Gone To A Rave #29: 2 Steps Into Darkness

Vinyl rips from UK Garage's moody, early noughties rush to the dark side

Gone To A Rave #29: 2 Steps Into Darkness

Vinyl rips from UK Garage's moody, early noughties rush to the dark side

I see that Geeneus is bringing out some new music for the first time since 2008. It got me thinking to his early stuff, and how he was part of a movement, along with a handful of others, that ushered in a real change in the garage scene. I thought I’d grab a couple of those darkside garage tracks from 2001-2003 that kept with the 2 step formula, but pushed it to nastier places, laying the groundwork for a decades worth of grime and dubstep that followed. And I want to start with a Ghost Trax remix from 2001. Remixing the chart house of Kings of Tomorrow’s Finally, the Ghost Trax crew, made up of Blaze, J Da Flex, Lewis Beadle and Nude, pretty much nailed everything that would go on to form dubstep. There are two versions on the 12”, and I’m putting the dub up, as it’s here that they deliver everything - dubby, ethereal twinkles of synth, wubbing bass, dislocated diva vocals and flashes of menacing ragga chat. It’s deep, moody and (unlike a lot of dubstep impersonators that followed) eminently danceable.

 

This next 12” I’m posting, I placeas being from the same kind of time, although there’s no date available. It features 2 untitled cuts from Urban Collective, again an outfit I know nothing about – they don’t seem to have done anything else, and all my white label has got is their name, the word TEMPER and a mobile phone number that has mostly been rubbed off. The music is killer though – the A side (let’s call it Temper 1) is ridiculous, over blown with portentous orchestral samples  that drop into a triplet bass roll that eats frequencies like a fat kid eats cake. Over on the flip, Sean Paul’s ‘Gimme the light’ vocal fights against a sample declaring ‘it’s dark out there, you don’t wanna go out there’ – in this set up, the cry of ‘just gimme the light’ is turned from a weed man anthem into something else entirely - a hopeless plea for mercy from the claustrophobia of the hood

By 2003 this darkness has hardened into a mechanical groove. The rise of Sidewinder favourite DJ Oddz introduced a swinging 4x4 beat, a harsh techno hybrid that shares the energy and relentless repetition that characterise Chicago and Detroit ghetto tech. Unlike ghetto tech however, the UK scene was less obsessed with X-rated lyrics, and more with a rave-y juxtaposition of sweet female vocals, bursts of MC lyrics, and bass wubs. This Oddz remix of DJ Redz has it all – pretty, plucked strings, straight from a poppy UKG love song, Nadia singing about a cheating lover, Sharky P dropping occasional bursts of the classic ‘do you really like it’ bars, and a bassline that is jack boot stomp and shark attack bite.

And this brings us to Geeneus. Detroit, his 2003 release on Dumpvalve, is a long time favourite – a burst of raw as fuck club music that has completely jettisoned any concessions to garage’s soulful roots. He’s stripped the formula down to a slapping kick snare and a horrible rave klaxon synth. It’s pure aggression, the sound of London’s shadows seething.  

Listening to these tracks again (I can’t have reached for that Oddz tune in a decade..!) ’s interesting just how cyclic the rave scene can seem. The story of a new sound emerging from the underground, gaining traction, turning darker, and then mutating into a new form is a seductive one – it appears to have happened in the process of hardcore turning to jungle, jungle to drum n bass, garage to dubstep and grime, and currently deep house’s left turn into the bass heavy, gloomier tendencies of the jacking house scene.  But I’m unsure whether these cycles are genuine, or more as a result of our tendency to arrange the past into linear, easily explained narratives. It’s easy to claim now that’92 hardcore turned into the darkcore sounds of ’93 – and confirmable if you listen to rave tapes from the likes of Grooverider or Doc Scott.  But you could have just as easily been listening to the hyper speed toytown sounds pursued by the likes of Slipmatt that eventually turned into the 4x4 happy hardcore scene – in which case the whole ‘darkening’ narrative is shot. There were also hordes of people who hated the darkening of the 2 step sound I’ve just been posting, and flocked to nights like Bobby & Steve’s Soul Heaven at Ministry of Sound to dance to vocal heavy disco house imports instead. Ummm. Don’t believe anyone who claims history is a neatly organised series of events I guess. And listen to bangers.

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