- A group of friends were recently having a late-night chat about underrated electronic artists. After the usual suspects were mentioned, someone dropped Slam's name. A few of the younger gabfesters had little clue as to who or what Slam was; others knew that the Glaswegian duo of Orde Meikle and Stuart McMillan were, and are, the guys behind the long-running Soma label who produced the '93 rave anthem "Positive Education" and released Daft Punk's first three records. "Yeah, they're good and all," someone opined. "But aren't they a bit…pedestrian?"
No, they're not. Sure, Meikle and McMillan may never have had the kind of flash that brings jet-set notoriety, and in truth some of their releases have had a kind of meat-and-potatoes dance floor efficiency. But there's a mother lode of gems in their lengthy discography—think of the emotive bleep-soul of their remix of Dot Allison's 2010 song "Cry," for instance, or 2007's quietly majestic "Azure."
It's that kind of understated richness, albeit in a slightly different form, that Meikle and McMillan seem to be reaching for on the first half of their new album, Reverse Proceed. Presented as a continuous mix of all-new Slam originals, the set takes its time to unfurl. Opening with a flourish via the grandly orchestral "Tokyo Subway," its first sequence is a billowing, beatless dreamscape, with luscious cuts like "Visual Capture" and "Reverse Proceed" evoking the tone of '90s ambient. The Gamelan-tinged "Cirklon Bells," the spiraling "Synchronicity"—which introduces the first kick drum of any consequence—and the subtly soaring "Ghosts Of Detroit" round out the LP's first half, before another ambient patch wipes the slate clean.
From then on it's Slam doing what Slam does best, with a string of driving techno and tech house tracks galloping towards the finish line. "Pattern A3," "Rotary" and "Factory Music," all defined by their stripped-down drum-machine pattern and old-school 303 action, remind us that Slam is named for a track by Phuture, the Chicago acid forefathers. "Catacoustics" is machine-tooled techno, buffed to a smooth sheen, but the biggest thrill here, with its syncopated kick drum, cochlear synth riffs and cavernous feel, might be the deeply beautiful "Irritant." The album concludes much as it began, with a touch of moody ambience in the form of "Resolved." It's an apt end to Reverse Proceed, but I'd wager that, two-plus decades in, Slam still has plenty more to say.
01. Tokyo Subway
02. Visual Capture
03. Reverse Proceed
04. Cirklon Bells
06. Ghosts Of Detroit
07. Relevant Question
08. Pattern A3
09. Factory Music
15. Reverse Proceed (Continuous Mix)