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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Dig this!" - the Warp Records manifesto: bleeps and sub-bass, 7 Nov 2011
By 
Colin Mccartney (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: RetroActivity (Audio CD)
RetroActivity is kind of a deluxe re-issue of the first ever Warp Records LP (well, more a mini-album really), "Clonk's Coming" by Sweet Exorcist. This new version includes everything the duo ever released for the label, plus 5 previously unreleased mixes.

The 2CD is sequenced in strict chronological order - so the first disc contains all mixes and B-sides of both singles - "Testone" and "Clonk" - and it is not until disc 2 that we get to the original album (tracks 1-7). Consequently, it's not a particularly easy listen for the uninitiated. A further word of warning is that the entire double CD (all 150 minutes of it) consists of 23 variations of a mere 3 separate pieces of music, being "Test", "Clonk" and "Jack".

So what is it about "Clonk's Coming" then?

Well it's an object lesson in minimalism. As the record progresses, we get to hear the same tracks being broken down, rearranged and built back up again using the same main elements, as the two Richards - Kirk (of Cabaret Voltaire) and Barratt (of The Funky Worm and others) tread the very fine line between cool and avant-garde. Special mention must also be made of Robert Gordon, whose mixes of "Testone" and "Clonk" gave the whole project a very slight commercial edge - appealing to a much wider and younger audience and not just the hardcore Cabs fans. Gordon's mix of "Testfour" is perhaps the killer track that, even today, pretty much blows everything else away...although, "Kick Jack" (which has no credited input from Rob Gordon) runs it very close.

Whilst the album (if you can even call "Clonk's Coming" an album) is arguably not quite the sonic landmark that was 808 State's Newbuild, it is, I think, the sound of Richard H Kirk giving something back to those who he influenced - namely Detroit techno's first wave and Derrick May in particular. It was interesting to read Kirk, as quoted by David Stubbs in The Guardian Guide of 5.11.11, saying "gleefully" of Detroit techno that, there was "almost nothing there". And so it is with Sweet Exorcist, or, as John McCready put it in his sleevenotes for the legendary compilation Bio Rhythm 2 "808 909 1991": "Listen to the spaces in this music. That's where the magic happens". Here, Kirk gets much closer to the Detroit sound than his contemporaries on the other side of the Peak District ever managed.

The CD packaging is also fittingly basic - a monochrome version of the original album artwork re-done by (who else?) The Designers Republic. Pity there's no booklet, but then the original "Testone", legend has it, was released on a black label - so perhaps we're lucky to get any info at all. The CD labels themselves are Warp purple - a nice old school touch.

Along with LFO's Frequencies and A Word of Science: the 1st & Final Chapter by Nightmares on Wax, "Clonk's Coming" is for me the definitive Warp sound and I would urge you to check it out.
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RetroActivity
RetroActivity by Sweet Exorcist (Audio CD - 2011)
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