10 great lost rave anthems
© James Hines
Do U remember '92? This clutch of banging old-skool tunes will put a smile(y) on your face.
Before we get down to a Top 10 of rave, let’s define it. For the purpose of this list let’s consider rave to be music created in the UK from 1991 to 1994, after the acid house boom that burnt out around 1989, but before jungle swept through in 1994 and permanently fractured the scene.
This was a crazy, intense time for British music. New technology was coming out monthly, and producers were caught in an arms race to see who could squeeze the weirdest, freshest sounds from their gear. Tempos were rocketing up to speeds faster than limbs could flail, breakbeats were being mutilated and re-stitched, and a generation of DJs who’d learnt their craft playing imports from America and Europe were suddenly packing their sets full of homegrown bangers.
There are obvious omissions from this Top 10, mostly because they’re already so well known – pick up any Back To The Old Skool comp and you’re going to hear Sweet Harmony, Out Of Space, Let Me Be Your Fantasy, Trip II The Moon or On a Ragga Tip. If you think you don’t know any of those tunes, Google them now – and realise you’ve heard snatches of them playing from car radios and shopping centre Tannoys your whole life.
Instead, here’s 10 tracks that mostly didn’t make it into the pop charts, but got wheeled up for thousands of ravers week in week out. Whether UK dance music has ever sounded as crazy as this since is open to debate. But these tunes, mocked at the time as throwaway crap made by the musically illiterate, still sound like they’ve come from the future even 20-odd years on.
1. Hyper On Experience – Lord Of The Null Lines (1994)
Joining the dots between ‘93 rave and the first stirrings of jungle, the thing that stands up out of Hyper-On Experience productions is the amount of ideas they’d try and pack into a single song. Lords Of The Null Lines journeys from neo-classical piano to sci-fi soundscapes, pausing to take in deep bobbles of bass energy, the sounds of pools being splashed into, and menacing samples lifted from Predator 2 (the classic “fucking voodoo magic” line). After a couple of minutes a vocal drops in, and you realise this is actually a song, written in a bizarre structure they’ve invented on the spot.
2. Bass Selective – Blow Out Part 2 (1992)
A sing-a-long classic ’92 caned by every single DJ in the scene, this was the first release from Marc Royal, who would later go on to find fame as long standing Shy FX partner T Power. Blow Out makes simplicity work for it – it’s made from a handful of elements; a great Korg piano line, some tough breaks, a soulful vocal that sits sweetly on top, and the occasional burst of nutty synth mayhem.
3. The Moog – Rush Hour (1992)
In terms of truly shameless drug anthems, this one takes the biscuit. Half of the track consists of frantic synths and a hooligan MC shouting "make some noise" with barely discernable rhythm. And every now and then it drops into politicians talking about MDMA in a way that’s clearly not meant to discourage listeners. It’s the kind of gleefully irresponsible rave banger that got the genre outlawed, and there’s little surprise that this one still rarely makes the kind of old-skool compilations they flog in Tescos.
4. Sound Entity – A2 (1993)
A classic from the darkside era. Produced by Alex Reece – later famous for his Metalheadz classic Pulp Fiction – and Jack Smooth, a one man production factory who has worked on upwards of a thousand hardcore and drum'n'bass cuts, this EP is something of a rave holy grail. No one knows the proper track titles – the 12” was printed with the wrong labels – and it’s never been officially reissued, with copies selling online for £100 upwards. In keeping with the general feeling of paranoia that swept through raves in 1993, the break down on stand-out track A2 is a wash of sinister strings and a booming vocal proclaiming this "This is the voice of ecstasy… don’t let me take control." It’s probably the most effective anti-drugs message committed to wax.
5. Rachel Wallace – Tell Me Why (1992)
A bittersweet hardcore ballad to broken hearts. It’s often surprising to note how many rave anthems were built around heartbreak lyrics – and Why is surely one of the greatest. In a parallel universe this would have been a huge hit. It has the simplicity and hookiness of a pop classic, combined with beats hard enough to carry a warehouse into euphoric bedlam.
6. Blame – Music Takes You (Original Vocal Mix) (1992)
The original version of this ethereal banger was withdrawn from sale after occasional rave vocalist Seal launched a copyright claim. A tiny snippet of his vocals singing "music takes you round and round" had been sampled, giving the track its name – and a plaintive, soulful sheen. Blame re-released the tune with the Seal vocal removed and it went on to become a huge hit, but the original still keeps a special place in the hearts of rave OGs.
7. Jimmy J & Cru-L-T – Six Days (1994)
6 Days may be the last tune to unite the jungle and hardcore scenes. Released in 1994, it had a huge piano led breakdown that was cheesy enough for the happy hardcore massive, alongside hammering breakbeats hard enough to keep the junglists raving. It was set to become a huge chart success, only to have fame and fortune snatched away at the last minute – a Dutch producer called Paul Elstak ripped off the main sample after Jimmi J and Cru-L-T turned down his attempt to license 6 Days to his own label. Whilst they were still negotiating a deal with Pete Tong’s FFRR label, Elstak’s version became a smash across Europe and, as a result, the negotiations with FFRR collapsed.
8. Brothers Grimm – Exodus (The Lion Awakens) (1992)
Every single record released on the Production House label from 1992 to 1993 is a stone cold classic. The label was set up by Phil Fearon, a former UK chart topper whose Brit soul with the band Galaxy had given him the funds to set up an independent production studio. Phil gathered a set of young musicians around him and allowed them to produce hardcore epics with no constraints. The result were long tracks of serious musical complexity – the closest rave had to a label making prog rock. Exodus from the Brothers Grimm is a three-part beast, opening with a sample taken from The Exorcist, dropping into a sub bass heavy mid-section, before finishing up with a hands-aloft dancehall singalong. Timeless.
9. Nookie – Gonna Be Alright (Cloud 9 Remix) (1993)
Released on the hugely influential Reinforced Records on the Return Of Nookie EP, this track, tucked away on the B-side, became an anthem. Ravers knew it as "The Sound Of Music", thanks to its pitched-up, discordant vocal sample. It’s the interplay of that sample with euphoric pianos, ultra-fast breakbeats and sub-rattling basslines, all teetering on the point of falling apart that keeps this as a career high for Nookie to this day, and keeps buyers on Discogs forking out £40 a copy.
10. One Tribe – What Have You Done (1992)
A beautiful piece of melancholic dance music, this track resurfaced as a deep favourite of London’s 2-step DJs. Anyone tuning into to garage pirate radio in the late 90s would stand a fair chance of hearing this 1992 hit getting wheeled up. It’s built from a longing vocal, with a halfway bridge given over to a rap – and in fact it’s ripe for a remake. It’d be no surprise at all if DJ SKT pulled out a shufflers' version in 2018…
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