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LISTEN: 25 Artists Select 25 Tracks For 25 Years Of Downwards Playlist
The Quietus , November 28th, 2018 14:07

To mark this weekend's Individual Collective x Downwards 25th anniversary party, 25 artists choose 25 bangers from the label's back catalogue.

This week marks the climax of a year of celebrations of 25 years of Karl ‘Regis' O'Connor's Downwards label, with a Q&A by our editor Luke Turner at Somerset House tonight and a big Corsica Studios knees-up courtesy of Individual Collective and featuring Regis and Simon Shreeve collaboration CUB, Regis solo, Samuel Kerridge, DJ Pete, Mick Harris' FRET and Simon Shreeve vs. Mønic. To mark the occasion, Individual Collective asked Downwards stalwarts, friends, acquaintances and probably a few enemies to name choose their 25 favourite Downwards releases from over the past quarter century. To read our Strange World of Regis & Downwards to get you up to speed with the label, why Downwards artists want to kill Karl and why clubbing "is like golf" go here. LIsten to the playlist in full above or individually below.

#01/25: Paula Temple chooses…

Surgeon - ‘Move' (1994)

"23 years ago in my favourite techno club, The Orbit, near Leeds and this track is dropped, cuts through the sound system, sending us hard into a raw transformative state. That's a serious impression on me as an 18-year-old."

#02/25: Manni Dee chooses…

Diversion Group - ‘All Boys / No Girls' (1999)

"If I were trying to explain what techno is to an alien, or an elderly relative, I'd probably play this to them. The groove and funk on ‘All Boys / No Girls' has such allure and danceability. This is the kind of loopy techno that never gets boring because of the interplay between different rhythmic elements and textures."

#03/25: Peder Mannerfelt chooses…

Kerridge - ‘Death Is Upon Us' (2013)

"The first Kerridge album has a very special meaning to me. Inspired me loads. An album that sets the vibe right from the start and holds it all the way thru to this great finale. Awesome sleeve and artwork to boot (as all Downwards releases!). I love it, in a way."

#04/25: Eomac chooses…

Portion Reform - ‘HAAS EP' (1997)

"I like the minimal, cold hard nature of this record. Unapologetic. Put the needle anywhere on this record and it all sounds the same. I like that :)"

#05/25: Karl Meier (Talker) chooses…

Regis - ‘Penetration' (2001)

"As John Lennon famously said: "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans" - and, to be sure, a lot had happened since the release ‘DITHOI' - a brief prison sentence (for mail fraud), his static caravan burned down, and an investment in a local Gregg's franchise went south. But out of great struggle comes great art, and ‘Penetration' represents the apotheosis of Karl O'Connor's craft up to that point - a masterwork that develops the trademark Regis sound and takes it in an exciting new direction - dense, textural, hypnotic, and intensely rhythmic. ‘White Stains' and ‘White Stains Pt. II' are still among the best things he's ever put his name to - and that includes the check he's signed over to me to write this - the sound design, the programming and arrangements are absolutely mind-blowing. Inspirational - nearly as good as Utah Saints first LP… and you can quote me on that."

#06/25: Taylor Burch & Joe Cocherell of DVA Damas choose…

Sandra Electronics - ‘It Slipped Her Mind' (2010)

"'Cos we really like it!"

#07/25: Rrose Chooses…

Public Information Film - ‘Here and Now' (2000)

"During one of my first trips overseas as a musician around 2000, Juan (Silent Servant) and I visited the distribution warehouse in Birmingham where Karl/Regis worked and kept his studio. I think it's safe to say this was an inspiring, historic moment! I went home with a bunch of records that I still hold dear including these three 7”. Although they are little known in the catalog, for me they represent the best aspects of Downwards, making authentic connections to the subversive and darkly humorous "industrial" culture of the 70s, and staying true to their DIY approach."

#08/25: James Ruskin Chooses…

Regis - ‘Montreal' (1995)

"‘Speak To Me' laid the foundation for what was to follow..."

#09/25: Oliver Ho (aka Broken English Club) chooses…

My Disco - ‘Our Decade (Regis Remix)' (2016)

"As soon as i heard this i loved it, it shows how Karl is really pushing his sound, and experimenting. it has a medieval torture feeling to it, like someone tied to a rack and the rack being tightened slowly, that slow building of pressure. love it!!"

#10/25: Pessimist chooses…

Fret - ‘Fuss' (1995)

"For me personally it's really hard to pick a favourite track from Downwards, with such a wide variety of quality music how can you pick a favourite? This track produced by Mick Harris called ‘Fuss' to me sounds completely no fuss, it's raw and sounds like nothing else from this era. This goes great with the interlude 'Bike' too when listening to the full release."

#11/25: Simon Shreeve chooses…

Regis - ‘Blood Witness (Versions)' (2014)

"This track, along with C U 1; made me rethink everything. When I first heard it; I could instantly relate to it, the groove, the textures, hooked me instantly - this will always remain one of my all time favourites."

#12/25: Samuel Kerridge chooses…

Regis - ‘Execution Ground' (1999)

"So I was asked to come up with a track which I love and cherish more than the famous Man United. Nigh impossible, however, this does come close! Why did I choose this track out of the countless others on Downwards that give me weak knees?……..I repeatedly find myself coming back to it. Always armed and ready to roll, it causes riots. Pure pogo music!"

#13/25: Phase Fatale chooses…

British Murder Boys - ‘Splinter' (2004)

"This track is pure, pioneering industrial techno. All frequencies are hit with force and groove. Grinding percussion and extreme pulsing sub bass."

#14/25: Keylen (Individual Collective resident) chooses…

Final - ‘Gravity' (2015) (Reissue)

"Up there with Justin Broadrick's best music (outside of Godflesh) in my opinion. The re-issue possibly flew a bit under the radar, but the whole album is excellent, certainly a top three electronic music album for me. Downwards has so many "leftfield" gems that get overlooked, especially comparatively to the wealth of the more brutal/harder Techno the label is widely recognised for, but dig that little bit deeper and you can unearth some of the most interesting and timeless music to be found on any electronic music label."

#15/25: Kangding Ray chooses…

Regis - ‘Assume Nothing' (2012)

"I'm not coming from an electronic music background. In the 90s, i used to play guitar in noise-rock bands, but i was not aware of what was happening in Birmingham at that time. I only discovered the work of Regis much later, through the huge influence that Sandwell District had on techno. Digging deeper, and discovering what Downwards had been making since the 90's, i started to connect the dots : that same punk attitude i loved could be found in other parts of the music spectrum. Downwards has always been about building and burning bridges."

#16/25: DJ Pete chooses…

Surgeon - ‘Atol' (1995)

"I will never forget the first moment when ‘Atol' got played for the first time at Hard Wax' original 90s location, standing behind the counter screaming out loud "wow ... who's that?". Outstanding example for funky and hard minimalistic Techno."

#17/25: Sunil Sharpe chooses…

Regis - ‘Purification' (1999)

"The ultimate techno war chant. Back when Regis was perfecting the art of the hard techno loop, this one really stood out. I have many favourite Downwards tracks but few as instantly powerful as this. That year - 1999 - was a turning point for the label I think. The 'bite' of the records had become more vicious and overall were sounding a bit more layered than before, further enforcing the idea that the impact and pure brute-force of a techno track can be more important than anything. Jeff Mills obviously pioneered this style, but I think Regis eventually brought it to another level."

#18/25: Mick Harris chooses…

Surgeon - ‘Argon' (1995)

"MILLSIAN BIRMINGHAM ORGAN EWOK DOSS GOING ON HERE, STILL MAKES ME NOD. BASIC AND AGAIN STRAIGHT TO THE POINT WITH A NICE SWING FUNK. DRUM MACHINE ONE SYNTH AND MY TOILET STUDIO [TONY PROVIDED THE CAKES] PROVING YOU DON'T NEED ALL THE SO CALLED MODERN SHEEP KIT. VISIONARY BEAT JUNKIE..."

#19/25: Silent Servant chooses…

Regis - ‘Concentrate' (1998)

"Concentrate was the place where I learned what Suicide and DAF mixed together might sound like. Timeless brutality..."

#20/25: Billy Allen (Individual Collective resident) chooses…

Oake - ‘Auferstehung' (2014)

"This album changed everything for me, and it is hard for me to think of a more complete album than ‘Auferstehung'. It's noisy, atmospheric, brutal and romantic. There is a building tension throughout the album which gives way to moments of real beauty, this is especially true midway through the album on my favourite track, ‘Viertes Buch: Mortre Wrid'. Eric's production reaches peak levels and is matched perfectly by the elegance of Bathseba's vocals. When I reach this point of the record, I always stop to play this track on repeat a couple of times. This album is the soundtrack to my favourite movie that was never made…"

#21/25: Surgeon chooses…

Surgeon - ‘Magneze' (1994)

"This is where it all started for me, recorded in 1994 in Mick Harris' converted toilet studio. I had no expectations at all from this release, I just wanted some tracks pressed onto vinyl so I could play them in my DJ sets. I remember Karl saying that he expected to have boxes of these sitting under his bed forever. I know it really confused a lot of people. Techno from Birmingham? Who is this artist? Who runs this label? People told me that Jeff Mills was playing it, I thought they were lying, but it turned out they were right."

#22/25: Dax J chooses…

Regis - ‘Model Friendship' (1995)

"One that has stayed in my box for years. classic and essential sound of Regis. Pounding, hypnotic and relentless 90s killer!"

#24/25: Kiran Sande (Blackest Ever Black) chooses…

Sandra Electronics - ‘It Slipped Her Mind' (2010)

"In the dark ages / halcyon days of 2010 - a little less connected, less know-it-all, less jaded - a 10" single like Sandra Electronics' 'It Slipped Her Mind' (and its equally brilliant predecessor in Downwards' DO series, Tropic of Cancer's 'The Dull Age / Victims') could still feel like a bolt from the blue, a letter from a strange and distant planet (YOU ARE NOT ALONE), and a call to arms. I know I'll never again feel the buzz I felt when I first heard these records, the sense of having chanced upon something vital and meaningful and, at some level, meant for me. The techno brutalism of classic Downwards and BMB had made an impression on me in the past, but this was something different. Not everything in the DO series was a good as the two records I mention, but the general approach was revelatory. These days we think nothing of a label blurring the lines between, say, techno, minimal wave, shoegaze, or whatever else - in fact it's now so commonplace as to have become a cliche, and a massive turn-off - but a decade ago it was practically unheard of, it was bold, and, to those of us stuck in pigeonholes of our own making, completely liberating and inspiring and energising. True DIY too: do what you want, put it out, don't promote it (are you having a laugh), let it find its audience, move on to the next thing. Anyway, I still struggle to describe the whiplashing, ultra-distorted, white-hot drone-rock/acid-raga of 'It Slipped Her Mind' (see what I mean), all I know is it blew my head clean off, and embodied the idea that that great records don't pander to an existing audience or context, they create their own. I remember Karl saying that when he was first starting up Downwards, Mick Harris taught him "not to be afraid of my influences". With this record - and other choice provocations - Karl did the same for me, and I'm sure for many, many others."

#25/25: Becka Diamond (Hospital Productions) chooses…

Tropic Of Cancer - ‘Be Brave' (2011)

"This track is a prime example of Karl's razor sharp curation of music outside of techno. This record really nails down the darkness I feel about California, amidst the sunny surface atmosphere. It's difficult to choose one or two tracks from a label that isn't really that. The whole of Downwards is a world in itself. Congrats and much love on 25 years!"

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