Gone To A Rave #1

For the last 5 years I’ve been meaning to archive my bloated, ever growing collection of rave records, only to be thwarted by a fatal flaw: basic bloody indolence. No more! I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and start trawling through two decades worth of music- music that bursts with seismic energy and wide eyed naivity, made in two minutes but lasting a life time. I’m going to upload treats and try to locate some sort of narrative — I want to chart how British ravers, constantly looking for the next thrill, have gone from hoofing lungfuls of vaporub to obsessing over Azonto dancesteps in the space of 20 ceaselessly inventive years. I think it’ll be the story of culture hybrids, technological abuse, dumb luck, throw away ideas and split second genius. But who knows? Let’s go!

If I think too much it’s going to be impossible to start this sort of thing, so I’m going to just dive in. I’m fascinated by the way house moved from it’s birth in the States and mutated in such a short space of time — and I’m going to use 3 interlinked tracks to show the speed of change.

First up, from the Lenny Dee and Frankie Bones ‘Looney Tunes EP’ we’ve got ‘Another Place, Another Time’. This EP was subsequently signed to XL Records, and is most widely known for the excellent opening track — but this acid break on the flip is equally worth your time. Here they both are:

Bones was revered on the late 80s/ early 90s UK scene. His combination of minor key melodies, heavily edited breaks and scattershot sampling hit a nerve with English audiences. Dance history has it that Bones was flown over to the UK to play a rave called ‘Energy’ in August ’89. 5,000 people were meant to attend — in the end 5 times that showed up. Bones was blown away, and went back to Brooklyn preaching the idea of rave — as opposed to club — culture. Whilst dance historians tend to eulogise everything about NYC club culture, there’s an interesting contemporary article here, where Bones bemoans the attitude in his native New York, claiming that the atmosphere he’s seen in London can never be replicated in his home town because of violence and segregation.

As with many of the first wave of American dance DJs, Bones ended up being far more in demand in Europe than he ever was in the States, and found himself constantly sharing the bill with young UK talent. This would include the young Darren Jay. Jay had DJ’d here and there around London as a student, then moved to live in Tenerife. It seems he hooked up with Bones here, before returning to England where he was booked to play at Fabio & Grooverider’s legendary Rage parties.

So, next up is Darren Jay’s ’92 production ‘Now I’m Finished’. The distance the sound has moved on from Bones foundations is incredible — the beats have gone to an insane speed, the samples have become longer and more sophisticated, and the bass has been pushed into low end extremities to match the British infatuation with soundsystem culture. As a sound, Jay’s is more aggresive, but also more euphoric. The experimentation of those early New York house records has made way for a more brutal, pragmatic approach — this is music to make thousands of people lose their shit as one. Innovation is welcome, but there’s no time for fat. Still though, the seeds of the earlier sound, the breaks; the bass; the joy, are all right there, beating away.

Darren Jay went on to become a crucial figure in the emerging jungle scene, becoming resident at the influential A.W.O.L. parties. Here he met and DJ’d with former tube worker Mickey Finn. Mickey — who according to Discogs got his first DJ break from Andy Weatherall — shouldn’t really need an introduction. He’s a mainstay of the breakbeat scene, from his early days in hardcore to his current status as a drum & bass veteran. I’d say he also did more to popularise the rave ponytail than anyone else (respect the ponytail!).

I’m going to post a relative obscurity — Mickey’s 1994 remix (alongside L Double) of the Drumdriver track Skyy. Again, only 2 years on from the Darren Jay track and the development in style and technique you hear on these ’94 records is remarkable. In many ways ‘Skyy’ is the blueprint for the perfect jungle track — it does everything you want a jungle classic to do. It’s got chopped up amens, ragga snippets, sub low bass rumble, bursts of off-kilter arpeggio, and liberal, snappy time stretching. In ’94 these practices were still very much in their infancy, so it’s fair to say that Skyy verges on the revolutionary — particularly with those incredibly hyped up time-stretched snare rolls. The bassline sounds a little similar to Leviticus — ‘The Burial’ — with both coming out around the same time it’s hard to know who’s biting who, but really, when shit sounds this good, what does it matter…?

And just to draw it all together — here’s an A.W.O.L. flyer from ’93 where you can see all three DJs playing. Jesus, was Ministry once that good?

Right, I need to stop before i get too misty eyed to type. More soon…

Written by Ian McQuaid.
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