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

Bristol Pirates

Cassette edition of Death Is Not The End's contribution to the Blowing Up The Workshop mix series. 

"A trip across the frequencies of Bristol's pirate radio stations via cut-ups of broadcasts, taken from the late 1980s to the early 2000s ~ also a love-letter to my childhood, an audio document of the years I spent growing up in the city."

[via Jon Dale]

Sunday, June 23, 2019

"MDMA sucks!"

 from the Techno Sucks, Vol 1 EP by Lunatic Asylum, aka Guillaume Leroux

aka Dr Macabre

aka Renegade Legion

"Torsion" is my equal first all-time gloomcore tune, alongside "Apocalypse Never" and "We Have Arrived" (although whether the latter is gloomcore or just gabba is a moot point)

i have already hero-ized this fine fellow at great length earlier of course

but here are a couple of his baby steps towards later, late-90s greatness

good title, not quite there yet sonically

the appearance of the "marching" thematic, in '93 already

from the same pre-PCP EP, and from the side of the record titled "Assault Side" - but nowhere near assaultive enough. Or even at all

this is much better  -

love that sort of whinnying, braying, demonic-jeer sound these guys all used

An early one for PCP / DE2001 i missed the last go round

love the mispelled EP title

but he was to get so much better in a year or two

that said, this flipside to "Torsion" - actually the A-side - is rather subdued - not as dark or as forceful as the title promises. Atmospheric though -  good sounds and textures.

Disconcerting to look at these lean, lanky youts who've become solid middle-aged men

(Navigator, when I met him, round at his workplace at the jewellers in Hatton Garden, as shown in this video - an anonymous redbrick building, I think we spoke in the stairwell so he could smoke, or some little side-room with a kettle and a couple of chairs - Navigator then was this skinny, scrawny boy. Now look at him).

Disconcerting also how documented the culture is now (docs, oral histories, retrospective pieces, amateur archivism) compared with the foggy blankness of minimal information  available when these things unfolded in real-time

These names - DJs, producers, MCs  - were completely mysterious figures. Known only as voices on pirates, names on flyers, or on 12 inches. Occasionally as a figure onstage shouting into a mic or cutting on up the decks

You knew virtually nothing about them  - unless you lived in the same neighbourhood as them, I suppose. But there was nothing out there, no data bank to draw on as a journalist

Going to interview some of them back in the day for EFlash  was disorienting enough in itself  - suddenly this mystery-figure is an actual human being.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Tape Packs - UK's Rave Essential Time Capsule

at RBMA, a piece by Ian McQuaid on the rave tape pack:

"Each pack contained up to 12 cassettes, featuring live recordings of the DJ sets, crowd chatter and general ambience of whichever rave they were documenting. They were stark in their honest reproduction of the night – no overdubs, no edits, every MC stutter and needle skip left in for the world to hear.... Developing as a crucial point of access during the early days of hardcore, hitting a fever pitch in the mid-’90s heyday of jungle and garage, and even seeping into the grime scene with the Sidewinder packs of the early ’00s, tape packs sold by the thousand, a vast underground economy servicing a scene that the mainstream rarely bothered to try and understand. Peddled by the behemoth rave brands that dominated in the last decade of the 20th century – the likes of Slammin’ Vinyl, One Nation, Vibealite, Garage Nation, Telepathy, World Dance, Helter-Skelter, Dreamscape and more – they carried the music direct from the raves to the specialist record shops to the punters eager hands. Once bought they could be played over and over on car stereos, Walkmans and ghetto blasters, endlessly bootlegged and shared, ensuring that a rave could live far beyond its magical eight hours."

DJ SS, one of the big sellers of rave packs, features prominently in the piece:

"SS puts this thirst for tape packs down to two things: Nostalgia, in that people would want a memento of the rave they’d been at; and the simple fact that it was hard to hear cutting-edge rave music anywhere else."

Talking of nostalgia, and instant-nostalgia, I seem to remember that at least one rave promoter had a system set up where rave-packs of the event were already available to buy as punters were leaving the event. Presumably missing the very last set!

You can also get retro-packs like this old skool flashback to early days of the Eclipse (themselves credited in the piece as the pioneers of rave packs)

Nicky Blackmarket also quoted on their dissemination of the music role:

“They were crucial in spreading the music. Toronto had a massive jungle scene, and that originally started from the Canadian shops themselves bootlegging everyone’s tape packs from over here. A lot of people became big from those packs!”

McQuaid makes the point that this was one of the few mediums (apart from pirate radio) in which the MCs were on equal billing and an equal selling-factor, given that there were few hardcore and jungle tracks that gave MCs a credited "featuring" type role in those days.

"In spite of how far their bars, ad-libs and tics travelled, there was very little precedent for rave MCs to release records to any great success until MC Luck hit the UK charts at the tail-end of the ’90s. To this day, the likes of Skibbadee, Shabba D, Det, GQ, Moose, Five-o, Fearless, Foxy, IC3 and many more have a lopsided recorded history. They appear – at best – on a smattering of studio recordings on the one hand, and hundreds upon hundreds of live performances accessible via tape packs on the other. Their careers were built from a constant drip of high-wire performances, bars spat out off the cuff, repurposed to fit with whichever way the DJ wants to go. It’s a different kind of energy; what Paul Gilroy calls “kinetic orality” – tone and flow designed to impart pure physical motion to crowds of thousands. It’s a skill that has proven near impossible to translate to studio situations, but one that is potent enough to ensure the big names have been running the mic every weekend for nearly three decades."

Kinetic orality - love it, making a mental note of that one.

Cool and crucial part of the history, clearly... and yet I must admit, I never owned one during the ardkore  rave or jungle days. Pirate radio tapes did the job for me - they were free, and (see below) they actually sounded better and had a more interesting track selection.

I did own one tape pack later on, when a journalist friend who ended up getting sent doubles of a UKG/2step pack gave the spare to me. It came in a videocassette case, but inside were something like six C90s.  Twice as Nice?  Pure Silk? I can't remember - one of the big garridge raves, or club nights.

But it was an incredibly dreary listen!

The sound quality was diabolical - dubbed at extremely high speed on cheap cassettes - just very thin-sounding. Much worse than the tapes I made off of the garage pirate stations.

Worse, all the sets from that night featured the same tunes pretty much - what was hot, what was guaranteed floor-filler, that week. And the MCS were getting repetitious, using their small arsenal of chants and vocal licks over and over, sounding hoarse as they competed with the very loud sound system.

Probably there was an awesome atmosphere in the club or rave on the night.

But it wasn't captured on these tapes that's for sure.

I listened to it just once, and in fact I'm not even sure I made it all the way through all six C-90s.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

new-old (something for your mind)

2019 reproduction-antique junglizm

got the sound down perfect

but using a sample i associate most with the gabbatrance classic on Dance Ecstasy 2001

Monday, June 17, 2019

Intalexual Jungle

remembering the greatness of Marcus Intalex (RIP)

mostly this

but also this

and this

and other good stuff

a surprisingly small body of work actually

all good

but this


Friday, June 14, 2019

oh dread

This tune gives me feelings I cannot put into words

And that vocal lick at the start - oh dread, indeed

Would listen mesmerized, in our narrow little Belsize Park kitchen as the pirates played it to death in early '94 - disbelieving that music this incredible could exist.

Surprised - delighted - to hear the same vocal lick appear on this tune by the mysterious Wots My Code (as previously posted about)

The usually infallible is completely unable to tell me who the ragga gentleman is

Wots My Code 'The Dub Plate' was one of the very early hardcore junglizm 12 inches I bought - back when my collection numbered in the single figures.

I particularly liked the fireworks sound.

But I didn't have the original EP and in fact only this week realised it existed. I had the bright yellow pic sleeve one that came out later with all the remixes by Ray Keith (with Nookie engineering).

Understandably for quite some time I labored under the impression that the group's name was XLR 8

The bassline sounded very PiL to my startled ears  - "Home Is Where the Heart Is" to be precise.

"Dubplate" samples a different dancehall dude than "Bachelor Rock"  - Eek-A-Mouse "Wa-Do-Dem", plus flavour from a Revolutionaries tune and some Harder They Come dialogue ("I tell the deejay what to play seen" etc).

Ooh look yet another remix by  Ray Keith of "Dubplate" - recycling reverse-cymbal smears from his remix of DJ Mayhem "Inesse" and the Amens from "Terrorist" - ooh and the B-line and collapsy breaks bit from "Inesse". A Frankenstein composite of all his top tunes and remixes.

How much you wanna bet Total Science totally wank it up?

Actually, it's not bad at all - a bit itchy with technicality - but the bass and the fireworks are in there, and the beats are pretty ruff. Pretty good actually.

Total Science are from Oxford - the Blackbird Leys estate. Is that where Wots My Code hail from, also?

They really caned the roots reggae thing.

"Brian Can Bogle" is not out there, but this is natty Xmas tune is

The frenetic flustered Dominator Euro vibe does not suit their skill set.

this is what yalla been waiting for

this is what i been waiting for - waiting a bloody long time to identify this long-tantalising mystery tune offa my pirate tapes

stumbled upon its identity quite by chance a few days ago

"The Most High" is on the same EP as this classic

more on the elusive Wots My Code in a post to come...

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

aowuu wowu wowu woww owu-wu

this Carns Hill production

reminds me of this

the yearning mystic diva-moan

the latter uses the same female vocal sample as this jungle tune

whose source is this

or - possibly - mediated by this sampling of same

it also got used by the Orb of course

and by this lot  - who I liked for a moment there, until they went all progressive housey

and also this one too - by the for-a-while promising, but ultimately petering out and being a bit boring (as on this tune) Depth Charge

and the Sister Aisha lick appeared in various other tunes (there's a hard trance example out of Germany for instance)

think that this is actually my favorite use of it, although at the time i confess I didn't care much for the tune when it dropped into the pirate mix  - perhaps because it did have a little bit of sedated "ambient dub" meets Leftfield / Guerrilla Records vibe about it which I was getting frustrated with and not wanting to intrude itself upon the frenzy of the ardkore

another tune in the, ah, lineage, that does the mystic yearning woman rippling in the echo chamber thing is this dubsteppa

back in a loop to the start with another Carns Hill production with a wavery female vocal, but more ghostly-eerie than mystic St Theresa-y

and ooer missus - that title, it is well nuum-y innit

[via WebEschatology]

Monday, June 10, 2019

just 4 U East LA

the EQed breaks and loping bass on this make it almost midtempo jungle

until the rapping comes in

(via Oliver Wang)

the title translates as "the race" - talk about territorialisation, cultural ownership, localism as intensification

cf. "just 4 U London", "london sumting dis" etc

his second album was titled East Side Story

mouth music (like a river overflowing)

vocal-scientific thrillz

this one minor but delicious


i remember this from my tapes but don't think i ever knew who it was


the dark technoid flavour in junglism

remember M-Power from backintheday, but not the A-side

nice bit of wraith-whispery crisp breakige

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Andy Man (a nuum odyssey, in three phases)

Andy Lsyandrou's Exciting Decade

Phase #1 - Founder of  Boogie Beat Records






Phase 2: co-founder of Ice Cream Records




Phase # 3 - 50% of Truesteppers


inventing the word dubstep, inadvertently!


edging into garage rap

diminuendo (2001 - present)

her real name is Emma Blocksage

Nu Circles also known as Bounce N' Styles which sounds like a hairdressers

Monday, June 3, 2019

ravey house / housey rave

"in the Love Lounge - Christian Woodyear, Alastair Whitehead, Neil Mason, DJ Geoff, Mikey C, Kieran the Herbalist, and Ricky Stowe"

Always used to wonder about the people who went along to the big mentalist raves like Fantazia but out of the choice of "three rooms of pulsating power" they went for the lowest-wattage option - the house room (in the case of  Fantazia NYE 92/93, the Love Lounge line-up above). Rather than the main room with the big-name deejays and live rave acts. Or the techno room, where you could get could get proper cabbaged and sledged courtesy slamming sets by the likes of SS and Shaggy & Breeze.

Presumably in the Love Lounge you'd be hearing things like this

or this

or maybe this

or perhaps even this

Go to 5.05 in this for a Fantazia NY's Eve 92/93 advert with the "three rooms of pulsating power" described in full

There is barely a trace of info out there about Kieran the Herbalist.

Always wondered what Shaggy & Breeze sounded like.

they're having the time of their lives

Sunday, June 2, 2019

history of their world


evil screeches!

Melbourne shuffle!

the Hakken revival!

less cheesy and pitched synths!

Xtra Raw

experimental kicks!

gated kicks!


experimental raw style!

diverse and softer kicks!

that one was like the feral grandson of "apocalypse never" - until it goes all Dance Ecstasy 2001

well this is really quite exciting - digi-maximalist gabber essentially - but with programmed blast beats

epic ethereal goth emostyle

terror duck

raw style versus emotional hardstyle

the skiddy screechy thing is pretty intense


Jullie zijn fucking helden, kan niet wachten om jullie weer te zien bij reverze💪🏼

i have a horrible feeling this is a MAGA in sentiment anthem