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ASC – Dreadlox

Here’s the extremely difficult to listen to track I mentioned recently… ASC’s “Dreadlox” on Bass Sphere. To be clear, this record is NOT by the leftfield + atmo dnb producer of the same name, though I know that producer was into oldskool back in these times.. rather, I think this EP was done as a one-off by a producer who has gone on to do more dancehall/reggae/dub stuff.

ASC – Dreadlox
“Dreadlox” is a combination of 92 style ragga hardcore elements: dancehall vocals mixed with rave stabs, diva vocal chops, etc. The sample choices themselves are fine, what makes this such a challenging listen is the absolutely BRUTAL timing of the samples,

Before getting into that, I should point out that tempo syncing wasn’t as easy in the early 90’s as software like Ableton or Logic makes it now. These days you can get a visual representation of a sample and individually drag tempo markers around, even fixing individual hits of a breakbeat without having to chop it up. Back in the early 90’s though, I think people usually had to pick between a few options:

  1. math calculations to determine target sample length given BPM / current sample length / pitch
  2. For breaks, chopping the hits and replaying them at the target BPM
  3. “doing it by ear”, pitching the sample while repeating it every measure

Sometimes you can tell where producers may have opted for the 3rd option and/or not chopped the sample quite right, since there’s little imperfections in the loops. Either there’s a brief pause at the end of a sample, or it repeats slightly before the end of the measure. Most of the time though this is barely noticeable, and even when slightly noticeable it can (for me at least) be one of the charming aspects of hardcore… reinforcing the rough-and-tumble nature of the tunes which are more based on trying stuff out than trying to get crystal clear perfect production quality.

That being said, this EP takes these sort of tempo idiosyncrasies and pushes them to an extreme, more so than any other hardcore EP I’ve heard… this tune in particular. It starts out with a good opening ragga sample, but six seconds in you can already tell something is a bit off. Maybe it’s the unquantized melody, but something doesn’t sit right… This sort of tension continues through the track until 2:26, at which point everything goes haywire. Two breaks (Sesame Street and Funky Drummer) come in and, despite apparently repeating at the designated measure boundaries, sound completely out of time with each other. It’s almost as if you took one of the dodgiest trainwrecks from my radio show (of which there’s many to choose from) and recorded it to vinyl!

This timing chaos is pushed even further when the classic “Sweet Sensation” vocal stab comes in on top, making it sound like *3* separate tunes are now playing all at once, slightly out of time with each other. At this point the tune starts to sound less like a rave track to me and more like an experimental music piece, perhaps done as an examination of the “human”-ness of classic hardcore/jungle/rave, trying to magnify its idiosyncrasies to an (il)logical extreme. It’s fascinatingly tough for me to listen to, and this is coming from someone who has spent years listening to and producing all sorts of music which sounds like chaotic nonsense to most people.

To be clear, no disrespect intended to the artist – it seems like he’s done well received dancehall and reggae records since then, and if anything this shows how there really were no rules for this sort of stuff early on. I just find it interesting and, frankly, have more of a response hearing things totally fall apart in this tune than I do for a more in-tune but nondescript ragga hardcore whitelabel tune. I’ll try to post another tune ASAP which I like for slightly more positive reasons.

11 Replies to “ASC – Dreadlox”

  1. I was thinking to myself “this ain’t too bad, perhaps Pete is exaggerating” when all of a sudden at 2.30 – WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED. Blimey, how did this ever make it onto vinyl.

  2. Reminds me of my first experiments on an Atari and 303! Time stretching came in late 92 but was not widely accessible for a while after, at least in a simple foolproof form, so producers mostly attempted to pitch up or down the samples and then make the final tweaks on the b.p.m. One issue was that a lot of source material was not perfectly in time itself, particularly the old rap stuff so the problem of timing was simply perpetuated. Trying to layer three slightly flawed samples gives rise to this sort of car crash but I think it’s still a fair tune. The funny thing is that you can take some massive liberties with samples – real rough cut stuff – and with the use of simple phasers and delays get them into some sort of artificial timing even though somewhere in the spectrum the errors will be secretly playing away to themselves.

  3. Wow – I thought this badboy was dodgy production http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrVpIgFX51w (although the elements in it are fantastic)!!

    How this got onto vinyl is beyond me – I can’t buy the fact that it was made deliberately to show the humanity in producing hardcore in the early 90’s.

    I love hardcore for several reasons, one of the key ones that producers BITD had a tremendous amount of talent with very limited equipment, squeezing every last drop of resources from expensive gear.
    Remember interviewing Nick Hatcher (aka Boykz/Heartless/Euphoria/Mercurial) and he commented on the one piece of equipment he got he read the manual cover to back… a lot; just kids now with a PC and the latest edition of Fruity Loops 🙁

    Absolutely appalling tune, but an interesting read nonetheless 😀

  4. ha I almost mentioned that one in passing Swipez, I had a comment about it on discogs and how sketch the production was and I got a lot of negative feedback about it so I changed it (or deleted it, I forget). I can see how that Satin Storm one is kind of charming and mental due to the crazy distortion etc, plus definitely was played at loads of raves / on pirate radio which is going to make people love it. This ASC track makes “let’s get together” sound like hyper-technical neurofunk in comparison…

  5. Listened again to it and it’s just a case of lousy editing – the first overlay from the very start is off which is the route of the problem. Sounds like a pause button on an eight track effort to be honest with you with no post production or anything – straight from the bedroom as they say but you got to love it for that.

  6. Just Imaging you are tripping again lol
    I used to use the old cubase and sweet 16 just press the quantize button “there ya go”
    still got them in my lofy (Attic)
    Hope u r cool Pete 🙂

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