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A teenage Jamie Hodge enchanted the international underground-dance community in 1993 with his debut 12-inch as Born Under a Rhyming Planet, Analog: Heaven. Techno figurehead Richie Hawtin released Hodge’s music on his Plus 8 label after the Chicago producer played him some original recordings—he dropped in on Hawtin in Ontario at the end of a tour he and his mom had taken to visit east-coast colleges he was thinking of attending. Hodge stopped releasing solo dance recordings after a couple more singles for Plus 8, just as the larger music industry shifted focus from alternative rock to electronic dance. As Peter Margasak detailed in a 2001 Reader profile of Hodge, the hype that swept the scene helped push him out of it—he feared it would corrode what he loved about the music. Hodge redirected his energy into crate digging and joined DJ crew Sheer Magic, whose soul and funk sounds helped make Danny’s Tavern in Bucktown a nightlife destination. He also launched Aestuarium Records in 2001 with a reissue of the 1967 soul-jazz masterpiece On the Beach by Philip Cohran & the Artistic Heritage Ensemble. Hodge didn’t stop making music completely, though, and in the late 1990s, he began exploring the intersection of down-tempo techno and jazz as part of Conjoint, a group that also included three German musicians. But nearly three decades have passed since the most recent 12-inch by Born Under a Rhyming Planet, which makes that solo project more appealing to the Hodges of the world—it’s become crate-digger bait itself.
Fortunately, UK underground duo Demdike Stare have made it a lot easier to hear Hodge’s solo work. In late July, their DDS label issued the first-ever full-length under the Born Under a Rhyming Planet name. The archival compilation Diagonals spans more than a decade of Hodge’s tinkerings and collaborations, from the early 90s till the mid-2000s, and its cheeky irreverence creates a zone where all sorts of clashing aesthetics can rub elbows: lighter-than-air ambient jazz (“Menthol”), brooding down-tempo techno (“Hyperreal”), and noise that’ll test your patience even if you can dance to anything (“Interstate”). Diagonals captures what made Hodge a phenom in the first place. The firm, gentle pulse of “Avenue,” with its up-tempo, bell-like melody, massages you into a trance, while the tranquil “Siemansdamm” pours on layers of light percussion and synths like melted chocolate over nougat (Hodge wrote it with his collaborators in the group Studio Pankow, Kai Kroker and David “Move D” Moufang, the latter also of Conjoint). Diagonals can be a lot to swallow at once, even after Born Under a Rhyming Planet’s long absence, but it’s a good reminder of how much richer music is with Jamie Hodge in it.
Born Under a Rhyming Planet’s Diagonals is available through Boomkat.