Friday, October 17, 2014

breakbeat garage

It was really hard to get speed garage 12 inches in the US - no demand whatsoever, junglists scorned it but so did the local househeadz - only a few thing slipped into the shops, almost by accident -  so you had to grab 'em whenever they showed up - and this is one of the early bits I scooped up as an import

What I liked about it is the way about midway through it slips into madcap Amentalist breakbeats, augmenting the pumpin' 'n' poundin skippy-bumpy speedgarridge groove - like it's a literally transitional record - a cusp between jungle and UKG

Also loved the name Ruff Da Menace -- which now I think about, is almost like a mash-up of Rufige Cru and "Menace", perhaps Goldie's greatest track

Found out much later "Kick The Party" was made by this duo of Jon Dennis and Mark Ryder. The latter is the figure behind the Strictly Underground label and all those Illegal Rave and  Illegal Pirate Radio compilations (and maker of many, if not all, the tracks on those comps, using a huge number of alter-ego names like DJ Scooby and Hackney Hardcore). Also something of a hardcore hero for having helped to fund pirate stations like Unity FM and Konflict FM.

Ryder is someone who followed the swarm-logic of the continuum as it, er, continued.... hardcore to jungle to UKG....    not a leader, an innovator -  but like so many other solid producers, provided generic grist to the mill of scenius ...

because what you want is an imposing sameness

vibe = collective singlemindedness

this 2002 rerelease appears to be a relick for the breakstep moment - the bass seems a bit more brock-wild in a DJ Narrows style - but otherwise much the same

blimey, it's part of a sort of Ruff Da Menace album or double-EP 2 F in Ruff

ooh, i covet that

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"that's why they call it a continuum, folks!" part 2948371

a deep tech versioning of this breakstep classic

Deekline done his own reboot  this year with a trap version

others, with or without his blessing i'm not sure, done similar refixes over the years

and then there was Deekline's own Nu Skool Rave rmx, from circa the original version

the legacy of Bell

even if he's never heard Frequencies, or any bleep + bass at all - feel like that that sound lives on in Hugo Massien tunes such as the above

cold, tuff, relentless... and bumpy.

Monday, October 13, 2014

RIP Mark Bell

LFO, Details, October 1991

                                                      LFO, Melody Maker, June 1994

director's cut, Observer Music Monthly, September 21st 2003

It’s a tough time for dance music believers. Mainstream house culture has imploded, with superclubs closing, dance magazines folding, and average sales for 12 inch singles on a steady downward arc. The more cerebral end of home-listening electronica suffers from stylistic fragmentation, overproduction (there’s just too many "pretty good" records being made), and the absence of a truly startling new sound (even a Next Medium-Sized Thing would be a blessing at this point). Trendy young hipsters think dance culture’s passe and really rather naff: these days they’re into bands with riffs, hooky choruses, foxy singers, and good hair, from neo-garage groups like The White Stripes to post-punk revivalists like The Rapture. Little wonder, then, that the leading lights of leftfield electronica have been looking back to the early Nineties, when their scene was at the peak of its creativity, cultural preeminence, and popularity. 

There’s been a spate of retro-rave flavoured releases from the aging Anglo vanguard--a reinvocation (conscious or unconscious, it’s hard to say) of the era when this music was simultaneously the cutting edge and in the pop charts.
LFO’s Mark Bell is a case in point. Today he’s better known for his production work with Bjork and Depeche Mode, but back in 1990, he was one half of a duo who reached #12 in the UK singles charts with their self-titled debut "LFO". This Leeds group pioneered a style called "bleep", the first truly British mutation of the house and techno streaming over from Chicago and Detroit. In 1991 they released Frequencies, the first really great techno album released anywhere (unless you count ancestors Kraftwerk, alongside whose godlike genius LFO’s best work ranks, if you ask me). 

Just about the only bad thing about Sheath, LFO’s third album and first release for seven years, is its title, which I fear is being used in its antedeluvian meaning of "condom" (only "rubber johnny" could have been worse). Really, this record should be called Frequencies: the Return.

Deliberately lo-fi opener "Blown" instantly transports you back to the era of landmark records like Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 1985-91. All muddy heart-tremor bass, creaky hissing beats and tinkling, tingling rivulets of synth, it has the enchanted, misty-eyed quality of those childhood mornings when you wake to look through frost-embroidered bedroom windows. "Mokeylips" teems with fluorescent pulses and those classic LFO textures that seem to stick to your skin like Velcro. As bracing as snorting a line of Ajax, "Mum-Man" is industrial-strength hardcore of the kind that mashed-up the more mental ravefloors in ’92. With its robot-voice dancemaster commands and videogame zaps, "Freak" harks back further still to LFO’s Eighties "roots" as teenage electro fans bodypopping and spinning on their heads in deserted shopping centres. "Moistly" shimmers and surges with that odd mixture of nervousness and serenity that infused the classic Detroit techno of Derrick May and Carl Craig. And the beat-less tone-poem "Premacy" pierces your heart with its plangent poignancy.

Electronic music may be suffering from the cruel cycles of cool at the moment, but Sheath (ugh, I really don’t like that title) shows that music of quality and distinction is still coming from that quarter. Yet more proof (if any were still needed) that all-instrumental machine-music can be as emotionally evocative, as sensuously exquisite, as heart-tenderising and soul-nourishing as any rock group you care to mention. (Like for instance Radiohead, whose Thom Yorke, as it happens, was a huge fan of the Northern "bleep" tracks released by Warp in the early Nineties). One can only hope this album finds the audience it deserves.