- The much-loved UK tech house label's new compilation falls short of its late '90s heyday.
- 25 years is ample time for a record label to make a statement, become uncool, go dormant and then get rediscovered by fresh ears. Wiggle, the label run by Terry Francis and Nathan Coles that helped define the sound of early UK tech house, is celebrating that milestone with a new compilation, Wiggle For 25 Years. It's stocked with material from an impressive list of its key players and those who emerged after Wiggle's peak. In the years since the label's last release, Wiggle For 20 Years, its archive has been reissued several times—both from those who were involved in the original tech house movement, and by newer artists it inspired. Unfortunately, Wiggle For 25 Years fails to summon the distinctive charms of the label's best material.
In its heyday, Wiggle's school of tech house had elements that seemed to draw from the hardcore continuum, especially speed garage. But that buoyancy is mostly absent on Wiggle For 25 Years. Corrie's "Hidden Reaction" feels rigid and plodding compared to his early '00s output. On 2003's driving, rave-tinged "Groove Me Last," he rolled weighty subs under hypnotic hand-drum loops that popped through the mix. Here, though, the congas form an unmemorable pattern. Likewise, Eddie Richards' "Othersound" falls short of the scorchers of his early '00s releases on Wiggle-adjacent platforms like End Recordings or London Housing Benefit.
Silverlining comes closer to capturing the magic of late '90s tech house on "Industry," featuring Natamiq. It has a nice snare-hat shuffle and a bumpy bassline. But its beat drags more laconically and its looping melody isn't as immersive as his best work, or his recent Silverlining Dubs records. There are elements of Francis's "Get Over Yourself" that match his finest tracks, and the vocals are funny and tempting to play. Still, I wouldn't reach for this track over Francis's early productions. Other Wiggle alumni populate their contributions with cringey big-room hallmarks. A corny airplane sound underscores the title of Gideon Jackson's "Destination Rise," and Nathan Coles and Dave Coker's "Brain Fried" falls victim to pitched vocal blips and artless white-noise blasts.
The newer artists here are more closely connected to the continental tech house of the early '00s. Dub Taylor, who released records on minimal labels like Morris/Audio and raum...musik while Wiggle was still active, contributes a stiff one as Tigerskin titled "Heathrow Circle." It marches with a push-pull momentum through reversed pads, tinkling chimes, shapeless reverberant keys and a nagging low-passed vocal, and it leaves the percussive heavy-lifting to a tambourine. The Poker Flat artist Marco Resmann offers a defanged trance melody and detuned dub chords on "Lost." Its nervous energy would feel alien amid Wiggle's party-starting catalog.
Including artists like Resmann or D'Julz on Wiggle's anniversary compilation doesn't connect its legacy to today's club landscape. The label's contemporary disciples include labels and artists such as Apollonia, East End Dubs, SlapFunk, iO (Mulen) and Desert Sound Colony who all carry the torch of Wiggle's full-bodied textures and shuffling, propulsive rhythms. Given the number of Wiggle-related reissues hitting the market in recent years, this would have been a potent moment for Francis and Coles to harness the renewed excitement around their exceptional catalog and to connect with a new generation of listeners.
01. Tigerskin - Heathrow Circle
02. Dachshund - Take
03. Gideon Jackson - Destination Rise
04. Ollie Drummond - Bats In The Cave
05. Joseph Joyce - Sunday Evening Doodle
06. Corrie - Hidden Reaction
07. Jay Tripwire - Zero Mustard
08. Pure Science - I Wanna Do Something
09. Terry Francis - Get Over Yourself
10. Daniel Poli - Funny Valentine dub
11. D'Julz - Random 9
12. Dexter - Fantasia
13. Mihai Popoviciu - Flexing Muscles
14. Dub Taylor - T2
15. Marco Resmann - Lost
16. Nathan Coles & David Coker - Brain Fried
17. Eddie Richards - Othersound
18. Silverlining - Industry feat. Natamiq