Anthony “Shake” Shakir, Frictionalism 1994-2009

[Rush Hour Recordings]

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When reviewing Anthony “Shake” Shakir’s first release in four years last April, I quoted an interview in which Shakir described himself as “the forgotten man of techno.” I wonder how he feels about that statement now. The record reviewed, “Levitate Venice” ended up in any year-end list worth reading (including LWE’s), and was widely played and supported by artists and DJs from across the electronic music world, from Ben UFO to Ben Klock. Following up this renewal of interest in Shake’s work, and perhaps conscious of the inflated prices his music was beginning to fetch on the second-hard market, comes this full-fat retrospective from the good folk at Rush Hour. In the past, the Dutch label have given the anthology treatment to Rick Wade, Daniel Wang and Kenny Larkin amongst others, but never before in such exhaustive fashion. There are two choices for the consumer; for those with their finger on the pre-release trigger, or willing to drop megabucks on a Discogs proxy, the option is the most floor-friendly seventeen tracks split over four 12″s with a 7″ thrown in. For those slower off the mark, of a digital persuasion, or with a completist bent, the three CDs provide an expansive, more eclectic, thirty-five tracks.

There is a danger, especially with material as diverse as Shake’s, that the end product could become incoherent or unwieldy. So it is a tribute to Rush Hour’s curatorial skills that while there are at times wildly contrasting styles, Frictionalism never stops sounding like the inspired, if musically schizophrenic, work of one man. Part of this coherence is due to the restrictions placed on the set. Intended, as the name indicates, primarily as a retrospective of material released on his own Frictional label, it nonetheless includes material released on Daniel Bell’s 7th City, plus one new track, “The Other One.” It neglects to include, for whatever reason (licensing, sheer volume), tracks released on Metroplex or Puzzlebox. The former is a shame for completists; the latter probably a relief for the artist, as Keith Tucker’s label hosted one of Shake’s few forgettable moments, the execrable ghettotech pastiche “(With A) Piece Of Ice” (looped lyric: “suck on his dick with a piece of ice”). A note also on RH’s remastering. I’m only going on my battered copy of “Mood Music For The Moody,” but “Mood Swing” from that EP, which opens CD1, sounds astonishingly crisp, and the bass is truly trunk-rattling. I was initially wary of a clean-up job on an artist who relies on grit to make pearls, but there are absolutely no complaints here.

Probably enough has been said about the medium of Frictionalism, and hardly anything about the music contained within. Permit me, however, to make one more observation on the presentation: As somewhat of a fetishist of elaborate packaging (I’m a big fan of Dust-To-Digital), I was initially disappointed after shelling out the best part of £50 that the vinyl was wrapped in 5 paper sleeves, spelling S, H, A, K, E in a transparent plastic sleeve. No box, no gatefold, and no liner notes, as with Wang’s Balihu anthology. Then I realized, Shake’s music does the talking.

The first thing that strikes on listening to Frictionalism is how much of current and recent trends in electronic music is prefigured by Shake. The bass wobble of dubstep? Check the aforementioned “Mood Swing.” The squashed, psychedelic hip-hop of Dabrye or Flying Lotus? See “Here, There and Nowhere” or “Lay Back (In The Cut).” Wistful electro like Convextion in his E.R.P. guise? “Breathe Deeper.” Trance-y techno à la Aril Brikha? “Mr Gone Is Back Again.” Looped disco-house as practiced by Soundstream et al? “The Floor Filler.” Hiccuping micro-funk like vintage Perlon? “Simpatico.” The raw, stripped down house of Omar-S? “Electron Rider.”

And then there are the pieces that haven’t been wittingly or otherwise adopted by contemporary producers, the tracks that could only have been made by Shake’s hands. Shuja Haider mentioned the “[Thelonius] Monk-ish” wit of Shake when it comes to naming tracks; perhaps the “The Fake Left. Go Right Plan” is as fitting a description of his modus operandi as you will find. There is a constant atmosphere of unrest, of nervous energy, of the unexpected, the willingness to take risks, and the path less traveled. Shake’s never been content to just make a loop and let it play out for five or six minutes. Tracks constantly morph, evolve, or even fall apart completely as they are tinkered with. “Fake Left…” bristles with invention, a distorted, hammering bass drum remorselessly driving forward a majestic synth vamp, interrupted at unpredictable intervals by an unidentifiable rapper affirming “uh huh yeh yeh.”

The sounds are rough and raw; Shake’s music can often sit uneasily in a DJ mix, and there’s a sense of endearing amateurism that mirrors Madlib or the late J Dilla. As an example, “One Beat (Just Won’t Do)” brings to mind their work in that it sounds like it’s been thrown together in an afternoon. This presumed nonchalance in knocking out beats is not because of laziness, but because of an eagerness, taken to the point of impatience, to document the next idea that spills out of their fertile imaginations. Shake’s first thoughts beats other’s best thoughts.

The Belleville Three all earned themselves sobriquets which described their role in the creation of techno. Juan Atkins was the Originator for coining the term and birthing the genre; Derrick May was the Innovator for his daring and exquisitely beautiful productions, and Kevin Saunderson the Elevator for popularizing the music both in the U.S. and abroad with Inner City. Perhaps it’s time Shake deserves his own epithet as the Revelator for having the vision to assimilate his compatriots’ work and reveal the potential of Detroit techno to cross-fertilize and influence a myriad range of electronic music. Genius is an overused word, and I hesitate to use it here, but Shake is arguably the only one of the group of individuals that appeared on the seminal Techno: The New Dance Sound Of Detroit who is still making thrilling, living, and relevant music. No longer “the forgotten man,” Frictionalism is a fitting and full tribute to the genius of Anthony “Shake” Shakir.

Bootsy Colin  on January 22, 2010 at 12:05 PM


kuri  on January 22, 2010 at 5:55 PM

well deserved retrospective. great to see his work getting introduced to a new audience, and I’m sure there are plenty of techno vets that missed some of these Frictional releases. Frictional 01 was my introduction to Shake’s work and still gets play here.
very nice review Peder.

Jimmy  on January 22, 2010 at 7:33 PM

for someone who has been discovering a lot of of old music (having been caught in the breakbeat/progressive world until recently) its great to see these kind of releases. even if it does seem a little like cheating going out and buying a bunch of these tracks at once.

will be hunting down in one of the formats for sure.

good_god  on January 26, 2010 at 2:30 PM

dare i say, a ‘ballsy’ write-up. well done!
ordered this from boomkat and anxiously anxiously awaiting. i saw the man at last year’s DEMF (a crappy after party in some godforsaken hotel). i didn’t know it was him——i just saw some dude sitting behind the decks tearing through a set of raw electro and berghain-style techno to 3 of my friends, myself, and a handful of bored-looking bouncers.

i think his upcoming bunker gig may be a tad different.

tom/pipecock  on January 27, 2010 at 12:20 PM

he wasn’t playing “Berghain-style techno”, the guys at Berghain play Shake-style techno!

James Jays  on January 29, 2010 at 7:31 AM

Great producer, great music and a great compilation.
But I have the 3xCD edition and it looks like they have used a case built for 1 or possibly 2 discs to hold all 3 discs. Every time you open it one disc falls out onto your lap. Not good at all. Wondering why I didn’t just cherry-pick my favourite tracks and buy them as wav downloads.

good_god  on February 1, 2010 at 2:36 PM

tom/pipecock 1, good_god 0 😉 too true

@James Jays: i had the same problem, but i think it’s worth it to get the whole picture.


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