Ken Downie joined up with Ed Handley and Andy Turner, who themselves formed Plaid, in 1988 to form Black Dog Productions, a secretive east London techno crew, communicating with the outside world from the infamous Black Dog Towers, and determinedly obscuring their identities. After attempting to persuade Larry Heard to remix their first tracks (he turned them down on the grounds that the music was ‘too weird’), the trio released their first record, the Virtual EP, on Black Dog Records a year later. With the subsequentAge Of Slack andBlack Dog EPs, despite their limited distribution (in part, the result of the distributor melting down half of the 1, 000 copies of Black Dog), the trio had attracted a strong and loyal fanbase. With the inspirational use of breakbeats (at the time being hijacked by the ‘happy hardcore’ brigade) and melodies, in these early recordings Black Dog Productions created some of their finest work, and indeed some of the finest abstract techno to emerge from the UK.
They continued in style with the Parallel Squelch EP, released on the newly formed GPR label, attracting the interests of Warp Records and R&S Records. In 1993, Black Dog Productions released their debut album, Bytes, as part of Warp’s Artificial Intelligence series. Certainly one of the highlights of the series, the album highlighted their subtle sense of songwriting propriety, and attracted the attention of numerous artists, resulting in remix and production work for artists such as Nicolette and Björk. Temple Of Transparent Balls, on GPR and credited to the more succinct the Black Dog, followed a year later, although much of the work had been produced prior to Bytes, and had been spilt between Ken Downie on the one hand, and the pairing of Ed Handley and Andy Turner on the other. Spanners, the third and last album featuring the original band line-up, was released in 1995. Sounding more accomplished, the album occasionally lacks the raw feel of some of their earlier cuts, although the sheer inventiveness of the synthetic sounds and percussion still manages to entrance the listener.
Following Spanners, Handly and Turner departed to concentrate on Plaid, leaving Downie to continue working alone under the Black Dog name. The first ‘solo’ album, Music For Adverts (And Short Films), was released on Warp in 1996. Collaborations with Israeli singer Ofra Haza and French spoken word artist Black Sifichi followed, the latter joining Downie on a genuinely disturbing tribute to writer William S. Burroughs. In the early 00s, Downie teamed up with the Dust Science label and began recording on a more regular basis. The series of EPs and the full-length Silenced that were released in 2005 featured some of his best work since the mid-90s.