Summer Breakbeats 2: Dog Days

Back on the 25th May, summer was taking hold, the moon was waxing, and it was time to throw all cares to the wind and bounce around to old breakbeat records, so I posted a mix of hyped up, ragga-flavoured tunes of the broken persuasion. A lot of people said they liked it and some were unwise enough to ask for more. So here we are at midsummer, with the moon waxing again, the Dog Days fast approaching, and an introspective, waning-moon industrial mix under our belts; it feels like it’s time for another breakbeat mix, this time of more recent vintage and of an even more banging nature.

This is a mix of breakbeat for big rooms — arenas even. The tracks are maximalist, flavoursome, dirty and above all huge fun. Where the reference points for the tunes on the last mix were ragga and hip-hop, here it’s funk, acid and, with not a trace of irony, hard rock. While you can mosh to many of these tracks as much as dancing to them, this is not music for acid teds. As with all great pop music, whether Sinnitta or Sonic Youth, Sister Sledge or Psychic TV, there’s a cartoon element to this music which absolves it of any responsiblity other than to evoke that transcendence that comes from dancing about like a loon and bumping into strangers.

Breakbeat’s not hip. But as the blogerati know, it’s no longer that untouchable, following John Eden’s widely read defence of it. As he said at the time, “It isn’t cool, but I worry about people who worry about that stuff. Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.” I seem to remember Simon talking about breakbeat sharing many of the same features as our beloved ‘Ardkore: music that’s functionally designed to generate a buzz, a low-brow, orgiastic impertinence that revels in sounds and effects that are bound to irritate many listeners, while inducing grins of recognition from its targets. I therefore wanted to do a mix of favourite breakbeat pile drivers that emphasised the textural connection with ‘Ardkore without going the ragga route. Instead, the tracks in this mix represent a battle between funk and rock for the possession of dance music’s soul, with acid refereeing. It’s a blast.

Big Room Breakbeat
60 minutes.


Kasha Ft. Sarah Nelson: U
A picture of Shara Nelson. I can't remember who was in Kasha. Probably someone embarassingly famous.
Classy hyperkinetic soul to start off.

Leftfield: Dusted (Si Begg Mix)
Leftfield, wondering where that funny noise is coming from.
Yes! The Leftfield plodder from the LP no-one listens to gets twisted into industrial funk mentalism by hit-n-miss studio genius Si Begg.

Basement Jaxx: Jump’n’Shout (Boo Slinger Dub)
Basement Jaxx, in Brixton
The extra ruff mix. Familiar I know but there’s some interesting wrinkles here…

HardKnox: Come In Hard
Hardknox. MENTAL!!!
From one pub in Brixton to another. Absolutely mental heavy metal mash-up. I fucking love Hardknox.

Dylan Rhymes: Naked and Ashamed
Dylan Rhymes, DJing.
No I never heard anything else by him either, but this is the apotheosis of hard rock acid house.

S.I. Futures: I’m the Bomb (Grievous Angel Edit)
Si Begg, looking cheerful. Cute, isn't he?
The revenge of the funk. Awesome track. Dude.

Fatboy Slim: Michael Jackson
Norman Cook, acid house hero.
Saint Norman — who is still the most fun and therefore the best non-reggae DJ I’ve ever seen — in fine Negativ-land-sampling style.

Plump DJs: The Funk Hits The Fan
Plump DJs, embracing modernism.
I’ve danced around the kitchen with my wife to this track more than anything else in the past year. That’s really all you need to know about this one.

Plump DJs: The Gate
This is just a buzz track. Nothing else. It’s pure ear-candy. Obviously it’s just a re-working of an extremely well-known acid breaks track but that kind of versioning mentality tjust makes me love it all the more. Originality is the enemy of creativity in dance music.

Chemical Brothers: Loops of Fury
Just another huge, pounding, head-shredding buzz track. With extra guitar solos. It’s the dance music equivalent of Deep Purple’s Highway Star (the version on Live in Japan). The corruscating Hammond lines are replaced with wave upon wave of overdriven synths, and it’s just killer.

Way Out West: King of the Funk
Jody of Way Out West, DJing. No, really.
Under-rated act, Way Out West. Must’ve been that shite trance mix CD Nick Warren did. Still, this is a fabulously funky integration of dance music and metal.

Si Begg Vs T Power: I Like That
Si Begg, inventing another meaningless pseudonym.
Something twisted beyond all recognition to bring you down.

Hermetic radio

The man with the hair.

The best programme on the radio is In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg’s weekly surf through philiosophy and history on Radio 4. It’s a great programme — you get some of the latest academic work on a subject, packaged up in a nice, digestible package. I love it. I know Bragg irritates many but this is the best setting for him: his ego, which elsewhere can be overbearing, is essential to serving the interests of the listener when engaging with subject specialists. In terms of eludication, it works a treat.

Last week’s was an absolute corker: it was all about Renaissance Magic. This is an essential subject for understanding both modernity, or what passes for it, and pre-Christian history, in terms of science, art, philosophy and, quite rapidly, cultural theory. It’s a humdinger of a topic.

The central text of Renaissance magic is Frances Yates’ magisterial Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. I was introduced to it by my wife, who encountered it when doing graduate work at the Bartlett School of Architecture, at a time when the Bartlett was an inferno of intellectual energy; it still is one of the three or four most forward-looking and academically robust architecture schools in Europe. Architects have been enthusiastic recipients of Yates’ wisdom; so much of architectural theory is based on the neoclassical ideals of the Renaissance, and Yates provided a fresh conceptual model for evaluating the roots of modern architecture which was both persuasive and mind-blowing.

Its thesis is as startling as Yates is respected (she is THE hardcore authority on the history of Renaissance philosophy and art): that the Renaissance, far more than being simply a re-discovery of classical sources (though this was of course the central conceptual input) or a product of Arab technology (the use of the number zero for example, which was also covered in this series), was, in intention and in effect, a full-on pagan revival. Over and again, Yates demonstrates that the mantle of Catholicism, within which Classical themes were deployed, was largely a cover under which full-on practical magick flourished. I would happily split hairs about whether this magick was actually Christian in orientation and ideology, as is largely (if not comprehensively!) true of the cunning men, herbalists and midwives who are frequently and wrongly claimed by some Wiccans (for example) as being their explicitly pagan forebears… but such qualifications are scarcely necessary given the weight of documentary evidence marshalled by Yates to demonstrate the deliberate pagan intent of many of the Renaissance players.

 Frances Yates' scholarly classic. Buy it!

The programme doesn’t quite possess the sweeping authority of Yates, but it’s a hell of an interesting survey nevertheless. As with pretty much all the In Our Time shows, you can still hear it: go here and click on the listen again button.