Saturday, 3 August 2013
Sweet Exorcist - Testone
Founded by Steve Beckett and the late Rob Mitchell from their experiences working at the FON record shop, alongside record producer Robert Gordon, the label (whose name was chosen because the original name, 'Warped Records' was difficult to distinguish over the telephone) soon became home to artists who would be influential in electronic music.
Warp's third record, "Testone" (1990) by Sweet Exorcist (Richard H. Kirk and Richard Barratt), defined Sheffield's bleep techno sound, by making playful use of sampled sounds from Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Computer Game" (1978) and the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
Richard H. Kirk: I always enjoyed Close Encounters, in fact I watched the directors cut only the other day. The sample was from a vinyl record courtesy of DJ Parrot [Richard Barratt] who was my co conspirator in Sweet Exorcist. I think it kind of reflects the druggy vibe of the day, the kind of alien, other worldly feeling that could be associated with certain chemicals. Also, a lot of kids were discovering Pink Floyds Dark Side of The Moon, in fact I remember a couple of tracks which sampled from that. It just seemed to tie in with all the stuff that was happening at the time but no, not a re-imagined soundtrack.
DD: Are the rumours true that Testone was originally developed literally as track for testing audio equipment?
RHK: At the time, a lot of people were using the sine/square waves which came with the Akai s1000 sampler to create bass lines and synth tones. Parrot had the idea to use test tones from the tapes used to align reel to reel tape machines but in the end we ended up sampling from a test oscillator in my mixing desk. It was never (testone) developed for testing audio equipment but I’m sure the bass on some of the mixes tested to the extreme the speakers at some parties. We just made the track really to give people a blast at the jive turkey night at occasions in Sheffield.
DD: Do you still see elements of Bleep about?
RHK: You can’t avoid bleeps in the 21st century. It’s around us all the time in all the electronic devices that we carry around, transport systems, body scanners, security devices, airports, supermarkets. I can hear it in some of the Dub-step mixes too.
Five tones? Sweet Exorcist didn't need five tones. Two was enough to make electronic-music history.
At the end of the 1980s, Richard H. Kirk (of the pioneering U.K. post-punk band Cabaret Voltaire) was a huge fan of the twin ascension of house and techno. Cabaret Voltaire had been incorporating dance sounds since its first singles in the late '70s, but Kirk wanted to dive deeper — specifically Detroit techno, which hadn't crossed the Atlantic with the same ferocity as Chicago's house music.
So Kirk holed up with Sheffield's DJ Parrot (a.k.a. Richard Barrett), who wanted to take an antithetical approach to the recent rise of acid house. Specifically, Barrett had this crazy idea to build a track out of tones used to calibrate and test audio equipment — sine waves similar to what might precede an Emergency Broadcast System message — but to use the same funk rhythms that had been moving hips for decades with an emphasis on the one (a.k.a. the first beat). The result was "Testone," and it was the third 12" ever for the fledgling Sheffield label Warp Records.
Bloop ... Bleep ... Bleep Bloop.
While Sweet Exorcist (as Kirk and Barrett would become known) pulled in elements of house and techno, something about "Testone" sounded different. Detroit's techno pioneers had been increasingly erasing themselves from their music for half a decade, but this felt like the HAL in the coffin. What began with Robert Moog 25 years earlier had finally morphed into R2D2. Warp deemed the burgeoning sub-genre — what else? — Bleep