Saturday, December 5, 2020

future retro

DJ magazine feature on jungle-remaker Tim Reaper caught my eye. 

His label's called Future Retro. 

In the interview, Gabriel Szatan asks Reaper about a collaborative project called Meeting of the Minds and his busy year accepting invites to do remixes and generally churning tuneage out.  It all sounds pretty good to my ears, it's certainly managed to get that vintage sound down pat, and  I'm the kind of nostalgic ardkore-codger it would appeal to. But then this bit snaggled my ingrained if dormant futurist reflexes: 

"With the history of hardcore, jungle and drum & bass at his fingertips, each stage of Reaper’s musical evolution is like an adjustment of the depth field on a microscope; little tweaks bringing him ever-closer to clarity.

'Each time I find a label or an artist that I’m unfamiliar with,' he explains, 'I’m digging deep on them — frantically. That’s what it’s all about. You listen to every single tune within a catalogue, mark your favourites, and move onto the next: building, building, building to retain that knowledge in your head and carry it with you in the form of selection.'"

Well and good, but this is obviously the exact opposite of the approach of the producers in the original era  - they didn't study canonical blueprints, there weren't any blueprints to study - just raw materials, disparate scraps of stolen stuff. They were making it up as they went along... 

Another bit: 

"A few years into his development, Reaper realised he had been subconsciously neglecting anything prior to jungle’s inception. Once he began seeking out cuts from ’91 and ’92, his technique made a dramatic leap forward. Even to jungle-attuned ears, people struggle for terminology when describing his style: it’s intelligent and darkside and roughneck and 4x4 and atmospheric and Photek and Bizzy B and DJ SS and Smooth But Hazzardous all at once. This era-switching is the point, Reaper says. “I mean, if I didn’t bounce between it all, I think I’d get pretty bored? I want people to not be able to fully predict what they’re going to hear.

But anyone with any passing knowledge of the era will be able to predict - or at least instantly recognise - anything that is presented to the ears, whether it's a 91-flava or a 94-trait that's being supposedly surprisingly welded together.

When Szatan elsewhere comments:

"and although he leans toward a certain vintage, there’s been progress along the way"

 I don't know what this could possibly mean. Unless "progress" here signifies simply an improvement in craftsmanship, in technical prowess in the precise reproduction of period sounds.

I guess the White Stripes-ification of rave was always bound to happen....    and in fact has been happening over and over, for a period of time (20 years!) that's about five times longer than the original heyday it's fixated on (91-92-93-94)

Talking of which, paralleling Jack White's gigantic reissues, look and gasp at the girth of this box (and look out for a review by me of in a future-retro issue of the Wire). 



  1. Hey Simon,

    I understand the point you're making, in terms of the charm of the 90s golden era being that the original jungle/hardcore producers were making it up as they were going along because there was no blueprints to follow and they were defining the rules as time progressed. I don't disagree with that but I want to note that jungle producers these days aren't exactly afforded that same opportunity to start with a blank canvas and define the boundaries.

    The music I & others make is of a genre that has already had its definitions & parameters set to a degree and any sort of deviation away from that leads to the music being categorised as something else other than jungle. In the same way that people making newer strains of hip-hop in 2020 would have their music labelled as something other than just "hip-hop". And maybe you could call me pessimistic here but I think to expect a similar "futurism" approach from a genre 20-25+ years on from its inception is a bit unrealistic and also prevents you from potentially being able to enjoy some new music that is made for many reasons beyond purely yearning to innovate.

    There's a demand for making & hearing new stuff that continues on the 90s hardcore/jungle style and I don't think most people feel any deeper reasons to question it, they just take it on face value of whether or not they like how it sounds.

    This is just my interpretation but I think your opinions on the new jungle stuff may be tainted by pre-conceived notions going in, expecting a re-interpretation of what you would consider being the "hardcore continuum" and being disappointed that you only find a continuation of previous styles. The reason me & others continue on the styles is because there's many people like us that feel that the period of time in which certain styles were being made & popularised did not last long enough or produce enough music to satisfy demand, as well as the fact that attempting to make 90s hardcore/jungle in 2020 will only lead to newer interpretations naturally, as people use new equipment and sounds and samples and various other methods of production that were not possible in the 90s.

    I also debate your point about my expertise of the music being the polar opposite of the hardcore/jungle approach, considering how self-referential hardcore & jungle was at times during its golden era (there were many tunes that sampled breaks/sounds/vocals from other jungle tunes as well as tunes that were full on bootlegs of other releases etc) and also considering how many hardcore/jungle producers were heavily influenced by each other's output at time, whether or not they also bring with them their own influences from other genres on top of that.

    Also, progress in terms of production quality is still progress, whether or not that's the type you were hoping to hear from new jungle, if you compare any jungle tune released this year to most of the stuff that would have come out in the 93-95 period.

    I'm more than open for a dialogue about this though because I can fully understand if someone that was into 90s jungle/hardcore at the time was not too keen on the stuff being made now because they feel the peak period has past (people may say the feel the same way you do about jazz or dub music made nowadays and to a lesser degree, I feel the same about grime made nowadars) but I would also argue that there's no reason to discard a style of music past its golden era if there's people still interested in its existence. I could also cite examples of new jungle that may not be re-inventing the wheel but is able to stand on its own as quality music having worth existing, all biases aside.

  2. hi Tim
    Cheers for the thoughtful response.
    I think one of the reasons I'm resistant to this kind of thing (although I always listen to stuff in this vein when I hear about it -Special Request, Coco Bryce, the stuff Mumdance was doing, etc etc - and usually enjoy it) is the great feeling of temptation I feel to live in those years (92-94 primarily, although i could stretch that to 89-96 on some days factoring in bleep and No U Turn as the bookends of the era), live there FOREVER!!! It's very very temping. Amd mostly that temptation is succumbed to, in my case, in the form of listening to old pirate tapes, compilations, things that the old skool forums dig up (i'm still hearing tunes from that period I never knew existed). But I could easily imagine drifting into listening to the "new old skool" stuff regularly, as it does tickle the same pleasure zones. So go on, tempt me, give me some examples of those who are excelling in the new-old vein. There is that sense of "every time I listen to this kind of thing - old-old-skool or new-old-skool - is time when I could/should be listening to current music." But then again, if nothing else gives the buzz, the hard hit of satisfaction, quite like this music... perhaps I should accept that this is - that was - my era. (it's not my only era of course - postpunk, 80s hip hop, etc - and even some things i didn't consciously live through, while technically alive when they happened, like 70s reggae or 60 psychedelia, pull me almost as strongly as the ardcore jungle). Perhaps I should just accept it. I do find that there is something audibly different between the 90s stuff and new stuff done in that vein which relates to a feeling of plunging into the unknown. and there's a rough and ready production aspect. but yeah, maybe those few years of accelerated development through down so many ideas - and so many underexplored pathways - it could become a long-lasting genre like blues or dub or folk

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  4. (reposting because of extra bad grammar)
    The best example I can think of of someone working strictly within the old sound parameters but pushing the boundaries a bit beyond what people were doing back then is Phineus II. You need to hear his whole "Meridian Response" album from 2019 - I don't think it's on youtube, just a few of the tunes are. Yeah it's jungle, classic sounding jungle, made on amigas and akais with 90s synths and nothing that would tip you off to it being made 25 years later. But the level of detail to the tracks is just so intense, you'd be hard pressed to find many (any?) actual 93-95s release with that amount of work. People simply didn't have time to do all that back then, since the scene was changing so fast. They didn't have 10,12,15, however-many years Mikey has been doing this to really dig into a particular style, figure out all the rules, and then cheekily start messing with them. At the same time, it still has that 100% rugged bedroom studio feel to it, not some overpolished aseptic "mastery" of a genre.

    Sorry to obvious but, the big difference between now and then is, there's just so much music out there now, and so much is readily available with 0 effort at any time, and it seems like people listen to a bit of everything. So who cares if a 2020 track sounds like 2020, or 2012, or 1995? I still remember the feel of following dnb in the 90's as it was happening in real-time, hanging on every micro-iteration of the sound, every minor innovation which was then copied, expanded on and rinsed to death in short order. That was great then, but circa now I just can't imagine yolking myself to that old style "musical progression or bust" deathmarch. Especially because these days, attempts at doing that "progression" rarely go beyond games of subgenre combinatorics or music trope bingo. Don't get me wrong, that's OK too, and the results can sometimes go beyond that or land on something really nice sounding (Sully is good example, especially the past few years where he's really nailed his own narrow band of sound), but most of the "newer" tracks being made these days don't seem to me to have more thought or creativity put in them than, say, a well made 93, 94 or 95 style track. I'd rather pool ALL those styles together (the new old, the "new", the new-new), and just listen to whatever happens to sound best.

  5. Fair points Simon, in terms of recommendations, most of these producers you may already know of already but for people in the now, that I'd say are making some proper authentic jungle, I would cite Phineus II, Kid Lib (& all of his aliases), Dwarde, Sonar's Ghost (used to make d&b as 1/2 of Sonar Circle, then went onto to make broken beat as Domu) & Nebula. In terms of producers that bring a modern feel to the style, I'd recommend Sully, Coco Bryce (who you've already mentioned), FFF, Ricky Force & Dead Man's Chest.

    Regarding your point with 'current music', I don't see it as an exclusive thing, you can enjoy both music made now that looks forward/to the present as well as music based around retroism. Me & all the producers I've listed all listen to and enjoy music that's made now and incorporate samples from post 90s music in our tunes. Coco Bryce has sampled modern r'n'b for his vocals, Kid Lib has sampled from new films in his music, I've sampled current chart music in my jungle tunes, I think there is a fluidity in sound palette of current jungle music made now that doesn't get acknowledged that much as it's not very "in your face" about it & also because there is a fair amount of new jungle out there that does lean too heavily on the standard tropes/cliches without adding much to the gene pool.

  6. "games of subgenre combinatorics or music trope bingo" - love it. neat distillation of huge amount of what is going on / has been going for ages

  7. cheers for the tipz Tim and Pete - will check them out, especially Phineus II

    that's interesting about what you say Tim about sampling from current or 21st C music in tracks that are otherwise based around the 92-94 templates, the rules of that particular time-bound game - that makes for a kind of interesting clash of temporalities... e.g. like what does it feel like if you sample a very obviously Auto-Tuned vocal and situated in a beat-template that is from before Auto-Tune was invented? on the other hand, a lot of vocal speeding-up and other malarkey in hardcore and jungle kind of anticipates things that would come in the Auto-Tune era... my son is into all these online genres (hyperpop and tinier fractions thereof) where things like speeding up the vocal into a helium pixie is a big part of the sound.

  8. I don't think the white stripsification of rave is a really accurate term here. What we can now do as djs is mash all these styles together, jungle, electro, fast techno, techstep, footwork etc etc. And ultimately rave music is not album or 45 music, but DJ music - even from the days of acid house. This works in more of an oblique style in that it isn't about the exalted great dj (which was usually to do with either dubplates or tunes you wouldn't here elsewhere.) Now djing can be more about expression through the medium. It's why I tend to disagree with some of our old acquaintances on the big D about the resistance they had to eclecticism, I think the technology allows us to accomplish it in a much more cohesive way now. However one thing that has remained constant are the requirements of clubs. Personally I find those constraints too limiting, I should be able to layer a free jazz sax scronk over a Paradox drumfunk track - why not? To say this ruins the vibe is essentially shooting yourself in the foot and arguing against hardcore's sample collage nature. This might have made sense in 93-94 when the only live direction to go in was analog synthesisers, but now you can take an acid sample, reverse it in audacity and then have it pitched on a 3rd/nth deck. Of course you will rightly point out that many house/trance djs messed about with this digital technology in the early-mid 2000s, but they usually used it in a quite conservative way - I.E: either mix 100 samples of tracks (from the same genre!) or add in samples for a smooth, frictionless experience. So it becomes about adjusting the parameters of the inherent context to our consumption patterns. I feel like we should be focusing less on whether music carries retro signifiers - to argue that the original jungle producers weren't huge rare groove or reggae obsessives just seems so off the mark to me, yes, it's fun to focus on the white/mainstream pop samples that crop up in hardcore and jungle, but to discount the funk/soul/disco aspect does tend to limit any assessment of the sound in its golden age. Ironically for the UK (mostly white) techno purists, it is jungle where the Black American Soul continuum is *overtly* referenced in droves, even in its 92 chipmunkadelic ruff n ready form.

    To give you a concrete demonstration of what I'm talking about, check out the mixes we've been putting out on this soundcloud page - more to come next year.

    Particularly the Manifesto mix where we layer Bernard Parmegiani over some ruff-as-fuck 92 ardkore with traditional Ashanti tribe (from Ghana) drumming.


    1. it's 4AM and I probably didn't quite communicate myself well there, however the tl;dr version is that I think the way that rave music is presented has openings up to transcend the subcultural dedication you get with more traditional band or star based music. So a 2020 jungle track might paradoxically sound more relevant in a set with higher definition dynamics, (E.G: UKG, Rian Treanor, some footwork) whereas funnily enough a 93 darkside obscurity might fit in with grotty modern acid in a den haag style. I propose reversing the clock a bit earlier and thinking of it as the acid continuum for the purposes of these comments.

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