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Mixed in Berlin, February 2016
(92:34, 211 MB, 320 kbps MP3)
Style: A tribute to the darkside drum n’ bass styles of the No U-Turn crew: Ed Rush, DJ Trace, Nico, Optical, Fierce, and Dom
Direct link to the mix:
01. Dom & Optical – Quadrant Six (Fierce Remix) (Audio Couture)
02. Ed Rush & Nico – Technology (No U-Turn)
03. Ed Rush & Nico – Technology (Boymerang Remix) (No U-Turn)
04. Jon The Dentist – France (DJ Trace vs Ed Rush Remix) (Tec)
05. Ed Rush – Skylab (Metalheadz)
06. Optical – The Shining (Metro)
07. Ed Rush & Optical – Slip Thru (Virus)
08. Dom & Roland – The Planets (Moving Shadow)
09. Ed Rush – Subway (Prototype)
10. Ed Rush – Check Me Out (Emotif)
11. Ed Rush – What’s Up (No U-Turn)
12. Ed Rush, Nico & Fierce – Mad Different Methods (Nu Black)
13. Rollers Instinct – Haze (Emotif)
14. Bad Company & Trace – Nitrous (Bad Company)
15. Dom & Roland – The Storm (Moving Shadow)
16. Ed Rush, Optical & Fierce – Alien Girl (Prototype)
17. Usual Suspects – Killa Bees (Fierce & Optical Remix) (Renegade Hardware)
18. Ed Rush & Optical – Fixation (Virus)
19. Ed Rush – Sabotage (Metalheadz)
20. Ed Rush, Trace, Fierce, Nico & Optical – Edtrafienical (Sublogic)
21. Boymerang – Still (Dom & Optical VIP Mix) (White)
22. Nico – Lo (No U-Turn)
23. Ed Rush – Defect (No U-Turn)
24. Ed Rush & Nico – Proton (No U-Turn)
25. Trace & Nico – Area 51 (Volume)
26. Genotype – Extra-Terrestrial (Dom & Roland Remix) (Renegade Hardware)
27. Dom & Roland – Thunder (Moving Shadow)
28. DJ Trace – Sonar (Ed Rush & Optical VIP) (DSCI4)
29. Bad Company & Trace – Flashback (Tumpa) (Bad Company)
30. Fortran – The End Part II (31 Records)
Yep, it’s that time, time for another new mix. And what a treat I have for you …
This week’s mix is one that I have been planning for a long time. It’s my own 30 track tribute to a group of my favorite drum n’ bass producers of all time: the No U-Turn crew.
Ed Rush, Nico, Trace, Fierce, Optical, and Dom & Roland – these were the men who pioneered techstep, the fiercely dark sub-genre of drum n’ bass that exploded on to the scene in 1996.
West London was their home, and they were all involved in varying degrees with Nico’s No U-Turn Studios and No U-Turn Records. Together they hung out, collaborated, remixed each other, played on pirate radio and at raves, smoked an unhealthy amount of hash and skunk, and, along the way, made musical magic.
It’s true that most of them had been active in the rave scene from the hardcore days of the early 90’s, but for this mix I wanted to focus very precisely on a specific moment in time: those few years from 1996 onwards when collectively they played a pivotal role in redefining what drum n’ bass meant.
Techstep was the second coming of the darkside in UK hardcore breakbeat music – all the toytown rave elements stripped away, ragga chat and reggae skank scraped off, and all replaced with a singular vision: breezeblock-solid beats, menacing atmospheres, and midrange-heavy bass sounds that were genuinely stunning in their ferocity. They had a unique bass sound, called the Reese bass because it sampled a bassline from a Reese Project techno record and then drenched it in layers of reverb and distortion, which it is hard to explain today about how unique and amazing it was at the time.
All of that squelching brostep from producers like Skrillex? Well, this is the genesis of that sound. This is where it came from.
I remember standing in Section 5 records in Chelsea in 1996 listening to ‘Subway’ (featured on this mix, kids!) over the shop sound system and literally laughing when the bassline dropped. My mouth just dropped open at the ‘what the fuck?’ nature of it. It was just an incredible moment.
But even if these records lack novelty today, they still pack an almighty punch.
And I’ve tried to showcase this across this mix – I figured that 30 tracks from these guys might be something of a claustrophobic proposition, so I tried to be areful with my selection and programming, so that we ride the intensity up and down through the mix, hitting one peak about 40% of the way through before dropping back somewhat in order to build again to a second monstrous explosion before finishing off deep in space. Along the way I’ve tried to also mix up my selections, so that this mix features some big anthems as well as lesser-known gems, and also that I have made sure that each artist gets a chance to shine.
I’m really really proud of this mix, and I hope you enjoy it too.
As a last little bonus treat, here’s a review from the man like Simon Reynolds of one of the key compilations of the era, Tech Steppin’ (which featured ‘Haze’ and ‘Check Me Out’ which I’ve used here), reproduced with his permission:
VARIOUS ARTISTS – TECH STEPPIN – Emotif
This superb compilation captures the state of the artcore in drum & bass. Which is a flashback to the “dark side” vibe of 1993, when snide E’s soured hardcore rave’s luv’d up atmosphere, and the music began to reflect the long term costs of sustained over-indulgence: paranoia, melancholy and creepy sensations of the uncanny. Back then, dark-core classics like Boogie Times Tribe’s “The Dark Stranger” still oozed a sinister, sickly bliss, if only because the scene was still caning the E in a desperate attempt to recover the old happy’n’ hyper buzz. Today, with Ecstasy displaced by super-strong, paranoia-inducing strains of weed like skunk (hence band names like Cronic Crew, titles like “Get Stoned), the new darkside sound is claustrophobic, constipated and curiously deadened and dispassionate. Its cold-fever beats induce a numbing compulsion-for-compulsion’s sake.
This compilation is dominated by producers of the moment Ed Rush, DJ Trace and Nico, from the No U Turn label. Ed’s “Check Me Out” and Trace’s “The Mutant”, “Haze” and “Mid Town Method” all feature the patented No U Turn bass-sound, a dense, droning miasma of low-end frequencies, as malevolent as a cloud of Cyklon B or a swarm of African killer bees. As with Ed Rush’s monsterpieces of last year, “Gangsta Hardstep” and “Guncheck”, the effect is entropic, miring the listener in a molasses-thick mood of paralysing dread.
That’s what intrigues me about this music: the breaks are still rolling at jungle’s 150 b.p.m., but they feel slow, fatigued, winded, like the music’s had the crap beaten out of it. Compared with the frisky, nimble rhythms of jazzy-jungle, the new darkcore’s battery of beats seem relatively stiff, inflexible, almost industrial, and that’s strangely refreshing. In a weird sort of way, tracks like Doc Scott’s “Machines” (not quite as implosive and intimidating as his recent “Drumz ’95”, but damn close) remind me of The Swans: there’s a similar punishment-aesthetic, flagellation-beats, and aura of aesthetic ordeal.
I guess I haven’t made “Tech Steppin” sound too appetising! Certainly, as a listening experience, this album is as oppressive as it’s impressive. But make no mistake, this stuff is where it’s at in 1996. Eschewing pleasant, placatory textures and melodious, mollifying arrangements, the new artcore noir makes the fusion-jungle likes of Alex Reece sound as tepid and timorous as acid jazz. Cutting and edgy, “Tech Steppin'” is the SHIT.
If you enjoy this mix, here are some other mixes in this style that you might also like: