A peerless and enormously enjoyable work.
Until now, the ongoing electronic exploits of Andy Weatherall and his fellow Lone Swordsman Keith Tenniswood have been largely obdurate, impenetrable affairs. Oily, ugly and irrefutably bloody-minded, their three albums since the pair’s acclaimed debut, ‘The Fifth Mission: Return To The Flightpath Estate’, seemed to exist chiefly to undermine the accepted genius of Weatherall‘s previous work.
As if, through his expansive and hugely imaginative production on ‘Loaded’ and, later, ‘Screamadelica’, his single-handed reinvention of Primal Scream from mimsy psychedelic bed-wetters to pluralist E-munching heroes for the ’90s amounted to nothing. As if the psychotic Balearic dancehall of his last band, Sabres Of Paradise, and his monumentally messy Sabresonic club nights were but exercises in unparalleled mid-’90s dancefloor hedonism and little else.
And, with no obvious reference points other than his consistently astonishing DJ sets and his unquenchable thirst for vital sounds both new and old (see his recent, excellent compilation for Nuphonic, ‘Nine O’Clock Drop’), his flair for jaw-droppingly deft production appeared to have deserted him. His scabbard, in short, was missing its trusty sabre.
Incredibly then, ‘Tiny Reminders’, Weatherall‘s first record since relocating to London from self-imposed ‘exile’ in Pontefract, is, unless Aphex Twin bothers to release anything before Christmas, the finest electronic album of 2000: 74 never-dull minutes of perfectly realised mechanical magnificence. Where ‘Stay Down’, ‘A Bag Of Blue Sparks’ and ‘A Virus With Shoes’ – the aforementioned TLS trilogy of frosty, obstinate electronica – perplexed and irritated in equal measure, ‘Tiny Reminders’ instead cruises the peripheries of the dancefloor in search of bottom-end thrills, its meticulously tweaked engine purring affectionately, its bodywork ergonomically sleek.
But ‘Tiny Reminders’ is not coy. It compresses the pioneering [I]faux[/I]-Teutonic electronic naivety of early- ’80s synth fetishists (and long-standing Weatherall faves) like The Normal and Cabaret Voltaire into the TLS method of brooding, supple bass manoeuvres and skittering techno. In its dry humour, impossibly stern demeanour and flint-eyed cool, it is the most German-sounding record never to have been birthed in a Berlin bunker. ‘Future dub’ fellas Pole, Funkstvrung and Burnt Friedman may well have the requisite nationality but, ah, here Weatherall and Tenniswood have all the tunes.
Indeed, few and far between are the albums whose [I]basslines[/I] you find yourself humming along to as you wash the dishes or stroll through town, but ‘Tiny Reminders’ brims with such low-frequency surges. ‘Machine Maid’, ‘Neuflex’ and ‘Cotton Stains’ emit oscillations that could, if you pardon the expression, sink submarines, while ‘Death To All Culture Snitches’ is percolated acid malevolence [I]par excellence[/I]. There is spindly, deviant two-step (‘Akwalek’) and, on ‘Brootle’, what sounds like massive lumps of bass being repeatedly hurled at you through the speakers. And yet, wrapped in TLS‘ delicate, frequently pretty melodies, this palpable ferocity is, just, contained.
There are 19 tracks on ‘Tiny Reminders’, each different, each the same. Whether a welcome anomaly in the Swordsmen‘s quest for the disconcerting or, hopefully, a thunderous and thoughtful return to form for Weatherall, ‘Tiny Reminders’ is a peerless and enormously enjoyable work.