Monday, 8 August 2011

Soma Records – 20 Years Triple CD Release

Soma Records – 20 Years [SOMA CD095]
Triple CD release
Release date: 19/09/2011

When Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle decided to name their fledgling imprint Soma Quality Recordings, they were being more uncannily prescient than anyone could have imagined during the heady, post-acid electronic eruption, whose volcanic ash continues to disrupt services and belch up astonishing new talent on a regular basis through to the present day. Through sheer natural instinct and passion, the word ’Quality’ has remained Soma‘s essential mantra, resulting in many of these names gravitating to the label over the last 20 years. 

Soma was born out of the insanely euphoric celebrations taking place at the DJ duo’s club held in Glasgow since a track by Phuture named them and their night Slam. Along with manager Dave Clarke and fellow founder Glenn Gibbons (both still at the helm), they had little idea that, out of the countless clubs and labels flourishing during that magical period, they would be the one still holding strong two decades later, Soma now acknowledged as the UK’s longest-running dance label and one of the most consistently-dazzling electronic imprints in the world. 

Relentlessly DJing at the world’s foremost cutting edge dance venues, Orde and Stuart have kept their fingers on electronic music’s rapidly-evolving pulse, experiencing on the front line what makes crowds scream, dance or cry, constantly pushing the boat out with their work as Slam, while carefully planning and introducing fresh new names to the mothership label. 

Above all, they have never forgotten that intoxicating magic, which spawns the strongest memories while changing outlooks, careers and even lives forever. So many of those cavorting on their Glasgow dance floors over the past two decades have gone off to start making their own music; a direct lineage from the punk movement which gripped the Slam boys earlier in life (and which they readily acknowledge with the occasional post-club Clash session), along with other key historic elements, from acid house to New York boogie to Detroit’s symphonies to Berlin minimal stalkers and beyond.

There have been epoch-making discoveries and landmarks, such as wide-eyed greenhorns Daft Punk, who released their first three EPs with the label before leaving to take over the world, intoxicating one-offs like Scott Grooves’ ‘Mothership Reconnection’ and fabled roster mainstays, which saw Lars Sandberg, aka Funk D’Void, score major success with ‘Diabla’ along with the ever-astonishing Silicone Soul scoring with ‘Right On‘. As an unashamed trainspotter, I have and have listed every vinyl release from SOMA001 (a shared 12-inch between Slam and Rejuvination) up until around SOMA250 and the digital revolution; too many to mention but many which will be represented, often re-upholstered, in the anniversary celebrations culminating in this marvellous collection. 

Of course it helps also having memories of Slam bringing the Arches to its delirious knees in the mid-90s with ‘Positive Education’, or the day I heard The Black Dog had started cocking its leg against the label’s fence, but Soma now stands as both electronic institution and unquenchable spirit, well-entitled to enjoy the biggest party yet as it hits its 20th year. That Slam and their mighty label now stand tall in the same hall of fame as their original inspirations speaks for itself. That they are still firing on all cylinders is even better. As I said recently while reviewing volume five of the highly successful Soma Coma series (I’ve written about Soma more than any other label in the last 35 years); even when trawling the past, this towering label can’t help thinking about the future. Kris Needs, May 2011

Disc 1 – Soma Classics

Compiling a Classics CD that covers 20 years of releases (310 singles and 90+ albums) is not an easy task. There are the obvious tracks that had to be included in such a compilation, like Slam’s Positive Education, Silicone Soul’s Right On, Right On and Funk D’Void’s Diabla. There are others like Daft Punk’s remix of Scott Grooves and Slam’s first ever track on Soma Records, Eterna, which quite literally took the dance music world by storm. Eterna was ultimately the track that started Soma Quality Recordings. This was in 1991; the year after remixing the Edinburgh band Botany 5 on Virgin Records, and the year before collaborating with The Orb on the Close Encounters track (taken from their debut album, U.F. Orb). These are quite simply the foundations of both Slam and Soma.

Then there are tracks like Sharkimaxx’s (aka Felix Da Housecat) Clashback and Percy X’s X-Traks, which still fuel dancefloors around the world in exactly the same manner as when they were first released (both, some 16 years ago). Joris Voorn’s Mix of Samuel L Session is (quite rightly) one of the biggest tracks on Soma Records in the last 10 years, so it would have been foolish not to include on our classics compilation. We also had to include the flip of that. The tracks that were never about selling by the million; they were about a time, a place and a state of mind. The Black Dog’s Cost II (originally on the GPR imprint in ‘93, but signed to Soma in the late ‘00s) was the sound of a time, just like the Desert Storm release, which was first heard in a railway tunnel in Glasgow at one of their many Desert Storm Sound System parties of the early ‘90s.

Finally there are tracks that are classics by proxy. At the tail end of 2010 we trailed boxes of DATs, pictures and god-only-knows what else to find artefacts of Soma’s early days. Imagine our surprise when we discovered a tape simply entitled ‘Daft Drive’. We hooked up the DAT machine and inserted the tape with the delicacy of a surgeon, pressing play and praying that for one, the tape contained what we hoped, and two, that it didn’t chew it like a dog on a bone. In amongst the hiss and crackle, the most monstrous 909 kick drum thudded. Daft Punk’s Drive track had been rediscovered. Playing through was 11 minutes of Live Daft Punk; freaky vocals, pounding Roland drums & synths and that archetypal DP compression. After standing in silence, witnessing this moment, the track faded off and we heard the sound of the French spoken word that the recording had been made over; the remnants of their parents audio collection. This tape was given to Dave, Glenn, Stuart and Orde (the directors of Soma) on a trip to Paris in 1994, where they were

Disc 2 – Slam DJ Mix

 Slam are, of course, the corner stone of Soma Records. Here since day one and until day zero. Their countless releases over the years not only include their Slam productions, but also their work as Pressure Funk, G7, Freelance Science and Counter Plan, plus many collaborations and co-productions. It can be said they are not just corner-stones of Soma Recordings, but also of UK Techno in all its glory. Today in this collection of CDs though, Slam look forward to the future, as they have persisted in doing throughout their 20+ year career. Orde and Stuart have gone through all the remixes, revisions and reconstructions of past Soma gems that we have worked on throughout the last 12 months, and moulded a DJ mix of where Slam stand in a current climate. One that shows depth, groove and jack in a 65 minute show-down. Having run their various club nights for these 20 years, they have played at all points of the night; from doors opening to doors closing; warm-up to peak time. This mix encapsulates this perfectly.

 Disc 3 – Silicone Soul DJ Mix

The legendary production and DJ duo of Graeme Reedie and Craig Morrison (aka Silicone Soul) have been at home on Soma since their first release 13 years ago. Before the guys signed to Soma, being native Glaswegians, they religiously attended the legendary Slam nights at both the Arches and the Sub Club in the early ‘90s. When this all started Graeme and Craig did the PR for the club events, getting to know Dave Clarke, the event promoter. Becoming closer over time, Dave offered them their first ever Arches DJ on their respective birthdays. Quite a present had you ever attend these nights. They soon started their own label, Depth Charge, where they released their first two singles, pressing and distributing their own vinyl. Quickly they were signed to Soma with heir The Strip EP. The rest as they say, is history. Their DJ mix is a representation of the tracks they saw from the dancefloor, be it the first record they bought; Otaku’s (Ralph Lawson, Fraser Brydson & Carl Finlow) Percussion Obsession, or DJ Q’s masterful mix of Counter Plan’s 90 Degrees. Peppered through their mix are snippets and a capellas like the beautiful keys of Daedalus or the vocals from Inspiration and Light, Tonight, and U Dig. You’ll also see Mark Henning’s Last Night, a personal favourite of the boys from the last few years of Soma stock.

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