Def Beats – Ten Non-Stop Full Length 12″ Mixes

Released in 1987, this collection promises “the hardest hip-hop in the world direct from New York City” and certainly represents exactly what my 18-year-old self would’ve been playing on the tape deck of my Ford Cortina back in the day.  In fact I bought lots of Hip Hop compilations (on cassette) back then, so its quite surprising I never bought this one.

To be honest, hearing this relentless barrage of beats, scratching, grainy samples and second division MCing now makes me feel terribly old and even gives me a slight headache. No wonder my dad hated this stuff. I still love it in principle, but I’m gonna take it off the deck and put something else on now before I have to take some Neurofen.

Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 11:07 am  Comments (1)  
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M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume/Anitina

I bought both of these when they first came out back in ’87, but my original copies are long since lost (or in one case, stolen) so it was nice to finally replace both with near-immaculate copies in one fell swoop recently.

Conceived as a collaboration between 4AD label-mates Colourbox and A.R.Kane, the project was quickly expanded to incorporate the dj cut-up style of Dave Dorrell and C.J. Macintosh (later of Nasty Rox Inc.) which produced the surprise #1 smash “Pump Up The Volume”, which I’m sure we all know and love/hate. But it’s actually the A.R.Kane-orientated ‘AA’ side called “Anitina (The First Time I See Her Dance)” which still holds me enthralled.  It’s a non-retro slice of psychedelic pop, incorporating elements of noise, dub and nascent dance beats (although tellingly, its the then-current dance elements which have dated least well) which served as a perfect aperitif for their subsequent debut album ’69’, which this writer still considers one of the best the late eighties had to offer.

The remix version is actually superior in my view – more skeletal with a clipped electro-flavour in the beats. No doubt you can compare and contrast on youtube or whatever, but nothing will beat the sheer depth and sonic intensity of these 12″ records blasting  from my rig today…

Published in: on July 1, 2011 at 8:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Nasty Rox Inc. – Ca$h

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I was young, hip and groovy enough to buy Nasty Rox’s debut single “Escape From New York” when it came out (on 12″, natch). I thought it was okay, but obviously not impressed enough to buy the subsequent album, “Ca$h”, released and executive-produced by Trevor Horn and his ZTT label. Presumably no one else did either because Nasty Rox Inc. were never heard from again after this.

But having come across the album for a quid recently I’ve been enjoying backtracking to 1988 and reacquainting myself with this short-lived band who helped pioneer the dance/rock crossover. Or perhaps I should say partially enjoying, because the rock band elements sound bloody awful and dated in a way only late ’80s rock bands can.

The only thing, then and now, that ever gave the group a smidgen of musical credibility was the sure-handed turntable skills of C.J. Macintosh. He’s the fella who did all the clever scratching on M/A/R/R/S’s “Pump Up The Volume”. Along with Coldcut, he was a precocious talent who cut his teeth spinning at some of the earliest UK hip hop/dance parties in the mid-80s. Yet still it’s a mystery how such an unassuming-looking white english kid (23 when he made this record) got that good, that quick.

Consequently, it’s the tracks where C.J. is most prominent that still sound most impressive, especially on “Wooba Wubbaa I” with it’s dexterous manipulation of then-fresh samples like the Moog intro to The J.B.s “Blow Your Head”, and pitched-up, feminised Travis Bickle plaintively asking “Are You Talking To Me?” over and over again. “Wooba Wubbaa II” is equally satisfying – a moody, minimalist variation of Bomb The Bass’s “Beat Dis” with rippling, portentous piano loops – like DJ Shadow, a decade too early.  Unfortunately C.J. never seems to have become the dj megastar he clearly deserved to be.  I suppose it didn’t help that he allowed his career to be dragged down by working with dodgy groups like Nasty Rox Inc.

Published in: on March 28, 2011 at 10:10 am  Comments (3)  
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Dance Hits 2

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Simply had to have this for the sleeve – such a stereotypical example of mid-’80s design with the garish primary colours, geometric abstracts and squiggles; a pure Smash Hits-style suger rush.

Musically, it’s a mixed bag of the best and worst of electronic dance-pop, r’nb and hip hop of the period. At the time, my idealistic 6th Form self would’ve turned-up his nose at much of this (though I definitely revered Mantronix) but now it’s the audio equivalent of  flicking through an old photo album, igniting pungent and often amusing flashbacks to those happy days of  second- hand Ford Cortinas, attempting to get served in pubs, free study periods, lusting after girls…and so forth.

Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 8:28 am  Comments (2)  
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Silver Bullet – Bring Down The Walls No Limit Squad Returns

Phew – slow down now – man any faster my ticker is going to pack up and head for the hills.  Yep a full LP of the original UK speed-camera of rap himself – Silver Bullet.  Always absolutely loved this guy back in the day bought both “Bring Forth the Guillotine” and “20 Seconds to Comply” on 12 inch – (both on the Tam Tam label – with essentials  remixes from Ben Chapman) as soon as they came out – and even saw him perform these babes at World Dance – an illegal Rave in some field in East Grinstead back in 1989.  Oh and look what the web turns up – some video footage from that very same event – oh how we partied and chewed our cheeks off back in the day ….

A nice slab of Balearic/Latino mixed in with some KLF/Tony Scott/etc … – good times huh – somewhere buried in that footage are me and my mate Bren (who I know is an occasional follower of these columns) – both of us off to ATP in Minehead in a couple of weeks time for a Nightmare Before Xmas, where I doubt the same vibe will be in action (but who knows) !!

Anyhows – as mentioned old Silver Bullet bludgeoned us with a storming live-set the ext afternoon, along with 808 State and a whole host of other live acts.

So – having never really heard anything much by Mr. Bullet since (apart from the first 2 singles) – how does the LP fair up after 20 odd years?  Very nice actually – the whole thing flows along in a pretty frenetic bombastic way – with tempos and aggression never really letting up throughout.  This one was released in 1991 on Parlophone after he moved from Tam Tam – contains both the singles – and a whole batch of other fine tunes – production is a bit more murky and at times LoFi – with some of the top-end shine taken off – which only adds to the whole thing to these ears …

A fine disc indeed – and a surprise find the other week in a sleepy Somerset village for a mere 25 new english pennies..  Go and hunt down pop-pickers ……

Published in: on November 23, 2009 at 6:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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MC Tunez – The North At It’s Height

MC Tunez - The North At It's Height (808 State)

Funnny what you find in village charity shops – picked up 3 late 80s UK Hip-Hop related discs today – for a mere quid for the lot.  Never heard or bought this one back in the day – despite having seen 808 State at various outdoor raves both up around Manchester and in fields around the M25.   They were always a perfect matching for an early morning slot providing a mellow-ish sound-scape to help unravel seriously mashed-up brain-cells!

Therefore, more than a tad disappointed by this one – perhaps it is simply the passing of time – but is has not weathered well at all – everything sounds very under-produced by todays standards, the lyrics just don’t really cut it either – still – a nice little piece of history I suppose – just suprising how dated something can sound to these jaded ears !!

MC Tunez - The North At It's Height (808 State)

Published in: on November 11, 2009 at 11:09 am  Comments (1)  
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Thin Ice 2 – The Second Shiver

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Another Telstar dance collection – ’26 coolest club zone hits from the makers of Deep Heat’. There’s a weird schizophrenic vibe here, as though it can’t quite decide what it wants to be. Or maybe just trying to cover too wide a cross-section of da club scene, 1991.

We got bangin’ Belgians (T99, Cubic 22), we got sultry House divas (Crystal Waters), we got mainstream hip hop (Salt ‘n Pepa, PM Dawn), we got UK chart-ravers (Altern 8, The Shamen), we got UK Northern bleepers (LFO, Rhythmatic), we got proto ragga-jungle (Rebel MC), we got disposable pop-soul  (Kenny Thomas) and so on…

We also have the most incomprehensibly dumb pseudo-political sleeve notes ever (sample line: “to kill a dream you don’t just need to kill the dreamer, but everyone he dreams about and whose dreams they inspire” – fuck off, you pretentious prick).The author wisely chose not to be credited.

Published in: on October 20, 2009 at 8:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Megabass 1&2

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You gotta hand it to Telstar Records, they knew how to penetrate and exploit a new market. When these came out in 1990, my previous self would’ve probably turned his nose up at such flagrant commercialisation. But then I found them last week nestled together in a dark corner of the CLIC Sargent shop in Fishponds (which had been dry as a bone for months, to the point where I had all but given-up visiting – just goes to show you need a lot of patience in this game!) and I just had to have them.

Points to observe: all the tracks are mixed together with extreme skill and precision by The Mixmasters (Darren Ash & Martin Smith) using lots of razor sharp editing techniques inherited from ’80s bad-asses like The Latin Rascals and Curtis Mantronik. In fact, I’m left wondering how the hell they managed to assemble this lot without the aid of modern-day software. I guess it was all done with a mixture of turntables, samplers and multitrack tape. Listening to the results now is like having a year of your life flashing before you – a cyberdelic nostalgia trip of unrivalled proportions!

The way they mixed-up house, rave and hip hop so effortlessly reminds us how connected those genres were back then, at least to white english kids like me. It was all ‘black’ post-electro music as far as I was concerned, and if you were into De La Soul, you would be into Royal House, Bomb The Bass, Inner City and KLF too. Not forgetting Kid ‘n Play, Technotronic and Stakker Humanoid.

Volume 2, side 2 is the ‘Retrofuture Mix’, which looks back to the decade just past, exhuming the still-fresh corpses of acts like The Sugarhill Gang, Rockers Revenge, Paul Hardcastle, and Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley, and setting them back to work in a celebratory dance macabre. Yeah, back to the olde skool!

Published in: on October 15, 2009 at 8:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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