Friday, 11 July 2008

The Cradle "It's Too High" (Rough Trade Records, 1987)

The 80's were a great time for agit-pop. Some of my strongest memories of the decade were the impact of the Miners strike, and the effect it had on the musical landscape. From features in the press, to benefit gigs, to student demos, to Rough Trade releasing "Strike" by The Enemy Within: it was a time full of militancy and the possibility that political change could be instigated by the sounds we listened to, and the ideals we held. Just around the corner was the 90's and the decade that was all abut greed being good, but in the mid 80's, things seemed just that little bit more empowered; even if, ultimately, it all came to nothing. Hey, at least we tried.
As far as agit-pop goes, one record really sums up the time: "Whistling In the Dark" by Easterhouse. A chiming slice of classic 80's pop, it was full of rage and exhortation: a diatribe about a country riven apart by industrial strife. "Whistling..." is available on "Contenders", a Cherry Red compilation which I can heartily recommend. However, less is known about the band that followed Easterhouse: The Cradle. The Perry brothers, Ivor And Andy, who made up Easterhouse, had a major falling out, and Andy disappeared. Ivor went on to form The Cradle, who are perhaps most notable for the fact that they included future member of The Smiths Craig Gannon in their midst (this rounded off a nice Smiths connection, as Easterhouse's first gig in London was supporting The Smiths at ULU).
This song makes me seriously nostalgic for the 80's. Not because it's a definitive 80's classic, but because I can hear the musical landscape shifting as this piece of vinyl spins on the turntable. The days of the independent charts producing great crossover hits was fading: just over the horizon was the birth of Dance culture and a thousand new genres, feeding off each other. This record feels like the proud last stand of an old guard. But, despite all of that, it's wonderful. Like so many of the tunes I post here, the reason I love it so much is that it acts as a landmark, a beacon, a snapshot of a time which has passed. Enjoy.

The Cradle "It's Too High" (mp3)

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

DJ Nut Nut "The Rumble" (Mad Ragga John Remix) (Production House Records 12", 1994)

Though my real passion was for Old School Hardcore (check the archives!) the rise of Drum'n'Bass still managed to produce some truly incredible records. Just like Hardcore, the key here was innovation: every month brought new sounds, new stlyes, new waves of samples and textures; as a genre, D'n'B began an exponential growth that wasn't to slow down for many years. The tunes I bought in 1994, for me, showed the most progression. Though there was raw power and energy in the "darkside" anthems of 1993, 1994 saw the rise of the portamento b-line, on tracks like Dead Dread's "Dread Bass" , the power and finesse of Ray Keith's "Terrorist" and the sonic invention of Deep Blue's "The Helicopter Tune". There are elements of "Helicopter..." in this tune, it's got that same burbling percussion, but the real story here is the massively chopped up Amen breaks. The snares skitter, stutter and roll, twisting into impossible shapes. The rhythms draw you in, forcing you to find the flow within their complex programming, carrying you along with them. This is a tune with propulsion deep within its DNA.
And what of DJ Nut Nut? Well, not much, I'm afraid. I know she was a female Drum'n'Bass DJ, who recorded a few sides for Production House, and a few tunes for Hard Leaders And Tru Playaz, but I've not been able to find her currently online. Mad Ragga Jon (or John, as he's credited here) is a similar story, a flurry of tunes in the days of Hardcore, with some due to come out on pre-eminent Hardcore label Suburban Base, before a personality clash led to him being released by the label. For someone who was obviously talented enough to push the envelope with the twisted beats of this remix, it's hard to understand that this would be one of his last productions. After 1994, he too drops off the radar.
If you need a copy of this, it'll set you back about 25 quid. But for now, turn it up, loud, and lose yourself in those breaks.

DJ Nut Nut "The Rumble" (Mad Ragga John Remix) (mp3)