Maurice Fulton is one of those mavericks who prefers to let his music do the talking, and there is so much of it to discuss, spanning countless aliases and labels in a discography that stretches back to the 90s, including the oft-mentioned production credit for “Gypsy Woman” by Crystal Waters.
Alongside the countless productions under a range of sometimes bizarre pseudonyms for multiple labels, there is the raft of production work Fulton has done for Mu, Kathy Diamond, Mimi Suleiman and most recently former Freeform Five member Tamara Barnett-Herrin. Add to this the sizeable canon of unreleased material that is merely hinted at in his irregular Bubbletease Communications podcasts or during DJ sets, such as this mammoth track from a 2010 Fulton and Parrish DJ set in Tokyo that still criminally sits unreleased.
Today, Fulton’s focus seems to be largely on releasing music from his sizeable archives via the digital-only Bubbletease Communications imprint, and operates a strict no interview policy that ensures all you can do is focus on the music. In order to satisfy a long held desire to lay praise on one of our most highly regarded producers here at Juno Plus, read on as we delve into the archives of Maurice Fulton and present a selection of our favourite tracks. This is by no means a definitive “best of”, simply a homage to our favourite moments in a formidable back catalogue.
Stress – Space (Transfusion, 1999, and Bubbletease Communications, 2001)
Listening back to the Stress album Why Put Me Through It, there are moments of unadulterated Fulton genius on it that still resonate today; the sultry red light swagger of “My Gigolo” for instance, or the thick basement vibe of “Down In The Dungeon”, whose swooping orchestral moments are on a par with Carl Craig. However the album strays a bit too far into jazz territory at times, which is largely indicative of the time at which it was released (for example the rasping house groove of “Tarzan Girl” has the impact of its devilishly playful four note bass line offset by the jazz flute throughout).
Obviously with Fulton behind the buttons, it’s a brilliant example of jazz-indebted house, and much better than the beige St Germain, but it’s still jazz house. The album’s slower abstract moments such as “Trip To San Francisco” and “Look in The Mirror” haven’t aged too well either to be fair. These tracks combined with Fulton’s penchant for indulging his sideways tendencies a bit too much makes it all too understandable that people have been turned off.
The crowning glory of Why Put Me Through This is possibly its most understated moment, the widescreen journey through the outer cosmos of house music that is the aptly titled “Space”. Based around a simple yet devastatingly effective key pattern that oscillates around the full expanses of the channels with mind bending results, the track shows a rhythmic restraint Fulton is not really renowned for. The drums are stripped down to little more than the rattle of synthesised hits, and while there is a bass line yet it remains deep in the shadows allowing that ominous, almost spooky refrain centre stage. (TP)
Maurice Fulton Presents Stress – Moo That Rocked The Electric Chair (Bubbletease Communications, 2001)
One of the few occasions Fulton has stepped outside the self imposed media barrier and participated in an interview was during the 2006 Red Bull Music Academy. Fielding questions from a typically louche Gerd Janson as part of a key note lecture, Fulton proved to be an engaging if edgy subject and over the course of the 90 minutes revealed the now defunct Manchester club night Electric Chair to be among his favourite places to DJ.
He’s not alone of course, as any DJ or attendee at the long running night overseen by The Unabombers duo of Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford will talk freely of at least one magical night at the Electric Chair. For Fulton it seems undoubtedly the night he DJed there in 2001 and met his now wife, Mutsumi Kanamori. In her own words, Mutsumi recalls meeting Fulton that night: “He saw me dancing crazy on the dance floor. After he finished DJing he came to me and told me: ‘I’m going to make a song about you!’”
Fulton made good on this promise with the rippling behemoth that was “Moo That Rocked The Electric Chair”, an undoubted highlight of Why Put Me Through It, the album he did as Stress. It was possibly a Jockey Slut writer that once said Maurice Fulton’s production style sounded like you he was falling up the stairs, yet on “Moo That Rocked The Electric Chair” all the wonkiness that Fulton has made his trademark was mostly cast aside, save for one telling element – deranged drumming. This track has it in abundance and then some, as it progresses over the six minutes, layer upon layer of complex and disparate drums are introduced with typical micro attention to editing. As a biographical ode to that fateful night where Fulton met his future wife it demonstrates just how much of an impression Mutsumi made on him. As with the majority of Fulton productions, this was one of those tracks that can be devastatingly effective at the right moment and devastatingly frightening at all others. (TP)
David Holmes Presents The Free Association – Sugarman (Maurice Fulton Remix) (Mercury, 2003)
Arch Irish miserablist David Holmes may be a well respected producer and DJ who spends his days soundtracking the next Soderbergh film, but amid all the acclaim his career has enjoyed there was one notable misstep in the shape of The Free Association. Borne out of Come Get It I Got It, a typically accomplished mixtape of psychedelia and funk, the subsequent debut of The Free Association was released back in the post Big Beat haze of 2002, and largely failed to coherently implement Holmes’ considerable knowledge of 60s/70s musical curios in a band format.
Perhaps the only positives to emerge from this project were the range of people called on to remix The Free Association. For example Psycho Pab from the seminal Scottish duo the Psychonauts was commissioned to provide an album promo mix that deftly weaved scraps of The Free Association amid the library of music it clearly aped in a fashion similar to his cut n’ paste antics on Mo Wax, while Edan, Gonzales and Roots Manuva also contributed wildly diverse efforts.
The most memorable, however was undoubtedly Fulton’s drastic revision of “Sugarman”, which tore apart the slightly bloated Sixto Rodriguez cover version and left little of the original in place amid a bucking ride through horrorcore boogie music. As stated elsewhere, Maurice Fulton remixes often fall under two categories: the interesting but so-so, and the ‘mo-by-numbers’. This is neither, instead demonstrating some of the ideas that clearly went into the material that Fulton would later execute as Syclops on Tirk. The same live, rasping drum sounds, vicious bass line thrust and freeform textures that dominated your attention on “Mom The TV Broke” were present on his remix of “Sugarman” and there was typical Fulton swerves into a moment of relative calm that only served to make the subsequent delve back into the madness permeated by intermittent bursts of B Movie screams all the more elatory. (TP)
Mu – Paris Hilton/We Love Guys Named Luke (Output, 2004)
If ever there was a “Marmite” record, it is this full-throttle oddity from the early days of Fulton’s marriage to Mutsami “Mu” Kanamori. Working with Mu allowed Fulton to express his leftfield leanings, and the impression given by their joint discography is of two eccentrics having the time of their lives.
While that discography is patchy (see the cacophonous thrash-electro B-Side “We Love Guys Named Luke”), “Paris Hilton” is undeniably heavy, and arguably one of Fulton’s most full-throttle productions. Instead of mining disco and deep house, it offers a mutant take on Chicago acid, laden with situationist irreverence and a steely groove that suggests some influence from Fulton’s Sheffield base. It is the bassline – heavier than an anvil and wilfully twisted so it sits somewhere between classic Chicago acid and Output-ish electro – and heavyweight percussion (cowbells, jack-attack snares, the sound of pans being hit etc) that really makes the track.
Without this driving bottom-end heaviness, the track would have descended into some kind of novelty hell, with Mu’s deranged vocals – lampooning sex pest socialite Paris Hilton and referencing Luis Vutton handbags – proving too much for even open-minded DJs to stomach. That it doesn’t – to these ears, at least – offers proof of Fulton’s eccentric genius. (MA)
I:Cube – Vacuum Jackers (Maurice Fulton Remix) (Versatile, 2004)
Throughout his career, Maurice Fulton has shown a willingness to embrace disco, and particularly the live electric basslines readily associated with the genre. In recent years, it could be argued that he has hone down this route a few too many times, sticking springy, rubbery live basslines – many spookily similar – on everything from soul reworks (numerous Nicole Willis re-tweaks) and bespoke disco cuts (his work with Kathy Diamond for Permanent Vacation) to his own Boof deep house productions (see the brilliant “Joi is Smiling” and “Now She’s Jumping” from the excellent Sshh, Dandelions At Play LP).
Yet it wasn’t always this way. Perhaps the most potent example of this deep house/disco fusion came way back in 2004, when Fulton was still stumbling around trying to find his groove. In its original form, I:Cube’s “Vacuum Jackers” was a loose but driving combination of dewy-eyed electronic melodies, restless scat vocals and heavy, jazz-influenced deep house drums. In Fulton’s hands, it was transformed into something entirely different – a twinkling, starry-eyed fusion of loose disco drums, rubbery electric bass and the kind of drifting, intergalactic chords that send shivers down the spine. Deep but warm and with enough shuffle to keep dancefloors entertained, it showed Fulton at his mesmerising best. As remixes go, it wasn’t a total transformation, but eight years on it still sounds remarkably fresh. This is a bold claim, but it may well still be his greatest remix. (MA)
Fred Everything – Elevate (Maurice Fulton Remix) (2020 Vision, 2004)
It would be unwise to say that Maurice Fulton has an unblemished record when it comes to remixes. For the most part, his remixes fall in to two camps; the interesting but so-so, and the ‘mo-by-numbers’. Occasionally, though, he’ll weigh in with a rework that’s utterly stunning, confounding critics and proving our long-held belief that he is some kind of far-sighted but confused genius.
Fulton’s 2004 rework of Fred Everything’s “Elevate” comes into this category. Originally an album track on the Canadian producer’s comfortable but enjoyable Light Of Day full-length, Fulton reworked it for a long-forgotten 2020 Vision remix single. Everything’s original is in many ways untypical of his productions; based around a loose jazz-funk groove, it’s organic, chunky and mildly entertaining.
Fulton, at his mercurial best, decided to re-cast it as some kind of touchy-feely space jazz jam. Beginning with a minute of deep, spacey synths, dubbed-out guitars and eyes-wide-shut pianos, it gradually builds into a percussive beast laden with raucous jazz drums, darting jazz synths and grandiose pianos flourishes. It’s heady, intoxifying and blisteringly beautiful. Fulton has made greater dancefloor records, but he’s rarely made more emotional ones. If you missed it first time round, it’s well worth a listen. (MA)
Alice Smith – Love Endeavour (Maurice Fulton Remix) (2006)
If you cast a public vote for the best Maurice Fulton remix ever among the hardcore Fulton fan base, there would undoubtedly be a fair few contenders for first place from the raft the Baltimore-born producer has been commissioned to do over the years. His explosive sideways reinventions of The Rapture and Walter Jones would jostle for position alongside the altogether more pensive remixes of Ost & Kjex or Rollmottle, while the aforementioned Fred Everything and I:Cube numbers would also feature highly.
The 2006 remix of BBE artiste Alice Smith belongs in this canon too, possibly the finest example of Fulton’s usage of the female vocal which has been a trademark of his latter day production career and can be viewed as Fulton’s’ ode to the classic era of disco that he references so much. Everything about this remix is so well judged; taking what is quite a standard soul jam made notable by Smith’s four octave range and flipping the track into a perfectly crafted electronic disco moment, retaining the emotive qualities of the singer’s vocal delivery by focusing on the fragile chorus. It’s also one of Fulton’s most restrained, straightforward productions which slowly glides along a mere hint of a disco bassline towards the euphoric moment where Smith’s full vocal explodes over a glorious break before ending on a yearning harmony as the track’s layers of sound unravel.
You can fully understand why Benjamin Fröhlich and Tom Bioly and then Gerd Janson commissioned Fulton to produce Kathy Diamond and Mim Suleiman for the respective albums on Permanent Vacation and Running Back off the back of this glorious effort. (TP)
Syclops – Where’s Jason K? (DFA, 2008)
Back in 2008, Fulton took a break from producing pleasing blends of disco and house to lay down I’ve Got My Eye On You, a forthright album of heavily electronic material for DFA under the Syclops moniker. Supposedly the work of a trio of Finnish musicians Sven Kortehisto, Hann Sarkari, and Jukka Kantonen overseen by the hand of Fulton, the album followed some devastating Syclops 12″s that appeared on Tirk a few years prior. Those tracks were included on I’ve Got My Eye On You and were definite highlights – particularly “Mom The Video Broke” – along with another moment of genuine Fulton brilliance – its intoxicating lead single, “Where’s Jason’s K?”
Released around the period that electronic “nu-disco” was in its pomp, “Where’s Jason’s K?” was classed by many as a typically Fultonian reaction to the rise of that sound. Yet it arguably has more in common with jazz and early house than identikit noughties nu-disco. Built around the twin attractions of sparse analogue percussion (with the addition, of course, of some disco cowbells) and a strangely played vintage synth riff – off-kilter and wonky, yet curiously uplifting – it’s simultaneously joyously hooky and downright weird.
Crucially, it sounds great over club sound systems are rarely fails to get a reaction – something that can hardly be said for most records of its ilk. In hindsight, it was perfect for DFA; while different to their disco-era material, it still had that leftfield swagger that James Murphy and company enjoy. It’s not an easy record in mans ways (it’s basically electronic jazz with a house beat), but it’s a brilliant one. To DFA and Fulton, that’s all that mattered.
Oh, and one last thing: the “Jason” mentioned in the title does exist – he’s a friend of Fulton’s who works for a book publisher in New York. Not very rock and roll, perhaps, but nevertheless true. (MA)
Matt Anniss & Tony Poland