Friday, May 14, 2021

My Brilliant Friend

I don't think Paul Oldfield spent much time in clubs. And I'm almost certain he never went to a rave. But for someone who never got "right on one, matey," it seems to me Paul got deeper into the essence of acid house, techno, etc, than anyone else covering that beat at that time in the music papers, style press, and what then passed for dance magazines. 

Below you will find near enough his complete works on the subject from that time. Enjoy.





 



















Paul Oldfield, Royal House, Melody Maker, autumn 1988








A GUY CALLED GERALD

ULU, LONDON
Melody Maker, probably 1989

by Paul Oldfield


Put A Guy Called Gerald beside the beatmasters, radical rap and survivalist electrodub that make up the rest of tonight's acts, and you'll see that he's somewhere else. Their urgency and agency, their in-your-face imperatives are replaced by his new narcosis and lotus-eating, becalmed passivity. It's all embodied in Gerald himself. There's none of the "front" or danger of the crews that precede him, just a familiar, somnolent Mancunian accent and patient behind-the-scenes programming. If it weren't for his singer up front, and the crowd downstairs setting up an incongruous terrace chant for ''Voo-doo Ray", it'd be more ambience than act.

That's appropriate. Gerald and his northern satellites launched New Age", aka "ambient" house, the phenomenon that emphasises the trance in trance dance, and should reconcile House music with "head" rock. Both musics can offer the same fix, or rather un-fixing of consciousness. Both can free you from the co-ordinates of the here and now, and let you attain oneness with the world and peace.

Gerald translates House music from urban night-life to paradisial, pacific (often literally Pacific, with a capital P) scenes. Tonight there's "Eyes Of Sorrow", with its rainforest percussion and pipes; or 'Voodoo Ray", with its slow-scanning ritual limbo from the tropics; or, as an encore, Gerald's own reading of the halcyon surf of "Pacific State". While rock, rap, dub have kept faith in Africa's heartland, the place of origins and history, House has escaped to the southern hemisphere's soporific, out-of-time innocence and unworldly primitivism.

That shows in the minimalist fluctuations and meander of "Subtopia", a serenity you can lose yourself in. Gerald's visual effects confirm this mesmerising tranquility at the heart of House too. They look as if they're influenced by the new model for the natural sciences, chaos theory (very much a buzz concept in club culture): instead of predictable forces and counter-forces (the grammar of "techno" music), there's indeterminacy and turbulence, back-projections of vapour, clouds, shoals of fish, self-ordering but unpredictable organic forms that fascinate.

But Gerald doesn't celebrate just nature or an Edenic past (none of rock's third-world heritage industry here). He's an unrepentant futurist. Just hear "Automanic", his preview of the forthcoming album: all print-out chatter, split-second samples and arc—light strobes on stage. Or "FX", an ascent through a Lloyds-building ziggurat of glass and steel. Think Tokyo, think Ridley Scott. It doesn't contradict his Pacific states, though. He's found tomorrow's paradise, where hi-tech achieves voodoo's instantaneity of communication, and where cities dematerialise into flows of light and information (think Kraftwerk), a mosaic of signals as mesmerising as the time-lapse record of city life in the film "Kooanisquatsi", but without that film's technophobic undertones.

Gerald's performance is "plastic", as his music's often been called. Plastic in the original sense, of course: adapting to all kinds of shapes, a hypnotic, becalming changeability. Go with the flow.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

breakbeat house

 


well it's the baggy beat aka Funky Drummer  but an unusually crisp and slow-mo boombastic incarnation

Creation aligned outfit whose existence I was reminded of by

Another Creation / MDMA honeymoon era signing 


again with the slow-mo breakbeat




Friday, April 30, 2021

Storm 3000

 

Not one of the artists I liked or followed - associate them with the Muzik Middlebrow Strand

And yet this is a tuff little beaut of a tune that I really liked on their debut album.

Probably the first time I heard the low-pass filter - love the way it sculpts the riff into a bloc of sound that seems to tilt and shift within space 

Then the nice, gently boombastic breaks - flashback to breakbeat house, or sideways to Big Beat maybe, but I'd rather think of Congress et al.

And then the funny little synth-melody that now for all the world reminds me of Belbury Poly

These are the tunes Leftfield are renowned for though


 







They're all right.  

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

hoo noo fly bi had da vid yo

 


this is the really fun megamix version, with a medley of UKG classics from many phases underneath


but i prefer the other version that is just an original boombastic barebones track underneath








this version is banging but orrible 





Sunday, April 25, 2021

P.R.E.M. versus the C-word

Dale Cornish, not content with inventing the genre of "thug ambient", has coined another nifty name. In a recent tweet he announced: 

"Yesterday, in an interview for A Thing, I invented the term Press Release Experimental Music, whereby the promo blurb is 374 times more interesting than the bland music it's hyping up. "recorded in a cave in Belarus using rare AKG microphones" = sounds bloody boring though m8888"

Now, I know what you're thinking. 

You're thinking, "Dale, mate - it's been named. It's called Conceptronica."

And I admit, that was the first thing that popped into my head. 

But upon consideration, I decided they're not the same thing. 

They overlap, but Press Release Experimental Music is a purely pejorative term.

Whereas Conceptronica is actually value-neutral (no, honestly it is -  many assume it's a brickbat,  others a big-up, but it's neither). 

Under the umbrella of Conceptronica, you would indeed find a swathe of stuff where the press release was way better than the actual music.

But you would also find a swathe of stuff where the press release and the music were just as good as each other and mutually enhancing. 

And you would find yet another swathe of stuff where the press release was turgid and pretentious such that the music would be much better off without that framing - and in that sense is 347 times better than said press release.

And - we're not done yet - there is another subcategory (and in truth this probably was something the C-word had in its sights, as a target) and that is the swathe of stuff where the press release (interesting in its own right) and the music (also interesting, "stands up by itself") are both fine and dandy, but there doesn't seem to be any actual relationship between the themes, critiques etc asserted in the framing bumf and the actual sonic events that comprise the work. 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Apropos of this, recently I came across a bit of Mark Fisher writing that prefigures the conceptualization of conceptronica, although not actually being about music, per se. 

"What's interesting - and this has a direct bearing on some of the disputes about abstraction and the [hardcore continuum]to which I will return in a post that's been germinating ever since the UEL event - is the way in which Burial's music conducted affects and images so powerfully, so lucidly, without the mediation of the (facialised, biographical) individual or its self-understandings. (How different is Burial's abstract art - so painterly, so precise in the images it produced - to so much of what appears in galleries, with its overthought, overconscious, nulanguage meta-rationales, while 'the work' induces no ideas, no affects, at all.)"

K-punk here is slagging off art-art, not art-tekno -  visual art, gallery art. 

I am curious what Mark would have thought of the Conceptronica phenomenon - he seemed both amenable to That Kind of Thing (e.g. wrote about Ultra-Red I seem to recall, Mille Plateaux agit-proptronica) but on the other would have been reflexively suspicious of the self-curatorial turn in modern music I'd have thought (given his swipes at e.g. S. Youth etc). 

Recently also realized that the seed of conceptronica, which I've used on and off as a term since 2006,  can be traced right back to Energy Flash and the chapter called "Fuck Dance, Let's Art", in whose opening section the idea of the museum as space of non-vibe is aspersed: 

By the end of 1995, a new zone of music-making had emerged out of the ruins of ‘electronic listening music’: a sort of post-rave omni-genre wherein techno’s purity was ‘contaminated’ by an influx of ideas from jungle, trip hop, all over. Not particularly danceable, yet too restlessly rhythmic and texturally startling to be ambient chill-out, this music might be dubbed art-tekno, since the only appropriate listener response is a sort of fascinated contemplation. Imagine a museum dedicated not to the past but the future, where you marvel at the bizarre audio-sculptures, let your ears wander through the sound-installations, and boggle at the noise contraptions as they go about their pointless, captivating tasks.

One of the earliest events dedicated to this new omni-genre, the Electronic Lounge, was actually situated in the bar at an art gallery, London’s ICA....


But here it's cast as art-for-art's sake experimentation, music without social energy behind it or a social function... whereas conceptronica is very much purposed with a polemical or even didactic point, is in some cases an activist attempt to reconnect experimental music and Society. 




Tuesday, April 20, 2021

misleading monikers (1 of ??)

 


Putrid name, Dubtronix innit? Makes you expect something that could be on Guerrilla Records, or  a digidub crew, or perhaps some awful American brostep-meets-jamband type euuch. 

But that tune is tuff, ruff,  yet glossy 'n' slinky pure junglizm. Excellent stuff.

His/ their discography is well worth a delve 

This New Age EP particularly tasty




Sunday, April 11, 2021

gabber literature

 


!An exciting addition to the small body of gabber literature! 

Sbrang Gabba Gang: Gabber Reconstruction of the Universe, by Riccardo Balli

By an Italian but in English, written in a style that resembles the LOUD energy of a S.Wells sluiced through the unforgiving yet gleeful anti-humanism of a Biba Kopf, this monograph maps Italian Futurism onto gabba, and vice versa. So it's an intellectual entertainment - penned by one who knows viscerally whereof he speaks... who's sweated and stomped in the four-to-floor forge 'till the crack of dawn, and beyond...  been battered by drop-hammer bassdrum and blasted by hoover-noise...  soaked up the sensations and survived to make sense of the senselessness. 

                                                       


You can get the book here or here or here 

Check out the praxis (deejaying, producing, running a label) to the theory at Balli's Bologna-based operation  sonicbelligeranza.com 




Some of Balli's previous publications








Funnily enough, me and Paul Oldfield used to have a deejay "company" called Apocalypso Disco, or perhaps it was just Apocalypso - at any rate, we had the flyers and we did get a few college gigs. 

Acen - Trip To The Moon 2092 box set

 Acen

Trip To The Moon 2092

(Kniteforce)

The Wire, February 2021

by Simon Reynolds

There are many examples of box sets that collate all of an artist’s singles, complete with the original picture sleeves. But I’ve never before encountered a box dedicated to a single single. If ever there was a tune that could withstand this degree of inflation, though, it’s “Trip II the Moon”. Not only is this breakbeat hardcore classic widely considered the greatest anthem of the rave era,  there was already a certain grandiosity to the way Acen and his original label Production House rolled out the track across the summer of 1992.

The record came out in three successive versions, the second and third not so much remixed as re-produced: “Trip II the Moon, Part 1”, “Trip II The Moon, Part 2 (The Darkside),”  “Trip II The Moon (Kaleidoscopiklimax).”  Giving remixes, when done by the original artist, titles that involved words like “Part” or “Volume” would become a hallmark of the jungle scene. Most likely this trend took inspiration from Hollywood pulp franchises with their sequels, itself an echo of the sprawling sagas of Tolkienesque fantasy and Frank Herbert-style s.f.  But in ‘92, a track that came out three times over several months was virtually unheard of.  A sales-driving strategy designed to extend a tune’s currency and possibly rocket it into the pop charts, it also reflected artistic ambition: a growing confidence from some operators within a scene then sniffed at by techno-cognoscenti that they were not in the business of trashy, ephemeral floor-fodder but crafting popular art that would pass the test of time.

And here we are in 2021, almost three decades later, the original “Trip”tych  A-sides plus excellent B-sides arrayed across six slabs of vinyl, where they jostle alongside new interpretations by Acen and nine guest remixers. The box title’s reference to “2092” gestures at a posterity even further down the temporal line. “2092”  suggests both aesthetic durability and the implication that this music comes from the future. A sensation that felt absolutely real back in the early ‘90s and still somehow clings to these tempestuous tracks even now. 

The sheer solidity of the attractive if pricy box is a demonstration of maximal respect. “Maximal”, as it happens, is the right word for Acen’s sound and peers like Hyper-On Experience.  Before hardcore, and indeed after it during the later Nineties, techno and house generally cleaved to a minimalist aesthetic, sometimes taking a single riff or vamp and inflecting it subtly over five, six, seven minutes. UK rave producers, conversely, “get busy”, action-packing their tracks on both on the linear axis and the vertical.  Tracks unfold through time as multi-segmented epics hurtling through bridges and breakdowns, intros and outros. But each passing moment is layered with simultaneous sound-events, resulting in a stereo-field infested with audio-critters bouncing around like in some crazily detailed animation.

Listening again to all three “Trips” is a reminder of just how unique and curious an animal was hardcore. There’s hardly a trace of Detroit or Chicago audible here. Most UK producers, including West Londoner Acen Razvi, were former B-boys, electro fans who spent their teen years breakdancing and spraying graffiti. Acid house (and attendant chemicals) flipped their heads, but soon they reverted to type.  But while breaks and samples are the foundation, hardcore’s hyperactivity is a world away from ‘90s rap like Wu Tang Clan. No British rave producer would drag out a single break-loop across six sombre minutes of stoned monotony like RZA. There are hardcore tracks from this era that that contain a rap album’s worth of ideas crammed into them.

One thing hardcore did share with East Coast hip hop is soundtrackism. The centrepiece sample in “Part 1” is an impossibly stirring swathe of orchestration from “Capsules in Space” off John Barry’s You Only Live Twice score; “Part 2” likewise lifts a serene ripple of strings from the same Bond movie’s “Mountains and Sunrises”. Actually, that’s not quite accurate: the copyright holders blocked sample clearance, obliging Production House to hire a mini-orchestra to replay Barry’s themes, which Acen then sampled at a low-resolution setting to recreate the particular grainy quality he’d earlier got by sampling direct from vinyl. The fetish for movie-scores manifests also on the brilliant B-side “The Life and Crimes of A Ruffneck,” which heists the heart-spasming staccato melody of Morricone’s “Chi Mai.” 

Other raw ingredients come mostly from rap, R&B, and ragga: Rakim’s sped-up squeak “I get hype when I hear a drum roll,” Chuck D’s threat/promise “here come the drums,” Topcat boasting he’s “phenomenon one”.  The electrifying diva shriek “I can’t believe these feelings” that supplies the main vocal hook on “Trip” hails from obscure Britsoul outfit Tongue N Cheek, while Prince protégé Jill Jones supplies erotic gasps for another terrific B-side, “Obsessed”.  As for that eerily familiar goblin voice  murmuring “in my brain” – that’s a witty bit of self-citation, pulling from Acen’s previous single “Close Your Eyes”, which sampled Jim Morrison off The Doors’s “Go Insane.”

Nowadays, it’s easy to identify the constituent parts of beloved tunes thanks to websites like whosampled.com and the collective nerd knowledge of old skool message boards. But back in the day, the music barraged your brain as a kinetic collage jumbling the instantly recognizable, the faintly familiar, and the wholly unknown. (Whether you spotted stuff depended also on your listener competency – age, musical background, level of intoxication). Hardcore was technically postmodern, in its procedures. But as a sonic outcome, and in terms of motivating spirit, it hit with the juddering force of full-bore modernism. The conceit felt true: this was music from the future, built from mutilated and mutated shards of past.  That’s one reason why the idea of the space race –  Man’s greatest adventure, a surge into the unknown – resonated with rave and supplied Acen not just with the “Moon” title but the name of his next single, “Window in the Sky”. Drugs played a part too (understatement of the century). Rave was modernist but it was also psychedelic.

If the main meat here is Acen’s extended spurt of original genius, the remixes are mostly splendid. Kniteforce boss Chris Howlett a.k.a. Luna-C and old school legend NRG manage to stay true to yet also intensify the original “Trip” blend of cinematic and epileptic. Retro-jungle youngblood Pete Cannon offers a pell-mell scratchadelic take on “Ruffneck”.  The only misfire comes from doyen of scientific drum & bass Dbridge.   If only he could have reinhabited the mindset of his own teenage hardcore identity The Sewer Monsters! Instead,  “Obsessed” gets flattened into a dank neurofunk furrow a la Jonny L’s “Piper”. It sounds obsessive, for sure, but the emphasis on sound-design and moody monotony has nothing to do with the larcenous free-for-all and cartoon delirium of the early ‘90s.


Q + A with Acen at The Wire website. 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

drill & brains

 It had to happen, it was inevitable, it's even been awaited - behold, the IDM-ification of UK drill

"ambient drill" even!

of course the funny thing is that drill already is ambient, already contains ambient elements within it, is listened to (I suspect, anyway) in an ambiently inattentive way










Sunday, April 4, 2021

CJ&POB






 


by the same dude who did these Ecstasy safety leaflets 




Sunday, March 28, 2021

the sample-glow (ecstatic intertextuality)

Made this massive playlist of 80s R&B club postdisco "boogie" etc type music recently -  a few late '70s crept in here and there, - and while listening to this tune, was reminded how threaded through the whole astonishing vocal performance by Rochelle Fleming was sample after sample - or rather sample-to-be after sample-to-be


This is the opposite of the syndrome I earlier identified as the "sample-stain", i.e. the backwards-through-time contamination of a favorite song caused by someone you dislike sampling it. You can't hear the original tune without thinking of the perpetrator. 

The other syndrome, the reverse effect, could be called the sample-glow.  

An extra layer of bliss and delight - and fond familiarity - irradiates that particular tiny moment in the already fabulous song, because of how it is now wedded to a later fantastic piece of music.  As though, that particular part of the lyric-vocal (or instrumentation) has been highlighted with a fluorescent marker pen. 

It's like you hear with doubled ears. 

The First Choice song is littered with sample-glows

"It's not ov-ah" wormholes through time to the Citadel of Kaos's tune of the same title. 

"Your mind, your body and your soul" appears in a number of hardcore and jungle tunes (Omni Trio "Soul Promenade" particularly lustrous among them)

"Everyday of my life" is another portal to future-bliss

There are several other moments in the performance, sometimes just nonverbal moans and oohs, that you recognise with that future-anterior shiver. Like a non-elegiac form of hauntology. 

Here's another example stumbled upon in the same club/funk/boogie/postdisco playlist, Cheryl Lynn's fabulous "Encore" (produced and written by Jam & Lewis), which I'd only ever heard as the 7-inch version, and bought at the time. 


But in this extended mix the song is presented as if actually a live performance (in keeping with the "Encore" theme / double-entendre, I guess). Right at the end, Lynn calls out to the "audience" with an electrifying shout of  "WOOOH! All right?". To attuned ears, that cry immediately hurls you forward through history to the dozens of rave records that sampled it. Probably they got through this intermediary, a track some folk (including DJ Hype) have cited as a proto-jungle tune.  


So many examples







One more example from my playlist of the sample glow 


A gorgeous, glorious tune in its own right, but now it carries extra irradiation from the reappearance of "still on my mind" (which I always hear first as "stealing my mind" - poetry!)... "feeling so special"...  "my feelings, can't explain" (ooh gosh) in various rave tunes, most notably


apparently in this other Ibiza/3rd Party family effort




Friday, March 26, 2021

voodoonuum

 


A 1994 tune. If sampling is ancestor worship and citation is a procedure within "the invention of tradition", this dates the ignition point of Nuum to 1988 - which is when the very first UK house and techno tunes emerge that are not pale copies of the real thing, that have a tinge of only-in-UK about them. Only a tiny few at that point (the real flood starts in '89-90 with early bleep and SUAD breakbeat house), among them Gerald and estranged cohorts 808 State. 












Wednesday, March 24, 2021

E-lectricity

 


In case you can't trace where that shimmer-sound originates, well it's from this - 




aka 




i seem to remember hearing that Salt Tank tune back in the day  (on a tape by the late Jones? Or was it one done by Jane?) and it seeming naggingly familiar but I couldn't put my finger on it

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Ziggy... played... space-time / a Little Matserpiece

 




I feel that Ziggy and Matt are speaking to each other, even if neither knows it 

Criss exercises in rhythm geometry, separated by a couple of decades

Little Mat's masterpiece, though, is this: 


Well, you learn something everyday - there were two Mats / Matts involved there -  and one was Matthew Cole, later known as MJ Cole, don of "musical" 2step garage. Lil Mat himself = Matt Quinn - later Optical, neurofunk pioneer. 

That's some right nummy-nuum stuff there for you. 

Apparently all the vocal samples in "Babylon Timewarp" come from this film! 


"Twenty-four seven, seen!' is at 1.44 or so... 2.44 is "bottle like this me use..." (sounding more like "rock me like dis me youth"

The non-vocal Jamaican licks sampled though, nobody seems to know where they're from  


The breakbeat fabric is woven through with strips of roots reggae riddim, which brings out another axis to the space-time triangle - the way the New Orleans sound (I particularly hear it with Lee Dorsey) affected The Upsetters et al. 

And vice versa, occasionally, rocksteady affecting soul - 

the opening lick of this 


lifts from this


Back to the main axis here, the invention of breakbeats in the late Sixties.... and their return in bionic form in the early '90s.... Modeliste roboticized...  

With Ziggy, the backbeat becomes the foreground focus - the hook (he makes the drums sing). And that's the exact same inversion of sonic hierarchy wrought by jungle. 


 

Here's Matt Quinn talking at the Dogs on Acid message board about the "Durban Poison" remix

"My first ever paid remix was of this tune! The original track was a cult classic badass tune!!! They made breakbeats sound so powerful and perfect at that time...with a lot of new techniques that I needed to learn in my own work.

"I did the remix with my friend Matt (MJ Cole) in Intense's studio in Earl's Court in London with Dan, Simon and Beau to help us as I had never remixed anyone else's song at that point...

"I worked with MJ Cole at Lazerdrome in Peckham doing the lights in 1992 and I knew the guys from Intense through my friend Nut-E-1, they were making the coolest music at that time and this was a killer tune! They asked us to do the remix and helped us with getting it to sound good....I had only had my first proper release a year before so they were like the guru's of breakbeat to me...I learned a lot from them around that time about production"

The name Babylon Timewarp (the "timewarp" fits the subject under discussion - transmissions across time and space, drumming as molding and folding of time itself) makes me think of this record... and this particular video, which cleverly brings out the GIF-ing of R&B and reggae riddim, the retriggering of breakloops.... roots hurtled into phuture


And a snippet of Ari Up whizzing through the foliage to make another circle in my life 




Another record that seems to fit this cluster of "Durban Poison" and "Babylon" is Criminal Minds's "Baptised by Dub"



"Now you know / can't beat the system / Go with the flow"




Criminal Minds have a massive discography; Splash, though, doesn't appear to have done anything else much, a few other tunes, and then a bunch of fairly standard rinser / roller type tunes as Undercover Agent.

What about Babylon Timewarp? 

Mostly it's "Durban Poison"

This was on the flip 


However they were also known as Intense, under which alias they were pretty active, and The White House Crew (less so)

I appreciate the use of this phrase in the title - "the quickening" always seemed poetic to me, a word for those electric moments or phase-shifts in one's life, when your mind or heart wakes up to an awareness of whole other dimensions of existence. Or it could be a period in an entire culture's life. 




(Apparently the expression comes originally from the moment the mother becomes aware of the unborn child as a living presence, moving inside) 

Also enjoy the misspelling here (deliberate?)



Other relevant tunes








The rest of We The Ragamuffin 



Tricky had a tune about Durban Poison didn't he? 

Actually, no, it was the name of a label he started.  



Saturday, March 20, 2021

Beats tunes

 chanced upon the rave movie Beats on a streamer, gave it a whirl 

the micro-genre of rave and club culture movies has a decidedly checkered history, but on the whole this is a superior effort -  some of the acting a bit one-note, there's the odd plot elements and dialogue patch that felt unconvincing and clunky -- as a historian-pedant some music choices struck me as not overly typical of what the Scottish scene was into (i.e. the tunes were too breaksy, not bouncy enough).  But the tunes used were mostly great so who cares? Overall I thought it captured nicely both the dreary social-reality surroundings and the hyper-hypereality of rave as exit / escape / sanctuary from same 

somehow I sensed from the start (well, you watch enough TV+movies, you get ingrained with "the grammar of film") that the fact that it's in black-and-white (bleached, grey-faded B/W too - even-toned matt rather than high-contrast, for even more depleted dreariness) guaranteed that at some point it would switch into full-colour - and most likely during the tripped-out parts of the rave experience itself. Sure enough it does do precisely that.

That whole bit was handled well - as was the earlier part of entering the rave (but before the drugs kick in full blast, so still B/W)  - the jostling of bodies, the escalating crowd fervour. 


And some top top tunes were woven through the whole thing, both diegetically and non-diegetically if you'll pardon me jargon.  (Whole soundtrack hearable here)

One nice surprise was this by Plus 8 (but heading into cosmic trance) artist Vapourspace, who I'd clean forgotten about but really liked back in the day 




This also was nice to hear, at the white-hot heart of the Xstatic Xperience


This one by Twitch pricked my ears (I think it's a different mix they used though)


Unexpected pleasure to hear this too


Now this next hands-in-the-air classic would have been in my ears during my own rave conversion moment in late 91 (when Njoi and other Deconstruction acts played this venue in Kilburn)



But I even enjoyed hearing on the soundtrack this anthem-for-some but not-really-my-golden-memories/not-my-area-of-the-90s


Initially watching the movie I had little bit of that older-wiser feeling you get when confronted with the credos and enthusiasms of your youth  - especially when the bearded slightly-crusty DJ is doing his "revolution" chat over the pirate radio or to the young protagonists of the plot. The context is 1994 and the Criminal Justice Bill and listening to this spiel, which falls midway between Prodigy circa Jitled Generation/"Their Law" and the Terence McKenna-ish patter you might have eavesdropped at Megatripolis or Megadog, you can't help thinking "hmmm, this is a bit silly" and "what were we all thinking?", Like, "how could this have ever been the basis of a new society?". Mind you, even at the time, I was sharply aware that these spaces of intensity, you couldn't actually live there... 

But when it got to the rave recreation, it came flooding back: why we believed what we believed, and how the belief was the point, its own raison d'etre

the quickening 








Friday, March 19, 2021

neon screaming target

Kit Mackintosh whets appetites for his forthcoming Repeater Books debut Neon Screams: How Drill, Trap and Bashment Made Music New Again with a proof-of-concept mix that vaults through four decades of dancehall's phonetic phuturism. Already aired on Repeater Radio, it's archived for your deliriumized delectation here


Check out Kit's earlier mixes in this series









Wednesday, March 17, 2021

"the endless pump"

 





descriptions of drugging 'n' dancing from Geoff Dyer's wonderful novel Paris Trance 

(not actually a novel about trance music I hasten to add)

(although Geoff did pen this nice short Guardian piece on psy trance's visual aesthetics



Monday, March 15, 2021

squatters ravers travelers (missus guest post)

 Joy Press on the targets of the Criminal Justice Bill, from Spin magazine October 1994









(via Matthew Perpetua) 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

mad for ads


A tweet from Death Is Not The End saying that the cassette version of London Pirate Radio Adverts 1984-1993 Vol. 2 is shipping out tomorrow reminded me I said I'd run the full chat with audio archivist Luke Owen here. So here it is: 

How did you get interested in pirate radio in general and in pirate radio adverts in particular?

I began tuning in to pirate radio from my early teens in Bristol in the late 90s - there was a lot of action on the dial back then and I was sucked in. It was a portal into the drum and bass/Full Cycle stuff happening in the city when I was too young for the clubs, and it also nurtured my love of reggae, dub and Bollywood soundtracks at a relatively young age. The ads were often infectious and endearingly DIY, and some were memorable to the point of fever loops, I can still remember one or two word for word. 

I came upon the Pirate Radio Archive website a couple of years back, and there I found a trove of recordings from across the 80s and 90s through which I could transport myself back in time to some of those broadcasts I had been brought up on. I had been running Death Is Not The End since 2014 as a record label and NTS radio show focused mostly on "deep digs" into early gospel/blues/folk, field recordings and various archival finds. Coming across these recordings I was immediately stuck by the desire to do something with them, and put together a mixtape for the Blowing Up The Workshop mixblog and subsequently released it on DINTE as a cassette. It was a bit of a left-turn for the label perhaps, but being both archival and field recordings I thought it fit. I'm interested in "folk music" having a broader contemporary remit, and what it can mean in context. To me, recordings like these pirate radio broadcasts can represent archival folk music of sorts - they are raw, impromptu and communal musical experiences. 



For me, the appeal of them is multi-leveled – there’s nostalgia, there’s period charm, there’s the amateur nature of them, some of the comedy ones are genuinely funny…   But I also think they provide a valuable and historically important archive of subculture and British ‘lifeworlds’, especially minority populations (e.g. you have the Greek salon ad on Vol 1 ).

Yes, a lot are hilarious and some to the point of being genuinely a bit unhinged in places... A big part of the uniqueness of pirate radio is in the ads I think - it reflects the alternative culture through the lens of local business and events in a way that often contrasts with the staleness of "commercial" radio as much as the music itself. The whole thing often just seems to thrive on amping up the madness a bit, because they can. The London Pirate Radio Adverts collection was also intriguing from a local history perspective. I've always been interested in the changing landscape of areas, the previous lives of buildings, music venues, long gone record shops etc. By chance a lot of the adverts I collected for this happen to be for clubs and bars in places in South East London and East London that I've come to know quite well since moving here in the mid-noughties so that's another facet of it for me. Also, Immigrant communities making use of pirate radio as a means to supply an essential community service is an inherent element to pirate radio as a whole I think.

I like also the range. You have the slick-aspiring ads (with a tiny bit of Smashy + Nicey about the patter,  quite common with pirate deejays before ’92 when it got a lot more ruffneck and hooligan in vibe -  or they’ll hire that voiceover guy that also appeared in cinema adverts, the one with the incredibly deep voice,  he pops up a few times on your tapes). And then the much more amateurish efforts.  

Redd Pepper? I'm never quite sure whether it's him or an imitator... He sure must have gotten a lot of work around this time regardless. There's another guy who seems to have been the voiceover guy for a large portion of reggae & dancehall/soundclash events in the past couple decades (this is him @ 5.40 on Side A) and is still going strong. I'm going to do my best to track him down, I think I might have a friend of a friend who hired him for an ad once.

I think there's sometimes a conscious effort to get someone with a posh accent (or affecting one) for some of the dances that are billing themselves as classy & exclusive affairs. Then you've got some hilariously oddball voices, and a really bad Scouse impression that I have no idea what it's trying to achieve! I think pirate radio in general is prone to jokes and reference points that only the small group of listeners (or more likely mates of the station and the DJs) are "in" on, and this can bleed through to the ads as much as the chatter.



They often seem to like putting FX on the voice.

Yes, the use of delay on pirate radio station voiceover and adverts seems to be a point of reference that's bled in from sound system culture. I think it also helps the adverts "pop" and the feedback has the handy effect of papering over cracks where they may often sound too muddy and amateurish otherwise. I've also added tape delay here and there to aid with the transitions from one track to the next - the idea was initially for this to have the flow of a mixtape as much as possible.

Most of the ads on pirates were for raves, clubs, records shops, occasionally a compilation or a 12 inch release … But  it’s interesting that quite a few of them are for non-music-related businesses -  there’s one I came across for a bakers, you’ll get ones for hairdressers or a restaurant.  Or on Vol. 1 the shop fittings ad for Trade Equip  and the one for Fidel’s Menswear.

In a way I find the non-music related ads as some of the most intriguing and charming. It shows that the stations were often genuinely part of a thriving localised economy, and not just for soundheads. It seems a bit mad to think of a small high-street business advertising on the radio these days, and I suppose with the advent of social media marketing we're probably seeing the last of small businesses in print advertising to a large degree - it's just not attractive as you don't get to monitor the traffic it's generating and target your audience down to the minutiae, but it leaves a document of that business that can be preserved from a local history perspective (whereas when a business folds their online presence will likely disappear with it).

Even on the music history level alone, though, they are  valuable – there’s a sort of established history of rave where certain legendary clubs get mentioned  over and over (Rage, Labrynth, Innersense) and the same applies to the raves, labels, record shops. But these ads capture just how many clubs, raves etc there were, in all different parts of London or UK… many that have been forgotten or only ran for a short while. And there are addresses, times, prices mentioned.

Yes, the provision of full addresses, and often bus routes and the general specifics for the clubs and venues always gives me a pang of nerdy excitement. The addition of local landmarks, "under this flyover", "next to Tescos" etc. gives me extra info with which I can go sleuthing on Streetview and look at the ghost of the club mentioned in the advert (and for extra nerdery I can swipe backward in time on street view to see it's former guises too).

The raver’s dateline courtesy Chillin FM advert is very interesting and surprising!

Yes I was surprised to come across so many ravers datelines! I wonder if this is something you had come across before? Hooking up and meeting potential partners never struck me as a priority to pilled-up ravers but I must be mistaken... It was relatively before my time, and I suppose it's easy to be swayed by the dominant narrative of early rave being a drug-fuelled oasis away from meat-market bars & clubs, but there was clearly a market for it! I can't help being reminded of Father Ted's priest chatback line whenever I hear it, also.

I think you mentioned in that Crack interview how most people paused the tape when the ads came on…   so there’s a limited number of ad breaks that have survived intact.

Yeah I guess it makes sense that the music is what the majority of the listeners are there for, and the ads can do one - or indeed be edited out later. The sources I had were pretty much all online, so I suppose you could say that a portion of those who have ripped/digitized their tapes didn't stop their recordings when the ads came on, and rather they have cropped them out in the process. But in general it's the same principle as to when you would record a TV show on VHS - a waste of valuable magnetic tape space. 

What number did you accumulate before you started winnowing them down?

Maybe 100 total? It's been a bit of a blur to be honest. At some point I think I was losing it a bit.

It’s good that you have ads that aren’t just rave / hardcore / jungle, but others kind of music that were big then – like mellow house and progressive house etc.

It's easy to imagine pirate radio as exclusively a place for jungle, hardcore, reggae and dancehall etc. but yes it's refreshing. I particularly am interested in the popularity of rare groove and how that fits into the mix. The Under 18s Disco advert strikes me for it's mix up of styles - 'ragga, house, rap & swing'.

What is your favorite ad out of all the ones on the two cassettes?  Or top 2 or 3.

I think probably the Videobox rental shop is up there, it's the faux dialogue that just makes me smile. The Rolls Royce & A Big House in 89 is just fantastic for the list of celebrities who have "been invited", and that you simply need to go into your local hairdresser for £1 tickets.