Cult Albums: #10 WAY OUT WEST – Way Out West (1997)

In some ways Jody Wisternoff and Nick Warren, aka Way Out West, were a little late to the party. Their debut album surfaced in 1997, by which time the UK electronica / dance boom had arguably peaked. It had taken a while to come together, with some tracks already three years old by the time it was released. It was more than just a career-to-date summing up, and garnered a lot of positive notices from the dance press and beyond. A decade later, it seems to have been largely forgotten. A state of affairs that needs to be addressed!

Nick Warren was an ‘A list’ DJ, who could count Paul Oakenfold, Sasha et al as peers. Unlike many of his contemporaries’ ventures into recording, Way Out West were never conceived as merely a vehicle for dancefloor fodder. The opener “Blue” rams this point home. It’s a slow breakbeat tune (based on a theme from the score of cult favourite Withnail and I) that builds totally unlike a dance track. It’s largely remembered these days (if at all) for the fabulous John Clayton directed video starring Harry Dean Staton that comes across like Paris, Texas meets Repo Man. “The Gift” takes a couple of lines from Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and uses them to build a dream-house classic that was famously used as part of Coldcut’s legendary JDJ 70 Minutes of Madness mix.

Both “Ajare” and “Domination” were also issued as singles. In contrast to the aforementioned pair, these were driving progressive house tunes that could get any crowd moving, but still had an intelligence to their construction that marked them out from the rent-a-trance crowd. “Ajare”, especially, is as hard as (nine inch) nails. There are straightforward trance tracks like “Sequoia”, but even these have enough about them to keep them interesting. Things end with the proto-grime “King of the Funk” and the gentle come-down of “Earth”.

Way Out West are still (I think) a going concern – at least they were as recently as 2006. They’ve not been especially prolific. A second album, Intensify, appeared in 2001 and Don’t Look Now in 2004. Both are strong, but not quite as consistently so as the duo’s debut. Both also lean more heavily towards songs, but are refreshingly cheese-free.

The culture that Way Out West sprang from may have largely withered away, but like many records from that era, it still sounds fresh. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of revival happening in the not too distant future in the same way that sixties garage bands lay unloved and forgotten for a decade before they were rediscovered and venerated.

Original video for “Blue”

Tracks
1 Blue 5:16
2 The Gift 7:21
3 Domination 8:41
4 Dancehall Tornado 7:45
5 Questions Never Answered 8:44
6 Sequoia 8:01
7 Ajare 5:44
8 Drive By 6:39
9 King Of The Funk 5:38
10 Earth 3:17

Originally issued by Deconstruction (74321 50195) in September 1997.

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