outset, bleeding edge, or maybe just copycatty enough, in that once some new technology became available, everyone started using it. Here’s where you hear the seeds of such movements. By starting near the beginning of the continuum, and splaying across years of progress and changing perspectives, Impossible Oddities showcases a prime cut of one of the last significant movements in contemporary dance music, with the wonder of it all very much intact, and the sort of influences that vault over history and context to get to the feeling within; the line drawn between Roger Dean and Roger Troutman, defined at last.

By Doug Mosurock

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