Depsite mainly falling within the vicinity of techno and experimental, Scottish producer Alex Smoke is well known for eschewing boundaries in his music. However there's almost always at least a hint of emotional strings and pads within some form of a 'pop' structure too, if you could call it that. In advance of his upcoming tour of Australia, Alex has curated this list for Pulse of some of his favourite all time tracks, and with a scope that covers electro, techno, ambient, experimental and glitchy pop, it's now clear where his boundary-pushing aspirations derive from.
Adult - Hand To Phone (Clone) One of the greatest electro tracks of all time, and still as fresh as ever it was, and featuring a cracking creepy vocal too. I have amazing memories of my pal Jim dropping this at one of their early parties and us all jumping about, as you do when you're fresh-faced and full of fun. The 12" also one of the highlights of Carl Craig's career in the form of a massive unrelenting monster of a remix. Dancefloor gold.
Underground Resistance - Amazon (UR) My favourite single techno record, now 20 years old, and still sounding untouchable. It's vision is so wide-angle, and you can tell that Mad Mike just went as far as he wanted with the composition, without worrying about any other considerations. The fact that it's perfect for the dance floor too is just a bonus. I've also always admired Mike Banks as someone with true convictions and a strong sense of morality, something which has all but disappeared in electronic music. For this reason too he is my ultimate exponent of techno, and this is his testament.
D'Arcangelo - Diagram VII (80's Mix) (Rephlex) There's not so much music that always raises a smile to my face, but this is unfailing in its ability to make me feel good. Like all great tracks, it's deceptively simple but contains that taut mixture of optimism and melancholy that I particularly love. This dates from the time when I was still starting out and really just bought boring house records to play down the pub; I was writing much more weird music myself on instinct, but still hadn't discovered a world of music outside the narrow confines of house and techno. This was on a £5 Rephlex sampler (The Braindance Coincidence) that I bought on a whim, and the whole album opened my eyes to what people were doing out there. Inspirational.
Nas - The World Is Yours (Columbia) The greatest hip hop album of all time I believe, Illmatic. I'd picked up on Cypress Hill at school and this was advertised in the inside cover. Once I bought this, I never looked back, and hip hop became one of the most important things to me, at a time when you're finding your identity and discovering your own tastes. Music at this age has an impact on you that can't be felt later in life, when your hormones have dies down and your experiences have mellowed, and this record still has a massive resonance for me that takes me straight back to those days and those feelings. I urge anyone with a love of hip hop to get the album, a sharp reminder of what was happening before all the Cristal-sipping, pool-party money men took over the scene. It aint conscientious but it is genuine.
Boards Of Canada - An Eagle In My Mind (Warp) I still get a wee bit depressed listening to this, not because it's maudlin, but simply because it's so good and I'll never write anything as good myself. Unerring genius. There are hints of hip hop in there but it is entirely the product of new minds and new ways of thinking, and this is the essence of musical innovation. Music Has The Right To Children is certainly one of my all time favourite albums, capturing a spooky netherworld that's unlike anything else. It's creepy but in a great way. Not much else I can say about it really.
Schneider ™ - The Light 3000 (City Slang) Tear-inducing beauty of the first order. A cover of The Smiths' There Is A Light That Never Goes Out but featuring the sparsest, glitchiest production ever heard. Both technically and emotionally this track is unbeatable. Totally reminds me of the dying moments of a party at my pal Jay's flat, with all my Glasgow crew, just before we all head home. Music and memory perfectly entwined.
Aphex Twin - Icct Hedral (Philip Glass Orchestration) I've always been fascinated by the boundaries between different genres and styles of music, and this typifies that junction of ideas. I first heard it on a mix album by Laurent Garnier (always one of my favourite DJs) called the "Laboratoire Mix". The names meant nothing to me at that point, as I was still very new to techno at that point, but again the other-worldly creepiness of the music haunted me, especially as it was layered with whale song…..it's one of the great techno mixes incidentally. Aphex Twin is certainly one of the most important musicians to me so I had to include something of his, and this is a special piece of music.
For Alex Smoke's upcoming Australian Tour dates, head here.
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