The third installment of the series is dedicated to the short-lived but highly influential label Partisan Recordings, established as one of the most innovative outlets of cutting-edge drum and bass in the late 90s. The purpose of this article is to shed light on the high impact of the label on the drum and bass landscape of the late 90s, having been the creative home of some of the most prominent drum and bass artists of that time.
History and label set-up
In the late summer of 1997 and after legal wrangling with Moving Shadow’s head honcho, five key members of the Moving Shadow managing staff resigned from their posts, namely: Caroline Butler (Label Manager at Moving Shadow Records), Sean O’Keeffe (aka Deep Blue and Art Director at Moving Shadow also), Simon Colebrooke (of 2 Bad Mice and A&R Director – responsible for the recruitment of all artists), Paul Rhodes (of 2 Bad Mice also – Label Assistant) and Gavin Newman (Label Assistant); essentially the entire staff aside from Rob Playford.
Partisan Recordings was founded the same year, by the five former members of Rob Playford’s Moving Shadow, hence the five-pointed red star featuring as the label’s logo. Partisan is a political term and the founding members had their share of revolution and struggle, so red it was. It has been an immediate and dramatic logo, which crosses cultures in an effort on behalf of the Partisan Recordings crew to brand the image strongly.
Derek Birkett (One Little Indian Records boss and responsible for signing Bjork, Skunk Anansie, The Shamen and Chumbawamba among others) took Partisan Recordings under his wing providing funding and a creative home for Partisan’s founding members. The ethos of the new label was to champion distinguished production and artists who were possibly overlooked for not being within the high-profile glittering circle. To sustain the high standards established at their previous label was also pivotal. One of the main aspects of artists’ recruitment that differentiated Partisan from the majority of others was variety; the roster wasn’t dominated by one major dj/artist exercising taste control. Quoting Caroline Butler: “The label was born out of distinguishing between right and wrong in an attempt to operate in an ethical manner”.
Shortly after Partisan Recordings was established, producers started to send out tracks. The enthusiasm was overwhelming and the label received wide support by many of the major djs in the drum and bass circuit. Apart from Partisan’s own Paul Rhodes and Sean Deep Blue, many of the label’s artists were of course also djs: Justice, Addiction, Future Engineers, Paradox, Q Project, DJ Pulse and Klute among others, whereas Blame, Jumping Jack Frost, Randall, Kenny Ken, Fabio and LTJ Bukem provided their support representing the old guard.
In random order, the label has provided the creative roof for the following artists and acts:
Future Engineers, Justice, Banaczech, Perfect Combination, DJ Addiction, Tertius, Foul Play Productions, Probe 7, Total Science, Deep Blue, The Spectre (aka Klute), Facz, KMC, Paradox, System 4, Free4orm, Jazz Cartel, The Underwolves and Initial Research.
To the time of writing Partisan Recordings has released 23 singles, one album by Foul Play Productions entitled Field of Action and 2 compilations. The first compilation Partisan vol 1 includes 10 tracks from the label’s back catalogue featuring exclusive remixes.
The second compilation Nu Perspective was joint-released with DJ Pulse’s Creative Wax featuring exclusive tracks by artists from the Creative Wax stable.
Partisan has also launched a sub-label Bi Partisan in an effort to accommodate for up-and-coming talents as well as experiment and explore different musical paths. The back catalogue of Partisan is a versatile blend mainly attributed to the different styles the label’s artists were championing. On one hand releases clearly influenced by the emergence of a tech-oriented, dark and sometimes obsessed with sophisticated drum edits sound (a “trend” dominating the scene at the time), on the other atmospheric productions, with clean drums and breaks, haunting strings and glistering chords, creating one of the most interesting sonar landscapes to watch.
The first year of the label’s activity (1998) had been extremely prolific with 17 releases seeing the light of day. The first release of Partisan Recordings was by Future Engineers (Life Support b/w Cerulean Seas, PART001) the Glasgow-based duo, pioneering along with Blame the tech-atmospheric sound in the late 90s, creating serious waves and the stepping stone for what was about to come. Life Support also received the remix treatment by Neil Trix (aka FBD project) (Life Support (Neil Trix remix) b/w Simulations, PART001R).
Shortly after, followed the second release, which belongs to a drum and bass veteran and head honcho of Modern Urban Jazz (MJAZZ) with numerous releases in key labels under his belt, Justice (Switch b/w Mauve Flow, PART002). A remix of Mauve Flow by Matrix features on the compilation Partisan vol 1 released later in 1998.
The third release was by Banaczech and the first out of three in total for Partisan Recordings (Deceptive Emotion b/w Ipcress File, PART003). Steve Kielty (aka Survival and ½ of Banaczech) is still an active and prolific producer releasing in various labels, operating his own label Audio Tactics since 2008.
Perfect Combination (of Formation and Freeform Recordings) contributed the fourth release of the label (Free Format b/w Remember, PART004). A remix of Remember by Technical Itch featured also on the compilation Partisan vol 1.
DJ Addiction made one of his first appearances in discography, opening the way for future releases on Creative Source, Moving Shadow and Fellowship’s Defunked, with the highly acclaimed jazz-influenced -as the title implies- (Walk In time b/w Live @ The Jazz Club, PART005).
Still in 1998 and responsible for the sixth release of Partisan (Structure b/w Infra, PART006) was Tertius (aka Endemic Void) with releases on Renegade Recordings, Vibez, Language and Modern Urban Jazz under his belt. Structure received the remix treatment by Partisan’s own Deep Blue and featured also on Partisan vol 1.
The first release of Foul Play Productions (Synthetic Bitch b/w Golden Gate, PART007) readily followed. Foul Play Productions was a project driven by John Morrow of Foul Play alongside Neil Shepherd and Shereen Ingram on vocal duties, after Steve Gurley went solo producing as Rogue Unit and the sad loss of Steve Bradshaw, as a pretext of their album that followed the next year featuring a remix of Synthetic Bitch by the mighty Omni Trio.
The label’s roster was growing stronger starting to include heavyweight artists. The likes of Total Science appear on the ninth release (Espionage b/w Network, PART009). They additionally provided a remix for Banaczech’s Deceptive Emotion for the label’s next limited edition 2×12” release.
That was Banaczech’s second of their Partisan trilogy (Deceptive Emotion (Total Science remix) & Warm Vibes b/w Doubler & Pivotal, PART010). Prior to the last two has been a one-off project Probe 7 (Pyramid 7 b/w Groove NRG, PART008).
Deep Blue (famous for the seminal anthems The Helicopter Tune and Transitions) produced (Destroyer b/w Oceans Above Life, PART011) engaging in more experimental venues than usual. Destroyer was remixed years later by Seba for Deep Blue’s Metropolitain Chic album on Scale Records.
Klute (a regular Certificate 18 artist and owner of Commercial Suicide some years later) joined the Partisan collective under the moniker The Spectre for a characteristic, obscure production (Breakers b/w De-pattern, PART012). Perfect Combination followed with his second and last release on Partisan (Friction b/w Branchin’ Out, PART013).
The fourteen release of Partisan was by Facz an artist with releases on Based on Bass and Smokers Inc (Wreckage b/w Asylum, PART014), whereas the next two releases were a Scottish affair. KMC owner of the Drastic Plastic Records, the mastermind behind the Jungle Book d&b events in Edinburgh and artistic supervisor of Temple Music released the atmospheric masterpiece (Space Echo b/w Atmospheric Imbalance, PART015), followed by the second Future Engineers single (Tsunamis b/w Closed Circuit, PART016). KMC and Future Engineers would soon be recruited by LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking Records. The last release of 1998 was by Foul Play Productions (Risk b/w Swell, PART017); both tracks featuring in their album.
In the meantime Partisan also joint-released with Creative Wax an LP sampler as a teaser for the forthcoming compilation Nu Perspective featuring tracks by Justice and a Flytronix remix of Jazz Cartel’s Blue Haze; arguably better than the original (Justice – Sequence b/w Jazz Cartel – Blue Haze (Flytronix remix), PARTLP0025)
The next year kicked-off with one of the most prolific drum and bass producers of all-times and king of “drumfunk” – a drum and bass sub-genre championed by Paradox himself. Paradox delivered a trademark production for Partisan with sophisticated, innovative drum loops shifting away from traditional drum and bass (Too Dissimilar b/w Idiosyncrasies, PART018).
Foul Play Productions delivered their last single on Partisan before the official release of their album (Redrum b/w Maximum Risk, PART019) The next release was a collaboration of Deep Blue alongside Tertius with the claustrophobic Affirmative and the unconventional Negative (Affirmative b/w Negative, PART020).
The last two singles of the Partisan back catalogue were by Total Science with the impeccable (Pressure Sensitive b/w Squeeze, PART022) and Banaczech’s last single of the trilogy with the 13-and-a-half minute track Zlin & Back (Zlin & Back b/w Karlin, PART023).
Bi Partisan was a Partisan Recordings imprint launched to accommodate for non-drum and bass (breakbeat/big beat) productions. The one and only release of Bi Partisan that saw the light of day was by the big beat connoisseurs and dexterous remixers Environmental Science (Access No Areas b/w Laughing Shadows, BIP001, 1999).
The end of the Partisan affair
In 1999 Partisan’s parent label One Little Indian Records faced a serious financial crisis and had to let go all its satellite labels including Partisan Recordings and Fat Cat Records among others. Truelove Label Collective stepped in offering a new home for the Partisan crew, however amidst the transition period the same thing happened leading to the unfortunate fade-out of Partisan’s activity.
Along the years, the managing staff of Partisan had been approached to re-heat and re-promote but there is a time for every purpose and something romantic about leaving a perfect moment as it was and moving on …
Fast forward to the present
Caroline Butler is now a successful Managing Director at “Earl of Bedlam” high-end tailoring business. For everything Earl of Bedlam visit here:
Sean O’ Keeffe, continued his prolific career with releases on key labels such as Doc Scott’s 31 Records, Good Looking and Offshore. In 2003, he went on to set up his own label Scale Records alongside Omni Trio to release their own material under the moniker Black Rain. To the time of writing the label seems to be defunct with both artists pursuing other challenges.
Sean, Simon and Paul created the second incarnation of 2 Bad Mice, djing and touring Europe with remarkable success. For everything regarding 2 Bad Mice (news, history, gallery, discography and bookings) visit their official website.
Gavin Newman has been occupied in the television, media and publishing sector.
Extensive discography, reviews and artists’ bios can be found in the following links:
If you have ever wondered whatever happened also to Hidden Agenda, Creative Wax, Endemic Void, Voyager, Essence Of Aura, Foul Play and Mouly & Lucida, visit the blog’s archive following the link below: