Today’s Bleepography article takes us to London and the studios of Production House Records, where engineer/producer Floyd Dyce cooked up DMS’s surprisingly authentic Bleep & Bass stomper ‘Brand New World’
The sonic vibrations created by the earliest, Yorkshire-made Bleep & Bass records were felt far afield, from the dancefloors of the East and West Midlands, to the ‘orbital raves’ popping up around the M25 and the bedroom studios of wide-eyed teenagers in the home counties. The sound landed in London too, but more often than not the records made in response took on a distinctive local flavour.
For the most part, this meant utilising sampled breakbeats more than programmed drum machine rhythms influenced by the dance music of Detroit and Chicago, combining top-end bleeps with nods towards the bolder hardcore sounds coming out of Europe (and in a roundabout way, the Belgian-influenced records of NYC’s Frankie Bones and Lennie Dee), and an inability to get sub-bass that was quite as deep, rich and weighty as those made up North.
Of course, this came with time – by the time Bleep had passed, many of the darkcore and proto-jungle records being made down South were properly sub-heavy – but many of the most successful London or Essex-made “Bleep & Breaks” records played at being bass-heavy without actually filling the sound space with extreme low-end frequencies.
There was another problem, too: a lot of Bleep & Breaks cuts had far too much going on. Classic early Bleep records tended to be sparse, with producers making merry with a small number of sonic ingredients that allowed the most important elements (the sub-bass, the simplistic but mind-altering top-end melodies) room to breathe. This skeletal approach was particularly evident on tracks produced and mixed by artists with a big dub or reggae influence such as Ital Rockers, Ability II, Sweet Exorcist (in the case of their earliest material such as ‘Testone’) and Rob Gordon.
Despite the strength of the reggae soundsystem scene in London, and the crossover between house culture and reggae culture, skeletal Bleep & Bass records made in London were always in short supply. There were a number of important records that came from a similar sonic head-space, made by people with similar social and cultural backgrounds – see the catalogue of the North West-London based Warrior Dance imprint for starters – but few were quite as obviously fired by steppers reggae and dub as, say, Ital Rockers’ ‘Dreams’, the Step’s ‘Yeah You’ or Ability II’s almighty ‘Pressure Dub’.
DMS’s ‘Brand New World’ then is a definite rarity. Released in 1990, it came out of the studio of Production House Records, an imprint founded by former Galaxy member Phil Fearon in the mid 1980s initially to release soul-fired songs (think street soul, lovers rock, soulful takes on the developing U.S house sound etc) made by, and for, members of what was then called the ‘black music’ scene.
The Production House catalogue is in many ways a good barometer of musical changes in London during the period between 1987 and 1993. By 1990, in-house producer/engineer Floyd Dyce was happily responding to the musical changes sweeping through clubs. That meant writing and recording music influenced by the latest UK club sounds, whether that was Bleep and Bass or Shut Up & Dance/4 Hero style breakbeat hardcore. This continued apace throughout the early ‘90s, with Dyce and Production House delivering plenty of harder, faster and more celebratory rave records, as well as some early jungle gems.
In 1990 and early ’91 Dyce had a hand in a number of very obviously Bleep-inspired records, some of which will be profiled later in this series. Perhaps the most potent and ‘pure’ though is DMS’s ‘Brand New World’, a track Floyd engineered and produced for a young London artist called David Pereira.
Take a listen to the A-side ‘Dub Plate Mix’ – the release’s best version by far – and you’ll soon notice sonic nods to a few familiar Bleep & Bass tunes. First of all, it features a robotic vocal spelling the artist’s name in tribute to LFO’s ‘LFO’. The track’s top-line electronic melody is an echoing bleep motif that doffs a cap not only to the style’s greatest records, but also the delay-laden electronic noises sometimes employed by dub producers and soundsystem operators. The sub-heavy bassline, which links in with the melody in a similar style to Unique 3’s ‘The Theme’ or Nightmares On Wax’s ‘Dextrous’, is every bit as deep as the Leeds and Sheffield-made records that in part inspired it.
The influence of dancefloor focused dub reggae is particularly strong in ‘Brand New World’. In fact, you could make a strong argument to say that is effectively a fusion of contemporaneous UK techno tropes and the very particular bass-driven percussive stomp of steppers reggae, with proto-jungle breakbeat fills thrown in. It’s an example of a London-made record that doesn’t try to tamper with the Bleep formula, only emphasise the style’s very obvious link with soundsystem culture and the recurring themes that defined the sound.
I’ve long had a soft spot for ‘Brand New World’ and the ‘Dub Plate Mix’ in particular. It’s been a record I’ve consistently reached for over the years, with club spins often resulting in questions from fellow DJs. The 12” single is not particularly hard to find or expensive second hand but seems a little overlooked – certainly it doesn’t get the same kind of appreciative coverage as some of Floyd Dyce’s hardcore productions. Frustratingly, Floyd Dyce never answered any of my emails or replied to phone messages during the research and writing of Join The Future: Bleep Techno and the Birth of British Bass Music. I’ll keep on his case though as it would be interesting to hear his thoughts about this and many of the other Production House releases he created.
To purchase a physical or digital copy of Matt Anniss’s book Join The Future: Bleep Techno and the Birth of British Bass Music, head to the Velocity Press website. To buy vinyl or digital copies of the Join The Future: UK Bleep & Bass 1988-91 compilation, head to Bandcamp or Bleep.com