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.