808 State had made an impression on the EDM scene with early releases such as the amazing Newbuild album and the legendary tune Pacific State. Their progress as record making creators were somewhat halted by the departure of A Guy Called Gerald (Gerald Simpson). The question was, could 808 State remain relevant after that? This release was the answer, so let’s see if it stands tall today.
We begin with San Francisco which begins with some ambient liquid sounds. Quite a good intro, it quickly goes into a dark patch. It is obvious immediately that 808 State were on a mission, even at the beginning of the 1990s. It sounds quite dark, yet anthemic. A great piece of synthesized and brilliant electronic elements, the breakbeats and cyber noises sound really quite amazing. It goes into a section of crazy melodic and digital authenticity that is so much better than the sounds on the radio today. This is when EDM was genuinely exciting. An organ style keyboard sound comes in the second half, showcasing a legendary and wonderful sound. This is very much a brilliant and era defining piece for 1991. It could have been on the Terminator 2: Judgement Day soundtrack. Amazing, legendary and a great start to this album, 808 State shine bright. Nice tune. The breakbeats at the end are awesome.
Going straight into Spanish Heart which has some Roland 808 beats and some nicely programming synth lines. It features New Order vocalist Bernard Sumner who suits this piece very well. It sounds really awesome and legendary, with some New Order style piano sounds and some cool beats to match. This is quite a good and yes, fresh listen. It sounds quite discordant but in a wholesome EDM way, unlike anything else out there in the history of music. A great piece of nicely structured electronic music that sounds like a turbulent piece of emotion, this is really cool. Another decent tune, and great to hear.
Leo Leo has a cool intro, before going into a really dark yet psychedelic EDM dance based piece that sounds quite cool. There are a multitude of really great sounds and samples here, which are killer and amazing. This is a really interesting listen, and just sounds quite different to most forms of music out there today. A great and authentic mixture of Techno, Acid House, Breakbeat and other warped elements, this is a different yet essential piece of EDM that still sounds as fresh and amazing as it did in 1991. The vocal samples on this track are quite interesting, too. A load of interesting and fresh digital samples flow through this piece, and it is really excellent overall. Nice to hear. It ends with a blast.
Qmart has a ghostly intro with some more ambient styled sounds, before a melodic and rhythmic tune enters with some cool bongo beats. It is actually quite a calm and interesting listen that is rhythmic and interesting to hear. A really fine piece of music that sounds like a lot of good work, as opposed to a lot of drugs are on it. Bjork’s appearance as a singer here is good too, and it just goes to show that 808 State were quite open minded in their musical approach. Bjork’s singing is mostly wordless here, but she is really amazing as a singer nonetheless. Singing as a texture, rather than worded emotion? An interesting oddity, but a very good tune to hear anyway. This is not too far away from some of 808 State’s brilliant early work, and the brilliance here too, is outstanding. Very varied and never dull, a genuinely good five minute listen. It fades out gently.
Next up is Nephatiti which has an almost organ like sound intro in the beginning, before launching into a slower and more melodic EDM piece with a bunch of rather freaky sounds in it. Nicely constructed and delivered, this is really interesting music to hear and is very consistent throughout. It has the same sample from the original Willy Wonka movie that states, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams,” which Aphex Twin also used on his own legendary work. A great quote, and a decent tune nonetheless, even if this is quite some distance away from Newbuild and other earlier releases in its orientation. The second half is quite catchy and headbanging throughout. There is never a dull moment on this album, and the envelopes of music are really pushed on this album. Interesting, dark and weird, a great listen. There are some rather freaky sounds to finish this track off with.
Following is Lift which begins with some psychedelic and interesting sonic textures, before going straight into a more danceable and straightforward piece of music than what has come before. It is reminiscent of some other alternative music styled pieces that have some synth string styled sections. There is a tribal sounding musical breakdown section here, before going back into a mixture of the synth styled strings again. There is a sample of electric guitars in here, showcasing the vast influences and incorporation of 808 State. Some odd science fiction styled sounds then enter, and this piece gets quite intense. Weird, yet wonderful, this is very much unlike anything else ever recorded, which is a plus. The percussion here is quite amazing, and meticulously done. Digital and varied sounds galore are here, a decent and underrated piece of music here. 808 State changed the ball game for EDM based music here with this album, another decent track.
Ooops begins with punchy piano and acoustic sounding guitar, along with some cool beats. Once again, one can hear the effort and hardwork that has gone into a piece like this. Bjork is guest here again, but sings in English here, and does a very good job at what she does here. There are some strange sounds and samples here that are really cool and clever. This piece is a bit hit-and-miss though, not because of the guest, but because it sounds a bit odd with her appearance on quite a discordant song. An oddity, but listenable, it just seems a little too weird here. Good but not great, a more pleasant track would have suited Bjork’s appearance here. If you like weird, this is for you though. A little bit of saxophone is here, too.
Empire begins with some proper whistles going off, and some other dark and discordant melodies, before a thunderous drum beat enters. This one is really quite good, and is catchy and danceable. Not bad for an 808 State piece, this sounds incredible. There are some interesting keyboard melodies throughout. Some reversed drum beats kick in before a piano enters, making this piece a very cool and interesting listen. Weird and wonderful, but catchy and banging, this is the sort of music that is original and tuneful. Top stuff to hear, and there are many well structured and interesting melodies throughout. Very different, in a good way. It builds up nicely towards the end and just sounds really cool. Some warm and ambient sounds here at the end nicely finish this off, along with a flute style melody. Cool.
Next is In Yer Face which begins with a cyber melody and other eerie sounds, before a cool vocal sample that has an anti-USA statement politically. It then goes into a really cool piece with some excellent beats and textures to it. Is this where EDM really began to be political? There seemingly was always a left-wing agenda to EDM, being the opposite of “redneck Country Music” on the musical scale, but this is a great tune, regardless of that. The sounds and intricate melodies here blow away a lot of what has been done in music so far, in a sense. Still, an enjoyable tune and some nice Acid style textures are here in the second half of the track. A great compositional style piece. There is a great breakdown with some incredible sub bass here, a loud and mammoth piece. It goes into an interesting and nicely structured ending.
Following is Cübik which begins with some amazing and tripped out wah-wah style guitar sounds, before launching into a memorable and catchy piece of original EDM. This is a really cool piece that Darth Vader could rock out to. Amazing, interesting and catchy, with a good drum beat to match, this is really neat. A great mixture of original sounds are here, with some reoccurring samples throughout. There is a breakdown with a cool science fiction melody in it, along with some female backing vocals. The electric guitar sound reoccurs, and we have a wonderful tune to listen to. One of the highlights of the album, at just under four minutes, it is a great 808 State piece. The outro is really tripped out.
Lambrusco Cowboy begins with a repeated vocal sample, before a horror movie like piece begins. It’s interesting and different, all right. A great tune from that perspective, and very beat driven and catchy. With some wacky sonic samples and vocal samples, this is different in a good way. Clever and cool, this is really weird to hear, but very unusual compared to many things done in the history of music. The whole thing will make you laugh at how wacked out and brilliant this is. A great tune, and very revolutionary in a musical way. Very interesting, with an ethereal vocal sample to finish.
Techno Bell starts with some super cool beats that sound lively. It is a much more straightforward piece that sounds really cool. There are some additional textures that are really amazing and original here, and which have been imitated a lot since. A great and instantly cool piece of music, this is really top. A more straightforward tune from 808 State in the context of this album, it is really very good. A great and cool piece of music, this deserves to be cranked to annoy the neighbours in your area. Very cool, and a nice addition towards the end of this album. Incredibly good with an array of percussive based sounds, the dynamic duo of 808 State prove themselves as original artists on a mission musically. Cool and a little quirky towards the end, this is a really great tune. A highlight of this album for sure. It ends with a nice melodic patch.
Last here is Olympic which begins with an eerie melody that is something like a melody out of a horror or science fiction film, before going into a soothing and nice sounding piece to conclude this album. This is a fine example of good craftsmanship, and the effort is definitely audible here. Some spacey sounds are throughout, along with a great mesh of sound about. Great musicality and great sonic production is here. Midway it has a new melody to continue the sonic ear candy to finish this album off. Cool and interesting, this is very gentle sounding compared to what has come before on this album. Top stuff, credit must go where it is deserved, and 808 State deserve credit here. Beautifully melodic, it ends with some melodic wind chimes before fading out.
This album is a really decent piece of work and nicely crafted. Little should be said against it, although notably some of the discordant feel about it may be too much for some. This is just as good as Newbuild and the earlier 808 State recordings, and no EDM historian should be without this album in their collection. Great music, and very intellectually driven.
Dark but funky.
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