Split EPs are an endangered species – a victim of The Great Unbundling that began with dubplates, test presses and short runs and devoured them one-by-one like a horde of locusts. Whether it’s for reasons of art or economy, combining new label stars No Dial Tone with old friend James Curd (the most prolific Classic artist during the label’s first go round) was an inspired move. More than that, it is an unmistakable sign that Classic is back, and back for good: no other label (other than Classic Mach One) would have put this eclectic combination of artists and remixers together; no other label could have gotten away with it; no other label would have even thought it conceivable to do so.
No Dial Tone team up again with Djamila, the vocalist on their previous Classic release, “About You“. On “Standing Still”, she evokes Bjork from the Telegram era over moody Deep House beats with a Leftroomish inspiration. Matthew Herbert is on the remix with all kinds of cut up, jarring and jagged riffs. To be honest, I felt like smashing it the first time I heard it. That changed – it doesn’t grow on you, it imposes itself on you. What sounded like digital vomit at first found a groove, like finding the rose in the steel dust.
And then the strange juxtaposition: you have no idea what you’re going to hear from James Curd, as mentioned in this issue, and I REALLY wasn’t prepared for this. “Gentle Help” marks a return to the stripped down funk of one of the earlier permutations of Curd’s sound – maybe even a return to Swing House, mixed with some Greenskeepers weirdness and, oddly, big doubled/tripled/quadrupled vocals that evoke that polished rock sound of the late ’70s. It’s just a catchy tune: a lively, addictive key riff, driving bass and drums that sound live enough if they aren’t. The remix is from emerging Chicago DJ/producer The Black Madonna, who delivers a crisp, uptempo mix that drives that key riff into the ground.
This is, to recap, a record with tracks by No Dial Tone and James Curd, and remixes by Matthew Herbert and The Black Madonna. Past, present, future; established and emerging; styles and sounds all over the place but somehow fitting together in the end. I’m not sure how you could better encapsulate the Classic aesthetic than that.