German DJ/producer Alexander Ridha aka Boys Noize recently put out a new DJ compilation. Available on limited vinyl and CD, what makes this compilation particularly interesting is the original concept behind it: regroup some of the current top DJ artists on BNR in order to put a fresh twist on a familiar face - a smiley happy face that is.
The yellow smiley face, once an icon of the mid 1960's and early 1970's resurfaced in 1988-89 during the second Summer of Love. Once again Love was not the only thing in the air, Acid also was; but this time around, Rock gave way to House. Psychedelia and the prevalent use of Ecstasy - brought to you by the makers of MDMA and the letters LSD - heigthened as well as hardened the sound. In effect, this new - rave - generation along with Bomb the Bass's "Beat Dis", reappropriated Harvey Ball's creation to symbolize the burning Acid House movement; the latter being a subset of Chicago House with infusions from Detroit Techno, both contributing to the early Rave scene. And instead of a Fender Strat plugged into a Marshall stack ladened with fuzzbox & wah-wah pedal; the Roland 'family' with it's modulating-distorting squelch sounds, would be the weapon of choice. Introduced in the early 1980's, the TB-303 Bass Line synthesizer/sequencer partnered with the TB-808 & 909 drum machines helped ease the transition from pure 'spin DJ's to the new emerging 'artist DJ-producers'. These portable programmable analog machines, at one point considered primitive vis-à-vis their digital counterparts, are now more than ever sought after for their warm organic sound. Not surprisingly digital 'clones' and software emulators of these devices nowadays abound. Be it vinyl LPs, low power SETs, Pass JFET 'Triode Transistors', rim drive turntables or the next big thing in mobile communications - the Paperphone; I find it always ironic how everything once deemed passé, eventually gets resurrected in some 'modern' form. I would not be surprised to see CRT televisions making a comeback one day, once people realize what they have lost trading the old bulky box for feather-weight flat screens.
Super Acid Reflux...
The black & yellow cover pays tribute to "smiley" as if seen through an 'anti-matter' universe lens. Although the twelve songs are spread (evenly) on four sides, the jacket is not gatefold. Each 150g lemon colored German pressed vinyl LP is housed in an elegant black paper sleeve, with one label representing the 'mean smiley' printed white on black, the other it's opposite in black on white. All sides were perfectly flat, the surfaces were noise, tick and pop free. The cutting level is moderate to slightly loud, quite adequate for this type of music. At roughly 15 to 16 min./side, the groove and 'dead wax' spacing is well chosen for the 33 1/3 rpm cutting speed and musical content.
Boys Noize opens with "1010". The four on the floor kick drum starts out thin, gets harder, eventually turning fat while pounding with great intensity. The repetitive machinelike rhythm borrows from influential industrial pillars Front Line Assembly and 242. The outro mimics the intro before slowing to a stop. The sound is a bit compressed but very far from current pop/rock levels. The treble has bite but is a bit hard and lacks some air. Still, things are off to a great start.
"Army Of Mowers" by Jan Driver is a real gem. A bit lower in level, it is the warmest sounding track of the album. Fatter bass plus sweeter treble greets us from the start, nicely contrasting a crisp upper midrange. The high frequency detail cuts through the warmth. Off beat cymbal is well defined. Panned sequencer squelching recalls Giorgio's "Utopia-Me Giorgio" from 1977's From Here to Eternity (Casablanca). Superb sound and music makes this, one of the best tracks of the set.
"Bleep" by Housemeister & Dave Tarrida presents a harder sound; sixteen beat hi-hat, 'nasty' modulated; percussive whip striking 2 & 4; hand claps on all fours increasing artistic distortion, bringing a party atmosphere . Stupendous 'tightly packed' kick, adds excitement. Feels a bit like Arpeggio's "Love and Desire" from 1978's Let the Music Play (Polydor) and Divine's 1982 single "Native Love" (Step by Step) but harder. Ends with flanged kick almost disappearing before stopping abruptly. This in my opinion, is the best and most impressive track of the album for music and sound.
Joakim & Krikor's "Azid" leads Side B. Handclaps on 2 & 4 display a strong presence; tempo's a bit slower and less intense. Cooler sound, very repetitive and slightly less musically captivating. As the song title suggests, Siriusmo's "I Like My Voice" is a cut up of voices in the Jazzanova mold. Here we have a complete change of style. Definitely louder and more compressed, the biting synth takes on an agressive allure. A bit of listener fatigue creeping in but musically engaging. Back to better sound with "The Beast" by Strip Steve. Strong kick; shuffling handclaps; mids a might strong; highs a bit dirty; lacks top end; beat stops dry. Thus this side is quite good but below Side A.
Erol Alkan & Boys Noize's "Death Suite" (Erol Alkan Edit) opens Side C with a metronomic percussive stick sound. A fat kick comes in; back cue with voice; machine gun snare; cymbal stroke counting time. The beat disappears, later coming back in; typical of Techno Rave. Nice outro with 'waves' and kick drum losing more and more highs by way of filtering. Solid track!
"11% Acid" by French DJ/producer Feadz is the big letdown of this compilation. From the start the highly compressed loud track, presents an annoying cut up of 'stupid sounding' voices reminding me of George Kranz's 1983 single "Din Daa Daa" (Personal) - one of my all time worse songs. Awfully repetitive and syncopated with cheap sounding percussion, but much inferior in sound this time around. The end could not have come sooner. Shadow Dancer's "Silver" is not much better. Again too compressed, very loud, cheap veiled high frequencies and dirty, sandy treble. Verdict: after this side's first track, better move on to Side D.
Thankfully things get back on track with "Extreme Compote" by H.D.B.N. Fat kick; nasty, buzzy synth run; 16 beat hi-hat plus a 'false stop-start' rhythm captivates the listener on this more 'housy' flavoured piece. Back on par with Side A for music and sonics. Djedjotronic's "Uranus" has a smoother ambience vibe. Syncopated kick; 16 beat synth hi-hat plus a "ha" voice sample a la Black Box's 1990 single "Everybody, Everybody" (Groove Groove Melody). Interesting chord changes; nice warm sound and goes down deep in the lows, makes this another winner. Lastly, Dutch DJ Benny Rodrigues turns up the pace with "LSD". Handclaps on all counts followed by an upper mid one note crescendo; the latter accumulating ever more distortion and harmonics plus mounting reverb. As is so often the case, the crash cymbals sound dirty. The beat stops; left behind, the remaining sound gains distortion; the beat resumes; syncopated percs and crash cymbals complete the picture. Fairly good musically and soundwise, though unnecessarily a bit compressed. Second best trio after Side A.
Summing up, Boys Noize's Super Acid DJ compilation is highly recommended for anybody interested in Acid House Techno as well as open minded audiophiles who want to spin some quality 'slam material' for a change. So get out those old Technics DD's and big JBL woofers and have yourself a rave of a time. Just remember: 'five and six inchers' need not apply!
Enjoyment: (sides A, B & D)
Sound Quality: (sides A & D)
Sound Quality: (sides B & C)