A Thousand Beautiful Things: Inside the Blu Mar Ten albums

“Musically it’s the same button we’ve been pressing since day one, trying to find that particular and delicate place between sadness and hope. We rarely find it, exactly, but we come close sometimes. It’s like what they say about jazz players, always trying to find the ‘lost chord’ …” Interview for UKF, November 2016.

Mosaic

Blu Mar Ten Album Covers

A common trait among music fans is their ability to recollect little details regarding their musical icons. A series of coincidences and seemingly unrelated events acquire a whole different gravity in hindsight. Although I firmly believe in the maxim “Don’t meet your heroes”, happily enough, meeting Blu Mar Ten has been a distinct exception to the rule and I feel quite honoured to have known them in person and consider them friends.

I accidentally discovered Blu Mar Ten in 1996 and I have closely followed their musical career path ever since. Their sophisticated approach, art and literature connotations, eclectic taste and cinematic aesthetics have never ceased to amaze me. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their discography debut, Blu Mar Ten recently released their 7th studio album entitled ‘Empire State’. What follows is a retrospective, but not exhaustive account of their career from my biased perspective, emphasizing on releases, which I have associated with fond memories and have had a profound impact on me; an array of reminiscences printed on vinyl grooves. Browsing through my record collection, I also present my personal highlights from each LP, instead of a track-by-track review, trying also to deduce and identify their creative influences. This is essentially my own perception and an attempt to capture the essence of the album narratives, which is completely arbitrary and probably nowhere near Blu Mar Ten’s actual vision and purpose. Nonetheless, I believe that the value of an artistic product is to create different emotions, thoughts and interpretations.

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Count To Ten: Secret Operations

Secret Operations logo

Secret Operations

Secret Operations is an eclectic record label launched in 1999 by the prolific Swedish drum and bass artist Sebastian Ahrenberg, widely known to the electronic music circles as Seba, but it was not until 2004 that the label picked up pace with a consistent release schedule. The label was named after the homonymous club nights hosted by Seba himself at a basement bar called Tuben (Tube) during the second half of the 90s in Stockholm, Sweden. To the time of writing, Secret Operations has released 19 singles, one compilation entitled Case One, which was the inaugural release of the label featuring various artists alongside Seba, as well as Seba’s second personal album entitled Identity that has been recently released to critical acclaim.

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Count To Ten: Future Engineers

Future Engineers

Lee Batchelor and Keir Cleminson are Future Engineers, a Glasgow based drum and bass production outfit, best known for their music that was released by LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking Organisation between 1999 and 2003, and also for the progressive, dance floor friendly DJ sets that they have performed across Europe.

They released their seminal 12” (“The Silence”/”Shattered”) on Renegade Recordings in 1997, quickly followed by popular material on labels such as Temple Records and Partisan Recordings. Almost 10 years since they first broke onto the scene, they have retained their reputation as a boundary-pushing and prolific drum and bass act. Their solid working relationship has been built on the foundations of a life-long friendship, having grown up together in North London and then Glasgow when Keir relocated there in 1990, followed by Lee in 1994.

From early childhood they were constantly surrounded by music – from studio sessions to live concerts – due to their fathers who were working together in the industry. Most notably, Keir’s father was lead guitarist in The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Lee’s father co-produced some of their albums (he also co-produced “Slide Away” for Oasis on their debut album “Definitely Maybe” years later!) As a result of this exposure and the uptake of musical and studio know-how, it was a natural choice by Lee and Keir to pursue a similar career to their fathers’. Continue reading

Godisnolongeradj in association with Audio Theory Records present: “Enter the Deep Side”

Intro

The last few years, drum and bass has achieved an unprecedented popular expansion, appealing to wider audiences and receiving support and radio airplay by many non-drum and bass djs and radio producers as well as hitting top spots in the music charts. Going in circles, from the early hardcore/breakbeat days to contemporary drum and bass, it has been one of the most interesting electronic music genres to follow. Influenced by a plethora of music genres, whether it is hip-hop, techno, soul or jazz, drum and bass covers a wide spectrum to satisfy everyone’s taste and preference. The drum and bass road however, hasn’t been always paved with roses. Every now and then a new injection of fresh sounds and production techniques has been pivotal to refresh people’s interest, as it has happened several times during the 90s. Fast Forward to 2009…

Minimal drum & bass and the Autonomic initiative

For several years in the second half of the past decade, drum and bass had been fairly stagnant, focusing on dance floor smashers. Minimal drum and bass, as the term suggests, is a sub-genre (one of too many nowadays) of drum and bass, stripping down the sound, diverting from the traditional forms without however ceasing to be drum and bass. The tempo remains generally close to the average drum and bass speed (around 170 bpm), however many other aspects of the music contrast highly with contemporary trends in drum and bass. One of the main attributes is a half-time drum rhythm, reducing the perceived speed, while staying to the same bpm. The drum production versatility is retained; quiet percussions, deep sub-bass, eerie synths, subdued melodies and unusual beats are often used, similar to dubstep and future garage productions, hence the confusion that inevitably takes place due to the human need to pigeonhole. Continue reading

Blu Mar Ten Jump the Q

Jump the Q

A mini-interview with 22 short questions (some personal, some tricky) looking for equally short answers, addressed to artists, producers, promoters, djs, friends and affiliates of the blog in general.

Today Chris Marigold of Blu Mar Ten Jumps the Q

Blu Mar Ten

Let’s get started:

Set 1: The man behind the mask

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Whatever happened to …?

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?