Thursday, February 15, 2018

guts, and flash, and energy, and speed

"My purpose was simple: to catch the feel, the pulse of rock, as I had lived through it. Nobody, to my knowledge, had ever written a serious book on the subject, so I had no exemplars to inhibit me. Nor did I have any reference books or research to hand. I simply wrote off the top of my head, whatever and however the spirit moved me. Accuracy didn't seem of prime importance (and the book, as a result, is rife with factual errors). What I was after was guts, and flash, and energy, and speed. Those were the things I'd treasured in the rock I'd loved" 
                                       - Nik Cohn, on Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom


But where oh where is the fourth track on this "e" EP Analyser -  "NGC 891"? Named possibly after either the Edgar Froese track off of Aqua (which it may well sample from, who knows?). Or after the "edge-on unbarred spiral galaxy" that the Froese track is named after....

The great missing mystery tune by "e" - also rendered as 'E' apparently - is at the start of this pirate session...

"sounds of 'e'! - coming atcha!!!!"

After many years of loving that mistreee choon, I stumbled across the origin of the samples in it - Pink Floyd! I had called it a "Little Black Disc With Me Tune On It" after the main vocal lick - that's what I scrawled on the cassette.  But that bit's also taken from Pink Floyd - s a twist on the bit in The Wall that goes "I've got a little black book with me poems in it".

Another "e" tune getting a bit intelligent techno-y

And that's it for "e" as far as YouTube is concerned.

Actually I tell a lie...

"e" did some acid tracks back in 1988 - for a compilation called Blast the Joint.

This early 'E' also did a track entitled "E"

Not to be confused with Mr E

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

fast and slow

This one pulls off a pretty neat trick of sounding flurry-fast and slow-and-low at the same time

not quite so won over by this one, which apparently Doc Scott thinks is the best track he's ever released on his label.  it has the slow-and-low bit down, but not the flurry-fast aspect, so it's a more monodimensional. Good though in it's cold, dank, neuro-ish way.

how big was the creative core of hardcore?

The first time I had any real face-to-face contact with hardcore scene leader types was meeting Goldie in the first months of '94.  We'd made contact a few months before, towards the end of '93, when I was still in NYC and doing a big piece on jungle - the first anywhere - for Vibe. Did a big phone interview for that. Then, not long after moving back to London at the start of '94, I went round to the G-man's gaff. He lived in a tower block off of Englands Lane  - he was something like the permanent house-guest of the documentary maker who had gotten him involved as a young man in a doc about graffiti. The flat was full of G's canvases. I was living in Belsize Park - first time north of the river since I was a baby - and so we were almost neighbours. Then Goldie introduced me to Rob Playford - we met up for a curry in a place on Camden High Street.

During the meal, I asked them how big the scene was. Because there was no way to know really - it seemed massive to me, in my own head, based on the energy of the pirates and the sheer number of them.

I remember Rob seeming slightly evasive or even sheepish as he offered, "Fifty thousand?".

And that did seem smaller than I'd imagined.

Many years later, in response to an enquiry from a scholar or student researcher, I had a bash trying to work out the demographic dimensions of the creative core of rave.

All based on estimates.

There was at that time a particular old skool nuttah website that seemed to have audio clips of most every rave tune from 91/92/93.

This is probably ten or more years ago, but there were 2604 tunes up there, which seemed immense. and they were stretched  across a 4 year period, 1991 to 1994.

I guessed that even though this chap was a total fiend,with a completist streak (there was a fair amount of dross up there, but then again the point of the site was not to be a filter but an archive, a data bank), in all likelihood he must only have had about  50 % of the tunes actually released on his site.

For 1992 -  the most populous, explosive DIY-gone-crazy year (which was also hardcore rave's peak of commercial penetration, the first half of the year anyway) - this bloke had got audio clips for 872 tunes.

I decided the real figure for hardcore releases in that year might be more like 2000 tracks. 

Most 12 inch releases then would just have two tunes, an A-side and flipside. But you did get a fair number of 3-track, 4 track  - even 5 or 6 track -  EPs.

So let's say that there'd have been 750 individual 12 inch releases in this one year period within the genre of UK hardcore rave music, loosely defined. 

So that means roughly 15 new tunes a week. Which does chime with my vague general sense of going into hardcore/jungle stores and that being the number of brand-new new tunes that would be up on the wall behind the counter. A constant flow of white labels.

Given that many producers released several things a year and that producers also operated under pseudonyms, I’m going to guess conservatively that each producer released 3 records that year.

So that would lead you to conclude that this were around 250 actively releasing-stuff producers in the UK within the hardcore zone. Some producing under multiple names to confuse things and create a deceptive sense of plethora and profusion.

There's a probably a lot of amateurs who never finished their tracks, or ones that did but never grubbed together the money to put them out, and quite a few borderlines that were barely released or came out on dubplate only. (And are now being reissued as expensive reissues). 

In the not-quite-released zone, I remember one Ruff crew show in '92 where a producer called E had brought his tracks to played, including a fantastic one that sampled Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, but that never actually came out. It's the first tune on this tape -

Anyway, let's go with the estimate of 250 actively releasing producers.

Now, how big was the scene?

The biggest raves that summer drew 30 thousand, but you have to guess that this was not everyone in the scene in attendance -  people stayed for local clubs or lived too far away across the country. Even the mega-est rave must have only managed 1 in 3 of the rave massive at most.

A really big underground rave tune could sell 25 thousand, except for the rave pop crossover ones  like Prodigy or SL2. But following a similar principle as above,  no tune would be bought by everyone.

So let’s say that the rave massive was somewhere between 75 thousand and 100 thousand

With the first estimate of rave population you get 1 in 300 as the ratio of producer-participants to consumer-participants

With the second figure it diminishes to 1 in 400!

 That’s a lot of smaller than I thought.

I'd imagined that the punk-redolent DIY principle would have been more rife and rampant.

I guess human laziness, a sensible awareness of one’s own lack of musicality, or just not being prepared to cough up the dough for the initial start-up costs, would ensure that the majority were happy to be just punters.

With the collapse of the rave audience and the coming of darkness in 1993, the ratio of producers to consumers would go up dramatically -- the harder the core, the more of a component of active  producers / DJs you would have. In Chris Cutler's terms, the more "engaged" a music scene.

So with Playford's guess of 50 thousand  - made in early 94, when the scene was still under the sway of darkness, the jungle crossover explosion some months away, still contracted to a hard core -  then the  ratio of active music-releasing artists to punters becomes 1 in 200. 

Equally the more commercially successful the music is, the less participatory and "engaged" it is. You have a lot more mere punters happy to sit back and enjoy. 

2step would be another period in which the ratio of producers to consumers goes down again, owing to its massive pop success and across London domination of the pirate airwaves.

Grime, in the early 2000s, would have gone back to having high ratio of creatives (aspiring MCs, producers, deejays). Indeed in its fundamental unpopularity I would compare it to the improv or noise scenes...

Going back to the creative core of H-core question, I suppose one could go to Discogs and attempt to actually count the number of producers (especially as it useful displays all the pseudonyms and alter-egos and aliases each one uses).

But I'm guessing the result won't be too far off the 250-ish sort of figure that I kinda pulled out of my arse there.

It won't be drastically off, I don't think - like 2500 producers. 

rollin haights

my favorite tune of the year, already (and yeah i'm surprised too)

Cox rox

Triffic mix made by Pearsall in tribute to Carl Cox, involving some insanely obsessive forensic process of combing through the tracklists of the big man's hardcore-era sets to establish his ultimate tunes. The result is, as Pearsall puts it, "a kind of ‘platonic ideal of rave-era Carl Cox’ mix"

Release rationale / methodology explained here

Apart from this obvious classic - 

- I've never really clicked with Carl Cox before I must admit. Not sure if I ever caught him as deejay - if I did, clearly it didn't leave any impressions. And his own releases have bypassed me. Especially when he'd left behind rave-rave-rave for a sort of Muzik-middlezone techno sound

But this mix - indirectly - convinces me I missed something.  Now to search out some of Cox's own sets from the hardcore heyday.

Monday, February 12, 2018

the archival shortfall

I noted the other day that there were so many pirate tapes online that they start to blur into each other

And there are a lot

But in some ways, you can't help thinking, there ought to be a lot more

Take for instance Don FM

My favorite station. The source of many of my all-time fave tapes.

Its signal was loud and strong on account of coming from Wandsworth - and I was living in Brixton at that time (I didn't know it was based in Wandsworth then, I didn't know anything about the station at all.).

But mostly it was the deejaying (especially the Lucky Spin crew) and the MCs (especially MC OC and Ryme Time).

Just recently I went on a little jag of hunting down Don FM tapes from 92 / 93 and adding that trawl to the ones I'd already scavenged off the internet in previous years - it came to about 30 hours of recordings up there and out there.

Let's say I've missed a few -  round that up to 40 hours

I also put up there about three hours worth from my own tape archive

So that's about, let's say, 45 hours of Don FM from 92/93 captured on tape and shared on YouTube, mixcloud, and various blogs like Hardscore

45 hours seems like rather a small amount, don't you think. That's less than a hour per weekend over the course of a year and a bit.

The period I'm talking about is from when Don FM launched November 92 until the end of 1993.
(The station carried on into the early months of 1994, before going off the air March 28th voluntarily while pursuing a license, which it got, and then... well you can find out the story online).

Like most pirates, Don FM was on all through the weekend. My possibly unreliable memory is that stations would start up about 7pm on Friday (get everyone warmed up for going out), sometimes earlier...  and then would go all night on Friday and Saturday (and all day in between - often a bit mellower - sometimes even a bit of garage). Then they would wind down probably 10 PM or midnight on Sunday.

I seem to recall Don being on some weekdays here and there (producing some of my fave tapes on these days actually). But let's just stick with those weekends of continuous broadcast. 

Nov 92 to end of 93 - that must amount to some 3000 hours of Don FM transmissions.

So if there's 45 hours of it online - that means just 1 out of every 66 of its hours of broadcast in that period is archived publicly.

I'm sure people must have taped LOADS more than that. The deejays and MCs themselves must have taped a lot of their shows. But punters at home too - it was the main way to get hold of the music and have to play during the week, because so much of it was dubplate or prelease.

That suggests the ageing ravers either

-  are holding / hoarding

- played the tapes at the time until the tape wore out

- put them in a box and forgot about them, or threw them out during some big clear-out, or they got damaged through poor storage conditions

- can't be arsed to digitize them and share

- or, or, they like the idea of keeping it just to themselves, a snatch of time that they alone have access to. That's always a possibility.

Of course, not all of the 65/66ths worth of undigitized / unshared /unarchived will ever have been worth being digitized / shared / archived

I have quite a few undigitized tapes of  Don FM of my own and they are not all gold by any means. A lot of pirate shows never quite ignited, just chugged along. Probably I have around 20 tapes that fall into this category. There is a certain redundancy with the same tunes getting played in different sequences.

Still there's got to be some great sessions out there that people are sitting on and either have forgotten about or just can't be bothered.


Here's a Don FM sesh from ninety-free that I have freshly digitized and offered to the common wealth  - with some Eruption FM bits at the start and then into a full-on session with MC OC