Sandwell District - Peter Sutton (Female), David Sumner (Function), Juan Mendez (Silent Servant) and Karl O’Connor (Regis) - was a label, a collective, an impulse, an in-joke, a suicide mission, a gang, a point of view. An amphetamine-fuelled fever dream, a group psychosis, an out-of-hand piss-take which happened to reinvent techno in its own bleakly modernist image.
Growing out of the Downwards label that Sutton and O’Connor established in 1993, throughout the 2000s the collective had a powerful mystique. Its records sell and its reputation swells by word of mouth alone - and for a long time it revels in being faceless, opaque, impenetrable. After a move to Berlin, Sutton and O’Connor intensify their time in the studio, while Function is a resident and Regis and Silent Servant become regular guests at Berghain, giving the collective a key test-laboratory. Mendez meanwhile overhauls the visual identity of the label, giving Sandwell an outlaw style all its own - techno has never seen anything quite like it - and the music itself deepens and darkens as if to meet the challenge.