Electric Dreams

When '80s Northern boys hooked up with a pair of disco and hip hop gods

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What do the frontmen with an arty Scottish post-punk outfit and a Sheffield techno-pop act have in common with a German digital dance pioneer and a New York breakbeat technician?

Plenty, as it turns out. After leaving Josef K?imagine The Smiths, only more solemn?Paul Haig became the most likely pop tactician to make it after Phil Oakey, Martin Fry, Green Gartside et al. Rejecting the guitars’n’ gravitas of his former band?who, despite titles such as “Sorry For Laughing” and “It’s Kinda Funny”, were outcasts from 1981’s ironic funk party?he finally tapped into the dance zeitgeist, swapped Oxfam for Gaultier and allied his lugubrious croon to the emergent electro.

However, despite being eminently marketable in an alienated, Bowie-esque way, Haig’s debut album, 1983’s Rhythm Of Life, bombed. His next, produced by ex-Associates whiz Alan Rankine, The Warp Of Pure Fun (1985), remains his best-selling, featuring excellent singles “Big Blue World” and the Bernard Summer-helmed “The Only Truth”. It now includes his version of Suicide’s “Ghost Rider” (Haig does Vega does Elvis) plus six extra examples of Haig’s anguished android funk-pop.

Having been one of those synth-pop artists who influenced the early hip hoppers and Detroit/Chicago’s respective techno and house scenes, it made sense for Haig to team up with Curtis Mantronik (and Lil’ Louis on some tracks) for Coincidence vs Fate. Work began in 1990, although the record was shelved due to lack of interest until 1993, a typical fate for the luckless Haig. Mantronik was once tagged the one-man Kraftwerk, all minimalist beats and keyboard drones, but after his brilliant auteur project with Joyce Sims, his reputation was for computerised soul, which is what Coincidence vs Fate mainly comprises. Mantronik programs Haig out of the picture during “Flight X” and wailing divas drown him out on “I Believe In You”, but his robo-vox perfectly suits the hi-tech bounce of “Right On Line” and “Out Of Mind”.

Remixed & Rare contains some early Mantronix?the uncluttered clatter of “Bassline” and “Who Is It?”, featuring ghost-rapper in the machine MCTee?and a lot of his Phase II nu soul melodies for singer Wondress. “Got To Have Your Love”, “Take Your Time” and “Don’t Go Messin’ With My Heart” saw Mantronik ostracised by the hip hop elite, but they remain superb future-disco contrivances. Had Phil Oakey joined forces with all-time hero Giorgio Moroder three years before, it would have been considered an entryist masterstroke. By 1984, Going Dance was no longer a radical initiative. Besides, there was a vertiginous decline in Moroder’s quality control after his Midnight Express/E=MC


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