Did a little mix for the Russian dnb crew Vykhod Sily. Was originally thinking of doing a 1995 jungle mix but when the moment came I decided to switch direction and do a mix of mid to late 90’s techstep rollers. To be honest, it’s pretty close to a mix I did a few years back called Steps in the Night, but I’ve always loved this sound, so why not another mix along the same lines?
Don’t have too much to say about this one – I just caught a little vibe and put it together. I’ve been enjoying listening to it over the last few weeks since I made it.
This is a little mix that I did last month after feeling quite inspired by having played for Begrime at the YAAM outdoor beach bar (ok ‘beach’ is relative), by the banks of the River Spree in Friedrichshain.
If you’re not familiar with Yaam, it’s a sprawling riverside club/bar complex dedicated to being a home for black music and culture in Berlin – it’s probably most famous for hosting reggae and dancehall events, but really it has played home to all kinds of musical styles from across the African diaspora – from American hip-hop, soul, and funk to the various styles of the Caribbean to the many many many different flavors of African music. There’s a bar by the river, various food stalls selling food from across the African diaspora (I had an ersatz Jamaican jerk chicken and rice and it was pretty bad so don’t go to that stall!), basketball and volleyball courts, and all kinds of nooks and crannies that I never even explored.
Anyways, so Craig (aka Typewriter) set it up and asked me to come along and it was really fun! I played first, just playing a bunch of old grime records to a very disinterested beach crowd ( 😀 ) but it was nice to hear these tunes on a loud(ish) system,
After my set I hung around, met some people, had some (very mediocre) food, chatted, had a drink or two, wandered around, and then returned to the stage for the last hour when myself, Typewriter, and Bwoi went back to back, with Typewriter on Serato, Boi on CDJs, and myself on vinyl, with my ancient raw tunes matched up against their more modern stuff. It was an interesting clash and a lot of fun!
Unfortunately, due to the neighbors, the outdoor venue has a strict closing time of 10pm, so we could only go to 10, but it was a very refreshing experience to hear these old bangers played loud. They still sound raw as fuck!
So that was the inspiration for this mix – I made it a few days later because I was still really feeling the vibe. A lot of the tunes in this mix were tunes I played during my set. To be completely honest, it’s not really that dissimilar from last year’s That Pirate Energy, but I loved that mix and have listened to it tons of times, so I thought it would be a lot of fun to do a follow-up.
I know this mix won’t get too many listens, but I’m really proud of it, as I think it encapsulates that special X factor that early grime had – it’s maybe the weirdest, most off-kilter quote-unquote ‘urban’ music ever. The tunes on this mix are turns aggressive, enchanting, melodic, abrasive, banging, surprisingly soft, and sometimes just flat-out bizarre. Early grime was simply a period of unbelievable creative fertility!
Since this put me in the mood for thinking about early grime, I have decided to republish an old blog post of mine about the classic Ruff Sqwad mixtape, Guns & Roses Volume 1.
Yeah, I know this has been out for ages. But, well, so what?
Starting out absurdly young (they were all about 14-16 when their first big tunes came out) over the last couple of years Ruff Sqwad have put a constant stream of huge tunes. A full list would take some time, but they’ve dropped tunes like ‘Misty Cold’ ‘R U Double F’, ‘Lethal Injection’, ‘Ur Love Feels’ and ‘Tings in Boots’, amongst others. In that time they have become, in my humble opinion, one of London’s finest grime crews. This is their first mixtape. And it’s awesome.
Their producers, Dirty Danger and Rapid, have a lot to do with this. They love big sounds, like squawking guitars, massive horn fanfares, thunderous bass and clouds of synth noise, and they draw all these elements together into an ocean deep sonic stew, that is totally fresh and unique. Like Slicks said on ‘Practice Hours’, when you hear a Ruff Sqwad tune, you know who it is. Their mc’s are less universally loved, but I think they are great. Lyrically, the stuff on this mixtape is, I guess, pretty standard (girls, hustling, we are the best, our beats are the best, we’re gunmen, etc.) but they’ve got style and they work well with the music. Plus they have really unique voices, which I guess is down to them being (mostly) from African not West Indian backgrounds, and awe-inspiringly cool names like Tinchy Stryder and Shifty Rydoz. One of the things I like about them as mc’s is that they are so serious, so composed. They have a unique style. They don’t get hysterical like other crews tend to, they just keep on in an unruffled style, like they know they are on a long mission.
All the highlights on this are their own tunes, and I’ll get to those in a minute. The lowlights are all freestyles over American rap beats. I know I have a bug up my ass about this (‘bring me my exotic furrin music!’) but I don’t see the point of including some of the stuff they’ve included when I think about all the frankly incredible productions in their back catalogue they could have used for fresh freestyles. I mean, when you listen to, say, ‘Future’ with it’s deep sea bass, horn explosions, and tinkling synths n’ strings and then flick forward to the freestyle over Black Rob’s ‘Whoah!’ (which is a pretty standard hip-hop beat) there is no comparison between the two. ‘Lean Back’ was a good beat, and Stryder is a good mc, but does anyone really need to hear it again? When you’ve made tracks like ‘Muskateers’ or ‘Anna’ or ‘R U Double F’ (none of which appear on here) why bother with stuff like Ludacris’s ‘Splash Waterfalls’? I know people want to appear versatile, but really, have some faith in your own talents, boys.
Don’t get me wrong though, because even these are only relative lowlights. None of the American beats they used are really bad, they’re listenable, they’re just not on the same level as their own productions. Happily, though, the good moments are far more numerous than the bad ones. Like the whistles, weird kazoo-like noise, collapsing beat, and squealing bass that form the backbone of Dirty Danger’s sex tales on ‘Dirty’. Or the aforementioned ‘Future’ which is easily my favorite tune on the whole mixtape. Then there’s the Sinogrime of ‘Jampie’, which features some delicate Chinese-y plinks and plonks, and also features Stamina Boy from Mucky Wolfpack and the godlike Trim from Roll Deep, who turns up and does his deep voiced word-twisting thing. Or the horn explosions and shoutouts to half the neighborhoods in London of the intro. Another favorite is ‘Wide Awake’ where Rapid lays out his plans for the future over an eerie piano-crusted hip-hop tempo beat. The Grimefather Wiley turns up as well, dropping a freestyle to warn off the haters, as well as allowing Ruff Sqwad to use his ‘Morgue’ and ‘Ice Cream Man’ beats.
All in all, this is a really really good mixtape. Obviously I have my reservations about some of the American rap beats they used, but there is a huge amount of good stuff on here. On the basis of this, the album which is (apparently) due sometime later this year should be absolutely huge. Well worth a purchase.
So this mix is a selection of some recent(ish) dubstep bits that I’ve picked up on vinyl over the last couple years – basically it’s pretty similar in spirit to last year’s Lockdown Sounds. While it’s true that my mixes often have some kind of a concept or theme behind them, with this specific one, well, I just pulled out some records I liked and mixed them together … nothing more complex than that.
The story behind this mix, to the extent that there is any kind of story, is that I wanted to make a new mix to take with me when I went to visit my parents in the US in July (having not seen them for eighteen months), and I wanted something that was relaxing. Well, to the extent that any of my mixes can be described as relaxing. This is the result.
So … yeah. Kind of self-explanatory, right?
Still, though, I will write a few words to describe the mix.
As I mentioned before, I often go with some kind of theme when I create a new mix. Not in this case. Something else that I often do, specifically with mixes of four to the floor genres like acid or hard trance, is to gradually (or sometimes rapidly) increase the intensity of the music through the course of the mix, which I usually achieve by ramping up the tempo. This is something that I’ve done probably dozens of times, and I always enjoy it! It’s a system that works, that sounds good (in my opinion, of course), and that other people seem to enjoy as well.
Is it so creative to keep using the same broad framework? Possibly not, but I generally try to infuse creativity in other ways, whether through the theme of the mix or how I approach the programming.
However, I don’t follow this ‘just pitch that shit up!’ strategy when I am working with bass music genres like drum n’ bass, dubstep, breaks, grime or electro. My general feeling is that you don’t get the same payoff by just cranking the tempo – it ends up sounding weird, so I generally avoid it.
This is really apparent with dubstep specifically, at least for me. Honestly, this style of music sounds ridiculous pitched way up. The whole sense of it is gone when you jack the bpms up, therefore I generally try to go no higher than about 144 bpm (which would be about +3 on a normal Technics turntable for a 140 bpm record).
Even so I still want to take the listeners (and myself) on a ‘journey’, to use the dreaded cliche – but how? So since just relentlessly ramping up the bpm’s is out, instead I focus on the sonic textures of my selected tracks and try to organize them in such a way that the outcome is a coherent sonic narrative.
So how did I do that with this mix?
Well, let’s go through it!
The first five tracks are deep and dark and kind of weird, and, honestly, not really all that dance-ey. I mean I suppose you could dance to them, but they aren’t exactly ‘go nuts and pour a can of beer over your head’ danceable.
At track 6, Von D’s ‘Chestlick’ signals a slight switch in emphasis to a short section of sturdy, bass-heavy steppers that briefly segues into a couple of West Coast hip-hop influenced tracks before switching again to a more extended selection of classic dancefloor dubstep, brooding bass underpinning breezeblock beats laced with a heavy dancehall influence.
In the middle of this section I drop two of J:Kenzo’s acid dubstep tracks (you know I love acid!) but then after that I switch things back to the more classic dubstep sound, all halfstep chonk and bass thwomp.
The last section of the mix starts at about track 23 as I shift the intensity up to some tracks that are at first a bit more grime-adjacent and then suddenly noisier, more abrasive, and just simply more aggressive. Well, until the last track, which is all cavernous reverb and rifling tribal drums … I just wanted to end things on a slightly less belligerent note.
I hope you enjoyed the mix – more music and some big news soon!
My good friend Vali NME Click is the man behind the essential Berlin-based hardcore and jungle label Parallax Recordings, which is just about to celebrate five years of releasing records with its biggest release yet: the incredible Message from the Parazone, a five (!) vinyl album featuring some of the absolute finest new skool darkside hardcore / jungle from some of the scene’s finest figures. As a little promo for the release I’ve done this label tribute mix, pulled together from every release so far. Vali also kindly agreed to answer some questions, so please read on to find out more.
Jack Smooth – How We Do [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
DJ Mindhunter – Bass Roll [PARA 11 – Body Journey]
InnerCore – Turbo Sound [2 copies of PARA 10S1 – Departure To The Parazone]
Pete Cannon – Dream Again [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
DJ Mindhunter – Prisoners Of Xtasee [PARA 11 – Body Journey]
Brute Force – Secrets [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
Worldwide Epidemic – Face Melt [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
Theory – What’s Going On [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
Dwarde & Tim Reaper- London Stomp [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
? – ? [forthcoming Parallax]
? – ? [forthcoming Parallax]
DJ Mindhunter – Mind Trip [PARA 11 – Body Journey]
FFF – Bandulu [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
? – ? [forthcoming Parallax]
Coco Bryce – Pirates Of The Pancreas [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
Ant To Be – So Strange [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
Dev/Null – DarkPhase [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
DJ Mindhunter – Mind Full Of Stars [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
Justice & Necrotype – Refried [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
Champa B – Let´s Go Message From The ParazoneMessage From The Parazone]
FX – Dark Shadows [PARA 10S1 – Departure To The Parazone]
Tim Reaper- Dead And Buried [FX Remix] [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
? – ? [forthcoming Parallax]
? – ? [forthcoming Parallax]
? – ? [forthcoming Parallax]
DJ Mindhunter – Dreamin [PARA 11 – Body Journey]
Yorobi & Tim Reaper – Rhodiola [Dead Man’s Chest Remix] [PARA 10S1 – Departure To The Parazone]
Sonar’s Ghost – Future Shock [Double 0 VIP] [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
ScanOne – Horizons [PARA 10S1 – Departure To The Parazone]
? – ? [forthcoming Parallax]
? – ? [forthcoming Parallax]
? – ? [forthcoming Parallax]
? – ? [forthcoming Parallax]
K Super – Being With You VIP [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
Hornchurch Hardcore – Labyrinth [PARA 10 – Message From The Parazone]
? – ? [forthcoming Parallax]
? – ? [forthcoming Parallax]
For those who don’t know you, who is Vali NME Click?
I grew up in a musical household in Ulm, South-Germany. Both my parents are classical solo singers and multi-instrumentalists, so there has always been music and instruments around me, my father even self-built a Cembalo. I remember regularly falling asleep on the sofa to jam sessions that my parents and befriended musicians did in our place.
In 1994 together with my mate Önder I bought two crates of 92/93 Hardcore and Jungle from a local DJ and we started DJing and founded the NME Click. We went on and did radio, wrote for magazines, put on events (and even did live broadcasts from there), we even did an outdoor festival.
Things kicked off in 1997 really when Ikomowsa and MC Marvellous joined and completed the crew. We established a quite big scene in our little city and were on the road constantly every weekend for the best part of the next 10 years, also having residency clubs and radiostations in other cities and booked popular Drum and Bass artists from all over the world regularly, especially from the UK. We had records out on labels such as DSCI4, Basswerk, Blue Saphire, Shadybrain and played at stages all over Europe, such as Sun&Bass, Fields Of Joy, Lightbox, Fusion, Splash, SonneMondSterne, Kings Of The Jungle and Breakzone.
In around 1997 I started the side-project Studioline, which was a mix of the music we grew up with and were influenced by. Nowadays you would call it “Mash-Up”, but we did it all on the fly, with records, playing all across the board, cutting and scratching and with that we attracted a wider audience and with those events financed the Drum and Bass parties in return. When I got tired of that around 2010 I re-found my love for the music that it all started with – Hardcore and Jungle. I always had a soft spot for the era and basically never stopped collecting tunes from the early 90ies.
So, while all this went on I didn’t really do such a good job of making a career outside of the music thing for myself. I quit school at around the age of 16 without any degree, just hustling, doing graffiti jobs, djing and selling illegal substances. But I soon figured out I needed to do something. So I went back to school, did one degree after another, did an apprenticeship at the local music magazine – all to be able to study digital media, only to have arguments with the lecturers and drop out. So there I was in Hamburg in 2009, in a traineeship as part of my studies, with everything seemingly lost.
So I decided to play the wildcard and just apply for jobs at random agencies without any degree. Luckily I found a job as a web designer in Berlin. The agency itself was a bit grim, but I stayed there for 5 years and learned the trade and in 2015 I went freelance, specialising in web- and print-design and illustrations, with a focus on clients in the NGO field and more socially-oriented companies. Through my past in the music business I also did a lot of artwork for labels and artists such as Metalheadz, CIA, Dispatch, Basement/ Precious Materials, InnerCore, DJ Seduction, Total Science, FD and the likes.
What’s the story behind Parallax Recordings?
In Berlin I started putting on the ‘Parallax’ events in a small, illegal location around 2013, doing parties about once a year. I invited the people around Germany that had the same passion for Oldskool and a record collection. These events got a lot of love although I put little effort/ possibilities in promoting them. And they’ve been tons of fun!
Being an avid record collector I remember always hassling Dave Elusive from 92 Retro and Will Irvine from Sublogic/KVA to see if they could repress this or that and link them to the producers. One day Will said: ‘You know what? You just did the hardest part – finding the producers. Let’s do this together as a joint release’ and asked what I would call my label. I didn’t think too much and just took the name from my parties, thinking this would be a one-off experience. But so, Parallax Recordings was born. Soon after I found the guys from Technosaurus and decided to put their ‘Best Of Invention’ out on my own, just to see if I could do it all alone (though Will helped me heaps and forwarded me all his contacts, so thanks again, Will!).
My girlfriend was pregnant with my now 3-year old daughter and I somehow thought I had to do this “before it’s all over” and I’m a dad. Well, I did and caught the bug, and fast forward, here I am releasing the 5-piece album ‘Message From The Parazone’.
What’s the process behind re-releasing old tunes? How do you find the artists and get the rights? Some of the stuff has been extremely rare!
The process of finding the artists is always the hardest. Sometimes it takes me years and I always keep my cards close, especially now that repressing is a thing and so many others do it.
I also fell out of love with it a bit. Personally, I think it got too much and too much average stuff has been put out and I sometimes miss the love and the attention to detail.
But it also has to be said that there are some people in the ‘business’ that do an absolutely tremendous job and do everything right and I also feel the most important things got reissues in the last few years.
So it has become harder and harder to find something that’s worth it. My ethos has always been to only re-release music that’s not just expensive, but hard to get hold of. The tunes that never come up, even if you are dedicated and look for months. I don’t see much sense in re-releasing something that is widely available on the second hand market, even if a bit pricier. If you really want a tune and are dedicated to get it, you will pay a bit above the average to get it.
It’s a choice how you live your life and how you put your priorities. People often state that a remaster will sound better. But if a tune never sounded bad in comparison to others from the time I don’t see the need for that either. I still buy a lot of the represses myself, even if I have the originals. For one, to support other labels in the same field (although I don’t see many other label owners doing that .. ), and of course to have a mint copy for a tenner myself haha.
Are there any tracks that you’ve really wanted to release that you haven’t been able to secure the rights to?
Of course! The Intense and Skanna releases on Will’s Sublogic were the stuff dreams are made of! I would’ve LOVED to put out the Liquid Crystal stuff by NRG (big ups Luna C and the Knite Force crew), also Chalke – Resurrection, X-Plode – First Of Many, Phantasy – The Atmosphere and Silver Fox – Dread By Dawn (big ups Brent Aquasky @ Vinyl Fanatiks). Then there was this track by Redlight – “How Many” that I tried to get for Parallax. I got a reply from Smiley of Shut Up And Dance, he said I should wait as they will do it themselves. It ended up coming on another label but it got shelved at the Testpress stage and I didn’t even get my hands on one of the few pressings boohoo.
Others than that I tried several times to get in touch with Ed Rush about his Selekta track (it came out on Jetstar, and since I already put out Total Dark’s and Lewi’s Jetstar stuff it would’ve made sense to have it on Parallax) and also tried to get Pascal to speak to me about his track ‘The Process’ that he wrote as “the Full S.P. I just love this tune, it only came out on the “Faces Of the Future” album alongside two other tracks on a side and I would love to do a 12” with it. No replies from either of them, though, sadly.
Another label is in touch with Pascal though, I hope it will happen through them. I tried to get DJ Hype to talk to me about his “Jungle Fever” dubplate from 1994, but again to no avail.
And I mention it here again: If somebody is in touch with DJ Mastersafe – I would love to talk to him. There are masters he thought were lost and we would love to put them out.
And if somebody has a dubplate of ‘Defender – Workstation’ – please reach out 🙂
Over time you’ve gone from re-releasing old and obscure hardcore and jungle to also releasing new music from artists like Tim Reaper, Kid Lib, Innercore and more – what led to this decision?
As said, I fell a bit out of love with the repressing game. There are certain key players that started doing it that weren’t around when I started. They are well connected and can make things happen that I simply can’t. They have a name for themselves and the original artists know them from back then, trust them and therefore will prefer to work with them. Basically, 8 out of 10 times, my efforts lead to nothing. And artists can be slow, it’s not seldom that a release takes two years in the making. I also had all sorts of drama: from artists that weren’t happy about an etching that I put into a runout groove, so I had to scratch it out, to original graff artists that weren’t happy with my new artwork and slagged me off online to lawyers of silent partners that came threatening me while deals were signed and records were at the pressing plant.
I started to play more of the new stuff that I was buying regularly. I am quite communicative, so getting in touch with my favourite artists came natural to me. One thing led to another and I ended up signing the Dead & Buried EP by Tim Reaper. I am still extremely proud to have that on the label. Even going back to it now, it’s 4 unreal tunes, each one could be the highlight of any EP. Ed is unreal too, he gave me around 20 tunes to choose from and all were great! Although I never met him in person he is a great guy, always ready to help, be it with optimising a mixdown or being of help with his knowledge, so big up Ed for always taking time out for me! I never really made a conscious decision to release new music, the next thing were the remixes to the Fine Feline EP, just to make it more than a straight repress. Key is that the music sounds authentic to what was made back then. I think what really led to Parallax releasing new music was the album that sort of formed itself and through that I found so much great music, the future for Parallax looks bright!
How important is art and design to the whole Parallax project?
A lot of effort goes into that! I do all the artwork myself.
I grew up drawing and bombing, even doing graffiti jobs as a youth. It took a few years until I started to get my head around graphic design programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, but when I did I started to do all the NME Click promotional stuff myself, from about the mid-2000s onward (although some of it is pretty cringeworthy when I look at it now). I always put a lot of effort in, sometimes I have worked on a flyer for two weeks (tbh I was still learning and was horribly slow, you couldn’t tell if you look at the artwork now). But I was always disappointed that the artwork was dead and forgotten after the party was over. Nobody seemed to pay attention and as an artist, you naturally crave recognition. So having your artwork on a physical, timeless music release is pretty perfect, people go back to it from time to time and look at the cover and all the details while listening to it. Having your design on merchandise is even greater, there’s nothing better than being at a club and somebody wears your artwork 🙂
But I also feel I owe it to the music. If an artist decides to trust me and put his music out, I want to do the best job I can. I sometimes spend weeks thinking of the right motive, trying out different stuff.
The look of Parallax came naturally, it now is basically three fonts I work with and a strict 1c attitude – black and white. No gimmicks, no sprinkled or coloured vinyl. Black is beautiful and if you can strip something down to the essence that’s always best. No collector’s edition, the products are all limited anyways.
What’s the story of the album?
I wish I could say that there was a big concept from the start, but there wasn’t.
I think originally I wanted to do a 4-tracker with a mix of artists I adored at the time, this was around when I signed Dead & Buried.
I reached out to InnerCore and FX and they gave me the two tunes that were on the ‘Departure’ sampler. That was around January 2019.
As mentioned, I’m quite communicative, so one thing led to another and I collected more tracks. By then I wanted to do a 2×12”, but it just went on and on, and by the time that I realized I had material for 5 records I thought nobody would buy that. That’s when I decided to do at least the 12” advance sampler (Departure) so its at least only a 4×12”.
All in all, it was a great experience and a great learning curve – getting in touch with the artists, collecting all the tracks, getting changes done to some of the arrangements or mixdowns, getting the masters (re-)done etc. It all took a lot of patience, a lot of sweat and a lot of time.
In the end I had the testpresses of the whole album done and held up the project myself, having sort of a writer’s block with the artwork. The graffic in the gatefold sleeve took me forever, from finding the idea to getting it down. I literally forced myself to get it done just before I went on vacation in May, so the record was not held up any longer.
I am glad I did, because after that I went straight into knee surgery, I doubt I would’ve finished it by now if I hadn’t done it then. The artwork itself was tons of work and to be honest I’m not fully happy with it. That said, I never did an illustration that big and it also was only the second time I worked with a pencil, drawing it in Procreate (the first time was the sampler), before that – believe it or not – I did everything by mouse. So it looks a bit grittier than the stuff I usually do, but I hope people still like it 🙂
What have been your goals with this album?
First and foremost I hope this album gives an oversight about our small contemporary Hardcore/ Jungle scene, showing the great talent that is out there. And it also gives the DJs tons of great fodder to choose from.
Although unplanned, this has turned into a great concept that wasn’t done before – a snapshot of who’s current in our scene. There were some artists that I couldn’t get aboard, maybe because they were working on albums and had no time to contribute, or for other reasons. So the picture will never be complete, but it’s still a good summary I like to think.
It’s also a good showcase for those who will be doing more on Parallax in the future hopefully, you can take it as the introduction of a roster. It’s giving Parallax an identity and its own sound and hopefully putting it more on the map. I often have the feeling that people tend to oversee/ forget about the label. Be it due to not being based in the UK and only knowing everyone online, so being “out of the cloud” or due to it being just me, doing this on the side while having a job and family, so not having as much output as other labels. But I’d love to establish it as a label the DJs check for, being a regular in the DJ’s playlists.
What have been the biggest challenges that you have faced when putting this album together?
Getting the artists to trust me and giving me good tunes in the first place, communicating to artists why it takes so long and keeping everyone happy, getting tunes to sound right, demanding changes on some tunes, coming up with the right concept how to promote it, having names or titles misspelled, using the wrong ink on the testpresses (don’t put them near water!), deciding when a master is good, it never ends. There was so much going on behind the scenes, but everyone involved was great and patient with me.
Also Brexit. It keeps on giving me headaches and I have to get my head around things I’m not really inspired to learn. The crappy side of the business. Unnecessary costs in production. Unhappy customers due to records sitting in customs, records arriving damaged or being lost. An absolute nightmare.
And the pandemic. I can’t do any release party or tour for the album, which would’ve made total sense so I can meet the artists I work with in person. Also I was making some money through DJing and promoting, that’s all missing now. Not just the money but I need DJing and promoting to function, it’s in my DNA, so it’s really been pressing on my mind. Besides that, the graphic design jobs slowed down a lot as well, which has left me in a bad financial state, forcing me to eventually reinvent myself if things don’t brighten up, so that I can make enough money to live off of. Right now I’m on crutches, when I’m back on my feet and the album is out that’s when I need to take a step back and take a closer look at it all.
How has Brexit affected the label?
I am still trying to find how to deal with certain things and have no solution. For the moment I work with a fulfilment partner in UK, solely for the UK and I still deal with the rest of the world. I thought about pressing in UK too, but I was always pretty happy with Optimal Media, which is where I press right now, and after calculating, it won’t save me money or time really, altogether its just more expensive. Pressing costs rose, but they did everywhere. And to get the records into UK I have to pay taxes and customs, but also the carrier costs are more, as they drive with only my records and return empty. All in all, it’s more expensive and less fun, I hope the underground can take it. It certainly won’t stop the majors to block the pressing plants for their endless represses for Record Store Day. Personally, as a record buyer myself, I don’t see how I will be able to afford buying vinyl from the UK from 1st July onwards when everything will be going through customs. When a record was around 25 Euros including shipping it now will be 30 Euros upwards, that’s madness and out of balance!
Where next for Parallax after this album drops?
There’s more than the ‘Message To The Parazone’: I have nearly completed the collection of music for a sequel, another 4×12”. I’m not sure if it will simply be Part 2 or two 2×12”, sort of samplers that come after the album (hence the catalogue number PARA 10S1 on the Departure – “S1” standing for “Sampler 1”, so there could be “Sampler 2”, “..3” and so on). Those of you that followed the livestreams in the last months will have heard a lot of the tunes forthcoming on Parallax.
Then there’s the ‘Body Journey EP’ by DJ Mindhunter (an alias of a very well known face in the Jungle world, nuff said) coming later this year after the album. I’ve been playing these tunes everywhere (=in mixes and streams lol) and they are absolutely great, 4 bombs in the same vein as the Parazone tunes!
There’s also 3-5 other EPs in the works that aren’t fully finished, so I won’t talk about them yet.
And there are at least 1-2 represses, one pretty much secured, the other I’m still fighting for and hoping that the artists let me do it, that would make me very proud.
Also, keep checking for new merch. Besides the regular shirts I would love to get jackets and recordbags with embroideries done. There will also be new Hoodies for the winter hopefully and more caps. Watch this space!
Regarding the Parallax nights: Although I’ve been in touch with all the people in the UK and could’ve done crazy line-ups, sadly there never was a budget to get the artists over. I still struggle to find the right club with the right conditions to be honest, as there is only so much promotion you can do for a location that’s illegal. I am in touch with a Munich based promoter and if the “pilot” goes well we might do regular Parallax nights there. The basement club is very well known and has an absolutely heavy PA. And I would be damned to get an artist flown into Germany and not get them to Berlin the day before or after to fill up the weekend, so it’s only a case of finding the right location with a fair deal in Berlin. Oh yes, and a team to do the street promotion. No way I would find time anymore to do that myself.
But that’s all in the future: enjoy the album when it drops!
As I mentioned in the post to accompany Electro Beats for Murky Streets, one thing that I managed to achieve in 2020 was to finally hit my (totally arbitrary, sure) goal of getting 60,000 listens on Soundcloud. This was a goal that I had had in mind for a few years and at last I achieved it.
But then, what next?
I guess I could have kept going and tried to up the stakes again this year but honestly having hit that goal did actually leave me feeling a bit sated in terms of the ego boost component of getting people to listen to my stuff. Thus from that angle there was a temporary deflation in the compulsive need to churn out mixes. On the other side it’s also been an intense few months from a personal and professional perspective; here in Germany the schools and kitas (daycare) have been closed since mid-January and are only just reopening, so I’ve had to spend a lot of time helping out with the kids, and on the other front my work has been super busy and at times quite stressful, so basically at night I just have not had the mental energy or time to focus on making new mixes.
Hence an unusually fallow period by my standards. I’ve been pretty productive over the last few years!
But this has not been ideal because I always like having new mixes to listen to, so since we are now in March (omg!) I decided enough with the excuses … it’s time to do a proper mix! Sure, I did a mini-mix for Begrime last month, but that’s not enough.
Clearly, it was time to go big.
50 tracks big.
Why so many tunes? Well, I have a lot of records that have never made it on to any of my mixes, and I wanted to listen to them in an easier, more practical, and more fun way. This is especially the case with my collection of modern (post-2010, but even more so post-2015) drum n’ bass / jungle … I have tons of the stuff and have only done a few mixes with it, and none at all for Sonicrampage since Get It 003: Get Ruff, Tuff, Dangerous two years ago. Obviously, the moment was ripe for a nice leisurely dig through my shelves to find a bunch of cool tunes to weld together.
When I started thinking about doing a mix of new drum n’ bass / jungle, one of my key criteria was to do something a bit different from last year’s focus: themes. As I discussed in my blog post to accompany Super Rhythmic Facts my plan for 2020 was to focus (mostly!) on doing tribute mixes of various types, whether that meant focusing on labels, artists, clubs, or concepts. This was fun and quite creatively fulfilling, but the flipside of having such a focus meant that I was working with certain self-imposed restrictions when I made each mix; or at least that was the case for most of the mixes.
Therefore when it came time to start putting this one together, one thing that was quite clear to me was that the mix should provide a broad representation of the kind of stuff that I’ve been enjoying in the world of 160-170 bpm music in recent years. The result is not definitive, sure, but it’s a pretty good go.
It’s one thing to say that I want to make a mix that properly represents the diversity of this part of my record collection, but actually putting such a mix together is another thing, hence my approach was to use a concept that I’ve been playing with over the last couple years. Basically, instead of thinking that I am making ‘a mix’, I approach it like I am making a series of small(er) mixes that are coherent mixes in and of themselves, which are connected to each other at certain logical switch points. Sonic Lego, basically!
I have previously written about the thought process involved in such mixes in the posts to accompany Fake Berghain in My Spare Room and Get It 010: Get Everything, but in this specific case I started from the idea that there were certain sounds that I wanted to represent: dubby halftime, soulful rollers, frenetic juke-influenced stuff, chrome-plated hardsteppers, and Amen tearouts. With this in mind I pulled out a huge stack of records and then set about separating them into the relevant piles.
What this meant in practice is that I did not need to make a single 50 track mix, but instead I made six smaller mixes that I snapped together in the aforementioned sonic Lego stylee, with the goal being that the connections not be too jarring, or at least if they were a bit unexpected then they were also kind of fun.
I guess you can be the judge of how well I’ve succeeded – I know there are one or two slightly wonky moments in the mix, but given the time constraints that I live with at the moment, where I rarely have much time for my hobbies, I decided that I can live with them and I would not do more than one take. Overall, though, I think this is a pretty sick mix, it’s definitely not upfront or whatever, but I think there’s a lot of great music in here, and I really enjoy the way that the sounds and vibe switches throughout the mix.
So, yeah, that’s it!
Now that I have the taste again, I’m hoping to start dropping mixes more regularly throughout 2021.
I guess there’s not much point in rehashing what a crazy and turbulent year this was for pretty much everyone on the planet – you lived through it too, you know what it was like.
So with this being my final mix of the year (I think!) I thought I would instead drop something a little bit fun and not too serious.
One of the goals I set for myself for this year was to hit 60,000 listens on Soundcloud for the year … and I hit that goal last weekend (see above)!
So that was nice!
Why 60k, though?
In practical terms this is, of course, totally pointless. It’s meaningless internet points in one sense. It doesn’t make any real difference to my life or to my family.
But it’s fun to set yourself a goal and try to hit it. Plus 60 is a nice round number (also meaning an average of 5k listens per month) and I hadn’t hit it yet – the highest I had previously gone was 2018 when I got 59k, and last year when I got 57k.
So just a fun little thing, but it’s cool that I achieved it.
Also, I had a lot of fun making mixes this year – as time has gone on I’ve refined the process so that I can be even quicker and more productive when putting together mixes. Since I just don’t have anywhere near as much free time as I used to, I’ve totally abandoned doing mixes over and over and over again until I am close to 100% happy with them. If I can do it once and I am reasonably happy, then we’re good to go.
So this has meant that, really against all the odds, this has ended up being a really musically productive year for me!
I’ve now recorded a pretty damn impressive 17 mixes so far this year – 14 for Sonicrampage and three guest mixes for various music platforms (including one for a Berlin-based techno podcast that’s not been released yet).
Actually that’s another thing that’s been nice this year, that more and more people have been asking me for guest mixes, and they’ve been such different people asking for such different styles – so far this year I did techno, hard dance, and drum n’ bass mixes (plus was asked to join the grime crew Begrime), and I still have to do a jungle mix and a breakbeat hardcore mix for some other people who have asked me; should have those ready sometime early 2021. It’s nice that people are interested in and enjoying my mixes!
Broken down by genre I’ve done the following mixes this year:
Unquestionably Fake Berghain in My Spare Room. It’s four hours long, and putting it together was an incredible undertaking. I really poured a ton of thought and effort into making it an interesting and cohesive listening experience, including getting an awesome cover made for it, as well as writing what I think of as one of my best essays that I’ve done for this blog – part photo essay, part musical discussion, part travelogue, and part love letter to Berlin. It’s not been my most popular mix this year, but it is undoubtedly the one that I am happiest with, and I am so proud of it.
As I mentioned when I did the first mix of the year, Super Rhythmic Facts, the plan for 2020 was to focus on tribute mixes – tributes to artists, to labels, to events, to clubs, and so on.
This was the path that I mostly followed – eleven of the year’s mixes were tributes of one type or another – but it wasn’t an ironclad rule. Along the way I also took the opportunity to step outside the tribute plan and just do a mix that I was interested in doing, of tunes that I wanted to listen to more closely and more often.
Like with this mix!
What’s going on here?
Nothing much really … just that I’ve been enjoying electro quite a bit again over the last few years, and I started buying new tunes on vinyl (which is both a good and a bad idea), and I wanted to throw some into a mix together. I mean, I already did my Mechatronica mix a few months ago, and there was an electro section in Fake Berghain in My Spare Room, but clearly that wasn’t enough.
I’ve got the itch, and it needs to be scratched.
Which my daughter describes as ‘farting robots fighting music’. Which is a good description, no?
So this is that mix. Anyone who has been listening to my mixes for a while knows that I like fast music, and always have, and I’ve been enjoying the revival of properly fast, ravetastic electro over the last few years. High speed bassy beats are and always have been my jam. Therefore, last weekend I pulled out a stack of electro records, flipped through them to find only the ones that could be pitched up to at least 142 bpm, hit record and just improvised my way through 25 tracks of high-intensity pumpers, cranking it up all the way to 155 bpm by the end.
It’s a rump-shaking apocalypse!
I hope you enjoy it.
This is also the first mix where I really tried to master it after recording, by adjusting the levels so that the tracks are roughly equal (I mean I always try to do this while recording but it’s not always so easy), plus I also tweaked the bass up. Let me know if it sounds ok.
So that’s it for 2020! I hope you enjoyed the mixes.
What’s coming up next year?
Plenty more mixes and, just to mention this, I’ve made a four track EP and will be getting it pressed to vinyl in 2021. Really! Will drop some previews in a couple months.
Vast warm caverns of bass emanating from a dub soundystem in a South London community center. 1980’s.
Half-time depth charges underlying frantically spiraling jungle breakbeats in a crowded room, horns blaring and lighters flaring. Mid 90’s.
The soulful sounds of US house music reconstructed, sped up, toughened up, and underlaid with sticky webs of bass. Late 90’s.
Rough-hewn beats overlaid with frantic lyrics, underpinned with spiky, angular shocks of bass. Beamed from tower block antennas to bedrooms and car radios across London. Mid-00’s.
Twirling, swirling 808 slides riding under mournful chords and raw tales of London life, exploding on to the world stage via YouTube. Today.
And, of course, there was dubstep, which was and is purely about bass. Vast shockwaves of sub-bass. Giant ice sculptures of bass. Jagged cliffs of mid-range noise underpinned by oceans deep bass.
Perhaps the premium exponent of dubstep in its purest form is Loefah (or Peter Livingston to his parents) from Croydon, South London. One of the scene’s original creators, part of the legendary DMZ crew, his sound is simple, but effective.
Massive breezeblock beats
Juddering walls of bass
The odd reggae, dancehall or hip-hop vocal sample
Maybe (maybe!) a melody
It’s minimal, but it is deeply, deeply effective!
Also it makes it tricky to mix at times, because the tunes are so sparse and the rhythms are sometimes a bit off-kilter.
Listening to his music makes me think of giant lumbering robots slowly stomping their way across a landscape, devastating everything in their way with blasts of pure rumbling sub-bass.
This mix, then, is my summary of his sound, pulling together a whole bunch of his original productions, remixes, and collaborations. There are a few pretty obvious tunes that are missing, of course, but overall this should give you a flavor of Loefah’s sound, or at least what he was producing in his early years. More recently he’s been focused on working as a dj and on his label Swamp 81, which has featured a few of his more recent productions.
He also has a huge back catalogue of dubs that have never been released … maybe one day!
Here are a few personal favorites:
Man I would happily shell out for a proper vinyl box set of unreleased Loefah dubs!
Obviously listening on a home stereo system does not give the full effect, but I was pretty excited to finally put together this mix after years of wanting to do it. The trigger was getting (at last!) my hands on a copy of the classic double-sider ‘Mud / Ruffage‘ courtesy of my good friend The Vinyl Pimp.
This mix also completes my series of DMZ tribute mixes, having already done mixes dedicated to Mala (including a second one) and Coki. One thing that I’ve always loved about the DMZ crew is how they each have such a unique personal take on dubstep – Coki’s hyped-up midrange madness, Mala’s throbbing dub energy, and Loefah’s minimalistic steppers. Given how samey so much electronic music production has become in recent decades, carving out a unique niche is quite an achievement!
To round things off, check out this interview with the man himself:
Gonna try to push out a lot of music in December, so keep your ears open …
On September 27, 1997 the One Nation crew held a big rave called The United Colours of One Nation at The Island in Ilford, East London, featuring a stellar lineup of some of the biggest dj’s in drum n’ bass:
Jumping Jack Frost
I wasn’t there, though.
I was only 16 and for us West/North-West London boys Ilford might as well have been on the other side of the moon. We’d only recently started going to clubs and raves and we weren’t even going regularly, maybe once every few months, and going to a big jump-up rave so far from home was just not happening, especially since most of my friends were into hard trance and not drum n’ bass.
And I listened to it. And listened to it. And listened to it some more.
Those tapes, along with other tapes from various raves, were on constant rotation in my Walkman and on my home stereo. Walking to and from school. Doing my homework. Taking the bus. Going to meet up with friends. Basically, whatever I was doing, if possible, I was listening to music (nothing has changed in that regard since then!)
1997 was probably the last year where drum n’ bass was the undisputed main street sound in London, so listening to these tapes again is something of an interesting historical document, of that last moment where drum n’ bass enjoyed total supremacy in London, right before UK Garage started to take over.
What were the dj’s playing that night? Well, firstly, you can listen for yourself:
As you can see from the tracklistings, the sets played at this rave give a really good indication of where drum n’ bass was in late 1997 – a mix of hip-hop influenced jump-up anthems, Bristol rollers, and darker, techier stuff. Also, since it was a time when the big name dj’s were traveling all over the country, playing multiple sets per night, it’s not too surprising that many of the same big tunes were played over and over – some even four times in the night! That was pretty typical at big raves in the 90’s, no matter what the genre – I remember going to a Slammin Vinyl night at Bagley’s in King’s Cross in February ’98 and hearing ‘Shooting Star‘ by Bang ever time I walked through the happy hardcore room, probably every dj played it that night!
Just a parenthetical, but that night at Bagley’s provides a nice example of how ubiquitous smartphones have changed our lives. At around 4am I lost my friends and after a bit of fruitless searching I decided to spend the end of the night in the fourth room, a tiny, out-of-the-way space with hard trance and techno dj’s. Anyways, when they threw us out at six I spent a while milling around, hoping to find them, but eventually I gave up hope, sighed, and made my way by myself back to West London to my friend Anno Birkin’s place, since we were all spending the night there. (RIP Anno). By the time I got there it was already 7:30 and I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t really want to wake up his parents, and I didn’t really want to go home, since I’d left some of my stuff there. Fortunately they lived on the ground floor, so I could hop the fence and then climb onto the ledge outside Anno’s bedroom window and knock on it until someone stirred and let me in. As it turned out, they had gotten tired at around 4:30 and had decided to take a mini-cab back after being unable to find me (they hadn’t checked the fourth room). Today, obviously, we would have just messaged or called and there would have been no issue.
So that’s a very long intro – what’s going on with this mix? Basically, as I mentioned at the beginning of the year when I dropped Super Rhythmic Facts my concept for 2020 was to focus on themed and tribute mixes, so when I was thinking of something to follow Fake Berghain in My Spare Room, I wanted to do something that would be as easy as that was complex (and mixing these mid-90’s jump-up tunes is super easy for me). I remembered how much I loved this tape pack back in the day, which led to the idea that it would be fun to use it as the inspiration for a mix, in a similar fashion to how I mined Carl Cox’s 1993/1994 sets for my 2018 mix 94 Hardcore (Big) Carl Cox.
Therefore what I decided to do with this mix was to go through all the tracklistings and pull together a 25 track mix that would (1) include at least three tracks from each dj, (2) capture the essence of a dj set at a big drum n’ bass rave in the mid-late 90’s, and (3) be simply, unabashedly fun to play and listen to.
And that’s the result!
Let’s be honest, this is not the world’s most creative tracklisting – this is a pretty shameless big tune fest. Most of the time I try to mix things up, intersperse obscurities with more obvious stuff, but this is pretty much wall-to-wall anthems, exactly like you would get at a big rave back in the day. Lots of Bristol rollers, lots of party bass, plenty of stepper’s delights, and even the odd Amen tearout feature.
With another lockdown looming here in Berlin, I thought it would be fun to put together a mix of tunes I love, and that I can guarantee will put a smile on my face when I listen to it.
Hopefully it will have the same effect on you!
Pearsall's free MP3 mixes from across the dance music spectrum