Tuff Sherm – Smugglers Bureau

Berceuse Heroique emerged from 2013 like a gladiator: Steely-eyed, sure-footed, and soaked in the blood of its competitors. Actually, no… wait. Such a metaphor surely wouldn’t suit BH’s founder, whose unique anti-nationalist album inserts and sleeves are bursting with barely-containable rage at the state of the world. Gladiator matches were a form of appeasing the public and keeping their mind off political issues; and although the eviscerating tracks from L’estasi Dell’oro or MGUN’s skeletal “Blunt Run” match the same brutality as an axe to the noggin, there’s not another techno label out there with the guts to print a sleeve calling London mayor Boris Johnson a “f*ckboy” for endorsing police use of water cannons on peaceful protestors.

Tuff Sherm - Smugglers Bureau
Tuff Sherm
Smugglers Bureau
Berceuse Heroique
Buy vinyl

With a year of scorched-earth techno under their belt, Berceuse Heroique could easily dominate 2014 by continuing to disseminate a similar batch of punishing dancefloor tools. But instead, this seems to be the year that the label has devoted to exploring less travelled alleyways: Early 2014 saw BH’s offshoot label ΚΕΜΑΛ re-issue a phenomenal compilation of Greek fire-walking music, as well as experimental drummer Charles Hayward’s complex percussive endeavours. This summer will find the label resurrecting disco edits from the revered Moxie and Members Only labels, as well as another batch from folk-dance hero Japan Blues. The cheeky hashtag “BH goes Disco” that accompanies the tracks almost seems like a middle finger to anyone who expects the label to stay in place. It can’t, won’t, and doesn’t need to.

That said, Eugene Ward’s debut on BH under his Tuff Sherm alias does nestle itself in quite comfortably between other Berceuse Heroique offerings content-wise, providing three slabs of sirloin-thick weird-as-heck analogue house that would similarly sound at home on labels such as The Trilogy Tapes or Opal Tapes. With the normal attention given to BH artwork and aesthetic, the 180g black label of Tuff Sherm’s Smugglers Bureau seems comparatively cold and distant, with only an A4 insert to distinguish the record. It’s a theme that’s reflected in the tracks as well – the producer’s well-documented struggles with anxiety and depression seem to seep into every pulse of “Smugglers Bureau”. This isn’t to say it’s not catchy, Ward does a wonderful job of straddling the line between anxiety-addled and immediately danceable, creating tracks that you can imagine hearing thumping in the background as you have an asthma attack on the dancefloor. The utterly insane culmination of “Smugglers Bureau” uses a barking dog sound effect as if it’s just as natural as an air horn. As a result, the track sounds like Steve Pointdexter meets Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly”.

“Easy Company” is less guided by a dancefloor sensibility, with hollow thuds, languid keys and down-tempo percussive shakes being employed throughout the track’s short runtime. Delroy Edwards injects ice water into the veins of “Easy Company”, striking a middle balance between the club-informed clamour of his first L.I.E.S release, and his more recent wave influenced melancholic productions. Here, he seems to be channelling young Detroit analogue techno producers with burly assuredness; wringing something evocative and foreboding out of Ward’s production that was barely noticeable in the original.

Delroy Edwards has taken his share of criticism in recent months, with his recent Teenage Tapes LP getting panned by some for veering too far from club sensibility. But if tracks like Edwards’ remix of “Easy Company” is the result of the new directions he’s been experimenting with, then a little patience for the L.A producer is absolutely worth it. As is always the case with Berceuse Heroique discs, there’ll be a no repress policy; copies will fly off the shelves and show up on Discogs for exorbitant prices – so act quick, grab a copy , turn off the lights and stew in the weird fog this record will inevitably cast over your day.

Brendan Arnott


A1. Smugglers Bureau
B1. Easy Company
B2. Easy Company (Delroy Edwards Remix)

Leave a reply