As well as three originals (in several different versions) and his celebrated remixes of Raime, Vatican Shadow, Ike Yard and Dalhous, it features three previously unreleased tracks: a brand new Regis take on a lost song by his own teenage synth-punk group Family Sex, an alternate mix of Tropic of Cancer’s ‘Plant Lilies At My Head’, and a new edit of his own ‘Blinding Horses’.
Regis – real name Karl O’Connor – requires little in the way of introduction. Founder of the Downwards label, lynchpin of the late Sandwell District collective, one half of British Murder Boys (with Surgeon), and instigator of numerous other solo and collaborative projects (among them Ugandan Methods, Concrete Fence, Kalon and Sandra Electronics), the eternally shape-shifting O’Connor is one of techno’s last true visionaries. We’d also say he’s one of the most important and galvanising figures in the past 25 years of underground music, but of course he’d scoff at that: “Just as Lead is a parody of Gold and Coitus is a parody of Crime – Regis is a parody of Underground.”
O’Connor’s arrival on Blackest Ever Black in 2010 coincided with a radical recalibration, and heightening, of his production work, and the tracks collected on Manbait document nothing less than an imperial phase – an artist at the peak of his powers, drawing deftly on various strands of his musical history, and owning the future. Across Manbait’s duration you can hear elements of Sandwell District’s Berlin-incubated warehouse minimalism, the brutish dancefloor provocations of Regis’s ’90s Downwards material (what will always be known, against his wishes, as “The Birmingham Sound”), the DIY drone-pop and darkwave of Sandra Electronics, the high-torque breakbeat experiments of British Murder Boys. Throughout we’re treated to some of the most morbidly atmospheric sound design in all electronic music (the shadowplay of ‘80s goth and industrial made thrillingly contemporary), and to urgent, cyclical, ruthlessly avant-garde drum programming informed by jungle, dubstep and grime…but always unmistakably, irreducibly Regis.
The key track on Manbait actually pre-dates O’Connor’s association with Blackest Ever Black by several months: ‘C U 1’, a nauseous, low-slung production credited to his alias Cub, and originally self-released, incognito, on an imprint of the same name in April 2010. With its coarsely broken beat, disarmingly slow tempo, and deep pools of low-end pressure, it set the tone for O’Connor’s productions in the ensuing half-decade. Five years after its release, it’s still pretty much untouchable. You can hear Cub’s DNA in the heavy subs and steppers’ rhythm of Regis’s first official outing on Blackest Ever Black, an overhaul of Raime’s ‘This Foundry’, before it swells to its improbably wistful, string-led climax – a most memorable moment in the Regis canon.
Released in 2011, In A Syrian Tongue (BLACKEST004) was O’Connor’s first solo 12” of original material under the Regis name in 10 years, and the first not to appear on Downwards. Make no mistake: its roiling, seamy, bass-possessed lead track, ‘Blood Witness’, is among the deadliest techno tracks of the era, and has proven to be one of its most influential; it appears on Manbait in its original form and in the extended version that came out on Downwards last year. Also excerpted from In A Syrian Tongue is ‘Blinding Horses’. With its brutal, chrome-hoof rhythm riding hard against screaming walls of feedback, it is perhaps the most powerful manifestation of the void-gargling psychedelic impulse in O’Connor’s post-2010 work. Two further mixes of this track are included on Manbait: a vicious live re-edit of ‘Blinding Horses’, previously only available on 2013’s highly limited, mailorder-only Turin Versions 12” (BLACKEST013), and a new, previously unreleased ‘Stableboy Version’, which peels away the drums and distortion and let’s the drugsick drones occupy centre-stage.
Following on from the 2010 Raime version, Regis would become something of a regular remixer for Blackest Ever Black. In fact, he’s really its only remixer: to date, no other artist has been commissioned to re-work anything on the label. The Raime remix was followed by a bloodthirsty reimagining of Vatican Shadow’s ‘Church of All Images’, a masterful, minimalist dub of Ike Yard’s 1982 classic ‘Loss’ (no less important than the Cub track in dictating the course of O’Connor’s recent work) and a stately, ambient take on Dalhous’s ‘He Was Human And Belonged With Humans’ that transplants it from the recreation room of R.D. Laing’s community clinic to a frozen bedsit in Schöneberg.
O’Connor lent his mixing prowess to Tropic of Cancer’s 2013 debut album Restless Idylls (BLACKESTLP005), and a previously unreleased, alternate version of the album’s sepulchral opener, ‘Plant Lilies At My Head’, appears here on Manbait. The other new and exclusive number is the ferocious, EBM-tinged, emphatically techno Regis mix of Family Sex’s ‘Manbait’ – produced earlier this year, it takes the Birmingham delinquents places they couldn’t have imagined when recording the original circa ‘87.
Manbait is available to pre-order now on CD, digital formats, and 2xLP, ahead of release in September 2015. The 2xLP edition features eight tracks, including the Cub, Family Sex and Tropic of Cancer, and the now rare, highly sought-after Raime, Vatican Shadow and ‘Blinding Horses’ remixes. It also comes packaged with a download code (MP3/FLAC) for all 12 tracks on the CD/digital release.
With exquisite cover art (Survivor, 1987) by none other than Val Denham, this is an anthology that no conscientious stableboy or girl can refuse. Life hurts!
LISTEN: Regis – “Blood Witness” (Original 12″ Mix) –