In , when they were still getting to grips with their studio hardware, Rob and Ray were invited by a friend to perform live at Vision Factory Apres Ski Party, a low-key night in a snooker club in Bristol City Centre. Mark Stewart frontman of legendary Bristolian post-punks The Pop Group intervened in a fit of enthusiasm and thrust a then-unknown Tricky onto the stage for an impromptu freestyle over the top of the track.
Fortunately Rob and Ray were credited as producers on the record and reimbursed after the fact. We were using sound system boxes as monitors for quite a while. The needles were always in the red.
In their completely self-taught approach, they simply aimed for what sounded right to them in the context they understood — the sound system. In the initial run of releases on Three Stripe, it seemed like the possibilities were wide open and the ideas were flowing freely.
As they came to discover, the results when they went to professional studios in London failed to capture the vibe of their own environment on Ashley Road. The resulting record, The Call Is Strong , failed to make an impact on release, but is generally hailed as an overlooked British soul gem.
For Rob and Ray though, the memory of the record is mired by creative differences with the label, the pressure of trying to write and produce in a sterile studio environment in London, and the breakdown in their relationship with Carlton. It could have been a lot better. Just recently we pulled out some of the DATs. There was however one key record that saw the light of day in , confirming the duo as forward thinking protagonists in the emergent British dance music culture.
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Unreliable citations may be challenged or deleted. Under this alias, Richie Hawtin snuck a more elastic, psychedelic and soulful edge into the underground electronic sound, helping spawn a whole new direction for techno. The bulk came together through a non-stop two-day recording session, in a studio under the kitchen at his parent's house.
After five months of prep, Hawtin had created a beautiful patchwork of machines in his studio, with himself fused into the middle.
The whole album is a trip, too, the cover art actually resembling a sheet of LSD tabs. And the production is a hands-on, live-mixed state of affairs - very much the Kevin Saunderson or Derrick May way of working. A far cry from the processes of today, but building on the sacred foundations laid down by the pioneers Hawtin worshiped at the feet of. Watching people copying what Liam Howlett did back then with modern software like Ableton Live, now, is humbling.
A quick quantise, EQ, and flawless timestretch of the perfect sample for the job, pre-picked and ready to slot in. It takes minutes.
But, circa , it must have taken weeks. How did he know what would work, before mangling it out of all recognition until it slotted into the arrangement like a puzzle piece? How much material did he audition before that one tiny hooky sample found its place?
The detail, overview, musical knowledge, and sheer audio alchemy on display is staggering. And when he was making the dirty dance rock-hop fusion for Music for the Jilted Generation it was all gear, too. Rumour has it he didn't even get a computer in the mix until Firestarter, preferring to daisy-chain about 20 bits of hardware to a single MIDI line, with the looseness of the timings only adding to the character of these early sample-heavy tracks.
When a major record label deal soured, Rob Smith and Ray Mighty regrouped and began work on a new set of tracks that wouldn't be bogged down by interference and compromise.
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