Brothers and Systems – Trace Elements (90s – 48)

April 8, 2014

X-Cat: meaning ex-catalogue. These CDs were in the 2UNE catalogue, but were considered by several year’s worth of station managers to be too obscure (Karen Rameriz – this was country Australia), weird (Philip Glass’ Low Symphony) or just plain unlistenably bad to sit with in the drawers under proper categories like Rock, or Australian, or Dance. So they were stowed away in the back of the station, a shelf of their own, unloved.

Until I turned up searching for the obscure and weird for my radio show. (The unlistenably bad really was bad…)

One of the albums I found was by Brothers and Systems’ album Transcontinental Weekend. Even now I can’t tell you anything about them. In fact I can’t remember anything about the album except this closing track, which I semi-regularly used to close my radio show.

With only a hazy idea of hip hop, funk and sampling I was quite taken. The cool organs, snatches of sax and jangly percussion matched the sort of the jazz I liked at the time – funky but bits of synth in: Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, or maybe 90s John McLaughlin. Less of the boring acoustic stuff, this had sounded futuristic to me.

Of course, Trace Elements is not jazz, rather jazzy, thrown together in a studio in 1992 by a man on a computer (really, this is all I know). Yet to hear Paul’s Boutique, Loaded or any other sample based tunes flying around, this instead became my introduction to studio wizardry in which bpm wasn’t as important as style, sample selection, cheek and a little humour. In 1997 I was very much in a drum n bass and ambient house zone. But Brothers and Systems linked jazz, hip hop and funk together, helping me to see connections I hadn’t yet cared about. Of this I am forever been grateful.

The radio station’s X-Cat was eventually placed in the centre of the room, and we were told anything left in two days would be donated elsewhere or thrown out. The station had run out of storage space. I couldn’t let this track go, so I rescued the album. It is safe, though admittedly it is now sitting in my own X-Cat – a cardboard box in storage. One day it will be free again.


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