Wednesday, March 14, 2018

the Noom

hardtrance contiNOOM

there are about twenty different remixes of "Are Am Eye" but i strongly suspect none as good as the immaculate original

Saturday, March 10, 2018

jungled up to f*ck

like the beat on this a lot - different feel -  and the other elements are good, but not liking the main vocal lick

still a nice little tune from an artist i never heard of

Thursday, March 8, 2018

the strength

remember snowballs?

mouth music (neuro)

really love the wavering ghost voices over the top, shame about the deadening beat and the corny-doomy bass

mark leckey made me hardcore


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Pirate Treasure (just 4 U every-1)

Recently I had some bloodwork done and experienced what's known in the trade as a "vasovagal syncope". When I came to, I was surprised to find a medical team strapping monitors on my chest and putting an IV into my forearm. In retrospect, I think they over-reacted a bit, but I guess they have procedures they have to follow.

While they bustled around saying alarming things like "pulse is down to 38", the nurse who'd been drawing blood in the first place was elevating my legs for better blood-flow to the brain and trying to wake me with questions. Like, "What's your hobby? "Music," I mumbled groggily.  "What's your favourite kind of music?," he asked. "Jungle".

Maybe if I'd been less out of it I'd have hedged and offered some extra contenders (like postpunk or psychedelia or....) to round out the picture of self.  But in that extreme moment, the first word that popped into my head was "jungle".  Which must make it true: this music is my heart's core.

Certainly I've never experienced anything more electric than the 92-94 jungalistic hardcore / jungle techno / junglizm  moment. At no other time have I felt plugged into something so deliriously present-tense and can't-believe-your-ears NEW. Neither before or since have I felt such a strong sensation of significance pulsating from a scene and a sound. 

My favorite format for my favorite music is of course the pirate tape. In the mix: a choppy relentless surge of track into track upon track against track (nameless, then, almost all of them - and in some ways the better for it - on my cassettes I would give them made-up titles like "Spangly Tingler"or "Woogly & Ruff").  In the ride: an MC possessed by the mania of the music.

Other components of a classic pirate tape for me include wicked ad breaks (these later became one of my favorite elements of the tapes I'd made, causing me to curse the number of times I had edited them out), some inelegantly wasted nonsense and randomness from studio personnel, even the odd fuck-up on the decks.

Out of the scores of 92-93 tapes I recorded,  you will find below the creme de la creme. I digitized them a while back but never got around to uploading. I offer them now to the common weal.

Starting with a couple of miscellanies - compilations of best bits from the whole collection. Take care, these are so rush-packed they may well induce vasovagal syncope - a.k.a. a whitey - in their own right.

(the first and bestest installment of that series is further down this post, where I have the ones I uploaded to YTube a while back.)

Then onto the freshly loaded pirate tapes proper

This next one mis-titled - it should read "Impact FM 1992 or early 1993".

There were a couple of others I put up on YouTube that have been already blocked for copyright, annoyingly.

I also uploaded a Slipmatt old skool set - the best one I ever heard -  that I'd taped in 1997 off of One In the Jungle, MC Det on the mic. But that one also got blocked - not because anything of in the mix, but because of a snippet of drum and bass, from when the normal show resumed, that I'd left on at the end, dammit! However you can find the set below or on YouTube. (I must say my own recording sounded brighter and louder).

And then this one  - not actually recorded by me but by a hardcore-loving DJ from Philadelphia who'd taped it on a visit to the U.K and a few years later kindly dubbed it for me. I'm struggling to dredge his name from my memory (which gets worse every day) but I believe it was DJ Geoff E. In his opinion this was the greatest hardcore set he ever heard.


And here are the ones I put up on YouTube previously, starting with that first installment in the Pirate Faves Series:

This next one overlaps slightly with the Don FM August 7 1993 one above, but is just the most electrifying 20 minutes or so of the full session (which is really good, well worth hearing in its entirety).

Again, this is the most electric portion of the FMB Crew Feb 12 1993 set above. It comes from the second video, "the climax" - but is shorter than that second video.

And finally two great ads for Telepathy that I have pulled out and isolated from these tapes, one from '93 and the other from '96. Who is that MC?

Oh and finally finally - a favorite bit out of a tape somebody else made - shout outs to the entire scene from Shakedown FM's Infinity

Thursday, February 15, 2018

guts, and flash, and energy, and speed

"My purpose was simple: to catch the feel, the pulse of rock, as I had lived through it. Nobody, to my knowledge, had ever written a serious book on the subject, so I had no exemplars to inhibit me. Nor did I have any reference books or research to hand. I simply wrote off the top of my head, whatever and however the spirit moved me. Accuracy didn't seem of prime importance (and the book, as a result, is rife with factual errors). What I was after was guts, and flash, and energy, and speed. Those were the things I'd treasured in the rock I'd loved" 
                                       - Nik Cohn, on Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom


But where oh where is the fourth track on this "e" EP Analyser -  "NGC 891"? Named possibly after either the Edgar Froese track off of Aqua (which it may well sample from, who knows?). Or after the "edge-on unbarred spiral galaxy" that the Froese track is named after....

The great missing mystery tune by "e" - also rendered as 'E' apparently - is at the start of this pirate session...

"sounds of 'e'! - coming atcha!!!!"

After many years of loving that mistreee choon, I stumbled across the origin of the samples in it - Pink Floyd! I had called it a "Little Black Disc With Me Tune On It" after the main vocal lick - that's what I scrawled on the cassette.  But that bit's also taken from Pink Floyd - s a twist on the bit in The Wall that goes "I've got a little black book with me poems in it".

Another "e" tune getting a bit intelligent techno-y

And that's it for "e" as far as YouTube is concerned.

Actually I tell a lie...

"e" did some acid tracks back in 1988 - for a compilation called Blast the Joint.

This early 'E' also did a track entitled "E"

Not to be confused with Mr E

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

fast and slow

This one pulls off a pretty neat trick of sounding flurry-fast and slow-and-low at the same time

not quite so won over by this one, which apparently Doc Scott thinks is the best track he's ever released on his label.  it has the slow-and-low bit down, but not the flurry-fast aspect, so it's a more monodimensional. Good though in it's cold, dank, neuro-ish way.

how big was the creative core of hardcore?

The first time I had any real face-to-face contact with hardcore scene leader types was meeting Goldie in the first months of '94.  We'd made contact a few months before, towards the end of '93, when I was still in NYC and doing a big piece on jungle - the first anywhere - for Vibe. Did a big phone interview for that. Then, not long after moving back to London at the start of '94, I went round to the G-man's gaff. He lived in a tower block off of Englands Lane  - he was something like the permanent house-guest of the documentary maker who had gotten him involved as a young man in a doc about graffiti. The flat was full of G's canvases. I was living in Belsize Park - first time north of the river since I was a baby - and so we were almost neighbours. Then Goldie introduced me to Rob Playford - we met up for a curry in a place on Camden High Street.

During the meal, I asked them how big the scene was. Because there was no way to know really - it seemed massive to me, in my own head, based on the energy of the pirates and the sheer number of them.

I remember Rob seeming slightly evasive or even sheepish as he offered, "Fifty thousand?".

And that did seem smaller than I'd imagined.

Many years later, in response to an enquiry from a scholar or student researcher, I had a bash trying to work out the demographic dimensions of the creative core of rave.

All based on estimates.

There was at that time a particular old skool nuttah website that seemed to have audio clips of most every rave tune from 91/92/93.

This is probably ten or more years ago, but there were 2604 tunes up there, which seemed immense. and they were stretched  across a 4 year period, 1991 to 1994.

I guessed that even though this chap was a total fiend,with a completist streak (there was a fair amount of dross up there, but then again the point of the site was not to be a filter but an archive, a data bank), in all likelihood he must only have had about  50 % of the tunes actually released on his site.

For 1992 -  the most populous, explosive DIY-gone-crazy year (which was also hardcore rave's peak of commercial penetration, the first half of the year anyway) - this bloke had got audio clips for 872 tunes.

I decided the real figure for hardcore releases in that year might be more like 2000 tracks. 

Most 12 inch releases then would just have two tunes, an A-side and flipside. But you did get a fair number of 3-track, 4 track  - even 5 or 6 track -  EPs.

So let's say that there'd have been 750 individual 12 inch releases in this one year period within the genre of UK hardcore rave music, loosely defined. 

So that means roughly 15 new tunes a week. Which does chime with my vague general sense of going into hardcore/jungle stores and that being the number of brand-new new tunes that would be up on the wall behind the counter. A constant flow of white labels.

Given that many producers released several things a year and that producers also operated under pseudonyms, I’m going to guess conservatively that each producer released 3 records that year.

So that would lead you to conclude that this were around 250 actively releasing-stuff producers in the UK within the hardcore zone. Some producing under multiple names to confuse things and create a deceptive sense of plethora and profusion.

There's a probably a lot of amateurs who never finished their tracks, or ones that did but never grubbed together the money to put them out, and quite a few borderlines that were barely released or came out on dubplate only. (And are now being reissued as expensive reissues). 

In the not-quite-released zone, I remember one Ruff crew show in '92 where a producer called E had brought his tracks to played, including a fantastic one that sampled Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, but that never actually came out. It's the first tune on this tape -

Anyway, let's go with the estimate of 250 actively releasing producers.

Now, how big was the scene?

The biggest raves that summer drew 30 thousand, but you have to guess that this was not everyone in the scene in attendance -  people stayed for local clubs or lived too far away across the country. Even the mega-est rave must have only managed 1 in 3 of the rave massive at most.

A really big underground rave tune could sell 25 thousand, except for the rave pop crossover ones  like Prodigy or SL2. But following a similar principle as above,  no tune would be bought by everyone.

So let’s say that the rave massive was somewhere between 75 thousand and 100 thousand

With the first estimate of rave population you get 1 in 300 as the ratio of producer-participants to consumer-participants

With the second figure it diminishes to 1 in 400!

 That’s a lot of smaller than I thought.

I'd imagined that the punk-redolent DIY principle would have been more rife and rampant.

I guess human laziness, a sensible awareness of one’s own lack of musicality, or just not being prepared to cough up the dough for the initial start-up costs, would ensure that the majority were happy to be just punters.

With the collapse of the rave audience and the coming of darkness in 1993, the ratio of producers to consumers would go up dramatically -- the harder the core, the more of a component of active  producers / DJs you would have. In Chris Cutler's terms, the more "engaged" a music scene.

So with Playford's guess of 50 thousand  - made in early 94, when the scene was still under the sway of darkness, the jungle crossover explosion some months away, still contracted to a hard core -  then the  ratio of active music-releasing artists to punters becomes 1 in 200. 

Equally the more commercially successful the music is, the less participatory and "engaged" it is. You have a lot more mere punters happy to sit back and enjoy. 

2step would be another period in which the ratio of producers to consumers goes down again, owing to its massive pop success and across London domination of the pirate airwaves.

Grime, in the early 2000s, would have gone back to having high ratio of creatives (aspiring MCs, producers, deejays). Indeed in its fundamental unpopularity I would compare it to the improv or noise scenes...

Going back to the creative core of H-core question, I suppose one could go to Discogs and attempt to actually count the number of producers (especially as it useful displays all the pseudonyms and alter-egos and aliases each one uses).

But I'm guessing the result won't be too far off the 250-ish sort of figure that I kinda pulled out of my arse there.

It won't be drastically off, I don't think - like 2500 producers. 

rollin haights

my favorite tune of the year, already (and yeah i'm surprised too)

Cox rox

Triffic mix made by Pearsall in tribute to Carl Cox, involving some insanely obsessive forensic process of combing through the tracklists of the big man's hardcore-era sets to establish his ultimate tunes. The result is, as Pearsall puts it, "a kind of ‘platonic ideal of rave-era Carl Cox’ mix"

Release rationale / methodology explained here

Apart from this obvious classic - 

- I've never really clicked with Carl Cox before I must admit. Not sure if I ever caught him as deejay - if I did, clearly it didn't leave any impressions. And his own releases have bypassed me. Especially when he'd left behind rave-rave-rave for a sort of Muzik-middlezone techno sound

But this mix - indirectly - convinces me I missed something.  Now to search out some of Cox's own sets from the hardcore heyday.

Monday, February 12, 2018

the archival shortfall

I noted the other day that there were so many pirate tapes online that they start to blur into each other

And there are a lot

But in some ways, you can't help thinking, there ought to be a lot more

Take for instance Don FM

My favorite station. The source of many of my all-time fave tapes.

Its signal was loud and strong on account of coming from Wandsworth - and I was living in Brixton at that time (I didn't know it was based in Wandsworth then, I didn't know anything about the station at all.).

But mostly it was the deejaying (especially the Lucky Spin crew) and the MCs (especially MC OC and Ryme Time).

Just recently I went on a little jag of hunting down Don FM tapes from 92 / 93 and adding that trawl to the ones I'd already scavenged off the internet in previous years - it came to about 30 hours of recordings up there and out there.

Let's say I've missed a few -  round that up to 40 hours

I also put up there about three hours worth from my own tape archive

So that's about, let's say, 45 hours of Don FM from 92/93 captured on tape and shared on YouTube, mixcloud, and various blogs like Hardscore

45 hours seems like rather a small amount, don't you think. That's less than a hour per weekend over the course of a year and a bit.

The period I'm talking about is from when Don FM launched November 92 until the end of 1993.
(The station carried on into the early months of 1994, before going off the air March 28th voluntarily while pursuing a license, which it got, and then... well you can find out the story online).

Like most pirates, Don FM was on all through the weekend. My possibly unreliable memory is that stations would start up about 7pm on Friday (get everyone warmed up for going out), sometimes earlier...  and then would go all night on Friday and Saturday (and all day in between - often a bit mellower - sometimes even a bit of garage). Then they would wind down probably 10 PM or midnight on Sunday.

I seem to recall Don being on some weekdays here and there (producing some of my fave tapes on these days actually). But let's just stick with those weekends of continuous broadcast. 

Nov 92 to end of 93 - that must amount to some 3000 hours of Don FM transmissions.

So if there's 45 hours of it online - that means just 1 out of every 66 of its hours of broadcast in that period is archived publicly.

I'm sure people must have taped LOADS more than that. The deejays and MCs themselves must have taped a lot of their shows. But punters at home too - it was the main way to get hold of the music and have to play during the week, because so much of it was dubplate or prelease.

That suggests the ageing ravers either

-  are holding / hoarding

- played the tapes at the time until the tape wore out

- put them in a box and forgot about them, or threw them out during some big clear-out, or they got damaged through poor storage conditions

- can't be arsed to digitize them and share

- or, or, they like the idea of keeping it just to themselves, a snatch of time that they alone have access to. That's always a possibility.

Of course, not all of the 65/66ths worth of undigitized / unshared /unarchived will ever have been worth being digitized / shared / archived

I have quite a few undigitized tapes of  Don FM of my own and they are not all gold by any means. A lot of pirate shows never quite ignited, just chugged along. Probably I have around 20 tapes that fall into this category. There is a certain redundancy with the same tunes getting played in different sequences.

Still there's got to be some great sessions out there that people are sitting on and either have forgotten about or just can't be bothered.


Here's a Don FM sesh from ninety-free that I have freshly digitized and offered to the common wealth  - with some Eruption FM bits at the start and then into a full-on session with MC OC

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Robert Haigh explains the hardcore piano vamp

SR: In rave anthems like Landlord's “I Like It (Blow Out Dub)”or Outlander's “The Vamp” or your old pals 2 Bad Mice's beyond-classic remix of Blame's "Music Takes You" - specifically at the break at 3.52 - what is happening on the piano? The effect is very euphoric and UP!!  – is that due to the kind of intervals used (they seem very simple,  major chord-y), or just the rattling-along propulsive nature of the riffs? Sometimes I hear what sounds like a double-chording, like the same chord being played very quickly in succession.  The timbre is also part of the bright optimistic feeling. They also have something of the quality of the player piano about  them. 

Robert Haigh:  In each case here the piano is a sample of a chord. That sample/chord is then laid out across the keyboard and triggered (simply with one finger) at various positions (so it’s always the same chord but played at various pitches.) 

On Landlord, we have a sample of a minor chord which is triggered at four points giving us the effect of G+m - D+m - F+m then C+minor.

With "Vamp", which sounds like the very same sample (maybe eq’d a little differently), the sample is triggered at five points giving the effect of C+m - D+m - Em - F+m then G+minor. 

The sound (which I agree is wonderful) appears to be doubled up and highly compressed and clipped - I suspect all this was in the original sampled chord (probably from a Deep House or Techno track - it’s got a bit of a Kevin Saunderson feel.)

Same deal with 2 Bad Mice. This sounds like a maj 7 chord and again the sample been laid across the keyboard and triggered at various pitches. 

Maybe it’s the artificially quantised nature of the notes/chords which give it the player piano quality. 


Sadmanbarty from Dissensus offers a further thought:

"there are only 3 minor chords in any key, so the fact that these vamps have 4 or 5 minor chords means that they’re modulating (changing key). 

In pop, modulations tend to be used in choruses or at the end of the song to reach a climax. They’re euphoric and up lifting.

The fact that in hardcore these modulations are constantly happening lends itself to your idea of hardcore as a non-narrative, endless succession of NOWs. It contrasts with the way pop uses them sparingly to delineate structure."

Acen afterwards

Masked Men

Thursday, February 8, 2018

dan the man

Danny inventing the LG / GL aquasound four years ahead of schedule

well he already done it five years ahead of schedule, which is why they named the album after the track no doubt

nothing if not fixated, Mr Bukem

a remake of an unreleased track from 93 with a terribly misconceived title

listen to these next two, though, and what became so clearly a cul de sac in disappointing actuality, seems - for a moment - like an infinite expanse of possibility stretching out like a shimmering horizon, still

never registered the (Happy Raw) part of the title before!

the greatest d&B tune ever? certainly the greatest smooth-but-ruff

the beats on that are like... being beaten up by butterflies

best bongos ever

best breathiness ever

and of course it had to fade out like that - gesturing at infinity

runners up in the ruff with da smoov stakes:

adam f, "circles"
omni trio, "soul freestyle"
omni trio, "the elemental"
peshay, "vocal tune"
pfm, "one and only"
dave wallace, "expressions"
dave wallace,  "waves"

who else?

this one i disregarded at the time but it is not bad at all

the problem is that the sheer surprise of "Atlantis" and "Music" -  especially with the former,  its calm and oceanic immersiveness was like an ambush of gentleness when it would slip into the mix in '93  - became lost when you had a whole set of that sound, or album of that sound... when all the Bukem-a-likes / Bukem-lites came long, making washed-out watercolours in the mold of the Master

the contrast effect gone

that said, one of the best D&B deejay gigs i ever heard was Bukem in NYC playing a whole set of GL/LG material, blended seamlessly into a shimmering amorphous wall of homogenous bliss - really just like one long mega-track

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

be Don.. or be gone!!

never not a good time to re-air this classic from me own archive

or indeed this

or this

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

(sub)urban Shakedowns

from Essex

there's so many pirate sessions on the web now that they can blur into each other, but this one is exceptionally vibey, I think - especially the shout-outs to practically the entire scene, over "Long Dark Tunnel," at around 1 hour 18 minutes

oooh gosh

for those who don't have the patience, here's that vibey bit isolated for ya


tracklist for that one here

more goodies

Shakedown FM sets to download at

Sunday, February 4, 2018

fuck off nutty tunes for fuck off nutty ravers


Seems very advanced for 1990

Sounds like 1992, nearly

Went to a rave club at the Astoria called Slime Time!, in early 92

Actually that flyer has jogged my memory -  the night was called The Breakfast Club (started at 5 AM in the morning on Sunday!) and the promoter was Nut-Nut Promotions, who also did Slime Time!. The venue  does appear to be the Astoria - same address, 157 Charing Cross Road  - but at that time was called Busby's. (Later the venue reverted to being Astoria 2)

Yeah I remember the promise of "plate-shaking"sounds!

Also remember seeing this slogan somewhere or other (maybe the club listings page of iD)

When we went it was all bombastic Belgian style riffage and gaunt short-haired youths slicing the air with gun-fingers

The idea of something  so ardkore being right in the centre of the West End seems somehow amazing in retrospect (but then a lot of the acid house kicked off from right in the centre of town)

Breakfast Club was also just round the corner - barely fifty yards I'd say - from the Mars Bar, where Speed would be based from late 94 - the West End location symbolising the return of the black sheep of rave into the fold of musicality and acceptance by the house-techno bods. To which, "gah!", yes... but it was a fab club it has to be admitted.

Fond memories of dancing to "Pulp Fiction" by A. Reese at Speed -  in its own slick rollin way the B-line was just as much a plate-shaker as anything from three years earlier

Actually another hardcore nuum club right in the dead centre of London - a minute's walk from Centrepoint - was Thunder & Joy, every Sunday in this basement under the YMCA,  a little ways up (and just off) Tottenham Court Road.

future retro / brand new you're retro / retro


Saturday, February 3, 2018


a recommendation via commentor Bivers

good stuff

an earlier EP with the amusing and apt title Throwback Therapy

Friday, February 2, 2018

"the future is ours"

you can hear the breakbeat future emerging on this thrilling 1990 mix - house's pulse-flow chopped and scratched into a ruffer ride with DJ Hype's B-boy hands on the steering wheel

(via Michelangelo Matos)

".. the older technique or content must somehow subsist within the work as what is cancelled or overwritten, modified, inverted or negated, in order for us to feel the force, in the present, of what is alleged to have once been an innovation." 
- Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

tunes for M.E.S.

What current music do you listen to?

"Just Italian rave really. It's got a lot of guts to it. Visnadi and stuff.. "

Mark E. Smith, tested by Dave Haslam, for Invisible Jukebox, The Wire April 1995

Monday, January 29, 2018

mommy, what's a chember?

a track that startled me alive when I heard it on KCRW the other week - an occurrence that's generally much more likely to happen courtesy of Power FM or Real FM get me

whereas this track (also from the brand new Uncountable Set EP) is more typical KRCW fare i.e. a tad too tasteful for my taste

somewhere in that kosmigroove meets digimax that encompasses Low End Theory, but even more disintegrated and untethered  - not so much fusion as diffusion

Saturday, January 27, 2018

taking drugs to make music to take drugs to

"keep it psychedelic"

"it's medical"

loving this buoyant floaty light-headed light-limbed vibe in rap&B

"geeked up"

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

rare rave

Red Bull Music Academy piece on rare rave records that fetch a LOT nowadays

i have only one of these - can you guess which?

Altern 8 – Full On Mask Hysteria (Picture Disc)

including this 

Friday, January 12, 2018

shimon on you crazy diamond

the missing link between Nebula II and Photek

proper jungle techno with equal emphasis on the techno

(Real name actually is Shimon  - Shimon Alcoby! Later one third of Ram Trilogy)

Then starts heading towards the neuro zone - but  the dank-dark bass-glow still holds an appeal

getting a bit clinical but still pounding and pummelling quite fiercely

there was a point when the tracks started fizzing and frothing like test tubes in a laboratory - as if taking the idea of "experimental" literally

 then the heavy metal years began in earnest

hurt-your-ears snares

i think it must have been listening dispiritedly to a Ram Trilogy EP on the shop decks in one of my last sporadic spates of still trying to keep an ear on D&B (circa 1999 this is) that the title "Chase Scene" lodged in my head and stayed there ever since as the perfect description of the way drum and bass rhythm went from loop-da-loop thrills to an interminable treadmill

like one of those early animations where the background keeps rotating round and round as the characters keep running or driving

Saturday, January 6, 2018

the dream of the Nineties is alive in Kreuzberg

When I was in Berlin last month, I had lunch with a friend in Kreuzberg. As we prepared to part, she mentioned that a certain iconic record store was only five minutes walk away. 

I had a few hours to kill, so - feeling oddly suggestible and passive - I let myself be steered. I'm one of those whose head empties seconds after someone gives them street directions, but my feet nonetheless carried me along and sure enough I soon enough found myself peering into a faintly familiar courtyard. 

I walked across, through the door, up the stairs... 


Came to the door, which was barely marked ("if you don't know, you don't need to know" seemed to be the deal here).

Opened it...

The first time I went to Hard Wax  - as I expect you know,  affiliated to Basic Channel / Chain Reaction and the mastering studio Dubplates & Mastering  - was in 1998. 

What struck me instantly upon entering it again was how little it had changed in the intervening very-nearly-twenty years. 

Same 313 phone code and Berlin-Detroit Techno Alliance T-shirts hanging on the wall.

Same grave store clerks.


The clientele looked much the same -  in appearance (beards, backpacks, practical looking clothes), in expression (absorbed, intent), and in composition (nearly all blokes, a couple of women).  

The austere store layout was the same as I remembered, more or less. 

Vinyl, vinyl everywhere - including on the walls (one of which is dedicated to dancehall 7-inches). Not a compact disc in sight.

The only thing different was me. 

It was an odd sensation, entering a record store in a desireless state.

So I decided to let myself be guided by the store's own recommendations, as stickered onto the see-through plastic bags that protectively encase each and every 12 inch.  

Scooping up an armful of releases  from the new releases section - disparate genres, choosing tracks based on how effusive the store clerk commentaries were - I headed over to the listening decks. 

Also forbidden: taking pictures without asking permission, but fuck that. 

Muscle memory took over as I unsleeved the discs, eased them onto the slipmat, and nimbly stylus-skipped through the tracks with the tone arm cradled in the  crook of my index finger:  listening to 20-second snatches at various intervals through a tune's span, just like the old days when I was forever frantically sifting through a big batch of brand-new output across as many zones and fields as I could manage. 

But now there was no sense of urgency, none of that internal pressure that drove me to keep up and keep track. Just idle curiosity. 

I felt a serene disinterest, in the true sense of the word - not uninterested, just with no dog in this particular race. 


On my left, at the next turntable, stood a dread-locked, vaguely Central European-looking girl listening on headphones to one track while resleeving a Bandulu reissue she'd just finished with ("New Foundation" from '97  - and in many ways Bandulu were the original dub-techno interface, or an early manifestation of that logical progression, even before Basic Channel / Chain Reaction got there.) This girl really looked the part - in the sense of, looking like an extra from a scene set in a techno club from some late Nineties movie. 

The first of my selections had grabbed my eye because of the relatively heated tone of the store description sticker, but also because it referenced early UK rave - which I'm pretty certain would have been beyond the pale here during the actual Nineties, but appears to have been gradually admitted into the Canon of Acceptable Things to Be Influenced By / Derivative Of. 

"Torn Hawk - Wormquest EP - Unknown to Unknown 

Mind bending mash up of U.K. Break, Hardcore & twisted retrofuturist electro science - Class!"

Next came something more contemporary in orientation, but still with a retro tinge - a reference to a micro-era of UK techno-rave I'm partial to, as you know.... 

"Forest Drive West Static - Livity Sound
Forward thinking UK techno with echoes of U.K. Bleep & subtle stepping Bristolian Dub Tech vibes - Highly Recommended"

"Stepping" seemed to be a fairly frequently applied adjective on these stickers, although I wasn't sure what exactly it evoked - presumably roots reggae feel?

One surprise was that there seemed to be a fair amount of drum + bass stocked.  I'd thought that - after its mid-Nineties moment in the limelight, when it was almost universally accepted as the Leading Edge -  D + B had shunted itself down its own closed-off tunnel of a trajectory, garnering less and less attention from the larger serious-minded electronic dance community, until it might as well be metal. As it happened, to my surprise I'd recently been digging a speck or two of brand new  D + B, so I thought I would check out some of Hard Wax's recommendations. 

"Homemade Weapons - Heiress EP - Samurai
Cutting edge, dark, forward thinking drum + bass science"

I struggled to hear the "forward-thinking" element here - indeed it sounded like nothing so much as Source Direct in 1997. When for sure, it would have been cutting edge. Now, though, you'd have to say the edge was a bit blunt. 

I said that effusiveness was the filter for my selection but there wasn't that much of it about to be honest -  a preponderance of the sales commentary involved neutral terms equivalent to "effective" or "useful". The technohead equivalent of "sessionable" in the craft ale connoisseur world, maybe;  "playable", in the sense that a DJ could spin this, it would fit the designated vibe, but equally there would be no particular reason to pick this record over a dozen others available. This kind of underwhelmed / underwhelming advocacy seemed to apply particularly to the techno releases. Like this next one, where the recommendation more or less says, "makes all the right moves" / "won't stick out". 

"Karo Zwo / Cab Drivers - Zwo Fremde - Cabinet 

Bouncy, reduced, Detroit legacy indebted House cuts"

"Detroit legacy" - the soul yawns just a bit, no?  

The next one in my pile came with a less lukewarm description.

"Andy Kolwes Off the Reel EP - Pressure Traxx

Blinding minimalist,tripping, dubbed out disco/ soul samples based house trips

Now and then I saw the word "skudge" used adjectivally in a recommendation, which perplexed and intrigued in equal measure. But as my eye roamed across the bins, bathetic enlightenment came - rather than an inspired bit of evocative onomatopoeia, it's the name of a group and their record label, so prominent in the scheme of things it can be used as a reference for a sub-style of techno even when a release is not actually on that label.  

"Mono Junk Disillusioned - Skudge White 
Grumpy Finnish electro / pure dreamy techno cuts"

Friends and acquaintances have been telling me for a while that the most interesting thing going on in electronic dance at the moment is the resurgence of industrial and EBM flavours.  A relatively heated endorsement of an album in that vein decided me to  give it a proper go, listening to track-portions across all sides of its double-platter vinyl incarnation. 

"Blush Response - Infinite Density - Sonic Groove

Mighty, dystopian, relentless industrial techno album"

Certainly "relentless" fits. But "dystopian" virtually guarantees a phalanx of cliches at this point. 

Finally - a track that grabbed me less for the non-committal store description as for its artwork, which had an Ostalgie-style Soviet Bloc retro-look.

"Sev Dah - Strah - Proletarijat 

Boomy DJ tool techno EP"

One thinks inevitably here of Laibach, but also the banging hard tekknohaus label of UK yore,  Prolekult. 

Back they all went... 

What struck me about this selection was how 1997-98 it all was...  these seemed not unlike records I could have found in Hard Wax on that first visit. 

Even some of the retro flavours were starting to be detectable at the end of the Nineties. Like the rediscovery of EBM / industrial  - you had that already stirring with your Adam X's and Horrorists and Green Velvets, all of them digging back to the stiffer feel and cold doomy mood of Eighties zones that were part of  the prehistory of technorave. 

Indeed that Mighty Blush release is on the label Sonic Groove, which is owned by Adam X  (although now based out of Berlin). The name descends from the Manhattan / Brooklyn hard tekno record store Sonic Groove. That's where I used to go to buy PCP, Dance Ecstasy 2001, and Cold Rush tracks, two decades ago. 

20 years was once upon a time a huge gulf in pop time - the distance between Louis Jordan's "Saturday Night Fish Fry" and Sly Stone's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)", between  Booker T & the MG's' "Green Onions" and Man Parrish's "Hip Hop Be Bop," between Led Zeppelin "Black Dog" and My Bloody Valentine's "To Here Knows When", between Heatwave's "Boogie Nights" and Adam F's "Metropolis."

But, as per Mark Fisher's "past shock" thought-experiment, if you'd taken the records I'd checked out on the Hard Wax decks in a time machine back to '98, what would surprise people you played them to would be the extent to which they weren't incomprehensible and disorienting.   

It's not like there's been no fresh directions or distinctively of-our-time moves within the electronic field. There's the digital maximalist hyperphoria, there's all that Pan-style event-crammed non-dance digitronica, there's the post-step that Taninian has been theorizing over at Leaving Earth...  and a wider zone of  style-syncretic, sound-designed-to-the-hilt music that could be designated "genre non-conforming". 

But those directions were barely in evidence at Hard Wax as far as I could see, perhaps because of the vinyl-only slant.... 

The arguably new music around seems increasingly to exist in digital form only - or even just as immaterial files, without even a CD release...

At Hard Wax, the dream of the Nineties was alive and... if not kicking (or slamming or banging) then at least stepping, steadily and slowly, onwards. As a stable tradition rather than a surging vanguard.  Where the most you expect is incremental additions to the tradition (captured in this oxymoronic Resident Advisor praise of Skudge: "they seem to always present something new - in a very faithful style"). Additions to a tradition already swollen. 

I'm not knocking this, really. In all honesty I would quite happily go back to the Nineties myself. A different and more nummy Nineties, for sure. 

Politically the Nineties looks like paradise.   

It's that syndrome I've discussed before, the Mystery of Subcultural Persistence. Bohemian styles and alternative sensibilities linger on, long past their moment of peak salience. They become enclosures -  the subcult as cul de sac -  and gradually slip out of synch with the times. 


For instance, another store I passed in Kreuzberg was a punk record shop (hardcore, Oi!, ska, etc + Doc Martens + T-shirts etc)  directly opposite the legendary SO36 club, and seemingly thriving. 

Having completed my survey of what the present had to offer (according to Hard Wax, at any rate)  I found myself inevitably  drawn to the shop's "Early Electronic" section. 

Annoyingly you weren't allowed to unsleeve and play on the decks any of these deluxe vinyl / hefty price-tag reissues. You could check them on the store's iPads (a vibe-betraying concession to the digital-now) but there weren't enough of these available. So I made a note on my phone to check them out online later...