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Music is so special. The theme for this month is drum and bass and jungle and I'll be playing some records from my collection dating from the early to mid 90s. Which is by far the best time for drum and bass and jungle. Actually the only time. I wouldn't bother with any stuff outside of this period, and I'll talk some more about that later.
Mystic Moods - Music Is So Special - Mystic Moods (1996)
Mystic Moods - The Journey
The track we're listening to now is unsurprisingly, Music is so special, it's by Mystic Moods, which was Basement Phil who ran the Basement Records and Street Beats labels. A really important figure who released all the early stuff by people like Roger Johnson, Peshay, Photek, Source Direct in their early guises like Sounds of Life.
This track was done with LTJ Bukem, known for Good Looking Records, and also Looking Good of course, it came out in 1996.
So the style of Drum and Bass jungle that this kind of fits into was called numerous things. One of which was ambient drum and bass, which I think was coined by Simon Reynolds, the music journalist who's written a lot about jungle but also the really terrible term "intelligent" Drum and Bass as if all the other music surrounding it is somehow stupid. We saw this also with IDM or intelligent dance music. It's kind of a gentrification of the sound. Let's move it away from the sweaty dance floors and raves, and so on and move away from terms like jungle which had been embraced by the community. Although there were some original objections to the term jungle particularly from Shut Up and Dance in the UK jungle having a rather racist connotation, but that term was embraced by most artists in the jungle community.
So intelligent drum and bass is an absolutely terrible name but it generally first of its kind of more, I suppose home listening style, although you may not hear it, you know, if you're listening to this on, you know, little headphones or something, but the bass in this is still really, really present. And when you hear this music on a really big sound system with a huge bassbn, it's very powerful, you know, which you don't necessarily get listening to it at home. So there's lots of sub bass still.
Big Bud - Temptation - Creative Source (1995)
Big Bud - Temptation / Fantasy
We're listening to temptation by Big Bud who started releasing stuff around 1994. This is from 1995 and was released on Creative Source which was a label started by Fabio. Fabio and Grooverider are generally the originators of drum and bass and jungle from their night Rage in London, where they would play lots of hardcore breakbeat stuff, tons of house and techno and just all sorts of things. This slowly mutated into what we came to know as jungle and drum and bass. Fabio also partnered with LTJ Bukem of Good Looking on a night called Speed which played more this kind of style. A really influential person in jungle, still going strong, still releasing stuff still DJing. He also had a show on Radio One, a big BBC radio station in London, that I used to listen to religiously when I was there in the 90s. An important figure.
Big Bud made some really great records but also some really forgettable stuff. This one I really like. The interplay between the the crisp beats and the sub bass and the sampled vocal.
Sentinel - Toulepleu - Basement Records (1996)
The Sentinel - Dig Deeper / Toulépleu
The pretty unmistakable beats of Photek or Rupert Parkes, this time in his Sentinel guise. As Sentinel he released three records on Basement, a label I mentioned earlier. This was the last one of those three. The track is Toulepleu, with a track called Dig Deeper on the other side. Three really amazing records that he released under the Sentinel guise.
I think this Basement stuff is now I think it's all on Bandcamp so you can get hold of it quite easily now because these records are now stupidly expensive. It's crazy, like 10 years ago, jungle and Drum and Bass records were worth nothing on Discogs and now they are ridiculously expensive. I mean, we're talking, you know, close to 1000 rand for this one, I think. And some of them in the thousands. It's nuts. But fortunately, there's people like Basement Phil making all these things available digitally. So check out Bandcamp I think you can find it on there. Brilliant record.
PFM - The Mystics - Good Looking Records (1996)
P.F.M.* - For All Of Us / The Mystics
We're listening to the mystics by PFM who were Mark Bolton and someone else. I can't remember his name. PFM released a bunch of stuff in the mid 90s on mostly Good Looking Records - three seminal 12 inch releases. This one which has For All Of Us on the other side on the other side, both incredible tracks, One and only and The Western. Three records that I really cherish in my collection all amazing stuff.
All these can also be found on beatport I think has the Good Looking and Looking Good catalogue.
Skanna - Find Me - Skanna (1995)
Skanna - Find Me (The Remixes)
So this is John Graham aka Skanna and the track is Find Me from 1995. This track is very emblematic of Skanna's sound with the exception of maybe The Greatest Thing which I thought about playing but went for this one instead. It's very linear with that driving sound to it and has a lot of similarities with some Wax Doctor releases that came around the same time on R&S but also kind of nods back to the rave era, with a less complicated drum pattern, but then brings in still the sub bass and sampled vocals. Very much of its time. I just really like the way all the elements cohere and come together Again, I think almost all the Skanna records are on Bandcamp I'm not sure.
Nookie - The Sound of Music (Foul Play remix) - (1995)
Nookie - The Sound Of Music
Pianos and jungle / hardcore. A match made in heaven some would say. So this is Nookie alias of Gavin Cheung and it's The Sound of Music from 1995, the Foul Play remix.
This originally came out in 1992 under Nookie's Cloud Nine alias under which he also released some amazing records especially on Moving Shadow. He's really kind of underrated, a producer I think doesn't get nearly enough credit as he should and is easily as important as Photek and Goldie and 4 Hero and whatnot.
Dillinja and Mystery - Deep Love (remix) - Logic Productions (1994)
Dillinja + Mystery (5) - Deep Love (Remix) / Moods
One of the great 90 producers with one of my absolute favorite Drum and Bass jungle, whatever you want to call it tracks. It's Dillinja and Mystery with Deep Love on Logic Productions in 1994.
If you want to talk about prized records, this is right up there. The other side, Moods, is also amazing.
Dillina is a really seminal producer in the 90s and this track has a weird way of calming me despite the kind of frenetic nature of the drums. Just a very, very special record.
It's a real pity Dillinja got terrible, but I'll moan about that some more later. Let's just listen for now.
Nookie - Only You - Reinforced (1994)
Nookie - Only You
A chopped up sampled drum beat, sub bass and piano, a sampled vocal. That's prety much the quintessential components of a jungle / drum bass track. Sounds simple, but, of course, it's massively complicated and remembering that at this time everything was done on analog equipment with samplers that could only manage a couple of seconds at a time and the complexity of the music is remarkable given the tools that were available.
The vocal sample on this is from a Siedah Garrett track called Kissing which is an old house record from the late 80s.
The lovely arrangement on this and it's one of those tracks that just makes you feel good like so many jungle tracks that they have this sheer exuberant joy to them that you don't find in a lot of other places.
Essence of Aura - Let Love Shine Through - Moving Shadow (1995)
Essence Of Aura - Let Love Shine Through
We are listening to Let Love Shine Through by Essense of Aura which came out in 1995. It samples the vocal from DSK's What Would We Do which I find quite amusing in that it was a Boy's Own record, made by very strict purist househeads. It's quite funny that it ended up here on the kind of quintessentially Moving Shadow jungle track, which of course is the label.
Super important label that had been around since the early 90s. Really, without moving shadow jungle would not be what it was.
Omni Trio - Renegade Snares (Original mix) - Moving Shadow (1993)
Omni Trio - Renegade Snares - Vol 3
One of the seminal jungle tracks by Omni Trio. It's the original mix of Renegade Snares and it came out again on Moving Shadow in 1993. Omni Trio was Rob Haigh, an experimental and modern classical composer before he started making jungle records in the early 90s. The first five or six releases on Moving Shadow are just so important and so incredibly structured.
People used to call what he did break beat science because of the way he managed to cut up these unremarkable things and turn them into such incredible sounding tracks. And the sample on this, for example, that "take me up" comes from a really terrible, terrible house record from the early 90s. And one thing that Omni Trio was so good at was finding these records that you would think were, you know, worthless in many ways, and really turning them into something remarkable.
I mean, when I first heard this track, all those years ago, it absolutely blew my head off. I felt that this is the most thrilling, most exciting music I've ever heard in my life. And yeah, I still think that.
Foul Play - Being With You (Hopa & Bones Remix) - Moving Shadow (1995)
Foul Play - Suspected
We're still on Moving Shadow and this time, the mighty Foul Play's Being With You, from 94 which came out on a double 12 inch called Suspected. Foul Play had a really unique and distinctive sound. There's a serious attention to the bass and while their beats weren't as experimental and cut up as the likes of say Photek or Source Direct or Omni Trio they just had a real groove to the sound for want of a better word, and also have amazing use of samples. Again, Moving Shadow, seminal label without them we wouldn't have this fantastic music.
T Power - The Mutant Remix - Rollers Instinct (Remix By DJ Trace) - SOUR (1995)
T Power* - Turquoise / The Mutant Remix
And now for something completely different. So this is Rollers Instinct,The Mutant Remix. The track is by T Power and came out in 1995. The remix was done by DJ trace and Nico was the engineer. These are important things because this is largely regarded as the first track that would be called tech step, a variant of drum and bass/jungle. There are so many sub genres in jungle but most of them are absolutely terrible.
So tech step became a dominant force in jungle for the foreseeable future, from around 95 onwards. People were still making your atmospheric stuff and there was some really terrible, terrible jazzy, drum and bass bass. Easy Listening nonsense, really awful.
I have kind of an ambivalent relationship with with tech step. I mean, some of it, I think is absolutely amazing. And I'm going to play some of those tracks and I think those are superb and some of the most powerful music you'll ever hear. But on the other hand, I also think in many ways tech step ruined drum and bass and jungle, because it became the only kind of style and a lot of exuberance and joy was kind of lost from the early jungle and more atmospheric stuff.
It went down a cul de sac very, very fast. And really, to my mind, drum and bass and jungle has been rubbish for over 20 years.
You know, I get into trouble for criticizing drum and bass. Apparently I'm permanently banned from ever playing at a drum and bass and jungle party in Cape Town because I wrote an article in the late 90s that was mildly critical of the scene, which I find both tragic and hilarious at the same time. I'll probably get death threats after the show for criticizing things.
Not very open minded the jungle scene.
So this track is super important. It was the first one to use what's known as the Reese bassline, which is that kind of low end rumbling sound that you hear and it came from a Kevin Saunderson house record that came out in 1988. That was called Just Another Chance. I have that record and it's pretty crappy actually. But that bass was taken from this had come to be known as the Reese bassline and it's very much the dominant sound in drum and bass in the years to come.
Ed Rush - The Force Is Electric (Remix) - No U-Turn (1995)
Ed Rush - Guncheck / The Force Is Electric (Remix)
Ed Rush remix The Force is Electric. It came out on No U-Turn in 1995. Ed Rush, Nico and Trace. Three really very important techstep producers. This track and the other side, GunCheck, predict the way they were going to go in the future on the No U-Turn label which is very influential. Dark side as some tracks were called.
The melodic elements of early jungle and the more atmospheric drum and bass kind of disappeared in favour of a lot more emphasis on just the bass and the drums.
This is very much a pointer to to the sounds that would follow.
Dillinja - The Angels Fell - Metalheadz (1995)
Dillinja - The Angels Fell
Dillinja again, very much at the height of his powers with The Angels Fell on Metalheadz in 1995. It's very much the tech step sound of the time, which is kind of brutal, but at the same time it's so incredibly danceable and upbeat in a way despite the almost kind of paranoid feeling to it. It's almost claustrophobic paradoxically at the same time, it makes you want to move your body to be all cliched about it. Dillinja was just incredible at this kind of sound. No-one really sounded like this except maybe Lemon D and really no surprise that they became partners.
808 State - Azura (A Mix By Dillinja) - ZTT (1996)
808state* - (Promotional) Azura
Was that what the kids call a drop? I don't know anymore.
This track you play it loud and you are peeling people off the walls. It's absolutely ferocious. Again, of course it's Dillnja. I mean, no one does this like he does this.
This is actually a remix of an 808 State track called Azura. It's unremarkable, and rendered unrecognizable by this mix, except for the little vocal snippets that you hear. This was a huge favorite of the Metalheadz people in London, Kemistry and Storm in particular. It's on all their mixes from around this time.
It also came along with a major label, which was another interesting thing of this era of these underground drum and bass and jungle producers starting to remix these major label artists and starting to see major labels trying to figure out how they can make money from the drum and bass and jungle scene.
The beginning of its demise. Still this track is just unbelievable.
Doc Scott - Drumz '95 (Nasty Habits Remix) - Metalheadz (1995)
Doc Scott - Drumz '95 (Nasty Habits Remix) / Blue Skies
Peshay - On the Nile - Metalheadz (1996)
Another tech step classic, Drumz '95 the Nasty Habits remix by Doc Scott also on Metalheadz.
Doc Scott is responsible for three really important records. One was the NHS EP which came out in the early 90s which was a seminal hardcore breakbeat release. And then two tech step records. One is this, Drumz '95, and the other one was Shadow Boxing by Nasty Habits. These took tech step to its logical conclusion, this like metallic, almost industrial-like clattery drums, less cut up and chopped than your earlier drum and bass and jungle, not much of a melody if anything at all. It's all very powerful tracks but kind of the end point of this kind of sound. I think for me I kind of lost interest after 1996 and I don't think I have any records from after then or if I did I have long gotten rid of them.
Still it's another important record and very much the Metalheadz sound from this time.
Peshay - Predator
So it wasn't all metallic tech step riffs and Reese basslines at this time. This is a track from Peshay a really great producer. Check out his Vocal Tune on Good Looking if you can. It samples India famous for her work with Masters at Work.
This is On the Nile and it samples Claude Debussy, and it came out on Metalheadz 1996. The other side of this is like a crazy tech step monster called Predator. Couldn't have two more different styles on one record. So this kind of style was still being made but it was becoming increasingly radio friendly and music for selling cars and nice furniture, things like that. Metlaheadz didn't release much stuff that sounded like this. It was far more like the Dillinja track I played earlier. This was a nice counterpart to that at the time.
It's a bastard to mix though.
The Two Gs - The Reno - Juice Box (1995)
The Two G'$* - Energy / The Reno
Two of my favorite producers on one record, this is the Two GS, that's Goldie and A Guy Called Gerald. It's from 1995 and it's called the Reno. It also appear on Gerald's Black Secret Technology album, possibly one of the only good drum and bass / Jungle albums.
This is slightly different to the last few tracks I've been playing. You can hear the beats are more cut up and there's more vocal melody. It came out on a label called Juicebox which was run by Gerald.
Internal Affairs - Hands to Heaven - Reinforced (1993)
Internal Affairs - Internal Affairs EP
Saving the best for last. This is Internal Affairs with Hands to Heaven on Reinforced and it's from 1993.
This EP and the four tracks on it is possibly the best hardcore drum and bass release ever.
It's Mark Mac and Dego aka 4 Hero and Goldie on 4 Hero's Reinforced label and it paved the way for the development of this particular sound.
The vocal sampole on this "raise your hands up to heaven" is actually from David Sylvian from his Brilliant Trees album which came out in the mid 80s. I'm a huge David Sylvian fan. He was the singer for Japan in the early 80s. And Goldie is kind of obsessed with him. His early track as Rufige Crew called Ghosts samples Japan extensively. So it's interesting how these kind of samples and interests come together.
This is the the most mellow for want a better word track on the EP, the others are a lot more upbeat. And you can hear the hardcore influence. An amazing record.
And so that brings us to the end of show three. Thanks for listening. And as I said before, I have a hugely ambivalent relationship with jungle and Drum and Bass, kind of a love / hate relationship as in I love the early stuff, and I hate the contemporary stuff. With some exceptions. I started buying some new stuff a couple years ago, but it all really just sounds the same as the stuff that was made in the 90s. Some really good producers out there like Dead Man's Chest and Tim Reaper, Kid Lib and so on, but I'm kind of thinking that that's just nostalgia.
Of course there's a lot I haven't covered in this show. So records I pulled out that didn't make it in for various reasons. So you there's no ragga stuff, no Tom and Jerry or Leviticus or anything like that. There's no hardcore breakbeat stuff, like the origins of jungle type records. I'll try and put those into another show some other time.
As usual I have documented all of this with links and whatnot on my website, you can visit the link below. And a few years ago, I did a mix of some of these records and some other ones that's still up on Mixcloud. You can follow that on my individual profile.
And then I haven't really talked about the drum and bass and jungle scene in Cape Town, which was a lot of fun in the 90s for a little while, and I'll address that some other time too.
Till next time.
Times We Used To Spend is a two hour ramble through my record collection making connections between eras, genres, melodies and rhythms.
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