It’s been a while since I’ve delved into the McQuaid vinyl archive to rip some gems, mostly because I’m a lazy bastard and it takes ages. So to make up for it, this week I’ve recorded you three extended 12”s from the excellent and obscure original jungle label E3 Recordings.
If you’ve got an interest in UK rave, the name E3 should ring a bell –it’s the postcode of the East London borough of Bow, a place that has had a crazy, disproportionate amount of cultural influence worldwide – it’s probably the closest place modern UK has to Harlem in terms of musical importance, and has been thoroughly mythologised by the generation of grime artists who grew up there –most overtly on Wiley’s banger Bow, E3.
As with most of these smaller old skool jungle labels, there’s hardly any info online about E3 Recordings. The label put out 5 releases that I’m aware of, all written by Mind Therapy – brothers Chris and Eric Lebar. I’ve got no definitive proof that they were operating out of Bow, however after a bit of online stalking, I’ve established that there’s both a Chris and an Eric Lebar living in Bow to this day.
E3 Recordings was operating in 1994 – and for that short period they were reasonably prolific, chucking out 5 12”s in a year – and the 3 that I’ve got are all excellent. The first 12” I’ve got from the duo, Run Reel/ Ruffneck Bizzness (E3002) is a white label with an E3 stamp on it, pressed up the road in Homerton, E9, at Jah Tubby’s legendary dub studios JTS. JTS is worth a column all to itself- Doc Scott, DJ Zinc and Noise Factory all applied Tubby’s reggae skills to their early experiments in hardcore. Later on M Beat got Incredible mastered there, and, later again, DJ Target, Wiley and Big$hot all used JTS to master their scene defining grime 12”s. Even David Bowie shows up in JTS history – the picture disc of his under-rated, but fairly decent 90s cutr Heart’s Filthy Lesson was mastered there.
You can hear the JTS sonics in the grooves of both sides of E3002 – the bass is pure low end reggae pressure, whilst the beats straddle the crossover between early jungle and darkcore rave. For my money the rolling percussive mayhem of b side Ruffneck Bizzness just edges it – Christ knows where they sampled the Brazil drums from, but they roll and clang with total abandon, like some forgotten cover of the amen break. I’d happily play this track out today and doubt anyone would pick up on it being 20 years old.
The next release, E3003, called the Jungle Da Jungle EP is a 4 track white label that sees the brothers exploring there melodic side. They were clearly to busy churning out tracks to bother with names – there’s no tracklisting in sight. Again the mastering was completed at JTS Studios, and again, that tells in the sheer volume and clarity of the tracks.
The opening cut features occasional stabs of Sweet Harmony-ish rave pianos (sounding like they’re taken from a Korg M1 synth) and occasional washes of euphoric pads adding some melody to the tight beat science. There are also samples of a guy saying ‘da jungle’ which is always going to be welcome. The second number has some diva vocals, apparently re-sung from The Real Thing’s disco schmaltzer You To Me Are Everything – thoroughly recontextualised as a bittersweet, break of dawn jungle anthem.
The flip opens with a truly mental amen workout that switches between vicious rolls of snare battling ragga chat and some E’d up melodies that sounds like they came from a direct from an 80s European synth power pop outfit, accompanied by ‘got to be strong’ wailing. The final tune is a curious mix of optimistic soul sample and typically frantic amen programming. I’m not sure it really comes off, but I’ve included it for completions sake.
The final EP I’ve ripped is the next in the series – E3004 – Da Murder EP Vol 1 – here the Lebar brothers return to their deeper roots and the results are belting. Out go the euphoric pianos and the diva vocals and in comes the grit and darkness. All 4 tracks are precise, vicious jungle bombs, with bass chasm deep and snares that clank like the snapping mandibles of our robot overlords. The final track Dark and Wantem Side sounds like it could have been written any time between 1994 and tomorrow – in particular, the creeping conga rolls sound like the kind moody percussion that runs through a certain strand of deep UK rave, from Shy FX’s Bambaata to the nocturnal dubstep SkullDisco were putting out in the mid noughties, to Breach’s early UK Funky mutant Fatherless.
After this year of activity Mind Therapy switched name to Beats 'R Us and released a handful of tracks on a new label - Artistic Vinyl. I'll try and get round to ripping those tracks for a future column. As they were again the only act releasing on Artistic Vinyl it seems fair to assume it was also their venture. For some reason they didn't ever release anything on any bigger labels. Politics? Money? Lack of connections? Who knows... After 1995 they completely disappear from sight, having left a legacy, spread over a handful of releases, as another act from East London who made music that still sounds like it came from the day after tomorrow...