Andrew Weatherall: 10 of his greatest tracks

From My Bloody Valentine to Saint Etienne and Ricardo Villalobos, Andrew Weatherall sprinkled magic throughout his career

Primal Scream – Loaded (1990)

No matter how many dodgy rootin-tootin’ singles or car-crash gigs they get through, Primal Scream have limitless goodwill in the bank. That’s primarily down to 1991’s indie-dance ur text Screamadelica and, by proxy, Andrew Weatherall. Yes, you’ve surely heard Loaded a million times by now. If compos mentis (not necessarily a given), you can probably anticipate every part’s arrival: the bongos, the lightning-bolt riffs, the girl-group harmonies, each hiccup of the loping bassline, a defiant Peter Fonda igniting a conga line that’s snaked nonstop for 30 years. While Alan McGee was doling out ecstasy pills and Inner City to a proselytising Bobby Gillespie, a still green Weatherall was behind the desk, making it all gel. Even if Andy had hung up his headphones after Screamadelica, his legend would have been enshrined.

Saint Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Andrew Weatherall’s A Mix In Two Halves Remix) (1990)

Weatherall was a master of tension and release, whose latter-day sets would stretch for hour after hour, then often continue semi-announced in a nearby pub the next day. Even so, resting on little more than a rumbling bassline and some muffled speech for half the runtime of this languorous Saint Etienne remix was a bold move. The track is cleaved in two by a brief speech about spliffs (typical) before kicking into action, but you find yourself pining to run the bloodshot buildup from the edge. That chest-rattling bass is the star; never was Weatherall closer to King Tubby, one of his all-time favourites, than here.

Two Lone Swordsmen – Glide By Shooting (1996)

Though Weatherall turned in just the third ever BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix back in 1993, his 1996 entry is usually held up as not only his own best, but one of the finest in the series’s history, a masterclass in depth and poise. There are four cuts in the tracklist from Two Lone Swordsmen – his then recently formed group with Keith Tenniswood, which proved the most durable and creatively rewarding of all Weatherall’s many alliances – including an introductory airing to the classic Glide By Shooting. With a subaquatic melody, an undercurrent of wibbling noise and a haunted air about it, it is pretty strange for a deep house song. It also slaps, and sounds even more robust as it hurtles past early on in the mix – a testament to Weatherall’s ability to constantly improve on source material even when it was his own.

Bocca Juniors – Raise (1990)

For all the grand mythologising around Boy’s Own and its role in inducing a Balearic culture shock to the British Isles, the reason Weatherall, Pete Heller and Terry Farley worked so well as a production unit can be broken down fairly simply: Heller and Farley brought the soul, Weatherall brought the edge. Released under the copyright-winking Bocca Juniors with Hugo Nicolson also at the desk, Raise shows off a somewhat messy synergy that stands up surprisingly well. It has a similar attitude to Weatherall and Paul Oakenfold’s Club Mix of Happy Mondays’ Hallelujah, but balances the cocksure strut with Anna Haigh’s commandeering vocals and a hip-housey rap interlude (hey, it was 1990). That nagging piano line was another of Weatherall’s canny nabs, pinched from Thrashing Doves’ Je$u$ on the Payroll, though banged out on a grand piano that FFRR records had paid £1,000 to rent for the day. When it comes to capturing the punch-the-sky euphoria of a glorious summer day, this is the one.

Basic Units – Explode (2002)

A Two Lone Swordsmen tune in all but name, Explode arrived on a 12-inch for lowkey label Firewire, as part of a split-release series that also included British electro veteran Carl Finlow, and Percy X, who Weatherall remixed in the mid-90s under the alias of Blood Sugar, a duo with longtime Jah Wobble collaborator David Harrow. Adding extra grit to the taut, claustrophobic, occasionally circuit-fried machine funk that the Swordsmen nailed on their 2000 standout LP Tiny Reminders, this twitchy cut demonstrates that the duo could make nicotine-stained basement bangers with the best of them. It’s been a favourite of Detroit’s Drexciya survivor DJ Stingray for ages – expect to hear it caned by jocks of all stripes this year in Weatherall’s honour.

The Sabres of Paradise – Inter-Lergen-Ten-Ko II (1995)

There’s no real consensus as to the best entry point for Weatherall’s catalogue, but I’d wager that the Sabres of Paradise, his short-lived trio with Gary Burns and Jagz Kooner, is a natural starting point. Sabresonic (1993) and Sabresonic II (1995) function like a map of club music, encompassing bleep and bass, depth-charge dub techno, progressive house epics, trance via Goa and Frankfurt, and even downtempo detours into the chillout room. Inter-Lergen-Ten-Ko II manages to get everything under a nine-minute roof with an almost symphonic approach, a breaksy soundsystem punisher that features live percussion and oddball effects to send you west. Though a committed psychonaut in the mid-90s, Weatherall still had an acute sense of when something was a little too much. The dramatic rave vocal treads a fine line of naffness, but is ultimately anchored by the reinforced steel of the production undergirding it. A hair-raiser, then and now.

Hardway Brothers – Mania Theme (Andrew Weatherall Remix) (2012)

Over time, Weatherall evolved into a global ringleader of a slo-mo dance music we might call the Chug: daring, but a dark art if you can master it. You can hear his influence all over Ivan Smagghe, Manfredas, the tag team of Lena Willikens and Vladimir Ivkovic, and other midtempo specialists. To offset the risk of playing at lower speeds to crowds who were, as Weatherall would often laugh, on loads of drugs, he would go for records with unassailable presence. This edit of Hardway Brothers – a group including Sean Johnston, his partner in club night A Love from Outer Space – was particularly lysergic, wielding a gurgling 303 that could induce cold sweats from 10 paces. At just 103bpm, it would be compliant with ALFOS’ imposed ceiling of 122bpm tops, while carrying enough character to blast away songs twice as fast.

Ricardo Villalobos – Dexter (Two Lone Swordsmen Mix) (2004)

Part of Weatherall’s enduring appeal was just how far out he stood. The incongruity of this salt’n’pepper-bearded, chain-smoking, vaguely vaudevillian figure, and an audience of saucer-eyed young ravers conditioned to expect something different as their DJ hero of the weekend, was part of the fun. This disjunct could be a lot of fun in his output, too. Ricardo Villalobos’s Dexter is a minimal techno classic, with a sour central refrain known to instantly melt fields of addled ravers into floods of tears. It’s the kind of tune it’s usually forbidden to touch, let alone retool. So you imagine Villalobos, himself no stranger to a wayward remix, would have raised a smile when he received the test pressing from Two Lone Swordsmen and found his scene-defining hit had been reborn as a cousin of the Cure’s A Forest.

My Bloody Valentine – Soon (Andy Weatherall Mix) (1990)

My Bloody Valentine’s strength lay not just in their noise – fearsome, but ultimately replicable – but their ability to procure beauty out of it. No one except Weatherall could have heard this slab of gliding shoegaze and thought, “Hey there’s a funky jam in there,” much less made good on it. Lifting heavily from Alarm Clock, a hit for Berlin’s proto-techno star WestBam, Weatherall lets Kevin Shields’ strangled riff spurt and fizz and jig atop a legitimately groovy backbeat. Taming the world’s loudest and most unerringly perfectionist band into a song this effortless earned him awe and unwanted attention from hapless indie outfits over the next three decades, as they queued up hoping that a sprinkle of Weatherall magic could transform their haircuts and shoes into something substantive.

Fuck Buttons – Olympians (2009)

The quintessential Weatherall record might not be one most think of immediately. Fuck Buttons, whose marriage of techno grandeur, DIY scuzz, coruscating textures and beatific melodies burned bright and briefly at the end of the 00s, had all the trappings of a perfect Weatherall storm. His production on their second album, Tarot Sport, unlocked their potential. That the LP’s shimmering highlight, Olympians, actually wound up as part of the 2012 London Olympics’ opening ceremony, airing to a billion people, was a wonderfully Weatherallian insurrection on the mainstream. But most of all, it sounds like the kind of adventure Weatherall always seemed to be steering, and encouraging others to embark on. Olympians is a euphoric voyage on an ocean of beautiful noise, a fitting anthem for the man whose arms were inscribed with his ever-guiding motto: “Fail We May, Sail We Must.”


Gabriel Szatan

The GuardianTramp

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