“… from a musical point of view, I always intended to release stuff that would hopefully stand the test of time, hence the label name. Having said that, I never would have thought that people would still be listening to some of it 20+ years later! It’s proper mad, but really cool, it’s made it all worthwhile!” – Graham Mew (aka The Invisible Man) on Timeless Recordings
The thirteenth installment of the blog’s Count To Ten series is dedicated to Timeless Recordings; one of the most influential and iconic independent drum and bass labels. With a continuous activity spanning two decades (the label seems to be dormant as of 2009), Timeless Recordings has been a fine outlet of cutting-edge electronic music, championing the evolution and transition of breakbeat/hardcore to drum and bass. Fostering a creative environment for some of the most talented artists of the scene, the label’s back catalogue abounds with classics.
This feature will be covering the first part of Timeless’ activity, from the early days of 1992 until 1999, when, for undisclosed reasons, the label effectively re-launched, changing the logo and the catalogue numbering prefix (the prefix “DJxxx” was replaced by “TYMExxx”, perhaps because the former was too generic – Dee Jay Recordings was also using it – creating confusion at the pressing plants). The rebranding marked a new era for Timeless, coinciding with a clear shift to a different musical direction. The wave of noir that swept the scene during the late 90s had already an obvious impact on the label’s latest releases; not long after the re-launch, Timeless eventually embraced the new sound.
History and label set-up
Although the first official release of Timeless Recordings saw the light of day in the first half of ’93, the seed had been planted a year earlier.
At the start of 1992, Graham Mew, one of the unsung heroes and early pioneers of the electronic dance music genre known today as drum and bass, made his discography debut under the alias Doctor G with the Oxford Ardcore EP. Graham recollects:
“When I first started making music (if that’s what you would call it!), at the start of ’92 with the “Oxford Ardkore EPs”, I was just releasing them on stamped white labels, using the catalog prefix “DJGxxx”. Technically, there was no label name at all for that first release. Then, with number two, I decided to use a proper label name and that was the first of the crazy hand-drawn labels. As I recall, my mate James Kearney thought of the “G-Spot Records” label name, he also drew the main logo – the rest of the label art was literally just me scribbling on a piece of paper, a few hours before I went to the cutting house! “
By the fifth release, Graham had already familiarized with his studio equipment and had become more confident with his musical output. The “G-Spot” label name was dropped and Doctor G reincarnated to The Invisible Man, Graham’s most recognizable recording alias; in fact there was no label name for the 5th release, just the “Bangin’ B-Line” tag and The Invisible Man artist name. The track titles fonts were also drawn by James Kearney. In Graham’s own words:
“ … You could say Doctor G was just finding his sound and having fun figuring out how to use the studio gear, as opposed to The Invisible Man, who was the more experimental “muso” with a more solid musical direction. Either way, The Invisible Man sound was more about pushing myself and the (albeit still quite limited) studio gear, both technically and musically, to create a sound with enough atmosphere and emotion, to hopefully enable it to stand the test of time. For me, energy alone is never really enough. I’ve always loved music that creates intense emotion and powerful atmospheres; to me that’s what music is all about. Then, if you can make it work on a dancefloor too, that’s the icing on the cake …”
Fast forward to the first half of 1993, Graham decided on a new label name and Timeless Recordings was born; a platform to release his own material, as well as occasional releases from affiliated artists, whose output was on the same musical trajectory. The sixth release was the inaugural for Timeless Recordings and the title “The Beginning” could not be more appropriate for the occasion. It was that very track that attracted the attention of DJs such as Fabio and LTJ Bukem, who at the time were beginning to move away from the more hectic hardcore breakbeat/jungle style and towards a deeper, more soulful take on the evolving sound.
On top of doing production and engineering work for other artists, Graham Mew was running and promoting Timeless Recordings almost single-handedly; that is writing his own music, sorting out DATs for djs to play, running around London for distribution, as well as taking care of all business matters pertaining to running a label. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Graham around April 1994, decided to take a well-deserved break from the scene and passed control of the label over to his friend Jeremy Winters (aka Brillo), who worked at Vinyl Distribution at the time. The catalogue numbering prefix changed for the first time dropping the letter “G”.
Although A&R duties were undertaken by Brillo, the next scheduled releases had also Graham’s seal of approval. Around that time, Oxford-based Dj Lee, a resident dj at the famous “Speed” and “Blue Note Sessions” club nights in London, joined the label’s management crew.
Artists and Discography Highlights
In chronological order of appearance, the main label artists, during the first period of Timeless’ activity (until 1999) are listed below.
Artists’ short biographies are intentionally limited to their association with Timeless Recordings prior and during the period in question.
The Invisible Man / Mysteron
The first three releases of the label are naturally an Invisible Man affair (using also the one-off alias Mysteron).
Graham Mew had already cemented his place as one of the finest drum loop manipulators and drum and bass pioneers. The aptly named The Beginning, consisting of a combination of deep sub bass kicks, dark atmospherics and most notably, a heavily chopped up version of The Winstons’, now legendary, “Amen Brother” drum break. The Beginning also featured a short vocal sample declaring the track “Strictly Drum & Bass!”, two years before the mainstream media discovered the new genre, which had been emerging from the underground. Both tracks have been included in numerous compilations and mixes along the years. Skyliner and The Beginning have been remixed by Jason Kaye & Mikey B of Top Buzz (engineered by Steve Gurley of Foul Play) and Inner Space (mixed by Pete Parsons aka Voyager) respectively, for an obscure limited edition joint-release of Timeless Recordings (DJ010) and Code-001 Records (a Legend Records offshoot) in 1995.
- The Invisible Man – The Beginning b/w The End (Alternative Version), DJG006, 1993
- The Invisible Man – Skyliner b/w Power, DJ007, 1994
- The Invisible Man – Skyliner (remix) b/w Mysteron – U Don’t Know, DJ008, 1994
- The Invisible Man – Sky Liner (95 VIP Rmx) b/w Beginning (Inner Space Remix), DJ010, 1995
Digital (S.O.S. / Natural Mystic)
The first artist other than Graham, who signed with Timeless was Steve Carr aka Digital. Under different guises, Carr proved to be the most prolific artist of the Timeless stable, assuming also managerial duties after the label’s re-launch.
Based in Ipswich, Digital used to hire out his sound system to various promoters of raves in town or the surrounding areas. After meeting with Danny C, they joined forces to record for the local imprint Certificate 18, under the moniker Authorized Riddim. He soon crossed paths with another iconic figure of the scene, Photek, who helped him set up his own studio. Carr made his solo discography debut for Timeless with the classic Touch Me (engineered by Photek), but it was not until his second release, the phenomenal Space Funk (with Natural by Phaze 1 – one of Photek’s numerous recording guises – on the flipside), that he established the status of drum and bass’ rising star. Space Funk paved the way for a prolific career, as Digital recorded for a plethora of the genre’s most prestigious labels and he is still active until today. Digital’s contribution to the label has been pivotal, especially after 1999, during the second incarnation of the label.
- Digital – Touch Me (’94 Original Mix) b/w Touch Me (’95 Agony Mix), DJ009, 1995
- S.O.S. – Space Funk b/w Phaze 1 – Natural, DJ011, 1995
- S.O.S. – Space Funk 2 (Digital remix) b/w Space Funk 3 (Future Bound remix), DJ011R, 1996
- Natural Mystic – Natural Mystic Vol.1 (Echoes b/w Illusions), DJ012, 1996
- Digital – Sting b/w Touch Me ’96, DJ014, 1996
- Digital – Chameleon b/w Control, DJ031, 1998
- Natural Mystic – Chrome b/w Natural Mystic & Future Bound – Solar Level, DJ032, 1999
Mouly & Lucida
One of the most exciting, though short-lived drum and bass outfits, hailing from the surrounding area of Oxford, Mouly (Alex Moul) and Lucida (Graham Fisken) graced the label’s back catalogue with a trilogy of seminal releases.
Mouly & Lucida biography, selected discography, reviews, as well as their current activities, are available in the blog’s archives clicking here.
- Mouly & Lucida – Chilled b/w Spirits, DJ015, 1995
- Mouly & Lucida – Inertia b/w Prophecy, DJ017, 1996
- Mouly & Lucida – MJ12 b/w The Abyss, DJ020, 1996
Funky Technicians (Total Science / Q Project & Spinback)
Spinback (Paul Smith) and Q Project (Jason Greenhalgh) are one of the most dynamic and prolific duos of the genre. Based also in Oxford, they met in the late 80s and were brought together by their mutual love for hip hop and electro.
Paul was a regular local dj, whereas Jason had a small studio setup and made his first production steps under the guidance of Graham Mew. The real breakthrough came in 1993, with the establishment of their own imprint Legend Records (alongside Simon Matthews aka DJ Gwange); Legend’s inaugural release, the paradigm-shifting Champion Sound, kick-started spectacularly a glorious recording career.
In 1994, the pair, under the name Funky Technicians, started recording together a string of releases, which pushed the label away from the fizzling dark side of the drum and bass spectrum and more towards the atmospheric and jazzy side. The duo continued releasing tracks on Legend and other labels for another three years.
In 1995, DJ Gwange left Legend and due to increasing financial pressure from the label’s backer, both Jason and Paul decided to suspend the label’s activities. At the end of 1997, with help from Brillo, Greenhalgh and Smith established the C.I.A. (Computer Integrated Audio) label and changed their name to the now synonymous Total Science, where they still continue to release their trademark techno-infused drum and bass.
- Funky Technicians – Fever b/w The Essence, DJ016, 1996
- Total Science – Split Personality b/w Time Step, DJ022, 1996
- Q Project & Spinback – Mars b/w Pleasure Principle, DJ027, 1997
The Spirit (Duncan Busto) is another Ipswich-based artist.
Duncan set up his studio in 1995 and teamed up with Klute; a fellow-Ipswich producer and prominent member of the Certificate 18 collective. He made his discography debut for Fresh86, a label run by the legendary record shop Red Eye, located in his hometown. In 1996 he recorded the first of a string of releases for Timeless. Shortly after, he joined forces with Digital, recording as a duo, establishing their own label Phantom Audio.
- The Spirit – Mendacity b/w Delusions, DJ018, 1996
- The Spirit – Solar Glide b/w Synthony, DJ024, 1997
Mix Race & Proton Iso-space
Mix Race & Proton Iso-space is an all-star side project with members Paradox (Dev Pandya), Dj Trax (Dave Davies) and Hyper-On Experience [Alex Banks (1/2 of EZ Rollers) and Danny Demierre aka Flytronix]; all established Moving Shadow artists. The quartet used this particular recording alias for two productions only .
- Mix Race & Proton Iso-space – Roll With It b/w Kings, DJ019, 1996
KMC (Keith McKnight) has been credited with the unofficial honour of being the first producer hailing from Scotland to release a drum and bass track. He’s been another of the several artists, who made their discography debut with Timeless.
Based in Glasgow, Keith has been a record store owner, d&b events promoter and the artistic supervisor of the brilliant imprint Temple Music. In addition to his only single for Timeless, he has also delivered a superb remix for Mouly & Lucida’s Prophecy, before signing with Partisan and Good Looking.
- KMC – Polaris b/w Drifting, DJ021, 1996
- Mouly & Lucida – Inertia (Shogun remix) b/w Prophecy (KMC remix), DJRX003, 1997
Future Bound formed in Liverpool around 1994, by producer and engineer Paul Maker, formerly of short-lived hardcore outfit New Force, who disbanded in 1993. The other original members of Future Bound were Alan Ryan, John Collinson and Brendan Collins, who had all collaborated separately with Maker during, and post-New Force.
The original line up stayed together for roughly 3-4 years (culminating in releases on Skanna, Timeless, Funk21 and also remix duties for Digital), until the decision was made to work separately again, bringing about the Tunduska alias, which was essentially Maker collaborating on two separate tracks; one with Ryan and one with Collins; shortly after, the members of the original line up parted ways.
Brendan Collins is the only member to continue recording drum & bass. After a short period using his initials BC as a production alias – in fact Solar Level is Brendan’s solo output – he eventually assumed the guise Futurebound for his recording and djing endeavours.
- S.O.S. – Space Funk 2 (Digital remix) b/w Space Funk 3 (Future Bound remix), DJ011R, 1996
- Future Bound – The Ephemeris b/w Blue Mist, DJ023, 1997
- Natural Mystic & Future Bound – Solar Level b/w Natural Mystic – Chrome, DJ032, 1999
Ils & Solo
Ils & Solo has been a collaborative act with members Ils (Ilian Walker) and Dj Solo (Mark Wilkins), who joined the Timeless collective in 1997, recording two singles.
Although Ils and Solo had already been established and prolific solo artists, the Ils & Solo project has been associated with Bukem’s Good Looking Records, prior to signing with Timeless. Dj Solo had started his recording career in 1993 for the seminal breakbeat/hardcore label Production House and James Lavelle’s hip Mo’Wax Records, whereas Ils had also solo and collaborative releases (notably with Mark Force and Steve Hyper D) for Rugged Vinyl’s offshoot Mistermen, Made In London, Mo’Wax and Echo Drop.
- Ils & Solo – Frozen b/w Reprize, DJ026, 1997
- Ils & Solo – Frozen (Dom & Roland remix) b/w Point Eight, DJ029, 1998
Contrary to the usual practice, only a few tracks of the Timeless back catalogue have received the remix treatment; however the quality of the remixes has been at least equivalent to the originals. Acclaimed artists from the label’s collective, as well as guest artists have been commissioned for the remixes, namely:
- Digital and Future Bound remixed Space Funk
- Jazz Cartel (Creative Wax’s DJ Pulse, Professor Stretch and Dominic Palermo) remixed Fever
- Total Science remixed The Essence
- Shogun (aka Artemis) remixed Inertia
- KMC remixed Prophecy
- Dom & Roland remixed Frozen
Count To Ten
With unique criterion my own musical taste and in strict chronological order, ten of the finest Timeless Recordings’ moments are listed below. Some classics have been intentionally omitted in an effort to showcase the pluralism and the depth of the label’s back catalogue:
- The Invisible Man – The Beginning (b/w The End (Alternative Version), DJG006, 1993)
- Mysteron – U Don’t Know (b/w Invisible Man – Skyliner (remix), DJ008, 1994)
- S.O.S. – Space Funk (b/w Phaze 1 – Natural , DJ011, 1995)
- Funky Technicians – Fever (Jazz Cartel remix) (b/w The Essence (Total Science remix), DJRX002, 1996)
- Mouly & Lucida – Inertia (b/w Prophecy, DJ014, 1996)
- Mix Race & Proton Iso-space – Roll With It (b/w Kings, DJ019, 1996)
- Future Bound – The Ephemeris (b/w Blue Mist, DJ023, 1996)
- The Spirit – Solar Glide (b/w Synthony, DJ024, 1997)
- Q Project & Spinback – Mars (b/w Pleasure Principle, DJ027, 1997)
- Ils & Solo – Frozen (Dom & Roland remix) (b/w Point Eight, DJ029, 1998)
A mini-mix with the tracks above is available following the Mixcloud link below:
Extended discography, artists’ bios and reviews can be found following the links below:
Read the rest of the Count To Ten series visiting the blog’s archive here