In our latest Bleepography entry, Matt Anniss profiles the debut single from Infamix, the East London techno twosome who would later become B12.
By the autumn of 1990, the trickle of Bleep & Bass releases coming out of the UK had become a flood, with bedroom producers across the nation scrambling to release their own take on the sub-heavy sound. There were enclaves of activity in the Midlands, Essex and London, as well as the style’s Yorkshire heartlands.
As I’ve previously stated, most London-made Bleep & Bass records were really Bleep-flavoured breakbeat hardcore cuts, though there were notable exceptions. One of these, a heavily steppers reggae-influenced gem from DMS, was covered in a previous Bleepography entry, as was the gloriously colourful deep house/Bleep fusion of 100 Hz’s “Low Frequency Overload”. Another that fits into this category is Infamix’s ‘Hypnotic FX’, a wholehearted tribute to the Yorkshire Bleep sound that ticked all the right stylistic boxes.
‘Hypnotic FX’ was the first release from a production duo who would go on to become UK electronic music legends: Steven Rutter and Michael Golding, later to become leading exponents of the “Artificial Intelligence” sound that helped re-define Warp Records from 1992 onwards.
In 1990, Rutter and Golding were enthusiastic young DJs from East London with dreams of making music that matched their love of starry synthesizer sounds and intoxicating dancefloor rhythms. In an interview conducted last year for my oral history of Warp Records piece published by Resident Advisor, Rutter explained:
‘Me and Mike [Golding] used to DJ two or three times a week in pubs in Bethnal Green and Hackney. We used to play house, acid and all that stuff. There was a pub called the Old Axe and we used to play in there. It was a mix of people: some people wanted us to play things like Shut Up & Dance and that kind of breakbeat stuff, and there was a crew of people that wanted to hear house, for want of a better description. We’d play something like [Nightmares On Wax’s] ‘Dextrous’ and a few people would be dancing to it. Then I’d put on Mantronix’s ‘Got To Have Your Love’, the foot shuffling would start and the place would go berserk. It used to really piss me off because I thought the other stuff was far superior [to the breakbeat stuff].’
Rutter and Golding were particularly enthused by the far-sighted futurism of Detroit techno, with its lofty sci-fi ideals and deep space sounds, and the UK take on techno, promoted by Warp and Network amongst others. While their London audiences often preferred the cut-and-paste hedonism of Shut Up & Dance’s pioneering blends of hip-hop, ragga and cheeky samples, Rutter and Golding wanted to make stargazing, emotive music that put melody front and centre.
It would take them a little while to really find their feet and develop what we would now consider the classically timeless Rutter/Golding sound. As you might expect, their first attempts at this kind of intergalactic techno, released under the Infamix alias, were nowhere near as layered and melodically complex as the B12 records they started releasing from 1991 onwards. ‘Hypnotic FX’, and the follow-up, ‘EE45’, came to fruition after the pair fell in love with the most influential and commercially successful Bleep & Bass cut of all, LFO’s ‘LFO’.
In our interview last year, Rutter explained: ‘When we did Infamix, we were basically copying ‘LFO’. ‘Hypnotic FX’ used very bleepy effects and it was 100% influenced by what was coming out of Sheffield, and Warp Records in particular. I remember the press release for Hypnotic FX said, “The Northern bleep boom travels south!” I’ll never forget that.’
Snapped up by Music For Life boss Simon Harris for his new label Industrial, a short-lived imprint that released a number of Bleep & Bass-inspired cuts, ‘Hypnotic FX’ has stood the test of time well despite the relative inexperience of Rutter and Golding when they made it.
The title track begins with a bubbly bleep motif and synthesised string stabs, before the main bleeping melody line and deep, sub-heavy bassline kicks in. The drums boast stuttering snare fills of the sought so often found in steppers-influenced Bleep & Bass cuts, along with a kind of shuffling swing that seems to owe plenty to electro and jacking Chicago house. Throw in a few subtle acid lines and a cut-up spoken word hook that, like “LFO”, includes the track’s title (“the rhythm has a certain hypnotic effect”).
While nowhere near as breathtakingly good as the record that inspired it, “Hypnotic FX” is nevertheless a proper Bleep & Bass tune and one of the purest to come out of London between 1989 and ’91.
Elsewhere across the EP, there are hints of Rutter and Golding’s future direction. ‘Ambient Acid’ cannily combines psychedelic acid lines, bittersweet ambient chords and hissing, cymbal-heavy percussion programming straight out of the Derrick May playbook.
‘Glocken Shoken’, the EP’s other track, draws on similar sounds and influences, though its’ inherent bubbliness, dreaminess and use of chiming, gockenspiel style melodies feels like a preview of the duo’s later B12 Records.
It was a year later when Rutter and Golding established the B12 label to release these kinds of melodic, thoughtful and layered electronic productions. It would be fair to say that they didn’t meet with immediate success, with the pair paying for the music they wanted to make via a then secret breakbeat hardcore project, Xray Xperiments.
Rutter explained: ‘When we were doing B12 Records, what we were doing with Xray Xperiments was funding that project. When we DJ’d at the Old Axe, the Xray Xperiments stuff made people go beserk, whereas the B12 stuff didn’t get a great reaction. That’s why I never thought it would be the B12 label that outlived the breakbeat one. I thought the one that everyone was shuffling about to would have been the one that lasted.’
Some of the Xray Xperiments music was reissued a year or two back. While some of it has stood the test of time well, much of it hasn’t – as Rutter and Golding would no doubt admit. In contrast, their Infamix material and the early B12 Records releases (1991-92), which earned them a contract with Warp Records, remains as fresh and futuristic as ever.
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