Friday, August 29, 2008

Dance imperative

R&S have found a new distributor in the UK and are shortly to release an In Order to Dance Best Of, with inevitably the hardcore rave period of roughly late 1990-early 92 looming large in the overview. It’s an unusual situation to see several of one's absolute fave raves – either gleaned though 12 inch or LP collection and immersion at home or mainly via the thrill of the dance itself – the subject of archivist curation.

Formed by Renaat Vandepapeliere & Sabine Maes, Ghent-based R&S took the Detroit escapes to space and put on a post-new beat/industrial European hedonist and rehumanised superstructure, beefing up every element for the native Belgian crowd, but also receptive audiences in Germany, the UK and elsewhere, a new generation of alternative consumers. All the plastic synth riffs, aggressive drum machines, techno stabs and occasional cheese noises still sound big. Functional futurism within the western capitalist leisure space, as branded by their Ferrariesque logo.

However, as at the time Human Resource’s Dominator is still a track too far, a musical one-trick pony. The sort of track where you looked around at each other not sure to approve or abuse. Too much fairground. Now it suffers even further as the hoover riff has been put to much better use over the years. Outlander’s Vamp sees how far it can take the ascending bouncy synth riff but works better; it always did generate a huge, grinning reaction in '91, a tune that would be picked apart by more indie-leaning mates as representative of all that rave-as-unsophisticated noise but it worked.

The two artists rightly given two slots are Joey Beltram and Aphex Twin. The Brooklyn DJ’s still-colossal Energy Flash, which you would always hear at provincial or London raves until late 92, is still a stupefying display of controlled nihilism. Break Energy Flash down and it doesn’t add up - hip-house with a bit more hard-techno percussion bolted on, a simple acid bassline, a few other placeholder squiggles and an Orbital string loop and a mock of the UK e-heads with the Pitched down and ominous Ecstasy… Ecstasy. Mentasm showed a much better manipulation of that fast-growing hoover riff, a tune of dark, scraping attrition in among rave’s forced happiness.

Didgeridoo is still a work of sublime, shapeshifting 160bpm crusty jungle techno. It was a pity that Aphex spurned melodic for a more clattering strand in his junglish excursions. I can’t play mine as it was scratched and bent on both sides by a drunken guest of a shared house at university, but I’ve kept the vinyl and inserted a drawing of Richard D James in the sleevehole, as above. Yes. It’s that sad. And it could be actual Ferrari (jazz-funk) freak Jay Kay. Analogue Bubblebath, which was on the B_side of the original pressing of the 12”, kicks off the comp, more of an indicator of what would come on Selected Ambient Works 1 (also on R&S) but also fast and blissful to dance to too. Went down queasily well at a warehouse in Farnham, back in the day etc etc etc.

Radical Rob’s (or FSOL’s) Monkey Wah has similarly nice synth washes and too belied the hardcore techno label it was becoming associated with. CJ Bolland’s Camargue, never in my racks or memory, is an effective proto housey trancer, but surprisingly light and cold in touch. An Optimo edit of the percussive Capricorn’s 20HZ on the Remix sampler is a welcome addition.

Of the non-peak era stuff, Model 500’s I Wanna Be There with Atkins’ giveaway escapist eponymous refrain stays as an indulgent but faintly effective fluffy builder, while its most populist track, Jaydee's Plastic Dreams, bounces along with effective jazzy certainty. Since the mid-90s they have been living on past anthems, I guess.

The In Order to Dance series went pure techno, and R&S would emerge and drive the genre’s rise to pre-eminence in dance music culture for several years, veering between Detroit-style warmth with Dave Angel, Larkin and co and pure rhythm experimentation with other emissions on the outer limits. They also tried to get into the more ‘scientific’ end of the UK jungle scene to a mixed reception.

Although this CD has no completist claims to documenting the label’s prodigious output, it is representative as many of its most standout and influential tunes are on it. R&S revelled in the UK at a time when the main scene was going breakbeat heavy, but was still polyglot enough and just post-rave enough (ie, literally the next scene to follow) to not to have to worry about specific terminology, least of all ‘techno’. Hardcore was a state of mind, an anti-urbane, anti-sophisticated flash. But it was not all cartoon breakbeat techno, and as such some of the rhythms prosper as proper bangers in this drum machine-dominated, non-breakbeat loop era.
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