Breakin’ In Space #6: Syncbeat – Music
In 1984, the sight of a Streetsounds Electro album emblazoned with a Union Jack should have been a great source of patriotic pride for a British electro nut, but instead I was deeply suspicious. The whole appeal of electro was its exotic otherness; the fact that the music was produced across the Atlantic on both coasts of America – a country I had yet to visit but was completely besotted with. The thought of Brits trying to make electro didn't really appeal. It was further sidelined as it came out around the same time as Electro 4, which featured the future-jazz of the Key-Matic track after which this column is named, a Herbie Hancock megamix, Cybotron's Techno City, plus Run DMC's vicious and game changing Sucker MCs. So yeah, I owned UK Electro, but I hardly listened to it. More fool me…
Years later, I came across an interview with DJ Greg Wilson who, it turned out, was the man behind the bulk of the tracks on UK Electro, recording under a variety of guises. Six tracks were produced by Wilson and various accomplices, with another credited to Herbie "The Mastermind" Laidley, the genius who mixed all the Electro albums, who recorded a track under the name Rapologists. The Streetsounds' owner Morgan Khan was keen to present the front of a thriving UK scene, so Wilson recorded under a variety of pseudonyms, including Zer-0, Syncbeat, Broken Glass and Forevereaction. Other musicians involved included Martin Jackson, formerly of Magazine, Andy Connell, the keyboard player from A Certain Ratio, and Kermit, then a breakdancer, who would go on to form Manc hip-hop collective Ruthless Rap Assassins, and feature in Black Grape with Shaun Ryder. Jackson and Connell eventually became Swing Out Sister.
UK Electro actually reached a very creditable #60 on the UK album charts, proof of electro's burgeoning popularity at the time. As mentioned, I slept on this one, but when I finally dug it out and gave it a spin I was hugely impressed by the diverse and experimental collection of tracks. Wilson himself is honest about the limitations of Style of the Street (credited to Broken Glass), calling it "a first and not very successful attempt at writing a pop/dance track". The Zer-O tracks are atmospheric and funky, while Forevereaction's contributions were darker and dubbier, with primitive production and a wealth of weird samples.
The cream of the crop is Music by Syncbeat, a good times dance track, with sparkly keyboard stabs, juddering bass, clattering 808 percussion and some ethnic chanting – not a million miles away from the sort of music Paul Hardcastle was bothering the charts with in the mid-80s. Wilson was something of a novelty back then – a DJ who made records rather than just playing them – and his involvement brought electro music to the forefront of the British press. The Face ran a cover feature and Dylan Jones, now editor of GQ, was very supportive of the idea of a UK electro scene. Unfortunately it never really took off, but UK Electro is now a cult classic and well worth a listen if you are interested in the roots of electronic music in the UK. Without Greg Wilson there might be no Warp. Now there's a thought…
Joining The Circus
What to do for British politics?
Solidarity with Ukraine
URL vs. IRL
Do DJs Today Need Social Media to Be Heard?
I Hear (Borusiade Remix)
Mother of MarsShop Now
Hologram TeenShop Now