Friday, 29 March 2013

054. Gatecrasher: Red & Black [13-10-2012]

At the turn of the Millennium, Sheffield based clubbing promotion Gatecrasher was in the decided ascension. Throughout 1998 Trance was fully establishing itself in the collective clubbing consciousness, leading the way as the underground and overground dominant paradigm genre. By 1999 it had defined itself as the sound of the era, it's own production values seeping into artistic styles of other genres (think dubstep now). Trance was the zeitgeist. Gatecrasher was central actor in this process.

Unlike Ministry of Sound, which while commercially larger and around longer and having carved itself a niche as a trendy place to club. Gatecrasher had succeeded in a way MOS never could have imagined. It had spawned its own youth subculture. Like the Ravers, Goths, Punks, Metal Heads and Teddy boys before them the Crasher Kid was its own, if rather niche youth sub-culture which was essentially linked with music. Gatecrasher had it set out: the music, Trance, the new clubbing sound with european influence whit a harder edge, clothes from Cyberdog and a vaguely, but certainly undefined and often unacknowledged, Cyberpunk/cyber goth leanings. Oh, and that’s forgetting a little bit of a drug connection with MDMA and amphetamines.

Things change a lot in 14 years and all signs of that core cultural connection had long since been replaced by trendy handbags, shoes and shirts done up to the collar button.

Gatecrasher Red & Black was headlined as part of Gatecrasher Birmingham's 4th Birthday. While the Gatecrasher brand had been around for much longer, the club had expanded from its Sheffield home. In way of celebration, a classics night featuring Tall Paul, Seb Fontaine, Judge Jules, Scott Bond, Solar Stone and Signum.

During that era Judge Jules was at the peak of his DJing career. Listening to his two weekly shows on Radio 1 was the reason why I got decks and started DJing in the first place. Seeing him play the tunes I owned, and remember playing on the radio would be tempting to say the least.

I have always attributed to Jules the skill of 'understanding' as a DJ - recognising the time he was playing, who he was playing between and importantly what kind of night he was playing at. I regarded him as a 'safe pair of hands' who could be trusted to keep the course true. I distinctly remember Jules adapting his sound the the particularities of any given night. Sadly, he got this horribly wrong at Red & Black, playing only a handful of 'classics'. While I understand the incentive to play some contemporary music to keep modern, younger fans interested, the balance last night was poor to say the least.

Things were amply atoned for with the arrival of Scott Bond on of the main driving forces behind the success of Gatecrasher during its halcyon days. As the average age of the dance floor dramatically increased, he produced a perfectly pitched set full of classic era tunes without the commercial baggage. A set brimming with the sound of Gatecrasher as I remember.

Pulp Victim - The World (Moonman Remix) by dcp84

Ticket Price: £13.55
DJ of the Night: Scott Bond
Tune of the Night: Pulp Victim - The World (Moonman Remix)

Monday, 23 April 2012

053. Hysteric Ego - Want Love [EGO 001]

Comparing this iconic house record, straight from the halcyon days of mid 90s Ibiza, to contemporary house music and the difference seems insurmountable. On the one hand you have real synthesizers short loops and samples, on the other huge risers, endless monolithic grooves, and increasingly complex automation channels all woven together on a DAW.

If all these divergent sounds and influences are to both be considered house music, we need a common denominator. Chords and melodies won't do, nor will production techniques; both of these get caught in the tidal shifts of technology, societal trends and the interests of capital. Intrinsically, the only single essential element to house music is the 4/4 electronic kick drum with a ride cymbal on the off beat. Even then, these rules are broken on numerous occasions.

Once these rules get broken consistently, the variations spawn into their own unique genre. In some cases, the differences become so profound and sounds so established they themselves develop into a parent genre such as Techno or Trance. As a genre they come with with their own rules; rules which become broken, and so evolution progresses.

This continues to the point where the end products seem so far removed from the point of origin there seems to be no semblance of continuity between them. Yet, without house, there is no Acid. Without house (and synthpop), there is no Techno. Without Techno, there is no Trance.

Indeed, with so many variations on the theme, and so little consistency between themes, we could easily head down the social constructionist route. House is nothing more than an unwritten agreement between DJs, dance floors and record producers; it is a temporally and socially specific sound.

House music is nothing more than what we are told house music should sound like at any given time. Perhaps this is true. Either way, Hysteric Ego – Want Love is a classic house record, one which should be selectively reintroduced to contemporary house dance floors.

Hysteric Ego - Want Love [EGO 001] by dcp84

Hysteric Ego – Want Love
[Ego : EGO 00]

Discogs: £2.74

Saturday, 8 October 2011

052. Tidy Girls EP

Back in the game! Finally, another record added to the collection. Over the last year collecting records has been relegated on the priority list. Yet, I still remember a time when amassing the coolest record collection the DJing world had ever seen was a priority second to none.

I'm not quite sure where this record fits into that goal, but this is certainly a record from those earlier years. By contemporary standards, its a bit laughable. And, if I'm honest, even in 1999 it wasn't much more. The key track from the EP is Lisa Lashes' offering, Looking Good. This was a central track from the first wave of vinyl releases which pushed Hard House further from the underground and closer to commercialism.

Roland - Alpha Juno 1
The entire EP is dominated by the Roland Alpha Juno. Even if you know nothing about synths, by listening to this record and reading the above sentence, you'll know that the Alpha Juno is responsible for 'that' sound – the hoover.

Hard House had a thing for hoovers. Starting out as a bit of harmless fun, it quickly became fetishised to an morbidly sickening state. Imagine what it might be like to watch the 28th consecutive season of Big Brother, for 52 hours non-stop...without sleep. The relationship between Hard House and hoovers is now apparent.

The irony of all this was that most people were already sick to death of the sound by the late 90s. The Alpha Juno was already feeling fatigued from the hoovering it was forced to do on all those Rave, Happy Hardcore and Gabba tracks before Hard House was but a twinkle it its parent-genre's eyes.

Ok, so I've probably cheapened myself and my record collection just that tiny bit by succumbing to the sickly sweet charm of this EP, but the innocent enthusiasm of the young 15 year old record collector was stirred from the subconscious by the discovery of a £1.99 near-mint copy.

'Mon the hoover! (As they used to say back in the day.)
   Lisa Lashes - Looking Good [Tidy Girls Ep] by dcp84
Tidy Girls EP
[Tidy Trax : TIDY123T]

Oxfam, Oxford: £1.99

Saturday, 13 August 2011

051. Lizzy & Gareth’s Wedding

For anyone wanting to hone their practice of the dark art of playing music to other people, a wedding offers no better a social occasion. DJing at a wedding is particularly tricky. Unlike a club, people don’t come with the intention of having a drink, socialising and having a dance. People attend a wedding to see and celebrate the happy couple. Everything else is an optional extra. So, as a DJ trying to operate the dance floor you’re immediately on the back foot. You have a wide mixture of ages, a wider still mixture of musical tastes, and a number of social rules and set pieces to navigate through. This is the couple’s ‘perfect day’. They’ve spent months agonising over the menu, the dress, even the typeface of the invitation. Then finally comes you; the compulsive record collector with a garage load of audio electronics.

The opulent Tring Park School for the Performing Arts was the magnificent venue for the wedding reception of Lizzy and Gareth. Setting up in the ballet practice room of the beautiful building designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built during the 1600s you couldn’t have wanted for a nicer location to set up. Given our location, selected movements from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake seemed only fitting as a quiet backdrop as the evening progressed.

After the initial half an hour of dancing following on from the bride and groom’s first dance, it was evident that most people were more inclined to soak up the splendour of the venue, let their dinner settle, and catch up with old acquaintances. Prudence at this point recommended a lower-key approach and for the next half an hour acoustic, jazz and soul featured on the playlist.

Some choice motown was used to assess the mood for dancing and as the toes started tapping and the heads nodding, it was time to start upping the ante and tempt people to the dance floor. The challenge in this gig lay in the venue’s layout. With a vast and beautiful outdoor area, seating in one room, the bar in another room and the dance floor in another room – where drinks were not allowed – getting people into the disco was hard work.

Hard, but not impossible, and the steady ebb and flow of people to and from the dancefloor continued for the rest of the night. As the bride and groom made their way from the wedding reception in their carriage, the night began to wind down as many people from the north of England who had a considerable drive ahead of them began to make their way home. After a final few floorfillers it was sadly time to wrap up the night and pack up the gear, reflecting on how beautiful a venue it was to DJ in.

Congratulations once more to the happy couple: Lizzy and Garreth.

Special thanks must go to Sonic Bass for their exceptional professional service:

Finally, if you'd like to discuss the possibility of hiring me to DJ at your event be it a club night, corporate event or wedding, leave me a message and I'll be in touch.

Tune of the Night: The Killers - Mr. Brightside
Cleared the Dancefloor: Kings of Leon - Sex On Fire (First time I've ever seen this get a bad reception! Are people finally getting bored of it?)

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

050. Johnny Shaker - Pearl River (Instrumental)

Perl River is for many a definitive trance track. As with most things though, definition (or rather social labelling) holds greater sway than any specific characteristics. How we think about the world is always holds more sway than the objective reality of the world.

The period betwen 1998-2001, plus or minus a few years, is commonly regarded as the ‘golden age of trance’. In 1999 Pearl River smashed out across dance floors across the globe. DJs smoothly mixed the track into countless double CD compilations following on from its clubland fortunes. This late 90s success earmarked it as genre framing classic trance and I distinctly remember it featuring in a Gatecrasher New Years Eve Classics night in the mid 2000s.

In truth, 1999 was Pearl River’s second outing. Originally hitting dance floors in 1996 with a release in 1997, it shares status with other ‘classic-trance-from-99’ tunes which weren’t actually from 1999 at all; Paul Van Dyk’s For An Angel probably being the foremost example.

Like the archaeologist who digs up an Iron Age broach which has evidently been made in the Bronze age, we have to ask, what’s at play here? Why did some Trance fall short in the mid-90s only to explode in the late-90s?

Explanation can be found by examining the socio-economic historical context of Pearl River’s first outing. In 1996 clubland was a very different place. The euphoria from the days of acid house had all but been completely extinguished by the crackdown on race culture codified into law by 1994’s Criminal Justice Act.

As "sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats" were being slowly and uncertainly appropriated by a fledgling club culture, the ravers used to hurtling round the M25 of a weekend looking for tips on the next illegal party didn’t feel comfortable enough just yet to abandon the free cultural moral high-ground and head into the arms of the capitalists - however clean the toilets and good the weather was indoors.

It would take a youth culture in the UK who were happy to embrace the benefits of high capitalism’s cultural product, of cultural consumption choices used to create post-modern musical identity, clubbing brands rather than simple clubs and record labels as websites, T-Shirts, video streams and web radio for a dance music to really grow.

In 1996 and 1997 things were beginning to bubble. The queues outside house and techno clubs were getting longer and someone walking around town in a Ministry of Sound T-Shirt didn’t look out of place. The formula of the golden era of trance had yet to be agreed upon, but the key musical characteristics were being experimented with. Breakdowns were getting longer, snare rolls louder, saws were making wider leads and Dutch DJs seemed to be talked about more and more.

The kids who were too young to have embraced Acid House were thinking about electronic music and clubbing in an increasingly positive light. Thinking they could get the best out of capitalism without any of the cost they started getting sucked in. It isn’t without irony that many from this cohort were the first and loudest to proclaim in the early 2000s that the trance bubble had burst, that the brands had become too commercial and the music had become a boring and formulaic only driven by hype. Followers of Techno on the other hand, a much more subversive, anti-mainstream and possible even politically aware genre, just looked on with a smug smile, saying quietly ‘I told you this would happen’.

So, in 1996 and 1997, people just weren't ready for Pearl River. Only by 1999, when the commercial apparatus of Trance as a clubbing brand, a cultural identity marker and symbol of post-post-Modernity was ready did it have the success it finally won. This odd artifact in the social memory of Trance is worth thinking about as it throws up some very interesting questions about aesthetic origin and of course the normative account of the genre’s history...not bad for something you mum probably owns on her digitally mixed ‘WORLD’S BEST MEGA-TRANCE HITS’ triple compilation.

Johnny Shaker - Pearl River (Instrumental) by dcp84

Johnny Shaker – Pearl River (Instrumental)
[Low Sense : 12SENSE24]

Discogs: £4.70

Friday, 25 March 2011

049. Oliver Prime - Radiance

Trance – what should I say about the much abused genre? I'd never admit it to the uber-cool elitists nodding rhythmically to Dave Clarke or Rex The Dog, writing down each and every record in the set list, but I do have a soft spot for the genre. Trance was the genre which brought me into DJing, sparking the obsession for record collecting and electronic music which has been with me for the majority of my life. Alarming but true. When my mind was opened to electronica, trance was the upcoming sound of the moment, bubbling away with an unrestrained energy in the few years before its unprecedented explosion into popular culture.

It is all too easy to fall back on the ubiquitous old writ that 'Trance is not what it used to be'. Wile there is truth in that to a degree - modern trance productions frequently rely on massive overproduction to carry a tune and excessively euphoric and uplifting programming to achieve their sound - I'm wise enough to understand that many of us are looking back on things with a rather biased perspective. Who doesn't think that their defining soundtrack, their pure genre, their musical everything hasn't lost the soul that made it so great along its way? This is a common understanding which unites the punks of the 70s, the goths of the 80s and the ravers of the 90s.

Despite all this, sometimes the jaded, tinnitus ridden ears of this record collector strike lucky. Despite the bias, despite the over production and despite the commerce you get to hear a genre defining track. As if out of nowhere, it makes you remember just what it was you loved about all that chemical driven Cyberdog Gatecrasher hands in the air nonsense.

After you've heard this, you once more know what to say about Trance. Close your eyes, let your mind go blank, and you’re on an introspective journey wherever your mind wants to take you. Add some substances of questionable legal origin into the mix, and you’re on a trip to another realm of consciousness altogether.

Oliver Prime - Radiance (Original Mix) by dcp84

Oliver Prime – Radiance
[Reset : RS006]

Discogs: £4.20

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

048. Annie – Don’t Stop

Record collecting is a labour intensive activity. While collections do expand organically, they do not osmotically develop. For a killer collection, you need to do your homework. Listening to other DJs is of course the easiest option. Last week, Nemone, playing on BBC 6 Music, the endangered home of intelligent, challenging and high quality alternative music, dropped the stunning Swiss Donnie Sloan Remix of Annie – Songs Remind Me Of You.

Instantly, the urge kicked in; that driving force which painful pushes each and every record collector; the desire to know exactly what your hearing, which record label its on, who produced it, and when. You need to own that record. Life won’t be complete until you do. Already you can see it sitting in the dusty collection, ready and waiting to jump out and clap you round the ears with its sheer sonic brilliance.

While the remix was nice, I was completely unprepared for the original. Firing up the youtube video for the track, the uptempo synthpop chugger made me want to buy the album instantly. Even if this was the only quality track it would be worthwhile buying. Buying blind isn’t something I’ve done in a long time.

Sadly, the LP doesn’t quite live up to the standard of this single. We’re offered a generally inoffensive wonkypop album which doesn’t quite find the same gear as Songs Remind Me Of You manages. At the end of play, you can help but be left with the sad feeling that this song would be number one if only it were performed by Xenomania’s brightest stars: Girls Aloud.

Annie - Songs Remind Me Of You by dcp84

Annie – Don’t Stop : Songs Remind Me Of You
[Smalltown Supersound : STS178LP]

€26.57 EUR