Tense Nervous House Music

Tense Nervous House Music

House is just the most despised form of dance music isn’t it? It’s so easy to sneer cos it’s the commercial backbone of the industry; just product. All the feeling is supposed to have been leached out of it. I suspect House music’s critical stock has never been lower. It therefore seems to me to be the best possible time to reappraise it. That’s one reasone for this mix, titled Tense Nervous House Music. It’s an antidote to turgid false-positive handbag while still being capable of slamming hard. Taking its inspiration from the darker end of “real disco” it attempts to redefine the term “funky house”. But there are other impulses.

A while ago I put up a mix of music that related to some of my more spiritual interests, in the shape of the Industrial mix (http://www.grievousangel.net/The_First_Taste_of_Hope_Is_Fear_Ambient_Industrial_1980-1987_Mix.zip). Then, in April this year, I went to Gozo, where I went to the amazing Neolithic temples (the oldest freestanding structures on the planet), and read Frank Tope and Bill Brewster’s fabulous book Last Night A DJ Saved My Life. I became obsessed by disco-influenced (is there any other kind?) house music, and I came to believe that Disco and all its descendents might well be the ultimate pagan music. My kind of House music springs from the same impulses as indstrial. I started compiling lists of records that would express this feeling and quite quickly I came up with the selection contained in this mix.

For I’m fed up with the boring stereotypes of what witchy, pagan music should be. It’s always the same old genres: goth (eurgh), folk (which is OK), antedeluvian rock (zzzzzzz…) — nothing that really captures the feelings I have as a pagan. And over the last few weeks, I’ve become obsessed with the idea that the ultimate pagan music is DISCO. It, and all the genres that have sprung from it, especially house music, for me represent a much more vital spiritual force. Disco’s pulse, its abandonment to pleasure, its delivery of physical transcendence via the agency of rhythm, combine to make it a far more Dionysian experience than I gain from the musical genres usually associated with paganism.

Furthermore, positing Disco as the ultimate pagan music challenges paganism’s cultural stereotype (hippy-goth clothes, patchouli oil, Stonehenge posters…) and helps to remove pagan ideas from from simply being part of what can be seen as a lifestyle package. I should point out that I don’t at all mind that others find pagan resonance in other forms of music. Certainly a genre like folk can be hugely evocative of pagan experience (and I’ve played in folk bands myself, so there’s no prejiudice here). But so too can Disco and its descendents, and for me, it is a more poweful medium. My intention in this regard is not to propose a new lifestyle package for paganism; rather it is to divorce it from all lifestyle packages. Paganism has been historically associated with particular cultural forms, but that historical association need not constrain our visualisation of what paganism is, nor our experience of it. If paganism can be encapsulated within Planxty and Sandy Denny albums, I believe it can also be encapsulated in Masters At Work DJ mixes and volcanic filter house twelve-inches.

To explore these ideas further I’ve done a mix of disco-infused house music which, for me, powerfully evoke pagan ideas and feelings. I think it demonstrates how the dancefloor experience can parallel that of ritual, and to that end I have labelled the sections of the mix to show how they represent the phases one might find in a ritual. This is not to say that the dancefloor experience is necessarily a ritual experience in itself (though it can be), nor that this mix need be seen as “ritual music”. But if a folk singer can recall the sensations and imagery of British nature magic, so a DJ mix can recall the experience of magical ritual without actually being a ritual itself. (Of course, the concept of the mix as a ritual is a long-established element of DJ folklore, so these distinctions while worth making are not hard and fast.)

As you can imagine, the influence here is not happy-clappy commercialised disco, but dark, twisted, freaky disco, the “real disco” evangelised by the Loft and the Paradise Garage which formed the roots of proper house music. Here, it is tense, nervous, expectant; the feelings I associate with rising magical energy.

There’s some well-known records here and I doubt that any of them will be unfamiliar to the dedicated house head, but the way they’re combined here creates a tense, jittery, grinding version of house, albeit much softened by melody. I don’t apologise for it being, occasionally, banging. Here then is a headache-inducing collection of dark and zappy house whose construction is partly influenced by pagans experience. I’m aware that, on paper, this might sound like a terrible idea, but it sounded pretty good in my head on the beach in Gozo, and it sounds even better to me through the speakers here in Sheffield. Numinous codswallop? Probably!

In any event, this is probably the last mix for a while, cos I’m moving house. Tense Nervous House, geddit? Moving house is a headfuck!

It’s now zipped, so it’s downloads only. (Windows: right click and save as, Mac: option or control click and save as.)

Tense Nervous House Music
45 minutes 7 seconds
192K mp3



David Byrne and Brian Eno: Jezebel Spirit

There are two senses of banishing here. One is that this record is a clearing of the space for the mix, so it can do its work. One is that the music contains a tape of a Christian exorcism, which is essentially the banishing of the spirit of the goddess Jezebel, and yet that banishing is contradicted by the inductive voodoo disco of the music. It represents the reversal of Christianity’s attempt to expiate the goddess current, which is that aspect of everyday life we’re trying to temporarily reverse with this mix.


Norma Jean Bell / Moodymann: I’m the Baddest Bitch

Moodymann’s brilliant chugging disco house is chocolate-dark as much because of the lite jazz funk horns as in spite of them. Norma Jean Bell channels and invokes the Jezebel spirit identified by Byrne and Eno: “I’m the baddest bitch – and you belong to me”.


KenLou: The Bounce
Jedi Knights: One for MAW

It’s time to let them in the elements. Masters at Work’s sizzling Latin house stomper brings in Air and Fire, Jedi Knight’s positively beaming One for MAW brings in Water (those delicious lush guitar and synth lines) and Earth (that super-squidgy bassline).


Deep Dish: Stranded (Danny Tenaglia’s GrooveJet Dubby Edit)
Deep Dish: Stranded (BT Vs DD: Grievous Angel’s 777 Edit)
Shaboom: Bessie (DJ Sneak mix)

The powers are up and grooving and now an old personal current of mine, the 777 current, can come through, can be invoked. 777 is sensitive, twisted and demanding but ultimately very compassionate, and this is reflected in the extensively edited Deep Dish tunes here, which are vast psychedelic freak-outs ground down to rapacious shards. The other side of 777 is contained within Shaboom’s Bessie, which is utterly transformed by Sneak’s devastating industrial house cut-up. It’s harsh, driving, almost inhuman, and while it’s definitely “funky disco house”, it sounds nothing like that description. Sneak’s mix of Bessie is liminal: it’s just on the other side.


Dajae: Day by Day (Grievous Angel Edit)
King Unique: Hell
Mongobonix: Mas Pito

We got juice now. We’ve summoned a vast underworld Disco deity showering glitter and lasers onto the circle, a 500 foot high afro-ed and silver-suited horned god of the dancefloor. His music is twisted, Chi-town house, evil banging hard groove and massively hyped up latino jazz.


Q Burns’ Abstract Message: Innocent (King Britt vocal mix)

Mongobonix took us down a little, or rather raised up from the depths of King Britt’s Hell to Mas Pito’s mountain-top fusion. But it’s Innocent that really grounds the energy. You’re taken back to earth, to placidity, but you’re in a very different place from where you were at the start. Innocent is one of the weirdest, grooviest, best house records ever made: it’s got really strange, intensely jazzy, constantly shifting melodies that are utterly beguiling, it has the best Moog solo in all of house, and it’s also one of the three or four best songs in the whole of house. Innocent is magnificent.

Boom Boom Bashment: Killer Ragga Riddims 2001-2004

Boom Boom Bashment

Phew! It’s done! John Eden and I are pleased to release Boom Boom Bashment, our follow up to the Lyric Maker mix. It’s a selection of killer ragga riddims from the early to mid noughties which we hope are either unfamiliar to readers of Uncarved and Shards Fragments and Totems, or at least presented in a new way. It’s different in feel from Lyric Maker; this one for a while at least is less sensual, more brittle and driven, but it’s probably a lot more emotionally dynamic. It’s as much a companion piece for John’s Shake the Foundations sets, and my Nervous Ragga mix, as for Lyric Maker.

Boom Boom Bashment kicks off with a staggering riddim: Kings of Kings’ Double Jeopardy, which combines minimal, space-drenched backing with operatic voices. Co-produced by Ce’Cile (with Cordell “Scatta” Burrell) the sense of drama is intense and it lifts off when Pinchers and Norris Man version Madonna. Double Jeopardy is a stark, spacious yet harsh introduction to the mix; Bushy Bushy is a slow-burn explosion of mashed up voices. Bookended by Ce’cile’s Spider, it slowly ratchets up the energy, not least on Alizade’s cut of that name where he outdoes Sizzla for excitement. Cecile winds the energy back down for the spaghetti western funk of the Mexican Riddim. According to John a lot of people complained that while the riddim was great, too many voicings were poor, but you wouldn’t know that from the tunes here; the performances are right on the button. It’s such a great groove that it starts to thaw the set out from the emotional starkness of Double Jeopardy and Bushy Bushy, and puts a suggestion of a smile on your face. This blossoms into a full grin with Rice and Peas. Thrashing around like a troglodyte on ketamin, Rice and Peas is classic stomping off-kilter dancehall riddim. Fat Bastard leaves us in no doubt about what everybody likes, so it’s not surprising Lady G knows what guys want: Rice and Peas!

The first four riddims of Boom Boom Bashment build up the energy and the next four ride it, driven by an increasingly metronomic pulse. Jeremy Harding Lightning riddim is a stern and propulsive string-laden death march with defiantly louche vocals. We’ve done a lot of intense overlays and call-and-response mixing between cuts on this riddim. Ward 21’s Don’t Push It is merged with Pacemakers’ Bad Man into one track, as are Gabriel’s The Powers and Kurupp, Mr. Vegas, & Sean Paul’s Eye For Eye. It’s an explosive yet super-dense sound which builds the sense of rage. 2 Hard’s superbly syncopated Liquid riddim maintains this momentum but opens out the sound, and it betters any number of R&B work-outs for pulsating groove and low-down boom. I didn’t like this riddim at all at first – the harpsichord opening put me off, because it made me think it was all angular tinny clockwork noise. But repeated exposure by Eden revealed Liquid to be an overpowering, rolling monster. The lyrics on all these cuts are a savage exploration of female desire, from both male and female perspectives, as on Sean Paul and Cecile on Can You Do The Work, while Lady Saw’s Tell Me What You Like is terrifying in its malevolent assertion of desire. When she sings “I ain’t gonna stop til you’re satisfied” it is not a statement of compliance.

The hellish maze occupied by Liquid is relieved and cooled by the Amharic riddim. In many ways, Amharic is the heart of the mix: it’s where the spirits are fully brought together in preparation for the climax of Nine Night and Forensic. Only Sizzla could open this superb clash of nyabinghi drums and electronics. He amply refutes his labeling as a purveyor of hate music and in this reflective mode he turns in one of the greatest performances of his career. Cecile’s All Night maintains the transcendent feel but translates it into tantric engorgement. Lady Saw’s Hot Gal Fi Life is just fantastic, a hymn to emancipation, with Spragga Benz & TOK’s We Waah rudely slamming into it. Spragga Benz’s brilliant Dem A Chat stomps even harder on the accelerator.

By now you’re ready for a proper heads down funky dancehall riddim and there’s none better than Tai Chi. It’s a well-known riddim but it’s got a few twists here (John did a superb breakdown in the middle of this as well). Tai Chi is ridiculously groovy but it’s just a taster for the epic, banging sea-shanty techno of Nine Night. This is my favourite riddim of the whole mix, it’s just amazing to dance to and enormous fun.

Glorious as Nine Night is, Forensic is rough beyond belief. Forensic brings a new meaning to the word “brutal”. This is slamming, hardcore ragga, the sort you dream about after listening to the Bug. It’s not without subtlety but by the time Determine’s Round And Round and Turbulence’s incredible Hype in Jah come in Forensic takes on a demonic energy which has few parallels. Mr Vegas’ Fuck Face unifies the quake-fest backing with dead good massed chorus emoting. It’s like the sun coming out on a thundery day. You’re going to love it. Turn it up.

You simply can’t go any harder than Forensic – in any genre – so we didn’t try. Instead we switched down to Sly and Robbie’s Big Up Riddim. I guarantee that if you haven’t heard this riddim before, within eight bars you’ll be saying that this is the music you’ve been waiting your whole life to hear. This is an end-of-the-night, hall lights on and bouncers circulating, “just one more” requesting, slow-motion belter that might just be the only music you will ever need.

Until you wake up next morning and want to play this mix again.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you: Boom Boom Bashment: Killer Ragga Riddims 2001-2004

Total running time: 63 minutes 9 seconds
Bit rate: 192K stereo mp3
Weight: 87Mb


1 Double Jeopardy
Kings Of Kings (Ce’Cile Charlton & Cordel “Scatta” Burrell) 2001
Length: 4.52
Start: 0:00

Jah Mason & Chrisinti: Up Up Up
Madd Anju feat. Cecile: Feel So Good
Pinchers & Norris Man – Set Dem So

2 Bushy Bushy Riddim
Extra Extra (Debbie Harding & Harvel Hart) for 2001
Length: 4.50
Start: 4:52

Ce’cile: Spider
Danny English: Right Ya Now
Elephant Man: Sex
Sizzla: Bus Out A Dis
Alizade: Energy
Ce’cile: Spider

3 Mexican Riddim
Pot Of Gold (Richie Stephens) 2002
Length: 3.43
Start: 09:43

Bounty Killer: Dem Bawling
Mad Cobra: Fool
Ninja Man: Sharp Like A Knife

4 Rice & Peas Riddim
Natural Bridge (Rohan “Snow Cone” Fuller) 2002
Length: 5.55

Fat Bastard: Rice & Peas
Lady G: Girls Know What Guys Want
Spragga Benz & Elephant Man: Warrior Cause
Frankie Sly: Dem Nuh Know We
Shano: School

5 Lightning Riddim
2 Hard (Jeremy Harding) 2001
Length: 5.20
Start: 24:39

Ward 21: Don’t Push It / Pacemakers: Bad Man
Gabriel: The Powers
Kurupp, Mr. Vegas, & Sean Paul: Eye For Eye
Buccaneer: Oh My God

6 Liquid Riddim
2 Hard (Jeremy Harding) 2001
Length: 5:39
Start: 24:39

Sean Paul & Cecile: Can You Do The Work
Devonte & Tanto Metro: Give It To He
Madd Anju: Someting For Dat
Lady Saw: Tell Me What You Like

7 Amharic Riddim
Jam II (Jammy “Jam 2” James) 2003
Length: 6.26
Start: 30:19

Sizzla: Peace
Cecile: All Night
Lady Saw: Hot Gal Fi Life
Spragga Benz & TOK: We Waah
Spragga Benz: Dem A Chat

8 Tai Chi Riddim
B-Rich (Richard ‘Shams’ Browne) 2002
Length: 5.07
Start: 36:45

T.O.K.: Cree
Sean Paul: Time After Time
Wayne Marshall: Need A Girl Tonight
Tanya Stephens: Please Me
Lady Saw: Yeh Yeh

9 Nine Night Riddim
Stufio 2000 (Steelie and Clevie) 2001
Length: 7.39
Start: 41:55

Lexxus: Gwaan Trace
Red Rat: Fright Night
Mister G: Old Crook
Captain Barkey: Wine Baby Wine
Wicker Man: Girls Gungo Walk
Sasha: Poppy
Determine: Rappin’ Up Rhymes

10 Forensic Riddim
In The Streetz (Mr. Vegas & Computer’ Paul Henton) 2003
Length: 7.21
Start: 49:31

Kerry: I Got The Man
Cecile: Weh Yu Up To
Determine: Round And Round
Turbulence: Hype in Jah
Mr Vegas: Fuck Face

11 Big Up Riddim
Taxi (Sly and Robbie) 2004
Length: 6.16
Start: 56:53

Wayne Marshall: Big Up
Lady Saw: Messed Up
Bounty Killer: No More Suffering

Pepperseed riddim

As a taster of the forthcoming ragga / bashment retrospective mix from John Eden and me, here’s a mix of the Pepperseed riddim: my favourite riddim of last year. Huge, powerful and joyous, Pepperseed is a maximalist version of dancehall: it has all the propulsive energy of big-room house music. As soon as I heard it I knew I had to do a mix of it, because it is compulsively danceable.


This mix started life in the recording sessions at John Eden’s house that led up to the Lyric Maker mix. In fact Pepperseed was the first mix we completed: when it came to the edit I just launched into cutting up John’s vinyl mix of the riddim , which we recorded on tape, and flung out a finished article. But midway through that project we decided it didn’t really fit with the flow of the other tunes and took it out. We are vicious about throwing away material that we can’t both agree is great; there’s a vast amount of audio littering our computers which doesn’t make the cut for each mix. It was the same story with the new bashment mix. Pepperseed didn’t fit, and though we both liked it, out it went. But I think it still stands up as a stand-alone piece, so I’m putting it up here as a modest musical diversion for you.

The cuts featured here interested me partly because they’re an example of Europe providing quality dancehall. They’re all on the Natural Mystic label (they rename the riddim after themselves as Mystic) http://tesfualazar.com/naturalmystic/label.htm from Germany. There’s MCing in German, which, unexpectedly, rocks, as well as some amazing singing in what I can only presume is an African language, plus the usual English / patois. Not all the vocal talent is German however; they’ve brought in some JA people like Degree. We’ve stitched these performances together into the monstrous juggernaut of sound you’ve come to know and love. However, while Pepperseed slams, it still maintains much of its focus on the original vocals; it isnt as much of a Steinski-style cut-up as some of the stuff on Nervous Ragga or Lyric Maker (the Stalag section, for example). The track listing is as follows.

Pepperseed (Mystic) Riddim
Natural Mystic, Germany, 2004

Lazy Youth & Degree: Lady Killer
Tesfu: Africa (Komp./Text: Tesfu Haile Alazar)
Dr. Ring-Ding: Call Mi Fi Ram

As ever, if you like this, bung me an email, cos the comments are spam-bait right now.

Tony died for your sins

K-Punk, whose single-minded devotion to duty has resulted in his grinding down his natural effervescent coruscation into a finely-honed edifice of rationality, has commented on the election, and it is one of his best pieces for a while.

Just how awful would it be if we had Howard, not Blair? Not much worse,
and in some respects probably better — though the ethnic cleansing of
the tories over the last ten years has largely robbed them of
competence, so they’re not a safe pair of (still petit-fascist) hands
any more. Frankly I think that whingeing about the nightmarish prospect
of a Tory victory is facile. In 1997 I had a palpable sense of relief
that the grinding tedium of tory domination had ended to be replaced by
something at least potentially better. In 2005 I would again appreciate
some relief from the tedium of new Labour.

Roll on a hung parliament, that’s what I say.

If John was here — and he isn’t, he has an election to fight — he’d no
doubt say, so why not seek a political alternative? Morally and
intellectually, he’s right. But I just can’t be bothered dealing with
the usual dreary raft of lefty Januses. And anyway, why shouldn’t
escapism be a political act?

Even so, I will probably vote later. It’s a novelty, isn’t it. Though I
still have no idea who for. I’ll say this though: the Green party
election material I’ve seen so far has been tooth-grindingly naff and
has demonstrated an utter lack of self-awareness and humour. I sometimes
think that political engagement is not so much a civic act as a
communicable disease.

Digital newsprint

Just had a heads-up from the wonderful Kid Kameleon that both his brilliant ShockOut mix and my moderately good Abstract 2step mix have both featured in a rather good round-up of online mixes over at Pitchfork. You can see the review here.

What blows me away is not that he’s the first mix reviewed — it is as I’ve said many times a fantastic, landmark mix — but that my modest effort is number two.

Big grins all round up here.