In the late 90s drum & bass music was completely new to me. I’d skipped almost all of the jungle era, having much more likely to have been wearing an unwashed Kurt Cobain t-shirt at that time. Grouchily. So 90s. When I did finally catch the bug, my favourite thing to do was to go crate digging for used records, mainly because I fancied myself as a modern day DJ Shadow for a period that may be personally embarrassing to note. That didn’t really work out. Any-hew, I vividly recall a trip to a completely random and long-since demolished second hand store hidden away in the back alleys of Christchurch, New Zealand – the very last place in the world you would expect to find any No U Turn castoffs… a correct assumption as it turned out.
Underneath a pile of used hats I uncovered a dusty cache of forlorn late 80s and early 90s rave music. At this time I was still not fully clued up on what, if any, connection this type of music had to drum and bass, but I knew enough to realise that there were probably some lucky gems in the stack if I was prepared to school myself on what they were. So, without listening to the records or recognising much about anything on the labels, I walked away with a shopping bag full of crusty rave vinyls for about $1 each. That is not a lot of New Zealand money FYI.
When I got home, in amongst a disappointingly large number of boring techno and house oonst oonst shit, there were several records that really piqued my interest. They all sounded pretty random – as if the makers had taken every single idea they had in their heads that day and put them down to music. And yet, there was an unmistakable and familiar energy about them. They were all breakbeat driven tracks, albeit much slower than the fast dnb tunes I was used to hearing. The intro – breakdown – drop structure was in place. There were amen breaks, those weird tiny uh-huh’s, and big rave hoovers that I incorrectly assumed were contemporary aspects of drum and bass circa 2000. But these were like from 1992 or so…? Head explodes!
The records turned out to be:
- Dance Conspiracy – Dub War
- The Last Crusaders – Music For The People EP
- 150 Volts – Hi, I’m Chucky Wanna Play
How on earth these classics turned up at the arse end of the antipodes will forever be a mystery to me, but they marked my own personal, belated, discovery of hardcore and jungle. Thank you random DJ whomever you were. I hope those records facilitated your score that week or some such other life urgency.
Since then, starting with the 150 Volts release, I pretty much inadvertently wound up with a full run of the entire Ruff Quality label. It’s kinda cool for me to finally spend some time with these tracks as I must have acquired them all as random pieces within much larger record orders. I honestly can’t ever recall having listened to most of them prior to this.
So this post is a serendipitous follow up to my previous one on Red Light Records – both Red Light and Ruff Quality being Shut Up and Dance sub-labels. Ruff Quality pre-dates Red Light by some time however. All of its releases came out in 1992, serving up hardcore on a more experimental tip than SUAD might otherwise have put out on the main label. Ruff Quality provides us with the production output of some interesting characters, including but not limited to the aforementioned 150 Volts (an early Stu Allen alias), Konspiracy – an alias for the combo of MC Duke and DJ Leader 1 (aka e.kude/I.C.3), The Good Fellas aka DJ Red, and what looks like the first ever release from the soon-to-be-prolific jungle don DJ Dextrous.
The tracks are, in general, fairly unpolished but there’s something about the hardcore era when people were just throwing tracks together from all sorts of bits and pieces and cheeky samples that really appeals. My favourite release on Ruff Quality BY FAR is the Cosmic Brian 12″. There are two different mixes of the slick ‘Far From A River’ – I love the rolling breaks on this and the energetic synth line. The cheese pianos I can take or leave but I think this is a really solid hardcore tune that has stood the test of time. It still sounds great and is fun to mix. The other two tunes on the release are great too… two slabs of hardcore mentalism with a ton of variation and experimentation. Highly recommended 12″ – yes, we’re still listening to these in 2016 ;) ‘150 Volts‘ is another standout for me. Hidden away on the b-side of relatively famous tune, 150 Volts is a minimalist dark(ish) roller that sits in the mix quite well with older jungle tunes if you can tolerate pitching it up.
Ruff Quality wouldn’t be a buy-on-sight old school label for me, but if you’re into quirky, creative hardcore then I’d definitely recommend that you give them a go at least. Best thing is, all of the records are still dirt cheap. All told, I’m quite happy with how the mix turned out. Some of these old tunes are seriously banging, even today. Enjoy!
Konspiracy – Police Tottenham
Mystical Units – Positively Evil (Babylon Mix)
Konspiracy – E-Love
Konspiracy – It’s Alright
Konspiracy – Rush
> Mystical Units – Positively Evil (Original Mix)
The Mario Brothers – Ain’t No Way
Konspiracy – Here Goes The Boom
The Mario Brothers – Something
The Mario Brothers – Something (Breakdown Mix)
Konspiracy – Crowds
The Good Fellas – Let The Music Play (Chill Out Mix)
The Good Fellas – Let The Music Play
The Mario Brothers – Gonna Be
Mystical Units – Darkness & Light (Light Shade Mix)
Konspiracy – Your Love Is On My Mind (The Lawnmower Man)
Mystical Units – Darkness & Light (Dark Shade Mix)
150 Volts – Hi Im Chucky Wanna Play
150 Volts – Hi Im Chucky Wanna Play (Demo Instrumental)
Mystical Units – The Crowning (Orthodox Mix)
Mystical Units – The Crowning (Full Worship Mix)
150 Volts – Hi Im Chucky Wanna Play (Shut Up And Dance Remix)
Mystical Units – Positively Evil (Remix)
Cosmic Brian – Dis Generation
DJ Dextrous – Ruffneck Biznizz
DJ Dextrous – Ruffneck Biznizz (Midifusion Remix)
Cosmic Brian – Hardcore Helmet
150 Volts – 150 Volts
Konspiracy – Sunday (Worries)
Cosmic Brian – Far From A River
Cosmic Brian – Far From A River (Radio Mix)
Konspiracy – Wind It Up