Listen on The Other Radio
Welcome to Episode 15. This time we are all about broken beat. This will be part one in a two-part series, starting with the original tracks from the mid-90s or so until the early 2000s when broken beat tapered off a bit. There has, however, been a strong resurgence in the genre with new labels like 22A, Rhythm Section, Apron and so on and a clutch of new producers embracing the sound, and I will cover that in part two.
Essentially a West London thing, the original broken beat records were very much centred around a crew of producers that had come from varying scenes - hip hop, soul, acid jazz, jungle and house, and we can see these disparate influences in the sound. Jungle in the late 90s splintered in two significant ways. On the one hand, you had producers moving into garage and two-step and then there's a clear lineage from that to dubstep. On the other, a group of jungle producers primarily associated with Reinforced records - the likes of Marc and Dego from 4 Hero, Seiji, G Force, Domu and so on - would become some of the leading lights in the broken beat scene. Together with a range of musicians from the house scene, like Phil Asher and Daz I Kue, jazz musicians like Kaidi Tatham and Mark de Clive Lowe, and a whole host of singers from the soul scene, they very much shaped the sound.
While broken beat is very specifically a West London sound, it reached across the world with producers like Jazzanova and their Compost Label in Germany, Kyoyo jazz Massive in Japan, John Arnold in the US, and the Irma label in Italy, to name just a few.
I will concentrate on the originators though - a loose grouping of producers and DJs centred around the Saga Centre in Kensal Rd, Notting Hill. This was home to the studios of IG Culture and Bugz in the Attic and the distribution hub of Goya that took care of the leading labels on the scene - People, 2000 Black, Laws of Motion, Cooperation Recordings, Mainsqueeze, Bitasweet and so on.
That's My History by New Sector Movements with vocals by My Linguistics. The writing credit on this for the lyrics is Kate Phillips, who would become one of the most sought after vocalists in broken beat under her Bembe Segue name, and I will play a few tracks that feature her fantastic singing.
Another one from New Sector Movements called Anthem, and it's from their LP Download This that came out in 2001 on a major label. There was a half-hearted attempt by major labels to get in on the broken beat scene, but it didn't really go anywhere. It very much remained underground music and has until this day.
The singer on Anthem is Frank McComb, a jazz and soul singer and keyboardist who worked with Branford Marsalis, amongst others. Frank McComb made quite a few tracks with New Sector Movements and worked with Victor Duplaix and people like that. There was a very fluid arrangement in the scene, with a lot of cross-pollination between groups, producers and vocalists.
That's bringing me down by soul tuition on people records from 1997. It's three of the most critical people in broken beats to my mind. This project has Aaron Walters, also known as Afronaught, Scott Clifford, also known as Psyan, and then the great Kaidi Tatham on keys.
They were all members of Bugz in the Attic, and this is also on the People label, a significant record label for broken beats.
Let's get into something else now by KV5. This is Church Candles.
The vocalist is Nikki Taylor, and this again came out on People Records in 1999. There's a really great Nihtin Sawney mix on the B side. Well worth checking out if you can.
Next, we have Likwid Biscuit with Complete Worries and, again, a People Records release. Might see a theme beginning to emerge here! Likwid Biscuit was Ian Grant and Kaidi Tatham; Ian Grant is better known as IG Culture. So you see the cross-pollination in this scene once again.
That's a prolific New Zealand jazz keyboardist poser producer, DJ Mark de Clive-Lowe, with vocals by Bembe Segue - Kate Kate Phillips - who I mentioned before. This is from his Tides Arising album sampler that came out in 2004. So we are jumping a little bit ahead in time. And that was on antipodean records. I had the pleasure of seeing Mark de Clive-Lowe live at the jazz festival quite a long time ago, actually can't remember which year exactly. It was a really fantastic, fantastic performance. And you'll find him popping up a lot in the broken beat scene playing keyboards on various tracks and then also doing his own work. He must have released well over 30 albums. Well worth checking his work out, if you don't know it.
So I'm going to move on to something, another track that also has Kaidi Tatham involved, but with one of the leading lights of the early jungle scene, which is Dego from 4 Hero. This is from a 12 inch called Ain't Nothing You Can Feel.
And that's called Dealt a Bad Hand. So two tracks in a row from Dego and Kaidi, this time on the 2000 black label, founded by Dego. The vocalist on the second track - Dealt a Bad Hand - is Vanessa Freeman. She's also released some really great solo stuff.
The vocalist Ain't Nothin' You can Feel is once again Kate Phillips, AKA Bembe Segue. Here's another track with her on vocals, this time with production from Domu, or Dominic Stanton.
Domu was one of the people who came out of the drum and bass scene and had a solid career releasing jungle records on Reinforced. This track is Save It, with Face on vocal duty and co-produced by Dego. Another one on the 2000 Black label.
An aside. I got involved with a London booking agency called Best Kept Secret that represented many broken beat artists and DJs and wanted to start a night in Cape Town. Jon, a friend of mine, did the promotion, and I took up a Sunday night residency at a place in Green Point called Monk. Every Sunday, I played a six/seven-hour set of mostly broken beat and some downtempo stuff. Unfortunately, it never really took off like we hoped, but we still did it for a couple of years. One of the great things about Best Kept Secret - started and run by London DJ and record collector Nick Matthews (not to be confused with local DJ Nick Matthews, a different person) - was that we used to get numerous free records. So we got many promos and white labels and all sorts of things from the scene, mainly due to Nick's connections and as a representative of many of the leading lights in the broken beat scene.
So the next track I know very little about. It's one of those mysterious white labels. I think it's a remix by Domu or Mark Force, but I'm really not sure; one of many mysterious white labels that I have.
Next up, one of my favourite broken beat tracks, Future Rage by DKD. DKD was Dego, Kaidi Tatham and Daz I Kue, and that's from a 2004 12 inch on a Bita Sweet, a subsidiary of 2000 black. When I think of broken beat, this comes to the fore for me as one of the outstanding records on the scene.
Another one of my favourites that's Afronaught - AKA Orrin Walters, another member of Bugz in the Attic - with Transcend Me. This one came out in 2001 and, strangely enough, on the R&S Records subsidiary Apollo. Melissa Brown, the house vocalist on singing duties. Very Masters at work, isn't it? I've heard many broken beat people say that MAW's Nervous Track was a massive, massive influence on them, and this also reminds me a little bit of MAW's when you touch me with India on the vocals.
Two tracks by Neon Phusion. Again, very tightly linked with Bugz in the Attic. That's Alex Phountzi, Orrin Walters, who we've just heard Afronaut and Kaidi Tatham. We listened to Space Jam, from a 1998 12 inch that came out on a great label called Laws of Motion. The second one was Timeless Motion, also on Laws of Motion a little bit later in 2002.
Next up, we have something from 4 Hero, one of the leading lights in electronic music of all flavours, Marc Mac and Dego.
This track called Hold it Down was released in 2002 on Gilles Peterson's talking loud. It's the Bugz in the Attic Co-operative mix, again underscoring this relationship between the broken beat crews. I remember playing this out back in the day, and it was a massive track.
Right, time for one more. The next track is by Seiji - Paul Dolby - who came out of the jungle scene and released many really excellent jungle records on Reinforced, and then came up with this, the broken beat anthem of all time. Loose Lips featuring Lyric L. Another one that destroys a dancefloor.
That's the end of broken beat part one. I'll be back next time, fourth Friday of August, and I'll be playing you some post-2010 records that herald a bit of a broken beat revival. Until next time.
Times We Used To Spend is a two hour ramble through my record collection making connections between eras, genres, melodies and rhythms.
Listen on The Other Radio