For my ‘Back To Mine’ mixtape, rather than a general all-round look at those tracks that have influenced me, I have chosen to focus on a particular era.
A period in my life when I was flat sharing with some friends in SW2 (Brixton) in London. From 1997-2000, most weekends we would be out, whether it was Mass, The Dogstar, Brixton Academy, or our local pub ‘The Hobgoblin’ AKA ‘The George Canning’, most weekends would get extended into our infamous "Impromptu Bank Holiday" sessions at 33 Greenleaf Close….
“…. It’s sometime in the middle of the night, we’ve survived the drunken, messy walk home, stopping off at the local Chicken/Kebab shop for that necessary post beer nourishment. We ascend the building staircase (full of the aroma of skunk – lingering from earlier when kids on the estate had been smoking). Tinny’s are cracked open and rizzas’s are rolled… people arrive at the flat from their evening escapades….. time to put some tunes on to take us through till sunrise…….”
1) Air – Talisman (1998) Instantly recognisable, from the French duo whose album Moon Safari could he heard everywhere at the time, whether it was in clubs, pubs, or even TV adverts. The album was a go to album during our impromptu flat sessions or Sunday come-downs.
2) Attica Blues – Contemplating Jazz (1994) Classic Mo Wax which fitted in perfectly with the downtempo scene at the time. Released on the wonderfully named “Vibes, Scribes 'N' Dusty 45's E.P.”.
3) Pressure Drop – Writing On The Wall (1997) As featured on the bands 4th album “Elusive” and released on Leftfield’s owned record label ‘Hard Hands’. This track nailed the sound that would resonate through the streets of night-time Brixton….. hard beats, sub base frequencies, soaring vocals and that wonderful saxophone by Scott Garland….. makes total sense that it would be released on Leftfield’s imprint.
4) Massive Attack – Man Next Door (1998) Mezzanine, Massive Attacks third studio album had a lot to live up to, following on from Blue Lines and Protection. Just like Pressure Drop, Massive Attack presented to the listener a darker, edgier sound balanced with soaring vocals by Elizabeth Fraser and Horace Andy – the album became a firm favourite of mine. Oh that bassline…… how it use to shake the windows.
5) Red Snapper – Image Of You (1998) More rumbling basslines coupled with an amazing vocal by the extremely talented Alison David. Red Snapper’s second LP ‘Making Bones’ released on Warp Records went on to cement their reputation as an outfit that championed those trip-hop beats featuring superb turns by Alison David and MC Det. Love this haunting track.
6) Saint Etienne – Carnt Sleep (1991) Classic …… nuff said.
7) Rae & Christian – The Hush (1998) I could have picked any of the tracks from their first album, such was the quality of ‘Northern Sulphuric Soul’. Released on Mark Rae’s self-owned label Grand Central Records….. The album featured guests spots from the Jungle Brothers, Jeru The Damaja, Veba, YZ and for this track Sharleen Spiteri from ‘Texas’, who is not an artist I would usually listen to. However, Rae & Christian get the most out of Sharleen’s vocal range and marry it to some amazing production. Go seek the album….. it’s a certified classic.
8) Talvin Singh featuring Leone – Distant God (1997) Around about this time Talvin Singh was taking club culture by the horns and introducing a different slant on downtempo, drum & Bass and jungle. Along with his first album ‘OK’ which won the Mercury Music Prize, the compilation ‘Talvin Singh Presents Anokha: Soundz Of The Asian Underground’ matched traditional Indian instruments with the contemporary breakbeat drum n' bass science of the day. However, it is the slower track ‘Distant God’ with its slower tempo, authentic tabla playing and glorious vocals from Leone aka Wendy Page that still gives me goose bumps to this day.
9) Frances Ashman – Pandora (Full Version) (1998) This release was a hard one to track down. First heard in Gary Oldman directorial debut ‘Nil By Mouth’ it haunted me for months – this was before the days of Discogs or Shazzam. So off I went to ‘Red Records’ in Brixton, with a name and title scribbled down from checking the end credits of the film only to find no official OST had been released. However there was a CD single released on Super Villain Wreckuds, a year after the films theatrical release. So after what seemed like an age…. I got a phone call from Red Records to say they had my order in. From then it became a staple selection for those messy post-pub sessions.
10) Roots Manuva – Juggle Tings Proper (1999) My local viny imporium ‘Red Records’ pops up again with this track. Whilst digging one day in said shop, I came across the album ‘Brand New Second Hand’ which was being promo’d on the ‘Just In’ stand, and being blasted out of the shops speakers on the high street….. What was this ? Hip-Hop that wasn’t afraid to show its UK colours….. not trying to imitate a US sound but instead presenting a Jamican/Sound system flavour with a very recognisable South London twang. This was Rodney Hylton Smith aka Roots Manuva… a local lad from just up the road in Stockwell SW2. Instant buy and instantly and repeatedly played. Roots went on to release over 7 albums and collaborate on many more, however its his first album and this track that takes me back to that hot sunny day in Brixton when me and Rodney met… well in my head anyway……
11) Kid Loco – Love Me Sweet (1997) Jean-Yves Prieur aka Kid Loco released a number of albums and singles on DJ Yellow & Bob Sinclairs eclectic independent ‘Yellow Productions’ label. Often grouped alongside Air at the time, Kid Loco pushed his trip-hop beats and cinematic vibes, and his album that features this track….. ‘A Grand Love Story’ was a real favourite back then.
12) Gomez – Get Miles (1998) Gomez are one of those bands that myself and my now-wife got to see many times at Brixton Academy (Our local venue at the time). I’m not sure where I heard them first, but their first two albums were consistently played at Greenleaf Close for all occasions. ‘Get Miles’ is the opening track from their Mercury Prize winning album…1998 ‘Bring It On’. Get Miles always struck a chord with me, whether it was the dubbed out production or the lyrics…. “I love this city man, but this city's killing me…. Sitting here in all this noise man, I don't get no peace”…. Love it.
13) Money Mark – Push The Button (1998) Heralding from an album of the same name, Push The Button perfectly represents that eclectic sound from the former Beasties Boys collaborator, which included elements of rock music, pop, soul and funk ….. all loosely presented within the framework of hip-hop. Love it…..
14) The Herbaliser – Who’s The Realest? (1999) A powerful instrumental funk classic from their third album on Ninja Tune Records…. ‘Very Mercenary’, that you can’t but help nod your head too ! #NeckSnappin’
15) Dave Clarke – Splendour (1995) This is one of those album tracks that completely surprises you when expecting a particular genre (which has always appealed to me). So we have a British Techno DJ hailing from Brighton who made his name producing bangin’ Hardcore in the early 90’s and then creating some classic techno, particularly the ‘Red Series’, which weret compiled onto the album ‘Archive One’.. from which this heavy instrumental breakbeat monster is taken from…… “Watch ya bassbins !!!”
16) Nightmares On Wax – (Man) The Journey (1995) No mixtape from this particular era would feel right in my opinion, if it didn’t include a track from Nightmares On Wax (NOW). As one of first artists to be released on the infamous Leeds label – WARP, NOW had been producing since the early 90’s and with his second album ‘Smokers Delight’ found himself a stalwart of every ‘smokers’ collection. There’s many tracks of the album that would have slotted right in for this mixtape, but I had to go with ‘(Man) Tha Journey’ which samples one my all-time favourite electro records…. Newcleus's "Jam on Revenge (The Wikki-Wikki Song)".
17) Breakestra – Getcho Soul Together (Part 1) (1999) A change in vibe, but just as relevant to my musical loves during this era. Always a sample spotter, crate digger and amateur ‘breaks’ historian, I loved collecting funk and soul, and Breakestra were part of the new scene in Los Angeles, California which were playing live covers of tracks which featured breaks that had been sampled by hip-hop culture. Rather than a cover though, ‘Getcho Soul Together’ was an original funk piece, released on the mighty Stones Throw Records, and what an authentic example it was, of what this band was capable of…… You’ll need your sunglasses for this one ?
18) Beastie Boys – Sabrossa (1995) I have to thank my good friend and flatmate at the time Paul who turned me on to the album from which this track is from. He had bought the album ‘The In Sound from Way Out!’ for an extortionate amount at the time – but boy was it worth it. A compilation of classic Beastie Boys tracks, but presented in instrumental form, all written and played by the Beasties and Mark Ramos Nishita aka Money Mark. Recommended – go seek it out, it’s a lot cheaper on discogs these days !!!
19) DJ Shadow – What Does Your Soul Look Like? (Part 3) (1994) Although originally released earlier in 1994, it was the 1998 compilation ‘Preemptive Strike’ which features DJ Shadow releases over the period 1991-1997 on the mighty Mo-Wax Recordings, that got rinsed during this era, and this track was a prime example of DJ’s Shadow ability to make neck snapping beats coupled with widescreen cinematic atmospherics….. classic.
20) Shantel – Tell Me Why Is It Oh So Hard To Be Oh So Lovely (1998) Around this time I was listening to a lot of electronica coming out of Germany, Austria and France and K7 Records was one of those go to labels at the time (and still are). Shantel aka Stefan Hantel released his third album ‘Higher Than The Funk’ on K7 and featured this funky piece of breakbeat electronica with some crazy lyrics about eating chocolate…. Mad, but I love it…. “Oh So Lovely”
21) Roni Size - Heroes (Kruder's Long Loose Bossa Remix) (1998) I had to include a track off a compilation that I have always come back to again and again. Also released on Berlin’s K7 Records this collection from Kruder & Dorfmeister, often generated reviews such as, faultless, classic, legendary. K&D had the remix locked down during this period and sprinkled their magic on many different artists. I’ve gone with their Bossa remix of Roni Size’s ‘Heroes’…. Truly wonderful.
22) Breakbeat Era – Breakbeat Era (1998) Continuing with Roni Size, I’ll increase the BPMS with some Breakbeat Era - a Bristol collaboration between Roni Size, DJ Die and featuring the vocals of Leonie Laws. This was the lead single from their one and only album ‘Ulta-Obscene’ and was able to bridge those two musical camps, downtempo and drum & bass. Just love that double-bass and those crisp beats….
23) Kid Loops – Microphone Fiend (KL Update) (1998) This was one of those tracks that when we played back at the flat, people would always be asking “Who’s this ?”. Of course a cover of Eric B & Rakim’s classic ‘Microphone Fiend’ flipped into a grimy atmospheric drum and bass stylee….
24) Nuyorican Soul featuring Jocelyn Brown - It's Alright, I Feel It! (M.A.W. 12" Mix) (1997) There’s not much I can say about MAW that hasn’t already been said…. Just that on a personal level, the Nuyorican Soul album and pretty much everything Masters At Work touched…. I loved, I bought and I played. This track especially Jocelyn Brown’s lyrics says it all…… “Music in my life has kept me true, All of the changes the world would put me through… (It’s alright, I feel it).
25) Velvet Underground – Sunday Morning (1966) I finish my ‘Back To Mine’ selection with a track that was 50 years old last week.... that if the party had continued through the night and you woke tthe following Sunday morning, slumped where you crashed…… this would be playing – ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’
Thanks for listening. Jon x