- Essential, mind-altering dance tracks from mid-'90s Vancouver.
- I have a theory—you typically know if a music collaboration will work within the first hour, maybe even the first few minutes. Today's subject, the self-titled debut EP from Off And Gone, released in 1994 on Exist Dance and just reissued Daniel Rincon's Isla imprint, presents solid evidence towards this hypothesis.
Bucharest native Dan Handrabur and Vancouver's Phil Western first met in the latter's record shop, Odyssey Imports, in the early '90s. They bonded over new electronic music, but also '80s British guitar pop, ambient, "world beats" and whatever else. So they decided to jam, and they hit it off pretty much right away, coming out with two cuts that expanded on the deeply trippy aesthetic of the recently-reissued 1993 compilation Frequencies From The Edge Of The Tektonic Plate (which featured Handrabur and Western in different guises).
After that initial session, Handrabur moved his equipment to Western's place, where they could make more noise for longer. "There was a feeling of completing each other's ideas very easily, without arguments, in an almost telepathic way, something I personally have never experienced again with another musician," says Handrabur about the Off And Gone period, which peaked with the Everest album for Harthouse.
This immediate chemistry is obvious on their debut. The ten-minute "Namlohssa" might melt the walls for a raver caught in a certain state of mind. "Foe" is a dream of psychedelic maximalism as well—layers of 303s, sirenic synths and a Midway arcade-reminiscent arpeggios transport you to a dimly lit Vancouver studio, where two electronic music freaks turned on and tuned in.
"Our sessions were lengthy—there was not much talking and a lot of playing," Handrabur recalls. "Programming in Notator (now Logic Audio) was tedious but rewarding; mixes were tracked to DAT tape. Some gear without memory had to stay on for days until we were satisfied with the mixes. Occasional overheating and power outages were our biggest enemies and guests to the studio who carelessly pushed keys on synths, thus ruining arpeggios."
"Phish" might be my favourite cut on the record, a propulsive, optimistic acid track interrupted by a bizarre and transcendent chorale sample breakdown. Similarly, "LKO" is a lush acid epic smeared with Gregorian chant-style vocals. It's like what would happen if Enigma frequented Wicked's full moon parties in San Francisco. The California psychedelic tech house scene is an obvious analogue for this music, other mid-'90s contemporaries include the spacious side of Damon Wild's Synewave or the more outré bits of Weatherall's catalogue and his Emissions Audio Output family of labels.
Suffice to say, this is the good shit, the head trip stuff that hasn't aged a day. Western tragically passed from a suspected accidental drug overdose in 2019. Handrabur is back in Romania. But this sound lives on. There's a new wave of Canadian artists, like Rincon and the NAFF milieu, making music indebted to the '90s psychedelic West Coast sound. The Off And Gone EP remains a heady dancefloor trip, all these years later.
05. Uncle Mike's Beard