Today (31 July) marks the 25th anniversary of an album that took drum ‘n’ bass out of the rave dens of urban London and into the mainstream – Goldie‘s Timeless.
Released on the then-fledgling Metalheadz label, Timeless was (and still is) a ‘heart-stopping monster which contained more ideas in each track than most would come up with on an entire album’, as Martin James wrote in State of Bass, an account of the nascent years of the jungle scene.
Commencing with a 21-minute breakbeat symphony, featuring the soaring vocals of the late Diane Charlemagne, Timeless was unlike anything that had emerged from the drum ‘n’ bass arena previously, although Goldie’s role in the development of the movement was already well-established, with 1992’s Terminator setting the young producer apart as one to watch.
Reviewing Timeless in Melody Maker, David Stubbs described it as “a relentlessly awesome compendium of the hardest, fastest, most pulse-racing, shocking, inventive, most sophisticated and finely wrought modernistic music you’ll hear anywhere right now.
“This is more than just a sonic slalom through some of jungle’s darkest, outermost and undiscovered thickets. This is like the man boasts. This is art.”
When Mixmag caught up with Goldie in the weeks leading up to the album’s release (and following a performance at Glastonbury), he saw the album as a stage in the development of a scene that had been around for close to a decade.
“‘Timeless’ is just breakbeat,” he told journalist Tony Marcus, “cutting-edge breakbeat from a layman’s point of view and it’s also personal. It’s kind of like the last ten years, ten years of development. It freaks me out man. It’s just that Grooverider, Fabio, Randall, Doc Scott, they’ve all been there before me.
“I went to see Groove at Kiss FM when he was doing his show and he put me on the spot, asking me about Glastonbury. It really freaked me out thinking that we’ve gone all this way. Did we really want to go this far?”
As well as boasting killer darkcore breaks, Timeless also stands out for its luscious orchestration – an album that would be equally relevant at a dinner party as in a sweaty drum ‘n’ bass dungeon.
“I have a job to do and my job is to make breakbeat more acceptable,” Goldie told Mixmag. “Timeless’ is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You can listen to it anywhere in the fucking world and you’ll hear it right.
“I took some [drum n’ bass] tunes out to Europe and the US and I listened to them on face value. Some of them don’t stand up. It can be mocked by others. I’m not about to have this music mocked anymore.”
Timeless would also go on to establish drum ‘n’ bass as a mainstream genre, with longstanding protagonists such as Ray Keith, DJ Rap, Dillinja, Alex Reece and more getting their due – while inspiring the likes of Roni Size (winner of the 1997 Mercury Music Prize), 4 Hero and LTJ Bukem to reconfigure the musical horizons of this largely urban genre.
“It’s just weird because it’s happened so fast,” Goldie told Mixmag. “and now everybody’s doing alright. The first wave of media bullshit people have left and we’re all just doing things now and contributing to it.
“People who have been in this game for a long time are beginning to go out and get what’s theirs. I just feel proud that it’s a British movement and there’s a lot of people involved in it.”
Or, as James puts it in State of Bass, with Timeless, Goldie managed to take the genre “beyond the street level demands of dance music and into the realms of the autobiographical.
“It’s a story about his life, his surroundings and his own particular take on life – a concept for the breakbeat scientists – Timeless.”