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Mixed in Berlin, March 2019
(49:29, 113 MB, 320 KBPS MP3)
Style: Darkside Breakbeat Hardcore
Direct link to the mix:
- Response & Pliskin – Anima Morta (Western Lore)
- Pill & Dread – Bogus Nightmare (Lucky Muffin)
- FX – Some Place Dark (Demonic Possession)
- Alpha Omega – Congo Dread (AKO Beatz)
- Innercore – Pinnacle (Innercore Project)
- Tim Reaper – Globex Corp Vol. 5 (Side B2) (7th Storey Projects)
- Dead Man’s Chest – Cutthroat Hardcore (Ingredients)
- TenTun – Emergency (Rikka Jam)
- Angry Joe Bass – Danger At The Dinner Dance (Profusion)
- Manix – When You Hold Me Close (Enjoy Remix) (Reinforced)
- Peter Darker – Soul Calibur (7th Storey Projects)
- Champa B – Drop It Back (Ruff Cutz)
- Tim Reaper & Dwarde – Globex Corp Vol. 7 (Side B1) (7th Storey Projects)
- Pete Cannon – Flash Your Lighter (Kniteforce)
- DJ Monita – Nightmares (Ricky Force VIP Remix) (Skeleton)
Spring! It’s finally here … so let’s step back into the darkness for a moment with this, the fifth edition of my new Get It series of 15 track mixes. Each one is a focused on a single theme, and this time around I am exploring modern rave music that attempts to channel the spirit of 1993 darkside rave, bringing back that unique flavor and moment in time. Think of is as a meaner, darker sibling to Get It 004: Get Euphoric, which I dropped a few months back.
Ever since last summer’s Future Proofed my ‘new old skool’ mixes have inspired an interesting back-and-forth between myself and music journalist Simon Reynolds (author of the key rave history text Energy Flash), on how to think about this kind of reanimated rave.
Sonically, this stuff is of course awesome. Right? That original rave sound was amazing, so it stands to reason that music that was great in the early 90’s can be copied 25 years later to good effect.
So before I go any further I just want to state that I love these tunes, and I appreciate all the producers who have worked hard to make them. Thanks guys and girls! Musically speaking, the tunes featured here bang like a barn door in a hurricane. No denying that.
Having said that, it’s also worth stepping back and considering this music on a more philosophical / metaphysical level. Does reanimated rave like this kind of miss the point? In my post for Future Proofed I pointed out that:
(The) original hardcore rave sound arose in a musical, social and political context that is very different from the one we experience today, a whole confluence of events that cannot be recreated. It also can’t be ignored that the scene was like a huge hive mind focused on relentless change and innovation – the speed of change was breathtaking, and probably without much parallel in recent musical history.
So it’s an interesting paradox with tracks like the ones I’ve selected for this mix, in that they are very consciously imitating a moment in time when musicians were desperately trying not to imitate, but to innovate and to keep progressing.
Simon built on this point in a comment to his blog post on Get Euphoric:
it was an unrepeatable moment – a whole confluence of factors (state of technology, state of the outside world, the surrounding music-scape esp hip hop and dancehall and R&B but top 40 pop, the drugs, the relative youth of the movement and its lack of history and self-consciousness, but also lack of sense of itself as an industry and a career structure / profession) produced this sound suffused with Zeitgeist and impelled with chaotic energy … seemingly out of control, set on an evolutionary course whose destination nobody knew…. a thrill-ride on a big dipper that was still under construction
something with many of the same properties and using similar procedures could be made today, as a mosaic of present day musics and social vibes, but it would be very different
one thing that can be agreed i think is that the retro-rave stuff – while highly enjoyable as a facsimile of the form – is contrary to the animating spirit of the original music, which was a plunge into the unknown. this is a meticulous reconstruction of the known, done with love and desperate longing.
Ever since I recorded this mix in early March (I’m on the ball as ever!) I’ve been listening to it and mulling over this discussion. Some of the tracks on this mix do, in my opinion, use that 1993 dark sound as a starting point for an exploration into something different, particularly the first couple tracks, whereas others stick to being what Simon so aptly calls ‘a meticulous reconstruction of the known’.
Over that time, I think I’ve put my finger on what makes these loving reconstructions very slightly uncomfortable: these reconstructions are a bit too perfect.
What do I mean by that?
I would say that these tracks elicit a feeling that is a bit of a musical analogue to the ‘uncanny valley effect’, a term invented in 1970 by Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori:
Mori envisioned a time when robots would become so sophisticated that they would look almost exactly like humans. But that “almost” was a problem. Whatever else those future bots might prove to be, he said, one thing was certain: They would strike us as monstrous. Mori created a chart describing how our degree of identification and empathy with inanimate objects increases as their appearance approaches our own—we relate more to stuffed animals, for instance, than to industrial robots. But at a certain level of near-humanness, our affinity falls off a cliff. Mori dubbed this the uncanny valley.
Now in this case we aren’t dealing with robotics but music, so let me lay out a bit more detail about what I mean. Modern producers working in this genre are working with 25 years’ worth of information – they have seen which elements work on the dancefloor, they have vastly superior tools available for composing, editing and mixing down tracks, and they also have a better understanding for how to structure tracks to be both easily mixable and dynamic for crowds. This is a collectively-built knowledge that they can draw on.
The original 1993 darkside sound was a much more freestyle affair, and this is especially apparent when you listen to recordings of old sets from pirate radio and raves. The production technology of the time was by modern standards laughably primitive, and most producers were just making things up as they went along, experimenting to find new and crazy ways to do things. The result of all this creative ferment was, collectively speaking, pretty amazing, but there were also many missteps along the way. Amateurish productions, wobbly levels, bizarre (and frankly stupid) samples, keys clashing, different elements not properly in time with each other … if you are a crate digger who is interested in this period, as I am, over time you hear some really bizarre and terrible stuff, the kind of stuff that gets ignored in modern throwback mixes or lists of ‘the best early rave tracks’.
But this stuff wasn’t ignored at the time! It would get played at raves and on the radio, so when you listen to some of these old recordings you get these moments where just you furrow your brow and go, ‘what the hell is that?’
And I have to say that these failed experiments are part of the charm and, in a way, part of the humanity of the early rave scene. In large part this was a scene of young, mostly working-class guys trying to express themselves and rock the raves with the tools they had to hand. Really it’s a miracle that so much amazing music came out of this fairly insular world. But not all of it was good, some of it was terrible (really!), and some of it was more of a mixed bag, which is I guess is a decent metaphor for life itself.
The newer stuff doesn’t really suffer from these flaws, at least for the most part. In fact, the biggest weakness would be that sometimes it’s just a bit … boring. Not the tracks on this mix, of course!
But sometimes you hear the same horror movie sample layered over pristine breaks and sharply eq’d riffs and you think, ‘ … and?’
So maybe this is what is disturbing Simon? These recreations are lots of fun – how could they not be when the original concept is so great? – but taken as a whole they are almost too perfect, too precise, and they are missing the messy, experimental edge to the original early 90’s tracks.
I could be overthinking this, though!
After all, I do love these tracks, and I keep buying them, so big respect to all the producers doing this stuff for the love of it, I love you guys.
More music soon.