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.
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.
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.