808 STATE: 90 (1989)
1) Magical Dream; 2) Ancodia; 3) Cobra Bora; 4) Pacific 202; 5) Donkey Doctor; 6) 808080808; 7) Sunrise; 8) The Fat Shadow (Pointy Head Mix).
Compared to Newbuild, 90 is truly an album for sissies. Just look at the title of the first track: 'Magical Dream'? Isn't this the kind of title much better suited for the likes of Uriah Heep? And its primary attraction — faraway, hazy vocal overdubs from Vanessa Daou? Where in the world is that whole alien culture thing?
In many ways, 90 is quite similar to Newbuild — similar rhythms, similar equipment, similar dance orientation that preserve the project's chosen niche — but the band's second album also made it clear that these guys were not going to stick to any set formula. If Newbuild looked confidentially to the future, 90 makes some concessions to the past. For instance, the main «chiming» hook of 'Magical Dream' is fairly conventional, and the entire song is a magical dream, ensconced in a club setting, but more «psychedelic» than «sci-fi».
Likewise, the major hit, 'Pacific State' (here under the 12" mix title 'Pacific 202'), relies on pseudo-strings and, most noticeably, an almost jazzy, brass-imitating melody for its groove; there is certainly some alien-like mechanical chirping in the background, but basically it is sort of an infusion of relaxed lounge atmosphere into the usually arch-busy world of industrial electronics. 'Ancodia' is quite human-sounding, too, sampling Thelma Houston and programming in loops that could have been inspired by 1970s fusion.
Eventually we are shoved back into the future on much more mechanical monsters like 'Donkey Doctor' and '808080808', but even there the keyboard arrangements are generally more complex and move in more movements than on Newbuild. The sound just keeps on getting denser and denser — out of the sparsely populated astral suburbs we are now moving right into the heart of the intergalactic metropolis. Coolest illustration is perhaps 'Cobra Bora', starting out simple and unclustered, but somewhere around 1:10 turning into the soundtrack for Law & Order In A Galaxy Far, Far Away.
In fact, most of the tracks are so well worked out as structured compositions that the closing 'Sunrise' is immediately noticeable as a monotonous, quasi-ambient piece, supposed to close the album on a different, «prolonged» note — on Newbuild, it would have simply been one of the regular boys. So, is this «progress»? It is fairly hard to tell with electronic masterminds. Borrowing from «conventional» musical approaches may confuse the hardcore house goer, but also may make it easier for some to «get» acid house as real music, not just a trendy soundtrack to self-destructive teenage activities. Thumbs up for all the smart mixing.
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