The early 1990s was an interesting time for the New York underground scene. Larry Levin was living his final years, seasoned clubbers reminisced about the good times of Studio 54, while Garage House moved across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom. Then came Moby, and brought a fresh dimension of ‘rave’ into the mix. A lonely inhabitant of an abandoned factory based in skid row outskirts of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he was inspired by fringe culture. A regular DJ at the Mars Club, he introduced the locals to his innovative sound. Though ‘Go‘ birthed the producer’s career, ‘Next Is The E’ was always the set-starter, according to his 2016 autobiography ‘Porcelain‘.
The track opens up with a drum pattern similar to 1980s Hip Hop hits such as Big Daddy Kane’s ‘Ain’t No Half Steppin‘ or Eric B. & Rakim’s ‘Paid in Full‘ that simmered its influence into 1990s. A hyperkinetic bass loops, an inheritance of Moby’s teenage years involvement in DIY punk bands. A masterful use of stripped down, sampled vocals have painted Moby’s picturesque discography. In ‘Honey‘ he sampled Bessie Jones, Boy Blues’ ‘Joe Lee’s Rock’ laid the fundamentals for ‘Find My Baby‘ & Vera Hall’s voice conducted ‘Natural Blues‘. Here he combines male ‘Heart-beating‘ chants with female ‘I Feel It‘ and ‘Yeah‘, all which sound related to the other. The breakdown, however, is the highlight of the track. Stripped of the bass, the kick and soft hi-hats accompany radiant ambient pads. Moby is gifted in soundscapes, none more evident than in ‘God Moving Over The Face of The Waters‘ which scored as the OST for Michael Mann’s 1995 movie ‘Heat‘. The melody coalesces, with repetition of ‘These are the odds‘ to raise the dopamine levels before all comes crashing into a drop. The preluding elements collide with the new vocal chants to complete a collage of rhapsodies, all dancing in unison to bring down the soundtrack of paradise.
Looking for a banger that will absolutely shut the place down? There’s a reason why this one is called Da Groove Moov Mix. Hearing this thing play on a piece of Plastic is unreal, and unsurprisingly so. Like Herbert, Ricardo Villalobos and Rhadoo, all his tracks are made on analogue. Enrico even himself professes to ‘Own every type of machine their is.’ Often playing at Number 90 Hackney party Half Baked, shows true soul in his production. First released all the way back in 1995, Hypnotizer (Da Groov Moov Mix) was rereleased this year and sounds just as fresh now. Displaying a real 90s sound, it equally shows a resistant toughness that will captivate the dancefloor.
As soon at the track starts a skipping drum pattern ticks along to automatically boost the energy. In this interview with Play Wax, Enrico talks about the range of machines he uses. Kawai Q80, Atari ST512 and Cuebase 2.0 are all mentioned as only being abled to sequence MIDI events. And you can hear that in the bass. Hit in a 3 note sequence, it’s not too dissimilar to Asquith or other Lobster Theremin tracks. Hi-pitched guitar licks give it a luminous city lights identity. A sublime lyric then beseeches the dancefloor commanding you to ‘Hypnotize Yourself’. With what’s going on around sonically, this won’t require much effort. A classic mid-naughties synth fitting for an illegal warehouse rave gives it a full flavour. With an afrobeat breakdown halfway through, Enrico’s enterprising versatility in style shines through.
Just check out this clip of Zip playing at Factory Club, Barcelona. You can see the power of Enrico Mantini’s tracks with the volumnious B1 Hypnotizer (Virtual Hypnosis) being played out. Half Baked crowned him ‘one of the European founders of the deep house music’. ‘Da Groov Moov Mix’, with its dubbyness, surely influenced the formula of production for more dubbed out producers like Subb-an or Dyed Soundroom.
The 90s was great a great decade for breaks. Normally reserved for fast-paced DnB or HipHop cuts, it inevitably it made it’s way into House. Gemini’s ‘We Are The Future’ released in 1999 showcases superbly how Breaks x House can complement each other. Chiwax, one of the phenomenon Rawax’s sister label did well to rerelease this. It’s a downtempo affair that certainly brings about hints of the Nu Jazz of Jazzanova inclusive of Acid Jazz elements. The looped drums sound like live instrumentation opening up the scope for listeners of neighbouring genres.
Pitched down, the drums are really brought to the fore of the track. They’re hit with conviction and nous of a skilled jazz musician. The same drum sample, albeit drenched with more reverb than a Patrick Topping set, was also used by Ron Trent’s USG project. Bass plods away sounding like a double-bass being slapped live. It brings an incredible funk sounding straight from an Erykah Badu Neo Soul cut. Single note chords enter the fray, before a sketchingly echoing like a car hitting the handbreak giving an off-the-wall feel. Stringed samples which Kanye West may use guide the track in a warm direction are used with care. Harmonized female vocals sing ‘We are the future’ imploring one to look ahead, rather than back, just as this track is forward-thinking. Continue reading →
Glenn Underground – House Music Will Never Die (Glenn’s Afro Dub)
As the producer’s name suggests, Glenn Underground breathes for the underground scene. A descendant from the local pioneers such as Larry Heard and Lil’ Louis, he has taken the mantle of preserving the soul of House. ‘House Music Will Never Die’ is a heartwarming tribute to the dancefloors of The Warehouse, an anthem for the streets once ruled by Frankie Knuckles.
From the intro, clanging hats and cowbells pave the red carpet for the hefty synthesis of a robust kick & an eminent subbass progression. The power of dubbed bass gives the sound an elevated tier of thump. The super low ends that you’d find in a dub mix contrasts with the higher range in the melody. Paying his dues to the genre’s history, Chicago-born Cei Bei sings:
‘Originating from Chi-Town, House Music will never die.’
The singer often produces songs with lyrics that carry the essence of the early House music community. In ‘Dance Tonight’ he shouts out major world cities from the hotspot of Chicago. All is done with a sense of a virtuous spirit of fellowship immune from material greed. It is all about the music. Bei has previously collaborated with key players in the Illinois scene including Ron Trent, DJ Pap & Abicah Soul. His ability to combine serene with the vibrant vocally is transparent in Glenn’s Afro Dub here which gold-plates the production. Continue reading →
Just like Rakim is often quoted to be your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper, the electronic underground scene has a few nominees for the producers category. Names including Terrance Dixon, Tin Man & Blawan are sure to make the shortlist. Likewise Dense & Pika are likely to get a shoutout, with their consistent releases striving to push the scene forward. Even Mathew Dear has previously asked the pair for their production secrets. What characterises the duo’s career is their diversity in production. Want to hear a deep house album released through Crosstown Rebels? Then checkout the 2010 release ‘Runner’ under their Glimpse alias. In need of a warehouse anthem? Their remix of Tiga’s ‘Planet E’ has you covered. And of course, ‘Amber’, a fitting tribute to the 1990s progressive techno scene interpreted through the lens of 2018.
Nostalgia Ultra ’90
Right from the get-go symphonic synths akin to Faithless’ monster-hit ‘Insomia’ lead the direction of the track. In support, tonic hi-hats bring a buoyant tone. Booka Shade influenced bassline manoeuvres around in the background teasingly. Once the mix-in section establishes itself, Ambstep genre female vocals glide in. The primitive cry of emotion almost feels like a throwback to God Within’s ‘Raincry’. Around the 2:38 mark comes an unforeseen turn – suddenly the track restructures itself into a tech-house banger. With a thumping energy, its a section worthy of a Bicep’s Essential Mix set. No better way to demonstrate Dense & Pika’s vigour to innovate.
New York. It’s a cold winter night of 1994. Most of locals get their music from the radio, or from mixtapes swapped with friends. The Brooklyn Bridge shooting brought terror, yet could not break the spirit of a true New Yorker. Digable Planets won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance bringing pride to the city. It is in such context that the Manhattan-based Nite Grooves record label released LY’s ‘Back 2 Zanzibar’. The uplift given by the King Street Mix fleshes out the jazzy sound of the original. This is a track that depicts the streets of New York filled with narrow alleyways, neon-sign filled bars and active night time activity.
“New york, new york”
The lyrics are simple “Lets go to the Zanzibar” being rehearsed like a graduation speech. Yet the contrast between the uptempo beat and the melancholy synths brings thought into the dance. Bringing out the raw spirit that characterises the decade, the drums sound primitive yet crispy. Above it all, the saxophone, an instrument associated with New York’s Jazz greats such as Henry Threadgill & Lee Konitz, is given a free-roam. It is almost as if LY uses its independence as symbolism of the city’s nature. In the home of the Big Apple and the Statue of Liberty, you’re in charge of your will. Continue reading →
If you’ve ever seen one of Matrixxmans sets, you will know he loves to show the crowd why he’s got the word Matrix in his name. Certainly one for the journey, these are always unrelenting and pumping. Released in 2018 on Dekmental, ‘Initiation’ seems crafted as a perfect track for 5 mins into a set as though a space trooper has just accepted his mission to combat.
From the off, low end sepulchral bass chugs in like it’s engineered for the big room. Squelchy alarm like chords reverberate around the track severing as a warning signal, as though it’s an alarm bell rung by the Death Star in Star Wars. It’s sound it so piercing it will leave leaves the dancer shuddering with anticipation on proceedings of a set. Matrixxman is a fan of 90s sounds, and the melodic bleeps are reminiscent of Jaydee’s ‘Plastic Dreams‘ with it’s galactic leanings, as though one is peering out the side of the space station looking at the worlds beyond. Continue reading →
Mood II Swing feat. Fonda Rae – Living In Ecstacy (Groove Mix Edit)
Maxed out in musicality, Francois K’s 1996 mix of Mood II Swing’s Living In Ecstacy is a classic track with the bright light vibes lightening up any dancefloor it hits. As stated in Fact magazine, Mood II Swing have a “uniquely percussive syncopation to the groove.” Always with a swing, there something a little off kilt about each track which make them shine louder than most, just like this one. Francois K empties the track of a bit of percussion, and ups the bass for a true masterpiece. It is a true reflection of an uptown New York City feel finely tuned for plays in legendary club Paradise, Pacha, Rex Club or even his own Deep Space party.
Juan Atkins’ Model 500 project is one that is not just an alias, but an alias that embodies the culture and concept of classic Detroit techno with its futuristic leanings. Released in 1996 on R&S records it is one that just does not get old, with it’s infectious vocals and it’s journeying through a year 4000 city-world feeling some Techno tracks can give you.
Cruising at pace, it’s airy synths that swell around the simple bass line don’t seem top filling at first, but this is deceptive through the way that it’s filtered. It is like a space ship corkscrewing, and by this giving it a real momentous force. For Model 500, Juan does his own vocals. The looping vocal tells the listener ‘I wanna be there, be with you’ validates the track sounding as though it is trying to get to get to it’s destination at rapid speed. Wooden flute sounds flutter in and out, adding an extra layer of Detroit musicality to the track with it’s jazziness. It’s very heady, helping the track feel a sense of freedom like the space craft is weaving and out of the city scape. Continue reading →
Everyone needs that perfect Monday track. Minimal legend Peter Ford aka Baby Ford and his good mate Thomas Melchoir are absolute masters at making them. Baby Ford released this cut in 1998 on his own Trelik Records it is a timeless track however, and sounds straight outta 2005. Even veering on the cusp of Microhouse from the early 00’s, with it’s snippets of sound synthesising to telescope your mind to another time & place.
What makes the track is what it says in the title. A voice that sounds like a drunk Zoolander tells the dancer to ‘Check, Check your buddha.’ It’s a play on words and sounds like it’s saying ‘Shake, Shake your booty.’ It’s a smart ploy that has been replicated a few times since, contorting the minds processing of the track. Tropical, and lush xylophones sound like the perfect backdrop to for laying back on a beachside hammock laying by a palm tree. Ethereal and eerie, the starlit horns overlayed make it seem like this oasis is floating through space, meandering at will upon a Picasso painted backdrop of stars and gaseous formations. Giving an earthiness to the track is the glitchy and mumbled pads, gives balance to the allure of the celestial depiction painted. Continue reading →