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Sounds from the Steel City: The Black Dog's Ultimate Sheffield Playlist

"He hung around with Jarvis and Tim from Pulp. They were all really fucking weird. Sometimes they'd walk into a nightclub wearing hessian sacks and shower caps"

by Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
14 August 2015, 10:43am

Ask anyone to name England's foremost musical cities and you'll probably be met with the same old answers. London, Manchester, Liverpool. Which isn't necessarily accurate.

In contrast to those outspoken metropoles, Sheffield has always been happier toiling away quietly, consistently producing genius work, but never boasting. Yet its impact on global sounds has been huge, and not least in terms of electronic genres. From The Human League to Cabaret Voltaire, Autechre to Moloko, Gatecrasher in the 1990s to Warp Records, the list is long and extremely distinguished.

The Black Dog rightly have a place amongst those heroes and heroines. Formed in 1989, and considered by many to be one of the most important Intelligent Dance Music and techno outfits, this month sees the unveiling of their latest album, Neither / Neither, which again confirms their status as titans of immersive, otherworldly beats.

Who better then to compile a ten-strong playlist of music from Sheffield? Well, nobody. Just after their two bacon sandwiches with brown sauce, and before finishing brewing a beer they described as 'disappointingly uncomplicated', we called their studio to discuss this mind-bogglingly varied, hand-picked selection. Be warned, what follows is at times jarring, often perplexing, educational and absolutely fucking hilarious.

Application & Derek Bailey - Digital Manifesto 01

"This borders on a live cut up experiment, to the point of being irritating, because he doesn't actually finish anything. It's just a really interesting piece. Mr. Bailey was a fascinating guy as he just didn't give a flying fuck about what people thought- either come for the ride or go. It's also funny reading the comments on YouTube."

Maus Maus - Facts of War

"These guys are good friends from school. At their first gig they played a youth club, and mimed to a record because they were so shit. So we saw them go from that to developing this UK hardcore sound. They were also the first people we knew to get a proper record out, which probably means nothing today, but back then it was the dream."

Mark Fell - PRESENCES électronique

"It's a really hypnotic track. We went to see him at a rather uncomfortable design meeting where he played for about 20-minutes before fucking right off. He didn't look very happy, at all. But what he does is always fascinating — using pure maths to generate patterns. You can't try and work it out, just go with it, hippy style. That design meeting, we were loving it, probably the best he's played — he should get angry at every gig."

Vision - Lucifer's Friend

"They came from the wrong side of Rotherham; the most northern, darkest, greyest place in South Yorkshire. If you drove through it you'd be surprised if it was open. We played a gig in a scruffy pub there and wanted to get a nice meal beforehand. Ended up in fucking McDonalds. Anyway, as 80s pop songs go this is perfect. It was massive all over Europe, number one in Italy maybe, but didn't do much in the U.K. The hook and synth lines are amazing. Depeche Mode could have a written it."

Heaven 17 - Let Me Go

"It's such a great track. A lot of nerds have this down as the first use of acid, a 303, on a track. But as a construct and counterpart it's just fucking genius. It proves you don't need loads of layers. We'd love to remix it."

Tony Oxley & Derek Bailey - Knitting Factory

"What a great piece of work this is. We always argue with jazz fans; it's not the great teacher- it's a dead art form mostly played by white middle class people as everyone else is so fucking bored of it. But this just makes you piss yourself. It's so funny. They don't give a crap. It's like two really talented blokes re-interpreting Autechre. The fact it annoys so many people is also great. It's like listening to a foreign language. Derek used to do shows in bookshops to 20 or 30 people. It's amazing he didn't once turn up with no fucking strings on his guitar."

65 Days of Static - The Fall of Math

"We were going to do some work with them on a controller we developed but they were on tour with Mogwai. They show that there are always fresh ideas coming out of Sheffield. It's so beautiful, no words... There's this myth that everyone in music up here drinks together and stuff. We've never met these guys. We occasionally meet Richard H. Kirk for egg and chips, but generally we don't live in each other's pockets, which means nobody feels any group pressure in what they are making. Here's proof."

The Stunt Kites - Live At Weston Park Festival 1980

"These guys did a single called "Leanora", which was a blueprint for stuff like Sisters of Mercy and the early goth stuff. Massively ahead of their time. His vocals are so weird. This video is like every early punk gig; new drummer each show, some fucking random getting up and dancing, power goes off. It looks like a Vic & Bob sketch. At the time this would have been a massive event in Sheffield. On a 1ft stage, with a fucking spray painted placard. There's such a naive beauty to it."

Dig Vis Drill - Spell Survival

"Oggy, the singer, we used to see him in nightclubs. Really strange guy. He hung around with Jarvis and Tim from Pulp. They were all really fucking weird. Sometimes they'd walk into a nightclub wearing hessian sacks and shower caps. Instead of dancing, they'd do this Dadaist abstract stuff; jumping and running on the spot or something. I mean Pulp and Dig Vis Drill were really experimental in those days. One Dig Vis gig ended in a riot, with the police being called. At a Pulp gig in The Beehive during the second song, they turned them off and just told them to get out. Both way before their time. And these aren't art school students dicking about, they were serious about being different."

Screaming Trees - Asylum

"These guys moved into the same practice space as us. They programmed everything up and then played live bass, guitar and vocals over the top. Back then that was really unusual. They were tight as anything too. A lot of people have never heard of them, and will never find them now because of the American band, Screaming Trees. They were signed to a small Rotherham label, Native Records — and the only interesting thing about that label is they were the first to sign Nine Inch Nails."

Neither / Neither by The Black Dog is released 17th Augustvia Dust Science Recordings.

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