Sunday, 12 August 2012

Review: CJ Bolland – The Analogue Theatre

If you were to rank DJs solely based on how many times I’d seen them, CJ Bolland would actually be right near the top. This has much to do with the fact he is something of a legend in Leeds due to his association with The Orbit, and so still regularly gigs around the area at retro events. I don’t go see DJs more than once unless I had good fun though, and Bolland is an expert exponent of the pounding, relentless techno that was so popular in the ‘90s at places like The Orbit. Seeing Bolland live in a sweaty warehouse is a truly visceral experience that puts a lot of other dance music firmly in context.

In light of Bolland’s reputation for such thumping techno nastiness, The Analogue Theatre is a surprisingly accessible album, with as many mid-tempo breakbeat-infused tunes as all-out bangers. This is perhaps because it touched down in 1996, when the “electronica” boom was just kicking off in the US and underground heroes were making various pleas for mega-bucks success. It’s fair to say that this is not the most original album of 1996 – many of the tunes sound much like MFTJG-era Prodigy, and People Of The Universe is basically a straight-up imitation of Chemical Beats by everyone’s favourites Brothers. Although I have a huge fondness for this kind of material, I’m not going to pretend that this formula of riotous big beats and squelching 303s was anything more than the brostep of its day. The production, meanwhile is distinctly rough-and-ready: punchy and effective but lacking any of the fairy dust found glittering in the backdrop of the more illustrious records from this period.

The album also contains Bolland’s two biggest hits: the Prodigy – Poison pastiche that is Sugar Is Sweeter, which became a huge chart hit thanks to Armand Van Helden’s misleadingly titled Drum ‘n’ Bass Mix, and the tech-trance monster The Prophet, which has been inducted into the pantheon of Trance Anthems thanks to Paul Oakenfold (and latterly Tiesto) closing almost every set he played with it for the back half of the ‘90s. These two tracks alone have probably made Bolland enough money to eat on for the rest of his life, and surely don’t require any description from me.

If anything gives The Analogue Theatre more listening value than as simple mid-90s nostalgia fare, it’s the occasional moments when Bolland interpolates gleaming strains of Detroit futurism into the madness, as evidenced on the lush opener Obsidian or on the thumping title track. These delicate moments hint at Bolland’s roots in the serious techno scene, and are a timely reminder that even the most savage of techno producers are usually capable of some beautiful pieces of music when they so desire. The Analogue Theatre is no classic and probably not listed at the top of Bolland’s production resume, but it’s an enjoyably derivative romp through the mid-90s nonetheless.

Genre: Hackers soundtrack shit.
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

1 comment:

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