In and around 1994 the jungle scene was changing. Even though the sound had never been more popular there was internal division as to how the sound should be progressed. In one camp sat those who believed that the way forward was to eschew the trappings of hardcore rave tunes, stop the reliance on sampling each others’ music, and to move towards a more technical and considered approach. This direction led to the evolution of techstep and eventually neurofunk in the mid-late 90s. Similarly, there were those who believed the future lay in richer and more original musical arrangements, taking influence from jazz, classical music, and contemporary music in general. These were the antecedents of jazzstep in the mid 90s and then liquid drum and bass later on.
At the same time, there was still a significant demand for punter-friendly dancefloor tunes that retained the Jamaican soundclash-style ragga influences that had been a notable component of jungle and hardcore tunes since the beginning. These influences were often among the first that were let go by so-called ‘intelligent jungle’ producers as markers of an outmoded style. As a result, despite being wildly popular, ragga jungle existed almost on its own as a separate branch of jungle music – and so the annoying tendency to categorise every jungle/drum and bass track within very narrow, arbitrary and obscure subgenres (as I have just done!) began.
Red Light was set up in 1994 by rave pioneers Shut Up and Dance as an outlet for the ragga-style jungle tunes they were making at the time. Aka PJ and Smiley, Shut Up and Dance released numerous early rave scene classics on their SUAD label. Unfortunately, at the height of their success, SUAD were made an example of by the music industry for using uncleared samples on the monster hit Raving I’m Raving. Although this didn’t cause the label to completely shut down, it’s clear that the episode had an effect on SUAD’s output from then on. As such, Red Light became something of a safe haven – a cozy jungle sandpit where SUAD could continue to do their thing in their own fashion, with limited run releases, away from the glare of scene politics and the distractions that can bring. This mix features the output of those sessions.
All of the releases on Red Light share a particularly unified sound thanks to shared and heavy sampling of various Jamiacan sound clash tapes across all of the tracks. If you took a shot for every time the same “Massive!”, “Get me!”, and “Oh God!” samples surface in the mix this month you’d be a dead man three times over.
There are two big anthems on Red Light. Coca Cola is a straight up ragga tune well-known for sampling the vocals from Simpleton’s Coca Cola Shape but Bastards is something else… instantly recognisable by its “Keep jumpin’ ya bastards!” vocal sample (by PJ himself) the clattering breaks and heavy warp bass smash forward to create the perfect dancefloor smasher. “We’re stompin now!” indeed.
Another Red Light release that I must shout out is Hunt and Seek / Selekta. Both tracks are similar to Bastards in that they hit hard, and bass sits really well in the mix. On Selekta in particular the breakbeat choppage is just ridiculous. As with most of the Red Light tunes, Selekta is bare bones, often just one or two channels running at the same time (drums and bass!). But what SUAD do within those limitations is true Amen artistry. Highly recommended! Here’s this other blogger who bigs up Selekta.
So, in summary, all of the Red Light releases are well worth tracking down. They’re probably the most pure examples “ragga jungle” you are ever likely to find, and they were doing it first alongside only a very small number of other labels at the time… Suburban Base, Tearin Vinyl, etc. Unfortunately due to their limited nature, most releases on Red Light seem to be undergoing the dreaded Discogs price-gouging right now and are not cheap. Upwards of £50 seems to be about standard which is a fair chunk of change for a crusty jungle record. Despite this, any Red Light is a buy on sight item in my book.
Red Light was wound up after only 8 releases (9 if you count the Black Tracks release, see below) having, in the words of SUAD themselves “run its course”, pretty much like jungle music really. SUAD, like so many of jungle’s biggest names, went on to become major players in the UK Garage scene over the next decade. Long live the nuum!
Hunt & Seek
Somebody SUAD Remix
Killer Sound Boy Nitty Gritty Remix
Killer Sound Boy Nitty Gritty
> Coca Cola Remix
Black Tracks Vol 1 – this was the only ever release on the Red Light sub-label, Black Tracks. I’m not quite sure why the need was felt to release the tracks on the new label as both Skylarking and Liquidator could have easily sat as tunes on Red Light itself, but there you go.
Blackman – Bastards / Coca Cola Remix – Although both Bastards and Coca Cola were out on Red Light first, this release was done on the main Shut Up and Dance label. I’m guessing they wanted to capitalise on both tunes being big. Fair play! This release features a repress of Bastards and a similar-sounding remix of Coca Cola.
Blackman – Kunta / Wanted – Again, two more big jungle tunes from ‘Blackman’ aka PJ and Smiley, put out on SUAD, which would have been perfectly at home on Red Light itself. This release as well as Bastards/Coca Cola on SUAD are well worth a look as there are many more copies about compared to the limited Red Lights. As such, they can still be had for very reasonable prices. Bargain!
Red Light – Ruling Feat. Garnet Silk – this came out on one of the Jungle Hits compilation albums put out out by Street Tuff / Jet Star, and as far as I know this is the only place you can find the tune. I have the shitty four-tracks-per-side vinyl but there is a CD version which I presume includes the full (or maybe edited?) track in crystal clear digital.