Ministry of Sound
Across well over twenty years, from Screamadelica to Two Lone Swordsmen, from deep house and techno through electro to dub, rock, rockabilly, and post-punk, the shape-shifting straddle of Andrew Weatherall’s productions and DJ mixes probably gives him a free pass for a retrospective. So you might expect a sprawling, triple-CD mix, entitled Masterpiece, on Ministry Of Sound no less, to sit back and simply reflect on a fascinating career. Not a bit of it: it’s as restless and forward-looking as Weatherall has ever been, and that’s a very good thing.
Almost all of the tracks are releases from the past couple of years, and all of them fit the very loose template established by Weatherall’s latest Dalston-based club venture, A Love From Outer Space: throbbing, low slung body music with enough melody to leave a midweek basement crowd whooping for more at kicking-out time. The point is rammed home with the compilation bookended by two versions of dream-pop track “A Love From Outer Space”; a new version from Weatherall side-project The Asphodells, and A.R. Kane’s 1992 original.
Slightly more obliquely, the individual mixes are titled Eleven, Twelve and One O’Clock Drop. Presumably the idea is to reflect the sounds of the night as it develops (while also recalling in passing 2000’s Nine O’Clock Drop compilation). In a pinch you could do this; if you did, you might draw a line from more organic sounds at the start, through a heads-down electronic middle section to an arm-raising finale.
But I think this might be a step too far. A weekend warrior, I’m hardly a regular, but it seems the magic of ALFOS, and by extension Masterpiece, is the hypnotic continuity unconstrained by genre. It’s definitely not about the “journey”, a concept hoarier than a full beard at the South Pole (for those playing Weatherall cliché bingo, that’s your only early-twentieth-century facial hair reference), it’s about the groove. And that? Masterpiece absolutely fucking nails it; whether filtered through proto-house, acid house, Nick Cave, italo, Scandinavian nu-disco, psychedelic explorations, Bobby Gillespie, or even trance (in the original sense).
This dedicated digger’s consistency to the concept unearths highlights at every stage, though I’ll limit myself to one per disc. On the first, an interesting connection to the wonderful South London humidity experiment World Unknown is established when WU label releases Kalidasa’s “Bursting Through” and Apiento & Co’s “The Orange Place” form a suitably sweaty sandwich around the fantastic “Birdshell” from Craig Bratley. On CD2 Pete Herbert’s bassline dub of Copyshop’s “Lipps” fades into the breathtaking “Stealing The Fire From Heaven” from Pacific Horizon, a mesmerising piece of psychedelic deep disco.
In the final mix, Weatherall’s remix of Primal Scream’s “Uptown” offers nearly ten minutes of ever-expanding bliss as the album’s penultimate track. However,, on an album featuring no less than nine Weatherall productions you might equally prefer the mutilated dub remix of Wooden Shjips or the phasing madness of his Cut Copy rework. Of course, you don’t have to choose at all, as perhaps the biggest highlight is that the digital version features all 36 tracks in glorious full length. And these are long.
So, universally loved producer and DJ releases another consistently brilliant and endlessly rewarding and listenable mix? I’ll be amazed if there’s a better all-round compilation released this year.