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  • Filed under: Review
  • 12/19/2013

Sparky Portland EP

The reissue of Glaswegian Dave Clark's little-known "Portland" single on Numbers comes with an intriguing and drawn-out back story. Originally issued by the short-lived Stuffrecords label—an early incarnation of Numbers—under Clark's Sparky moniker back in 2002, it was later discovered by the Numbers team that Ricardo Villalobos was a huge fan of the record, setting in motion a plan to have the track reissued with a remix from the minimal legend. The resulting release pairs the electro, Drexciya-tinged title track with an additional pair of previously unreleased tracks from the 1998 sessions that birthed "Portland" and a mammoth, 30-minute-long, two-part remix from Villalobos.

Clark was a stalwart of Glasgow's techno and house scenes throughout the '90s as part of the techno group State of Flux, and the aesthetic sensibilities of vintage Northern UK techno are detectable in "Portland"'s brittle drum programming. However, the core of the track is pure, stripped-back Detroit electro, particularly with its rounded bassline, stuttering drums, and eerie, atmospheric string track. The song was allegedly a bit of an anthem at the early Numbers parties, and it's hard not to see why. The previously unreleased "Jigsaw" takes a similar tack, although it's slightly less immediate, pairing squiggly synths and moody drones with a repeated vocal refrain; it's almost classicist in its approach, but for that reason, it's also slightly unremarkable. Meanwhile, "Wilson St" takes things in ambient, entirely spooky direction.

Aside from the unjustly forgotten title track, the real highlight of this package is Ricardo Villalobos' two-part remix of "Portland." The remix is languid in a way that will be familiar to fans of Villalobos' work, and while it keeps the big, crunchy bassline of the original, he also injects a limber groove to the proceedings. As the track progresses, things get weirder with the introduction of time-stretched synths and odd rhythmic syncopations. During the final 10 minutes, the beat momentarily drops out completely, and the track is reprised in a cold, crisp, almost unrecognizable form. Ambling but thoroughly exploratory, it's interestingly suggested in the press release that Villalobos' remix could also be played at 45 rpm to give the track a far more club-ready tempo. Coinciding with Numbers' 10-year anniversary celebrations, the record also shows how far the label/collective—and indeed the dance-music landscape as a whole—has come since 2002. "Portland" and Villalobos' remix are a far cry from Rustie, but this reissue serves as a pertinent reminder not only of Numbers' origins, but of the continued diversity and wide-ranging tastes of the label.

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