18/08/2019: “Triplets” by Sticky

Sticky is a garage producer associated with the early Grime scene. The bass on this is definitely grimey enough, and a real ear worm with it.

For a song which exudes badboy attitude, it’s surprising catchy. The sharp drum pattern shows off the triplet hi-hats that give the track its name, and the snappy snare slaps satisfyingly!

The simple glockenspiel synth is what makes the track such a classic, adding a friendly touch to an otherwise hard edged tune. It echoes up and down in a delicate reflection of the bassline.

There’s even some cheeky strings, following the short and sharp pattern that the rest of the song’s components do.

“Triplets” came out in 2001. The single is backed with “Triplets II”, which is a much more beefy version, well worth a listen for its chunky bassline alone…

09/08/2019: “Pick Me Up (Dog Has Its Day Mix) by R.I.P. Productions

I do just love a bit of old school Garage House…

Out of all the mixes of this golden track, that famous vocal sounding as fresh as the day it was recorded, this is my favourite.

There’s so much bounce here that you could chuck this record off the Shard and it would come straight back (don’t try it, the vinyl is vintage and precious…)

The drums are fast and snappy, hurling the track onward at a furious pace.

The bassline is no slouch either, hopping madly over the beat like a wasp at a picnic.

The guitar, organ and vocals are the elements which make this song something of a garage house symphony. Simple yet soulful touches which condense into pure magic when the piano strikes up too.

This mix of “Pick Me Up” was released in 1995 with 3 others on Ice Cream Records.

01/08/2019: “Closer (Swing To Mood Dub)” by Mood II Swing

This kind of cross over hit is a good example of a very specific style of house and garage, which I personally love. More bassy and groovy than a lot of house, but more melodic and musical than a lot of garage, this is prime early 90s garage house.

The bassline is such a groove here, thumping out a simple but brutally effective rhythm. The fact that the sound of the bass is like a bass guitar means it fits in very well in the house scene, but it’s a heavy bassline nonetheless.

The drums are so fluid and vibrant, creating an instant dancefloor destroyer! It’s that classic garage house shuffle, using syncopated hi-hats.

The vocals are used more as vocal chops, as part of the background. This is as dub after all. The main hook here is the horn part; although that consists of simple stabs, it’s incredibly catchy…

The song was released in 1994 on the King Street Sounds label.

30/07/2019: “Red Alert (Steve Gurley Remix)” by Basement Jaxx

It isn’t that there’s anything wrong with Basement Jaxx’ original version of this. Apart from, if you were to be picky, a bit too much cheesiness. But it was the 90s, in fairness…

Steve Gurley’s remix is a completely different song. It’s really just the vocals which are used, as the P-Funk squeals and loud bass synths are replaced with smooth and deep 808 bass hits, silky R’n’B style Garage synths, and the sort of perfectly swung drums which only a select few 2-Step producers could really master.

The syncopated nature of the song is a lot less pop friendly than the original, although the remix is hardly hard on the ears!

Everything blends together incredibly well, so that you can easily lose yourself in the sparse stabs and heavily textured synth samples. This is turn of the millennium 2-Step Garage at its zenith.

The original and the remix were released in 1999. Steve Gurley was a fantastic artist, and if you want to hear his stuff I would really recommend the Revealomatic mix.

17/06/2019: “Time (T’n’G Remix)” by EEDB vs The Flirtations

“Time”, by 60s vocal group The Flirtations, is actually very hard to find. Unless there has been a crediting error somewhere, the original might not be on the internet…

Soul purists might object strongly to this speed garage remix, but it’s a quality song in its own right, if not quite so classy.

The vocal hook is a banging one for sure, especially when those hard driving choruses hit. The track had the status of an anthem within the Speed Garage and Niche scenes, and is now a stone cold classic.

As is usual for a speed garage banger, the bassline is both heavy and warping, providing the lynchpin of the track. It’s a catchy one too, a very important trait for a song like this one. The drums skip and dance magnificently, providing a swinging feeling. And that’s about it; just those three elements work great together!

The song was released in 2003 on an E.P. with a couple of other remixes on.

21/05/2019: “Urban Hero” by Jameson

“Urban Hero” is such an enduring banger that you can still hear it played out by DJs today.

Moving along at a frenetic pace, the song is composed of three simple elements. The main riff is a grimey, intense plucked string noise, playing a repetitive variation the same little hook. This is echoed by a warping, heavy bassline which runs us wet neaththe track and pushes it forward.

The drums are typical 2step garage drums, but there’s a foreshadowing of grime in the fast paced head bopping edginess of it all.

The song is viewed as one of the early precursors of the MC led grime scene, as it takes a much darker, more stripped back approach to garage then much of the champagne and shirt pop cheesiness associated with the scene.

Urban Hero was released in 2001 on Lifestyle records, backed with “Slow Jam”.

Hard tune!

27/01/2019: “Gabriel (Live Garage Version)” by Roy Davis Jr and Peven Everett

I would consider this song to be one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded.

That might seem like a strange accolade to give a mid 90s Garage song, but it is one of the most unique and lovely songs to come out of electronic music, with its buttery blend of smooth garage sub bass and live instrumentation of trumpets and keyboards provided by Peven Everett, as well as his capable vocals.

The lyrics are about the archangel Gabriel, which explains the reverential vibe.

The drums are not as fast and congested as many garage house songs, with a casual step to them. The trumpets ring out triumphantly, with an instantly recognisable hook.

The track has such a warm feeling, flowing slowly in the way that you might expect melted chocolate to flow out of a mug next to a gently crackling fire, as the wind howls outside.

I’ve probably said this about other songs, but this is 7 minutes of pure hygge. There’s a certain rawness to proceedings, no doubt due to the live nature of this version, with the beats sometimes becoming slightly syncopated, and the notes coming into tension with each other. But this is part of what makes it so nice.

The song was released in 1996 in the U.S., but was probably more success in the U.K. garage scene, which it entered in 1997 via a release on XL recordings.

Truly timeless!

07/12/2018: “Catch The Feeling (feat Judy Obeya) (Tuff Jam Dub)” by Banana Republic

Tuff Jam was a U.K. Garage duo formed of Matt “Jam” Lamont and Karl “Tuff Enuff” Brown. They were instrumental in the formation of U.K. Garage from its older American cousin, making the sound harder and bassier.

The U.S. Garage House was always 4 to the floor, and they keep with that tradition. However, the drums are more rhythmic, with the trademark skipping hi-hats, and syncopated snares.

The low end weight is perhaps what is truly distinctive about the U.K. iteration of Garage music, with a range of heavy basslines ranging from simple subs to warping rollers!

The original “Catch The Feeling” is a much more House orientated affair, with a focus on the vocals. It’s still Garage, but not nearly to the same extent as the Tuff Jam dub mix.

That version uses the vocal hook but not much of the other vocals. The bassline is solid as a rock, with a wonderful organ-y sample delivering a good deal of the catchy melody. It’s a great example of 4×4 U.K. Garage.

The track was released in a 4 track E.P. on Catch records in 1997.

Banger!

28/11/2018: “Classic Deluxe” by Horsepower Productions

The word “Dubstep” was first used in print in 2002 to describe Horsepower Productions’ new style of 2-step garage.

It’s reputed to have been used by DJ Hatcha at the famous Big Apple record shop in Croydon, but either way, there’s no getting away from how important Benny Ill & the rest of the group have been in the mutation of dark 2-step into dubstep. It’s easy to hear the 2-step influence here in the bass and drums, but it’s also clear to hear the dubby vibes that originally gave dubstep its title.

Like lots of the music from that time, it’s quite unique. It’s heavily sample based, and atmospheric in a way that belies the Croydon roots of the sound.

Although the song is very much a bass driven one, it presents a nice listening experience too, with a rich selection of vaguely tropical sounds adorning the central rhythmic pulse.

The albumĀ In Fine Style, from which this song is taken, was released in 2002 on the seminal dubstep labelĀ Tempa, which until slightly after that point had essentially just been releasing the songs on the album as singles anyway!

Still ahead of its time!

10/08/2018: “The Club” by El-B

One of my favourite things about U.K. Garage music is the effortless swing of the drums. The shuffling hi-hats and crisp snares dance around each other, producing a beat you just can’t help but nod your head to.

Unfortunately, as I’ve said before, too much cheesy pop 2-step was hastily mashed together back in the day, giving garage a bad reputation.

El-B is one of the select few “dark garage” producers at the dawn of the new millennium who are credited with inspiring dubstep.

His style is “less is more”. The drums, the samples, the bass. And that’s pretty much it. As he’s said in an interview for Computer Music, once the groove is right, you can stick anything over the top, and El-B is one of the grooviest guys around…

Almost nobody does drums quite like him, in any genre. It’s exactly what garage should be about.

“The Club” was released in 2000 on the seminal Ghost Label. It slowly builds up without the listener even noticing, starting with just those beautifully swung drums, then the solid bassline, and finally the vocal samples. It’s a wonderful example of a good minimal garage track; no fuss, no bloat, just vibes.

The track still has a deep rooted R’n’B influence, but it kicks hard!

Almost 2 decades old and still wicked!