808 STATE Newbuild (Rephlex)
The original line-up of the Mancunian dance outfit 808 State coalesced in and around the city's legendary Eastern Bloc record shop and included its owner Martin Price and one Gerald Simpson, later of A Guy Called Gerald and "Voodoo Ray" fame. This is a reissue of their 1988 debut, lovingly repressed as a triple album by the Aphex Twin's own Rephlex label, Mr James himself citing "Newbuild" as one of his favourite albums.
The scene-setting sleevenotes by one Richard Hector-Jones explain the genesis of the album perfectly, noting the reliance of then-outmoded technology bought cheaply from the city's second-hand music shops such as Johnny Roadhouse - exactly the same process as was going on at the time in places such as Detroit and Chicago. I particularly like the tale of how the original master tape was half-inched (no pun intended) out of skip outside BBC Manchester, having been sufficiently chopped up as to be deemed useless by BBC techies.
So "Newbuild" is an album born of necessary economies, laid down live to two-track so you can hear the mistakes, something that may come as a shock to anyone led to believe that all electronic music is vacuum-sealed and perfect. Musically, if you can get past the drum machine sounds, which more than any other aspect of the album root "Newbuild" as a product of the Eighties, you'll find seven tracks of cavernous first-draft British acid house, sometimes dazzlingly intricate with three or four melodies spun around each other. If it doesn't enchant as much as the music Derrick May was making at around the same time in Detroit it's still possessed of an incredible spirit of dirty, pummelling optimism that maybe 808 State never really recaptured in a career that saw them doing just about everything from working with Bjork to scoring the theme music for "The Word". By the time they made "Ex:El" three years later the whole ethos had changed, its sleeve carrying a huge list of the state-of-the-art equipment used during its creation. "Newbuild" was the original template for a whole generation of underground British music: as the sleevenote concludes, not bad for an album named after a housing project in Bolton.