If “The Wanderer” was the record that brought Romanthony’s obscure Blackmale label to a wider DJ audience, “Testify” was the release that cemented its reputation as one of the labels to check for in the US import section. And given Romanthony’s admirably non-capitalistic view on pressings (he took great pleasure in not repressing records that failed to get big initial orders yet became popular later saying that it made the records all the more special for those that has believed in him and made those initial purchases) you had to be sure to keep your ear to the ground if you wanted to pick up every release.
With 8 mixes sprawled over 2 x 12″ and with none of the mixes titled on the first twelve, “Testify” is a true example of Romanthony’s enigmatic genius. Sounds ranged from the rock-tinged, live-drum fuelled “Testify #1 (A1 mix)”, through (many DJs favourites) the organ/bass heavy “Testify #1 (B1 mix)” to the minimal “Creator’s Remix” which, with its bass-loop, tough 909 beat and scattered samples was in stark contrast to the turbo-charged tools for entertaining E-monsters that filled the DJ Magazine Hype Chart at the time.
“Testify” was also the first record in which Romanthony introduced his new compression trick. He loved the breakdowns in tracks and wanted them to be as loud as possible but finding a home mastering device that could do the same job as a dj lifting the volume on the track during the breakdown and then dropping when the kick landed it precisely to the level it was before the breakdown was almost impossible. Until he discovered the neat AVLS switch on the Sony DATman. When this button was turned on, the DATman recorded everything at one constant volume. Exactly what Roman was after. DJs loved the feature and it became one of the key signatures of his tracks throughout the 90s.
But enough Nerdy music production chat, on to the remixes.
Jimmy Edgar, in true Blackmale style, takes Roman’s original chops it in his sampler and lays the results over a thundering distortion tinged beat. It is proper raw jacking business, perfect for small dark rooms with a few hundred sweaty bodies. Waifs & Strays deliver a brilliant modern update complete with an air-punching sax solo (something that was definitely one of the nails in the deep house coffin the first time round and the kind of thing that could get you shot if you used in the 00s). Illyus & Barrientos deliver what is arguably their strongest remix to date dropping snips of the original over a quite brilliant bassline groove. EdOne & Bodden also opt for some bassline action but add in classic organ stabs and Todd Edwards style vocal chops to their big-ass bass wobbler. Lastly, we have the previously unreleased CD#9 Vocal Version which as usual, features one of Roman’s deeper, more organic mixes.
Support from: Groove Armada, Nice7, Sasha, Detroit Swindle, Oneman, Matthias Tanzmann, Tony Humphries, MANIK, Baunz, Maher Daniel, Piemont, Stefano Ritteri, Illyus, Chopstick, Toyboy & Robin, Soul Clap, Doc Martin, Joyce Muniz, TCTS, Nicholas, Panda, Bodden, Nathan Barato, Russ Chimes, Wlkdkats, Phillipe Zdar, Supernova, Junior Sanchez, No Artificial Colours, Copyright, Trickski, Vanilla Ace, Viadrina, Mark Knight, Jamie Anderson, Ross Allen, John Digweed, German Brigante, Audiowhores, Kry Wolf, Funk D’Void, Robert Owens, Victor (Mirau), PBR Streetgang, Steve Mac, Sam Bailey (BBC Radio 1), Cassio Kohl, Alex Over (Let The Machines Do The Work), Matt Jam Lamont, Claus Casper, Ray Foxx, EXLV, A.N.D.Y., Groove Assassin, Severino, Cream Dream, The Organ Grinder, Boris Dlugosch, Eluize / Alley Oop, Phat Phil Cooper, Susinho, Bias, Dimitri Nakov, Nick Navaro, Omid 16b, ATFC, Nacho Marco, Max Pask, Neil Aline, Terry Farley, Newbie Nerdz, Hector Romero, Andy Daniell (Defected), Tom Breu (Radio 1 Live, Germany), Tough Love, Harri (Sub Club), Jack Dee, MermaidS, Chris Coco