Formed in Glasgow during 1991 by Slam’s Orde Meikle and Stuart McMillan with friends Glen Gibbons and Dave Clarke, Soma Recordings have spent the ensuing quarter century amassing a reputation as one of the UK’s most influential and consistently high quality techno labels. Indeed, there aren’t many labels who’ve had such an influential hand in the development of such a diverse range of techno-centred artists, ranging from Daft Punk (whose ‘Da Funk’ originally appeared on Soma), through to Alex Smoke, Surgeon, The Black Dog, Percy X and more recent newcomers such as Blawan. This impressively packaged vinyl-only box set ‘Soma 25’ appears as part of Soma’s year-long anniversary celebrations, with its fifteen tracks spread across five sprawling 12”s.
Impressively, all of the tracks collected here are exclusive to this collection, with brand new tracks appearing alongside prevously unreleased contemporary reworkings of some of the label’s pivotal moments. As a snapshot of Soma’s roster, it certainly explains why the label has continued to maintain such an enviable position amongst the UK electronic music scene. Robert Hood’s ‘The Bond We Formed’ definitely represents the more banging, drum-heavy side of Soma’s oeuvre here, sending galloping kickdrums and hi-hats rolling against bleeping stabs, tightening things up with some subtle background filtering before locking things down into a mechanistic stomp that accelerates towards a thundering finish as the urgent background beeps begin to fall out of tune.
If the aforementioned track seems most suited to deployment at 3AM over a heaving warehouse soundsystem, Slam’s ‘Modular Interpretation’ of Daft Punk’s early track ‘Drive’ manages to give it a good run for its moment, layering thick analogue synth arpeggios over a writhing backbone of dark bass swells and pressurised 4/4 rhythms, the sinister distorted vocal that repeatedly intones “drive” adding to the sense of mounting paranoia as the arpeggiated electronics get filtered into refracted metallic tones. Elsewhere, Andrew Weatherall makes an appearance as The Woodleigh Research Facility for ‘S.O.M.A. 25’, a spooky piece of acid-infused electro that sees icy female pop vocals, racing car samples and police sirens slotting in alongside the doomy bass chords and 808 snares.
Josh Wink’s epic ‘Synodic Period’ meanwhile takes things off on an eleven minute long wander through deep tech-house landscapes, as shimmering pads and rich bass chords add a sense of emotive swell that’s beautifully counterpointed by the steel-coiled hi-hats and dubbed-out acid squelches that ripple through the mix, before Funk D’Void’s aptly titled ‘808 Planet’ offers up a smooth masterclass in IDM-kissed electro chillout, sending soulful keys floating against rattling 808 kicks, thick analogue bass tones arriving to propel things off into a house centred outro section that sees vampy string flourishes adding flashes of vivid colour. Given the hefty price tag involved, ‘Soma 25’s probably more aimed towards the hardcore Soma Recordings fans. They’ll be delighted though, with what’s on offer here.