Compared to some of the stuff that Pete’s been uploading, these tunes are hardly obscurities, but I reckon that Formation are one of the most under appreciated of the prolific hardcore/jungle labels. I’ve always thought of them as one of the ‘big four’ alongside Shadow, Subbase and Reinforced – not that there weren’t plenty of other big labels (Labello Blanco and Ibiza spring to mind), but these were the ones that survived the transitions between each era of the music with particular style – from hardcore to jungle to D+B and beyond.
Formation were well known for their ‘functional’ sound: anonymous techno vibes ala Basement, but a much ruffer production style, with a touch of ‘ardcore craziness and ragga bizness – yet never as ruff and demented as the Ibiza/3rd party cru. Being located up in Leicester, so far from the scenes epicentre was surely a major factor in the labels development and makes it even more impressive that they managed to maintain such influence in the scene, enjoying a resurgence in ’95 as they became both early and prime exponents of the jump up style that (along with techstep) was to become a dominant sound over the next few years.
Here are 2 ’94 tunes from DJ SS, from a time when Formation’s output seemed somewhat nebulous… veering between strangely anodyne jungle-techno experiments and by-the-numbers amen workouts, as if they’d lost their way somewhat… The title of FORM36 – Tekniq’s ‘The best of both worlds‘ (released a couple of months earlier in the same year) maybe sums up what they were trying to achieve during this time, but my overall impression of their ’94 output is of a label struggling to maintain a sense of identity in the face of fierce innovation from their southern counterparts and the dissolution of ‘ardcore scene dynamics and the market/audience that allowed rave to thrive.
‘The Switch’ starts as a nice rollin’ little number (supplemented by a hefty 4 to the floor) and then drops into some serious progressive house vibes via those cheesy synth filigrees and strings. Everything goes a bit dark as the vocal samples and piano loop take over, and there’s just time for a brief breakdown before we’re pushed headlong back into the path of some brutally dense rollin’ drums for the understated finale. My cohort Slug loves this tune, and we’ve played it out a few times, finding it particularly handy as a transition tune from 4/4 hardcore into ’93/’94 rolling jungle.
Ruffige! Now here’s a tune that takes no prisoners. Take some layered rollin’ beats ala Rhythm for Reasons’ (an SS alias) ‘The Love statement EP‘, throw in some snatches of the standard 4/4 and out of tune vocals, add in some melody hooks that sound like you’re cycling through presets on a dodgy Casio keyboard, liberally sprinkle drums with some timestretched ptich-shifting… and presto – complete insanity! This ones a huge improvement on the original and I dubbed this track as ‘The Terminator of the midlands’ when I first heard it – an obvious exaggeration, but I still find that the random amalgam of styles and ideas and the sheer viciousness of this tune to be almost as devastating as Goldies’ hardcore magnum opus. Proper end of the night dancefloor weaponry – a cluster bomb calibrated to destroy E-casualties…
PS: Thanks to Pete both for his fantastic work on this blog and infinite patience with his less than prolific fellow posters! – droid