Global Communication Global CommunicationBack In The Box
Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard hadn’t made anything together for 15 years. The distance (Pritchard moved to Australia) and the different priorities (Middleton wanted to conquer Ibiza with house; Pritchard preferred, and still does, breakbeats) didn’t really help much. But now, all of a sudden, there’s a reunion: a tour, performing “76:14” (Dedicated, 1994), the best ever ambient album, period, and a contribution to NRK Music’s “Back In The Box” series, which has previously seen deliveries by DJ Sneak, Little Louie Vega and Dave Clarke, in other words, the old school of techno and house. That’s the key expression here: old school. No matter how big and sublime Global Communication were – we have to add their other aliases like Reload, Jedi Knights, Link and so many more – they were a forgotten relic, only remembered, from time to time, by the most loyal veterans. There was talk of reissues a few years ago, Richie Hawtin is still playing some of their tracks ( “Amenity” was revived thanks to him), but now they’re just a distant memory of the golden age of European techno. Other names from the era, like Orbital or Underworld, still play sell-out gigs, but with them, the feeling is one of emptiness and injustice. That’s the way it is, 15 years of silence does that.
Maybe because recovering the pulse of the moment is an impossible task (and unnecessary, too, as after the tour and this CD, Mark and Tom will go their own way again without looking back), “Back In The Box” focuses exclusively on the time and place when Reload / Global Communication flourished, the dawn of European techno. The couple released their best material between 1992 and 1995, almost at the same time as Aqua Regia, Stasis, Bandulu, B12, The Black Dog and 808 State, the pioneers of the introduction of Detroit sounds in the UK. They weren’t part of the Warp generation, but the were on other labels (some of which are mentioned on “Intro (The Labels)”, on the second CD), they were like the next door neighbours, always in the area, sharing the experience. This mix is, keeping that background in mind, a tribute to that moment of exploration and freedom during which the sound known as intelligent techno grew from the seed, the fruit and the transmission of pollen from other place. In other words: Detroit classics, their own material and that of other British artists, plus a broad selection from The Netherlands, Belgium and Italy from labels like Eevolute, Sounds Never Seen and R&S. The double CD (released in a mixed version and one that is not; both are equally recommendable, though the mixed version has the advantage of continuity and flow) basically serves that purpose: to archive references and recover the feeling of that time, as the mix, though correct, is a thread of continuity rather than a live remix. The tracklist is impeccable: it shows a very deep knowledge of the best intelligent techno and the Detroit-London-Rotterdam axis, with logical titles ( “Galaxy” and “Elements”, two Carl Craig classics; their own material, such as the tracks by Link and “Incidental Harmony”), a lot of British techno small print that ended up in the vicinity of Warp and R&S (Balil is one of the aliases of Plaid, and Stasis, Neuropolitique, DHS and As One are there as well), respectable artists from central Europe like Barbarella (Sven Väth), and Robert Leiner, one of the greats on R&S; the unbeatable Aphex Twin plus the Italian Aphex (the also unbeatable Lory D) and the Dutch armada: Speedy J, Ismistik (they were Norwegians, but signed to Djax-Up-Beats), Florence, Ross 154, plus the Detroit originals (Shake, May, Hawtin as F.U.S.E., Larkin as Yennek, etc.).
Sorry if that sounds like a long list of names, a catalogue of old glory. But that’s what “Back In The Box” is: a lesson slash overview of a unique moment, unrepeatable (not even a revival could ever get close), of early techno, brought together by the loving hands and passion such meaty material requires. If you’ve lived or rediscovered that era, there’s nothing more to say: you know that morally, the rating should be 11 out of 10. If this is your first contact, take a breath and prepare for the best, your soul might suffer a process of irreversible transformation.