Thrive in '95 - Jungle's zenith

droid

Beast of Burden
Intense - Ecstatic

Intense were masters of the widescreen emo jungle roller, establishing their credentials with 93's epic space time continuem (the tune we tried to get a burial remix for around 2008) and 94's the quickening. Ecstatic is one of several '95 offerings along the same vein, deep melodic intro and breakdown, brilliant melancholy diva recontextualising and some seriously rude bass and soul pride edits. Note the restraint and pacing, holding the amen back until the third act and then phasing it out of sight after 32 bars before popping it back into the foreground alongside those gorgeous synth pads. This is a masterclass in jungle sampling technique and composition, the alchemy of juxtaposition and harmonics, the kind of thing I imagine Photek and Omni Trio would have come up with if they'd collaborated in '94.

https://youtu.be/_kf0S-jnBGU
 

droid

Beast of Burden
Springheel Jack - There are Strings

A strange duo to find wandering the jungle, Springheel Jack were made up of John Coxon (pop producer for the likes of Betty Boo & Marc Almond) and Ashley Wales, a contemporary classical composer. These guys never fit in or made a meaningful impact on the scene, but throughout '94 & '95 they produced a number of exquisite records via rough trade culminating in their first album, of which this is the title track. Deep, melodic, beautifully produced and replete with unusual features, their work stands outside the scene, not simply of virtue of their outsider status, but for a sound that was at odds with most of their contemporaries, save the like of T Power, 4Hero or D'Cruze. An attempt to push the edges of possibility space in the genre, not necessarily in terms of the sonic palette, (though a full string section was fairly unusual at the time) but in intent. This is jungle as a framework for exploring musical ideas, for compositions with breakbeats, an approach evident here by the epic progression of this tune. Unlike a lot of melodic jungle in the speed mold, it has purpose - its conducted, with movements, crescendos, allegro and adagio. In theory this should fall flat on its face, but their superlative production holds it all together and you could easily drop this in a set (and I have). The breaks are tuff and crunchy, the 808 rolls along nicely... they knew what they were doing. I remember seeing a studio feature on the lads in Musik magazine, probably in '96 or so and being completely mystified by their array of black boxes which they claimed were used to make music.

I actually met them in '98 or '99 after a gig here. Nice guys, but probably the least junglistic jungle producers Ive ever spoken too (though Boymerang may pip them at the post). I asked them if they had any copies of this record left and the offered to send me one... but it never arrived.


https://youtu.be/dIwKhcU3sVk
 
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droid

Beast of Burden
Shy FX - Gangsta Kid (Hyperfunk T Power Remix)

The opening track from Shy FX's debut '95 LP, Just an Example probably threw a few people for a loop when they stuck it on expecting a repeat of one of Jungle's biggest anthems and his breakthrough hit of the previous year, the love-it-or-hate-it Original Nuttah, but instead of a reggae bassline, crisp amen loop and ragga vocal combo, we're met with the sinister intro to the original Gangsta kid followed by an absolute belter of insane filtered amen edits and discombobulating sound FX courtesy of T Power. Marc Royal was ploughing his own furrow on the same label as Shy FX at the time (Dave Stones' SOUR label), and whilst the duo would go onto commercial success in 2001 with the horrific Shake Ur Body, Royals' schtick at the time was a kind of super detailed, overwrought jungle tech-gnosis, not a million miles away from the transcendent chill out visions of Caspar Pound or Pete Namlook, but with production more on par with Rob Playford or Dillinja, a style exemplified by his own debut 'The self intuitive truths...', released within months of this record.

So what happens when you combine the Lawnmower man and the Yardie archetypes? A burst of devastating, hammering bass and the emergence of some kind of of cyber rudeboy, barely identifiable at first, wires exposed, molten slag falling from his carapace as we try to get our heads around that extended 8 bar loop phrasing... a shift into combat mode at 2:50 with a sleek runnin' bassline - quadrupedal drone loping at speed - and then the transformation into a final form at 3:47, an almost comically brutal city-destroying jump up bass monster. All in all a killer album opener and one of the most out there of amen bangers, and I can confirm, again that it slays the dancefloor.

Never had a chance to see Shy FX, did meet T Power though around 2000 or so during his Chocolate Weasel Ninjatune phase when a friend brought him over. Nice guy, he went back to the hotel straight after his set IIRC, so I didnt get much a chance to talk to him.


https://youtu.be/UNMQ9MA-E20
 
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blissblogger

Active member
Springheel Jack - There are Strings



I actually met them in '98 or '99 after a gig here. Nice guys, but probably the least junglistic jungle producers Ive ever spoken too (though Boymerang may pip them at the post). I asked them if they had any copies of this record left and the offered to send me one... but it never arrived.


https://youtu.be/dIwKhcU3sVk
I interviewed them in i think late '94 - around this single.


Very nice chaps. But as you say, not exactly jungalistic. I think Coxon also worked with Spiritualized.
 

droid

Beast of Burden
Yeah he did. Strange fish. Oddly enough one of only a handful of acts that successfully integrated dub into jungle.
 

droid

Beast of Burden
Shy FX + Gunsmoke - Gangsta Kid II (L Double Mix)

Whilst we're on a gangster tip I thought it'd be worth throwing this one in, especially since I haven't delved deeply into the ragga. Also featured on the Shy FX album, but released on 12" in the same year, this one couldn't be more different to the T Power mix of Gangster 1. Instead of increasing the madness, L Double sands off the rough edges and tightens up the production in indomitable rolling jungle style. The reggae influence remains, but is deployed with more nous than the ramshackle original - the Heptones gonna fight horn sample still provides the main melodic punctuation but the Love is not a gamble bassline has been replaced by a more minimal bouncing 808. Most crucially, Gunsmoke's ragga vocal is cut up, truncated and interspersed with the Goodfellas samples, resulting in a tuff and (almost) full ragga tune that also manages to roll along with relative grace without trying to blow your head off. Another one Ive had in the bag since long time that works well in almost any set.

https://youtu.be/WCjO1qRWrzQ

Bonus video below of Shy FX and Gunsmoke in the studio making this very tune. Go to 5:50.

https://youtu.be/pboSETUoSko

And finally, an obscure and unintentionally hilarious MC gunsmoke tune (I still rate him over Conrad mind)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrgwMVEXLyg
 
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droid

Beast of Burden
Orca - Sample And Hold

Time to do some brain surgery now and dive into the intelligence with one of my all time favourite labels, the great Lucky Spin, still going strong in '95. This tune is brought to you by the same team of Darren Beale (Decoder) & Kristian Townsend who also brought you Psykis' Pretend, mentioned earlier. Its hard to pin a sound onto Lucky Spin, like Dee Jay, the label is mostly just a mark of quality, a gold standard. Sophisticated tunes that still retain an edge of roughness produced by artists with deep understanding of the mechanics of the music. There's a seemingly effortless, understated brilliance to many of their releases, only fully revealed when you roll 'em out on the dancefloor and hear them loud on a system. This track is no different. It kicks off with a lovely jazz loop, and then immediately into some hot pants and sax, like jumping out of bed in the morning and heading straight to the beach. Then we hit the breakdown followed by an amen - so filtered you could bottle it - and a gorgeous reverbed synth bass hook that brings to mind Foul Play's Being with you. All too soon, the 808 takes command, nudging us towards some moody noir sax action and then back into another variant of that synth line, before we end, all too soon.

An exercise in deadly, artful restraint this one. Cat and mouse.

https://youtu.be/3K2-SEBtO-8
 
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blissblogger

Active member
what a nice tune - yet another I never heard before

you're right about Lucky Spin too - a great label, yet often the name doesn't come up in the list of the leading ones

perhaps we should do a great overlooked labels thread
 

droid

Beast of Burden
Its true they dont get mentioned much, but definitely not overlooked within the scene. In my mind they occupy a space pretty high on the second tier after Shadow, Reinforced and Subbase, on par with the likes of Good Lookin' Tone Def, Dee Jay & Formation.
 

droid

Beast of Burden
Fokus - Pulse

You know youre in safe hands here after the first couple of seconds as we plunge into some carelessly precise soul pride edits backed up a hard techno kick. The tumble gathers momentum with the descending 808 drop and a distinctly Let it Roll break pattern and it just runs on, teasing us with various splinters of FX, some shimmering percussive melody and rhode chords accompanied by that c-c-c-c-c-come on show ya love vocal. Fokus is having so much fun building up this groove that its over 3 minutes in before we hit a proper breakdown, and its this gorgeous thing, full of emo synth, slightly melancholic, maybe even a touch foreboding... hard to really pin it down. Its an interesting aspect to a lot of jungle of this era, this emotional ambiguity, there's ecstasy there, but its adulterated, some uneasy brand of bliss. Consider the structure also, that breakdown is around halfway through the tune, there's some lovely soul pride and vocal edits later on, but the breakdown is the fulcrum, the focal point, this tune exists primarily to transmit this emotionally enigmatic message.

https://youtu.be/cDoYKY50ai4
 

droid

Beast of Burden
Dynamic Duo - Shadow Revamp

Intalketive was a Lucky Spin Sub-label, one of the few official subs that came out of the Camden records stall/Lucky Spin/Deejay axis of shop, studio and labels that also included Pure white (white labels), Force Ten & Freakout (DJ Crystl operated) and Higher Limits (Compilations). There was no real distinction between the intalektive and Lucky Spin sounds, slightly rougher perhaps, sitting between Lucky Spin and Dee Jay. This was the third release, courtesy of the Dynamic Duo aka the Dream Team, known previously for reggae tinged bangers like Stamina on Subbase. Synth & diva warm up intro aside This is real jackhammer jungle, fizzingly melodic time stretched drums counterpointing a pummeling drainpipe bass line. There's a real sense of cut up abstraction here as well, we shift between drum grooves seemingly randomly, our synth makes a reappearance, there's the hint of a low reece bass which finally unfolds itself around 3:40 before vanishing back into the labyrinth again. A strange, off kilter slice of dour brutishness, with a bassline that gets so stuck in your head you're still humming it as you head for the first bus home.


https://youtu.be/mQZkbKzJ7D0
 
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sufi

lala
1995 was a dawning in prosumer graphics software, especially 3d modelling & effects filters. there's a whole school of junglist design that must have found its way back to influence the music, isnt it?

record covers and flyers (a subset of the whole transformation of flyers design on photoshop)
  • chunky 3d chromed writing
  • crystalline logos floating in cyberspace
  • infinite cgi horizons
  • dazzle effects from kai's powergoo

all of it very much of its era and looking dated now, as it's been superceded really soon after by more powerful tech graphics kit, but definitely a lot in common with the music - new popular computer tech for the visuals as well as the sounds,
 

blissblogger

Active member
instant kitsch, most of that artwork (and appealing on that level now - there are Facebook communities devoted to that kind of 90s cyberdelic imagery)

i think it proves the superiority of sound when it comes to conjuring futurity or alien-ness

same applies to the clothing

e.g.

roxy music's music is immortal but their togs are (mostly) like "if eyes could vomit"

(until Ferry opts for the classicist, perennial elegance thing - sharksin suit, tuxedo, OR jeans + T-shirt classic americana)
 

droid

Beast of Burden
I think I associate that 'look' in jungle art with 96 onwards with reinforced leading the charge, certainly a big deal going into the techstep era.




 
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droid

Beast of Burden
It was a year or so after this that i started doing the art for all the bassbin gigs and I spent weeks trying to get good logo renders out of a hacked copy of Bryce 2. Stuff like this was actually very hard to do on crappy PCs back then. It used to take hours to render even lowish res stuff and then endless photoshop tweaks, and finally, zip disks couriered to a printer.



 

catalog

Active member
Are these all your designs droid? I like the second one. Third one looks very standard, that format is still around
 

droid

Beast of Burden
Had a lot more fun doing 2 colour billboard posters and flyers. Restriction is the mother...

 
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