New Music
09.05.2011, Words by Charlie Jones

Optimo Podcast 9 - Bass And Bleepcast 1989-2011 [MP3]

We’re not entirely sure what it is that makes Optimo so much better than many at choosing records. Technical nuance is one thing, and a lot has been said of their willingness to string things together that shouldn’t work. But there’s a kind of loose, comfortable joy and sense of fun and ease in the way they carry both those things out that really excites. And of course, they both clearly own some downright Aladdin’s Caves for record collections.

Anyway, the Glasgow pair of Keith McIvor (Twitch) and Jonnie Wilkes (Wilkes), made renowned through their curation of Sundays at Glasgow venue The Sub Club up until last spring, have now put up the latest in their series of podcasts. Following on from sets ranging from world psychedelia, to acid, gospel to jacking house, they’ve now brought together two hours spanning the history of UK bass music. No tracklist, but we can tell you that it’s a set that spans from Unique 3 all the way to Pearson Sound’s rework of Hardrive’s Deep Inside, and is as interesting a listen as they always seem to give, exposing the foundations of much happening today that is good and exciting.

Anyway, you can read what Optimo wrote about it here:

“In the late 80s as house music exploded across the UK British producers started to take the new electronic strains coming out of the United States and added their own distinctive British twist to them. Artists such as Bang The Party, No Smoke, Baby Ford, Renegade Soundwave and A Guy Called Gerald amongst many others were releasing distinctive records that worked on the dance floor as effectively as anything coming out of Chicago, New York or Detroit. Then there was Unique 3. From Bradford, they were arguably the first UK act to really bring the BASS and in particular the sub bass to UK electronic music in a way that it hadn’t featured before. Britain’s deep affinity with reggae and the exposure of many to severely bass heavy reggae sound systems meant it was an inevitability that bass was going to become a distinctive factor and Unique 3’s huge (and sadly somewhat forgotten) influence on what came out of the UK cannot be understated: hardcore, drum and bass, dubstep and current UK Bass variants all owe something to Unique 3’s bassprints, several of which are included on this podcast. (The earliest, The Theme, dates back to 1989 and still sounds fresh 22 years later.)

In their wake, from the north of England came Warp records and the wave of Sheffield Bass, or Bass and Bleep records (or whatever you want to call them) that begat a thousand imitators. Once again an often overlooked character is majorly responsible for so much of this music – the mighty Rob Gordon (co founder of Warp and remixer and producer extraordinaire), whom to me is as important a figure in dance music history as any legend one may care to mention. These records had a massive impact on myself and my then dj partner Brainstorm. We were obsessed with bleeps and bass and these futuristic sounds that sounded unlike anything else, especially when blasting out of a huge sound system. We were very fortunate that our club night UFO, which soon morphed into Pure, had possibly the most powerful system in the country. When the bass drop in LFO’s “LFO” came in the whole building would quiver and the music would be drowned out by shrieks and screams of delight. Records by Nightmares On Wax, Sweet Exorcist, Juno, XON and a legion of others will be with me as long as I live, and should so many years of sonic abuse one day render my hearing kaput, it’s slightly reassuring to know that I’ll always be able to FEEL the power of them as they shift masses of air through speakers with their sub bass and low frequency oscillations.

Over the ensuing years I’ve followed all strains of UK dance music with various degrees of interest. The last couple of years have been deeply satisfying as records that come from the same mould as that golden 1989 – 91 era (but with a sound inherently modern rather than trying to recreate the past – something so much modern dance music is guilty of) have become more prominent. Artist such as Ramadanman in his various guises, Julio Bashmore and a host of others have brought back the bass, syncopated rhythms and sometimes the bleeps at a manageably groovesome tempo that is sexier, sonically more interesting and more powerful, to my ears, than a zillion unimaginative and derivative deep house or minimal clones. They are pushing boundaries which for me is what electronic music was always meant to do and was one of thee main, but often long undelivered promises of techno. This mix is 40 tracks of UK Bass music past, present and future (there are actually two non British tracks included. A prize to anyone who spots them) and is a distinctively British sound that in its original form didn’t really translate outside the UK, though its mutant offspring have gone on to reverberate around the globe. Old and new sit side by side all (imo) sharing some dna, intentional or otherwise with those Unique 3 records that first lit up my ears 22 years ago. Here’s to the next 22 years of UK dance hybrids!

Once again we aren’t making a tracklisting available for the podcast but if you want to know what anything is, feel free to get in touch and we will let you know. Nearly all the music contained here is from vinyl records so any audio imperfections are a result of the age and wear of the records; many of the older 12“s on here received a LOT of club abuse. The mix is LONG, contains 40 tracks, lasts 130 minutes and the download is a 192kbps mp3 (188mb). Enjoy and, please, don’t listen to it on crummy laptop speakers as yr going to miss the whole point.”

Optimo play the Wee Chill Festival on May 21st in Glasgow

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