Old people are making music again; it is a time to rejoice. Bowie’s back, My Bloody Valentine have released a new album, The Who are back on the road playing Quadrophenia. This means that being an old music fan, or someone who feels old, or even in my case - a critic who is beginning to reach his untimely end, waiting for the crooked end of the umbrella to yank my pigeon neck away from the dimly lit laptop and back into the crushing reality of workaday normality. In light of the warm response shown towards the returning old guard there is still hope for relevance for us all.
I’ve tried to feel young in the last six months, pal around with folk younger than me, drink from their necks like a sucking sub-cultural vampire and take their evil drugs. Despite there being times when it seemed their ways were a little too hard for me to process, I have adapted, and to a certain extent made it to the other side. Though a fondness remains for my own halcyon days, and the years that went before, the cassettes that would get eaten up in the tape deck, the CDs that would get scratched, the imperfect sound of faulty technology; I can’t help but feel that the youth of today will not experience the damage of something physical.
This is the past revisited, a flick book of electronic studio fiddling. 2013 is the year of the comeback, and for Justin Velor it is the sounds of a million different influences threading together to make a patchwork trampoline. Bits and pieces, bits and bobs, put them all together and what have you got?
Dom Thomas, the man behind the name Velor, seems like one of these collector types - he has DJ’d around like a jet lagged Phileas Fogg and picked up numerous ideas. A man with many ideas is a fool unless he is able to turn them into something. On 2013, Thomas has temporarily sidestepped this proclamation and cordially invited collaboration and connection.
We open with the ominous, a chanting discord that builds, it sounds like the grey beginning to a bunch of Ballard reading boys who are looking to startle us with their tales of alienation and nihilism by playing us jangly post-punk. Instead we get on down, ‘Galliano Rocks’ is a dirty house stomper that tacks together North African percussion, ecstasy and whatever else was won at the auction.
‘Flameout’ is minimalist Germanic electro, tinny, like raindrops hitting a wheelie bin or should that be raindrops heavy enough to lightly hit a synthesizer and make a sound which makes nothing sound like everything. On the journey goes, and ‘Energiser’ picks up the pace (at the time of writing this, now five listens in, I now get that there might be the slight stitch of a pattern emerging here). Thomas hasn’t just chucked it all together. This is laborious, an attention to detail, an attempt to make each sound matter. I love it when a track peters out, and there is a bit towards the tail of ‘Energiser’ where only the sparrow’s skeleton remains and I find my hand is still tapping the desk.
Graham Massey, him from 808 State, worked on 2013 with Velor, and you can certainly trace the lineage back to 808’s seminal Newbuild. Yet there is more to the album than trad house, and when Thomas indulges us with poppy folk and extravagant experimental compositions that verge on doom synth exercises into soul extraction, it feels like he is acknowledging the limitation of the house blueprint, and that even hedonism has its drawbacks.
2013 is laced with Balearic beats, Detroit rhythms, and postcards from other drawing pins marked out on the map. The Justin Velor moniker is a useful umbrella for this collection of ideas to bubble under, yet all I can feel about this album is a sense of ambivalence. The culpability of the creator lies in the sense that sometimes your influences drown your own innovation; it is therefore up to you to bring something. The question remains – what does he bring? I can’t help but feel this is one of those albums that will be a gift to other artists. Take me, remix me, sample me, break me apart.
6Richard Wink's Score