I sometimes wonder if anyone will ever find this blog if I continue to write about records that seeming only I own. Surely there must be a least a million google hits on The Hong Kong Micros “EP2” – sadly, all of which are referring to cheaply manufactured electronics. Still, I guess the point of this (if there is one) is to share weird and wonderful records with people – to stop them being lost in the Ether. Or maybe that makes me sound too much like a pretentious ass… But I digress.
Who are the Hong Kong Micros? I don’t know now and I didn’t know then. The Hong Kong Micros “EP2” isn’t the most inspired name to give your second extended player, but there was something about this shoddily pressed EP that made me pick it up in Kushi Recordings, Glasgow in the summer of 2000. Plus, it came with a free sticker – never underestimate the power of free stickers when marketing to the youth.
The EP is composed of four very varied, but equally interesting track, most of which stretch past the six-minute mark, and all of them feature an unmistakable MPC groove.
The Hong Kong Micros - [EP2 CD01 #01] Worktonite The Hong Kong Micros - [EP2 CD01 #02] Pray The Hong Kong Micros - [EP2 CD01 #03] Tonite The Hong Kong Micros - [EP2 CD01 #04] Closing
The a-side has two fairly standard club cuts of dry drum house, both of which have that ‘early 2000’ house vibe. You know, back in the day when we were happy with some grooving drum patterns, a few filters and a handful of samples. ‘Worktonite’ is a master class of oldskool bridging newskool house. Chugging, but never pumping, drums scuttle along accompanied by a one note bass line that drives the track towards it’s 50’s style horn hook, introduced with some classic filtered white noise. I love it, and in the six minutes and twenty-eight seconds of its play it doesn’t put a foot wrong.
Track two is like a UK vision of early Dj Sneak. Filtered disco/soul looping beneath a house beat. Sadly this time, the inclusion of an African sounding drum on the off beat, and a jarring key change in the break kinda ruins the vibe for me. What could have been an interesting track ends up sounding a little uninspired and more an eclectic compilation of samples and not music. And to be honest, the excessive use of a splash symbol indicates to me that someone was having trouble putting this together. That’s not to say it isn’t a decent track – it stomps with confidence and has all the right flow once it gets going, it’s just audibly the weakest track on the EP.
The b-side starts off with a bit of a surprise. I’m not sure how to describe it, which leaves me with a bit of a problem here. Let me just say that it’s ultra repetitive, very glittery, and with the crunchiest drums ever. You remember Scanty Sandwich before he want all serious techno? Well, this is a good version of that.
The second track on the b-side, and the finale of EP2 is the incredible “Closing”. Eight minutes and ten seconds of uninterrupted brilliance. Really, this is a shockingly good track. It has the same MPC feel as the rest of the EP, but has this time released from the 4/4 that dominated the other tracks. Instead we have a broken beat (or close enough to it), that sound utterly deliberate, confident and gorgeous. An electric piano provides some subtle chords in the background, and floats gently above the deep sustained bass. There’s a short guitar sample, used to perfection as a stab over the second beat and fourth beats of every bar and the soulful sound of Bob Seger, chopped and edited with care. This is one of the few electronic releases that manages to project emotion in front of attitude – heartache pours from the speakers. The track breaks down to show that haunting vocal hook in its entirety.
Strange how the night moves, with autumn closing... Strange how the night moves, with autumn closing... Funny how the night moves, just don't seem to have as much to lose with autumn closing...
From this point on the track flourishes into unashamed beauty – Bob’s vocals being continually and subtly layered and joined to produce the most engaging record I think I own. On fade out, the horrible, thin, dirty, 11-year-old vinyl becomes too noisy and the voice is lost in a wash of white noise and crackles.
It amazes me that something this wonderful has flown under the radar for so long. Then again, the use of Bob Seger’s vocal is both a blessing and a licensing nightmare – never would a little independent record label be able to afford the massive cost of licensing such a sample. It’s for that fact I say, God bless white labels.
The Hong Kong Micros “Worktonite”
The Hong Kong Micros “Pray”
The Hong Kong Micros “Tonite”
The Hong Kong Micros “Closing”