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Mixed on two Technics 1210’s and a Pioneer DJM-600 in London, October 2011
(72:35, 166 MB, 320 KBPS MP3)
Style: Classic freeform hardcore
Direct link to the mix:
01. Miss Nic & DJ Swoon – Der Sturm (GBT)
02. M-Zone – Into The Future (Jon The Dentist Future Mayhem) (Boscaland)
03. Lab 4 – Psychoactivated (Trebleate)
04. Tripswitch – Ram Raider (GBT)
05. Citadel Of Kaos – Aux 5 (xy2)
06. Eruption – Let The Music (Bang The Future Remix) (United Dance)
07. AG Systems – Active Tekno (Stompin Choonz)
08. Teknotyx – Time Becomes A Loop (Acid Test)
09. DJ Energy – Raver’s Revenge (Nu Energy)
10. Bang The Future – A Tardis To Brooklyn (GBT)
11. Brisk & Trixxy – Back To The Top (JAL Platinum)
12. Simon Apex – Time For The Sale (No Trix)
13. G.S.I. – Twister (Krafty)
14. Apollo & Burst – Drop That Beat (Space Race)
15. Distressed Frequencies – Victimised (Nu Energy)
16. DSU – The Dawn (Digital Beats)
17. Energy & DNA – The Bastard (Remix Records)
18. Marc Smith – Encounters (Nu Energy)
19. Trixxy – Here To Invade (Bonkers)
20. Sharkey – Hard Life (React)
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Well, a good seven years after Rampage Turbo 7, the last edition in my series of freeform hardcore mixes, I have decided that what the world really really needs from me … is more turbo-charged trance-inflected hardcore mayhem.
What is slightly different about this mix as compared to the previous editions of the series is the focus. Rampage Turbo was always about showcasing the best new freeform hardcore with a healthy sprinkling of classics thrown in; yet for a few reasons it would be impossible for me to continue in this vein. Which reasons might they be, you ask? (Maybe you don’t) Well, the first is that I haven’t actually bought any new freeform records since about 2006 or so, and, secondly, even if I wanted to do so, as far as I can tell no freeform is actually released on vinyl any more, the whole scene having gone totally digital, which is no use to a dj dinosaur like myself. Therefore, this mix is instead a look back at what I consider to be the classic early sound of freeform. Or, as it was (mostly) known then: trancecore. Confused? Well, don’t be – just read the essay I wrote to accompany Rampage Turbo 6, which should get you up to speed on the history of the scene.
What I wanted to accomplish with this mix was to honor the original concept of freeform hardcore – of hard, fast music that was rooted in the UK hardcore scene and sound but was a lot more sonically, texturally and emotionally diverse than the one-note euphoria that characterized happy hardcore by the mid-90’s. This was a music that took on influences from hard trance, acid, gabba and drum n’ bass, as well as of course English happy hardcore and Scottish bouncy techno – a real stew of mid-90’s rave music.
Those who have followed freeform will know that as time went on it kind of became “UK hard trance at hardcore speed”, which is not a bad thing at all, but with this mix I wanted to honor the original vibe that made me fall in love with the music as a teenager listening to Sharkey’s Bonkers mixes and monthly Kiss FM show. As usual with my mixes, I have tried to go beyond just putting a load of anthems in a row – instead, I have tried to select a group of tracks both classic and obscure that tell a coherent sonic story over 70-odd minutes.
I hope you enjoy it! Please leave a comment if you like the mix, and please feel free to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc. I’m considering doing some more Rampage Turbo mixes (including a two hour Finrg special) so let me know in the comments if you’d like to hear them.
Here are some notes on each of the tracks:
Der Sturm – To kick the mix off I’ve started with this excellent track from Billy Bunter and Rob Vanden’s Great British Techno label (or GBT for short). In my opinion GBT was probably the single most important label in the early evolution of the trancecore/freeform sound, and one that I will say a bit more about later as I get to some tracks from Bunter himself. This particular track was unusual for GBT in that it was not even from the UK, let alone from the usual stable of GBT artists. Miss Nic and DJ Swoon are in fact Germans, and this track is an interesting one in that it straddles the sonic divide that existed then between UK hardcore and German hardtrance of the sort featured on my Heartcore mix. Having said that, while the back story of the track is interesting, the real reason I included it is because it has a great intro which then builds into a totally rocking track. It’s one of my favorite GBT releases ever (which is saying a lot!), even though it’s so strangely underrated and even unknown. The perfect way to kick things off.
Into The Future (Jon The Dentist Future Mayhem) – Next up is a rather tasty hard trance combination – Jon The Dentist remixing M-Zone on Boscaland. Could it go wrong? Probably not, since in the mid-90’s these were two of the UK’s finest producers, and Boscaland was one of the finest labels. Originally releasing gabba, after about ten or so releases Jon The Dentist shifted direction with Boscaland, moving it towards hard acid trance and techno. This particular tune is a kicking hard acid trancer, combining a sweeping melody with a relentless rhythm. Not hardcore, per se, but very much a part of the sound at the time.
Psychoactivated – If you’ve been following my mixes for a while you’ll have probably noticed that most of my hard dance mixes feature at least one tune from Lab 4, so it will come as no surprise to you if I say that they are, hands down, my favorite hard dance act of all time. Their live sets were always like a religious experience; usually kicking off with a slow ambient/trip-hop tune before working through progressively more mental tunes on the way to 170+ bpm lunacy, with an effect on the crowd akin to tossing a cattle prod into a paddling pool full of salmon. You’d emerge from a Lab 4 set coated in sweat, sore legs, and an idiot’s grin as a result of being bashed about the head for an hour by tunes like this, an acid trance stormer originally released on Escape From Samsara’s short-lived Trebleate label. I first heard this tune aged 17 completely off my face at a Pendragon Summer Solstice rave at Brixton Academy. When the first breakdown kicked in I thought my brain was going to fly through the roof. 13 years later it still sends chills down my spine. Amazing stuff.
Ram Raider – Yep, another tune on GBT. Like I said, it’s an absolutely crucial label. This release was by Tripswitch, a collaboration between GBT co-owner Rob Vanden and Chris C, who was at the time running the acid trance label Mind Over Matter and who went on to run the hard house labels Mohawk, Nile, and Aztec in the early 00’s. I asked Billy Bunter on Twitter once what was his favorite GBT tune and he said this one. It’s a solid driving tune with a memorable breakdown.
Aux 5 – Citadel Of Kaos started off producing breakbeat hardcore on Boombastic Plastic back in the early 90’s before moving in a hard trance direction as the decade went on, with releases like this one on xy², part of the Stage 1000 label group, which ran a whole bunch of happy hardcore, trancecore, and drum n’ bass labels. This tune is pretty simple and effective, and is a great example of one style of trancecore – hypnotic and driving, as opposed to manic and anthemic.
Let The Music (Bang The Future Remix) – Bang The Future was the alias that the core members of the GBT label (Billy Bunter, Austin Reynolds, and Rob Vanden) used for their releases together. Coming from a happy hardcore background (Bunter himself being responsible for happy anthems like Let It Lift You and Ride Like The Wind), Bang The Future was instrumental in widening the definition of what UK hardcore could be, and this track is a great example of how they did so. Originally a frankly cheesy happy hardcore tune (check it out on YouTube here if you are so inclined) they re-cast it as a melancholy hardcore epic – not exactly an easy feat at 170 bpm! A luscious tune, and a rare example of a vocal tune that really really works … or maybe more accurately that I actually like (since most people like vocal music).
Active Tekno – You know me, if I play a melodic tune with a big vocal I have to follow it up with something wild, like this thundering acid trancecore banger from Helix and Tekno Dred on Stompin Choonz (another Stage 1000 label, as it turns out). A very versatile tune, one that fits well with all kinds of different tunes …
Time Becomes A Loop – … Like this one! Like acid? Like hoovers? Then this is for you! This isn’t strictly trancecore, just a really really crazy acid trance tune (the flip ‘Walking Mutants’ was awesome, too), with a memorably bizarre breakdown and some absolutely feral 303 action.
Raver’s Revenge – Almost halfway through the mix and nothing from Nu Energy Recordings? Time to remedy that! If GBT played a key role in kicking off the freeform scene, then Nu Energy was undoubtedly the scene’s central label for over ten years until its recent closure, so it’s only appropriate that this mix includes three tunes from Nu Energy. First up is this tune from label boss, Croydon’s own Kevin Thorpe, aka Kevin Energy aka DJ Energy (as he was known when he made this tune). This particular tune is pretty rave-tastic, with a hefty borrowing from Out Of Order’s 1992 tune Tears – the rationale for including this and not some of Kev’s better-known, trancier tunes is simply that I thought it was time to switch things up and bring in some classic hardcore flavors. This tune is a great example of how freeform as a sound could balance different influences – with big ravey stabs, breakbeats, atmospheric pads, and screechy acid.
A Tardis To Brooklyn – Another GBT tune, this time an original production from the Bang The Future crew. Given how formulaic hard dance has been over the years, this tune still stands out for its original approach to working the floor. It’s just a straightforward stomping beat, without much happening (apart from me doing some little cuts into the next tune), before a powerful air-raid siren breakdown, and then the tune kicks back in as before. It’s almost like a little palate cleanser of a tune, clean, sharp, and hard – a way to bridge between different sounds and feelings.
Back To The Top – Next up is this wicked tune from Brisk and Trixxy, two of the biggest happycore names having a go at trancecore with amazing results. Trixxy I don’t know too much about (beyond that he made some really fucking cheesy tunes with Vinylgroover and then made hard house later on as The Red Hed), but Brisk, well … Brisk is a master. One of the most talented hardcore dj’s, possibly one of the UK’s most talented dj’s full-stop, Brisk was (and is!) an absolutely insanely good mixer and was always good value for his harder-edged happy hardcore sets. As much as he was a leading happycore dj, in my opinion his best sets were when he played gabba/hardcore techno. Impeccable selection, superb mixing … just awesome. For instance, you should totally download his set from Dreamscape 26 … I completely hammered that set as a teen!
Not actually ‘Hoover’ by Jon Doe … what happened to truth in advertising?
Time For The Sale – Switching things up again, this is not not so much a trancecore tune as a hardcore tune (complete with breakbeats and piano) that works in a freeform context because it’s not too cheesy. I don’t actually know very much about this tune – weirdly enough it wasn’t even the tune I was trying to buy at the time, since I bought it second-hand thinking it was ‘Hoover’ by Jon Doe, as the sleeve said (see above – ‘Hoover’ was No Trix 002, whereas this was No Trix LTD 002). The guy who made it, Simon Apex, was an Englishman based in California who ran a record label/shop/rave promotion called Subsonic Underground, but as far as I know most of his stuff was happycore and not really to my taste (the flip to this record is awful, to be honest). This is a great little tune, though, and a pretty unknown one.
Twister – Whompa-whompa-whompa-whompa … pianos! Wahey! This is another not-freeform-but-hardcore-that-works-with-freeform tune, this time from Welsh dj/producers Cally & Juice. The hands-in-the-air piano moment is a fine thing, a venerable tool in the rave arsenal, but frankly the hardcore piano breakdown was a pretty tired thing by the time I hit the scene in the mid-90’s. Pianos were one of those happycore cliches (along with off-beat stabs, squeaky kickdrums, and Essex ravebird vocals) that I saw trancecore/freeform as rebelling against. Well, at least to my teenage mind that was the case, perhaps the actual producers didn’t see it like that. Anyways, I was surprised (and a bit pleased) when I listened back to the mix to see that pianos made a number of appearance throughout the mix, yet they all work, and they all make sense in the context of the mix. Yay me.
Drop That Beat – Finishing up the little section of non-freeform hardcore, here’s a cracking little tune from Apollo & Burst (who? No, me neither), that I mainly picked up because it was (1) cheap, and (2) was engineered by the mighty mighty Jon Doe. Simple tune: hard kick, punchy little hoover stabs, and a bit of acid. Nothing complicated, but a good tune for punching things up a notch as I start the build up to the big finale.
Victimised – Here’s where things really start to get banging, courtesy of Harry Diamond, who later went on to do a bunch of techno-flavored hard house tunes on Nukleuz. Thundering bass, big trance riffs, screeching acid … can’t go wrong with that combo.
The Dawn – By this point things are getting pretty crazy. Here’s another tune with a piano … as well as enough acid to melt a battleship! This tune was released on Digital Beats, the first label run by Richard Andrews aka Shanty aka The Mexican, who later one went on to run the Electronica Exposed group of labels, including Electronic, Electrolysis, and Digital Beatz, the reincarnated Digital Beats, amongst a number of other labels. I met Rich a few times over the years, and he was even in Lahti, Finland a few weeks before me in the summer of 2003 to hang out with the Finrg guys. Apparently he wouldn’t go in the sauna naked either … 😉
The Bastard – At the time I thought this was a bit of a weird collaboration, since DNA was a pretty cheesy happycore producer, and Kev was, well, the fucking man as far as I was concerned. Not to worry, because this was awesome. Hard like hell, including a frenzied junglistic breakdown and all kinds of crazy synth work. Like a number of the other tunes on this mix, this appeared on an earlier Rampage Turbo, but I figured it was too good to leave out. I’m sure you’ll agree!
Encounters – Now we’re in the home stretch … and how could I do a classic freeform mix without a track from the Scottish maestro Marc Smith? The answer, of course, is that I couldn’t; or at least I would be pretty stupid not to. Given the many possibilities I had, I ended up choosing what I think is his finest tune, ‘Encounters’, which I first, um, encountered on Sharkey’s Bonkers 4 mix. It’s an excellent example of trancecore delivering what it promised: pounding hardcore bears, epic breakdowns, and a stunning high-pitch melody for the main riff that sounds like a giant sonic searchlight scouring the crevices of your brain. I like that kind of thing.
Here To Invade – Almost there now! Here’s another tune from Trixxy, this time on a solo tip on Sharkey’s Bonkers label. Bonkers has had two incarnations over the years, firstly as a React sub-label, and then later (as Bonkerz) as part of the Nu Energy Collective of labels established by Sharkey and Kevin Energy. I always saw it as a harder, ravier label than Nu Energy, which was more on a hard trance tip, and you can really see that with this tune, which is bursting with undiluted rave energy, the sound of hundreds of bodies performing high-speed mutant aerobics on a darkened dancefloor.
Hard Life – … And that’s it! And what better way to end than with this, the title track from Sharkey’s 1998 album Hard Life. Anyone who likes freeform owes a deep debt to Sharkey – his mixes for the Bonkers series consistently set new standards (Bonkers 3 to 5 in particular are basically untouchable, as far as I’m concerned), and as a dj, MC, producer, and promoter Sharkey has played a tireless role in developing, promoting, and playing freeform. OK, maybe that sounds a bit over the top, but I like the music, and the guy has earned his stripes. The scene will be a lot sadder for his retirement later this year. As for this tune? Well, it’s one of the best freeform tunes ever. That’s all you need to know.
Phew! That took a lot longer to write up than planned … I hope you enjoyed my notes about the mix, but above all, I hope you liked the mix. 😀