THROWBACK THURSDAY: Bizarre Inc – Playing With Knives (Quadrant Mix) [November 1991]

If there was a track that summed up the two sides to the rave scene in the early 1990s, it has to be Bizarre Inc’s Playing with Knives, which skips merrily from dark, buzzsaw synth patterns to uplifting piano house.

Formed by DJs Dean Meredith and Mark Archer (the latter would later go on to form rave pranksters Altern 8), Bizarre Inc’s has already surfed into the UK charts with Bizarre Theme/X-Static, and Such a Feeling, before the November 1991 release of Playing With Knives, which cemented the band’s place in rave history.

Yes, it’s a track that has appeared on countless ‘back to the old school’ compilations, and will likely continue to appear on many more, but there’s just something about that breakdown at 1.36; as the listener emerges from the darkness of the warehouse into the daylight of the track’s main piano refrain.

Of course, there are several further trips to the darkside as the track progresses – at 4.03, it all gets a bit full-on – but as commercial dance tracks go, Playing With Knives has stood the test of time better than many of its contemporaries. After all, within months of its release, the charts were full of ‘toy town techno’ reworking of children’s television themes…

The B-Side to the Quadrant Mix, on the Vinyl Solutions label, contains the excellent Plutonic; also well worth a listen.

[Kudos to VinylSolutionRecords for the YouTube upload]

the29nov films – making techno a full-on visual experience…

Today being 29 November, I thought it was fitting to pay tribute to the29nov films, a video production team that has provided techno with surreal, captivating visuals for more than a decade now.

Founded in Germany in November 2006, the company, which is the brainchild of Sebastian Kökow and Kevin Paschold, has soundtracked artists such as Reeko, Slam, Headless Horseman, Ancient Methods, Blawan, Planetary Asssault Systems… you name it. If it’s hard, and unrelenting, chances are the boys have a video for it.

Here’s a selection of our favourites, all taken from the29nov films YouTube channel

Sleeparchive – A Man Dies In The Street Pt.1

Federico Amoroso – Heavy (Ryuji Takeuchi Remix)

Kevin McPhee – Version 5

6D22 – Longwang (Heinrich Mueller Remix)

Lucy – The High Priestess (Blawan Remix)

Keep up the good work, lads!

[All videos from the 29nov films library]

Ibiza Uncovered… A lot has changed in 20 years, or has it? [July 1997]

In July 1997, Ibiza Uncovered was first broadcast on Sky One, introducing the world to a motley crew of characters seeking escapism (and employment) on the white isle…

While ‘Brits abroad’ documentaries are widespread these days, Ibiza Uncovered set the tone, introducing the world to a ragtag bunch of characters such as Sam and Kes, a Cockney duo who pack in their London jobs for a job in Ibiza Town (only to find, when they get there, the job doesn’t exist); Jay and Dee, whose lifetime ambitions are to become Club 18-30 reps; and John, an Ibiza regular who pledges to give up drinking for the summer in order to lose some weight… (tenner bet he doesn’t make it).

The conversation, when it occurs, is all too predictable:
“What have you been up to?” one punter is asked.
“Shagging and drinking,” comes the reply.

“He’s nice, he’s really nice,” one young lass says about the object of her affection. “But he keeps shagging other people, so I don’t know where he is.” (lol)

The fact that almost the entire series is filmed within the square mile (if even that) of San Antonio’s West End doesn’t do the island any favours either. Breasts and bottoms are bared incessantly, and as the series drags on, it all goes a bit Benny Hill – the Manumission ‘sex show’ being a particularly memorable low.

Twenty years on, Ibiza Uncovered is not how the island deserves to be remembered. But having said that, as a time capsule of the mid-90s – the era of Loaded and FHM, of pints of Snakebite and Jennifer Aniston-style bangs (Peter Andre for the lads), it’s fairly bang on the money. ‘Oi oi saveloy’ and all that. [Although, being Irish, I would like to state that we tended to avoid all that nonsense :)]

Have we evolved as a species in the years since? I’ll leave that up to you… And whatever happened to the word ’shag’?

[Kudos to garlybhoy for the uploads]

Sasha: The first DJ pin-up…? [December 1991]

Back in 1991, several years before the concept of a ‘superstar DJ’ (with the booking fee to match), Mixmag declared Sasha the ‘first DJ pin-up’, such was the nascent popularity of the then-ponytailed Shelley’s resident.

As the magazine put it, ‘Whereas there have been plenty of star DJs before, Sasha is the first to be so successful precisely because of his DJing. After all the hyperbole and rhetoric, Britain’s dance revolution has arrived. In person.’

In what descends into something of a love-in, the journalist is effusive in his praise for dance’s first superstar.

‘Sasha is good. There’s no doubt about it. He can fill floors on the strength of his name alone. He’s treated like a fully-fledged pop star, recognised in clubland, lauded and lionised. […] Gradually, he is expanding into the world of remixing, but it’s his DJing that brings him the plaudits, the fame and the money. And the boys queuing up to shake his hand. And the girls queuing up to kiss him.”

Sasha, real name Alexander Coe, also offers his two cents, outlining how to keep the masses entertained, circa 1991…

“It’s the easiest way of getting a crowd to move – putting on a piano house track and getting them to put their hands in the air. That used to be my trademark, but everybody is doing it and the tracks that are created aren’t very good anyway. It’s too easy to stick to one sort of music, it works much better to play heavy techno for fifteen minutes and then follow it up with piano tunes. The effect is fifty times better.”

…. the importance of DJs to get into the recording studio…

“No-one knows better than a DJ what creates a buzz on the floor. When I’m working in the studio I am always thinking about what this track would sound like out in a club. It will be the DJs who are most spontaneous and creative in a club who are going to make the most imaginative records, because they’ll know how sounds go to together.”

… and his own introduction to the scene…

“I just did it at the time because there was a great buzz going round, and sort of fell into the style that I developed. It wasn’t a conscious thing to try to be different, but I just found that I always like to throw in really mad things. Things that were really different.”

Looking back, if ever there was a moment at which the touchpaper was lit for the emergence of superstar DJ culture, this was it. While it would be a few years before Sasha, John Digweed, Carl Cox et al would command genuine celebrity status, at the time, such aspirations must have seemed somewhat anathemaic to the DIY culture of the rave scene.

As for the man himself, while the venues may have got larger, the sound systems louder and the entry fees more expensive, even back then Sasha had a word of advice for budding bedroom superstars.

“The DJing will still be what I want to do. Seeing my face in a magazine is great, but the DJing is what it is all about.”

[Originally published in Mixmag, December 1991. Article sourced from It’s All About Flyers forum]

This video of the 1995 Love Parade is just the tonic on a cold winter’s night… [July 1995]

With the weather getting colder (2 degrees at the last count!), there’s nothing like a dollop of techno nostalgia to warm the cockles…

This video of the Love Parade 1995, uploaded to YouTube by user Monty_Rock does just the trick – a snapshot of a golden age for dance music, and a time when you didn’t have to queue for over an hour only to be turned away at the door (hello, Berghain!)…

Some 280,000 happy punters descended on Berlin that year for the event (that number would swell to 750,000 the following year, as the event moved from Kurfürstendamm to the Tiergarten), and the footage includes killer cuts like DJ Misjah & Tim’s Access, Red Herring by Union Jack and Lo-Tec’s excellent Spacebar.

Looking back now, one of the most refreshing things to see is that nobody is glued to their phones…although Super Soakers seem to be a must have accessory.

Interesting side note – the 1995 Love Parade was subtitled ‘Peace On Earth’. Given the state of the world we currently live in, isn’t it time we all went back to the Tiergarten for another spin..?

[Kudos to Monty_Rock for the upload]

THROWBACK THURSDAY: T99 – Anasthasia (1991)

Is this the most devastating opening chord salvo in dance music history?

Belgium was the place to be for quality techno back in the early 90s; labels such as PIAS and R&S helped create a devastating sound that still has the power to impress, nearly 30 years later.

One of the standout tracks of the era was Anasthasia by T99, a group formed somewhat by accident – solo artist Patrick De Meyer, who already had three releases under his belt, heard that his friend Olivier Abbeloos was working on a track, which turned out to be a prototype version of what would go on to be Anasthasia.

A group was hastily formed, and the duo would go on to enjoy chart success with this distinctly un-chart like track, hitting number 4 in the Dutch charts, number 9 in Belgium, and 14 in the U.K. (as evidenced by T99’s appearance on Top of the Pops, above).

Following the release of their only album, Children of Chaos, in 1992, the group disbanded, with De Meyer going on to work with Technotronic and up and coming duo 2 Unlimited.

As the latter’s Ray Slijngaard might put it, “TECHNO TECHNO TECHNO TECHNO!”

[Kudos to TravisBickle1963 for the upload]

Frankie Bones on the UK rave scene… [February 1990]

For US-based DJs coming to Europe in the late 80s and early 90s, the rave scene must have been eye-opening – the ‘do it yourself’ ethic, coupled with a soupçon of absolute hedonism, was somewhat different to what was going on Stateside.

For Frankie Bones, speaking here to Rave magazine in 1990, the difference was stark.. and breathtaking.

“New York people can’t accept London,” he says. “They’re not ready for London and what’s going on here. You know, thousands of people in a field doing drugs. In New York it could never happen.”

Praising the level of DJ talent in the UK at the time, Bones also suggests that the 25,000 capacity raves being staged during that period would have been a recipe for disaster in the States.

“You put 25,000 people in an aircraft hangar in Brooklyn, and you’re going to walk away with casualties. People are going to die. It’s a territorial thing. But in London, you find West End guys with East End guys, blacks with whites, all raving together. That’s nice.”

Later in the interview, he also recalls his first UK rave, an Energy event, in blissful detail.

“When we got up on the stage it was six o clock in the morning, and I was totally straight. I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke, I didn’t do anything. It was great. It was an amazing feeling seeing how all the people reacted, and everybody was really high and they really got into the music.”

Halcyon days indeed…

[Article published in Rave magazine, February 1990. Scan taken from the It’s All About Flyers discussion forum]


Liam and Noel Gallagher invade clubland… [November 1996]

Back in the mid 90s, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing a blast of Wonderwall over the old tannoy…  including your local nightclub, with a myriad of house and drum and bass remixes released to cash in on the Gallagher brothers’ anthem.

This article from MUZIK magazine in November 1996 looks at the manner in which Oasis invaded clubland (temporarily, anyway), with DJs such as Justin Robertson and Richard Fearless waxing lyrical about ‘what nice young men’ Liam and Noel are, and a preview of The Chemical Brothers’ Setting Sun, released that same month, which featured Noel on guest vocals.

“Some might say (sorry!) it’s just Loops of Fury Part Two with a sandpaper-voiced bloke shouting some nonsense over it. If you didn’t know that it was Noel singing on it, you would probably never guess, so swamped in classic barbed-wire breakbeats is his voice. And small-minded record company politics have meant his contribution to the record cannot even be officially mentioned.”

The article also highlights some Wonderwall bootlegs of the time: two of which, thanks to the miracle of YouTube, 909originals is able to present for your listening pleasure (discretion advised, seriously)…

Lewis Parker – Wonderwall

DeeJay Friendly – Blow Ya Whistle (Pianoasis mix)

[Article from MUZIK Magazine, November 1996, words by Calvin Bush and Marc Roland]

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: Jeff Mills – Live At The Liquid Room – Tokyo [1996]

If you are looking for evidence that Jeff Mills has long been one of the most technically-proficient names in techno, the Detroit native’s 1996 mix album, Live at the Liquid Room – Tokyo, is a good place to start.

I remember being handed this mix on an unlabelled tape (the horror!) around 20 years ago, and not realising what it was: as a relative latecomer to MP3 players, and having shunned Minidiscs altogether, it was only at a house part a few years later that I discovered its creator, the man known in DJ circles as The Wizard.

As if it could be the work of anyone else…

What’s great about listening back to it now is the ‘human’ element – some of the mixes go slightly awry, and you can hear the vinyl crackling as he pushes the record to change the tempo. In this era of overly-polished production, it’s a breath of fresh air.

Divided into three ‘segments’, the mix CD, released on React, includes some of the most blistering techno tunes from the early to mid 90s, including cuts from DJ Funk (Work That Body and Run), Surgeon (Magneze and Move), Derrick May’s seminal Strings of Life, and a smattering of Mills’ own tracks.

In fact the entire third segment of this mix is comprised entirely of Mills own work, as the shuffling Casa breaks into Life Cycle and then Step To Enchantment.

The highlight? The moment at the 11-minute mark when The Bells segues into Work That Body is pretty goddamn special.

[Kudos to ElectroBassDub3 for the upload]

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Patrick Cowley – Menergy (1981)

For this week’s Throwback Thursday we go right back to 1981, and one of the tracks that symbolised the morphing of disco into Hi-NRG, a genre that continues to influence dance music today.

In the late 1970s, producer Patrick Cowley‘s work on Sylvester’s Step II album (as well as an epic 15 minute megamix of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love) gave the young San Francisco producer a pedestal from which to launch a solo career.

In 1981, Cowley released the Menergy EP on Fusion Records, with its title track still one of the most influential of the short-lived Hi-NRG wave.

Opening with Vangelis-style lushness, the track descends into a pulsing electro riff that sounds straight off Daft Punk’s latest album – one can only imagine what it sounded like at the Paradise Garage, or similar timeless venues of the era.

The drop at 4:04 is pretty special too. 🙂

[Edit: for those of us that went clubbing in the late 90s, if you think the riff sounds familiar, you’d be right, it’s the main riff from Saints and Sinners’ Pushin Too Hard, released in 1999]

Sadly, Cowley never got the opportunity to build on the success of Menergy, and the well-received Megatron Man album that followed; in November 1982, he died at the age of 32, an early victim of the then-relatively unknown AIDS virus. His music, however, lives on…

[Kudos to Milentije Kindlovski for the video upload, picture source Wikimedia Commons]