Friday, February 6, 2015

Various - Radikal Techno (Original TC Review)

Quality Music: 1992

(2015 Update:
"Objective straight-faced criticism"? What does that even mean? And, oh-ho-ho, shame on you, 2008 Sykonee, for even suggesting every review you wrote was truly objective. I'd tried toeing the 'hard but fair' line most of the time, but there were plenty instances of throwing any supposed objectivity out the window in favor of a long-winded rant or gush. Ah well, at least I get to wear all my biases in plain view for this blog, and not rely on lengthy opening paragraphs explaining away such changes in writing tone.

There's two things I neglected mentioning regarding the
Radikal Techno series that I may as well bring up now. 1. The name comes from the record label that released most of these tunes, Radikal Records, a New Jersey print that specialized in commercial dance singles from Europe - Quality Music handled their Canadian distribution, hence why I've so many of their CDs. 2. Radikal Techno actually lasted for a good decade, reaching a sixth edition featuring the likes of ATB, Cosmic Gate, and Brooklyn Bounce. Of course, by that time, Quality Music had long-since folded, so it was a case of Radikal Records using the name of a compilation series promoting their material created by another label. And I've gone cross-eyed.)

IN BRIEF: They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

I tried. Really, I did. As much as I’d love to dive into this Random Review with all the objective straight-faced criticism I approach any other release, the history I personally have with this compilation makes it incredibly difficult. You see, my friends, this simple little release titled Radikal Techno is the second CD I ever owned. It’s survived accidents, theft during parties, drunken vandalism during parties, transportation from a number of different homes, and desperate pawn-shop plundering during periods of destitution, yet has remained in remarkable condition during it all.

“So what?” you say. “It’s just an old CD with a bunch of early 90s techno on it; not like it’s some rare original 7" Cybotron record.” True, but as anyone who has had a habit of coddling their music for years can attest to, such nurturing inhibits objective perspectives of the actual material on display.

Fact is, I still enjoy Radikal Techno. Yes, some of the production is hopelessly dated (there are frequent uses of the oh-so cutting edge Stereo-Pan Effect). Yes, some of the crappier trends in techno of the early ‘90s are present. And yes, I completely agree my continued enjoyment of this CD could simply be attributed to fuzzy warm nostalgia. Yet nor could I pass this off to an associate of mine to get their objective opinions of it because pretty much everyone I know quite enjoys the old school. And shouldn’t that be enough to convince you, the reader, that Radikal Techno has more going for it than starry-eyed trips down memory lane? Just look at some of these cuts!

For sure, there are overly familiar names here: 2 Unlimited, Age Of Love, Human Resource, Joey Beltram... and that’s just what anyone with basic background of electronic music should recognize. However, with the exception of Age Of Love, where Jam & Spoon’s remix would go on to see endless compilation duty in the years to come (I don’t think anyone in ‘92 could have predicted that), Radikal Techno offers some true rarities from them. The Two Little Boys remix of Twilight Zone plays around with those famous hooks, providing a funkier spin for the underground to appreciate. Rush To The Rhythm, a track featuring super-fast breaks, raps, and cut’n’paste production, is one of Beltram’s more obscure releases. And Glitch’s long-forgotten remix of Dominator is stellar, bringing blistering techno beats to this hoover anthem, spiking it with intensity benefitting of thrash metal throughout.

Elsewhere on this tracklist are a bunch of tunes that were quite popular ‘back in the day’ and, although mostly forgotten now, hold up remarkably well. Everyone knows Apotheosis’ O Fortuna, but the follow-up Obumbratta was just as good. Here we have their Dynamic Techno Remix featuring proto-gabber beats and production quality that is leaps and bounds above nearly everything else on Radikal Techno - it really does sound like the apocalypse is nigh as the Gates Of Hell are opened. WestBam’s Mayday Anthem, a track written for the Mayday party, is a fun piece of riff-tastic techno, while Razormaid adds sinister grumbling basslines to Die Schwarze Zone from LDC, an EBM-inspired project from euro-house legend Torsten Fenslau. And speaking of old house legends and rumbling basslines, StoneBridge shows up to remix the oldie house-gem Take Me Higher from Hysteria. Quite possibly amongst the oddest tracks is Ave Maria from the anonymous Noys, whom sampled the climax of Strauss’ Blue Danube, looped it, added some beats, and then dive off into a nifty piece of techno in its own right (that bassline... damn, but are there ever some kick-ass basslines on this compilation!); it screams one-off novelty, yet somehow works in spite of itself.

Unfortunately, Radikal Techno also finds one of the more abysmal novelty trends to be found in early ‘90s rave, the cringe-worthy ‘toytown’ phase. Here, we have Raving On Sesame Street, which is so hopelessly lame, this was about the only place you could find the track (according to Discogs, anyway). Thankfully, it’s placed at the end of the CD, and can simply be forgotten it even exists.

The remaining tracks mostly amount to rip-offs (Dance Your Ass Off is practically James Brown Is Dead) or style-biting (big-riff techno in the case of Stylophonia, hoover-house in the case of Life At Wunderbar, and anthemic hip-house with The Nervous Zone). None of them are essential but they do help round out the compilation with filler that won’t have you reaching for the skip button.

As an interesting aside, Canadian DJ Chris Sheppard helped compile this release; however, this is in his pre-fame days when he was just starting to expose all that crazy rave music from Europe to Canadians. As such, he only has a token “Compiled by” credit near the copyright alongside Quality’s frequent dance compiler Markus Klinke. As evidenced by his track selection here, Sheppard definitely had an ear for the underground, and this release confirms it was a shame Shep’ was lost to the mainstream soon after.

Anyhow, Radikal Techno is the kind of compilation that you just might find sitting in a used shop (probably Canadian). Considering the quality and scarcity of a number of these tracks and remixes, it makes this CD quite the bargain for anyone who fancies the old school. Don’t miss out.

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2008. © All rights reserved


ACE TRACKS:
2 Unlimited - Twilight Zone (2 Little Boys UK Remix)
Human Resource - Dominator (The Glitch Relapse)
Apotheosis - Obumbratta (Dynamic Techno Mix)

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