When I first heard
of the existence of Newbuild, I felt excitement and frustration. Here I
was, an avid 808state fan, still experiencing the warm afterglow of Pacific
and I could not get my hands on this piece of historic vinyl no matter
how hard I tried (living far away in Australia one is thankful to spy any
classic cuts from these Mancunian techno boffs)! That was not just
frustrating, but unfair too.
Now it is 1999, 11 years after Newbuild first found it's way into the obscure racks of record stores in it's native Kingdom, and Rephlex records has finally been able to press this work into CD form. Now we can all enjoy it! And over a decade after it's conception, what is Newbuild like? This is my most posthumous review of an album that broke new ground and nearly became a casualty of time.
As the first bars of Sync/Swim fill the air, it is obvious that this is a very different 808state album. Of course, back then, at the beginning of 1988, the band numbered some three fresh faces: Graham Massey, (A Guy called) Gerald Simpson and Martin Price. This was before the Summer of Love hit clubs and ears. Before Acid House was a media villain. The guys had a bunch of cheap (back then!) electronic gear and proceeded to extricate a myriad of spitooning squelches and bubbles from them. Newbuild is THE classic Acid album from Manchester. A vision of darkness and funky burbling basslines.
I once read that Richard D James (aka Aphex twin) placed Flow Coma on his all time greats list. And coming from a guy who didn't much listen to music and felt compelled to jump up in his pyjamas in mid afternoon and tweak his own little knobs in revolutionary new ways, this was pretty cool endorsement.
Flow Coma is a bouncing track. A bubbly squeakfest. The Roland TB 303 sound weaves in between electro snares sounding like a hungry heaving stomach. Little bleeps play along in the background like a weird video game and I can understand why Richard would like this one!
If you listen carefully you can hear crackly patches and little overlaps. No doubt, the fact that the original master tape was in dodgy condition, didn't make for the crispest sound. But this all adds to the charm.
Headhunters hits us
with the TR 808 right from the start and then the State fade in some obscure
echoed-to-bollox sample. The ever present 303 chimes in with it's own wet
sound. This is what the album is like! Bubbles all over the place, bleeps,
oddly barked vocal samples and bouncy rhythm sections. It's a nocturnal
sound. A sound describing dark and rainy city streets and gritty car rides
at night. Listen to the sweep of Narcossa and you'll get what I mean. Or
the compulsive 303 of E Talk, backed with broken up moans and strange 'Aphexian' ambience. But to use the term 'Aphexian' seems somehow unfair, as Newbuild was manufactured before Richard D even hit the big time!
This is why Newbuild
is so classic and so ground breaking, even though it was largely obscured
at the time by a friendlier and more commercially viable version of the
sound. It is the original underground sound, divorced from hype but hip
on it's own weird terms. An experiment in sound and tweaking. It's more
than obvious why Richard D James has kept this vinyl in his bedroom for