The second part of the blog’s mini-series covers the period 1997-99. What may have started timidly for artistic purposes or exclusive dj promotional use, by 1997 it became almost de rigueur for record labels to commission drum & bass versions for selected singles and various remix compilations. The niche underground genre infiltrated the mainstream and many d&b producers signed with major labels to curate collections or record personal albums. On reflection, it turned out to be a double-edged sword.
On one hand, d&b found its well-deserved place on the electronic music map. Artists were finally rewarded and vindicated for their efforts and their work was introduced from a limited connoisseur circle to a wider audience, providing them with a vital and creative space for experimentation. Commercial success and critic appreciation motivated accomplished, as well as up-and-coming producers to master their craft, pushing the musical boundaries beyond genre confines. On the other hand, the roller coaster of media exposure, politics, cloudy distribution and licensing agreements, self-indulgence and the drama that inevitably occurs when money and temporary fame enter the equation, terminated careers and friendships untimely and ingloriously. Effectively, drum & bass re-entered a phase of introversion, darkness and belligerence marking the end of the romance. An injection of fresh air was desperately needed and a new breed of producers and record labels emerged to fill in the gap created by those who helped the scene flourish, but sadly realized that they no longer fitted in the d&b reality of the new millennium.
The first part of the series was rather straight-forward. The feedback I received made me partially revise this installment before publishing. As cliché and repetitive it may sound, these lists are always subjective, partial and open to debate. The purpose of the series is not to be another top-10 countdown. On the contrary, the aspiration is to highlight drum & bass’ endless possibilities and crossover appeal, presenting a list that contains not necessarily the best or most popular remixes of each period.
Part 2 features a rather heretic selection of drum & bass remixes; de facto mandatory as well as obscure entries, which cover a diverse array of artists and styles; from classic film scores to mainstream pop, from dub & reggae to soulful house, from trip hop to alternative rock and post-punk. The calibre of the original producers and remixers and a variety of other reasons, which are explained below to justify the inclusion of each track to the list, have been taken into account. A paraphrase of a Nick Hornby quote pretty much describes the second part of the series: “… but they are still there, still sneering at your bad choices, offering you an understated but supportive raise of the eyebrow for your good ones.”
Having said all that, here we go:
- Nuyorican Soul feat. Jocelyn Brown – I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun (4 Hero remix), Talkin’ Loud, 1997
“I am the white side of the sun; follow the beat across the light …”
This is perhaps the most representative fusion of future jazz and drum & bass, a rare occasion, when both original and remixed versions qualify as timeless classics in their respective genres. Take Louie Vega’s words, who proclaimed 4 Hero’s remix as ‘one of the best remixes ever’.
Nuyorican Soul has been the side project of house music purveyors ‘Little’ Louie Vega and Kenny ‘Dope’ Gonzales. Incorporating live instrumentation and enlisting acclaimed musicians and singers (Roy Ayers, George Benson, Tito Puente, Jocelyn Brown etc.) for the project, Nuyorican Soul enveloped their New York residency, musical heritage and affinity for jazz, latin, disco and soul music. “I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun” is a cover of the eponymous 1971 track, originally produced by Rotary Connection. Featuring Jocelyn Brown on lead vocals, who delivered a stunning performance, the Nuyorican Soul version captures vividly the cryptic and esoteric lyrical references, giving a modern twist.
Remixing a masterpiece is always a gamble; however there couldn’t be a more fitting candidate for the task than the electronic music luminaries 4 Hero. The Dollis Hill group came to prominence in the late 80s. Embracing the dynamics of populist rave culture, 4 Hero spearheaded the transition from breakbeat hardcore to drum & bass through their own label Reinforced, mentored Goldie and maintained an avant-garde status as innovative and experimental producers. 4 Hero’s old-school Detroit techno and Chicago house influences reflect on their impeccable drum & bass rendition of “I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun”. Retaining a slow tempo with the orchestral parts and vocals intact until the mesmerizing breakdown, cellos and violas bridge the way for the trademark 4 Hero percussion cascade. This is art! That was the prelude to their stellar album “Two Pages” the next year, which garnered critical acclaim and earned 4 Hero a MOBO award and a Mercury Prize nomination.
- Bim Sherman – Can I Be Free From Crying (Underwolves Mix), Mantra 1997
“My whole world is dying; can I be free from crying?”
Gifted with an ethereal, almost mournful voice, the Jamaican musician and songwriter Bim Sherman came to London in the late 70s in search of a better future, where he met and built a friendship and business relationship with young maverick reggae producer Adrian Sherwood. On Sherwood’s On-U Sound label, Sherman released his seminal album “Miracle”, an amalgamation of dub, reggae and world music. A remix LP titled “It Must Be A Dream” was published by Mantra Recordings a year later, including a drum & bass remix by The Underwolves.
The Underwolves started as a side-project in 1996, with members Adrian Shortman (aka Professor Stretch of the Dance Conspiracy fame) and Creative Wax label manager Ned Kelly, which evolved into a collective for the recording of their crossover album “Under Your Sky” a few years later. After recording a string of singles for Creative Wax and Filter, they signed with Island for their debut album. The Underwolves connected with Adrian Sherwood, through a d&b remix for Green Tea Records, an On-U Sound spin-off. This culminated in a series of collaborations with Sherwood’s artists and the spell-binding “Can I Be Free From Crying” d&b mix. With drum patterns reminiscent of their discography debut “The Crossing” and Shortman’s desolate strings, The Underwolves mix encapsulates the melancholic nature of the original song.
- Faith No More – Ashes To Ashes (Dillinja remix), Slash/London Records, 1997
“I will let you shout no more”
Amidst a turbulent period for the band’s members, American rockers Faith No More released their 6th studio album in 1997, cheekily titled “Album Of The Year”. Ironically, the reviews were disheartening and confirmed the downward spiral in their career, followed by the band’s demise a few months later, with frontman/lyricist Mike Patton and other members of the group pursuing solo careers. The lead single “Ashes To Ashes” was probably closer to their original sound, but didn’t do well commercially in their native US. The bulk of that song was written and arranged the first week. A tape was sent to Patton, who was in Italy, but he came up with the lyrics and the singing right away.
One of the most respected by peers and fans alike and prolific d&b producers Dillinja, undertook the task to inject a breath of new life to the song. Dillinja tested his Valve sound-system overdriving his TB-303 for that trademark harsh acid effect over Patton’s staccatos and produced a violently sinister remix, which heralded the advent of the tech-obsessed ‘97 sound.
- INXS – Searching (Alex Reece Drum & Bass Mix), Mercury 1997
“Have we lost direction, washed our hands of blood”
Although this is a fine paradigm of pop sensibility in a drum & bass framework, this particular entry “hijacked” the list, due to the series of unfortunate events that unfolded right after the release.
The Australian band INXS reached international stardom with a series of hits during the 80s and the early 90s, lead by the charismatic singer and lyricist Michael Hutchence, whose romantic life was monopolizing the musical press and tabloids. INXS recorded the introspective comeback album “Elegantly Wasted” in 1997, which turned out to be their last for almost a decade, as the band remained virtually dormant due to Hutchence’s tragic death under controversial circumstances later that year.
Mercury commissioned dance mixes for the single “Searching” and one of the most influential d&b producers Alex Reece stepped in for the remix treatment. Reece started his career as an in-house engineer for Basement Records and Sound Entity and by late ‘93 he had set up his own Acid Lab studio. Closely associated with the early Basement, Metalheadz and Creative Wax sound and a spell of classics under his belt, he signed with Island Records for his debut album “So Far”. The album’s success gave him the chance to establish his own platform (Al’s Records) to cater for personal and fellow artists’ material. Despite not being his finest work, the “Searching” remix has all the signature elements of his streamlined productions; minimal synth lines, the catchy 2-step drum rhythm, the double bass riffs and the female vocal hooks that complement Hutchence’s lead vocals. Around the same time Alex Reece was recording the follow-up to his debut album, however by the time it was ready, the major’s interest in drum & bass had cooled off and the whole project was regrettably shelved.
- Bjork – Bachelorette (Grooverider Jeep mix), One Little Indian, 1997
“If you forget my name, you will go astray, like a killer whale, trapped in a bay”
Icelandic wonder Bjork, left her band Sugarcubes and emigrated to London in 1993 to pursue a solo career, which quickly eclipsed her old band’s popularity. Gifted with a celestial voice, which wavers effortlessly between styles and an unparalleled theatric presence, Bjork immersed herself in London’s dance and club culture, collaborating with some of the biggest names of the scene and soon became One Little Indian Records’ flag carrier. Singles from Bjork’s 2nd album “Post” have been remixed by the drum & bass elite (Goldie, Photek and Dillinja). Derek Birkett’s penchant for drum & bass (documented also in the first part of the series) has been renowned; in 1997 he took under his wing Partisan Recordings, the record label launched by the former Moving Shadow managing staff (more on the topic in the blog’s archive here). “Bachelorette” featured on Bjork’s third album “Homogenic” and has been remixed by Grooverider and Wu-Tang’s RZA among others.
Grooverider, an iconic figure of the drum & bass scene, has had probably the most enviable record box in the second-half of the 90s. A resident at the ‘Metalheadz Blue Note Sessions’, radio host and owner of the prestigious label Prototype, Grooverider’s remixes were in high demand (especially his remarkably long ‘Jeep’ mixes). In 1997, Grooverider signed with Sony Music. He curated and released on Sony’s dance offshoot Higher Ground the compilation “The Prototype Years” showcasing his label’s ethos and sound, as well as his debut album “Mysteries Of Funk” the next year.
Grooverider’s version of “Bachelorette” is an inspired and riveting endeavour. Starting with a half-tempo long intro and keeping elements from Mark Bell’s (LFO member and Bjork’s producer) sequencing and Bjork’s eerie vocals, the track builds up to more familiar Prototype territory after the 4th minute mark, with the Roland 303 acid-laden riffs, syncopated drums and frigid synth stabs.
- A Forest Mighty Black – Tides (Peshay & Flytronix remix), Compost, 1997
“A flair for the (mellow) dramatic”
Based in Freiburg, the gateway to the Black Forest, after which the trip-hop and acid jazz outfit led by Bernd Kunz is named after, A Forest Mighty Black (AFMB) have been an instrumental member of Compost Records’ early vanguard. AFMB released their debut album “Mellowdramatic” in 1997; a melting pot of various musical styles. The same year Compost commissioned also a remix compilation for the album with Peshay & Flytronix on d&b remixing duties for the track “Tides”, which was originally recorded two years earlier.
Flytronix (real name Danny Demierre) started his career in 1992 alongside Alex Banks forming Hyper-On Experience and Pro-Ton Isospace (as a side project). After four classic EPs for Moving Shadow, Banks created EZ Rollers with JMJ and Demierre pursued a solo career under his Flytronix guise. A skillful and renowned sound engineer, Demierre went on to produce a string of fine releases for Moving Shadow including the “Encounta” series, as well his debut album “Archive”.
Peshay (real name Paul Pesce), another veteran of the scene, started his recording career around the same time. Having recovered from health issues in ’95, Peshay made an impressive comeback with a prolific output for the genre’s most reputable labels (Reinforced, Good Looking, Metalheadz, Street Beats and Basement among others). In 1996 he signed with Lavelle’s Mo’Wax, which marked a bold change in musical direction. His debut album “Miles From Home” was delayed due to Mo’Wax’s financial situation and was eventually released on Island’s sub-label Blue.
Peshay & Flytronix undeniably turned out to be the appropriate producers to adapt the free jazz finesse of the original, combining elements of both artists’ rich repertoire. With trademark Rhodes piano notes in the forefront, the remix of “Tides” is a polished version, full of momentum, aesthetic individuality and texture; a firm Bukem favourite and a highlight of the “Artcore” compilation series.
- Mogwai – Summer ((Klute’s Weird Winter Remix), Eye Q, 1998
“Kicking a dead pig”
Scottish post-rockers Mogwai formed in 1995 in Glasgow and released their debut album “Young Team” two years later. Championed by John Peel, Mogwai typically composed instrumental melancholic guitar-led pieces contrasting with heavy distortion and fuzzy effects. In 1998, prior to their second album and a change in the band’s line up, they commissioned a remix compilation sardonically titled “Kicking A Dead Pig” featuring artists across the spectrum like Alec Empire, Kid Loco, Arab Strap, Surgeon and Klute among others.
Klute (real name Tom Withers) started his musical career in the mid 80s being the drummer and vocalist in the skate/punk band The Stupids based in Ipswich, UK. As opposed to the trend at the time, The Stupids’ lyrics were rather satirical and comical than poignant and political. Moving on to the next decade, Withers inspired by the faceless mystique of the new music championed by the Ibiza Records collective, Noise Factory and fellow-Ipswich resident Photek, started making his own beats. He was soon signed by the stellar jungle/drum and bass label Certificate 18. In the following years Withers released two personal albums and a string of fine singles and EPs, before establishing his own label Commercial Suicide in 2001. For Klute’s artist profile and discography highlights visit the blog’s archive here.
Klute’s remix of the track “Summer” (the guitar riff of the original has “inspired” System of A Down’s grand hit “Toxicity”) sounds as intoxicatingly weird as the side-title suggests. Drawing from his punk roots, Klute applied Mogwai’s metallic noise to the darker strains of drum & bass with a relentless stuttering bass line, filtered flutes and growling effects.
- The Creatures – All She Could Ask For (Justice & Endemic Void Dope Mix), Hydrogen Dukebox, 1999
“In her eyes my reflection, in her eyes rivers dance”
The Creatures has been a side project of punk icon Susie Balon (Siouxsie Sioux) and drummer and Susie’s husband Peter Clarke. After Siouxsie and The Banshees disbanded, The Creatures became a full-time project. In 1998 they established Sioux Records to promote their new material. The next year, The Creatures licensed a remix compilation titled “Hybrids” to Doug Hart’s Hydrogen Dukebox, for tracks taken from their album “Anima Animus”, as well as various singles.
Hydrogen Dukebox artist Justice, who had released his debut album “Viewpoints” on the sub-label Recordings of Substance, and long-time friend and recording partner Endemic Void delivered an exquisite interpretation with rhythmic percussion, metallic effects borrowed from their Krash project and beautiful chords that capture the dramatic and poignant Siouxsie’s theme.
How could she want more?
For Justice & Endemic Void artist profiles and selected discography visit the blog’s archive here.
- John Barry – Séance On A Wet Afternoon (Omni Trio Remix), The Right Stuff, 1999
“Was it magic… or murder they planned?”
John Barry has been an acclaimed composer and conductor of film music with a glorious career spanning 50 years. Multiple Grammy and Academy Award winner for his work, he became famous for his James Bond series film scores including “007”, an alternative Bond opening theme. His composition “Séance On A Wet Afternoon”, written for the eponymous 1964 crime thriller, elegantly captures the thrilling suspense and agony of the film.
Hidden in one of the million various artists crossover compilations that circulated during the end of the 90s, lays Robert Haigh’s drum & bass interpretation of a classic theme. Robert Haigh, widely known by his primary recording alias Omni Trio, is one of my all time favourite artists, whose work couldn’t be left out of the series. Instilling his classical and contemporary music alter ego into his “Byte Size Life” period, Omni Trio produced a Detroit-influenced, paranormal d&b interpretation. From Belleville to Suffolk, cool has been re-imagined. For Robert Haigh’s full artist profile visit the blog’s archive here.
- Alex Gopher – The Child (Source Direct remix), Disques Solid, 1999
“Them that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose”
Alex Gopher is another French producer of ‘French Touch’ house movement, who worked as a sound engineer at the Translab Mastering studios in Paris. In 1998, Gopher released his debut album “You, my baby and I” on his label Disques Solid (co-founded by Etienne De Grecy), which featured the single “The Child” with the famous letter-shaped animated video with references to New York.
Source Direct, the duo who re-imagined the drum & bass blueprint, with production qualities paralleled only with the studio wizardry of their mentor Photek, were selected to provide their own version of “The Child”. During their “Exorcise The Demons” period, Source Direct outmaneuvered perception. Steering away from their cinematic visions, dark romance, complex and intricate dystopian soundscapes, they reconstructed Billy Holiday’s original diva vocals and delivered a razor-sharp, funk-flavoured breakbeat science riddle.
Read the previous part of the mini-series: Count To Ten: Cross-genre drum & bass remixes – part 1 (1995-96) here.
The next part of the mini-series: Count To Ten: Cross-genre drum & bass remixes – part 3 (2000-2007) coming soon
Visit the blog’s archive for the previous installments of the “Count To Ten” series here.