Rhythm Section was a short lived, highly influential hardcore label run by Rennie Pilgrim, Richie T, Ellis Dee and Nick Newton. By and large the four shared production duties, creating tracks that really nail the ‘classic’ old skool rave sound – it’s an everything plus the kitchen sink experience, with breaks, hip hop samples, aggressive synths, hoover break downs and occasional bursts of ridiculously uplifting piano. Tim Cant, founder of much loved Moving Shadow rave crew Hyper-on Experience goes as far as to single out Rhythm Section as a “massive influence”, calling the outfit’s Comin’ On Strong “the track that defined everything that was hardcore”, before admitting to completely plagiarising their song writing structure.
‘Comin’ On Strong’ was the lead track from the ‘Feel the Rhythm’ EP, Rhythm Section’s 4 tracks of untouchable heart-racing breakbeat. The tempo is far slower than much that followed – more round 128 bpm than the 130 – 140 range that characterised the later period of ’92-’93 – but everything else is ratcheted up to full throttle, from the breathy female samples declaring ‘you are the new generation’ and ‘getting outta my face’ to the bombs of depth charge bass underpinning the rush acknowledging diva wails of “Is this real? This feeling, is this real? Look for the morning…” on ‘Is This Real?’ I’ve recorded the whole EP, there’s not a foot put wrong.
Alongside the massive success of the Feel the Rhythm EP, RS put out a decent level of 12”s of a similar quality under a few different pseudonyms. As Base2Bass they knocked out ‘Hypno2’ and ‘Try Later’ - ‘Try Later’ being particularly interesting as a breakbeat rework of Stakker’s Humanoid. The shameless sampling is such a staple of the rave scene, and I’m not sure you’d get away with knocking up and flogging such a cheeky knock off (with your record label’s logo stamped all over it) today. I doubt this one will ever get the digital repress – the rights are going to be way too hard to sort out.
On the Atomic EP, the quartet went way deeper –this is the side of Rhythm Section that the real heads like to eulogise, with far fewer happy piano moments, fewer diva vocals, and way more head-down moody synth pads, minor scale bass patterns, jazzy licks, and technoid bleeping. Second track ‘I Can Take You Higher’ is one of the most maudlin hardcore cuts you’re likely to hear – in some ways a relative to One Tribe’s ‘What Have You Done’.
Finally, in keeping with their instinct to cover all bases, RS had a fair crack at ragga tinged hardcore, with ‘Cocaine’. Based around a sample taken from the infamous Dillinja track ‘Cocaine In My Brain’ the tune has full reggae break downs and vicious little synth drops. Plus it comes on a sweet white (geddit??) 12”.
By the end of 1993, Rhythm Section was no more. Of the quartet only Rennie Pilgrim and Ellis Dee continued making music, with Pilgrim launching the Thursday Club Recordings breakbeat brand, and Dee continuing on as a drum n bass and hardcore DJ - he still remains a major fixture on the old skool circuit. I'm not sure either have scaled the heights of a couple of years at the start of the 90s thoughm and I'd recommend you to seek out pretty much all of the Rhythm Section catalogue - it's not going for too much, ironic considering it's all gold.
Enjoy this article? Want more?
You can support Ransom Note and independent journalism through our Patreon campaign now.
Become a friend of Ransom Note