On reflection this selection is
heavily breakbeat oriented with less representation than you might expect of
the straight ahead r'n'b-flavoured uk-garage, and no 4x4 tracks. Maybe I'm falling
prey to a perceived "Big Beat-ization" of uk-garage.
Many will object to the almost juvenile drooling over Old Skool and its recycling into 2 Step which is so prevalent at the moment and to which I am clearly not immune. But fuck it, these are great tunes and I for one don't care much if I offend people's sensibilities by getting into some fabulous and apparently obsolete music whose appeal is created as much by nostalgia as by excitement at the recycling of now-historical material.
Just as Congo Natty excels in danceability where too much modern drum'n'bass dissolves into self-referential trick-nology, yet is vilified for being retro, so the jump-up excitement of "breakbeat garage" is too-often dismissed as comic book and not "propah", when instead it's deeply linked with the electro-soul of mainstream garage.
While there's an enthusiasm here for the beat-driven and banging, it is set against a background of mainstream garage which is far more r'n'b- and vocal-flavoured, and which I still adore -- I just haven't been buying much recently.
So don't think that the muscular tunes here represent a retreat from Soul. It's still here.
1. DJ Zinc -- Untitled (Bingo
On the flip of the promo for "Jammin'" is this astounding piece of spacey breakbeat that seems to work at every tempo from trip hop to jungle. Slotted into a breakbeat garage set it adds a unique vibe of deepness with ferocity. It's simultanously old skool in the use of the breaks, and futuristic because there hasn't really been a garage record like this before. And it's deep. It's excellent.
2. The Bomb Squad -- No Dub /
Bad Acid (Big Kid Productions)
Two absolutely blinding breakbeat garage slammers pressed really LOUD on concrete-like vinyl. No Dub is a smokey Louisiana funk 2 Step headnodder in the vein of It's A New Dawn or Section 13's mix of Freak The Funk, with delicious southern soul-jazz vocals and mighty set of Hammond licks. It's both understated and rocking at the same time. The flip is possibly even better -- a raging darkside paranoia track with a lovely twisted voice-over sample and superb junglistic programmed breaks and hardcore bass. You know you need this.
3. De'Souza Feat. Marcelle Dupree
-- Keep It Comin' -- Dem 2 Twist Up Dub (Locked On)
Omigod this is SO twisted but it is so sweet and funky too. Subtle cut-up melodies perfectly intertwine with Class-A labyrinthine steppin' beats that retain their R'n'B bitter-sweetness. Yet the hook is a massive distorted wailing noise that you just don't expect on a garage record. This is an extraordinary record. Dem 2 truly are the kings of funky tech-step uk-g.
4. F.O.S. Project -- Check It
-- Zed Bias mix (White)
Oh yes, you'll know this one. Supersharpshooter remade as a breakbeat garage stormer, this rocks like the best, but has a garage sheen to the beats that is akin to all but the best-modulated drum'n'bass. Zed Bias adds exemplary discordant breakdowns, scratchable rap stabs and muscular grooves.
5. Divine Styles -- Directrix
-- Dem 2 vocal mix (Mo Wax)
Suddenly paranoid 80s industrial-funk is jammed into the UK garage blueprint. It's a fantastic funky rap groove which has mutated into cut-up 2step, with Dem 2's unsurpassed syncopated dub production glistening all over it. The flip has a decent Optical mix too.
6. ATFC Feat onephatdeeva --
Bad Habit: Stanton Warriors Mixes (Defected)
I've no idea what the original is like -- probably spangly gliterball house, though I like a lot of Defected stuff -- but the Stantons' mix is groovy as you like -- they never disappoint. They create a new breaksy-2Step / luscious house hybrid in a completely different vein from the r'n'b stylings of MJ Cole et al. Wicked Moog riffs, distorted funk bass lines and snarling soul vocals are twisted into a quality cut that plays both sides of the rough / smooth UK Garage divide.
7. No Artist -- Funkula / Wait
Funkula is the yummiest, most laidback funk-garage groove that slowly builds to raging big bass. Wait is a gorgeously discordant gospel soul cut up, which is just this side of breakbeat / garage divide. No idea who it's by but they're damned hot.
8. Let It Roll -- White
This is a massive throbbing bass monster, just spare breaks, slow-mo aicd bass, 808 booms and dancehall chants, plus well-judged metallic washes and bleeps. Very focused, deep hard garage.
9. Beatfreaks -- Urban Don (White)
Just another bad boy ragga garage tune? No, it's great! These tracks are like good punk records. Urban Don excels due to its tasty reggae hook, which put a BIG smile on John Eden's face recently. Good toasting and a thumping 2 step beat make it not very subtle, but a bit of a winner, really.
10. Same People -- Dangerous (Locked
OK this has been around for ages and ages but it's still great and still relevant to today's 2 Step sets. The original is 96-style big bass garage with hefty doses of hardcore samples and attitude. And the bassline! It's tech-reggae simplicity at its most devestating. The 98 remix adds sweet vocals and crisper bits to a laidback but still bass-heavy mix, while the 4x4 mix tight loud and lethal.
* Though I could just as easily have included the Dubaholics' mix of Artful Dodger's What Ya Gonna Do as Same People's Dangerous -- both are old-ish but still relevant records, but What Ya Gonna Do is a vocal-led r'n'b song at 2Step speed rather than a tracky bassline tune, albeit with fantastic, almost frightening, syncopated breakbeats added by the Dubaholics.