|808 State: Don Solaris
Volume 2, Issue 12
808 STATE Don Solaris
[Reviewer: T. Kelley]
In their time, 808 State have been behind some of the most influential, radical dance music ever with 'Pacific State', 'Cubik', 'In Yer Face' and, erm, the theme music to The Word. Their last album 'Gorgeous' was a blend of beautiful harmonies, sampled B-Lines and weird trickery that failed to maintain their lofty reputation but still sounded good. 'Don Solaris' takes their investigation into sound a good deal further, with a confusing concoction of beautiful melodies, rampant bass-lines and seemingly incongruous rhythms that may not all work, but refuse to be ignored. Lamb's Louise Rhodes crops up on 'Azura' for a spot of Bjork-style warbling, while soprano sax squeals all over 'Black Dartangnon' and 'Joyrider' is surely their attempt to bring 'Pacific' up to date. Elsewhere the harsh electronica and broken beats battle for supremacy, and though not exactly easy-listening, 'DonSolaris' is an album that will grow on you, as 808 State force you into the
DON SOLARIS ZTT
Remember that classic Madchester TOTP? Along with Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses, 808 State were the third part of that glorious baggy TV triumvirate. Five albums on, the
veterans of English dance are still making music that combines their warehouse roots, Graham Massey's prog tendencies, epic soundtrack sweeps, and an undiminished propensity for inspired guest vocalists.
15th June 1996
RETURN OF THE MANCS
BELIEF? LAZINESS? Arrogance? Simple bloody-mindedness? Whatever reason possessed 808 State to take a four-year break, they return to a global dancefloor altered beyond recognition.
The only bona fide techno supergroup resurface to find Underworld, The Chemical Brothers, Leftfield and a host of others ruling the roost. Not only that, but entire new musical genres now exist. So what can three poor boys from Manchester do? Dust up their tried-and-tested formula, dress it all up in modern finery, make concessions to drum'n'bass, and keep their fingers crossed, of course.
808 State were always the most rock-friendly dance act extant. Where others see divergent and mutually exclusive paths, Graham Massey and his two DJ pals see a definite link between the two musical forms and a new way of working.
It's telling that 'Don Solaris''s more grandiose passages recall the dark days of early-'70s experimentation - these guys have been around long enough to find the once-reviled coming full circle back into hipness. Plus, when you check the guest vocal spots by James Dean Bradfield, Doughty (of Soul Coughing infamy) and Louise Rhodes (Lamb), despite a variation in quality, you know the State are locked to rock.
And it's nosebleed time, chill-out time, spliff-up time, head-banging time, and comedown time all at once, as the 808 signature sound roams the country, then takes off into space. With the jittery beats of drum'n'bass alternating with rock and techno patterns, the alchemists just get all science-fiction on top and wait to collect the money...
Minus 'Banacheq', and its tentative attempt at some Brian Eno type ethnography, they do cut their coats according to their commercial size, to the extent of echoing their greatest hit, 'Pacific State', on the dub-licious title track. Even if the Manic Street Preacher singer sounds slightly uncomfortable in the pristine, almost clinical surroundings of 'Lopez', Doughty's description of the nuclear fission process, 'Bond', more than compensates for this with a great Mark E Smith pastiche.
So, 808 State are back to spread joy, theorise on the nature of power - hence 'Don Solaris' - and get sardonically funky with some of the most deceptively complex and layered dance tunes since, well, since they last appeared. The question is: will anyone care?
[Reviewer: Dele Fadele]
6th June 1996
808 State Don Solaris ZTT
A classic album is one which you play all the, way through, not skipping one track. Then when it's finished you put, it back on right from the beginning again. You don't really get that many of those albums in dance music but when you do - WOW! Don Solaris, the new album by Manchester's 808 State, has actually got me into sudh a tizzy I have an uncontrollable urge to gush about the sheer joyous, majestic wonder of this music. A deep, evangelical need to preach the holy bible of this record has never come over me. Brothers and sisters, put your hands together and let us pray....Anyone who was around in 1989 will remember being blown away by 808 State's magnificent sensual sax anthem 'Pacific State'. Since then the band have been relatively quiet apart from Graham Massey's contributions to Bjork's superb 'Post' LP. Well, now it's 1996 and the State are back big time, clutching an incredible time bomb of a record. Ignore the pretentious track titles, this is British dance music at its very best. A surprise at every turn, the first track is a strange gothic number with 'Sweat In the Eyes' Bowie-esque vocals. 'Azure' is an obvious single - Beth Gibbons/Bjork vocal 'In a world where mediocrity rules, bodies collide without a moment of emotion' float astride a sweet D&B groove. 'Joyrider' is a contender for 'Pacific State' part 2 - a beautiful bumping saxophony. Side two is even more compelling than the first. The melodic 'Joy, it gives me my last regret', Pete Wylie (actually James Dean Bradfield) sung 'Lopez' dissolves into the dark, dairy crunch of 'Balboo'. 'Kouhoutek' is Old skool piano-led house which breaks down, meanders erratically before crashing back with a glorious, almost classical finale. 'Mooz' is Kate Bush meets Photek meets Bjork (again) and 'Banacheq' is so damn funky and fucked up it gives the Chemical Brothers a run for their money anyday. Anyone who still thinks electronic music is cold and barren should cop a load of this; one listen and you'll be popping sprogs all over it. With an incredible ear for melody, arrangement, moods and fresh clubland beats, 808 State have come up with a classic. A record you'll want to play continuously until you know it inside out. Amen and God bless.