B12 :: Electro Soma II Re-Issue (Warp)

For those of you who missed Electro Soma, I’m envious. You now have the opportunity to delve into an album of inspirational electronic music, an album that few others have been able to equal; until now. Electro Soma II is not the same as its predecessor but it is made out of the same synthesizer stardust. Electro Soma II of intense sensitivity and subtlety that will introduce a new generation, and re-introduce others, to the wonder that was, and still is, B12.

In all musical spheres there are those musicians that are seen a seminal, records with that certain something that set them apart whilst establishing a precedent. Electronic music has its progenitors, Frankie Knuckles and house, Drexciya and electro for example. There was no single forerunner of IDM, no one artist or group but arguably one label, Warp Records. Even if such a claim might do a disservice to other imprints in the UK and Europe who were just as important, General Production Recordings, Eevolute and Likemind to name a few, the place of Warp in the annals of techno is resoundingly secure; the Artificial Intelligence series saw to that.

Many of those who participated in this pioneering series, a collection of albums and compilations from 1992-94, went on to become household names, in certain households that is. Autechre. Aphex Twin. Speedy J. FUSE aka Richie Hawtin. It was a series that set an enviable standard and one that appeared to be finished, completed some 23 years ago. But that isn’t the case, as B12 are proving.

B12 were an integral part of the IDM scene in Britain. The duo of Michael Golding and Steve Rutter founded their label in the early 90s with Warp picking up the pair for a double LP of favourites. Electro Soma was the release. An instant classic. Music brimming with warmth and possibility, a future vision of hope where the synthesizer would create the soundtrack. This compilation of material, mostly from Musicology, came out in 1993 and is finally being repressed on Warp. In spite of this wonderful news there’s even better to come. Alongside the reissue comes a sister album, Electro Soma II.

The contents of this second collection are from that same golden age of British machine music. Tracks are from the B12 label back catalogue from the likes of Musicology, Redcell as well as selected pieces from the CD only Archive Volumes. A veritable feast is on offer. The opener, “Debris,” is a definite sibling of the original Electro Soma. Subtle layers are formed, drums and strings being the foundation, that give rise to a wonderfully expansive piece of electronic music. “Kaixia 80” is a similar entity, clean beats keep time as dreamy notes ascend ever higher. The entire collection has a dreamlike quality to it, picking up where the first compilation left off. In fact, the original release of 1993 is revisited. “Satori” and “Static Emotion,” both of which featured on the CD versions of Electro Soma, have finally been brought to vinyl in all their subtle depth and glory. Heady out-there electronics is countered by more beat driven dancefloor numbers. “Bubbles” for example is a cheeky and pacey piece, cascading chords are bolstered by beefy rhythm patterns. “Fear Of Expression” is cut from a similar yet distinct cloth. Samples, twanging keys are brought together by pulsing drums and chiming cymbals. But it is the more dreamlike numbers that stand out. Take “Eilya,” a work of hazed percussion and soulful keys, or “Go With The Hiss” with its soft strings and liquid pads and it becomes obvious how little this sound has aged. The double LP is emblematic of the idea of IDM, music overflowing with ambient warmth, new experimentation balanced by a sci-fi futuristic coolness.

For those of you who missed Electro Soma, I’m envious. You now have the opportunity to delve into an album of inspirational electronic music, an album that few others have been able to equal; until now. Electro Soma II is not the same as its predecessor but it is made out of the same synthesizer stardust. Broad sky gazing bars. Complex and compelling harmonies. Beats that wriggle free from structures. Immediate desires to compare both records are obvious but should be sheathed. Instead this second installment should be met with the same openness that most will have embraced the 1993 release with; I’m sure if you do you’ll find this latest addition to be every bit as absorbing and engaging as the first. Electro Soma II of intense sensitivity and subtlety that will introduce a new generation, and re-introduce others, to the wonder that was, and still is, B12.

Electro Soma II is available on Warp.

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