Saturday, May 27, 2023

toytown tekno ? of ?

 Well, that's me run out of toytown tekno examples!

I thought there was a huge wave of this stuff, but I could only think of seven in total. 

Surely, I'm missing something obvious. 

There must be loads more - after all, it was presented, at the time, as some kind of scourge - like there was this lemming-like legion of post-"Charly" imitators ripping off kids's TV themes from the 1970s and 1980s, destroying  the rave scene with their regressive inanity. 

Any suggestions? 

(There's probably quite a few gabba examples, and possibly some happy hardcore ones, but I'm thinking really of that UK moment '91 / '92)

Thursday, May 25, 2023

toytown tekno 7 of ?


Not a lot to say - not a lot known - about this Sons of Bungle effort from the tail-end of toytown techno. It came out in 1993 and was released on two different labels in the same year: Lost Cause Records, where it was the only release ever. And then on Dusted and Looped Sounds, where it was the only release ever - and came in this CD single version as well as vinyl.  By that point the group was named Sonz of Bungle with a zed.

Monday, May 22, 2023

toytown tekno 6 of ?

This is a tune I know from my first days of trying to get to grips with / get my mitts on Ardkore.  I picked up some mixtapes in Portobello Market - a little stall nestling at the foot of the Westway flyover. "The Ice Cream Van From Hell" was on a tape called Hardcore Mayhem (see below). But it's misidentified as hailing from the Major Malfunctions EP and is here titled "Ice Cream Van". (I've looked and there's an artist called Major Malfunction, who recorded for Djax-Up, initially as Major Mal'fun'ctions. But no sign of a Major Malfunctions EP).

It's a fairly poxy tape in both selection and sound (dubbed at high speed presumably). D.J. Not-Ace more like. But this  tune was one of the few that caught my ear.  

The toytown element is the children singing "I scream you scream we all scream for ice cream" and the tinkling bell of the ice cream van. Otherwise it's a moody slice of acieeed breakbeat. 

Earth Leakage Trip seem like an interesting, somewhat anomalous bunch - rather like Holy Ghost Inc., in so far as they coexist with, or pass through, the Ardkore but are not really of it. 

Claims to fame for the duo include doing the very first release on Moving Shadow, the Psychotronic EP from 1991, whose lead track is the awesome "No Idea" (a favorite of Moon Wiring Club). And this too qualifies as toytown techno - it includes samples from a 1975 children's record, Happy Monsters - Adventures in the Land of Oog. (I think there is also a little girl's voice from Poltergeist.). It's like darkcore a year or two ahead of schedule.

But talking about not quite fitting, looking at the pic of one of Earth Leakage Trip -  Neil Sanford, I think - I don't know if this is from back in the day or from nearer now, but he looks like someone who'd make Robyn Hitchcock / Martin Newell type music rather than tripped-out, slightly creepy techno. 

But that was what was great about this moment: all kinds of unlikely types with untypical and non-dance backgrounds passed through the zone, or had a go. Like 80s neo-psych chap Nick Nicely being half of Psychotropic. Or for that matter, Richard Norris, with his Bam Caruso / Strange Things freakbeat background, being in Jack the Tab and The Grid.... 

Well, actually, looking at this Test Pressing interview with Neil Sanford of Earth Leakage Trip, I'm not entirely off-base - although he started out with electro, he had a long period of listening to psychedelia and things like Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd:

"We were inspired by Pink Floyd and the kind of music that would have a psychedelic effect on you. There are a lot of elements of British psychedelic music within that track. There's the comical aspect, which is, again, quite British. When we were with Rising High records, I think the NME called us the Pink Floyd of techno. They recognised that a lot of the music was coming from Detroit or whatever, but we gave it a British twist."

There's also stuff about a Spiral Tribe connection - the Spirals heard Psychotronic and tracked the group down, and Simon, the other chap in Earth Leakage Trip, ended up joining the Tribe and going on the road with them.  The name Earth Leakage Trip itself has an affinity with the Spirals's "Terra-Technic" / Tecno Terra notions. 

The original cover for Psychotronic (Shadow 1) - designed by Neil Sanford. 

Oh look, last year the Psychotronic EP was reissued by Blank Mind. 

Here's the release rationale: 

“The doors are where the windows should be, and the windows are where the doors should be”

If you had been in one of the more open minded all night raves in the early 90s you are likely more than familiar with Earth Leakage Trip’s ‘No Idea’.

You could write several pages about the 'Psychotronic EP' and still not nail it as well as Discogs user covert_operative's description of 'urban, British psychedelic music.' The Acid House narrative is all about ecstasy, but for many, especially outside of London, there was a lot of LSD involved. Things were edgier, too, with parties in derelict, liminal spaces. By the time this record came out in 1991, the rave was properly diverging from its house music beginnings.

The Psychotronic EP was the first release on the legendary Moving Shadow label. Its lead track 'No Idea' is both the perfect entry point to the catalogue and something of an outlier. Neil Sanford had been writing music for a few years before playing some demos to Rob Playford in his car outside a nightclub in Wood Green. Simon Carter got involved, and the pair went to Playford's studio to manifest the madness they'd been sketching with rudimentary gear.

'No Idea's use of samples was wholly inspired and far more surreal than so many of the dark-side tracks that were to follow it. A friend of Neil's had given him a record called 'Happy Monsters' and the lead track, 'Adventures in the Land of Ooog,' lent the unforgettable children's vocals. Neil initially had his doubts. Had they gone too far? However, while working on the track, Rob Playford's girlfriend ran in shouting, "you HAVE to use that!" And so it came to be.

As a footnote, the track did prove to be strong medicine, with at least one documented account of a promoter having to be talked down by his friends after hearing it when psychedelically altered.

The Psychotronic EP is a truly visionary piece of work, standing poised on the edge of the rave's burgeoning future and entirely outside it. As such, it's never not been a cool record, as appealing to lysergic adventurers as it is to house heads, hardcore ravers, or experimental music pioneers. And it has now been lovingly reissued by Blank Mind, for which I'm eternally grateful, seeing as my copy is battered beyond belief.

- Piers Harrison

Then they did a record for Rising High 

And what do you know, another little bit of toytown tekno vibes, with what sounds to me like a sample from Bagpuss

Thursday, May 18, 2023

toytown tekno 5 of ?


Cheeky-dodgy E-as-candy puns in both the group name and the track name 

The mixes

Chris Howell  - 1/3 of Smart E's - went on to record as Luna-C and a score more aliases and also to found Kniteforce Records  - later known as Kniteforce Again. He remains a stalwart with reissues, box sets, first-time issues of vintage unreleased stuff, and veterans coaxed back into the new-old fray. He's also written a tract entitled The Rave Commandments, as Christopher Howell (perhaps authors need to have more formal names?). 

Give it up to Kodwo Eshun for seeing something in "Sesame's Treet" when no one else did

  (from his Club Licks column in the Wire September 1992)


The full Club Licks column 

Here's a post-Treet tune I really like by The Luna C Project 

Actually, there's a more exciting euphoria-soaked remix of it on one of those 93 comps with 'dark' in the title 

Ah, it is in fact this one by the mighty Sublove (one of those groups who have been reissued etc etc by Kniteforce in recent years)

It's on a cusp between darkside and happy hardcore. The vocal sample is  cheesy and jaunty in style 'n' mood, but the lyrics are designed to comment on the fact everyone in the room is "under the influence". It preys on and amplifies the suppressed anxiety of dancers who maybe feel a little out of control, or like they're being controlled:  

"There's an invisible intruder / That's got inside your mind / Invading your sense of right and wrong / Making your conscience blind"

Something about the voice makes me think of The Buggles, or Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club. 

The sample was also used earlier in this Smart E's track

The sample is from a song called "Spectator Sport" by a super-obscure '80s pop group called New Beginnings. Who do have that proggers trying to go bouncy-pop vibe of Buggles. But they also appear to be some kind of Christian rock group. Which would explain the "invading your sense of right and wrong" line. Plus, I have always heard the words "an invisible intruder" as "an invisible Judas" !

But back to the first Luna-C Project EP - the whole thing is themed around insanity

A Thirdform recommendation from the comments: Luna-C alias Trip with "The Snowball", named after a super-intense pill in circulation in darkside days

Flipside maintains the druggy theme

Now that's something I'd like to get my hands on (although all the promos on YouTube I'm sure)

Crikey there was a Smart E's album - I guess if you've had a number 2 single, it's obligatory

I feel like in the Great Rave LPs discussion, someone spoke up for this record as pretty good

"A Most Excellent Choon", tee hee

Closing thoughts from John Harris in 2006

"Remember, though: in the dark days of 1991-93, it looked like the guitar really was extinct, but rock bit back and eventually won. Who now listens to such rave milestones as the Prodigy's 1992 hit Charly, the entire oeuvre of Altern 8 (two blokes who essentially released the same record over and over again - what cards!) and Shaft's 1992 smash Roobarb and Custard? Only very strange people." 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

toytown tekno 4 of ?


Other mixes, of which this Alley Cat Mix is the best maybe 

                                                    The not-as-good remix that was actually on the album Experience. 

Here's a mix I never came across before - "Beltram Says Mix". From '92, Joey's own handiwork, not a clever joke. 

At this precise point - "Charly" through "Everybody in the Place" to "Ruff in the Jungle" - the Prodigy are the best pop group on the planet.  

Possibly the best rock group (even before "going rock" with "Firestarter" and "Breathe" - when they were once again, briefly, assuredly, the best pop group on the planet). 

"Charly" hit at almost exactly the same time as Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and really ought to have knocked the latter (great as it is) completely out of contention with alla da youth. "Smells Like" was the last gasp of rock; "Charly" and "Everybody" were the first breath of some kind of transubstantiated future-rock (as essence if not generative methodology or sound per se). The Nirvana song is about teen-spirit (as lost, betrayed, compromised, coopted); the Prodigy singles reeks of it. Innocence and insolence. 

This is back when hardcore was chartcore ("Everybody" kept off  of #1 in the UK only by the reissued and Wayne's World-boosted "Bohemian Rhapsody").

Hardcore Continuum, yes.... but the Prodigy are also part of what I call pop's Cartoon Continuum

So right then that the samples in "Charly" come from a kiddy-targeted animated publication information film 

All six episodes of Charley Says 

Bonus beat 

Suggested by Matthew McK in comments, a killer B I'd never heard B4, on the flip of "Your Love"

Sunday, May 14, 2023

toytown tekno 3 of ?


Love the sustained japery of the titling here - Horsepower, "Bolt, "Mane Mix"

Oh and apparently there was a "Ministry of Dung Mix"! 

Horse-sourced, of course, in

"Black Beauty" makes me think of amphetamine pills of the mod and Northern Soul era but that's probably an interpretive leap too far

More horse-core

This CJ Bolland aka Ravesignal tune 'Horsepower" was one of the tracks I really loved when I first got into the hardcore techno in the later months of '91 - it came in a batch of CD singles from R&S that also included "Dominator" and "Energy Flash" and "Mentasm". To say I was blown away is an understatement - the combined impact blew me off course, sent me down a whole different life path. (Well, that and a pill). 

I interviewed Bolland in early '92 when over in Ghent to chat with the R&S crew for this Details feature - another course-resetting experience. 

Whatever else it refers to, "Horsepower" must also be a nod to Team R&S as Techno Champions, what with the label's Ferrari-ripped off logo. 


Did you know that one of my namesakes is  a top UK commentator on show jumping? (And breeder). Known for his trenchant opinions

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

breakbeat science

Musicologist blogger Ethan Hein with a breakdown of a famous break, that sono-icono imperishable known as Amen. 

However, Hein confesses that notation can only get you so far in terms of penetrating the mysterious power and inexhaustibility of the Gregory Coleman drum part. After much talk of snare pickups and sixteenth note subdivisions, the last of 13 steps in his analysis more or less involves throwing up his hands:

"Apply groove, which in this context, means the specific microtiming of the break as performed by Gregory S. Coleman. You can’t represent this step in notation!

Groove is much more than just the timing of drum hits, but it’s a starting place. In the Ableton screencap below, the grid lines are sixteenth notes. The yellow markers show the onset of each drum hit. As you can see if you look closely, hardly any of them are exactly where they are 'supposed' to be."

He further admits defeat when he comes to the timbral characteristics of the break, a huge part of why Amen have its effect (which is then intensified further by choppage and EQ):  

"You can’t adequately represent the Amen via MIDI or music notation. Its timbre is doing as much musical work as the placement and timing of drum hits. The sound of those drums is instantly recognizable, even when they are sped up, slowed down, transposed in pitch, chopped up and so on. Maybe once I have a better handle on how timing works in this kind of groove, I can start thinking more seriously about timbre too."

It's consoling to know that technically informed scholars have not completely put out of work those of us who work with feelings and images - at least for now.  

Here's an earlier Hein analysis of "The Funky Drummer" break. 

And here's a really interesting blogpost in which Hein discusses The Headhunters's "God Made Me Funky". He is dead right in saying that the track gets much less compelling when it loosens up into more freeform playing with the entry of the sax solo. But that first ultra-tight section , ooh goshhh

Monday, May 8, 2023

toytown tekno 1 of ?


The naughty naughty joke here is that "Rhubard and Custards" were red and yellow capsules of Ecstasy very popular in '92.

The pills were described warmly by a nostalgic raver on the Discogs thread  as "very rushy!"

That might be because they had amphetamine and methamphetamine in them as well as a decent amount of MDMA, at least according to this late '90s medical journal article

Thursday, May 4, 2023

"Normality, believe!"


"Jim and Emma, get out of John's bed"

the flip


the whole session (or what i got of it)

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

raver, rave, raving (slight return)

History Is Made At Night posts a newspaper cutting that shows that  "raver" and "ravers" was well established as the term for marauding mobs of hard-partying, up-all-night youngsters in the UK by the late 1950s

Here's the text, again heisted from History Is Made At Night:

40 coffee bar night spots- some of them dimly lit cellars were teenagers go on unlimited necking parties - have earned for the seaside town of Brighton this new title… It's ravers' top town.

The "ravers" are gangs of young people who travel from London on early morning milk trains to have a rave day and night whooping it up in the coffee bars.

Why ravers? Because they move around in a crowd not caring where, not caring why...

The dingy ill-ventilated coffee bars have one piece of equipment common to all. The juke box. To the canned music the teenage ravers jive themselves into a frenzy. As they jive they kiss. When they tire they lounge around often on the floor because there aren't enough seats.

And the necking goes on continuously. In London coffee bars necking is strictly forbidden. But no such prudery in Brighton. There the ravers can neck from 11:30 am to 11:30 pm and no one will tell them to calm it down.

When they have enough of one bar the rave starts up again and they move to the next spot. Often the ravers carry their own musical instruments and jive in the streets.

They are not popular with the Brighton police who will be keeping a special watch for them on bank holiday trains this weekend. Not long ago a trainload of ravers paraded to through Brighton streets at dawn, singing, jiving and waking sleeping people

(Sunday Pictorial, 29 March 1959)

The last line about "singing, jiving and waking sleeping people" reminded me of this '93 classic that hijacks Aled Jones: "we're walking in the air....  while people far below are sleeping as we fly". E makes of us angels...