Damn, back to slacking with the tune posts…. here’s an odd obscure-for-the-sake-of tune to make up for it. No idea about this one, other than I’d never seen it before so took a chance on it. It’s supposedly a US record (according to Discogs), though I don’t remember whether there was any indication about that on the record or if someone just made a guess when listing it on discogs. Music-wise, It’s a sampleadelic hodgepodge of various riffs, acid squelches, questionable vocals, etc; total “Throw the whole plate at the wall and see what sticks’ style. Also, the first sample in the tune sounds like the intro of the Liquid Aliens EP, might be the same source sample? Not sure what else to add really, it’s just an odd, fun tune that I doubt other people have heard, so give it a listen. Theory – Funkin Since 11
Here’s a fun 92 tune I’ve been waiting to play in a mix, but since there hasn’t been a good opportunity and no tracks have been posted in a while, I’ll force myself to post it up in full.
I first came across this tune in a mix by the brilliant Chris DJ Sav (RIP). A lot of Chris’ later mixes focused in on super oddball, off kilter tunes with a strong “so wrong it’s right” feel (eg my personal favorite stuff). Plutone’s tunes highlights this well. Despite being released on some slightly more established labels, and seeming to be a relatively big german techno/rave act (I think they were on a big loveparade comp if my memory serves me right), a number of their tunes were super mental sounding, with buzzsaw synths and interesting change-ups. This one in particular goes from a more standard (but harsh) ravey melody, to a sort of brutal atonal pattern that sounds way harsher to me than most 92 stuff of the time… almost more in-line with some dark PCP type thing. Definitely NOT for everyone, but a cool track for those into darker more “out there” hardcore stuff.
Oh yeah, normally I try not to mess with the sound of posted tunes, but I’ve applied some compression to this one since the dynamics always felt a bit off to me…certain parts sounding way louder than others. Hope it doesn’t ruin it for anyone, but it definitely makes it a bit of a smoother listen for me. Plutone – The Damned II
It’s been quite a while since I’ve been motivated to post a tune on here. Last night I was rooting around a bit and found this tune, and couldn’t wait to play it in a DJ set.
Original DJ Vibes is a really underrated producer in my opinion, from earlier hardcore days through to jungle stuff (and even some early dnb if I remember right). He just cranked out tons of tunes (mostly on his own labels) during that time, and the hit/miss ratio is pretty damn good! This EP is no exception, with this tune in particular showcasing elements I like the most about 92-93 hc/jungle (the rugged experimentalism / “anything goes” nature) before things got a bit more stripped down and stabilized in the 94-95 era. Here, you get some good but standard elements like the ragga vocal and some of the pads and background sounds. But there’s also a weird water drip sound integrated in with the breakbeat, and the break itself sounds extra crunchy, leading this tune to sound maybe even a bit more 92 than 93. Finally, though it’s a minor detail, there’s a nice edit about 24 seconds in which reminds me of a rugged BRAIN RECORDINGS b2 side tune: one of those “so wrong it’s right’ type parts where an entire sequence is pitched up and down without regard to tempo, making everything go intentionally off-kilter for just a second. Love it!
Here’s a personal favorite of mine from the Absolute 2 label… only for fans of weird, dark, strange oldskool. No catchy anthem business here! This EP is far removed from the other Wiz EP on Detroit House, so much so it almost makes me wonder whether it’s by the same artist (Mike James). But James did a variety of styles of tunes, and this doesn’t sound too different from the Noise of Art stuff he did with Dave Nodz…so it could be by him. It’s a cool track regardless, with some unique sounding breakbeats, strange bleepy noises, and ominous synth groans and horror movie strings popping in and out. Much more the type of thing I’d expect to hear deep into a set at some ungodly hour on pirate radio rather than prime-time at a rave. I don’t think this ever featured prominently in any well known “classic” sets. It certainly isn’t a rare or hard to find record, which makes it all the more worth grabbing a copy if (like me) you like these sort of tunes. Wiz – Freak Sexy Style
Here’s a fun track I put in my mix for beantownboogiedown last year… despite the fast tempo and presence of breaks, “Digital Fish” is sort of a techno/hardcore/jungle hybrid, “jungle techno” without sounding that similar to Ron Wells/Basement Records stuff (though that’s what I’m most tempted to mix it with). Produced by Nick Power (who I wrote a bit about previously here) “Digital Fish” features a filtered tweaky lead and stompy 4/4 beat made from breakbeats. The changeups aren’t as frantic or abrupt as other hardcore of the time, but they definitely occur with some frequency so it’s fine for listening to on its own as well as being quite fun to mix. The other two tracks on this EP are more standard 92 hardcore, pretty good if nothing too eventful to my ears (though they may be personal favorites for some if they happened to be featured in the right mix back in the day!)
All in all, this is a bit of an underrated jam in my opinion – hardly one of Nick Power’s best known tunes, and certainly not anywhere near as played as “Bach To Basics” (the other Eat Life EP). Cheap and easy to find, well worth nabbing for obscurity seekers. Eat Life – Digital Fish
Wow, I can’t believe I’ve gone 5 years writing this blog without posting about Sub Love… I think I’ve been subconsciously holding off just so I’d have something special to post on a rainy day. Well today looks pretty miserable out, so I guess now is as good a time as any!
Sub Love was a hardcore due consisting of of Jody (Way Out West) and Dan (DJ Die). Prior to this project, both members did 2 acid/breakbeat EPs with Jody’s brother under the name “Tru Funk”, but Sub Love was really where they started to shine. Though fitting quite comfortably into hardcore of the time, Sub Love seem to have a pretty distinct style from their first EP on. All the classic hardcore elements are there: rave stabs, breakbeats, catchy diva and hiphop vocal snippets… but there’s also a kind of chugging techno feel to a lot of the tunes, contrasted by excellent decidedly non-techno-esque music changeups and generally excellent melodies and song structure.
This track is probably one of their craziest. Aside from being a “personal favorite” (I probably say that about half the tunes I post here), I’d say that if I had to pick one track as an example of what I love about the “anything goes” nature of oldskool hardcore, It’d probably be this tune. Somehow it manages to move from moody intro into absolutely crazy buzzy belgian synths into a more traditional stabby breakbeat section into a nice piano hook section, and back again… all without breaking a sweat or sounding too disjointed. As with all their productions, the engineering is excellent and the tracks sound every bit as good as any coming out on labels like Shadow / Sub Base/ etc at the time.
Despite how much I like this track, it was still really difficult to pick which one to post off this EP, and I’m sure some people will reply how a different tune is the clear winner. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard every track off this EP in a major DJ mix from back in the day, even the “dj bonus”. Also, though this is one of my favorite EPs by them, I’d wager that the “Underground EP” is every bit as strong, and is similar in how each track is so high quality. The fact that both EPs only go for $5-20 these days means there’s no reason not to own them, even if they cost more the fact is you’re getting more “a sides” with each record than with 3-4 other EPs by lesser artists!
Aside from their own EPs, Sub Love also did a really choice Edge of Madness remix for Luna C, which is available on vinyl on a number of releases/reissues/comps as well as digitally on his Kniteforce Revolution store. In addition, Will from Sublogic Recordings ( one time writer for this blog in its earliest days, hopefully some time in the future as well?) did an excellent pair of releases a couple years ago featuring all unreleased Sub Love tunes from back then… definitely check both Part 1 and Part 2 of those. Though his webstore is defunct for now and the label isnt putting out new stuff fro the time being, Will still has copies of these 2 Sub Love releases on Sublogic for sale on discogs. Be sure to grab those, grab the originals, and big big respect to Sub Love for all the amazing tunes!
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:
math calculations to determine target sample length given BPM / current sample length / pitch
For breaks, chopping the hits and replaying them at the target BPM
“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.
Something a bit different here… I remember this tune being listed on some website a few years ago as “experimental hardcore.. for the deeper heads!” or something to that extent. Listening to the tune then I thought “I don’t get it, these beats are pretty straightforward/not that choppy? sounds pretty normal to me”. I guess I was so focused on the standard loop-y beats I didn’t notice all the bleeps, squawks and buzzing sounds throughout the tracks themselves… pretty cool and different sounding from your typical 93 track for sure. Even though I normally only post one track per release, I’m posting 2 out of the 4 on this EP because
Here’s an interesting EP which took me a while to get fully into – it sounded promising when I heard it years ago, but when I finally got around to buying a copy, none of the tracks really resonated much and it kind of sat in the back of my collection. I just found it recently though when pulling records for a darkside special (which I’ll post soon), and I’m definitely more into it now. The tunes are pretty weird and unique sounding, maybe not the most hard hitting but with lots of samples and parts coming seemingly out of nowhere. In general this focuses more on the dark side of things, though it’s far from a typical “darkcore” release.
The EP was actually released on a sublabel of the classic metal label Earache, who despite focusing more on grindcore and hardcore tried to feature a fair bit of electronic oriented stuff back then (partnering with Industrial Strength for a while, etc). Possibly since it’s on such a decent sized label, the full sleeve artwork is actually pretty nice, reminiscent of something you’d see on a rave flyer. DJ Senator And The Bagman – Tranqued
This is possibly the strangest oldskool track I’ve ever posted, and that’s saying a fair amount. The artist behind this (Icons) is not to be confused with the UK early atmospheric / jazzy dnb Icons (aka Blame and Justice), or Icon (a Bay B Kane alias). Rather, it’s a group from Germany who I think were a bit more in the hardcore/hard trance scene. The A side of this EP is slightly more normal and playable, with some distorted shouted vocals that still sound pretty different from what was going on in the UK at the time, more in-line with what Alec Empire + DHR crew would start doing just a couple years later. Hidden at the end of the B side is this weird little number, all nonstop arpeggios and super quirky synths. Not exactly a dancefloor smasher, but really fun / funny and showcasing the “mental”est side of hardcdore. If you like this, definitely check out the earlyWeird Beard EPs I posted about a while ago. If you don’t like this, try to keep in mind that not every hardore track has to be super deep jungle cut, eviler-than-thou darkside track or an epic hands in the air piano anthem 🙂 Icons – Stop – Go – Celebrate