Thursday, August 25, 2022

Amen to That! (Or, What a Remarc-able Fellow)

This is the story of a beat and the story of a beatmaster. The beat is the immortal "Amen" break, originally from an early funk track called "Amen Brother" by The Winstons. Someone who should know better once described "Amen" as jungle's default option--but that's like saying the Bo Diddley beat, or the twelve-bar blues shuffle, is something people fall back on when their imagination fails. Actually "Amen" is jungle's highest common denominator: its hard core, the absolute foundation and essence of the genre. Those two bars of stuttering kicks, driving snares and splashy ride cymbal, laid down in the late Sixties in seemingly throwaway fashion, have been dissected, processed, and reassembled to create near-infinite polyrhythmic possibilities. If you listen to the original "Amen" today it sounds kinda tepid, after all the damage that has been done to it, and with it. But the junglists heard something in that break--it's not exactly funky, it's got this surging, explosive quality--and amplified it a hundredfold, turning the snares into machine-guns, the hi-hats and cymbals into strafing shrapnel, the bass drum kicks into landmines under your feet.

Between 1993-1996, thousands upon thousands of jungle tunes were built around "Amen." And some of the absolute best were made by a young man who went by the name of Remarc. When it comes to the "Amen" break, Remarc is King of the Beat. If the "Amen" is the genetic drumcode of the junglist generation, Remarc is one of the supreme genetic engineers, dicing and resplicing that primal riddimatic DNA, and creating mutant monsters that stampeded the dancefloors of mid-90s Britain. For his ultimate burial tune "RIP" alone, he'd be assured of his place in the Junglist Hall of Fame. But what about "Thunderclap": have beats ever been more mashed, rinsed, shredded to fuck, and still funked? Catch me in the right misty-eyed mood and I might tell you that no dance music has gone further than the "Amen" tear-out circa 1994-5.
"RIP", "Thunderclap" and a precious handful of others represent a pinnacle that has yet to be surpassed.

Remarc is one of those DJ/producers--see also his peers Hype, Pascal, Bizzy B, Dead Dred, Marvellous Cain, and others--who never got the puff pieces in The Face, iD or Mixmag. They never became professional faces or quote merchants. They were simply too busy--building the soundboy killers that mashed up venues like the Roast and AWOL and Thunder & Joy. People used to talk about "intelligent drum'n'bass", but the tunes that ruled the true junglist dancefloor represented a kind of rhythmic intellect at its most penetrating and ferociously complex. Pure science. No need for wishy-washes of synth, pseudo-sophisticated jazz chords, or embarrassing attempts at "proper" songwriting. Just snare-rushes, a cyberskankin' B-line, and some
sparingly used vocal samples (ragga boasts, gangsta threats, and sweet diva licks). That's all it took to put you in jungle heaven. So let's hear it for Remarc, the bashment bombardier. REWIND selecta!!!!

(liner note to a Remarc compilation for Planet Mu)

Tuesday, August 23, 2022



Early 1991 - fuck me this is a lineup I would have liked to have caught, even in the poky rock venue confines of Subterania.  Sub-lo frequencies surely sufficient to shake the foundations of the Westway flyover.

And here is a review of the concert by Melody Maker's Ian McGregor, from March 30 1991

He was big into the bleep n bass sound - from the very same issue of MM, here's McGregor's review of Sweet Exorcist's C.C.E.P. - deservedly treated as a mini-LP rather than just an EP

This sort of content is one of the reasons the idea of MM as an Indie Paper annoys me. (Apart from anything we had as almost much major label rock covered as indie chart stuff, and kept an eye on metal!). But more to the point I'm trying to make: there was a lot of hip hop covered, and some R&B too, and a bit of reggae, and even some jazz  and experimental music. And there was a lot of dance coverage. During this same 89-90-early91 period, although not an active raver yet,  I'd be reviewing singles by such as DHS and Eon when I did the single's column, or raving about albums by 808 State and Bass-o-matic. Others on the paper would be doing Gerald or Shut Up and Dance or Unique 3s as well as your Flukes i.e. ostensibly more rock-paper friendly stuff. (The exact same could be said for NME and also Sounds albeit probably more so earlier in its history than the '90s).

Conversely, it's not like Mixmag or DJ (or Black Echoes and Blues & Soul for that matter) were covering the cutting edge of underground rock at this time! The imperative of comprehensiveness and inclusion fell only on the shoulders of the rock press. And was actually shouldered, fulfilled to a remarkable degree. In a relatively routine, this-is-what-we-do sort of way. Driven by the writers and editors's enthusiasms, as well as a vague sense that it was the right thing to do. (When in truth, the  majority of the readership would have been happy not to have all this stuff in there, would in fact have been okay with homogeneity.)

Friday, August 19, 2022

Wednesday, August 17, 2022