Sunday, December 11, 2005


Uh-ho! Now Loki's getting the New Beat bug...(and since I started writing this, Nick's waded in with a weighty piece that helps put all this crazy Belgian electronic stuff in a correct muso-historical context)

Y'know, I reckon it had more of an impact on us West Country boys than I ever realised. Life in the provinces, innit. We pick up on the stupidest of things and make it our own. Or maybe it's just a half-a-dozen of us W/Country bloggers and no one else down here ever gave a shit...

Yet, there's something so wonderfully dumb yet alluring about New Beat's desexualised misappropriation of catwalk glam...I was always kinda surpised that New Beat never crossed over to the provincial discoteques like Lazers in Yate (Hi, Nick!) or The Electric Studio in Yeovil (a regional meat-market that Loki is also familiar with): thinking back, it had the potential to appeal to the Top Man white shirt/black trousers brigade because it was straightfoward and linear in its construction; it wasn't too weird or druggy like Acid or too 'gay' and unmanly like Depeche Mode; the beats weren't too fast for the beer-boys; it had a glam/aspirational edge and featured female vocals/sexy samples... there was something wonderfully half-arsed and tacky about New Beat which meant that it came across as being a bit, well, provincial itself: New Beat has a sort of in-built hollowness to it, a ring of insincerity and falseness that immediately creates the impression that the people making the music are completely faking it, that they (like the listener) are also outsiders denied access to glamour, success, money, good sex, etc.

There's an authentic inauthenticity to the music that I think a provincial audience would immediately empathise with.

Well, the truth is that House Music quickly hybridised w/ Pop and wiped it off the dancefloor map, and also that most N/B was maybe a bit too male-orientated. The music needed to be softened first in order to broaden its gender appeal beyond Fetish clubs.

Another reason is hinted at in Matt Woebot's recent post on the UK's continuing hidden dance-music style-wars: back in that era, Provincial Discos were tightly in the iron-fist grip of Soul Boy DJs whose play-lists were biased towards the music they'd listen to w/ their mates at Soul & Jazz-Funk Weekenders, and trips to more cosmopolitan clubs in London/Brighton/Bournemouth, interspersed w/ a handful of chart-hits and Disco 'Classics'. DJs like John Coomber (I think that was his name) who played at The Electric Studio would make the occasional condescending concession to 'alternative' music by playing the same tracks every week by, er, The The and U2. And, like Nick Gutter, we also had to suffer the indignation of hearing "Don't You Forget About Me" at exactly 11:35 every saturday night. There was absolutely no way that these loafer-wearing wannabe East-Coast trendies were gonna play New Beat instead of The Crusaders. When Acid House 'broke', Coomber briefly caved in and played "Theme from S'Express" and "They Call it Acieeed" by D-Mob for a couple of weeks 'cause he claimed to be (and probably was) mates w/ Danny D, then it was business as usual and back to "The House of Bamboo" again for the next 6 months. Actually, he left his filofax round my house once and I took a sneaky peek and had a laff when I spotted that he had Billy Ocean's phone-number. Now, I actually think that's quite cool. I wouldn't mind Colonel Abrahams' phone no. too...

Let's not forget: back then, these people despised House Music. They hated it because it "wasn't 'real' music"..."it had no soul"..."it was made using machines by people who couldn't play their instruments", "It's just a fad...give it 6 months and people'll be listening to proper music again...." etc, etc. Exactly the same/similar complaints that were made against Punk. Looking back, you can almost smell the fear...their panic that something might change overnight and they'd suddenly lose all their power, their influence, their ability to inflict their crummy pseudo-urban music/fashion taste on the rest of us. You could almost hear their massed sigh of relief when Deep House arrived: they immediately (and gratefully) picked up on the classic soulful side of it, rather than its blissful, ecstatic vibe...

Anyway, I would argue (but not too strongly) there was probably a ready-made provincial working-class audience for New Beat back then, but that it was snookered by the wankers in charge of the decks. Still, anyway, history has proven us right, for New Beat still roooools...

"Touch My Body" by Boy Toy (tho according to the mis-use of quote-marx on tha label it's "Boy Toy" by Touch my Body) is a particular favourite of mine: shuddery, brittle synth-lines, crisp hand-clap flurries and slappy-sounding whiplash is side-lined here in favour of some occasional heavily-accented female vocals ("Touch miii body...cum awwwwwn! ") that push the song along nicely...but it's all very up-tight and rigid-sounding, Pre-Designer Era Maschine-Musik for cokeheads and really bad dancers: I can almost imagine a troupe of spandex and vinyl-clad alt.mime-artists bugging out/chugging along to this in the video, intercut with an over-sized American car full of blonde-bobcut chix in rubber boobtubes cruising the red-light district of Bruges.

Like a lot/some of these records, it's an Inger-Khan-Van Oekel co/production. They were, I guess, New Beat's equivalent of SAW. Nah, fuck, they weren't, really...that honour probably goes to Morton, Sherman & Bellucci, the Subway Records in-house team. Still...

Inger was Chris Inger aka Cubic 22 aka Jos Borremans who co-wrote the legendary New Beat track "I Sit on Acid."

Khan was Prager Khan aka Maurice Engelen, one of the founders of New Beat phenomenon Lords of Acid along w/ Nikki Van Lierop (aka Jade-4-U...Yay!) and Oliver Adams, who're still going strong, recording and touring even today. Boy, I could tell ya some stories! His track "Rave the Rhythm" was accidentally discover'd by director Paul "RoboCop" Verhoeven when he wandered into The Limelight, NY, one nite and ended up on the soundtrack of "Basic Instinct" (well, duh! that figures)

And Van Oekel is Harry Van Oekel aka Dirty Harry, responsible for a zillion cheesyesque, but brilliant, dancefloor fillahs.

"That Boy (Acid Mix)" by Jade-4-U: A slamming instrumental twelve, this time on Subway, not Kaos: more tough, steel-hard drums and a rigid, almost erect bass-line. This is a stonking brooder of a track, that has a kind of, er, Russian feel to it with slowed-dn sampled voices, xylophone tinkles, a widescreen synthetic string-section and a great white-noise-y shuffle-sound that shifts in and out of the drum and bass tracks, keeping things moving forward at the right pace. Beautifully produced by Jade, Inger & Khan.

It feels like it's been lifted from the soundtrack to, I dunno, something-or-other, and why it's never been used in a soundtrack is a mystery to me: it's a perfect Nite-Time Drive Thru Babylon style sub/liminal piece...hear it/listen to it sync with the hiss of the windscreen-wipers in cold autumn rain as you drift thru Everytown, UK in a sooop'd-up Ford Escort: watching the rain-splatter'd star-light twinkle thru neon-drenched drizzle...this trak is beautifully morbid, ominous, models in the backseat tooting coke, smoking fags, screeching: "Play some fukken Grace Jones, Dave...!" It's "The Passenger" re/produced on an Akai S900...outside: vampiric pedestrians; rain-blurred shadows and sharp, bright lights flickering past like a badly-filmed slo-strobe montage on/off/on/off against the inside of yr eyes. The B-Side's great too: "Heaven or Hell" is Numan up all night strung out on barbs...clunky, rattling sampled-percussion & glassy, breathy DX7 presets...Beg, borrow or steal a copy of this record from yr mum.

Jade-4-U is, of course, the legendary and infamous Miss Nikki Trax, aka Miss Lie aka Nikki Mono aka Nikki Van Lierop aka Darling Nikki. We luv her: Nuff Said.

"U Don't Have to Worry" by D.I.Y. is 'Chris' Inger and Marcos Salon. Another classic slab of Post-Acid Euro-Dirge which starts w/ a sampled voice saying: "Get yr ass out of that chair..." before the drums kick in, sounding oddly softer than the whip-lash/dry-slam snares typical of most New Beat/Hard Beat records. An 'Acid' bass-line opens up and wobbles its way in/to the centre of the track, but it doesn't sound convincing enough to be a sounds like it's maybe some sharper, more generic-sounding piece of kit...that's one of the things I love about New Beat: it generally lacks the organic warmth and roundness of sound common to most Acid House records...if it is a 303, then it sounds like it's had its envelopes castrated (or dry-humped) by the producer. A slowed-down male voice repeats the words "Lost in the Wilderness" over and over again like a comfort-blanket mantra...and there's a desperate underlying frantic-ness to the music, despite its relatively low bpm. "You don't need to worry," says a woman's voice, trying to talk the imaginary listener down from a bad drug-trip, but, unfortunately, she sounds, well, worried. There's no comfort in her words. Again, there's some beautifully crisp and clear production on show here...and, though it's all a bit daft and half-arsed and explotative (like most N/B records), it's also extremely hypnotic and slightly fucking has the feel of an erotic dream that's starting to turn really unpleasant...

Marcos Salon also worked w/ Sven Van Hees and Paul Ward as Liaisons D. He's probably better known in early nineties Techno circles as Outlander (anyone remember "The Vamp" on R&S, I think?)

Check this shit.