★★★★ Shelley’s On Zenn-La RVNG INTL. CD/DL/LP Memorable fusion of raw electronics, virtuoso cello and rave era beats.
STEEL YOURSELF for the first concept album of cello-infused proto rave, set on a fictional planet where a once-legendary club is revered as a deity. The club in question is Shelley’s in Stoke – a crucible of UK dance music in the late ’80s and early ’90s – while the planet is Zenn-La, as imagined by Oliver Coates, principal cellist with the London Contemporary Orchestra and Radiohead collaborator. Coates uses an eccentric blend of rich strings and muffled hardcore rhythms that are seductive, haunting and deliciously weird; whether the beautifully strange melodica-infused primitive electro of Charlev or Perfect Apple With Silver Mark, with its singular mix of hands-in-the-air beats, spectral piano and glacial chords. The mix of cello, abstract dancefloor smarts and soft-focus vocals means Arthur Russell comparisons are inescapable. But you suspect an auteur like Russell would have nothing but praise for Coates’s moving achievement.