Alphabetical Order: E
Energy Flash by Joey Beltram.
R&S Records – 1990
So then, to E. Joey Beltram was born in Queens, NY in 1971. He took up Djing at the tender age of 13, inspired by the Funk, Hip Hop, Disco and first wave Electro going on around him in early eighties New York. In the mid eighties he began tuning in to legendary DJ Tony Humphries’ radio show on Kiss FM, one of the very first shows that emphasised the new house sounds coming out of Chicago, NY and Detroit. By his own admission, the show left a deep impression on him, and from then on he became obsessed with the fledgling genre. Soon after, he began producing his own tracks using a Roland 707, 303, a sampler and other bits and pieces of production kit. By 1989 Joey had a couple of low key releases under his belt on small NY labels including Nu Groove, and these releases caught the ear of the people behind R&S records, in Belgium, who invited him over to Europe. He arrived in Belgium with a few newly finished productions in his bag: one of these tracks was Energy Flash.
Europe had already been grinding to a house and techno beat for a couple of years, the UK acid house explosion of 88 had left ripples pulsing across the European mainland with scenes appearing in Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Italy. Ecstasy use was booming and clubbers were demanding ever harder, more tempered music to gurn the nights away too. To this end, Energy Flash was absolutely perfect. It’s groove and arrangement is beautifully minimal, a distorted 707, a 909 and 303 chugging along with razor sharp precision, the tight bass marching in tandem and a faint echo of synthetic strings, whisping in and out with a quasi mystical melody (sampled from Orbital’s ‘Chime’). Then, of course, the vocal sample: ‘Ecstasy’ taken from the Belgian new beat group 101’s cover of ‘Rock to The Beat’, originally by Kevin Saunderson. All of these elements worked a dream, and Europe couldn’t get enough.
R&S signed up Energy Flash in a, err, flash and released it on an EP entitled Beltram Volume 1 alongside three more of Joey’s productions. It was also released on Derrick May’s Transmat label for the US market. Energy Flash has been spoken about as a pivotal moment in the passing of the techno baton from its birthplace of Detroit to Europe. Where Detroit Techno was funky and off centre, this new form of ‘European’ techno was far more muscular and willing to forgo it’s funk for a harder, more direct groove.
In truth, the DNA of techno is more complex and inter-woven than many people make out – because initial Detroit techno was born out of a lot of European music itself, the likes of Italo disco and Kraftwerk being central to firing the imaginations of Detroit Techno’s first-wave-magicians. What is without doubt, though, is that Energy Flash provided a watershed moment in dance music history and a lot of people are still striving to better Joey Beltram’s early, uncompromising take on what electronic music could sound like.
Do yourself a favour and buy the great Joey Beltram R&S Classics vinyl comp, which includes Energy Flash.
Next week F, as in French Fancies.
By Joe Evans