Five years is a long time in the world of electronic music. As anyone who has ever attempted to run a record label will tell you, half a decade can seem like an eternity. Congratulations, then, to Paul Murphy, whose dedication has ensured that the Claremont 56 label has arrived at its fifth birthday not only in tact, but seemingly in rude health.
Initially set up as an outlet for his own productions as Mudd following a spell on DJ Spun’s similarly inclined Rong Music imprint, Claremont 56 has grown from a typically dub-minded nu-Balearic stable to something a lot harder to pin down. Primarily, Murphy has chosen to focus on small, limited-edition vinyl releases with the odd CD thrown in (see the brilliant Originals series of crate-diggin’ Balearic comps), many blessed with the sort of high quality packaging and artwork that makes them a collector’s dream. Murphy’s audience is, by electronic music standards, tiny, but he has consistently impressed them with brilliant records, most accompanied by superb artwork. Claremont 56 is arguably the perfect cottage record label.
The musical journey over the past five years has been an interesting and enthralling one. Early productions, mostly by Murphy himself with regular collaborators Kevin Pollard and Ben Smith, developed the sound he’d made his own with the Claremont 56 album on Rong Music; a heady mix of sun-kissed dub-disco, sun-kissed Balearica and dewy-eyed downtempo grooves. In recent years, the label’s output has shifted wildly. There have been releases featuring long-forgotten material from NYC post-punk outfits Fist of Facts and Dog Eat Dog, fuzzy experimental rock from Paqua, acid-fried dub disco and Balearic nu-disco from Almunia and, most impressively, a series of releases from Holgar Czukay, founder of krautrockers Can. Oh, and hard-to-define experimentalism from Bison, a collaborative project featuring Czukay, Murphy and Salvatore Principato of Liquid Liquid fame. It’s this open-minded eclecticism and kaleidoscopic approach to music that makes 5 Years Of Claremont 56, the label’s anniversary compilation, such an enjoyable listen. Compiled by Murphy’s old friends the Idjut Boys – and with a sprinkling of brand new re-edits from the dub disco stalwarts – it’s an expansive and, crucially, worthy celebration of the label’s success to date.
The first two CDs are presented unmixed, and feature some of the Idjuts’ favourite cuts from the Claremont archives, some reworked by themselves. Highlights are naturally plentiful. The real standout is Holgar Czukay’s bizarre but brilliant “Music Is A Miracle”, an 18-minute journey that melds spoken word with all manger of strange musical moods. It’s not alone, though; check out the Idjuts’ intoxicating edit of Fist of Facts, the beatless beauty of Four Hands, the raw power of Dog Eat Dog and the country-tinged psychedelic Balearica of Torn Sail. Throw in some of Murphy’s best compositions and collaborations – the touchy-feely Scandolearica of “Scaffold”, the string-laden, Balearic-rock fuzziness of Ahmed Fahkoun collaboration “Drago” (here presented in Idjuts edit form) and the stripped back “Dub Stavros” (flipside to the label’s first ever release back in 2007) – and you’ve got two discs packed with high-grade gear.
The real highlight of the package, though, is the third CD. Mixed live, in one take, by the Idjuts, it shows these great compositions in a totally new light. In the midst of a DJ mix, you’re reminded of the dancefloor potential of many of these records – not to mention the Idjuts’ immense qualities as aural storytellers. Drenched in reverb and delay, it’s a kaleidoscopic journey through all the label has to offer, from the dubed-out moments of sun-flecked bliss to the fuzzy late night pulse of darkened dancefloors. As a summary of the Claremont 56 sound and ethos, it’s near perfect. What’s more, it sounds like a contemporary Balearic take on the KLF’s seminal ambient house album, Chill Out. There can be no greater praise than that.
1. Bison – Way To LA (Day)
2. Fist Of Facts – Fugitive Vesco (Idjut Work Out)
3. Mudd & Pollard – Vincent
4. Mudd & Ahmed Fakroun – Drago (Idjut Edit)
5. Smith & Mudd – Le Suivant
6. Smith & Mudd – Hvala (Version Idjut)
7. Mudd & Pollard – Scaffold
8. Smith & Mudd – Shulme
9. The Popes – Bastards (Idjut Edit)
10. Bison – Mandy (Power Boy Mix)
11. Holger Czukay & U-She – La Premiere/Deux (Mudd’s Garden Mix)
12. Almunia – Dos Estrellas
13. Four Hands – Hizou
1. Smith & Mudd – The Surveyor
2. Bison – The Traveler
3. Almunia – L&G Psychedelic (Wes Coats Holy Shashito Dub – Idjut Edit)
4. Dog Eat Dog – Rollover
5. Almunia – Travel (Felix Dickinson’s Passport Control Mix)
6. Mudd & Pollard – Dub Stavros
7. Smith & Mudd – 24/7
8. Smith & Mudd – Wem (Idjut Edit)
9. Holger Czukay – Music is a Miracle
10. Torn Sail – Birds (Frankie Valentine’s Air Sign Mix)
Idjut Boys Live Mix