Various Artists: Fantastic Effects

- It’s been a year since underground Sydney dance label, promoter and FBi Radio staple Body Promise unleashed their first comp., Harmony From A Dominant Hue. Just in time to save you from wondering what to stuff in the stocking of your favourite handcrafted beathead, here is installment numero two, Fantastic Effects. Stylistically it’s a chip off the old block, mainlining propulsive dancefloor beats in the form of the DIY proto-techno Body Promise’s friends and family favour. For such a sweaty groover the strengths of this collection are surprisingly subtle: performing gently stylish tweaks on familiar formulas, deploying collaborations and disguised guest appearances from established artists and occasional, unexpected excursions into electronic dance music’s wilder frontiers.

The compilation’s very first cut caught me off guard. The track Open Book is anything but: a very restrained beat with a funky bass and electro snaps that sound a bit tongue in cheek, especially when paired with the bizarre vocal sample which could be some old drunk dosed with ketamine and let loose on the microphone. Pretty offbeat as opening gambits go, it encapsulates a lot of what Body Promise and Fantastic Effects are about. Deliberately left-field and DIY and made to sound more budget than it actually is, even as that skeezy ol’ dude clears his throat in your ear for the third time, you’ll find your hips unconsciously gyrating to the acid synths. There’s a deep dancefloor cut waiting for you to look in the other direction before it jumps you from behind; oh, and the artist Crazy Legs is the disguise of some well-known Sydney producer, you’ll just have to work out who for yourself so you can lord it over everyone else.

These various elements are reiterated across the course of the record. I suppose the common theme threading all of them together is that you always get slightly more than you were expecting. Take DJ N.K.: his extremely hand-crafted rhythms seem like they’re going to fly apart into shards, all over the place, even as they slowly layer into a profoundly infectious meeting of African and techno rhythms. If you were expecting an Angolan-Portuguese kuduro producer to be on here at all then you're one up on me, but, taking that in stride, hey, it fits right in. There’s no shortage of people turning up unexpectedly: look at DIN, which is actually Rainbow Chan and Moon Holiday’s Alex Ward. They take the techno template and slow it down into some quasi-electro-industrial funky strut. DIY as all get-out but completely, darkly compelling.

I think you’re getting the idea by now - but even as you get used to the stream of little surprises, there’s more to come. Body Promise are putting quite a lot of trust in the average listener, expecting them to get right down the other end of the record and discover a delightful team-up between Body Promise regulars DJ Plead and T.Morimoto combining their resources as Poison and producing a relentlessly energetic, syncopated freakout titled International Money Transfer. Honestly, if I’d known sending funds overseas was like this I’d be using Western Union all the time. It features almost no bass which reminds me of some of Squarepusher’s zany early stuff: a very welcome memory. That’s not enough though, Fantastic Effects delivers a devastating one-two punch, following up with the enormous contrast of friendships doing their archetypal, propulsive, bassy and terrifying thing on a track of theirs I’ve never heard before: GUT ROT. It’s a monster and bless Body Promise for having the nerve to hide it all the way up the end.

Twice in a row now Body Promise have shown how musicians in Australia (and just a couple from elsewhere) are taking techno, just about the oldest, hoariest electronic dance music there is and consistently turning it into something, fresh, anarchic and -at a physical level- exciting. Fantastic effects indeed.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Fantastic Effects
Artist: Various Artists
Record Label: (Body Promise)