A Guy Called Gerald Tronic Jazz: The Berlin Sessions Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Simpson again takes on the visionary mantle he’s become so comfortable with.

Ben Arnold 2010

Gerald Simpson has often found himself poised over pivotal moments in electronic music.

With his seminal Voodoo Ray, he fired a sonic mortar into the mix of acid house, creating sounds that felt genuinely British in a scene largely awash with imported music from Detroit and Chicago. Then, in 1992, he sketched out the blueprint for drum‘n’bass by smashing together the particles of hardcore, jungle and techno with his third album, the acclaimed 28 Gun Bad Boy. True to form he now lives in Berlin, once more the epicentre of European electronic music, perhaps even more influential now than it was in the early 90s when its hallowed clubs E-Werk and Tresor provided a pummelling industrial soundtrack, the influence of which echoed around the world.

Tronic Jazz: The Berlin Sessions follows Proto Acid: The Berlin Sessions, released in 2006. But while, as the title might suggest, Gerald rekindled his love of acidic basslines on the former, the latter is an altogether smoother proposition, substituting the abrasive bleeps and trance-inducing arpeggios for suites of warm synths, littered throughout with knowing nods to his numerous past incarnations. The aptly-named People Moover starts ominously in a haunting minor key (and with an equally haunting church bell), before bursting into synths so soaked in Balearic sunshine they light the room. Both Flutter and Just Soul hint at his dalliances in drum‘n’bass, all moody, brooding basslines, the latter echoing with voices from a distant radio broadcast. Iland points respectfully to Detroit, its vintage, layered drum patterns coupled with a mechanical coolness, a style seen too in the throbbing Round Eco, the keyboard sounds cold, icy. Wow Yheah is the sound of acid melded with deep, shuffling beats, and Pacific Samba is brilliantly playful, a stripped down re-imagining of Pacific State, a track credited to 808 State but which Simpson had an equal hand in writing while briefly a member of the band.

So part retrospective, part future-facing techno document, with Tronic Jazz Simpson again takes on the visionary mantle with which he has become so quietly comfortable over the past 20 years.

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