Spooky (the duo of Charlie May – Sasha‘s behind the scenes do-all – and Duncan Forbes) are one of electronica’s pioneers and to this day quietly continue to help shape, redefine and innovate the dance music genre. Since 1993, when they released one of electronica’s all-time seminal tracks, Little Bullet, Spooky preferred to remain out of the spotlight and instead concentrated on making undeniably outstanding and forward-thinking music. With Tales of the Unexpected Vol. 4 (on historic trance label Platipus Records), it is clear that their persistence and motivation remain unwavering, and their goals once again achieved.
I didn’t have an expectation leading into purchasing this mix per se. I’d never heard them do a mix before. Yet, in electronica, and furthermore in the sub-genres of progressive house and tech-house, Spooky is a name that everyone pays attention to and gives a listen to. It seems that every production meets ever-increasingly high expectations – each effort of theirs is carefully thought out and nurtured, thus never do they fail to impress.
It was noted in an excellent interview with Charlie May that the goal behind every one of the duo’s creations (and presumably their mix sets) is to conceive original and perfect sounds in every way possible. Now, just about every artist you talk to will say that, but very few have the resources, sheer talent and unquestionable pedigree to back it up to any measurable extent. Spooky can, however. Ostensibly, this leads me to believe that they were extremely judicious about choosing the right sounds in each track for this mix. Often it is a matter of finding tracks that work well together and fit the ear of the composer, however I think Spooky likely took it a few steps further; perhaps redefining the description of anal-retentiveness.
Both discs are rife with tribal-infused rhythms and carefully intonated percussion. Bucking the obsessed trend of electro, this mix could be vaguely (or perhaps definitively) labeled tech-prog-house. Consider the consequences if Charlie May had conspired to produce something with Richie Hawtin and Steve Lawler circa 2003. The best tracks are Spooky’s own (Bambou is a particular favorite) and I was pleasantly surprised to hear some captivating new material from the likes of Timo Maas and Behrouz, who’ve been off my radar for a few years now.
There is an undeniable musicality to this set. Whereas so many minimal and tech-house mixes deviate or digress into (or perhaps never expand upon) beats and drums, Spooky are careful to frequently and tactically substantiate their rhythms with instruments and chords. Less marching, more dancing. Jagged edges become padded and more comfortable, which helps maintain flow, progression and complete listener interest.
The beauty of this mix set is how perfectly it represents Spooky. I don’t mean to say that each track sounds like a Spooky song, though I suppose that could be argued; rather it is the subconscious sense of anticipation and fulfillment you get from listening to it. Just as with their individual productions, listening to this set is incredibly satisfying and you can’t wait to hear what’s next. In fact, broken down farther, each sound is compelling. Forget disc to disc, track to track or minute to minute; I’m talking second to second and sound to sound. This is electronic music production in its purest form – a display of raw talent, conscientious decision-making and sonic exploration, whether microscopically analyzed or enjoyed as a whole.
Surely, just as with some Spooky productions there are songs that won’t agree with everyone, but artistic license must surely be extended to these talented gents. If you’re looking for a dirty, rhythmic and sonically infectious ride through tech-house, house and progressive (dare I call it that these days), this is your mix. I am glad I bought this mix and happy to hear that Spooky have not lost direction or their quest for perfection.
I recommend a good set of headphones and two hours without distraction.