Around 1994/5 bands like Orbital, Leftfield and Underworld threatened to take electronic music into stadium rock territory in terms of popularity and spectacle. It never quite happened that way. Similarly, Spooky always seemed on the verge of joining the big league but never quite got there.
The duo of Charlie May and Duncan Forbes first came to prominence with the 1993 album Gargantuan, still considered one of the best techno/house albums of its era. They followed this in 1995/6 with a series of three EPs each housed in a digipack of uniform design. “Clank” was grey, “Stereo” rust-red and “Shunt” a kind of bluey-green. Each contained four brand new tunes – no remixes – and together probably contained some of the duo’s very strongest material. “Stereo” is the one, though. In fact, the only EP I can think of of such a consistently high standard is Autechre’s “Garbage”.
“Can’t Remember” and “Do Not Adjust Your Set” are both lower tempo tracks. “Can’t Remember” is based on a sampled clarinet riff, and almost sounds medieval. “Do Not Adjust Your Set” is a lush track that would grace any of the great electronica albums of the era. “Mono”, the final track, sounds a little out of place. It’s a banging breakbeat track that lacks the melodic subtlety of the preceding three tunes.
The lead track is 7:37 of pure joy. It opens with a simple four note staccato organ riff that underpins the whole tune – but what a riff! Then layers build successively in quite a conventional way, with a breakbeat, a bass that follows the main riff and all sorts of intricate little loops. Three minutes in it breaks to the bridge for the first time and just sounds euphoric. The whole thing is so simple and has such a formulaic structure that it ought to be forgettable. But there’s something utterly hypnotic about it. Three seconds in and I’m grinning like an idiot, and bouncing about like a hyperactive toddler. I know other people who feel the same way about the tune, so it’s not just something weird about my synapses. Top tune, as we used to say.