B12 Records Archives Volumes 3-7

By Kone-R

It feels like an age since I reviewed the first two volumes of this hugely anticipated (by me, at least) reissue series from one of the great British techno labels, and whilst it has at times felt almost like being a little too swamped, with the conclusion of the series upon us it's time to look back at the remaining volumes in some detail. Is there such a thing as too much emotive techno? If there were, this series would have pushed me to it. It didn't.

Volume 3 contains the original B1205 and B1206 catalogue numbered twelve inchers from 1992 (all tracks originally appearing under the Redcell alias) along with the ubiquitous smattering of previously unreleased tracks — although I'd take issue with Ecliptic being described as such as it definitely appears on B1215... one hell of a tune though so we'll excuse that. Paradroid is the other highlight of disc one, with its smooth rolling groove, but it's undoubtedly disc two that will prick the ears of hardened B12 listeners, the remastered versions of Hall Of Mirrors and what is probably my favourite Rutter/Golding composition Mondrin, both of which were later picked up by Warp for the seminal Artificial Intelligence series, sound as fresh as ever. Go With The Hiss and Somewhere Now close this volume with yet more examples from the cutting room floor that make you feel overjoyed they've seen the light of day.

Volume 4 covers the years between the two Warp albums Electro Soma and Time Tourist, containing three further EP's and introducing the darker alias of Cmetric, the tracks under which moniker overshadow the Redcell efforts from disc 1, DB5 being the most memorable of what is possibly the weakest volume in the collection, although the unreleased U12 and Prowess are definitely worth a look. The duo themselves admit this to have been a darker period, musically, and this is very apparent, rare smatterings of the soulful edge shrouded by rather more angular rhythms and effects than in earlier times.

Just as I thought the series was maybe not going to have the legs to last the full seven volumes, number 5 delivered a firm smack to the face. B1208 was one of the first of the original pressings from the label that I picked up back in the day (in the long since closed Pyramid Records in Guildford, as I recall) and it features the Redcell alias at its peak. Quite simply Interim is genius. Some of the deepest chords you're likely to hear, punctuated by sharp percussion and then — whack! — the mighty bass drop. Faultless. Interestingly this first disc is also permeated with tracks from a very rare Redcell CD to which I must confess total ignorance, but with tracks like One Thing In Mind on show, it's one I'd very much like to have experienced sooner. Bonus tracks U13 and Freeflow again hit the spot to complete a disc of extremely high quality throughout. By an odd coincidence the label have paired it up with a disc containing another of my Pyramid purchases from the same year — Stasis' Point Of No Return. Steve Pickton is one of the few UK artists to have a musical vision and talent to compare to the Golding/Rutter partnership and it's no surprise that he's one of the few people to have recorded for the label besides the duo themselves. Again, quite simply a classic set of tracks that have not aged a day and seem unlikely to ever do so — the title track and Questions For Vanmannan melding soul and funk with electronics in a way which is almost impossible to surpass. 'Not the usual type of record you find in the record stores' — a pertinent quote which can be heard during the opening seconds of Volume 6...

And this one is rather different — structurally it's interspersed with clips of the duo being interviewed on a Belgian radio station, talking about the early days of the label. It's a nice touch and adds to the feeling of something historically important being contained in this particular set of archives. This is juxtaposed against some of the rarest finds from the vaults and catalogue, and there are many gems including alternate mixes of several tracks from both the Warp albums, including a magnificent 'lost mix' of Scriptures, which fades out far too soon, and the stunning Pulsar. Treasure trove stuff.

And so to the final volume, tying up loose ends by compiling the excellent comeback/long-lost 15th EP and selected compilation appearances, many of which are very good indeed. Seven months down the line since volume 1 and getting on for 20 years since they started messing about with some synths, it has to be admitted that both are significant feats. I wondered for a while why no other label had seen fit to exploit this history in a similar way and then I realised that probably no other label would have considered doing it in such a lavish and complete manner — for a small indie which has been largely out of action for over ten years (until its recent revival), it seems almost madness to attempt it, but it's a singular vision on which this sound and label was built, even if it has left them (to quote them directly) 'not very rich and not very famous' (a response they give whilst laughing in 1992 to the interviewer on volume 6). That may well be the case, and they've returned to a radically different set of circumstances in the music industry to when they previously left it, but the vision is still the same as ever, as they describe it — 'techno music (that) can be creative, powerful, emotional...' I sincerely hope by laying bare their whole history in such a concise way that it opens up this music to a new generation of fans and that Rutter and Golding continue to add new appendices to their encyclopedia of man-versus-machine techno soul.
 You can read Kone-R's review of the first two B12 Archive volumes here.
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