“I appear to have got in with the wrong crowd,” murmurs a well-spoken man at the start of the new album from Andrew Weatherall, amid a backdrop of weird scrapes. The oddness of the scene is an apt metaphor. Throughout his long and storied history, Weatherall’s cultivated the comportment of a true gent; sartorially dapper, intellectually astute, but as far as you can get from conventional.
Andrew Weatherall is perhaps best known for having had a strong influence on Primal Scream. Creation Records boss Alan McGee once told me: 'Ecstacy changed it for us. You know the Happy Mondays turned me onto E and that turned Primal Scream onto E and we changed. We stopped listening to Tim Buckley and started listening to Frankie Knuckles.
If electronic music had a royal family, Andrew Weatherall would surely be a member. He would make a good prince, rubbing shoulders with the great and the good, creating mayhem but still keeping the respect of his peers. It is worth recapitulating his career to date, going right back to when he co-mixed the club version of Happy Mondays’ Hallelujah, was one of the producers on Primal Scream’s seminal Screamadelica album, and then went on to head up two of the most exciting electronic collaborations of the 1990s, Sabres Of Paradise and Two Lone Swordsmen.
It’s only February and Andrew Weatherall – veteran British DJ, producer and remixer – is already on to his second album of 2016. The first, as the Woodleigh Research Facility, with Nina Walsh, was an electronic oddity that twisted and turned in unexpected directions. This one, released under his own name (but conceived with Walsh), is a more straightforward affair that casts backward glances over a long and prolific career.
Proper DJs like Andrew Weatherall know better than anyone how effective music can be when stripped back to its essentials – a beat or a handclap, a stuttering bassline. Weatherall is a producer too, of course, so he knows a thing or two about putting tracks together. Weirdly though, on his first solo record in nearly six years, it’s when everything is piled up together, when all the faders sound as if they are turned up, that the record is at its best, as on We Count The Stars, one of a handful of great tracks featuring Nina Walsh on backing vocals.
In some alternate universe, pioneering UK DJ/producer Andrew Weatherall became as famous as Paul Oakenfold. Both he and Oakenfold were key figures in the early acid house explosion in the UK, and both helped inspire Madchester acts like the Happy Mondays and Primal Scream to discover dance music. While Oakenfold became a commercial trance superstar, Weatherall embraced his oddball tendencies and ended up a well-respected cult hero in left-field dance music.
?Only a fool would question the influence and importance of Andrew Weatherall, resident at the year zero acid house club Shoom, pivotal part of the Boys Own collective, and presenter of a BBC 6Music show that was worth the license fee alone. Then there’s his production work (Primal Scream’s Screamadelica and its twin, the strangely overlooked Morning Dove White by One Dove), an endless stream of brilliant remixes, all of his work as part of ‘90’s collective Sabres Of Paradise, the sublime DJ sets alongside Sean Johnston as A Love From Outer Space, and the fact that he even made Friendly Fires sound interesting. Unfortunately his solo work hasn’t quite delivered in regards to expectation levels attributed to someone with such a hefty reputation.
Who's your favourite Andrew Weatherall? Is it the DJ whose encyclopedic collection of vinyl is guaranteed to lively up any party, between band set or wedding? Could it be the remixer who, on more than occasion has improved the original to the degree that the course of music has been altered forever? Perhaps it's the producer whose overseeing guidance has helped create beautifully discordant music that ends up being presented to the world during the Olympics opening ceremony? Or maybe the collaborator where those additional ideas place the initial concept in a far more interesting place? Take your pick but, as evidenced on Convenanza, the chances are it won't be the solo artist. If Weatherall's previous solo effort, A Pox On The Pioneers had you reacting with a heavy of sigh of disappointment before watching it gather dust over the next five years or so, then Convenanza will have you wailing with despair when you manage to rouse yourself from its slumber-inducing properties. Sad to report, but this latest effort from the man known also as The Guv'nor is an exercise in dial-it-in tedium that sounds more like the efforts of an Andrew Weatherall tribute act.