1. 2 The Max - "People of All Nations" (Republic/ Rough Trade)
Well, this is obscure. Not on YouTube or anywhere else, it seems (until I uploaded it just now) or even talked about anywhere else online... yet was clearly deemed significant enough at the time to get a space on this compilation.
It's easy to understand why this has since fallen down the cultural equivalent of a black hole, as it doesn't offer anything radically different to the sounds around it at the time, but the track is actually good enough to make me feel that's rather unjust. With its pounding House piano riff, throbbing and insistent bass line, bongos and "people of all nations dancing together" hook, it transports you straight to the dancefloor of the Hacienda, even though I couldn't honestly say with any degree of certainty it was actually played there.
Crucially though, the elements it contains can be found in just about any House track at that point in time, and it does suffer from being rather too indistinctive for its own good. If I ran an appropriate retro night, though, I might consider playing it there.
2. Groove- "Submit To the Beat" (Submission)
Much more minimal, "Submit To The Beat" is conversely considered to be something of a cult dancefloor classic of its era. And no wonder - it's created by Graeme Parke, a Hacienda DJ and future producer, Radio DJ, and all-round general legend.
The repetitive and effective bassline here is the driving force, the foundation of the track, and the little flourishes that emerge over the top periodically are pleasing and subtle rather than intrusive. If you wanted an example of the polar opposite approach to the sample-mania to be found on Side One of this LP, this would be it - this is spacey House with lots of room to breathe rather than hyper, trigger-happy material.
Graeme Parke remains a highly respected DJ, producer and mixer.
3. Smith & Mighty - "The Dark, Dark House" (Three Stripe)
Now, is it me or are bits and pieces of this (especially the bassline) clear precursors to the Sheffield techno sound? Doomy and menacing, "The Dark, Dark House" is part inspired by the "Twilight Zone" theme (without actually sampling it at all!) but clearly winds its own cavernous path without resorting to whackiness or cliche.
Smith & Mighty are Bristolians and Trip Hop pioneers, and the sound on offer here would have far-reaching consequences. A year on from this recording, their production of Fresh Four's "Wishing On A Star" would also lead to a particularly eerie and unlikely hit.
4. The Housedoctors - "Housedoctors (Gotta Get Down)" (Big One)
I have "false memory syndrome" where The Housedoctors are concerned. I seem to remember they were everywhere for awhile and had more than a few singles out - but the Internet tells me I'm wrong. So either The Housedoctors are aliens and they abducted me at some point in the eighties and implanted the suggestion that they were significant into my brain, or I'm getting them mixed up with someone else. It's probably the latter, isn't it, readers?
Anyway, "Housedoctors (Gotta Get Down)" is another tastefully produced House release, keeping that pounding piano high in the mix but not letting it dominate. For all that, I don't get the impression that this is the best living room material in the world, and that it needs to be heard loudly in a club to get the best out of it - and while that may be true of many of the tracks here on "Indie Top 20: House", I'm getting the message much more clearly from this one. I need to be somewhere else other than a messy room in Ilford to be truly transported.
So, at the end of this experience, what have we learned?
A) That an entire LP of House music is far harder for me to write about in a meaningful, contextual way than an entire LP of other Indie sounds, and my shortcomings are very apparent here.
B) That I get less click-throughs for writing about House music than anything else (time will tell if this is true or not, but I think I can predict that it will be)
C) That this LP was a very strange idea indeed, but that it did at least accidentally predict the future. The influence of House and Dance music in general would begin to make its influence felt on the indie scene, and changes were a-brewing which will only begin to make themselves feel apparent in a couple of "Indie Top 20"s time. While the House and Indie-guitar elements of the indie chart would co-exist as two slightly opposing forces for now, eventually they'd start breeding like rabbits... and the whole scene would begin to feel very different. For now, though... we shall have to return to base as if nothing really happened, like naughty teenagers sneaking back from an all-night party.