B12 Records was founded in 1991 by Mike Golding and Steve Rutter, two British electronic musicians who recorded under the name B12 as well as other pseudonyms such as Redcell, Musicology, and Cmetric. While much of the U.K. dance music scene at the time was focused on rave culture, B12 were more interested in the electronic music coming out of Chicago, Detroit, and Windsor, and designed the releases on their label to look and sound as if they were North American imports. Two of the duo's tracks were featured on Artificial Intelligence, Warp's groundbreaking 1992 compilation that helped establish techno as music for home listening rather than fodder for clubs or raves. The following year, the label released B12's debut full-length, Electro-Soma, as part of the Artificial Intelligence album series. The album contained tracks from the B12 Records back catalog as well as material recorded specifically for the project, and was a perfect summation of the duo's output to that point. The tracks clearly shared Detroit techno's affinity for science fiction, as well as the emotion-rich melodies, but they pushed the beats into stranger, more complex patterns. Even when the tracks had 4/4 kick drums, the hi-hats and snares were a bit more sporadic, and while the bass tones could be punchy, they weren't quite heavy enough to move a crowd. While these tracks were far more contemplative than most of the British techno being produced at the time, there was still room for playfulness and curiosity, and the album never sounds too serious or clinical. Its best and most memorable tracks, such as "Obsessed" and "Metropolis," provide as much of an energetic rush as any rave single from the same period, but without resorting to cartoonish samples or overused breakbeats. Compared to other debut albums by artists who were also included on Artificial Intelligence, Electro-Soma didn't quite alter the musical landscape on the same level as Selected Ambient Works 85-92 or Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, but it has remained a sterling example of creative home-listening techno, and has endured as a cornerstone of the early Warp catalog.
by Paul Simpson