“… I can’t understand those musicians who make the most beautiful music, but show little care or attention for the visual side. It’s like stuffing a Rembrandt painting inside a £5 plastic frame from IKEA …”
36 – Fade To Grey
The ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series is perhaps the most personal, preferential and esoteric category of the blog. The title is self-explanatory and the concept straightforward. I hand-pick records from my collection – records I am fondly attached with and I wish my name was credited on the sleeve – and present them emphasizing on the background stories, the imagery and the messages the music conveys.
When I started the series, I had in mind a set of restrictions, a self-imposed dogma in order to confine the scope. The blog is mainly d&b-oriented, as is my record collection, so intuitively all previous instalments featured drum & tracks, or to be more precise tracks loosely or directly related to the drum & bass template and aesthetic. The concept has been captured eloquently by Ulrich Schnauss in the opening line of the 10th edition of the series:
‘77’ seems a piece that has a rather elegant flow, something I always appreciated about d&b very much. Although this might not be a d&b release from a ‘genre-stalinist’ perspective, I’d still argue that it at least attempts to relate to that kind of aesthetic…
“The words ‘Every second takes an hour’ explained perfectly the strange time-warp-like atmosphere in ‘The Fridge’; it was so easy to lose track of time in there. Then the next line ‘and each one seems the last’ illustrates that feeling of impending doom that I felt at the time …”
Rise Of The Phoenix EP, WYHS040, 1995
I have been contemplating a Bay B Kane blog feature for years. I had even drafted several sketches, but for one reason or another they remained buried in my digital archive. So, in that sense, the 16th edition of the “Tracks I Wish I’d Written” is long overdue. I was recently listening back to Bay B Kane’s ‘Rise Of The Phoenix EP’, when my daughter playfully asked me about the vocal sample. That was the trigger to finally pay my respects to one of the true pioneers, who heralded the transition from hardcore to jungle; a master manipulator of breaks and samples from the most unusual sources (from hip hop and obscure techno to art rock and pop) and whose musical contribution should be sung really louder.
“All our music is there to capture the imagination and we were writing tunes so they could be listened to as whole pieces or stories, rather than dj tools. The idea of people interpreting the songs in different ways and creating their own narratives is really interesting to us”.
‘A good sample is worth a thousand synths or plug-ins’
Blocks & Escher – Broken/Sagan (NARRATIVES001)
The next installment of the series is about one of my favourite tracks of recent years, which has all the qualifying attributes of an instant classic. In a previous post I had manifested the importance of a memorable, intriguing, even cryptic artist name or an appealing title/logo for a record label. Our culture of distraction and minimal attention span seems unrelenting on burying new music beneath an endless scroll. An attractive name won’t compensate for dreadful music, but it’s definitely a head-start and if there’s a chance to go down in musical history, then it’d better take place in style. I can see eyebrows raising already; however following the aforementioned maxim I have made brilliant discoveries over the years.
I stumbled upon Narratives Music, while browsing Surus, the now defunct online store managed by ST Holdings. It’s been one of those cases that I was sold, before even listening to a single clip. The austere brand logo, featuring the ‘NARRATIVES’ title enclosed in brackets, with white font superimposed on a plain black background (the logo has later appeared in various artistic coloured variations), as well as the label name itself were an overture to cast my own interpretations and visualize my own subjective account of the images, the stories and the sentiments the music conveyed.
“… a touching piece of graffiti appeared on a wall during the gig – a vertical line, a horizontal line and then the two conjoined – we control the vertical, we control the horizontal, we control the Zig Zag…”
The Emperor’s New Clothes LP
Over the years I have developed a penchant for albums. Immersing in the underlying atmosphere, I am intrigued by the influences, the samples, the lyrical motifs, the artwork, the concept, the evident or cryptic messages they convey; everything eventually culminates in a narrative with a purpose and a profound personal touch. I prefer traditional structure: an opening track foreshadowing the main theme, which is divided perhaps into multiple sections with interludes or vignettes and a closing track that concludes the musical journey. Some artists get it right effortlessly, some lose the plot midway and others end up with a collection of selected works. It doesn’t matter anyway; the merit of album writing as an art form is to evoke different emotions and interpretations, unveiling beauty and truth in due course.
So far, all the tracks presented in the ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series have been taken from singles or EPs – the only exception being issue#5. However, this time around I revisited the albums of my collection for the latest edition: throwback to 2007 for a track written and produced by a certified d&b ‘album artist’. Having released 8 studio albums and a 9th due next year, Klute has proved to be one of the most prolific, diverse and revered drum & bass producers, renowned for defying trends, formulas and genre constraints. His unique talent to instill a multitude of influences in his productions, from his punk/hardcore origins to techno, house and dub has resulted in a broad repertoire of incredibly inspirational music.
Every track presented in the series has a special place in my collection and is associated with a different period of my life, hence the time leaps. Throwback to 1997 for the 13th installment of the Tracks I Wish I’d Written; a stellar classic with one of the genre’s most recognizable and revered lead synths, written and produced by one of drum & bass’ unsung heroes that captures elegantly a nostalgic time and place.
Odyssey – Expressions (720-002)
“… God bless the path of the musical children, walking the steps of change going forward-bound, our music’s taking you to higher ground …” – MC Conrad
“… definitely there’s something about you…”
Golden Girl (GLR066)
Throwback to the season 2003-04, a happy and eventful period of my life I reminisce about with bittersweet nostalgia. I was living in London at the time immersing myself in the city’s night life like there was no tomorrow, camouflaging the cultural shock of rubbing shoulders with my musical icons. The London drum & bass scene was flourishing, club nights talking place in abundance. From mid-week events like Fabio’s ‘Swerve’ Wednesdays at The End and ‘Movement’ Thursdays at Bar Rumba to the main Friday residencies like Fabric Room 2 label takeovers, Good Looking’s ‘Progression Sessions’, Ram and Renegade Hardware at The End, to the ad hoc d&b parties at Jazz Café, Heaven, Ministry of Sound, Carling Academy, Cargo and Plastic People to Sunday evenings at Herbal with ‘Hospitality’ and Grooverider’s ‘Grace’. There must have been definitely many more I have forgotten to highlight as memories tend to blur after all these years, but there was always something happening to accommodate for every musical taste. It was evident, even then, that it was only a matter of time, before drum & bass would sell out big clubs and headline festivals across the world.
“… hearing my track loud on a sound system, watching people’s reactions. That’s all you need as a producer. That’s pure approval right there. People loving what you make; it ‘s mission accomplished …”
MI5 – Experience (LSR020)
Throwback to 1995 for the 11th edition of the blog’s ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series. The artist name might not ring a bell at first glance; however behind this one-off recording guise has been one of the most influential and celebrated drum & bass producers of the mid-90s DJ Crystl. Combining old-school hip-hop breakbeat mechanics with ethereal sci-fi soundscapes, his productions have been paramount to the flourishing of ambient jungle. With a cinematic approach, collating and transcending contradictions – en vogue yet timeless, benign yet sinister, nuanced yet evident – Crystl has envisioned the soundtrack of imaginary film scenes.