Friday, 12 November 2010

Hidden Gem: Red Light Don't Stop - The Elektrons

Masters At Work, The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Bassment Jaxx...there is a rich history of house duos who have been able to snatch sounds from across the dance spectrum to become the defining sound of their city and generation. Manchester's Unabombers (Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford) are arguably worthy of the same comparison. Their Electric Chair night became renowned not only for its hedonistic spirit but also its eclectic music policy. Theo Parish, Mr Scruff, Gilles Peterson and many more guested at the night but it was the Unabombers themselves who ruled the roost. They were soon releasing compilations and mix Cd's and playing festivals around the world.

As with many DJs who find such fame, they turned their hand to production. They took on the moniker of Electrons and released their debut album in 2007. Red Light Don't Stop was certainly ambitious; combining house, disco, hip hop, dance and bass sounds to create a reasonable attempt at encapsulating most of the predominant dance floor sounds of the previous couple of decades. These were certainly tracks that worked on the dance floor (I had an immensely good evening dancing to most of the album when Luke played a set at London's Cargo just prior to the album's release) but the album holds up surprisingly well as a home listen too.

Opener Get Up sets things up nicely - using tasteful hip hop beats to create the sort of track that would get people dancing in a bar. Its no surprise that Greg Wilson contributed a re-edit of the track. Next up is a dance floor monster - Dirty Basement which recalls exactly that - a grimy crowded basement at 3am with everyone in the zone. The bass line is irresistible while the female vocal is both soulful and urgent. Another highlight is Classic Cliche - this like many tracks reveals a pop sensibility at play. Its interesting to note that this was my five year old niece's favourite song of the year! This tune and others lead one to wonder why this record didn't really crossover - while rooted in club culture there are enough strong melodies to appeal to even the most casual listener of urban music. My sense is that the media was fixated on the next big thing- be it glitch house or dubstep - judging that this sound had already peaked with Bugs In the Attic and Bassment Jaxx a few years earlier. In doing so, I think they missed a really good record.

Other tracks fly by in a soulful summer haze until the album closes with the epic Joy. Rainforest rythms give way to a tasteful house beat and one could see this being a New York classic if it had been constructed by Joe Claussell and his Sacred Rhythm crew rather than two blokes from Manchester. I'm sure Red Light, Don't Stop probably didn't make its creators millionaires but they can be justifiably proud of one of the better dance records of recent years.

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