Last Days of Silence

New material signals a welcome return for techno legends B12, but the Essex boys are not quite back on their feet yet, says Kone-R.

By Kone-R

Rutter and Golding return to the album-releasing arena, some twelve years after their second album dropped on Warp, after ending a self-imposed exile from the music business lasting an astonishing nine years. Their re-appearance, as welcome as it was unexpected, with a handful of new EPs and a re-launch of their label (still seen as one of the greats of UK electronic music by aficionados) raised many eyebrows. Could a duo rapidly passing into the annals of legend turn up out of the blue and work their magic once again…? It couldn’t be argued that there was anything dated about the decidedly Motor City template they adopted — this was always music overflowing with soul, a retro-futurist outlook that looked beyond immediacy, and the arrival of B1215 more than ten years after they’d originally made the test pressings was a strong reminder of what these guys are capable of. Unfortunately, the two EPs of new material that swiftly followed didn’t seem to be from the same mould, despite flashes of brilliance.

This album collates the tracks from those two EPs and a number of previously unreleased tracks. Opening with the previously mp3-only Digitonal remix of Hall Of Mirrors (a true B12 classic if ever there was one) seems a bold move, like putting someone else in your spotlight to do an impression of your previous self, just when the crowd are baying for your arrival on stage — fortunately the remix is pure class, swooping strings layered over the skeleton of the original. One of the highlights from the EPs, Magnetic Fields, follows — but then the first cracks start to show. 32 Lineup is guilty of an overly long, unintelligent dancefloor stomp — it might work in the rave but it’s not album material, and the crisp pads that appear near the end of the track come far too late to save it. Slope is guilty of the same failings — it let down the EP it appeared on and seems to have no place among the B12 catalogue, although Static Glitch shows they can do the tech-house thing to a reasonable standard. Much of the previously unreleased material is of far higher quality than the tracks which already made it to vinyl, making it all the more annoying that the album is CD only.

There’s no doubt as to the clear highlight: More Than One may be as good as any track B12 have been responsible for, right from the shimmering opening chords to the rolling, throbbing bass — a winner that could come straight from the D, if it weren’t actually straight from Essex. It’s great to have the boys back and given the amount of time they were away, you have to allow them some leeway to get properly back on their feet. Now that they are getting towards full tilt, what price another faultless masterpiece a la Electro Soma?
Risingson posted 27 May 2008 (21:43:37)
I have to agree on the mixed feelings of thankful return and dissapointment. it's nice to change styles into the tech-house trend, but they have lost uniqueness in the way. The strings cover(ing) of "Hall of Mirrors" remains the best thing this album has, and the rest of glitchy tracks sometimes have life on their own, sometimes they sound too "easy" (slope), and a few times reminds us of their best vinyls. Warp made a mistake when they rejected their b015 (and not the mostly lifeless 3ep) and maybe they still need time to, like you said, put the feet on the earth, but still... there are bits of the same retrofuturistic stuff that promise a lot. Let's hope that they keep on working.
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