VA: Soma Records—20 Years
Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle have good reason to be proud of their Glasgow, Scotland-based Soma imprint, and it's not just because it's still standing after twenty years of operation. More importantly, the label's been responsible for a huge amount of quality music, not just from Orde and Stuart themselves under the Slam name but from a host of others, and listening to the three-CD collection assembled to celebrate the occasion, one becomes all the more aware of just how strong the label's output has been. For the record, disc one is the compilation disc of the three, while the second and third are mix sets produced by Slam and Silicone Soul (Graeme Reedie and Craig Morrison). Don't think of the latter as bonus parts of the release, either, as both mixes hold up just fine on their own terms.
Spanning twenty years and drawn from 310 singles and ninety-plus albums, the opening “classics” disc serves up one amazing joint after another, starting with the rolling bass kick of Daft Punk's remix of Scott Grooves' “Mothership Reconnection” and carrying on into the sinuous string figures of Silicone Soul's intoxicating “Right On, Right On” and the aerodynamic thrust of Slam's “Azure (Part1)”—music that still sounds as fresh and vital as the day it rolled out of the pressing plant. Mid-‘90s throwdowns like Percy X's “X-Trak 1” and Sharkimaxx's (aka Felix Da Housecat) “Clashback” hit with the unrelenting force of modern-day techno bangers, and the Dionysian fires stoked by Slam's hard-grooving “Positive Education” and the Lars Sandberg Funk D'Void cut “Diabla” won't be denied either. The set's opening third closes with the first track ever released on Soma, Slam's “Eterna,” an elegant slice of effervescent house that proves that the label's high quality standards were in place from the very start.
Oozing class and positivity, Slam's expertly executed mix opens the doors wide open to remixers, with names like Mark Henning, Alex Under, Mark Broom, and Nick Curly among them. Deep too is the mix itself, which takes flight with Klartraum's suave treatment of H-Foundation's “Slayin' the Dragon” and never looks back. Powered by bass-throbbing techno and house grooves, it's a lithe and intensely jacking affair that's cued to a just-right BPM—neither frenetically fast nor lugubriously slow—and features Slam cuts, naturally (“Human,” “Lifetimes,” “Stepback,” “Positive Education”), as well as ones from Silicone Soul (“Right On, Right On”) and Funk D'Void (“Diabla”). Fresh from his own Soma outing Hash-Bar Loops, Rod Modell sprinkles Deepchord dust over Hatikvah's “In the Spirit,” while the mix's intensity goes up a notch when the rave-ready thunder of Master H's “Magic K” and the locomotive chug of Silicone Soul's “3am” (in a Maetrik Jazzersize mix) roll out, followed by a micro-set of four Slam tunes in a row, with Pan-Pot, Henning, Zero T, and Adam Beyer & Jesper Dahlback doing remix duty. Near the set's end, Gary Beck's remix of Tony Thomas's “Beginnings” rumbles and roils with determination before Joash eases the mix out with “Diabla.”
Silicone Soul duo Morrison and Reedie, who made their first appearance on Soma Records in 1998, take the controls for the release's second mix, a tight, seventeen-track collection of vibrant uplift. Tracks by Slam, Otaku, Mark Henning, Alex Smoke, and, of course, Silicone Soul appear in a set that, compared to Slam's, assumes a slightly more laid-back feel during the early going (Chaser's “Destination Unknown”), though kicks into gear with the pulsating synth radiance of Alex Smoke's “Chica Wappa” and the acid house of Desert Storm's “Scoraig '93.” Elsewhere, “Mothership Reconnection” rises to the surface of DJ Q's percolating mix of Counterplan's “90 Degrees,” Rejuvination's “Requiem” points the mix in a more deep house direction, and the wide-screen roar of “Diabla” blazes one final time. Being structured as the collection is, it's inevitable that some degree of repetition emerges—“Positive Education,” “Right On, Right On,” and “Diabla,” for example, appear on all three discs (altered, admittedly, by remixers)—though it would be unreasonable to expect mixers not to include the label's most seminal tracks in their sets. Regardless, taken as a whole the set makes as compelling a case as could be imagined for Soma's well-earned status as a vital electronic music force.