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Banging Squelchy Classics

Various Artists
1990-1997 Plus 8 Classics
(Plus 8/Novamute/Minus)

Just in case you missed out on early 90s electronic music, there are tons of labels that have been getting into the act lately of reissuing some excellent work that might have been kind of a pain in the arse to find otherwise. Not only has Moonshine put out a couple discs worth of cheesy rave anthems, but Harthouse jumped in on the retrospective tip with their near-overload 4CD Harthouse Retrospective and Warp celebrated their 10th year in existence with a 2CD Classics release (as well as 2CDs full of Influences and 2 more full of Remixes). In other words, if you want to hear some classic techno and haven't yet done so, you no longer have an excuse.

Even though Richie Hawtin and John Acquaviva's Plus 8 label only spanned 8 years of existence, it was one that became one that was synonymous with quality, boundary pushing releases. While most tracks rolled with sort of a Detroit acid techno flavored edge, the label also pushed into more minimal sounds and even some ambient (and more experimental near the end of its run). Not only did the two founders give themselves a place to get a foothold (Hawtin as Plastikman and Fuse and Acquiviva as States Of Mind), but it also gave a startup home to artists like Jochem Paap (Speedy J), Ken Ishii (as UTU), and Joey Beltram (as Final Exposure) to flex their skills.

Looking back on the music, not all of it seems as groundbreaking as it did when it was released (as happens with most retrospective compilations). Although you can still hear some excellent things happening with Speedy J's "Pullover" (one of his first releases), the air-raid sirens and mimimal beat sound a bit simplistic set alongside his newer work. Fear not, though, that work is represented as well in a remix of "Patterns" off his Public Energy #1 release and while the original was haunting sound, he adds another rhythm layer and ups the ante even more on the remix. It absolutely blows the doors off the original. Tracks like "Between The Mirrors" by UTU (Ishii) expose the more experimental side of things that the label was trying to achieve. Although things move along with a fairly chunking beat, the track is dark and grinding and super claustrophobic.

And that's really a big part of what made the Plus 8 label so influencial. While many places were still content pumping out acid house tracks around the time period of the early nineties, Plus 8 was a North American label that was pushing the boundaries by taking things a bit darker and deeper. When Plastikman comes along with his stripped-down tracks of "Gak" and "Spastik," the mood is changed even more. They weren't the only ones making the dancefloor a bit more haunted around this time period, but they were doing it well and branching out into other areas as well.

Not only did Plus 8 release this 2CD import set, but for those a little more hardcore they also have pressed three different volumes of tracks for a domestic U.S. release. The crazy thing about it is that there are different track listings on not only the import, but the individual volumes as well, meaning that in order to get everything, you'd have to shell out for 5 discs. That's probably only for the hardcore, but any one of the individual volumes will give you a good overview of things and I'd have to say that this 2CD offering is the best bang for the money because it spans the whole 8 years and gives you music from the beginning to the very end. If you're feeling the need to bone up on the old school, this is one place you should definitely start.

Rating: 8