Saturday, January 10, 2009

Highly Recommended
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 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.

No comments: