Saturday, July 10, 2004

Channel 3: A Compilation of Output Recordings
Released: August 2004

A version to appear on

Most labels like to tout a strong identity in one way or the other, especially when putting out a compilation of releases. Odd then, that the past two Output comps have been devoid of any mention of the imprint, aside from a small nondescript logo on the back. This is purely intentional, and speaks volumes about the founder Trevor Jackson’s ethos toward releasing music. “The label is about the artists…not the label itself,” Jackson said. “…All it says is are the names of the bands, because that’s what’s important to me. I would rather have the music speak for itself and the artists to speak for the label.”

And speak loudly they do. Channel 3 is yet another overview of one of the best and most consistent labels at the moment. Widely touted as the heir apparent to Rough Trade or Factory records, in its relatively short history, Output has been responsible for some impressive A & R finds and genre-defining releases. Kieran Hebden, best known as Four Tet, released the seminal “36:35” on the label back in 1998. The recent acid revival darlings Black Strobe released the label’s bestselling 12’, “Innerstrings,” back in 2000, garnering support from influential DJs like Andrew Weatherall and Laurent Garnier. Most recently, Output handled the UK rollouts of such acts as LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture.

Several genres get play on Channel 3, ranging from acid house and fractured funk, to off-the-wall electro and straightforward rock and roll. After beginning their careers with the brilliant shoegaze EP, The Distance After, Circle Square contribute one of the strongest tracks on the comp. “Fight Sounds” is goth-tinged downtempo tempered with huge distorted bass stabs, simple keys and detached vocals. The attention to subtlety and stellar production make it stand out on its own, and though characterized by its slow pace, its one of the most intense moments on the record. Mu’s “Out Of Breach” is off-kilter electro at its finest, and Dead Combo’s “Hey Dusty” is lo-fi rock and roll, complete with requisite leather-clad posturing. Trevor Jackson makes an appearance with the comp’s highlight—his Playgroup mix of The Rapture’s “I Need Your Love.” Jackson dubs out the bassline, edits the vocals and adds some squiggly TB-303 and hand claps, making a played-out tune suddenly relevant again. Beware, reactionary Rapture-haters may even find themselves dancing uncontrollably.

Electronic music pioneers Yello appear with the reissue of “Base For Alec,” which originally appeared as a b-side back in 1982. With modern producers mining for old tones and influences, it still sounds yet oddly relevant despite being created over a decade ago. Rekindle’s “Ice Skating Girl” (Linus Loves Remix) is the only misstep on the record, and the remix takes a slightly annoying song and makes it significantly more so. This aside, more strong contributions come with the lovely synth melodies of 7 Hurtz’ “LVL” and the choppy funk bassline of Colder’s “The Slow Descent.”

For a label that issues so many great singles, Channel 3 stands with its earlier counterparts as an excellent introduction to the label, focusing on tracks that haven’t been necessarily released on complete artist albums. All two often, great 12’s slip though the cracks of public consumption, relegated to the record boxes of DJs, and the collections of true aficionados. This puts them all in one place, and serves as further proof of Output’s consistency and vision since inception. Most importantly, it whets the appetite for whatever Trevor Jackson decides to come up with next.

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