OK. So on top of having some medical issues this month, I've also been battling some of the more severe anxiety and depression I've experienced in a hot minute (though the fact that it's all largely financially-induced is weirdly reassuring). Not buying records makes me a genuinely sad dude. But for as much as I raise a reasonable eyebrow over a streaming-only diet of music discovery, the fact that I can listen to the vast majority of the records that would otherwise be on my turntable is certainly a small consolation.
So moving on from the pity party, I found myself trawling through Hard Wax's past two weeks of releases over the weekend and being utterly stunned by the quality and diversity of new twelves coming from independent labels old and new alike. And I'll get to those records and more in a lengthier round-up. But as the traffic to this site has suddenly picked up, I do feel the not-unpleasant burden to keep up on both the online digging and writing.
One of the major downsides of my current state is that I am unable to make my weekly trip to 2Bridges, really the only record store in this city committed to stocking as much fucked up dance music as possible. Fortunately, they also do a weekly newsletter that is quite frankly unmissable, if you aren't already signed up. I mention all this because while I was feeling rather confident about having a finger on the most exciting twelves out right now, that feeling soon burst the next day when I found out that Zurkonic HQ all-time fave producer Lukid (one half of Rezzett and a true don of a producer) had quietly kicked off a new label back in May with a three-tracker of blistering ragga jungle of the throwback variety (though the vinyl is not hitting till August 3rd).
As you might be aware, I've been really fucking hard at work penning the first of two or three promised essays/short books assessing Simon Reynolds' articulation of the hardcore continuum (that halcyon period in London-based music that ran the gamut from hardcore to jungle through to garage/2-step, out of which arose both grime and dubstep). It's been a genuinely rewarding project in that I've felt my initial intent gradually shifting direction.
An idea that will be developed more fully in the second essay assessing the current UK dance landscape, I’ve come to see Zomby’s exercise in re-creating a sound he only could have heard second-hand as one of the earliest instance of the type of genre science that has emerged as something of a counter-strategy to the mindless retromania that is maybe a necessary growing pain. For all the chatter that came with the release of Zomby’s breakthrough concept album Where Were You in ‘92? in 2009 is perhaps the fastest way to explain the allure of early hardcore to the uninitiated. Despite coming out on Actress’ largely flawless Werk Discs imprint, I was beyond unimpressed by the album upon its release, not getting the allure of trying to faithfully reproduce a music made by other people. It wasn’t until picking up a cheap copy on a whim a couple years back, having listened to way more hardcore in the intervening years than I had in 2009, I soon found myself listening to the record nonstop.
Zomby’s 1992 is an imagined one and arguably a better one. Don’t get me wrong, nothing on Where Were U could match the type of effortless artistry that can be heard on “Waremouse.” But his 1992 is one of B-side cuts and the less-poptastic breakdowns extended into song-length compositions. Seen from this vantage point, that album represents a necessary step forward beyond mindless retromania towards a more informed, a more sincere engagement with music history. Regardless of what went into inspiring its creation, its existence represents a breakthrough in dance music’s longstanding self-cannibalization. For in hewing so close to the text, Zomby presents a way that the archivist’s mentality symbolizes a silent strategy towards recuperating an unrealized past that serves as a bridge to the present and beyond.
These were thoughts that came flooding back into my head as I listened to the bucolic A cut of "How Bout U" that certainly checks all the boxes of an early 90s ragga jungle toon--reggae toasting, sliced-and-diced Amen's, and a wallopping sub line. I often wonder what the allure is as a producer to try and recreate sounds and styles that have already been thoroughly explored and I find myself coming to a similar conclusion about this release as I did about Lukid's old Werk labelmate Zomby. No, this isn't music that slaps you upside the head with its own futurity, but it also serves to remind the listener how truly magical the jungle formula remains to this day, especially when so many DJ's seemed committed to scoring a fascist rally with their 4X4-heavy sets. It's fucking fun to dance like a jazz drummer and this is what is the beauty of the three tracks that comprise
And admittedly, releases like these make for tricky critical propositions as I doubt I'm going to say much about the music that will be especially illuminating. Instead, all I can do is share it and try to express why I think it's worth both of our time given how many similar throwback releases there are floating about. At the end of "How Bout U" is about a solid minute of patois-laced chatter that morphs into a sustained collage of space, sound, and voice that doesn't so much evoke the thrill of hearing MC's chat over pure evil beat science as situate the listener within that space, allowing one to clear the mind to make room for the electric energy of "Busy Be Busy" and record closer "Acid." It's not till half way through "Busy" that Lukid drops the type of post-Mentasm rave stab that one remembers that this is essentially functional party music, but for both the mind and body. I don't know, maybe I've just been writing about hardcore too much to feel the need to explicate this one any further, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been on repeat around these parts for a solid four days. Give it a go<3
*Oh, and while you're here, you should really give this DJ Seratonin tribute mix to jungle legend DJ Randall a listen...utter madness.