Thursday 26 May 2022


Hey all, just dropping by with a quick something - I've been a little sidetracked IRL so haven't had as much time to write as I would have liked. This one is originally planned as a Retro Review (and it still might make the cut yet!) but it's also been sat on the back-burner for ages so figured I'd take a swing at it at the very least.

I mentioned not too long ago that Warp founder Steve Beckett once said that the one record they regretted not releasing was Mark Pritchard's first under the 'Reload' alias, one that he said would have been perfect for the Artificial Intelligence series that they had going on around the time. While they didn't get their hands on that, a few years later some tracks from it would appear on this compilation - The Theory Of Evolution. It's an interesting release for sure, it feels a little out of time in places due to the re-use of older Reload tracks. The opening salvo of tunes is a great selection though - with the thudding techno of Birth Of A Disco Dancer leading the charge.

The opening follows this sequence of a tiny interlude sandwiched between two tracks, so we're skipping over to the next 'proper' track as it were. Another Reload offering, but more acidic this time. Stepping away from the Artificial Intelligence sound a little now, Birth Of A Disco Dancer had a little bit of that atmosphere behind it, but here the 303s are out to play. Not super complex or anything, but as I've said before sometimes a li'l 303 is all you need. Don't worry too much if it's not your cup of tea, there's plenty of more familiar Warp style things to come.

Speaking of, we're hitting up one of my favourite ones next. At the risk of repeating myself, it's tracks like The Biosphere that really make clear what Steve Beckett was talking about - a track like this is very reminiscent of the kind of thing B12 was making, hi-tech sound with a sci-fi edge, and would have been right at home on volume II of the AI compilations. I am very obviously biased toward this sound, but for me this is where Reload really shines. My love for these kind of extended spacey cuts is well documented, and Biosphere is a welcome addition to that roster.

It's mot a flawless compilation though, there are times when the wheels fall off a bit. Take for example one of Herbert's contributions to the tracklist under his Wish Mountain alias, Royal Wedding, 2 minutes and 30 seconds of a distorted Prince Charles reading vows. It quickly wears out its welcome, becoming dull and monotonous before long. I feel like it doesn't really belong on this compilation, even as one of the 'interludes'.

All of which I mention to set up the extreme whiplash you experience if you listen to this compilation in order. You go from by far and away the poorest entry mentioned above, to Amazon Amenity - one of if not the highlight of the whole thing. It's a refreshing change of pace for the proceedings as we change up tempo and enter the world of Drum & Bass. It and IDM are close cousins at certain times anyway but there's no mistaking the out and out D&B style of this one. Very much fashioned after the Jazzy strain of the genre that would remain popular through the latter half of the 90's, Amazon Amenity is full of little flourishes and makes its 9 minute runtime just melt away. It's perhaps a little generic if you're well versed in the genre, I have a lot of love for this style regardless though.

It's a shame that Amazon Amenity is the black sheep of the compilation, it'd have been nice to have a couple more in this style, though the second Link track that follows this is also a prime slice. Opening with some gorgeous pads, it's not long before things take a techno turn again though. I find that Mark Pritchard typically uses different aliases for tackling different genres, but this track once again evokes that same B12-esque methodology, especially on little breaks like the one around 1 minute in.

And that'll be all for today - a quick whirlwind tour. In a nutshell, an interesting slice of Warp history - flawed in places but also home to some nice bits and bobs along the way. I'm thankful for Warp putting a major portion of their output on Bandcamp which allows me to shine a light on releases like this and frees them from being physically limited as well, I still need to go back and update the Warped History posts with the new players actually! The full thing is worth a look if you like what you hear, and certainly check out the early Reload stuff if the IDM style stuff is more your speed. Until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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