“… At Basement Records we also wanted the artists to sample as little as possible, to create pioneering and original material, hence the label title ‘Precious Material’. Some of the releases are produced in the studio and some are recorded live performances…”- Phil Wells reflects on the label’s ethos and purpose
After a long hiatus, the blog’s “Whatever happened to …?” series return with the 9th installment. This time into the limelight is Precious Material; one of the most exhilarating and pioneering drum & bass labels of the mid-90s. Though short-lived, Precious Material has been one of the finest outlets of experimental drum and bass, integrating elements from various musical genres into the drum & bass template, defying stereotypes, constraints and agendas.
Established by Phil Wells in 1994 as a Basement Records’ subsidiary, during a time when drum & bass was still in its infancy, the main driver had been to foster a creative environment for established, as well as up-and-coming artists, free from dance-floor reactions and limitations. Following the huge success of the parent label Basement Records during the early rave years and the jungle/drum & bass evolution, Phil’s aspiration and incentive had always been to spearhead a new musical direction and introduce drum & bass to wider audiences.
This is the first installment (an updated version in terms of content and structure) of the blog’s “Whatever happened to …?” article series, inspired by the eponymous Hidden Agenda album, released on the Swiss label Straight Ahead in 2000.
“They’re talented boys! Fusing old-skool jazz, with a touch of the Miles stylez. They deal with a genre which was previously missing from Metalheadz. Our Urban Break-beat representatives up north”. – Goldie on Hidden Agenda
“Metalheadz gives us the freedom to try out new things and to develop our music without the usual constraints alongside like-minded artists”. – Hidden Agenda
(Notes taken from the inner sleeve of the first Platinum Breakz volume, released in 1996)
Mouly & Lucida
The eighth installment of the “Whatever happened to …?” series is dedicated to one of the most exciting, though short-lived, mid-nineties drum and bass outfits Mouly & Lucida. Both hailing from the town of Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK, the duo emerged in 1995, championing the quality over quantity ethos, creating serious waves in the drum and bass landscape of the time.
The seventh installment of the “Whatever happened to …?” series is dedicated to Foul Play; a pioneering, genre-defining and innovative electronic music act, heralding the transition from hardcore breakbeat to jungle/drum and bass. Being active almost throughout the 90s (the band’s synthesis changed twice during its activity, due to unforeseen circumstances) constantly re-inventing themselves, with dexterous, second-to-none programming and sample manipulation, their illustrious productions have marked indelibly the UK underground music map.
Essence Of Aura
The sixth installment of the “Whatever happened to…?” series is dedicated to a highly influential music trio; one of the pioneering electronic music bands that came from hardcore beginnings, progressed through jungle techno to drum and bass and has been active throughout the first half of the 90s. Despite their short-lived career, the trio released timeless classics along the way, before they finally disbanded in 1996.
Essence Of Aura, referred to also as EOA onwards, were formed in late 1990, originally based in Kenilworth, UK before moving to Coventry in 1992. The founding members have been Tim Grantham (DJing, Management and Production responsibilities) Ian Scott (Sampling and Production) and James Mitton-Wade (Production, Programming and Engineering duties for all EOA tracks).
The fifth installment of the series is dedicated to one of the most influential figures of the jungle/drum and bass scene Pete Parsons aka Voyager. A prolific producer and dexterous engineer, active since the early 90s and throughout the golden era of jungle/drum and bass, Parsons has made an indelible print on the underground dance music map, involved in various projects not pertaining only to drum and bass. The purpose of this article is to shed light on Parsons’ invaluable contribution to the evolution and transition of breakbeat/hardcore to ambient jungle and drum and bass.
“Ennio Morricone meeting Isaac Hayes in a full-on jungle vibe, Endemic Void pushes the limits of time-stretchology with this deep, cinematic, frontline fanfare. Rich, vibrant and all-encompassing” – (Melody Maker, 1995)
The fourth installment of the series is dedicated to one of the unsung heroes of the golden era of drum and bass Danny Coffey (aka Basic One, Blades, Tertius, Endemic Void, Slipstream and Strictly Rockers).
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.
The second installment of the series is dedicated to one of the most influential labels of the jungle/drum and bass scene. From the early hardcore days to the second half of the 90s, Creative Wax fostered an enviable stable of producers and artists, releasing a plethora of classics during its activity. The mix-up of Detroit techno influences and later jazz established Creative Wax as one of the most innovative outlets of quality music in the drum and bass scene of the 90’s. The purpose of this article is to shed light on the massive contribution of Creative Wax to the ever-changing drum and bass landscape, having been the point of reference and an indelible influence to the next generation of jungle/dnb artists.
Creative Wax was founded in 1992 by Ashley Brown aka DJ Pulse (1/3 of Dance Conspiracy and Jazz Cartel) and Jack Horner (Bad Influence). The label roster includes some of the biggest names in engineering and production of that time, collaborating frequently with each other under various monikers. Early releases have been predominantly by label owner Pulse alongside Wax Doctor, with Alex Reece and Professor Stretch (Underwolves) taking care of the engineering duties. The label also had various collaborations by Alex Reece and Wax Doctor under names such as Fallen Angels and Unit 1. Other notable names in the camp were The Underwolves, who went on to record for Ross Allen’s Island Records imprint Blue and Compost Records, Tango, who also recorded with Pulse on the legendary Moving Shadow, Justice another Moving Shadow artist, who now runs his own Modern Urban Jazz label and finally Digital (a well established artist from the Metalheadz and Timeless Recordings collective among others). Continue reading
It‘s been almost two decades since the birth and evolution of the jungle/drum and bass music (will be referred to as jdnb onwards). Many artists and labels have marked indelibly the development of this musical genre with their work, vision and ethos, establishing jdnb as a dynamic and pioneering movement in the electronic dance music culture. At first underground and accessible to the chosen few, jdnb has become slowly but surely a prominent player in the urban underground music map. No matter how different the styles and the musical taste of their champions, the evolution of this music has been very interesting to watch. Inevitably, there have been ambiguous eras. The effort, on behalf of the producers, to re-vitalize people’s interest, re-invent themselves or develop a certain identity has led to the generation of many sub-genres; the results however, after 20 years or so, have been more than satisfying. Recently, a dnb track hit no1 in the UK chart, an achievement rather unimaginable back in the day.
The world doesn’t stop turning, whatever you heard, neither do life and music. Labels and artists have come and gone, which is quite normal during a period spanning almost 20 years. Priorities change, circumstances demand a re-target of focus and the financial factor has been always crucial in the music industry. The main purpose of this article series is to shed light on the contribution of certain artists who have left the scene and of various labels that are now defunct. The reasons of their activity suspension are many and beyond the purpose of this series. It is impossible to include every label and artist, no matter how large or small their contribution, so in all fairness the selection is solely based on my taste, knowledge and sympathy.
Part 1 coming up. Whatever happened to … Hidden Agenda?