EP Review: Turning - Headman

It seems like some time since we last heard from Robi Insinna. Better known as Headman he has had a number of well regarded singles and remixes over the years. Whilst his last album, the Dieter Meier (of Yello fame) featuring 1923, was only released two years ago it feels like the limelight has shifted off of Headman a little.

And that is a shame because Headman makes just the kind of slightly scratchy post-punk electro that I happily lap up - place him somewhere between the discordant party noise of Soulwax and the punk funk of !!!. 'Turning', featuring long term collaborator Tara on vocals feels like classic eighties experimental electro breeding discontent. Tara's vocals successfully replicate early Human League's clinical approach with a "Head is turning / machine is burning" couplet whilst clattering drums and itchy guitar work attempt to strangle a warm, bouncing melody.

Aside from the original this EP also features three additional versions of 'Turning'. Insinna's own dub reworks things to give it a more stripped back and percussive latter third, out-shining the original in the process. Emperor Machine's mix is even better though, adding some space for a bigger bass line and some disco flourishes that make this into a real dance floor filler. The definitive version of Headman's biggest hit to date, 'It Rough', was Chicken Lip's mechanical, bass heavy synth version and so there is an element of history repeating itself here - Emperor Machine's Andy Meecham being one half of Chicken Lips. Scott Fraser's dub also takes things down a disco route but whilst the wandering bass is reminiscent of Moroder it lacks the impact of Meecham's version.

Also included are two remixes of previous single 'Be Loved'. The first, from Richard Fearless of Death in Vegas, is a typically sprawling acid psychotic meltdown - the aural equivalent of a boy playing in a toy shop. It has moments where the squelching acid work is a joy, albeit a somewhat unfocused one. I haven't heard the original but I'd wager it doesn't sound much like this. Murphy Jax turns it into a warm, laid back house record that unfortunately does nothing whatsoever for me.

Whilst the latter mixes are slightly hit and miss this is an overly generous EP in the first place - buy it for the first half and the exciting acid straight jacket that is Richard Fearless' input.

Turning is released on 11 May on Relish Records, available for pre-order on MP3 from Amazon.co.uk [affiliate link].