Wednesday, July 17, 2019

the beauty of Beverley

Six things I have in common with Beverley Craven

1/ Born in the summer of 1963 
(July for her; June for me)

2/ A connection with Ceylon / Sri Lanka 
(Her dad worked there and it's where she was born; my dad spent his childhood there, I grew up hearing many tales about Kandy and Colombo, still have quite a few Sinhalese relatives scattered around the globe) 

3/ We both grew up in Berkhamsted and went to school there
(I was at the local boys-only public school; she would have been 2 years above my younger brother Tim at Ashlyns, the state school; before that she went to Bridgewater middle school, just up the road from our house, at 113 Bridgewater Rd, so I have almost certainly walked past her, or seen her walking past.. ) (She also once worked at luxury health resort Champneys,  right next to door where my friend Dudlyke lived) (She still lives in that Hertfordshire / Buckinghamshire border zone).

4/ Both have a connection with the Yorkshire Dales

5/ Both cancer survivors

6/ Finally  (and this is why this post is on EnergyFlashblog) we both intersect with rave culture. 

In Beverley's case, the connection is not of her choosing - indeed it's possible, if unlikely, that she's unaware of it. 

"Promise Me", her big hit -  No. 3 in May 1990 - is a pretty-enough, rather old-fashioned ballad.  The sampling wizards of Orca skip the sappy chorus and home in on a pearly wisp of melody and sunburst singing in the verse  (heard first at 1.01 in "4 AM")

"It's four o' clock in the morning and it's starting to get light" - absolutely top detournement of a love ballad lyric to describe a rhapsodic rave moment, there.

As is another line that Orca (forgive me) reporpoise: "you look like you're in another world"

In "Promise Me", the "look like you're in another world" is about the male lover - who's distracted, distant, emotionally unavailable to the yearning girl singing the song 

In "4 AM", "in another world" is the sea of shining eyes and the dancefloor dreamspace, from which we are to be too-soon expelled, into the gray light of the morning... back to  ordinary life and the inevitable comedown... 

On Lucky Spin records, "4 AM" was a huge tune in 1993.... I picked it up some years ago, by which time twas tad pricey.  

(For a while, I thought the the artist was called Pure White. Seems that was name of a Lucky Spin sub-label).

The not-quite-as-good remixes

This one is ruff and junglistic, but I still prefer the original

Nothing else I've heard by Orca comes close to "4 AM", despite promising titles e.g. the two Dances with Dolphins EPs...  "Pure Bliss" ,"Underwater Science", "Sky Hook". It's good, solid stuff, in that happy-dark zone, getting ruffer, then getting wafty (titles like "Intalect", ooer), then getting technical

However one of Orca - Darren Beale - had various other aliases (Koda... also Psykus, with his Orca-mate Kristian Towsend... quite a few others). One of these aliases was Acro, as in the great "Superpod" which continues the cetacean obsession with its name (pod being a tribe of dolphins) and use of dolphin sounds. 

Fab rmx, getting well tech-itchy in a Photekky way but not losing the bliss

slow on the uptake today, just twigged that Acro  = Orca backwards!

i shall have to do a proper trawl through the whole alias-cluster uuuurv at some point.  

Back to Bev...
Craven cites among her influences Kate Bush and Judie Tzuke, but I don't hear much Bush, apart from the piano, whereas I do hear a lot of Tzuke - especially "Promise Me", which has a similar scenario and yearny, needy, feminine-fluttery quality to Tzuke's one hit "Stay With Me Til Dawn"

Look at this period-piece promo, which (possibly an artifact of the lighting and/or the aging of the video format) makes her look like a painting that come to life. 


"Stay With Me Till Dawn" got repurposed itself, at the dawn of the Nineties, by Ultramarine, on the gorgeous "Honey", which turns around the "need you tonight" bit of the pre-chorus 

Well what do you know, from just last year, Beverlee and Judee (and Julee) team up for a single  

two singles 

actually a whole album / tour

also a joint performance of "Promise Me" on the telly 

Home Counties soul

Another Bev chartsong, albeit only just barely a hit really

There are other AOR lady / Brit female singer-songwriters who have been rave-ransacked of course, notably the lovely "Sleeping Satellite" by Tasmin Archer. 

I guess that style of AOR is an alternative source for yearning, soaring vocals, from the more usual soul / R&B/ house diva stockpile. 

I wonder why there was never a rave version of "Constant Craving"

Well fancy that

addendum 7/18

Pointed out by anonymous commenter, another dance treatment of the "it's four o'clock in the morning and it's starting to get light" Bev-sample - rather nice too

Meant to say also that in my mind I always bracket Orca's "4 AM" alongside this wonderful tune "Blow Out Pt II" aka "You've Had It, You've Had It All, Boy"

Must "do" Bass Selective properly one of these days...

And also alongside this tune by DJ Massive

"4AM", "Blow Out Pt. 11", "Ruff in the Comfort Zone"  - a little cluster of  junglistic but luvdup  diva bliss anthems that walk that underground / pop line and stick together in my memory

addendum 7/19

Ian S in Comments points out that Bay B Kane sampled Ms Tzuke also  - from "Ladies Night", off the same album as "Stay With Me Till Dawn"

Here is an in-depth breakdown of the making of the Bay B Kane track from God Is No Longer A DJ

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Old Bill Dutty Babylon

I've said before, a bunch of times, that "Cockney Translation" - Smiley Culture's 1984 debut single - is an important moment in the prehistory of the nuum. Not musically, but because its comparison of black and white slanguage, seems to herald an emerging hybrid youth identity that would blossom in the Nineties with jungle and UKG  -  complete with its own black-white accent where you can't tell the race of the speaker by the sound alone (if you happened to be sitting a few rows ahead of them in the bus, say).

I've said it frequently enough, that it's actually referenced in the Wikipedia entry on Smiley Culture

Well, here's a nice little confirmation of the thesis -  "Marked Up" a jungle track by Psycho & Mr Man (alter-ego of the mighty S.M.F. - Jason Verrall and Peter Hudson) that pinpoints and pivots around a crucial juxtaposition in Smiley's lyric: "Old Bill / Dutty Babylon".

Black and white unite, against a common enemy.

In this song, Smiley's fame allows him to bypass systemic oppressions (a sweet fable that has a sad sour aftertang now given his demise).

Flipside of "Marked Up" also cool.

One day I will have to do the S.M.F. urrrv properly

For now, a tune by them that blew my mind when I heard it on the pirates in early 93

one of those can't believe people make sounds like these" moments

especially when the mad "Strong Island"-like noise comes in about 2.30

even more so when the insane stab riff slash smear shred noise comes in at  3.42 -  "vhs tape all wound up and tangled. a flailing laviathon made out of dial up sound"(Sadmanbarty).

Thursday, June 27, 2019

stepping to the front in '95 - DJ SS + Formation

in sideways tribute to Man like Droid's Dissensus thread which argues for 1995 as jungle's imperial phase -  when jungle was most like itself and unlike anything else, as he puts it -  and strews many, many gems to prove the peak-year thesis... here is a vintage '95 featurette about one of that year's most imperial producers plus an album review of a compilation of the cream from his label Formation. 

Melody Maker, 1995
by Simon Reynolds
1995 was a banner year for DJ SS. 25 year old Leroy Small dropped a bomb-load of  monster tunes-- "Hearing Is Believing", "The Lighter", "Smoker's Rhythm", "The Rollidge", "95 Rampage"-- that tore up the hardstep dancefloor.

Then again, there's never really been a slow year for SS. He's been at the frontline of  hardcore since 1991, both as co-founder of Leicester-based hardcore label Formation and as a prolific tunesmith operating under myriad aliases (Sounds of The Future, International Rude Boys, Rhythm For Reasons, MA1 and MA2, etc). As Formation's in-house producer, he's had a hand in all but 5 out of the 65 releases to date.

SS started DJ-ing at the age of 13, working his way up through school discos, soul, hip hop, early house, in a "natural progression" that took him to hardcore rave. "In the rave scene I saw so many hooligans I knew that were happy and dancing". This rave-revelation co-incided with SS's alienation from hip hop: the British rap crews weren't really happening, while "Public Enemy and NWA were preaching the wrong things, harking on about past crimes against black people, captivating the audience in the wrong way. Recently I've got back into the more groovy stuff in rap, like Wu Tang Clan, and I've always had hip hop flavour in my music, with the breakbeats. But I don't like the gangsta element, that's too like the ragga gunshot thing".

Ragga-jungle is something that Formation have consciously distanced themselves from. "In '94, the ragga thing was big but I wasn't  into it. I took the basslines and a stab of ragga vocal but I refused to do a full-on ragga chat over my tracks". SS doesn't like the vibe ragga creates. "Jungle just got too dark, too intimidating. There's been a lot of trouble in the Midlands, shootings. People don't want to worry about treading on someone's toes or giving someone a funny look. It's the promoters' fault, they should bar them kind of people from coming to their clubs, but they're just interested in money. DJ's and producers are to blame too, for putting gunshots in tracks."

Definitely no gunshots, then, but boombastic B-lines, eerily warped vocals, portentous hunting-horns and shlocky intros of classical music all figure as hallmarks of SS's style. "Hearing Is Believing Remix" and "Rollers' Convention", in particular, brilliantly reconciled avant-garde edge with crowdpleasing groove-power. As such, SS is a prime exponent of 'hardstep', Grooverider's term for the purist drum & bass style that cuts a middle path between rudeboy ragga and 'intelligent'. "Hardstep's got no ragga in it, but people step hard to it," says SS. "See, my only qualms about intelligent is that musically it's wicked but often it's sounds weak on the dancefloor. Formation tracks have got to be rolling." As his hardstep peers, SS gives the nod to Roni Size & Krust,  Dillinja, Hype, Andy C, Pascal, and Ray Keith ("his stuff is so simple, but it works!").

That said, SS is looking for Formation to get more "musical" next year, with real vocals and songs, as with the forthcoming cover version of "Free".  "People buying our stuff know what they're getting, we've got a little predictable and it's time for a change". Okay, but don't get too 'musical', SS, please! Because right now Formation have hit their stride with a perfect blend of complexity and minimalism, which can be heard on  Highly Recommended, a compilation that revisits and drastically remixes highlights from the label's brilliant '95. 

"Highly Recommended" is out now on Formation, new SS tunes "Free" and "Sense of Direction" are set for early 1996 release. SS's remix of DJ Krust's "Set Speed" is out now on V Recordings.

Melody Maker, 1995
by Simon Reynolds

DJ SS, in-house producer of Leicester's Formation label, is one of jungle's
most undersung figures. 1995 was a banner year for both SS and Formation. They
dominated the drum & bass dancefloor with a series of killa trax--MA2's "Hearing
Is Believing", Sounds of The Future's "The Lighter", SS's "Rollidge" and In
Between The Lines' "95 Rampage"--all SS-produced, and all revisited/revamped on
Highly Recommended.

"Lighter" starts daftly with the rinky-dinky melancholia of top classical
piano tune "Fur Elise" (better known as "Theme From 'Love Story'"), then drops
into a ragga-tastic swagger and pummel; the VIP remix injects a feverish stutter
and stammer into the rude-boy "lighter!!" chant. The LP mix of "Hearing Is
Believing" adds a squelchy bass-drone that mimics or maybe even samples "Public
Enemy Number One" from PE's debut album. The original's portentous
hunting-horn fanfares are timestretched so they wilt and waver like Salvador
Dali's melting clocks, while the irresistibly surging bass-flow has been
displaced by a metallic, sproinggg-ing B-line, like a bouncing, giant-sized ball-

The revamp of "Rollidge" is astonishing; the breakbeats ripple and undulate
like they've been liquidified, and the original's reversed-diva is slowed and
processed 'til it's like a baritone drowning in the bath.

Even more startling are the voice treatments on "95 Rampage", where the diva-vocal is extruded into a long thin streak of laser-intense light, then a single syllable is isolated and
oscillated into a spasming percussive tattoo. 

Less familiar tunes are also given a vicious going-over.  Black's awesome VIP Mix of "Black" features some ear-confounding dub-FX--a snatch of MC chatter is shattered into syllables, each
of which is scattered through a sonic hall-of-mirrors.

While 'intelligent' drum & bass (Goldie, Photek et al) seduced the ears of
non-junglists and music press readers, Highly Recommended is an essential(ist)
document of where the real action was in jungle '95, i.e. the purist
strain of drum & bass known as 'hardstep'.  This compilation's title says it all.


Scattering of gems from the Formation / SS back pages

Formation tunes feature heavily on this great DB selected-and-mixed compilation of 1994 as one of the UK's  Big Five hardcore/jungle labels alongside Moving Shadow, Suburban Base, Reinforced, and Production House

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

only you slow down (donut is a feeling)

this lovely slice of smoov-jungle

has the same gorgeous mellow house-infused vibe as this even lovelier tune - one of my all-time absolute faves of the era  - so slinky

And as if recognising the vibe-ual affinity, YouTube segued straight into it before I even made the selection myself

Met Gavin Cheung aka Nookie early in '94 -  round at Goldie's England's Lane tower block flat

Immortal for this tune above all  - another all-time fave

"you know House is a feeling"

Keeping the house ancestry alive within the hardcore and the junglizm - that was his thing, Nookie / Cloud 9

But he also did tunes like this - whence the "hardcoouooor" whimper-vocal as used in Mark Leckey's Fiorrucci Made Me Hardcore - although he might have got from another track that used it, I think there were several....

And this goofy one

Never noticed before that the daft vocal lick is human beatboxing

Man like Gavin could do that bliss-2-dark distraught-diva ecstasy-edging-dysphoria hectic-histrionic fever rather well

But lover's jungle (perhaps that's why he chose the alter-ego Nookie) was his forte

Did a lot of very nice piano-based tunes that are just a little bit too uplifting maybe

That one is faultless though.

Remodelled for 94

These are a bit too bright 'n bouncy

Ooh but this next one is a classic - and gets the balance just right

And he weren't just about the pianos - the breaks on this are awesome

I suppose he's only a notch or two behind Omni Trio when it comes to the piano-uplift style of jungle.

Rob Haigh's vamps are just a little more bittersweet, more fleeting and spare. Nookie's a little too florid at times.

Here's a great mindmeld of the two piano-core gods - fabulous Nookie remix of Omni's "Soul Promenade", with a great push-me, pull-you swaying rhythm

Of course he actually done a tune called "A Drum A Bass A Piano"  - shades of the Red Crayola tracklisting for Coconut Hotel, demystifying their means of production or something

I like the fact that an early Nookie alter-ego was Windy Milla

Also like the way the bpm actually written after the track titles on this one - DJ friendly!

Ooh some very early indeed Cloud 9

sampled from Scientist / Jackie Mittoo?

Monday, June 24, 2019

mother's little helper

Two songs about a housewife zonked out on tranquilizers

The Orbital video falls into that category of videos for blisstastic euphoric dance songs that undermine the vibe totally (see also the Jonz video for "Praise You" by F.Slim)

The whole of Other Channels is a concept album about a housewife woozy on anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds watching TV through a glassy-eyed haze.

Other songs on this theme:

Rolling Stones "Mother's Little Helper"

The Fall  "Rowche Rumble", "Industrial Estate" ("when you get depressed, get some valium" or lyrics to that effect), and (to an extent) "Underground Medecin"

And then there's a lot of recent rap that's about percoset and xanax of course