Monday, May 13, 2024

future-dance at Beat Connection / a snapshot of UK garridge forming before your ears

I had a fun and wide-ranging chat with The Underground Is Massive author Michaelangelo Matos at his substack Beat Connection, which is dedicated to deejay mixes. The chat touched on Futuromania, rave, jungle, UK garage pirate radio, digital maximalism, and many other topics, using the structure of five deejay mixes and radio sets:  John Peel's legendary Punk Special from December '76, a Don FM Ezy D Xmas '92 show, DB's The History of Our World hardcore + breakbeat ultramix from 94, Tuff Jam's CD-mix  Underground Frequencies Volume One which captures UK garage at a protean formative moment before either the "speed" or  "2step" kicked in, and then Rustie's Essential Mix of April 2012, the frazzling dazzle of digi-maxed nu-progtronica. 

My favorite was probably the Tuff Jam set, which reintroduced me to these old favorites:

Matos noticed that one of Basement Jaxx had some involvement in this gorgeous Mutiny track.


It reminded me of a period when I owned about three or four speed garage comps,  as that was all there was to own -  and this was one of them. It was the main way - living in NYC - I was able to hear the music. A handful of 12 inch singles would reach the Manhattan dance specialist stores, and I'd scoop them all up, pretty much - but there was zero demand locally: the local jungle / drum+bass scene was at its strongest then, and they all regarded speed garage as apostasy, a def(l)ection from the True Path, while the New York househeads, as you'd expect, thought it was garbage not garage - too ruff-hewn on the production side, too fast, too bumpy.  Not proper.

As I mentioned to Matos, my evangelism - like with jungle several years earlier - involved making tape introductions to the new style for friends and colleagues. But because most of the best tracks I only had on these DJ-mixed CDs, I had to fade them up and fade them down in order to get them to resemble proper tracks, on these cassette compilations. I'm sure this is one of the reasons - all these three or four minutes portions of a track, sometimes with a bit of another tune lingering at the start, or coming in at the end - why these tapes confused my intended converts. But  mostly they just couldn't hear the subtle radicalism, the contamination of American lush sexy garage with jungly flavor, the exaggeration of the bump+flex in the original music.  I would get responses like "isn't this just house music?". Well, yes, but also no.

On the Tuff Jam ceedee, it's very nascent and early-days-yet indeed - the selection is equal parts American house, emulative British stuff that attempts to sound as smooth 'n' sexy and palatially polished... and then really just a few things that are true speed garridge. There's also stuff by those unorthodox Americans who would help to catalyse the UK thing and then be pulled along by it and pushed further - Todd Edwards, Armand Van Helden.  

Great days - I remember the hunger 

a/ the hunger just to get hold of the bloody music 


b/ the hunger, the itch, just to see where it was going to go next. 

I couldn't have imagined 2step, even though there was a clue on this Tuff Jam CD right near the end of it. 

Along with the sound of the New Thing, what hooks me as a language-fan is also the sense of a new argot creeping in - new buzzterms - "bumpy", Tuff Jam's term "Unda-Vybe" 


Tall Guy said...

Love this period of time. These records were also very hard to find in San Francisco at the time - when they did come through it was usually in the form of castoff promos that record stores would sneakily resell, after discovering that the production approach wasn't what they were expecting. For some odd reason in SF, a lot of Grant Nelson twelve inches made it through to the punters, particularly from the Nice N' Ripe subsidiary "G.O.D." Occasionally those records went over well in the gay clubs, unlike the straight parties in SF, which were more focused on the Wicked crew and related sounds.

Also, I dunno if this was on purpose, but 50% of your Youtube selection here is the great Armand Van Helden ("Mongoloids in Space" is one of his eleventy billion pseudonyms). He is really an under-appreciated genius who has not been properly compiled - the discography is too scattered across work-for-hire remixes and mercenary labels like Strictly Rhythm. Someone should really fix this.


It wasn't on purpose, but it is reflective of his importance at that moment. I hadn't realised that the NuYorican remix was actually him until this week!

Yes someone should do a lovely compendium of his scattered bits like those great Masters of Work double-CDs that came out in the early 2000s.

I suppose it's up to fans to this kind of thing - round up all the remixes, the odd little pseudonymous efforts.

Has Todd Edwards ever really been properly compilationed?

Or the other Todd, Todd Terry? (I seem to remember reviewing for eMusic some kind of all the best early works of Todd T but I don't think the Royal House was in there or CLS)