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Album: Electribe 101 - Electribal Soul | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Electribe 101 - Electribal Soul

Album: Electribe 101 - Electribal Soul

A glorious lost gem from the feverish first flush of British house music

Electribal Soul: A gem comes to light

There’s a period of British club music that deserves to be much better appreciated. Before hardcore and jungle, before the Underworlds and Leftfields and other arena acts, came a generation who were much closer to the most song-based US house music, to considerable success.

Between 1988 and 1990 came dazzling records from S’Express, The Beloved, Coldcut’s earliest manifestation, and several Eighties pop acts that evolved with the times: The Style Council, The Blow Monkeys and Boy George with his Jesus Loves You project.

Into this milieu came four Brummies known as the Groove Corporation, and the Hamburg-born singer Billie Ray Martin, who they’d apparently contacted after she placed a Melody Maker small ad saying "Soul rebel seeks musicians – genius only". They achieved acid house era club anthem status with their bittersweet “Talking With Myself” and “Tell me When the Fever Ended”, with Martin having a huge hit singing on S’Express’s “Hey Music Lover” around the same time to boot. But despite much hype and Depeche Mode support slots, they only managed top 30 with their singles and album, and split in 1992 before their second album could be released.

It has finally come to light, though, and it is a gem. Four of the tracks here are familiar as they ended up reworked for Martin’s solo records, but so different are these versions it’s easy to forget and take them as part of the whole. The joy here is how perfectly, like many of their contemporaries, they manage to fuse US house and soul with a very European dance sensibility, with a hint of Caribbean-British soundsystem culture (“A Sigh Won’t Do” here has a dub-hiphop beat Massive Attack would’ve been well pleased with at the time).

Martin’s voice fits that perfectly, located dead in between contemporary house divas like Adeva and Alison Limerick and the icier tones of Annie Lennox, with just a hint of Weimar cabaret. And to cap it off, the songs are spectacular, and though they range from full on soul balladeering Whitney Houston would be happy on to covering Throbbing Gristle, hold together better than the album’s predecessor Electribal Memories. It’s a crying shame that pressure to succeed in pop terms stopped the band developing at their own pace as this shows them properly maturing. But better late than never – and here’s hoping this shines a light on that spectacularly soulful part of dance history.


Listen to "Moving Downtown": 

The joy here is how perfectly they manage to fuse US house and soul with a very European dance sensibility


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Hey Joe, I hope this gets a GLOWING review in WIRE. It certainly deserves it.

Exceptional and remarkable album, as is “Electribal Memories.” Buy it. You won’t be disappointed.

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