Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Darkcore / Injustice" (Hate)
"Pretty Boys don't Survive Up North / Pretty Boys (gfuta Mix)" (Hate)
The Wire, November 2008

by Simon Reynolds

This double debut arrives clad in a back story that gives off a pungent whiff of "fishy". Supposedly, Unknown's two 12 inches are the first issues from a monster cache of 1991-1994 vintage, never-before-released ardkore rave. At a rendezvous on Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire earlier this year, a mystery man handed over "a carload full of dubplates and DAT tapes" from producers who wish to remain anonymous. The tall-seeming tale recalls the intrigue about that lost classic of Italodisco by Black Devil that Rephlex put out a few years back, which some alleged was really by Richard James and/or Luke Vibert (the latter of course put out his own faux-jungle EPs as, snigger, Amen Andrews). "Darkcore," the A-side of hate001, has the classic period signifiers down pat--mashed and smearily processed Amen breaks, reedy twilight-zone synths, tingle-triggering Morse Code riff. But there's something off about this track, from its disconcerting plinks of treated percussion to the peculiarly static and suspended quality of the groove, which you can't imagine mashing up any real ravefloor of the era. On the flipside "Injustice," two distinct rhythm tracks are placed in adjacence but never gell: a slow, ponderous beat (either proto-dubstep or post-dubstep, depending on whether this is the genuine article or a period pastiche) and a juddering, fever-dream groove redolent of 1993 classics like Potential Bad Boy's "Work the Box". Wisps of sick noise snake up from the depths of the mix, but the overall feel is dislocated and remote, like a faded memory, creating an atmosphere closer to the elegaic mirages spun by Burial or V/vm's "The Death of Rave". The second slab o' vinyl "Pretty Boys Don't Survive Up North" is more convincing: the jarringly off-kilter pattern of metallic snares is a dead ringer for Boogie Times Tribe's "The Dark Stranger" while the "gfuta mix" (done this year) makes the groove even more jagged while intensifying the Mentasm-synth until it's a writhing, maggoty cloud of malevolent sound hovering overhead. In the end, it doesn't really matter if this is a homage or a real-deal relic: these tunes are ruff enough to transport this aging raver right back there like a regular time machine.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

director's cut version, "Unofficial Channels" feature package, The Wire, November 2008

by Simon Reynolds

Easily the most precious sonic artifacts in my possession are the tapes I made of London pirate radio shows in the early Nineties. Everything else is replaceable, albeit in some cases at considerable effort and expense. But these ardkore rave and early jungle tapes are almost certainly irrecoverable: given the large number of stations active then, the sheer tonnage of 24 hours/Friday-Saturday-Sunday broadcasting, and the drug-messy non-professionalism of the DJ-and-MC crews of those days, it's highly likely my recording is the only documentation extant of any given show.

In which case, if only I'd used higher quality cassettes! Before I got wise, I'd tape over unwanted advance tapes from record labels: since the radio signal could often be poor, buying chrome blanks seemed a waste. Plus, in those early days, I wasn't doing it out of some archival preservationist impulse. Like a lot of ravers I was just taping to get hold of the music, something hard to do otherwise because deejays rarely identified tunes. Later I'd discover that many were dubplates that wouldn't be in the shops for months anyway; in some cases, they were test pressing experiments that never got released at all. I was taping simply to have the music to play through the week when the pirates mostly dropped off the airwaves, and in 1993, when I spent most of the year in New York, I took the tapes with me to keep the rave flame burning during my exile.

These relics of UK rave's heyday are editions-of-one because they're mutilated by my spontaneous editing decisions: switching between stations repeatedly when a pirate show's energy dimmed, or the DJ dropped a run of tracks I'd taped several times already; cutting off arbitrarily when I couldn't stay awake any longer, or dwindling into lameness because I'd left the tape running and went off to do something else. In the early days I often pressed 'pause' when the commercial breaks came on, something I now regret because those that survived are among my absolute favourite bits. With their goofy, made-on-the-fly quality, the ads for the big raves and the pirate station jingles contribute heavily to the dense layering of socio-cultural data and period vibes that make these tapes so valuable.

The crucial added element to these tapes, something you don't get from the original vinyl 12 inches played in isolation or even from the official DJ mix-tapes and mix-CDs of the era, is life. In two senses: the autobiographical imprint of my personal early Nineties, someone hurled disoriented into the vortex of the UK rave scene and still figuring it out, but also the live-and-direct looseness of deejays messily mixing together whatever new tunes were in the shops that week, of MCs randomizing further with their gritty and witty patter. The tapes are capsules of a living culture. Something about the mode of transmission itself seems to intensify the music, with radio's compression effect exaggerating hardcore's already imbalanced frequency spectrum of treble-sparkly high end and sub-bass rumblizm. Pirate deejays, typically mid-level jocks or amateurs, also took more risks than big-name DJs crowd-pleasing at the mega-raves. Playing to a home-listening or car-driving audience, the DJs mixed with an edge-of-chaos sloppiness and squeezed in some of the scene's odder output rather than just sticking to floor-filling anthems.

Oh, they're not all pure gold, these tapes. Many shows stayed stuck at "decent" or slumped outright into "tepid". But the ones that ignited… ooh gosh! The vital alchemical catalyst was invariably the MC. On some sessions, it's like a flash-of-the-spirit has possessed the rapper, as electrifying to the ears as a first-class Pentecostal preacher or demagogue; you sense the MC and the decktician spurring each other to higher heights. It tends to be the lesser knowns that thrill me most: not the famous big-rave jungle toasters like Moose or Five-O but forgotten figures like OC and Ryme Tyme, who forged unique styles that melded the commanding cadences and gruff rootsiness of U-Roy-style deejay talkover with the chirpy hyperkinesis of nutty rave, or collided barrow boy argy-bargy with B-boy human beatboxing. Some of these tapes I know so well that the tracks are inseparable from the chants and the chatter entwined around the drops and melody-riffs; years later when I finally worked out what the mystery tunes were and bought them, they sounded flat without that extra layer of rhythmatized speech thickening the breakbeat broth.

1992 to 1994, ardkore to darkcore to jungle, is the prime period for me. I seldom revisit the drum and bass years, when things got serious; things pick up again with the poptastic re-efflorescence of UK garage and 2step, when the number of London pirates resurged to its highest level. Grime is an odd one: I've got masses of tapes, and there's masses more to be found archived on the web, but the emergence of the MC as a capital A artist strikes me as a mixed blessing. With one eye on their career prospects (an album deal) the MCs increasingly came in with pre-written verses, reams of carefully crafted verbiage dropped with little regard to how it fit the groove. Pirate MCs always had an arsenal of signature catchphrases and mouth-music gimmicks, but with grime a vital element of ad-libbing improvisation got severely diminished. So excepting some 2002 tapes from grime's protozoan dawn, I've not got the same attachment or affection as I do for the classic rave sets.

Oddly, I've rarely found people who shared my obsession to anything like the same degree: a handful of collector-traders, and a guy called DJ Wrongspeed, whose fantastic Pirate Flava CD collaged the best bits from his now defunct Resonance FM series based around re-presenting pirate radio broadcasts. Often I've come across people who'll talk enthusiastically about recording the pirates "back in the day," only to reveal they'd long since taped over the cassettes, left them in the car to curdle in the heat, or just lost them. Aaaaargh!

But as a quick web search reveals, pirate tape fiends are out there lurking, and not just ones obsessed with the London-centric hardcore continuum: there's online archives and merchants for the original pirate radio of the 1960s (stations anchored in international waters or occupying abandoned offshore military forts) and sites dedicated to the land-based pirates of the Seventies and Eighties and to the Eighties hip hop mix-shows broadcast by London's pre-rave pirates. In terms of my particular addiction, you can find ardkore, jungle and UK garage sets archived at old skool sites, or offered for trade or sale; on various rave, drum'n'bass and dubstep message boards you'll come across individuals sharing huge caches of vintage transmissions.

The pirate penchant seems to be a minority taste within the larger niche market for DJ mix-tapes of the sort recorded through the sound board at the big commercial raves and then sold commercially through specialist record stores. People have been selling or swapping dupes of these sets for a dozen years at least (nostalgia for 1990-92 set in as early as 1996!). Today, an original Top Buzz mix-tape circa 1992, say, might fetch sixty pounds on Ebay. Strangely, from my point of view anyway, old skool fanatics generally prefer the slickly-mixed official releases to the vibe-rich but erratic pirate tapes; a lot of people just don't like MCs, it seems. But if, like me, you dig the brink-of-bedlam atmosphere of the pirate set, or are just curious to cop an in-the-raw feel of what it was like in those crazed days, seek out these online deposits of delirium:
A sizeable cache of 1989-97 shows, mostly from the London area.
Sets from two of my favourite stations of the 1992-93 "golden age"
Massive archive of broadcasts from Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, York, Huddersfield, Hull and other North of England stations, 1992 - 2006
Huge selection of pirate tapes, albeit for sale rather than download.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

albums round up / genre overview
Details, October 1991

by Simon Reynolds

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

THE STONE ROSES, interview
Melody Maker, June 3rd 1989

by Simon Reynolds

scan courtesy of Charles at

Leeds Polytechnic
Melody Maker, July 15th 1989

by Simon Reynolds

director's cut, Spin, May 1995

by Simon Reynolds

I guess you had to be there--probably Manchester, definitely England--to understand
how The Stone Roses came to matter so much in 1989.

Half-way through a coast-to-coast traipse across the US to promote their long-awaited sophomore effort Second Coming, the Stone Roses appear to have brought some of that infamous Mancunian weather with them--outside, it's pissing down, as LA enjoys its heaviest daily rainfall for a century.

Manchester's grey and gloomy image--partly based on the damp North of England climate, partly on the angst-rock legacy of Joy Division and The Smiths--was revolutionised in 1989. Thanks to pioneering house music clubs like The Hacienda, the Stone Roses' hometown became the mecca for 24 Hour Party People and smiley-faced hedonist ravers from across Britain; Manchester became 'Madchester'.

"The black kids had always had something going," remembers singer Ian
Brown. "1989 was the year white kids woke up." "Whitey could dance, with a pill in
'im," adds bassist Manny. Ecstasy catalysed an invincible feeling of change-is-gonna-come positivity, seemingly substantiated by events across the world. Along with luv'd up good vibes, E incites free-floating fervor and belief. Surfing these energy-currents of idealism and anticipation, the Roses gave the new mood a focus. "In early '89, when we did gigs, you could just feel the people willing you to go for it," remembers Brown.

Why did the Stones Roses become the Chosen Ones? None of the other Manc
bands--Happy Mondays, with their gutternsnipe funkadelia and drug-damaged doggerel, or spindly garage-psych revivalists Inspiral Carpets--really fitted the bill. But the Stone Roses had the classic four-man Brit-pop formation--sexy, simian frontman Ian Brown, introverted guitar-visionary John Squire, scallywag bassist Manny, shit-hot drummer/motormouth Reni. Collectively they exuded a charisma midway between Beatles and Sex Pistols. They had the tunes, too, the sort of soaring '60s melodies that will always make young hearts run free. And beneath the neo-psychedelia, they had a rare sense of groove, testifying to their immersion in '80s house and '70s funk.

Most crucially, they had the right attitude, alternately lippy and laidback. "We hate
tense people," John Squire told me back in '89, referring to the people "who are only
interested in making money and who ruin things for everybody else". 'Madchester' replaced the workaholic materialism of the '80s with a new spirit, encoded in the slang buzzword "baggy": loose-fitting clothes (like the infamous flares the band wore), loose-limbed dance rhythms, a loose-minded, take-it-as-it-comes optimism.

But if there was one factor above all that sealed the Roses' bond with their following, it was the band's cockiness, emblazoned in anthems like "I Wanna Be Adored" and "I Am The Resurrection", in choruses like "kiss me where the sun don't shine/the past is yours/the future's mine": a self-belief that reflected the audience's own E-fuelled sense of confidence.

Rave reviews and music papers covers followed, rather than created, the Roses
phenomenon; Manchester became big news worldwide, and such was the band's unstoppable momentum that they sold 300,000 copies of their self-titled debut LP in America without playing a note there. Everything came to a head in November '89, when Happy Mondays' "Hallelujah" and Stone Roses hypno-funk epic "Fool's Gold" both made the UK Top Ten.

After this triumph, 1990 saw the Roses struggling to articulate the perilously vague creed of "positivity" that Manchester represented. But the 28,000-strong outdoor Spike Island party they threw in May 1990 was botched by bad organization, and the next single "One Love" was an insipid retread of "Fool's Gold". Then things really went awry. Frustrated by an invidious contract with their label Silvertone, the Roses went to court, and found themselves in legal limbo, unable to record or release a note. The case dragged on until May '91, when the Roses were freed and immediately signed to Geffen. Then Silvertone appealed the verdict, paralysing the band for another year.

While the Roses were tangled in litigation, Manchester's living dream turned to nightmare. Once upon a time, remembers Brown, there was "a feeling of community
strength... coming out of a club at the end of the night feeling like you were going to change the world. Then guns come in, and heroin starts being put in Ecstasy. It took a lot of the love vibe out."

Drugs meant money; money meant gang warfare for market control. The Roses actually saw one Mancunian gang-leader get shot at a reggae concert in mid-1990. But it was a series of violent incidents at The Hacienda that most publically announced the souring of the 'Madchester' party. "Before the Hacienda got gun-detectors on the door, you'd see 16 year old kids standing at the bar with a gun in a holster, right on view," grimaces Brown.

Bad memories of this dark period inspired "Begging You", the most thrilling track on
the Roses new album. A hyperkinetic fusion of metal and techno, ballistic blues-rock
riffs and looped beats, "Begging", says Brown, evokes "sitting in a club, everything's beautiful, you're E'd up, and then some baby-gangster comes up and starts talking in your ear about how they can get you a gun or an ounce of this-or-that."

In any drug-based pop scene, there comes a point when the collective trip turns bad,
when the rush gives way to the CRASH. Trying to reach a higher high, "too many people take one too many", says Brown. Drugs get adulterated as dealers maximise profit margins. The clientele turns to more reliable, soul-corroding poisons (speed, crystal meth). Heroin enters the scene (often initially as a way of cushioning the comedown after nights of excess). And where once they were full of open minds and hearts, all of a sudden the clubs are populated by zombies and paranoiacs. It happened in Haight Ashbury in 1968, it happened in the London and Los Angeles rave scenes in the early '90s, but it was especially disillusioning when it happened to Manchester in 1990.

The Stones Roses severed itself from club culture. Manny, for so long "the rogue
Rose", even relocated to a small village in South Wales. Fourteen people he knew had died from heroin in one year: "Kids I'd known since I was seven. I've seen people I've never ever thought would take the drug, fucked. Me, I'll turn my back on them people, however much it hurts me. That's why I moved out of Manchester, I don't wanna be near it."


Their momentum fatally derailed by the court case, cut adrift from the scene that had
energized them, the Stone Roses found it hard to get going again. They spent much of
1992-93 travelling in Europe and otherwise enjoying the first fruits of their Geffen deal, worth $20 million over five albums. After a few false starts, they finally commenced concerted work on their second album in the summer of '93, only to get knocked off course by a series of deaths among people close to them, including their new manager. "It's been the whole spectrum--birth, death," Manny grins wryly.

For the Roses were also distracted by fatherhood: Reni had two sons (he also has a nine year old daughter he met for the first time only two years ago), Squire had a daughter and Ian a son. Even Manny's now set to be a dad in a few months time.

Problems with producers also delayed them: the first choice, John Leckie (who'd done
the debut) bailed out, unable to cope with the Roses' lackadaisical, jam-crazy attitude to studio-time (one six week, $60 thousand dollar session produced a single three minute ditty!). Even after settling down with engineer Simon Dawson at Rockfield Studios in Wales, the pace was steady but agonisingly slow: 347 ten-hour days in the studio to produce 78 minutes of music! "Maybe 50 of them days would just be us getting stoned listening to our favourite records through the studio system", says Ian, quite unabashed by the extravagance.

Even though they seemed to have jilted their fans, the Roses continued to figure
prominently in the 'Most Sorely Missed' category of the UK music papers' readership polls, next to that year's famous stiffs. In the abscence of solid information, bizarre rumours flourished: that the band were "junkie golf-maniacs", that they'd bought an entire fleet of Ford Fiestas which they drove through the Welsh country lanes with the lights off. (The truth is that there was one Ford Fiesta, in which Squire had three minor accidents: colliding with a cow, running over a pheasant and crashing into a car driven by veteran hippy guitarist Steve Hillage).

Finally, the LP was released in December last year, titled--with characteristic
immodesty--Second Coming. There are precious few precedents for a five-and-a-half year gap between debut and sequel. A year is a long, long time in UK pop; since Madchester, the trends and Next Big Things have come and gone--rave/rock crossover (Primal Scream, EMF etc), shoegaze, grunge, Suede's neo-glam rock, and most recently, the so-called Britpop Revival (Blur, Oasis, etc). Despite, or perhaps because of this, Second Coming was greeted with huge curiosity--not just concerning its reputedly Led-Zeppy contents, but whether it could could possibly matter like its predecessor. Could the Roses slip back into the swing of things after half a decade?

The band themselves seem pretty nonchalant. "Our momentum was definitely stopped," says Brown. "But I don't think anybody's took it off us. Suede or Blur aren't anywhere near where we were in 1990. I thought that after house music, things would leap forward. But they went back to the '70s--Bowie impersonators, drama students."

Ironically, the Roses themselves have gone backwards in order to go forwards.
Apart from "Begging You", the new album doesn't bridge the gap between rock and dance by forging a futuristic hybrid, but by harking back to a time when rock and dance weren't so separated, when guitar bands grooved. Before punk removed the swing and syncopation from rock, black funksters like The Meters and white raunch'n'rollers like ZZ Top or Aerosmith were coming from the same R&B source. As Reni puts it, "Led Zeppelin could have backed James Brown..."

The Roses have always been steeped deep in black music. Ian Brown's been listening
to a lot of Chess blues, to hip hop and contemporary Jamaican artists like Bounty Killer and Cutty Ranks; Mani digs "the stepper tunes of '70s reggae", bands like Culture and Burning Spear, singers like Big Youth and I Roy. "I've got 500 CD's, ten are by white artists," says Brown. "I'm not interested in what [whites] have got to say, they can't tell me nothing." He says he was "double 'umbled" when Run DMC sampled 'Fool's Gold' on their track "What's It All About"; entering the sampler's gene-pool of breakbeats and licks, alongside JB, was the ultimate accolade.


Five years on, the Roses seem barely to have aged. Apart from a pronounced diminishment in the width of their flares, they could almost have stepped out of a time capsule. They're still into dressing sharp (Brown, for instance, sports a natty deerstalker, originally acquired to shield his skull when he shaved his hair off after a disastrous stab at self-coiffure), and they're as sharp-witted as ever, too. In stark contrast to their public image (vacant, party-minded working class lads), the Roses aren't just smart, they're positively learned--discoursing at length on topics like the latest theories of the origins of mankind, crimes committed by the British empire, the way runaway slaves in the American South often joined Indian tribes, and so on. If they weren't so colloquial and salt-of-the-earthy, I'd almost dub them 'politically correct'.

Take their reverential attitude to women, as exemplified by the single "Love Spreads", a paean to matriarchy whose chorus goes 'the messiah is my sister/ain't no king, man, she's my queen'. According to Squire, the song's premise is "why should God be a white man with a beard?". Elsewhere on the album, "Daybreak" is an anti-Eurocentric homage to Africa as the Origin of human civilization. The band's comfy financial situation hasn't blunted the edge of its class-war politics, either (the debut album featured songs like the anti-royalist "Elizabeth My Dear" and "Bye Bye Badman", a diatribe directed at a May 1968 riot policeman). Reni probably speaks for the band when he says that his vision of utopia is "the weak people everywhere running government". And "Second Coming"'s catchiest tune is "How Do You Sleep?", a jaunty vial of vitriol targetted, says Squire, at "the people who make decisions that are guaranteed to cost lives, like sending troops into battle."


If Second Coming is anybody's record, it's John Squire's. Where the debut was a Squire/Brown affair, this time he wrote all but three of the songs; his pyrotechnic solos and swaggering riffs dominate. Squire describes the album as an exercise in "neo-classical homo-erotic eclecticism", an exploration of rock's most masculinist aspects--speed and noise, machinery and explosions.

"I wanted the first album to be harder, we sound kind of neutered. But can't you hear the second album trying to get out of the first one? The second half of 'Resurrection', that's the aggression coming out." Live, Squire used that song as a chance to freak-out, a la Hendrix circa "Third Stone From The Sun". Jimi remains a touchstone; he fondly remembers the "religious experience" of hearing Electric Ladyland for the first time, one "acid Christmas" in 1988.

Despite the late '60s influences in which his playing's steeped, Squire is, at 32,
one of the last of the original generation inspired to pick up an instrument by punk.
Hearing the Pistols' "God Save The Queen" was a revelation: "It became my mission in life to try to create something with that power, just the noise of that guitar." Before that, it'd had been the Beach Boys' "20 Golden Greats" and "me mum's Beatles LP's". This Pistols/Beatles blend is redolent of Kurt Cobain. Like Kurt, Squire is your classic female-identified man ("I prefer female company, and I enjoy seeing women in positions of power") who nonetheless has a 'warrior male' inside struggling to get out. One minute he's explaining how "Love Spreads" was inspired by Rosalind Miles' The Women's History of the World, an elegy for the lost utopia that existed before patriarchy; the next he'll talk about watching Apocalypse Now for the 15th time", then realising "that's like looking at hardcore porn and masturbating".

When I ask Squire which trait he most admires and envies in women, the answer is
revealing: their superior ability "to release tension" and the fact that they enjoy,
through their periods, "a monthly venting of spleen". Incredibly soft-spoken, impassive, restrained in his movements, Squire is your classic chronic introvert. His intensity seems to be vented entirely through the phallic panache of his playing, through his "violent dreams" and his painting. Originally influenced by Jackson Pollock ("a real rock'n'roll painter"), now into collage, Squire's canvases decorate all of the Roses record sleeves.

Squire's erstwhile creative partner Brown is a bit of a dreamer; his idea of utopia
is "living outside with Nature, getting down to the Great Spirit, full community, like the Red Indians". It's Squire's cynical streak ("I get the feeling that wherever we're going it, it's gonna be an empty surprise", he says at one point) that gives the Roses their edge. "On the first album, if ever a lyric was getting too slushy I'd give it a sick twist. I didn't have to try for this one." He cites the devotional ballad "Your Star Will Shine", an idyllic reverie about watching his daughter sleep, whose last lines catch you off guard: "your distant sun/will shine like the gun/that's trained right between your Daddy's eyes." The jolting image comes from guilt-pangs inspired by the premonition that he wasn't going to be the perfect dad, that rock'n'roll was gonna drag him away from his family.

That predicament isn't likely to improve: the Roses' recent choice of Doug
Goldstein (who handles Guns N' Roses) as their new manager, plus talk of the band doing Lollapalooza, reveal a serious intention to finally crack America this time.


Back in Britain, Second Coming got a mixed reception--seemingly less to do with the record (which most reviewers conceded was excellent, bar the odd misguided stab at pure blues) and more with an obscure resentment that the Roses, divorced from the cultural moment that gave them meaning, were now "just another band". Wryly noting the "schoolmasterly" tone of the reviews--"you've been very very naughty, you've been away too long and this isn't good enough to buy back our affections"--Squire puts his finger on it when he complains: "it's like we'd signed some kind of unoffical agreement!"

But that's exactly how it works with the bands that COUNT (as opposed to those who
merely put out good records). By some mysterious process, a contract between band and audience is sealed, often without the band's consent. Sometimes it's hard to say
precisely what's at stake. But with the Stone Roses, everything about them--the songs, the look, the 'tude--seem to have crystallized a sense of possibility. The Roses represented the brief return--just after the Smiths' miserabilism, just before grunge's gloom--of a long-lost and near-unthinkable '60s notion: that being young could be fun, a real cool time. "We were s'posed to be the hedonistic playboys of that era," muses Squire. "That was easier then, there was more money around in the late '80s. Maybe that's all we were, a reflection of that."

Now all the spaces of possibility are closed off. In Britain, the 'dole culture'
that originally allowed childhood chums Ian and John to avoid deciding what to do with their lives for several years, has been extinguished. The idea that a way of life beyond 9-to-5 drudgery is possible is fading fast. Now the only flight-paths are individualistic, the traditional escape routes (soccer, pop stardom) for glory-hungry working class jack-the-lads. Take Oasis, the band who ripped off the Roses'
nothing-can-stop-us arrogance and ambition shtick wholesale. The difference between Oasis and the Roses is that the latter always represented a shared sense of 'going somewhere', a collective hope. There was something generous and noble about their narcissism. Now hope (like everything else in Britain) has been privatized. And the Stone Roses are "just another band".

Manhattan Centre, New York
Melody Maker, May 1995

by Simon Reynolds

Then and now, there's a curious blankness at the heart of the Stone Roses phenomenon. Neither diehard devotees nor the band themselves seem able to articulate exactly why the Roses mattered so much. Because of this, the fervour that greeted The Stone Roses in 1989 and the bitterly disappointed response to Second Coming in '94, both seem--from a detached, non-partisan standpoint--equally out of proportion.

Perhaps, first time around, it was just a question of right place, right time. There's a theory that people fall in love when they're ripe, and project their latent amorousness onto the least unsuitable candidate to come along. In
Manchester, E seems to have facilitated the bonding process, as freefloating fervour and will-to-belief found a focus in the band; this spread to the rest of the country by plugging into Brit-rock's latent hunger for a Big Band, a four-man trad-guitar combo (the Smiths, the Jam; Suede, Oasis).

But why the Roses, and not, say The House Of Love? If there was a kernel of magic to the Roses (discounting their obvious assets i.e. good-to-great songs, Squire's
flair, the band's flares, the looselimbed rhythm section, the cryptic class-war lyrics), it's got to be that oft-cited, seldom elucidated intangible, 'attitude'. Really, it was just a self-confidence that fit the turn-of-decade positivity like
a glove, and briefly resurrected a heretical notion: that being young could be fun. The Roses' melodies had a soaring unfettered spirit that echoed the optimism that coursed through everything the Beatles did, even their sad songs.

That idea--adolescence as endless possibility as opposed to endless torment--seems illusory and irrecoverable, post Kurt and Richie, despite the insouciant efforts of jack-the-lad combos like Oasis, Supergrass etc. The difference between the Roses in '89 and Oasis in '95 is that the latter are all ME ME ME, a purely individualistic escape route from dead-end drudgery into self-willed rockstardom. With the Roses, it was more a case of WE, "we can all it make it out of this place": their narcissism was somehow on behalf of a community.

Anyway, right now the Roses are in the unenviable position (although the money probably eases the pain) of being just another band (now that everyone's copped their attitude and Sixties recycling is this nation's seventh most profitable industry). Divorced from the context that lent them the lustre of meaning, the Stone Roses must bear the brunt of everyone's disappointment (as if any band could
singlehandedly turn back the clock to the happy daze of '89/'90). They have to get by on good singin', good playin', on the trad virtues of their deeply traditionalist thang. In America, where the resonances of 'Madchester' were always impossibly remote, the Roses must above all make it as a ROCK BAND. And that's how they project themselves tonight.

After a mood-establishing prequel of Hendrix' "1983, A Merman I Should Turn To Be" (Electric Ladyland being a life-changing aural revelation for John Squire), the Roses EXPLODE onstage in a glare and blare of searchlights and overdriven guitar. They start, like they useta, with "I Wanna Be Adored", only now it's much heavier than before, a monolithic shock-wave of sound that almost obliterates Ian
Brown's wind-tunnel vocals. Next is "She Bangs The Drum"; all the lithe and lissom bouncincess of the original is exchanged for Steve Jones-like aggression ("God Save The Queen" being another formative moment for Squire). Apparently this is how the band wanted the debut LP to sound, until John Leckie got his emasculating hands on it.

What's weird about Second Coming, and about the Stone Roses tonight, is the way the band replay the entire 1965-72 era at once--from mid-Sixties beat through psychedelia to heavy rock-- but jumbled and anachronistic. So "10 Story
Love Song" has a Merseybeat melody but a Santana/Hendrix solo, while "Good Times" fast-forwards Brown's 1966 Manc mod whine to sit uneasily amidst blues-boogie bombastics circa 1970; the Crosby Stills & Nash acoustic balladry of "Tightrope" contrasts with the ZZ Top-isms of "Love Spreads". After Brown's done with his cod-bluesman jivetalk, "Daybreak" provides Squire with pretext and launching pad for an
extended fretboard freak-out, the kind of polychromatic ejaculation-fiesta last heard with Beck, Bogart & Appice's "Jizz Whizz". It sounds great, actually: along with J. Mascis, Squire's one of the very few contemporary guitarists
who can sustain a solo. If nothing else, this kind of phallocratic pyrotechnicism will get the band on the cover of all the muso guitar mags.

As you might have twigged, the guitarist dominates proceedings so extensively that it can only be a matter of time before the band is renamed the John Squire Blues
Explosion. Poor old Ian Brown (whose own 'instrument' is by comparison expressively rather limited) is utterly eclipsed by his schoolchum's onanistic exhibitionism. In truth, these days the Stone Roses' balls-out rockist furore really requires a singer as histrionic as Robert Plant; Brown emanates from an aesthetic universe whose cut-off point is 1967.

A band as good as the Roses can get by with one weak link, but not two. It's early days yet, but it looks like new sticksman Robbie Maddix is no replacement for Reni (one of the few great drummers this country's produced in the last decade). A rock band is a complex rhythmic engine, and you can't just replace a crucial component like Reni and expect things to swing along as groovily as before. The resultant
stiffness doesn't really mar the heavy-rock that most of the set comprises, but "Fool's Gold" is a farce: what was once exquisitely poised and in-the-pocket becomes clod-hopping, closer to funk-metal than baggy-beat.

Now that the Roses are hard rockin' muthas rather than dance-pop, "Begging You" works better as a rave/rock hybrid than "Fools". A weird crush-collision of blues rock and technorave dynamics, Yardbirds and Joey Beltram, "Begging" is
the set's highlight, just as it's the pinnacle of Second Coming. The song is apparently an evocation of that period in 1990/91 when the Madchester party soured: E'd up euphoria turned to edgy paranoia as punters necked one pill too many,
while the drug gangs' bloody struggle to control a lucrative market killed the luv vibe good'n'proper. 16 year old "baby-gangsters", as Brown puts it, stalked the Hacienda openly sporting guns and selling dodgy powders. With its churning
cylindrical groove and almighty turbine-roar guitar, the song sounds exactly like the panic rush of an E'd up raver wondering how and why the rave-dream's dying all around him.

"Begging" sort of begs the question: now the Manchester moment's long gone, what are the Stone Roses "about"? What are they good for? (More good-to-great songs? Yet another axe hero?). I don't think the Roses really know, and in some sense the blitzing bombast of their performance tonight masks that abscence; the volume is almost like a barrier between audience and band. You can barely see the players through the swirling dazzle of the lights; likewise, there's no banter from Brown to the crowd. Beneath the glare and the blare, that curious blankness remains.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Let's All Make Mistakes
Uncut, February 2001

by Simon Reynolds

Roseland, New York
Melody Maker, June 1st 1991

by Simon Reynolds

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Town and Country 2, London
Melody Maker, March 4th 1989

by Simon Reynolds

(One Littled Indian)
Melody Maker, 1990

by Simon Reynolds

The Limelight, New York
Melody Maker, February 22nd 1992

by Simon Reynolds

Bedlam, London
Melody Maker, August 19th 1989

by Simon Reynolds

interview, Melody Maker, November 18th 1989

by Simon Reynolds

cover feature, Melody Maker, July 30th 1990

by Simon Reynolds

Melody Maker, May 1991

by Simon Reynolds

these reissues in honor of the imminent (September 29th)deluxe edition double-disc reissues of 90 and Ex:cel

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Leisure Lounge, London
Melody Maker, June 25th 1994

by Simon Reynolds

director's cut, Observer Music Monthly, September 2003

by Simon Reynolds

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.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

ADAMSKI, interview
Melody Maker, September 22nd 1990

by Simon Reynolds

typo nuance lost alert -- it wasn't that he smoked that was yukky or that he drank milk that was yukky, it was that he was puffing on a Marlboro while sipping on a carton of milk that was yukky

scan courtesy of Charles at Archived Music Press blog

Friday, August 8, 2008

United Kingdoms
Melody Maker, August 28th 1993

by Simon Reynolds

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dazed and Confused, spring 2008

by Simon Reynolds

Everybody knows the famous saying, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture" (attributed variously to Frank Zappa, Thelonious Monk, and Elvis Costello). Some may have heard, or independently come up with, the less-famous retort: "hmmm, 'dancing about architecture' --that actually sounds cool, like some kind of performance art, street theater thing". The erudite will also point to Goethe's famous dictum: "architecture is frozen music". But amid all this merry perennial back-and-forth about the futility and absurdity of music criticism, no one ever addresses the burning issue of our epoch: why do dance journalists never talk about dancing?

It's true, you know. Scrutinise the features on new genres and scenes in Mixmag or DJ, dredge up your back copies of now-deceased publications like Muzik and Ministry. There'll be stuff on leading deejays and producers, about crucial labels and clubs; the geneaology of the sound will be traced, its location in the contemporary genrescape will be situated. But invariably there'll barely be a single reference to the music's primary function and its fans' major form of expressive response: getting down, shaking stuff, throwing shapes. What's odd about this deficit of attention is that the different styles of dancing play a huge role in creating each scene's vibe. Second only to the music itself, dancing is what supplies the colour and character of dance subcultures. The ritualized crowd responses: rewinds in jungle, UK garage, grime, dubstep. The mass Pavlovian reflexes: all the builds and drops built into the music that are only meaningful because of the way they trigger collective responses like hands flying in the air at the breakdown.

So why don’t dance writers deal with this stuff? Are they just not terribly observant? Or does it seem too obvious to talk about? Perhaps it's felt to be non-revlealing compared to establishing who pioneered such-and-such a sound, or what piece of technology underpins the genre. Maybe it smacks too much of anthropologists monitoring the tribe's rituals. I wonder if it's got something to do with the dance mags' original orientation, which was very much towards servicing deejays . And deejays are notorious for never dancing, possibly because it's too much of a role reversal for them to let themselves be 'controlled' by another deejay.

In my rave culture chronicle Energy Flash, just reissued in an expanded update with material on the last decade of dance, I do regularly take a close look at how the massive moves to the ever-changing grooves. From trance's ecstastic, arms-aloft, open-body gestures to junglist's shadow-boxing and panther steps, the way people dance tells you a lot about the spirit of the scene. Trance offers a quasi-mystical refuge from reality, whereas jungle is about bringing the street's tension and dread onto the dancefloor. In America, the rave style of dancing known as "liquid"--full of complex undulating moves that bring to mind the rippling frond-like shapes of Mandelbrot fractals--gives you a good clue to what drugs these kids are on, but also expresses the deep philosophical principles of America's version of rave (all those cyberdelic stuff about data flow and connectivity).

Gabba dancing started out looking like a cross between kickboxing and skating (loads of motion, but only below the knees) and has recently evolved into "jumpstyle" (imagine speedfreaks Morris dancing on a freshly buttered pavement). But the common thread is a folk dance-like quality that totally fits the Nordic funklessness of gabba music. You can even tell something from when people don't dance, whether it's grime (where fans either mosh frenziedly, or stand stock-still headnodding to the word-flow) or microhouse, where those who do dance jig about in a mild, indistinct sort of way but an awful lot of punters just seem to be there to drink and talk.

I follow these shifts and differences in dancefloor behavior not just because of the sociological information they manifest, but because it's fascinating. And as someone who's moved through a number of scenes over the years as a participant-observer, I've noticed how quickly you become trained in the right way to move. Immersion in the massive triggers our human impulse to fit in, belong, share. I love to watch dancers, both the exceptionally graceful virtuosos in every crowd and the multitude's standardised moving-and-grooving. But I also like to have a go, to join the crowd and contribute in my own small and clumsy way to the tribe-vibe. Dancing is the surest way to get inside the music, to feel it and know it (in almost the Biblical sense). The music is the screenplay, but it's we the dancers who make the movie.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blissout aka A White Rave Aesthete Thinks Aloud website, 1999

by Simon Reynolds

Researching my rave history, I slogged through scores of books looking
for juicy quotes. Maybe I have a warped perspective, but I was stunned how frequently Adorno or Deleuze & Guattari or Virilio or even Harold fucking Bloom seemed to be talking about jungle, gabba, pirate radio, MDMA, Basic Channel, and so forth. In the event, most of the quotes I gathered never ended up in the book. But
waste not want not --here I offer a do-it-yourself rave theory
tool kit: raw material for you to construct your own analyses of your
favourite post-rave sub-genre. Have fun......


"Now I am light, now I fly, now I see myself beneath myself, now a
god dances through me!" ---Friedrich Nietzche

"[A] will for glory exists in us which would that we live like suns,
squandering our goods and our life" ---Georges Bataille

"A dizziness that reduced [the] environment to a sort of
luminous chaos" ---Paul Virilio, Aesthetics of Disappearance

"All energy must ultimately be spent pointlessly and unreservedly,
the only questions being where, when, and in whose name this useless discharge
will occur," --Nick Land, The Thirst For Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism


"[Heavenly angelhood is] a tensely vital peace, and... a calm yet
active ecstasy" --Harold Bloom, Omens of Millenium: The Gnosis of Angels, Dreams, and Resurrection.

"Extremely subtle, brilliant particles of some immaterial substance,
shooting up and down, this way and that, combining to present an appearance of a circling, shimmering pool of light" ---June Singer on kundalini energy in Androgyny: Towards A New Theory Of Sexuality

"[Tao, the body-without-organs, the courtly lover etc] testifies... to
an achieved state in which desire no longer lacks anything but finds itself and
constructs its own field of immanence" --Gilles Deleuze & Felix
Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

"To be drugged by the embrace of nature into what we call most natural
in us, our sleepiness and our sexual desires, is at once a pleasant and an
unhappy fate, since what remains immortal in us is both androgynous and sleepless. So get right on one, matey" --Harold Bloom, Omens of Millenium. I tampered with this quote


"Their ecstasy is without content.... The ecstasy takes possession of its
object by its own compulsive character. It is stylised like the ecstasies savages
go into in beating the war drums. It has convulsive aspects reminescent of St
Vitus's dance or the reflexes of mutilated animals. ... The same jitterbugs
who behave as if they were electrified by syncopation, dance almost exclusively the
good rhythmic parts" --Theodor Adorno "On The Fetish-Character in Music and the
Regression of Listening"

"Why are rhythmical sounds and motions so especially contagious? A
rhythmical call to the crowd easily foments mass ecstasy: 'Duce! Duce! Duce!'.
The call repeats itself into the infinite and liberates the mind of all reasonable
inhibitions.... as in drug addiction, a thousand years of civilisation
fall away in a moment.... Rock'n'roll is a sign of depersonalisation of
the individual, of ecstatic veneration of mental decline and passivity. If we cannot stem the tide with its waves of rhythmic narcosis... we are preparing our own downfall in the midst of pandemic funeral dances. The dance craze is the infantile rage and outlet of our actual world." ---Dr Joost A.M. Meerlo, New York Times, 1957

"Epidemic Tanzwuth [Medieval dancing mania or St. Vitus Dance] was
characterised by 'stimulating' music and fits of wild dancing, leaping, hopping, and clapping that ended in syncope [fainting]. The condition was not always unpleasant;
victims sought out musicians to play the music that brought on symptoms,
and sometimes they planned for annual attacks. Physicians documented such
familiar features as hyperventilation, tachycardia, palpitation, and histories of recent fasting, lack of sleep and binge drinking of wine.... [Youths] followed
minstrels who played intoxicating music on noisy instruments with shrill
tones to 'demoniacal festival[s] for the rude multitudes'. Tarantism, an Italian
version of Tanzwuth superstitiously linked to tarantual bites, affected
young victims dressed in curious vests and necklaces and such-like ornaments... [and] clothes of a gay color.... Mass fainting at rock concerts may simply be an old
phenomenon reappearing in a new electronic age." ---New England Journal of
, Volume 333 No. 20.

"Not a public scene or true public space but gigantic spaces of
circulation, ventilation and ephemeral connection." Jean Baudrillard, Simulations

"They call themselves 'jitter-bugs', bugs which carry out reflex
movements, performers of their own ecstasy. Merely to be carried away by anything at all, to have something of their own, compensates for their impoverished and barren
existence." Theodor Adorno, "Perennial Fashion - Jazz"


"The totality of all BwO's [bodies-without-organs].... a fusional
multiplicity that effectively goes beyond any opposition between the one
and the multiple" ---Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

"The compensation for schizophonia [the splitting of musical sounds from
their embodied human source through recording and commodification] is precisely in the creative responses.... ranting and raving... leveling and digging
and dubbing and rapping. Singing along.... getting into humanising and personalising
mechanical processes". ---Steve Feld, Music Grooves


"We have grown used to connecting machines and funkiness"
-----Andrew Goodwin, "Rationalisation and Democratisation in the New Technologies of Popular Music". In Lull, James, ed. Popular Music and Communication.

"Music is nothing but organised noise. You can take anything
-- street sounds, us talking, whatever you want -- and make it music by organising it" --Hank Shocklee of the Bomb Squad/Public Enemy.

"What I want to suggest here is that the machine too, is, in a sense,
'created' by the user in the act of making music' --Paul Theberge, Any Sound You Can Imagine: Making Music/Consuming Technology.

"We don't like musicians. We don't respect musicians.. We have a better
sense of music, a better concept of music, of where it's going, of what it can do" --Hank Shocklee (quoted in Rose, Tricia. Black Noise)


"A sort of musical children's language is prepared for them; it differs
from the real thing in that its vocabulary consists exclusively of fragments and
distortions of the artistic language of music... It swarms with
mistakes in phrasing and harmony. There are wrong pitches, incorrect doublings of thirds, fifth and octave progression, and all sorts of illogical treatments of voices, sometimes in the bass.... No less characteristic of the regressive musical
language is the quotation. Its use ranges from the conscious quotatioin of folk
and children's songs, by way of ambiguous and half accidental allusions,
to completely latent similarities and associations"
--Theodor Adorno --who died twenty years before Prodigy's "Charly", Agent Orange's "Sounds a Bit Flakey", Smart E's "Sesame's Treet", Bolt's "Horsepower", Urban Hype's "Trip To Trumpton", E-Kude's "Weed", Major Malfunction's "Ice Cream Van", Shaft's "Roobard & Custard" et al-- from "On The Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening",

"The joyous freedom and inexplicable obedience to will in the play
of musical movement is, according to my opinion, a regressive repetition and idealised intensification of bodily pleasure in that early period of infancy, when the discovery of limbs is followed by the gradual mastery of the whole body"
--Richard Sterba


"[The 'black hole' is] a BwO [body-without-organs] that shatters
all the strata, turns immediately into a body of nothingness, pure self-destruction whose only outcome is death.... There is a fascist use of drugs, or a suicidal use."
--Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

"A panic search for identity which, like the laws of
mechanical thermodynamics, alternates between the inertia of indifference and the ecstasy of intense affects" ---Arthur Kroker, The Possessed Individual: Technology and the French Postmodern.

"From the assemblage of sounds to the Machine that renders it sonorous,
from the becoming-child of the musician to the becoming-cosmic of the child, many dangers crop up: black holes, closures, paralysis of the finger and auditory
hallucinations, Schumann's madness, cosmic force gone bad, a note that pursues
you, a sound that transfixes you." --Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand


"Similarly, loud, aggressive drum sounds are often referred to
[by studio engineers] as 'rude'" --Paul Theberge, Any Sound You Can Imagine

"['Lift-up-over-sounding'] creates a feeling of continuous layers,
sequential but not linear; nongapped multiple presences and densities; overlapping chunks without internal breaks, a spiralling, arching motion tumbling slightly forward, thinning, then thickening again..." Charles Keil and Steve Feld, Music Grooves

"Since the Atlantic slave trade, ancient African organising principles
of song and dance have crossed the seas from the Old World to the New. There they took on a new momentum, intermingling with each other and with New World
or European styles of singing and dance. Among those principles are the dominance of a percussive performance style (attack and vital aliveness in sound and motion); a
propensity for multiple meter (competing meters sounding all at
once); overlapping call and response in singing (solo/chorus, voice/instrument
--"interlock systems" of performance); inner pulse control (a "metronome sense",
keeping a beat indelibly in mind as a rhythmic common denominator in
a welter of different meters); suspended accentuation patterning (offbeat phrasing of melodic and choreographic accent); and... songs and dances of social allusion
(music which, however danceable and "swinging", remorsely contrasts social
imperfections against implied criteria for perfect living)." --Robert Farris
Thompson, Flash of The Spirit: African and Afro- American Art and Philosophy

"[Faced with vast networks of power, the individual] can henceforth only
try to outwit them, to pull tricks on them, to rediscover within an electronicised and computerised megalopolis, the 'art' of the hunters and rural folk
of earlier days". --Michel deCerteau, The Practice of Everyday Life

"Anxious melancholy and manic buoyancy.... Frenzy and inertia,
ecstasy and catastrophe, speed and slowness" --Arthur Kroker and Michael A. Weinstein, Data
Trash: The Theory of the Virtual Class

"Let us imagine these hip hop principles as a blueprint for social
resistance and affirmation: create sustaining narratives, accumulate them, layer,
embellish, and transform them. However, be also prepared for rupture,
find pleasure in it, in fact, plan on social rupture" --Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America.


"The vortex of vulvo-cosmic dissolution" --Nick Land,
The Thirst For Annihilation


"Speed is a key category for the soldier body. It needs to heat up, rev up,
and race physically, before charging physically toward the site on which it
expects to experience itself in the streaming of pleasure" ---Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies

"Almost everything that has happened in the mass domains of
non-institutional pharmacology, sexuality and electric music in the wake of this conflict [the Vietnam War] attests strongly to such a longing. What is desired is that one be 'wiped out'" --Nick Land, The Thirst For Annihilation

"Homo-eroticism... lubes the merger with the war machine"
- Lawrence A. Rickels, "Psy Fi", from Alphabet City, issues 4 & 5: "Fascism and its Ghosts"

"[Dance music] immediately expressed their desire to obey...
Coordinated battalions of mechanical collectivity... Thus do the obedient
inherit the earth" --Theodor Adorno, who died twenty years before Inferno Bros.'s "Slaves To The Rave"

"Music has a thirst for destruction, every kind of destruction,
extinction, breakage, dislocation. Is that not its potential 'fascism'?" --Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus


"Atonal punk reggae scored for gamelan, synthesiser,
saxophone & drums -- electric boogie lyrics sung by aetherial children's choir -- ontological anarchist lyrics, a cross between Hafez & Pancho Villa, Li Po & Bakunin, Kabir & Tzara -- call it 'CHAOS - The Rock Video!'... No... probably just a dream. Too expensive to produce, & besides, who would see it? Not the kids it was meant to
seduce. Pirate TV is a futile fantasy...."

....but pirate radio ain't! Hakim Bey, from Chaos: The Broadsheets of Ontological Anarchism

"A throng of dialects, patois, slangs, and specialised
languages." --Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus


"The hybrid posed a special problem for those who worried about
purity of forms... and unnatural mixtures... The metaphyiscal and physical dangers thought to inhere in artificial grafts surfaced in threatening metaphors of infection, contamination, rape and bastardy." ---Barbara Stafford, Body Criticism: Imagining the Unseen in Enlightenment Art and Medecine. (Compare with D. May on breakbeat hardcore as a "diabolical mutation, a Frankenstein monster" and "I don't even like to use the word 'techno' because it's been bastardised and
prostituted in every form you can possibly imagine", or E. Fowlkes on UK rave as
"cultural rape" of Detroit techno).


"Nothing classifies somebody more than the way he or she classifies"
--Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste

"Styles of music intended for dancing have a way of evolving into
music for listeners only" --Charles Keil and Steve Feld, Music Grooves


"Competition on the culture market has proved the effectiveness of
a number of techniques, including syncopation, semi-vocal, semi-instrumental sounds,
gliding, impressionistic harmonies and opulent instrumentation which
suggests that 'nothing is too good for us'" ---Theodor Adorno, "Perennial Fashion - Jazz"


"Hegemony, like truth, is what people come to believe, so we can't really
know what is or was at stake in a style until it has run its organic course."
---Charles Keil, Music Grooves


"We now longer feel that we penetrate the future, futures
now penetrate us" --John Clute, introduction to Interzone: The Second Anthology.

"The result is neither ecstasy nor alienation, but some deeply
ambivalent entwining of the two" --Scott Bukatman, Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject In Postmodern Science Fiction

"A terminal blast of music... the field across which bodies are coded,
tattooed and signified in an endless circulation of spectral emotions" --Arthur Kroker, The Possessed Individual--possibly after listening to Torque -- possibly not.


"The film is the art form that is in keeping with the increased threat
to his life which modern man has to face. Man's need to expose himself to shock effects is his adjustment to the dangers threatening him. The film corresponds to
profound changes in the apperceptive apparatus" --Walter Benjamin, 'The Work of
Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction'

"An auditory zoom-lens that scans from micro to wide-angle to
telephoto as figure and ground shift" --Charles Keil and Steve Feld, Music Grooves


"The glissades of datascape mastery"
--Scott Bukatman, Terminal Identity


"Moment time uses the linearity of listening to destroy
the linearity of time" -- Jonathan Kramer, The Time of Music

"The richer the sensory interface, the more reduced is the function
of narrative" -- Scott Bukatman, Terminal Identity


"A will to nothingness... A will running counter to life, a revolt
against the most fundamental presuppositions of life, yet it is and remains a will! And, to repeat at the end what I said in the beginning: rather than want nothing, man even wants nothingness" --Friedrich Nietzche, The Genealogy of Morals


"[The] principle of asignifying rupture [is opposed to] the
oversignifying breaks separating structures or cutting across a single structure. A rhizome may be broken, shattered at at given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines... Musical form, right down to its ruptures and
proliferations, is comparable to a weed, a rhizome." --Deleuze & Guattari, A
Thousand Plateaus


"A universe of ambivalent signs flickering randomly between psychosis and

"This terrible terrain of decoded flows, dematerialised bodies,
and decontextualised desire"

"Cold seduction, then, for a cool hallucinatory culture of
special effects personalities moving at warp speed to nowhere."

---all from Arthur Kroker, The Possessed Individual

"... archived body parts are disguised in the binary functionality of
data and pooled into larger circulatory flows..."

"... Nietzche's body and conscience vivisectionists, vampiring
organic flesh, and draining its fluids into cold streams of telemetry...."

"... the harvesting of the energy from the local and the bounded for
the global and unbounded.... Ours is a time of non-history that is super-charged by the spectacular flame-out of the detritus of the bounded energy of local histories"

---all from Arthur Kroker and Michael A.Weinstein, Data Trash

"[The sampladelic producer is] a cybernetic pathogen,part-predator/part-parasite, always engaged in a sadistic hunt for unlikely new sound combinations"

"Here is where all the experimental breakthroughs
are being made in understanding the unfolding cultural logic of technological society: looping, partitioning, layering, panning, aliasing, filtering, mutating... We can actually hear our approaching fate as we are sampled for our history, dreams.
and destiny".

"Just like virtual sound-objects in sampler music technology, subjectivity
today is a gaseous element, expanding and contracting, time-stretched, cross-faded,
and sound-accelerated."

"Sleights of ear, mirror shifts of sound, waveforms, sound warps,
phasal noise: this is the illusional space that marks the imaginary territory of the digital ear."

" urgent requirement emerges to speed up the ear to match the
aural velocity of digital reality, to pump up the genetics of hearing to equal the
sounds of the datascape. Sampling technology, therefore, as a filter for
mutant eardrums..."

"Music, then, as a force field through which processed subjects pass,
with its privileging of pure speed, of sound approaching the velocity of light; with its vectoring of random subjects across a keyboard of outered emotions; with its
inscription of the codes of frenzy and desire onto the body without organs; and
with its fatal promise of pure inertia when the sound switches off and all the
dancing bodies collapses."

"Which is to say that culture is not a reflex of political economy, but
that society is now a reflex of key shifts in music theory and practice....
[Sampladelia is] the sound made by those early-twentieth-century discoveries
in particle physics and relativiity theory, the projection of the minds of
Einstein, Heisenbery, and Bohr, their fateful explorations of liquid time,
curving space, uncertainty fields and relativity theorems, into densely
configured and fully ambivalent android music tracks"

---all from Arthur Kroker, Spasm: Virtual Reality, Android Music and Electric Flesh.


"Music seems to have a much stronger deterritorialising force, at once
more intense and much more collective" --Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

"There are no longer any necessary connections between culture and politics:
it is possible to be culturally hip, yet politically reactionary." --Arthur Kroker,

"We didn't get a proletarian revolution. I think the only thing we did get
was style" --Charles Keil, Music Grooves

"IT DIDN'T MEAN NOTHING" ---Jarvis Cocker, sleevenotes for
"Sorted For E's And Whizz"

[Any suggestions for further additions to the tool kit are welcomed]

director's cut / extended mix, eMusic, 2007

by Simon Reynolds


Rave was the last blast of full-on futurism in the mainstream of pop culture. Okay, there’s certainly been some mind-and-body bending rhythmic science going on in rap and R&B and (in Britain) the whole 2step/UK garage/grime explosion. But a lot of the futuristic electronic tones in hip hop have actually been echoes or steals from rave (OutKast are big fans of drum’n’bass, Timbaland digs the Prodigy, Lil Jon heard house music in Atlanta strip clubs and stole the riffs for Usher’s “Yeah”). And rap/R&B/2step/grime have a lot more truck with conventional pop structures and the whole star system of videogenic charisma, personality and sex appeal. Whereas rave, at its purest, was about “faceless techno bollocks”. The producers typically hid between machinic/robotic/numeric aliases (Nexus 21, 808 State), vocals were either absent or they were sampled soundbites that simply didn’t have the focal prominence that the singer has in pop. The whole culture was organized around a credo of anonymous collectivity, a radical egalitarianism where there were no stars. Okay, admittedly that changed quite a bit as rave became an industry, with DJs getting treated as celebrities. But early on the audience didn’t turn their faces to the DJ booth (which was tucked away in some dark corner rather than on a podium), they looked at each other, buzzing on the spectacle of mass delirium, the synchronized collective rush of thousands of people “coming up” at the same time.

Ecstasy opened a lot of minds to listening to abstract instrumental music that had no truck with verse-chorus-verse structure or conventional hooks. As Graham Massey of 808 State (whose album 90 is one of the dozen rave picks below) put it in 1989: "Mainstream clubs are just so out there and futuristic. You get beer boys and Sharons and Tracies dancing to the weirdest crap going. Yer average Joe Bloggs is dancing to stuff that's basically avant-garde.”

This makes the music sound slightly forbidding. Rave music could be dark and sinister, and at its more extreme end, the pounding beats, rapid-fire tempos, and searing synth-noise could make for a punishing experience. But the best of it was fierce fun, a rampage of celebration and euphoria. A lot of it was actually explosively poptastic, scattering hooks and melody-shrapnel every-which-way. Rave was pop too in the sense that it charged its way out of the underground and into the UK charts, a tidal wave that crested in the second half of 1991 and first half of 1992, when hardcore ruled the nation, and then enjoyed various resurgences, like the big beat explosion of Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim or the trance wave of the late 90s. This selection concentrates on the early part of that decade, but also includes a honored precursor and a fond homage.

Various Artists
The Todd Terry Trilogy: Past, Present & Future
Loudhouse Records / INgrooves

Although it was Chicago acid house that ignited the firestorm of rave culture in the UK, British rave music would ultimately be influenced more by the sounds coming out New York during the late Eighties. The Northern “bleep” style associated with Unique 3 and Warp acts like Sweet Exorcist and LFO owed a massive amount to the New York post-electro label Cutting and its acts like Nitro Deluxe, whose “Let’s Get Brutal” pioneered a style of bass-heavy and skeletally minimalist house music. And the breakbeat-driven hardcore rave style was hugely influenced by Todd Terry’s mental merger of house and hip hop. Remote in sound and spirit from the house styles we usually associate with New York (i.e. the soulful, lushly produced garage of labels like Strictly Rhythm and Nu Groove), Terry’s music was brash and street-raw, a fast-money music of uncleared samples, phat bass, and kickin’ beats. Just as Terry’s hybrid sound was vital impurist, so his insanely prolific output (the “various artists” on this overview are all him operating under different aliases) was fueled by an impure mixture of mercenary and artistic impulses. The muddy motivations proved to be fertile soil though, because even when recycling his own most successful riffs, he invariably reworked them and made them even deranged. Terry’s production of the Jungle Brothers’ “I’ll House You” basically super-imposed the group’s hip-housy rapping over his own Royal House track “Can You Feel It”, which had been a monster UK hit in the acid house-crazed summer of 1988. But he’d already versioned that track once before as the incredible “Party People”, a sort of drastic dub of “Can You Feel It” that turned reverbed after-traces of piano and vocal hubbub into a juddering pulse-riff. The effect is at once slammin’ and ethereal, like the air itself is wracked and palsied with disco fever. On this track and other early Terry tunes, the production has a curious cavernous, clanking quality, making you feel like you’re in a bunker-like space full of sound-reflections and muffled noise. Whether deliberate or a by-product of lo-fi studio conditions, the effect of playing them in a club must have been to double the “in the club” feel.

With this thrifty trackmaster (““I’m not a writer of songs, they’re too much trouble”, he once said) you don’t get any of the preciousness associated with, say, the Detroit techno auteurs. Terry wants to rock the party and he wants to get paid in full; his avant-gardism is almost a byproduct of the drive to catch listeners ears with crazy-making effects. Where your average New York producer would coat Dinosaur L’s mutant disco classic and Paradise Garage anthem “Go Bang” in an aspic of veneration, Terry eviscerated its nagging vocal riff for use in his own “Bango”. There are too many classics on this comprehensive anthology to list, but one deserves special mention: Black Riot’s “A Day in the Life”, its nagging techno motif and “fee-eee-eel it” sample-riff essentially making it the first UK hardcore track.

808 State

UK rave sucked a bizarrely disparate array of folk into the maw of its madness: Ecstasy-blitzed teens stepping out on the dance scene for the first time, B-boys derailed from their attempt to build a Britrap scene by the phuture shock of acid house, clubland types who’d frequented the soul/funk/jazz oriented scene of the Eighties but then had their minds blown. There were also a surprising large number of relatively elderly postpunk veterans and industrial types, people who’d spent the 1980s in the wilderness thanks to the return of guitar bands in independent music, only to find the kind of avant-funk grooves and electronic textures they’d championed suddenly becoming hugely popular on a mass plebeian level that had previously seemed way beyond the bounds of possibility.

808 State encapsulated UK rave’s motley demographics. Graham Massey, their main music guy, had been in the Manchester industrial outfit Biting Tongues. He hooked up with Martin Price, owner of the city’s premier indie rock/underground dance record store Eastern Bloc. These two older guys were joined by two virtual children, Andrew Barker and Darren Partington, a teenage DJ duo who went by the name the Spinmasters and played hip hop and house on Manchester pirate radio station. In its early days, 808 also included Gerald Simpson, better known as A Guy Called Gerald of “Voodoo Ray” fame, a black Mancunian electro-head and jazz-fusion connoisseur.

This rich mulch of inputs informs Ninety, actually 808’s third album but their first big-time release, coming out on ZTT. 808’s first hit “Pacific State” a/k/a “Pacific 202” was hailed as “New Age house” on account of its soothing sax sample and dawn chorus of sampled bird-trills, which made it perfect "coming down" music for the out-door rave as the sun rises. Still fondly regarded as a “golden age of rave” anthem , “Pacific” is actually the slightest thing here. Far more impressive are "Magical Dream," a dance of golden lights that invites you to "close your eyes and disappear"; the poignant "Ancodia", which turns samples of close harmony soul into an heavenly host hovering over a dense undergrowth of rainforest rhythms; and "Sunrise", its tendrils of flute and lambent horizons of synth making you picture a Polynesian island at dawn. Overall, the 808 State vibe is Weather Report meets Detroit techno.

The group’s 1991 sequel Ex:el is equally excellent, featuring more excursions into jazz-inflected exotica but also harder tracks like “Cubik” and “In Yer Face” attuned to the prevailing Belgian techno style of the day. There’s a couple of collaborations with name vocalists, including Bjork, prefiguring Massey’s later contributions as producer to her classic 1995 album Post.

Who's that Beat ? / Vital:PIAS Digital

For a couple of years in the early 90s, Belgium ruled rave culture, spewing out a series of innovatively abrasive tunes that rocked ravefloors across the world while also upsetting droves of Chicago house/Detroit techno purists, who saw the style as eradicating techno’s links to black music altogether. And its true, the Belgian sound, as pioneered by labels like Hithouse, Who’s That Beat, R&S and 80 Aum, did turn away from the Afro-American wellspring and drink deep on strictly Euro sources. Its secret ingredients were a strong dose of Electronic Body Music, that stiff-jointed but dancefloor oriented offshoot of industrial trailblazed by Belgium’s own Front 242, and a pungent tang of classical music, especially the more sturm und drang-y Carl Orff/Wagner end of it.

Out of all the Belgian hardcore hitmakers, t.99 were the biggest crossover success, reaching #14 in the UK charts in May 1991 with “Anasthasia” and also scoring with the near-identical “Noctune”. The principal hook in “Anasthasia” is a hard-angled stab pattern playing what sounds like a choral sample (possibly the famous “O Fortuna” sequence of Orff’s Carmina Burana). The intro to the track, a female voice saying “music, maestro, please” is at once a nod to the quasi-classical vibe of the tune and an advance rejoinder to the horrified hordes of house purists who would decry this slice of brutalist bombast as “just not music”. Actually the parts of “Anasthasia” that don’t feature the portentous fanfare-blare of the riff are quite pleasant: a chugging Euro-haus groove topped with wafting synths, almost like “Pacific State” without that cheesy saxophone. But the harsh ‘n’ doomy hook-stab does always return at regular intervals, sounding a bit like a flock of crows cackling in scorn. The four mixes are fairly indistinguishable (this was a time when remixes were precisely that, remixes, as opposed to virtually brand-new tracks), the “Out of History” version perhaps having the edge by a whisker. That’s an intriguing sub-title, actually: were t.99’s Patrick de Meyer and Olivier Abbeloos hinting that rave was a gigantic exodus of disaffected and politically disengaged youth leaving reality behind for a utopia of druggy noise? Or was the idea more apocalyptic, as in “we’re running out of time”? Or a bit of both, as suggested by the title of the debut t.99 album Children of Chaos? Sadly, following its 1992 release, the duo themselves headed straight for the dustbin of (dance) history.

The Prodigy
Charly EP
XL Recordings

The Prodigy’s career could be Exhibit A in the case claiming that rave, far from being anti-rock (like its precursor sounds techno and house) was in fact a futurised reinvention of rock. From ‘ardkore classics like “Everybody in the Place” and “Out of Space” to the digi-punk and Oi!-tronica of “Firestarter” and “Breathe”, the core essence of Prodigy is a teen rampage spirit of bring-the-noise mayhem. Producer Liam Howlett is a riff-master on a par with AC/DC’s Angus Young, while his grasp of tension-and-release, build-and-breakdown dynamics is as consummate as genius pulp hitmakers Chinn & Chapman (the team who wrote and produced most of the classic glam smashes for The Sweet). Yet his pre-rave past as a Public Enemy-loving British B-boy ensured a level of bass-knowledge and breakbeat-science that made the Prodigy sound utterly contemporary.

Only the group’s second single (the first, “What Evil Lurks” b/w Android”, has never been reissued for some reason) “Charly” was a Top 3 hit in the UK in August 1991. It singlehandedly spawned the hardcore subgenre of toytown rave, tunes that sampled children’s TV shows (especially where some kind of Ecstasy-pun or druggy double-entendre could be made out of the show’s name or a fragment of dialogue). In ‘Charly’”, the sample is a little boy from a Public Information Film advising children how to avoid getting lost or abducted. “Charley says, always tell your mummy before you go off somewhere,” the kid says, translating the words of a cartoon cat, Charly, whose miauow is transformed by Howlett into the tune’s killer riff. The joke here is the idea of UK teenagers sneaking off to raves where they get up to things that would make their mums blanch. The original version of “Charly” sounds slightly restrained, so the one to go for is the “Alley Cat” mix, its swirly Belgian-style techno-riff expertly simulating the timbre of the cat’s miaouw but turning it into a spine-tingling MDMA-activating noise. In between the two ‘Charlys” you’ll find two other terrific tunes, “Pandemonium”and “Your Love”

You are also recommended--nay, urged--nay, instructed--to check out The Prodigy’s debut album Experience, especially in the Expanded reissue version with its bonus disc of back-in-the-day remixes, B-sides and rarities.

Companion: Every Man and Woman Is A Star Versions

A lost classic of early UK techno, Every Man and Woman Is A Star is less a rave record than kind of audio essay about rave culture, drafted by two guys whose first-hand involvement in the scene was minimal and whose background lay in the more ethereally ambient end of industrial (prior to Ultramarine, Ian Cooper and Paul Hammond were in A Primary Industry). “Stella”, for instance, makes all the right noises (acid house-style wibbling Roland 303 basslines) but overlays them with commentary on the spiritual impulses behind dance culture (actually TV documentary samples of a New Age woman talking about how she healed herself emotionally through dance) that would be too distractingly analytical in an actual rave situation. Other tracks are almost acts of revisionist music criticism, situating the outdoor raves as the latest efflorescence from an English continuum of post-psychedelic pastoralism. Soft Machine alumni Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt are sampled on, respectively, Weird Gear” and “Lights in my Brain”,. It’s a clever move, pointing out the similarities between Ayers’ hippy-dippy belief that "everyone is high,
until there’s something makes them low" and the loose-minded positivity of early 90s UK rave, but neither of these track seem like serious bids for dancefloor action. No matter, the Ultramarine style of folkadelic techno is utterly gorgeous, weaving jazzy flutes, glistening acoustic guitars, soft-rock vocals and samples of birdsong and water-ripples amidst the snaking 303 basslines and chugging sequenced grooves.

This companion record to the album proper comprises a bunch of excellent and
refreshingly non-drastic remixes that retain pretty much everything that’s good about the originals. It’s useful for this survey of rave, too, in the sense that two of the three guest remixers are from an important phase in UK rave history, the style known as bleep. Or, as I prefer, bleep’n’bass, acknowledging as it does the floorquaking low-end frequencies that defined this sound, a vibration exactly midway between the 808-boom of electro and dub reggae’s tectonic rumble. Bleep’n’bass made Warp Records famous originally, and it is from their roster that two of the remixers here come. Sweet Exorcist amplify the skank rhythm of “Geezer” into a heavy, stripped-bare dubsway, while Coco Steel & Lovebomb take “Panther” and wrap its rasping flute-riff and owl hoots around a more dynamic techno groove as lithe and predatory as the title. Along with Ultramarine’s own remixes of Every Man tracks, this album contains some rarities, the best of which is “Saratoga”, a divinely sashaying slice of jazz-funk-tinged house whose summery insouciance is elevated with a touch of the cosmic sublime.

Go Remixes

Moby is surely the single most successful crossover artist to emerge from rave, eclipsing even the Prodigy in sales and subliminal penetration (all those Play tracks in adverts and movies). Few would have predicted this outcome circa
1991's "Go", a likeable but hardly earth-shattering techno novelty. In truth, there’s not a lot to this tune: an efficient hypno-chug of a beat, the ghostly synth-refrain from Angelo Badalamenti’s score for Twin Peaks, a soul-diva’s moaned “yea-yeah-eah” and the shouted injunction “Go!”. But in its slight way, “Go” is perfect, and you could certainly plug the tune, with its ominous David Lynch allusions, into the continuum of “darkrave” and sinistronica, from acid house tracks about losing your mind, through Detroit techno pioneer Suburban Knight’s “Art of Stalking” and The Mover’s proto-gabba anthem “Nightflight (Nonstop To Kaos”) to the Gothick breakbeat of 4 Hero’s “Journey from the Light.” The ‘Rainforest Mix’ ought to be 808 State wafty or ethnotechno in flavour, but is actually full of jolting Belgian noise-blasts and histrionic diva shrieks; “Subliminal” lives up to its title with low-key gossamer-textured atmospherics; “Woodtick” is a mildly mesmerising slice of proto-trance; and “Soundtrack” starts well with a tip-toe feel of stealth and trepidation but soon drifts off into enervating amorphousness, the beat sinking low in the mix and the other instrumentation seeming vague and palimpsest-like. Strangely, the six minutes long “Original Mix” appears to have virtually no connection to its own pop edit, the groove over-run by baroque curlicues of acid-bass. So it’s the succinct and definitive “Radio Edit” that’s the one to, er, go for.

On A Ragga Tip ‘97
XL Recordings

XL were on a roll in ’92 and it wasn’t just about the Prodigy. The plucky-and-canny dance independent also scored underground-to-overground rave hits with Liquid (see below) and SL2. “On A Ragga Tip” is a timeless classic from a period when ragga-rave meant buoyant fast-stepping euphoria as opposed to gruff rude-bwoy menace. Following their hardcore underground fave “Way In My Brain”, which had sampled Wayne Smiths’ “Under Me Sleng Teng”, SL2 lift the sing-songy scat-like vocal of Jah Screechy from his “Walk and Skank”. The vibe is nutty dread, a madcap friskiness that is less dancehall riddim as we think of it today than a hyper-speed skank. Jamaican-style after-beat piano comping alternates with Italo-ravy keyboard vamps, while the breakbeats rattle and twist at twice the speed of the reggae bassline. The best bit is when the beat halts, the octave-ascending piano riff revs frantically like the feet of an animated cartoon critter trying to escape but held in place, then the whole track surges forward again with an almighty whooshing noise. Equal second-best are the spine-tingling intro (fluttering cascades of flecked rhythm guitar and dub-wise shimmers) and the bridge section of bubbling bass and echo-chambered rim-shots gearing you up to go mental as the track takes off again.

The S and L in SL2 were the partnership of Slipmatt and Lime (the 2 were the dancers, for when the group did PAs at raves). Slipmatt, a big hardcore-era DJ, went on to grander fame still in the mid-Nineties as the happy hardcore scene took off. The latter was a reaction against the moody gangsta-rave vibe of jungle, an attempt to wind back the clock to 1991/92, except that the music kept getting faster and faster, and happy hardcore’s very attempt to banish the darkness and the ruffness meant that all the genre was left with was a near-psychotic chirpiness and an overpowering tang of cheese. The remixes on this EP are mostly misconceived attempts to update “Ragga Tip” for various 1997 dancefloors. So happy hardcore dons Force & Styles and Slipmatt whisk the track’s tempo up until it’s even more frenetic and flustered-sounding. You’re better off sticking with the untouchable original tucked away at the EP’s end.

The Future Sound of London
Papua New Guinea Translations
Hypnotic Records

In between their early incarnation as UK acid house pioneers Humanoid and their interminable career as a “progressive” electronica outfit, the Future Sound of London made an immortal rave classic called “Papua New Guinea.” The track’s vibe initially is 4AD-meets-breakbeat-hardcore (I’m sure the “Papua New Guinea” is a sort of oblique nod to Cocteau Twins’ “Aikea-Guinea,” although it’s possible they just saw a TV documentary on the tribal peoples of those troubled paradise isles). Instead of Cocteaus singer Liz Fraser, though, FSOL sample a transcendent peal from Lisa Gerrard, the ethereal front-woman of 4AD’s #2 Goth-lite outfit Dead Can Dance. With its faintly Medieval aura of devotion and sacred ecstasy, the Gerrard vocal situates “Papua” in a mini-tradition of mystic-lady rave: Orbital’s “Halcyon”, Opus III’s “Fine Day,” Utah Saints’ Kate Bush-sampling “Something Good,” and The Beloved’s “The Sun Rising,” which uses an honest-to-goodness Medieval madrigal composed by Abbess Hildegard of Bingen. Oh and not forgetting another 4AD-goes-rave hit, Messiah’s “Temple of Dreams”, featuring Liz Fraser’s voice from This Mortal Coil’s “Song to the Siren”.

Unlike Messiah, though, FSOL really do something with the sample rather than just ride on its blisstastic beauty. They frame Gerrard with rapturous ripples of synth and breathy wisps of flute, while seagull noises and sonar blips create a subaquatic “ambient dub” vibe. Indeed, the bassline is totally roots reggae in feel and anticipates jungle by running exactly half the speed of the looped breakbeat. The split-level tempos create a gorgeous feeling of propulsion and suspension, urgency and serenity.

The original five minute long version is the immaculate conception, but the seven additional versions of “Papua”, all executed by FSOL, offer compellingly radical treatments. Some, like the acid rock guitar spattered “Wooden Ships” barely relate to the blueprint, sounding more like a circa 1970 monsterjam convened by Spirit, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Santana, while “Requiem” is a beat-less ballad, ornate and vaguely Eastern (think Tori Amos in a kaftan). Although none of them can touch even the hem of the definitive version, at least the titles are (inadvertently?) amusing: “The Great Marmalade Mama in the Sky”, “Things Change like the Patterns and Shades That Fall.” Sadly, FSOL’s Brian Dougans and Gary Cobain soon spurned the rave culture, dismissing its output as cheesy trash compared to their own studio-addled experiments (and in a way, the sheer gigantism of the Translations remix project prefigures their downfall, with the progtronica hubris of Lifeforms and the rest). Still, “Papua New Guinea” indicates they must have briefly participated in the peaceadelic euphoria of the early ‘90s. Tapping into that vibe enabled them to create the single solitary piece of music that secures their place in the pantheon of rave.

XL Recordings

By the time the big rave acts got around to making albums, the rapid-turnover scene had usually moved on, leaving the group plying an already dated sound and the debut CDs moldering unsold in record store. This cruel fate befell hardcore hit-makers like Altern-8, Bizarre Inc, Eon, N-Joi, Messiah, Unique 3, Shades of Rhythm and many more who were unable to make the transition from the fickle singles-oriented rave underground to the b(r)and-loyalty based long-term career-ism of mainstream pop. Few were as surreally tardy about it as Liquid, a/k/a Eamon Downes, whose much-loved rave classic “Sweet Harmony” hit big in 1992, but whose long-form debut came out in 1995. Culture is a pleasant listen, but it illustrates the lose/lose dilemma that faced many rave outfits looking to develop and endure: stay true to their original but now passé style or keep up with dancefloor trends and look like a bandwagon-jumper? There is too much accommodation on Culture to the reigning trance and progressive house sounds of 1993/94, a drifting-with-the-times that washes up on the cheesy beaches of Ibiza with the flamenco-fluttery Balearic track “One Love Family.” Although there’s plenty of vampy Italo pianos in the classic 1991 rave style, they feature in slowed-down form, so that instead of electrifying euphoria they transmit a vibe of mellow serenity. These torpid tempos suggest that Downes’ gameplan was to adapt rave into home-oriented chill-out muzak, preserving the style’s signature elements (plinky pianos, ecstatic divas) but stripping out all the mania. “Liquid Is Liquid (Falling into Dub)” shows he’s been listening to progressive house mavens like Leftfield and Spooky, while
“Drug Culture (vision dawn)” (great title!) sounds like an attempt to write Liquid’s very own “Papua New Guinea.” In the end, the CD’s best moment is “Sweet Harmony.” The heart-tugging piano chords and ecstatic twist of diva soul (both sampled from CeCe Rogers’ “Someday”) matched with a ruff breakbeat, a rolling bass-line and bursts of a trippy techno riff, made for hardcore heaven in 1992, and Downes at least had the sense not to tamper with its immaculate perfection by remixing it in line with circa-1995 dancefloor specifications.

The Guardian of Ruff--Whitehouse Records
MegabopGlobal-Aura / The Orchard

It’s well-known and abundantly documented that drug use has its dark side.
Why was it such a surprise, then, when hardcore rave, a genre of music brazenly fuelled by and celebratory of MDMA, plunged into the twilight-zone in the last months of 1992? “Darkside” was the name that scenesters started using to describe the new style of tracks that emerged during that grim winter. UK rave had started to get messy and moody, thanks partly to bad medicine (Ecstasy cut with the more intensely hallucinogenic MDA) and polydrug excess (ravers taking speed, marijuana, LSD, etc on top of the E), but also on account of a spate of muggings and violence at parties. While many fled the scene for the more controlled pleasures of the house clubs, the hardest of the hardcore plunged deeper into the beckoning abyss, creating a bad-trippy mutant of breakbeat hardcore that would actually aggravate the bad vibes on the dancefloor and thicken the malaise inside your head. “Darkside” sounds insane because it’s meant to soundtrack temporary mind-states on the border of mental illness: paranoia, catatonia, panic attack. Although figures like 4 Hero, Goldie and Doc Scott (all affiliated to the Reinforced label) pioneered the new sinister sound of ectoplasmic samples, death-ray riffs, and deliriously fractured breakbeats, Bay-B-Kane was a major supplier of dark-vibed tunes. This album contains his big 1993 dancefloor anthems, “Rhythm” and “Hello Darkness”. The former places its incongruously serene sing-songy sample--“rhy-thm, rhythm, rhy-thm, rhy-thm” (the last iteration vaulting several octaves on the sampling keyboard to a sprite-like shriek) amid wobbly bass-plasma and ungodly stabs of synth-noise. “Hello Darkness” cracks you up initially with its sample from “The Sound of Silence”, but the sped-up and slimy-sounding Simon & Garfunkel vocals become genuinely creepy, while the deathfunk groove and legion of eerie, forensically-untraceable noises create a mood of clammy apprehension. Other goodies include the hyper-syncopated rush of “Hyd & Seek” (over which bobs a tiny sample from Janet Kay’s gorgeous lover’s rock tune “Silly Games”) and “Ravin’ in the Twilight,” as febrile as a pill-popping raver whose metabolism is dangerously over-heated.

Fatboy Slim
Better Living Through Chemistry

Norman Cook had already enjoyed two hugely successful pop careers before he became Fatboy Slim, first as the bassist of indiepop hitmakers the Housemartins, and second as the man behind the sample-collage oriented Beats International, who scored a UK #1smash with “Dub Be Good To Me”. (He’d also had a less successful stint in the dance-rock outfit Freakpower and made house tracks as Pizzaman and Mighty Dub Katz.) Although Cook’s affiliation is much more with the whole indie-dance tradition (the line that runs from Madchester through Primal Scream to the Chemical Brothers and Heavenly Social) than to the rave underground, there are moments on Better Living Through Chemistry that sound bizarrely close to hardcore. On“Song For Lindy,” a piano vamp, phased for spine-tingling Ecstatic effect, comes spiraling out of the speakers, and the sensation of back-to-92 is uncanny: this is exactly the kind of Italo-house keyboard lick that outfits like Sonz of a Loop Da Loop Era used on tracks like “Far Out”. But then Cook himself is a son of that era too: he was a DJ before he joined the Housemartins, a hip hop fanatic with a deep feel for the aesthetic of looped breakbeats and cheeky samples. If Big Beat, the style Cook pioneered in tandem with the Chemical Brothers, is hip hop’s breaks’n’ bass’n’samples colliding with house music’s vamps and acid-riffs, well that’s what hardcore rave was made from too, its just that the latter ran at a good 20 beats-per-minute faster.

Better Living came out in 1996, just a little too early for the Big Beat explosion that took off the following year. After a couple of years of Teutonic trance and handbag house, people were ready for a dance style that was a little bit ruffer: more B-boy gritty on the rhythm front, but also enlivened with some rock’n’roll spirit, a messy exuberance and irreverence. Hence “Punk To Funk”, a stand-out tune on Chemistry: chunky breaks and obese bass wobbling like love handles at a Weight-Watchers disco, then a wondrously cheesy horn sample that huffs-and-puffs its way out of the mix. Even rockier in vibe is “Going out of My Head”, which pivots around a Who guitar riff. The track showcases Cook’s genius for driving crowds wild with whooshing builds and delirious vocal samples (in this case, a phased and stereo-panned soul voice confessing “I’m going out of my mind”). The album’s other stone killer is ‘Everybody Needs a 303”, which features at least four overlapping basslines (one is an old fashioned slap-bass run possibly played by Norman himself, the second is a low Roland 808 rumble of detuned bass-drum, and the other two are Roland 303 acid-burbles as referenced in the title). Big Beat’s appeal at the time was that it reinstated the role of “stupid noises” and gimmicky effects in dance music at a time when post-rave auteurs from techno to drum’n’bass were heading heroically up their own arses. But in their own stupid-fresh, instant-impact way, Cook’s productions are among the most intelligent of the Nineties.

The Redeemer
Hardcore Owes Us Money
Position Chrome

The Redeemer is a collaboration between DJ Scud (doyen of the post-rave sub-underground known as splatterbreaks) and Panacea (Germany’s don of darker-than-thou drum’n’bass). Where Better Living Through Chemistry came out too soon after the ’92 golden age to actually be a nostalgic harking-back, Hardcore Owes Us Money is a pure retro-rave: two true believers wistfully seeking to conjure the bygone rushes and vintage ruffage of breakbeat hardcore 1991-94. The title itself is a homage to Reggae Owes Me Money by the Ragga Twins, one of the acts on the pioneering hardcore label Shut Up and Dance. But thankfully, this isn’t a straightforward, period-detail-precise recreation of old skool rave , but more like a recombinant intensification. Scud and Panacea ransack effects from across the early ‘90s rave continuum, jumbling the sequence of styles and years, so that Belgian noise-riffs crash into eruptions of Jamaican dancehall patois. “Redemption” starts with ecstastic washes of sighing ‘n’ shivering synths, before a mad beat kicks in, a couple of different sampled rudeboys jump into the fray, and a veritable Panzer division of a techno-riff blitzkriegs its way across the track. “Well ‘Ard” features sickly-droopy darkside synth-riffs and some much-sampled ragga cries of “we gonna lick reality” (a raver’s call to arms? “if the the real-world sucks, we’ll beat it by making a mass exodus into oblivion”?), then drops into a pummeling groove across which a zig-zagging riff slashes like Freddie Kreuger brandishing a glow-stick instead of a blade. The album’s peak is reached with
“Squeeze with Eaze” (in which the alien pinging tones of a zither collide with dub-war sirens, a weird reverbed bassline, and the ghost of “Anasthasia”) and “Sound Killah”. The latter leaps out of historical sequence for a moment, ripping the looped diva-as-police-siren from Double 99’s 1997 speed garage monsterhit “Ripgroove”, but plunging the sample back through time to rub shoulders with ‘91’s swarming black clouds of synth-drones. The album is dangerously exhilarating up until this mid-way point and then it’s as though the duo snap out of their nostalgic reverie and revert to making standard-issue modern drum’n’bass, all ugly distorted basslines and maniacally fixated, funk-devoid beats. Indeed, even on the splendid first half of Hardcore, the sole defect and anachronistic element is that the beats aren’t the topsy-turvy breakbeats of classic-era hardcore but more like contemporary drum’n’bass, i.e. jackknifing-at-the-waist snares sprinting at 180 beats per minute. “Rollers”, they call this linear style, but you might as well call them treadmillers, since their vibe resembles an endless chase scene or videogame loop. You could argue that this aspect keeps Hardcore Owes Us from being a pure wallow in nostalgia. But personally, being a raver-dad, I’d have sooner had the full-blown time travel effect thank you very much.

truncated version of this piece at eMusic where you can also download the albums or tracks in question