808 State Album Review: Ex:El 808 State: Ex:El
Album Review
808 State Album Review: Ex:El VOX
Issue 17
February 1992
Page: 77


808 State Album Review: Ex:El
808 State are no doubt hoping that the forthcoming year will be dubbed the Summer of Bleep - with Kiss FM playing bleep to death that might not be such a tar-fetched idea - and the Ex.el album is their latest stab at Techno greatness.

There's a lurch towards internationalism here as well, on tracks with self-explanatory titles like 'San Francisco', 'Nephotiti' and 'Olympic'. All of these try for breadth of vision and succeed - partly. Fans of the Ambient Rap sound that 808 represent won't be disappointed with these seminstrumentals, despite their orthodox arrangements of swirling synths, bleepers ana samples squawking amid rhythm box beats. Honourable exceptions include 'Bjork Song', evocative of Barbarella and featuring the named Sugarcubes chanteuse; plus the 12-inch cuts of chart hits 'In Your Face' and 'Cubik'. 808 are hip enough, of course, to have wound in the tempo increase of suburban BPMs, and some of the said, faster numbers do, curiously enough, manage to convey a certain E-generation mysticism.

"We're here!" someone keeps lisping, but where, exactly, are we? Fairly nifty yet too synthed-out to cook, oscillating somewhere between a groovy Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk on speed - and sounding as if we were mixed in Acid-era Chicago. Elevator music has had a bad press of late, even though Eno made a fortune from it, and Ex.el, in the end, is just that: dance muzak, albeit of a superior kind. Functioning but not funky.


[Reviewer: Phil Strongman]

808 State Album Review: Ex:El Tracks
April 1991
Page: 24


Darren Partington, Graham Massey, Martin Price and Andy Baker may not be names that trip off the tongue, but their group (romanticatty named after a drum machine) most certainty does. Their first atbum was an essential purchase for Manchester dance enthusiasts, but it atso made those outside the rave scene prick up their ears. For the second 'difficult' retease the recent hits 'In Yer Face', 'Cubik' and 'Otympic' come in their futt gtory, atong with three oddities from star guests. The Sugarcubes' weird-voiced singer Bjork detivers the detightfut 'Ooops' and 'Qmart' and feltow Mancunian Bernard 'New Order' Sumner comes over att deadpan on 'Spanish Heart'. Dance your socks off.

[Reviewer: Unknown]

808 State Album Review: Ex:El Q
Issue 64
January 1992
Page: 61


808 State have epitomised the faceless side of current dance and club culture, operating from a trendy record shop in Manchester and forsaking the starry trappings of a pop personality cult. Ex.El, however, brims over with character of sorts. Masters of their art, 808 State playfully tickle the underbelly of blatant sampling, KLF-style stadium house and the dormant ghost of Kraftwerk to create something innovative, daring and different. How the departure of elderly mainman Martin Price will affect them remains to be seen.

[Reviewer: Unknown]

808 State Album Review: Ex:El Billboard
1st June 1991
Page: 74

PRODUCERS: 808 State
Tommy Boy 1042

Second set by Manchester act strays from the ambient /acid house sound it helped popularize, opting for a more varied palette of ideas and grooves. Most radical change is the use of singers on three tracks. Electronic/New Order front man Bernard Sumner gives "Spanish Heart" an ethereal modern pop feel, while Bjork of the Sugarcubes infuses an intense, raw quality to "Qmart" and the first single, "Ooops." Tempos and tones reach out to include disco,
hip-hop, industrial, and house- making this an accessible, yet innovative, effort.

808 State Album Review: Ex:El Billboard
18th May 1991
Page: 61

ALBUM NOTES: 808 State makes a welcome return with "Ex:el" (Tommy Boy, New York). The Manchester-bred band that helped pave the way for the ambient house movement with "Pacific" offers a more varied palette of ideas and grooves this time around.

First, there are appearances by New Order /Electronic vocalist Bernard Sumner (on "Spanish Heart") and Sugarcubes front woman Bjork (on "Ooops" and "Qmart "). Dropping lyrics into the band's already cinematic instrumental arrangements adds an intriguing depth to the overall tone of the album.

Musically, "Ex:el" shows the band experimenting with different
rhythms and textures. While "Leo Leo" and "Lift" are true to the atmospheric concepts of their debut, "Nephatiti" uses startingly raw and aggressive keyboard effects and "Empire" is fueled with easy-paced tribal beats. There are also several choice tracks for industrial fans, starting with the cool machine -like vibe of "In Yer Face."

The first single will be "Ooops," sporting new mixes by Eric Kupper. This quirky, down-tempo track will likely show the group once again testing (and, we hope, expanding) the boundaries of mainstream club programming-which is apparently becoming
its specialty. A brilliant effort.

[Larry Flick]

808 State Album Review: Ex:El Q
April 1991
Page: 68


808 State Album Review: Ex:El

Risk a smile: Oops opens on a crunch electro-dance beat keeping odd company with a decidedly Cheddarie sub-Bondmovie piano theme, then, just as you're fingering the fast-forward, in comes the ravishing, eccentric warble of Sugarcubes' Bjork Gudmundsdottir, on the brink of laughter or orgasm, to say, "Ooops, all right, I'll come over/ And pour myself over you". The machine/human, plastic/passion contrasts judder on in rich complexity and ferocious fun until 808 State (four boffins, no instrumental credits) have proved beyond doubt that last year's debut wasn't the high water mark of their brief career. Although the most durable tracks could be the songs from Bjork (the other is Qmart; scat, or maybe Icelandic, Latino-jazz of rare abandon) and New Order's Barney Sumner (in Pet Shop Boys vein treading lightly through Spanish Heart), the remarkable thing about EX.EL is the wild rush of beat-box-andelectronics instrumentals like Cubik, Lambrusco Cowboy and Technobell. Irresistibly full of fun.


[Reviewer: Phil Sutcliffe]

808 State Album Review: Ex:El Select
April 1991
Page: ??



808 State Album Review: Ex:El

IN THE 15 months since they dragged ZTT out of the Where Are They Now? file for forgotten record companies, 808 State have built a profile that makes Phil Collins look like a recluse.

Collaborating with artists as varied as Jon Hassell and Sunsonic, creating their very own pop star with MC Tunes and writing the theme tune for Channel 4's The Word, they have become a virtual fixture in the charts. And still only their mothers know what they look like.

Despite this omnipresence, it can't have escaped them that recently the competition has been getting tougher. Where Graham Massey & Co once ploughed a lone furrow of commercial electronic vibes, there is now a multitude of artists, bands, DJs, producers and teaboys who have discovered that crucial, if long-hidden, dance element to their music.

So with the jaws of 100 pretenders to the techno-funk crown snapping at their heels, can the plucky Mancunians prove they still have what it takes with 'Ex.EI', the follow-up to '90' and unbelievably their fourth long-player?

For an outfit as renowned for their collaborations as their band work, it's a surprise that the tracks on 'Ex.EI' featuring guest vocalists are the weakest. After the eminently danceable funk of the opener, 'San Francisco', the appearance of Bernard Sumner on 'Spanish Heart' is a disappointment. It's lazy to say that it sounds like a poor New Order outtake...but it's also true.

Björk of The Sugarcubes fares a little better, wailing on the percussive meanderings of 'Qmart' and 'Oops'. You feel that everything including the kitchen sink has been shoved in to compensate for no one remembering to write any songs.

These flawed collaborations aside, 'Ex.EI' consolidates the 808 story but can't quite top the aural delirium of their classic 'Quadrastate'.

The beat is cranked up when 'In Yer Face' and 'Cubik' pound out of the speakers before disappearing down to do the foundations some damage. 'Lift' shows the humour behind the faceless machinery while the closing track, 'Techno Bell', sees them reasserting themselves as unimpeachable techno kings. The mighty 'Olympic' is thrown in as a bonus on CD.

'Ex.EI' contains some of the hardest and funkiest techno tunes to be heard so far this year. If you ain't dancing to this then someone has sawn your legs off. Period.



808 State Album Review: Ex:El iD
"The News Issue"
April 1991
Page: 64
808 State: 'Ex-EI' (ZTT)

808 go deeper into technology with a record that will delight ravers and electro-freaks alike. Amongst the party-pumping baselines, the tracks featuring Barney Sumner and Bjork from The Sugarcubes sound, well, weird.

[Reviewer: Unknown, but could be Mandi James?]
808 State Album Review: Ex:El Record Mirror
9th March 1991
Page: 20

808 STATE 'ex:el'

808 State Album Review: Ex:El
'ex:el' is 808 State at play. The soundtrack to a party, with all the moments of elation, exhaustion and regret. The party starts with 'San Francisco', an instrumental track as easy to love as it is to forget. But wait, wasn't that the doorbell? Well, if it isn't Bernard Sumner. The 8ies send him into the kitchen, but he can't help making up a romantic little rhyme to sing to the gentle tune the boys are playing while he munches through the canapés. He calls it 'Spanish Heart'.

'Leo Leo' gets the party into full swing and, during the Latin grooves of 'Qmart', Bjork Sugarcube arrives and tries to get the 8ies' attention by shouting above the music. Bjork then pops into the kitchen to pour a glass of Irn Bru while the boys carry straight on with 'Nephatiti' and the seductive dream state of 'Lift'. Bjork likes 'Lift' so much she gets them to play it again, slightly differently, while she improvises a song. She calls it 'Ooops'.

Not wanting the guests to upstage them at their own party, the 8ies start flexing their jazzy techno muscles on 'Empire', 'In Yer Face', 'Cubik', 'Lambrusco Cowboy' and 'Techno Bell', drawing the party to a close.

Having closed the door on the last guest and haggled with a cabbie over the fare from

Manchester to Reykjavic, the 8ies put on a CD of the tingly 'Olympic', clear away the glasses and think about how many songs they're going to write tomorrow.


[Reviewer: Tim Nicholson]

808 State Album Review: Ex:El Sounds
9th March 1991
Page: 40

808 STATE 'ex:el'
(ZTT) ***1/2

808 State Album Review: Ex:El

IN THE late 1960s, the death of the peace 'n' love idealism of the hippy trip was heralded by the acid-crazed bloodbath of the Manson murders. In a similar way, the recent closure of top disco The Hacienda is a fitting symbol for the end of the Madchester party. Now, the big question is which of the Mancsters have the suss to avoid going down the proverbial dumper?

808 State present a good each-way bet for staying the course - they were always a world apart from the battalions of baggies and seem unlikely to suffer the same fate. It's debatable, though, whether 'ex:el' presents enough in the way of evolution to keep them up with the leaders of the dance pack.

There are some welcome experiments, most noticeably the collaborations with New Order's Bernard Sumner and The Sugarcubes' Bjork. The use of these idiosyncratic voices on the 808 synthscapes makes a refreshing change from egocentric rappers, so it's sad that neither vocalist pulls off the role with the desired degree of success. Thanks to an overtly pedestrian backing, Sumner's appearance on 'Spanish Rain' could be third rate Electronic. Bjork's efforts are far from run of the mill, but the screeching and squarking of 'Qmart' and 'Ooops' are sonic somersaults that lack any sense of grace.

Perhaps the failure of these partnerships is a sign that the outfit's natural home is always going to be the instrumental House workout. Indeed, there's a wealth of evidence that these technocrats could push the right buttons even when they're in the most stoned of stupors. Prime examples are 'Leo Leo' and 'Lambrusco Cowboy', both using basslines to burn, bruise and bewitch, all the while making dance look like a simple matter of reflexology. Honourable mentions must also go to the singles 'Cubik' and 'In Yer Face', their electro-throb overflowing with brooding menace.

To say 'ex:el' has its weak spots would be a reasonable statement but it should also be stressed that the flaws are far from fatal. When in full flight, 808 State can still make computer literacy seem like a gift from God.

[Reviewer: Anthony Farthing]

808 State Album Review: Ex:El Melody Maker
9th March 1991
Page: 32


808 State Album Review: Ex:El

WHO are they, this bunch of knob-twiddling mother's boys that go by the name 808 State? I reckon they're shaping up as a Weather Report for the Nineties (a reference doubtless lost on most of you young whippersnappers). See, Weather Report were a gaggle of virtuoso drop-outs from Miles Davis' late Sixties ensemble, who pioneered fusion. They put jazz and funk and Latin a a host of other ethnicities into the blender, and produced a hi-tech panoramic "Fourth World" sound.

808 do much the same, only they use the latest and the latest brand of Black American rhythms (acid and techno). Like Weather Report, at their best 808 offer a pan-global fantasia of reeling vistas and undulating impressionism. But they're also prone to fusion's cardinal sins: a tendency towards sterile monumentalism and a fondness for florid, over-exquisite detail that verges on the rococo. 808 State can be as exhilarating as some hypothetical hybrid of Mantronix and Herbie Hancock circa "Future Shock", or as anodyne and antiseptic as the most anonymous jazz-funk.

"San Francisco" is a terrific opener, its mammoth beat striding predatorily across a landscape of shimmering riffs exotica - synths that tantalise like mirages, electro-riffs that fold back in on themselves like origami. "Spanish Heart", the much-touted collaboration with Barney Sumner, is an inconsequential ballad, with jazzy/Latinate chord changes framing Sumner's lost vocal (will he still be playing the waif when he's 50, I wonder?). "Qmart" makes me think of a helicopter's eye view of the savannah, herds of antelope a wildebeest dispersing hither and thither like shoals of tropical fish. Bjork's scat(terbrain) vocal is mixed low, so that she's just another outlandish strand in the b She's in great voice, of course, and what joy to hear her liberated from the restrictive goofiness of the Cubes.

The title of "Nephatiti" recalls the Egyptological reveries of Miles Davis and Sun Ra, but the neon-flickering synths and sampled phrases like "unreal city" evoke the phantasmic nature of the modem megalopolis. At their best, 808 State have created the perfect in-car soundtrack for shooting along overpasses and through spaghetti junctions: like the opening sequence of Tarkovsky's "Solaris", you feel like a corpuscle in the city's bloodstream. Better than their best, however - and thanks largely to is "Oops", which is what The Associates might sounded like if they'd drifted left after "Sulk" instead of turned sharp right (towards pop). Entwined in a perfumed fog of shimmeringly chimerical synths, Bjork sounds like a cross between Claire Grogan and Billy McKenzie.

"Ex:El" isn't all enchantment. "Lift" is sprightly elevator muzak: its gusts of artificial strings induce a uneasy feeling of docility, as though someone was trying to anaesthetise you with Glade air freshener. Then there's the boring "In Yer Face" single, a procession of squirmy squelches, synth-farts, belches and whinnies. "Cubik" is a little better, kicking off like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop trying to get on the good foot, then swelling into a brutal bedlam of inorganic sound.

Happily, the album closes with a splendid sequence of tracks. "Lambrusco Cowboy" is like a time-lapse film shot through a window on the Trans-Europe Express, four days travel compressed into a four minute blur of exoticism. "Techno Bell" is a kind of jam symphony for 808's vast array of drum machines. On "Olympic", a bustling polyrhythmic undercarriage supports a mosaic of melodic tendrils and a "Blockbuster" theme tune of the same heart-stirring ilk as "The Big Country". Overall, "Ex:El" demonstrates that 808 State are pretty much unrivalled as soundscape gardeners. But gardens are for playing in. Perhaps 808's future does lie in collaboration. They could do a lot worse than, say, dedicating themselves to salvaging the career of Billy McKenzie, or turning Mary Margaret O'Hara into a disco diva. As it is, "Ex:El" is mostly magisterial, but somewhat hollow. 808 are best when they sport a jewel in their crown, a ghost in their machine.


808 State Album Review: Ex:El NME
9th March 1991
Page: ??
(to be transcribed)
808 State Album Review: Ex:El Smash Hits
6th March 1991
Page: ??
(to be transcribed)