No matter the subject, a lesson is only as interesting as the teacher teaching it. Johnny Ball did the impossible, he made maths fun! Likewise, but more modern, Terry Deary’s books and subsequent CBBC show, Horrible Histories made what’s often perceived as a dull subject by pupils, somehow entertaining, amusing even. If Deary was my history teacher, rather than a thick-rimmed speccy, bearded beatnik with leather elbow patches on his tweed jacket, well, I might just have taken heed of their wisdoms.
Equally, if you want to teach history to a bunch of scooterist skinheads, consider employing The Bakesys, for they are a skanking Horrible Histories, at least for this new album, released last Thursday called Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of.
Something of an elusive band despite twenty years presence on the UK ska scene, the early stages of The Bakesys reflected heavily on punk inspirations, such as the Buzzcocks, crossed with later developments of a definite Two-Tone influence. Sentences I’d Like to Hear the End of takes it to whole other level. Akin to what On-U Sound did for dub in the nineties, sprinkling in a counter culture punk ethos, The Bakesys do for ska. It’s more upbeat than the usual plod of dub, but strewn with samples, heavy basslines, and drum machine loops, it has its elements.
From another angle though, as Dreadzone meld such influences into the electronic dance scene, there’s a contemporary sound, a mesh of offbeat influences with the Bakesys, more in line with the current ska scene. The flood of brass and chugging rhythms confirms its allegiance to authentic 1960’s Jamaican ska. What comes out the end is unique beguiling buoyancy, and it’s absolutely addictive.
Yet we’re only scraping the surface of why, the theme of the album is the kingpin here. Reflecting the era of its influences, subjects are historic affairs based in the sixties. The opening title track raps of Christine Keeler and the Profumo Affair. Get Your Moonboots on is on Apollo 11’s moon landing, and the third, most haunting tune, You are Leaving the American Sector takes newsreels of the Berlin Wall. One I’ve been playing endlessly the single of on my Friday night Boot Boy radio show.
Atomic Invasion explores the Cold War, yet, as with Keeler, this sublime set of songs often concentrates more on the personalities than facts of the events. The Space Race is up next, with a nod to Yuri Gagarin’s luminary. Then it’s the Cuban Missile Crisis with the numerous failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, Cassius Clay’s rise to heavyweight champion of the world, and Robert F. Kennedy’s assignation.
Despite these often-dark subjects, it’s surprisingly upbeat, as if, like I said, The Bakeseys are the funky relief history teacher, and your class is about get moon stomping! The last three tracks offers dub versions of the most poignant tunes on offer here, yet the album as a complete concept is nothing short of brilliant.
The third CD album released on Bandcamp, and quite the best place to start if you’re unaware of them. Keyboardist Kevin Flowerdew, has self-published the ska scene’s definitive zine, Do The Dog Skazine for many decades, which has released this under its label namesake, Do the Dog Music, so he certainly knows what makes a great sound; which this does with bells on.
I’m sure it’ll shock you to hear, I made a technical hitch, best described as a cock-up. It seldom happens, blame my masculinity; the wife often reminds me men cannot multi-task. We featured the indie-pop Bristol-based singer-songwriter Andy J Williams last month, as part of our Song of the Day feature, and I promised to review the whole album “Buy all the $tuff,” which was released at the beginning of February.
Musicians you wait for like buses, then two come along at the same time, and accidently I mind-merged them. Even joked in our Song of the Day post not to confuse Andy J Williams with his namesake senior easy listening giant, then mixed him up with someone else, whose name is nothing remotely similar. The only parallel is they’re both from Bristol, though many are, but being as the other artist’s album involved in this cock-up isn’t released until next week, both got put on the backburner. My virtual to-do-list saved the day; acts as my brain.
Extend a short story longer, here’s an apology to Andy, and a belated review of “Buy all the $tuff,” which is very worthy of not being missed out. To begin with his cohesive band firmly behind him, there’s a Britpop feel, I sensed, vocally, a similarity with Trowbridge’s finest, Phil Cooper, if Phil was aiming for pop. But there’s a lot going on here, influences are wide but mould into each other exceptionally well; a tad tongue-in-cheek at times too. It’s indie on the outer crust, but with a dynamite mantle blending of layers which incorporates funk, new wave post-punk, art-pop, and contemporary electric bluesy-folk, all with equal measure and passion.
Reminisces flood my neurons upon initial listening, of how eighties electronica fused funk into pop, a kind of “funk-lite,” avoiding the substantial seventies untainted funk vibe, and through post-punk new wave, rewrote the club-pop formula. Bands like Duran Duran and Roxette spring to mind, I’d even go as far as Michael Jackson meets Huey Lewis, but while I’m aware there’s a bizarre subgenre called “funk metal,” pleased to report Andy doesn’t get that heavy! This is more like musical cubism, with a skilful composition akin to King Tubby’s mixing board, and it comes out the other end as extraordinarily unique beguiling pop.
Don’t take the opening Britpop track as red, the next, Post Nup, opens up this funk riff, but no matter where it takes you, lyrically this well-crafted too, written with thoughtful prose. There’s topical subject matter amidst the archetypical romance, including the referendum and social media, but no theme distracts from the overall musical presentation. Night Terrors, for example, works opposite to Jon Amor, who uses Elvis Costello pop to create a more frivolous blues, Andy maintains pop by adding elements of electric blues. Then, piano solo, layered with subtle percussion. Andy rinses a fine ballad, undoubtedly the most evoking track on the album, Stay.
Buy This $tuff reaches an apex immediately after, Something to Believe in is masterfully danceable, bathed with handclaps and a funky riff, it is to Andy what Superstition is to Stevie Wonder. From here on, the album takes to this upbeat terpsichore concept. It’s highly entertaining.
Ballads follow, Celia and Now She’s Gone are particularly adroit, but you know Andy isn’t going to end this with melancholy. Be Mine returns to rock as it’s mainstay. Radicalised equally comes in hard, with an electronica feel. And Your Truth Hits Everyone is anthemic, concluding there’s a need to ponder what the Beatles would sound like if still around today, with Britpop, new wave electronica, and clubland techno at their disposal. Through this, I might provide a suggestion.
A figure appears through the labyrinth of florescent drapes, strobing with ultra-violet lights. She’s void of expression, hypnotised in her individual realm she perpetually gyrates, wearing a black figure-hugging bodysuit, highly decorated in costume jewellery constructed from glowsticks. It’s not the image families would conceive of when thinking of Longleat, rather a cheeky posse of rhesus macaque monkeys ripping the rubber insulation off their Volvo.
Yet the Wiltshire raver of yore will note, and reminisce, to trek to Swindon’s Brunel Rooms would be to face happy hardcore, jungle or house, whereas there was a tribal movement of tranced techno-heads, a conglomerate of Wilts and Somerset rural ravers in the basement of the Warminster manor, and it took on a wildlife of its own; the UFO Club at the Berkley Suite. Memories of it flood what’s left of my neurons, I’m halfway into Trowbridge DJ and Producer, Neonian’s debut EP Vaxxor, released this coming Friday (5th March.)
Not before the opening title track, that is, which detonates a more breakbeat house prose at you, something for the peaky middle of a set by Plump DJs in a glasshouse club off Brighton beach in the latter nineties. There’s a lot going on here, for a four track EP, and it’s having all subgenres large.
Released through Weatnu Records, there’s parts of Vaxxor where I thought a more conventional and contemporary danceable beat might rear its head, but it doesn’t, it solidly rides a wave of classic electronic dance music with a penchant for the techno-trance feel, hence my memories of the UFO Club. That said, Vaxxor, as a tune contains definite traces of punky chemical beats, akin the Prodigy or Chemical Brothers, yet rather than a gimmicky vocal or sample element for possible mass-appeal, Neonian seems aware pop has detracted from this trend of recent, ergo its concentration is on perusing a consistent beat and sonic hi-hats.
This leaves you semi-prepared for the more trance-techno sound of the following tune, Glow. For this it is thumbs up as the most poignantly danceable, in the four-by-four psytrance fashion akin to Goa trance. Hypnotic Jerk takes elements of this, and slides into a downbeat “hypnotic cocoon teetering on the edge of normality.” Imagine Nightmares on Wax if triphop hadn’t been invented. We’re in the chillout tent, Eat Static are playing a Sunday morning set, that’s where it is; yeah, I’m with you, mate, got a flyer I can roach?!
All these four tracks were recorded during the lockdowns, and together are a glorious testament to the psych-subgenres of the UK underground dance scene. But if you’ve any misgivings to the variety of the melting pot, I’ll confirm Neonian blends and crafts it with distinct precision. To affirm he’s clearly nodding to his influences, the testament comes to a finale like a returning migratory bird to its nest. Proof to the Tower finishes this short journey off with something, though layered with aforementioned influences, strips the sound back the subgenres’ combined roots.
Proof to the Tower drips with elegant attributes of post-punk electronica, aligning New Order, Depeche Mode and even the stiffer originators, Kraftwerk and The Art of Noise. The EP is getting radio plays from BBC Radio Wiltshire, Kinetic7Radio (Bleeps & Beats show), Radio TFSC and Radio Wigwam, and I’m far from surprised.
Neonian is the work of Ian Sawyer, who has previously released a few singles, a mini LP ‘Treasure’ and provided remixes for Frannie B, NNYz?, Sergeant Thunderhoof and James Harriman. “I make music, for myself,” Ian explains, “I can’t really describe it but it’s mainly made with synthesisers, loops and samples. Influences include New Order, Boards Of Canada, Coil, Pye Corner Audio, Factory Floor, and Russ Abbot.” Unsure about citing that last one, though Vaxxor certainly has an atmosphere!
Nonetheless these tributes to the pioneers of electronica and nineties trance, techno and breakbeats are often viewed as rather soulless, this does what it says on the tin while retaining something fresh to boot. Clearly, four tracks with Neonian aren’t enough, I’d like to hear a fully-mixed electronic concept album, perhaps, to be fully sucked into its deep and hypnotic grooves.
Excuse me for being so fussy, but some uplifting sections, with gimmicky elements such as female vocals would be advantageous. Not solely for my own palate, rather in hope it’ll attract the attention of a wider audience. As, like William Orbit did when he got the phone call from Madonna, I think while Vaxxor is damn cool with florescent socks on, Neonian, I feel has yet to achieve his magnum opus, but when he does, judging by this EP, you’ll want to standing in the middle of it, making boxes and reaching for the stars.
Available on all Digital Platforms March 5th 2021; ‘Vaxxor’ is now available to Pre-Order on Bandcamp via the following link. You get to download the track ‘Glow’ now and the rest of the EP when it is released on March 5th.
Yay! Home Schooling is out for half term, but before it’s replaced with excruciating racket, higgledy-piggledy hullabaloos, and junior revolutionary uprisings, diligent stay-at-home parents teetering on the edge of wine o’clock should note, if the outside activity mountain won’t come to Muhammad, well, Muhammad has to get there online. Here’s some “lit” bodacious suggies to get him harnessing his crampons….
No, I’ve no idea what that meant either, just hit me with your suggestions, homies, and I’ll add them here without beef!
Firstly, keep them well fed, and if you’re having difficulty…….
FREE SCHOOL MEALS ELIGIBILITY
Wiltshire Council is urging families who find themselves in difficult circumstances to check if they are also eligible for free school meals and the holiday food funding. Families can find out details of how to apply for free school meals support on the Wiltshire Council website including those families on: -• Income Support• Job Seeker’s Allowance (income-based)• Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)• Support under part six of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999• The Guarantee element of State Pension Credit• Child Tax Credit – providing you are NOT entitled to Working Tax Credit and your family’s annual income (as assessed by HMRC) is not more than £16,190 (as at 6 April 2012)• Working Tax Credit ‘run-on’ – the payment you may receive for a further four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit• Universal Credit (provided you have an annual net earned income of no more than £7,400, as assessed by earnings from up to three of your most recent assessment periods) • Better2Gether Funding (two year olds only) Universal Credit – if you and your partner are on a low income from work (this usually means a combined income of less than £15,400 a year after tax)Or if the two year old child: -• Has a statutory statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) or an Education, Health and Care Plan.• Has left local authority care through a Special Guardianship Order, adoption or a Residence Order• Is currently a Looked After Child, for example in foster care• Is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)People should apply directly to Wiltshire Council if they are eligible but currently do not have free school meals by using the form on the Council website.
There’s always cartoon and comic workshops to get creative darlings budding. Enter Beano artist and charismatic comedian Kev F, whose Comic Art Masterclass usually travels the schools and libraries of the country, and ends with some seriously entertained kids each with their own homemade comic. The only need to travel is to grab some paper and pens now Kev’s class is online.
But check here for a number of different creators giving away their artistic secrets in comic workshops…
The End of the Pier Show
Jonny Fluffypunk presents a brand spanking new show for families, with poetry, puppetry, story, song and a healthy dose of ramshackle anarchy.
The Farm Cookery School in Netherstreet
have their popular holiday clubs online, and are available to book NOW! They are only £10 – £15 per login and that includes LIVE Tuition as well as a Recipe and Ingredients Guide which will be emailed to you straight away. Just imagine, dinner may be served by your little horrors!
Prior to lockdown Wiltshire Museum were really enjoying hosting Curious Kids sessions for under 5’s and their grown-ups. They have adapted sessions to deliver them on zoom. A chance for younger children to have some interaction with people from outside the home and for families to learn, create and play together – supported by the museum.
February Half term session will focus on Saxon Crafts and will look at weaving jewellery.
Since the jazz era, musical genres start covert and underground, and with popularity they’re refined to mainstream acceptability, packaged into a new pop wave, and eventually fall into a retrospective or cult hall of fame. I first stood aghast at the selling-off of our adolescent anthems when I heard Leftfield’s Release the Pressure in an advert for Cheese Strings. When this happens to you, you’re officially past your sell by date!
When my daughter is in the car it’s paramount, she controls the stereo, at least it is to her. I’m indifferent, the bulk of contemporary pop irritates my senior ears, but occasionally there’s a something interesting hidden. There was one, once, don’t expect me to root through her playlist to tell you what one, pop, but with the backbeat undeniably inspired from drum n bass.
My attention was drawn to a tune this week, Falling, from Devizes’ drum n bass outfit SubRat Records via Gail Foster, who shot the video for it. Listening took me to the aforementioned moment; how drum n bass was now part of the “norm” rather than primarily an underground genre. If it has come of age and entered the realm of acceptable pop, though, there’s still room for experimentation and the fusing of styles, which is no bad thing, and precisely what Falling is. Chris, hereafter known as Tone, has set up SubRat, and Pewsey’s Cutsmith is the vocalist on this particular track.
Cutsmith is current, using hip hop to inspire his acoustic compositions, so it melds effectively. In the way David Grey produced Babylon, Suzanne Vega did with Tom’s Diner or the entire catalogue of Portishead, fusing up-to-date dance styles with acoustically driven tunes is a winner, if done correctly. If not, it’s a howler, but I’m glad to say, this one really works wonders. Falling has a sublime ambient texture and glides causally through a mass-acceptable drum n bass riff. Cutsmith’s smooth vocals complements it perfectly, breathes mood into it and gifts it with meaning; the combination, a match made in heaven.
Though this may not be an entirely ground-breaking formula, I’d like to train spotter a nod towards a lesser-known tune on A Guy Called Gerald’s revolutionary album Black Secret Technology, where through splinters of drum n bass, an unknown Finely Quaye covers Marley’s Sun is Shining. But if you’d rather me example recognised tunes of singers who launched a career from featuring on a dance tune, from Seal to Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and renowned artists who regenerated theirs, like the day William Orbit got a call from the queen of pop, here’s two local artists collaborating for each other’s good, rather than one tossed a rope to the other.
I wanted to probe the mind of producer Tone, about this concept, as what he’s got here is something very marketable, as opposed to something which would only appease the drum n bass fans. I asked him if this was the intention with this tune, yet I didn’t want him getting the wrong idea; I meant this in the best possible way. Even if, Bohemian Rhapsody, for example, is timeworn and cliché, it’s popular because it’s a bloody amazing song. Pop doesn’t necessarily have to be a sell-out, cast yourself away from Stock, Aitken Waterman.
“You’re definitely right about this particular track sounding more marketable and commercial than your everyday underground D&B piece,” he expressed. “I had no intention of making it sound acceptable to the masses but I’m glad it is like that. I think more people should be able to enjoy drum and bass for all different backgrounds. I’m not really trying to make what everyone wants; I just make what I like the sound of, and quite often or not it’s easy on the ear for everyone.”
I wanted gage the story behind this belter. “When we worked on this piece,” Tone replied, “I started out making the entire track without having any intention of putting vocals on to it. I sent it over to Josh (Cutsmith) and he said he’d love to do something over it, which is when we started recording. It turned out really well even though throughout the production I didn’t think I’d be making anything that sounds like this. My roots are actually firmly with the rave scene and I absolutely love sub-heavy underground vibes.”
Is this a debut single from Sub Rat, I asked him. “This is the first free release off of our label, SubRat Records, by myself, Tone. In a hope to bring people in and start a fan-base.” So, does Tone consider himself a DJ and producer? “I’m based in Devizes and solely a producer right now. I haven’t DJ’d for a long while. I produce a lot of drum and bass, but often step into other genres like Hip-hop, dubstep, grime, modern rap and more commercial stuff etc.”
If our local music scene is blossoming, it can be limiting regarding genres, so I welcome this with open arms. To assume such genres are generally confined to a municipal environment you’d be mistaken. Prior to our chat delving into rave memories, as the typecast urban raver always excluded the rural counterparts since day dot, I tried to keep current and ask Tone if future releases will follow a similar pattern, and where he saw SubRat heading.
“Aside from my solo journey I take pride being in the background for vocalists/rappers and providing the music/instrumentals for them,” he explained, “I want to see people succeed off of my tunes!” I hope so, this is promising and like to see other local singers benefit from an electronic dance music makeover, and if so, judging by this excellent tune, through SubRat, drum n bass is the key component.
One of the scene’s most best-known names for more than three decades, Judge Jules has never shied away from pushing the boundaries in dance music. And this year, for the first time ever, audiences will be able to experience the iconic tracks that have defined his career through a ten-piece live band with Judge Jules himself at the helm.
‘Judge Jules: Live’… will be coming to Swindon’s MECA venue on 25th Jan 2020.
Jules’s in-depth involvement in many of the recent wave of “classical” dance events, including Gatecrasher, Colours, Club Class and 2019’s Ministry of Sound tour, inspired the decision to take the impact and emotion of the classical shows, but refine the feeling with a wholly new take on live dance music.
With complete creative free rein, Jules curated every element of the performance. Each track has been bespoke reinvented and reworked in a style unique to this live show, featuring a full ten-piece band, with brass, percussion, drums, bass guitar, lead guitar, keyboard, singers, and of course Judge Jules himself. A 90-minute show from start to finish, the music has been selected to represent the breadth and scale of his career.
“There is something about music being played live that never fails to send shivers down your spine – it doesn’t matter what the genre is, hearing a track performed by live musicians on stage is something you cannot replicate in the studio, or even on the best nightclub environment. So, I decided to create my own bespoke versions of my all-time favourite records with a specially selected band. It’s taken a long time to put together, but finally we look forward to taking the “Judge Jules Live” tour on the road. This truly is a new take on the ‘live dance music’ phenomenon and the tour bus starts rolling shortly.” – Judge Jules
This is not a show to sit down for – combining the energy of specially-chosen outstanding musicians with his own inimitable presence behind the decks, Jules will take the audience on a tailor-made journey through dance music with vocals, hands-in-the-air moments and plenty of basslines that’ll take you right back to your very first rave.
With audiences demanding more from dance music and newfound focus on a visual as well as a sonic spectacle, Judge Jules Live is a chance for dance fans to lose themselves in the moment with the kind of experience that you just can’t replicate with a solitary DJ.
The Judge still won’t budge.
Judge Jules will play Swindon MECA – 25th January 2020
Diversity will be joining MF Dance for hometown show in Swindon.
Red Sky Promotions are proud to announce that they will be bringing the awesome street dance troupe and Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity to The Oasis, Swindon, on Sunday 1st December as the headline act at MF Dance’s hometown show.
MF Dance provide students with enhanced confidence, discipline, fitness and focus through the medium of Street Dance and for this special show case they will be delivering two shows as the main feature. These shows bring together performers of all ages from both Swindon and Oxford in a celebration of Street and Contemporary Dance.
The event will be headlined by an exclusive, 30 minute set from Diversity. This world famous street dance outfit have completed eight sell-out UK tours so far in their career. Their latest tour, Ignite, saw them combine the world of street dance with the world of circus. The Swindon show comes hot on the heels of Born Ready – The 10 Year Anniversary Tour which marks a decade since the dance troupe won Britain’s Got Talent. Diversity continue to inspire the next generation of dancers and are about to launch their brand new online dance classes with 20DV.
Devizes set to party like it’s 1999; zipping up my boots with Funky Sensation.
Normally, if there’s a funky sensation in Devizes it means it’s been foggy post-harvest and the aroma of manure has filtered into town. In a similar light, I confess, I’ve been critical in the past about our only nightclub, events hosted tend to mimic what’s on elsewhere, and I really feel tribute acts have a home in hire venues and pubs, but not necessarily in a night club. It’s an age thing perhaps, usual nights too commercialised for me, recalling the clubbing scene of the eighties, how it assisted in spawning a decade of raves. To me, a night in a nightclub should be concentrated on DJ culture, be dissident dance music, and most importantly, should be banging, mate.
Here then is something that lacks in Devizes, flourishing with original music a trend I adore, though surely there’s a place for dance music too? A glitch set to change; with the potential to be a grand night at the Funky Sensation launch in the Exchange on the 5th April, I caught up with the hosting DJ, George Penny, to find out more about this Funky Sensation event doing the rounds on Facebook.
“Basically, I used to DJ about twenty years ago, free parties, private parties and a club residency,” explains George, who goes by the DJ tag George G-Force. “But then work, life, mortgage, wife, child came along.” It’s not so uncommon, for many the desire to create, artistically or musically though will return to bite them, and George started mixing again about four years ago. “I’ve been trying to get back out on the circuit, but it’s a lot harder now, a lot more competition.”
He’s been DJing in Frome and Bristol, with appearances for the ‘House of Disco’ collective and Input2 Promotions, but explains, “I always wanted to try and put on my own party a bit closer to home (Melksham) but had really been struggling trying to find a venue. I only heard about The Exchange three weeks ago and I think it’s perfect in terms of location; hoping to pull people from Melksham, Trowbridge, Calne and Chippenham.”
So, busting out of retirement, and ready to bring the heat with his unique blend of nu-disco and classic-vocal-funky house vibes, G-Force is set to take Devizes back to an era when clubbing meant clubbing. “We want to bring the fun back, with good old uplifting, hands in the air, sing-a-long music. That could be a classic disco track/re-edit, house anthem or a modern-day club banger!”
He brings along special guest DJ, Nina LoVe and DJ Stach. Akin to George, Nina took a decade away from the scene to concentrate on family and studies. But with a childhood filled with classical music and musical theatre, and discovering dance music and raving in the nineties, she couldn’t hold the bug in much longer than 2012, as with the discovery of Disclosure and Gorgon City, that led to a new energy for House music, vinyl junkie Nina started learning to mix.
Bath-based Stach has been playing to enthralled crowds since 1990, kicking off his career within the techno scene on the Isle of Wight. Since those halcyon days, DJ Stach has played many genres and has a wide repertoire; pleasing audiences with epic sets featuring nu-disco, classic and tech-house.
He can be found on the set lists of some of the UK’s best boutique festivals and coolest club nights, as well as elite private parties. Previous sets include: Shindig Weekender, Grinagog Festival, Love Summer Festival, The Backroom, and The Nest in Bath.
I gulp when my chat with George raises Shindig, as organiser Slim Goodgroove and I go back to art college days, the dawning of the breakbeat rave explosion and through to the fluffy house days of his Stardust Collective. Time to get all fuzzy and waffle off a parable or three, Uncle Albert style. Think I’m boring George now, I’ve a tendency to do that, but in hindsight, I really think a decent dance night is missing from the variety of things to do in Devizes, and welcome this prospect.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” George tells, “but thought I’d give it a shot. Obviously, if we get enough people the aim would be to do it, maybe, three times a year.”
So, from old raver to young house music aficionado, take note; it may be time to dust off your old white gloves and relight the glowsticks. I never thought I’d see the day! Tickets for this launch party, at a fiver, are available from today.
When I was sauntering through early morning mist, wearing the half-demented-smirk-half-gurn of a madman on a day out of the funny farm, a dreadlocked ragamuffin lounging at the wheel-arch of his van, perpetually waving one hand from fist to flat palm, appeared like magic through the haze. He greeted me with a wide smile, asked me how it was going. Between concentrating on my breathing, I told him it was going very well, save I’d mislaid my “posse.”
I complemented him for his wheels, a high-sided second-hand post office van, as I circled it for further investigation. I found at the rear a ladder and asked if I may climb it, in order to get my bearings. He nodded his approval and so I scaled.
On top of the van I could see above the low lying mist to the beautiful sunrise, below it the hats and scraggly ponytails of ravers bobbing like buoys on a temperate ocean. Overcome with the desire to dance, I shouted down, “can I have a little dance up here?!” and again the crusty was only too kind to permit my request.
I was at a disused airfield near Enstone in Oxfordshire, dancing adolescent cares away on top of a total stranger’s van. Other grounded ravers, pointed and joined the dance, until one of the congregation visible attempted to climb the ladder. The owner stood and I suspected he wouldn’t wish for this to become a trend, so I took the opportunity to decend before the girl could reach the top, stating we shouldn’t all clamber on the guy’s home. She agreed and we gathered in a circle, dancing, smiling and trading chewing gum for water.
In today’s age you’d be forgiven for suggesting I made this up, but really, this is just another insignificant happening from 1991, when rave was in its infancy and everyone partied together in peace, illegally. I guess you’d have to have been there to understand, but we danced, we danced harder, faster and a heck of a lot longer than any previous generation.
We danced in fields, in warehouses, on boats, beaches, service station carparks, and even the occasional nightclub. So much so, if you had to label the decade under one united musical genre, “dance” would be most apt. Dancing wasn’t compulsory, more essential; you’d only chew your bottom lip off if you didn’t boogie.
Musically it was pioneering, the first not to lend itself to individual artists and bands, rather a DJ culture where a mesh of tastes merged into melting pot. An era when a child could gather a TV cartoon sample, slam a breakbeat loop over it and make a record twenty-thousand tranced nutters would dance all night to. Almost punk in nature, skill caved into creative urge, like rock it experimented until it developed into a million branches, but like folk music, it was the united music of a people, an epoch.
Despite not having a “king,” as reggae had Marley and rock had Elvis, though many tried, the concentration of record sales, and creating albums thwarted; a “white label” more sought than a picture disc.
The hit factories exhausted albums in the previous decade, now compilations of hits, rather than the “concept album” of the seventies. As the underground surged into mainstream, and everyman and his dog took up white gloves, plastic horns and whistles to join a burgeoning revolution, albums battled “rave tapes,” to find a home again.
Despite this, albums did quite rightly resurface, many influencing the next decade. This then is my definitive top thirty dance albums of the nineties, let the arguments commence. I complied this list from fond but fragile memories, rather than online researched, so it was personal. Feel free to comment with ones I missed, which in your judgement needed to appear.
But why, I hear you cry, why now; you crazy old sausage?
I theorise trends return in blocks of twenty years, whence the youth inspire their offspring. Think about it, since pop music begun, in the 1950s, when it was supposed to be wild, rock n roll, there was more jazz than the 1930s. The 1960s we accept as the time of mods, merging into flower power, great experiments in music abound, but listen to the charts back then, full of crooners akin to the 1940s.
Ah, but when rock came of age in the 1970s, it stretched to new avenues, glam and punk. Yeah but no but, the 1970s was also jammed with teddy boys; caricatured rock n rollers from the 1950’s with bands like Matchbox, Darts and Showaddywaddy for crying out loud!
The 1980s, again a golden age of musical experimentation, with electronics. But hear the charts, note classic soul from the sixties blessed by adverts for jeans, and rock n roll merged into one excruciating “megamix” by a cartoon rabbit who should’ve been shot at birth and boiled in a stew.
So through all eras we seem to hark back twenty years, the nineties may have been my age of dance, but as the hardcore chilled into clubs, house and garage tunes lent themselves to the disco of the seventies, and indie kids revitalised seventies rock, well, they were just indie kids and ravers were having too much fun to pick them up on their radar. The noughties, if they were naughty at all, rather a cultureless of bombardment of naff, so-called R&B; cliché musical technology found solace in the sounds of electronic eighties, and the fashion matched too.
So, by my reckoning, before this decade is through we’re due a flashback to the rave scene, and with the Tory government treating working class like vermin, it’s not so hard to foresee something major slapping them in the face with a Vic’s Vapour-rub smeared dust-mask and blowing a whistle in their ears; least I cross my fingers and hope.
30- Monkey Mafia – Shoot the Boss (Heavenly Records 1998)
If you thought Damon Albarn was pushing limits with The Gorillaz at the turn of the millennium, or if you thought Death in Vegas made blended cutthroat techno, Jon Carter’s Monkey Mafia outdated and outstripped them both. This is funk, punk-reggae, ragga and sparse beats fused into a frenzy of techno. It’s a dark, nasty and rambunctious clatter which wobbles the mind. It now lives on my CD rack dusty, too scared to dip into again.
29- Black Star Liner – Bengali Bantam Youth Experience! (Warner Music – 1999)
If you missed this one, it’s never too late; it’s timeless. Imagine Massive Attack making an album for Indian restaurants, fuse it with haunting epic movie themes and you’re partly the way to the dub/Bhaṅgṛā sublime crossover experience of the Black Star Liner. This is so gorgeous I couldn’t swallow it, not even with mango chutney. Savour tracks like Swimmer on the tip of your tongue, as the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
28- Moby – Play (Mute – 1999)
Play signifies an end to the most mental decade ever, the fact advertisers, TV producers and filmmakers flocked to acquire every track meant the masses were taking heed of what we knew ten years previous, electronic was music’s destiny. Moby, mild-mannered for an American (he didn’t write a book about his dick,) and modest of his creative output, had been known to us since the word, or track “Go,” something we never thought he’d surpass; if I only could’ve heard “Porcelain,” in 1991.
27- Morcheeba – Who Can You Trust? (Indochina 1996)
A hefty night’s clubbing saw us washed up on Brighton beach. My mate hopped over to the little chill-out café to ask what the tune was that they were playing; been a Morcheeba fan since. Breezy trip-hop, sublime vocals, it mellows the soul. There seemed to be a plethora of similar styled artists arise to chart after Big Calm, their second album; Dido for instance, M People et-al, while Morcheeba remained in the underground, like an old raver’s secret.
26- Jamiroquai – Emergency on Planet Earth (Columbia 1993)
With the Criminal Justice Act taking hold, the free rave scene lay wounded, and I was open to new avenues. Imagine today, recording stuff off the radio to cassette! I was recording the SoundCity on Radio 1 in 1993 when I heard something awesome, something which bent my conceptions of dance and blistered it with unadulterated retrospective funk. I imagined the vocals were supplied via a large afro-Caribbean lady, visualise my surprise when I saw a skinny honky smaller than his hat, the super-cool Jay K. By the following year I’d seen him perform at Glastonbury, bought a gaudy cap and submerged myself in acid jazz. My peers didn’t favour this move as much as I; popularity of the genre remained exclusive. While Jamiroquai made it through to mainstream, groups like Corduroy, JTQ and Children of Judah went on to produce a few too many albums of similar formula and the movement was short lived. Still, this debut album was earthy-jazz with a conscious and a didgeridoo, and never surpassed by Jay-K.
25 – Photex – Modus Operandi – (EMI 1997)
Well-worn by 97, drum n bass for me had seen better days. But where Goldie and LTJ Bukem’s pioneering albums wasn’t without their flaws, Modus, with peerless Photek drums colluded with the superior jazzy atmospherics of a thriller movie, and melded dystopian synth arrangements, to make it quite simply, perfection. It was a drum n bass awakening for rural techno-heads too, who so far had considered the genre too urban for their tastes. I recall listening to it on the way our first rain-drenched Glastonbury, prior years being clement; it felt apt as we took shelter wherever we could, and wrapped our feet in plastic bags before our putting boots back on.
24 – The Orb – UF Orb – (Mercury Records 1992)
Glastonbury, 1992, maybe, scampering like crafty felons through a maze of tents in the dark, deciphering guide-ropes from hallucinogenic wavy lines and somehow magically avoiding tripping, over the guide ropes I mean. There was a noise, it was not music, it was waves, a soundscape dangling in the air; The Orb were on stage some distance away. Ambient house has no place today, face it, but at the time it wowed. It broke all the rules, hardly strokes of melody, more drifts of resonances and echoes of bass. It was the sort of music to either be awake or asleep to, or drift between them blissfully. While the KLF pioneered this from an ice cream van, the mysterious Orb championed it and their second album UF-Orb was the masterpiece of its genre. There were tracks forty minutes long, which would take twenty five of those minutes before a beat came in. Imagine having to cut Blue Room to three minutes for Top of the Pops!
23 – Deee-Lite World Clique – (Elektra Records 1990)
I bought this on cassette, why you cry, when you had vinyl? Convenience is the simple answer. Witness the confused expression on a millennium kid’s face when you show him a “tape,” but it was the digital download of the era, you could share easier than vinyl. Plus, the American funky sounds of Deee-Lite, which would accompany me on bus journeys to art college, would’ve been viewed as second place during the early “hardcore,” section of the dance revolution. Who’d have imagined in only a few years, DJs like Sasha would take the helm and garage and funky house would be at the forefront. But as we matured it did, for us; the hardcore split into “jungle” and “happy hardcore,” as younger, fresher faces adopted it.
So back in 1990, Deee-Lite was a refreshing break, it was psychedelic enough to satisfy, and Lady Miss Kier had legs which went on forever, should you be lucky enough to climb those platform shoes to the beanstalks of tie-dye leggings. I think, however, the timing wasn’t quite there, and in the UK they never made it far past “Groove is in the Heart.” That said, it’s still a floor-filler today.
22 – Daft Punk – Homework – (Parlophone 1997)
Unsure why on earth anyone would call an album this, the last thing you want to be thinking about when partying full force, but that’s the French for you. Also unusual for a video to attract me to a song, but when I saw that guy with the dog’s head, wandering the streets considered obnoxious for not turning down the volume on his beatbox, well, I rode right into that enormous plodding bassline and figured here was something solid and timeless. I was right, for though my journey into French house was short-lived, Étienne de Crécy’s Super Discount and Air’s Moon Safari coming close to inclusion on this list, Daft Punk are still strong today and still pushing the boundaries of the genre.
21- Rebel MC – Black Meaning Good (Desire 1991)
Over the oceans, and apparently, over the seas, you know when we come it’s just reality. This “jungle” antecedent wasn’t originally on my list, but when it suddenly sprang to mind I wondered how I could’ve missed it out. I replaced The Ragga Twins’ Reggae Owes Me Money album for it, because in reality, it surely worked the other way around for both the Ragga Twins and Rebel MC; they owed reggae money.
Rebel MC though gave credit, even cameos to his reggae influences, and while he may have been aiming for commercial success in the 1980s, when he fired back with Black Meaning Good, he had a powerful message of which hadn’t been tackled from this angle in hip hop previously.
“No,’ some say, ‘that’s not the way, Chat like that, your tracks won’t get played, Stick to the formula ya had before, Fame and money and a whole lot more’, Cha! Wheel out ah dat, seh dat can’t be, I gotta true-speak intelligently, Maybe for that I might sacrifice sales, but I’ll put more weight on the justice scales.”
Plus he done it in a breakbeat style which whipped ravers into a frenzy; sounds a bit dated now, but a pioneering album the drum n bass scene wouldn’t be the same without; nuff said.
20 – Eat Static – Implant (Planet Dog 1995)
Frome’s space-rock the Ozric Tentacles were always a popular band, but once the crusty techno scene took hold, their new outfit was sublime trance, and was the West Country answer to Orbital and Underworld. Oh, attire me with glowsticks and take me back to The Berkely Suite of Longleat, when the whole Universe was compressed into a much smaller Tribal Gathering and despite stern thumps protruding, the crowd were amalgamated, approachable, and hardcore.
This third album from Eat Static was, for me, their pinnacle, but although times were a changin’ in 1995, clubland getting wise, it couldn’t replace getting down and dirty in a forest where police helicopter search lights scanning through trees were treated as visual effects far beyond a nightclub’s glitter ball!
Oh, I’m going to have to leave it there for now, and return next week with 19-11; anyone got any Veras?