VA: Balkan Vinyl Colour Series Volumes 1-6
There's only one downside to this fabulous series of colour-themed Balkan Vinyl releases curated by Posthuman member Josh Doherty, and it has nothing to do with the music: with each of the six chapters issued in a limited run of 250 copies, the chances of nabbing a copy at this juncture is remote at best. A number of the series' tracks recall those halcyon days when TR-606s and TB-303s ruled the land, and all of the signifiers of the acid-house scene—handclaps, gurgling synth melodies, percolating drum machine beats—are here in plentiful number, and at times seasoned with gabba and electro. But the series turns out to be anything but one-dimensional: a stylistic change occurs over the course of the six releases with electronica growing ever more dominant. Each volume (typically in the forty- to fifty-minute range) fleshes out its originals with remixes, and an A-list of contributors—Plaid, Luke Vibert, Posthuman, B12, Global Goon, and Hrdvsion among them—helps elevate the series to essential status. It's important to note that even when the material does reference an earlier era (the Red release in particular is firmly in the acid pocket), the music comes across as anything but dated when the artists infuse the tracks with so much energy and passion.
Archer gets the series off on the good foot on Red with the sleek and funky “21-41,” all smooth grooves and warm synthetics, while Luke Vibert & Richard Wigglesworth and Global Goon check in with the hard-thumping “Acid Cowl” and “Craehzrhd,” respectively. Posthuman gives B12's “Free Flight” a warehouse makeover that's deliciously filthy, before Tudor Acid label head Wigglesworth closes the forty-five minute release with the hard-driving stormer “Cumulostratus.”
Green hands the reins to Debasser, Paul Blackford, Echaskech, and Hack The Tab and sees Posthuman, Snapmouth, and Robokid on remix duty. The tracks perpetuate the general stylistic template of the first installment yet also expand upon it in subtle ways. Debasser, for example, spikes his rambunctious electro-funk raver “Beyond Perversion” with spooky accents and swollen bass throb but also gives it an exotic twist with the inclusion of tablas. With “How To Fly,” Echaskech serves up a tight 4/4 acid-electro throwdown that's appropriately aerodynamic, and Hack The Tab weighs in with “Blipvert,” an acid-techno pile-driver that unspools with epic punch. Robokid's overhaul of Blackford's “Carbon Units” feels suitably robotic in its futurama shimmy, while orgasmic moans and rave yelps push Posthuman's “Beyond Perversion” remix into sleazier territory.
Blue spotlights a new round-up of artists, including Digitonal, Planet Mu's The Doubtful Guest, Seed's Ardisson, and Egebamyasi, with remixes by Hatchback, Posthuman, and the Smashback filling out the release. Blue opens on a rather restrained tip with Digitonal's atmospheric mechano-banger “Volvo” but then gets seriously squelchy with The Doubtful Guest's gyroscopic stepper “808 Lush.” Ardisson's massive “The End” proves just how potent and fresh the acid-house genre can be when in the right hands, while Egebamyasi's jaunty “Acid Salmon” shows that it's just as capable of sounding light-hearted when tackled by another. Posthuman and Smashback both give “The End” high-grade makeovers that slam and burn in turn, in contrast to Hatchback's “Volvo” remix, which hews to the restrained character of Digitonal's original.
The take-no-prisoners Yellow chapter bolts from the gate with KoBi's pulsating banger “Uberkev,” and what follows is just as super-charged. The well-stuffed installment features seven originals and two remixes, with Cursor Miner checking in with three cuts that are noticeably forward-thinking. The first, “Very Impaired,” merges dryly drawled dialogue samples and viral synth melodies into a brain-addling stomper, but it's the clangorous funk of “Metal Nellie” and the hell-raising wobbler “In Good Shape” that truly catch one's attention (the latter's more dubstep, in fact, than acid-house). We also get ten-ton throb from Jaques Lueder (“CBR 954”) and jacking acid-house swing in KoBi's second cut (“Rumbotron”), plus, in a change of pace, Mully's “Never Mind” offers a funky slab of electro-techno mayhem, replete with chopped voice stutters and pounding kick drums (the disc's capped by dizzying remixes of same courtesy of Posthuman and Myth Novox).
Chapter five, Orange, which includes three contributions from AGT Rave Cru (Posthuman's Josh Doherty) plus tracks by Kansas City Prophets, Hrdvsion, and Washington, starts off dramatically with the dystopic gloom and manic breakbeats of AGT Rave Cru's “You Shop We Drop.” That fireball once again shows how far the series often extends beyond the acid-house framework, and so too does Kansas City Prophets' “Navigator” when its electro-dubstep conglomeration lurches so dazedly (Point B also weighs in at disc's close with a suitably dark and writhing remix treatment). Hrdvsion brings the series back to acidy madness via the considerably more lighthearted “Red Telephun Electro,” while AGT Rave Cru's joyous “Fusion Power” amply showcases Doherty's creative artistry.
The sixth chapter, Purple, is no slouch either, as it boasts tracks by Plaid, Marco Passarani, Posthuman, and Secondo, before closing out the series with three overhauls of Posthuman's “The Ottawa Object” by Hrdvsion, Echaskech, and LJ Kruzer. Intricately woven and crafty, “Fum” is five minutes of vintage Plaid, and both Secondo's jazz-electronica hybrid “Kvarner Bay” and Posthuman's low-riding stepper “The Ottawa Object” swing broodingly, with the latter nicely spiked by the crisp snap of the snare and thump of the bass drum. A different animal altogether is Marco Passarani's “Salty Vibes,” which trails a booty-shaking bass pattern alongside an equally swinging funk groove and shimmering electronics. Echaskech overhauls “The Ottawa Object” with a slow-motion ambient mix that sparkles radiantly, while the series ends on a rather lugubrious note with LJ Kruzer's morose, piano-laden treatment of the Posthuman track.
If f orced to choose, I'd select Yellow and Purple as the top picks, simply because they're so consistently strong from start to finish—but then again, that's pretty much true in all six cases; there's nary a weak original in the lot, and even the remixes hold up well enough to reward one's attention. Each chapter holds up strongly on its own, but for maximum effect the collection should be heard in its entirety.