Category Archives: Hardcore

Ruff Quality Recordings

l-12426-1309183285-pngIn 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!

Tracklist

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

 The mix

Download MP3 320kbps 50 mins

Cybotron Records

Sup, G here. Apologies for the delay. Life gets in the way sometimes.

This is the first Dillinja post on this blog. I feel slightly ashamed about that as Dillinja is undoubtedly up there with the greatest of all time jungle producers – possibly THE greatest. But I let others decide on that. Stab in the dark for fave D tune? Got to be any of the three tracks off of Angels Fell but that’s just me. Maybe Silver Blade? Or Threshold? Too many to count…

I’m going to assume anyone reading this already has a working knowledge of Dillinja’s body of work, so if not, I can only apologise, uber-geek wanky shit is ahead.

cybotronAnyway, back in the period 1993-95 Dillinja was at his most prolific, putting out track after track, week after week, on many different labels under numerous pseudonyms. I’m led to believe he was literally living in his studio at this point in time, if he wasn’t out delivering stacks of his own wax around London-town. Compared to Dillinja’s output on Deadly Vinyl, Logic Productions, Conqueror, Philly Blunt and Lionheart (among others) from around the same era, the Cybotron tunes strike me as being much more on the experimental side. Influences abound, from straight up hardcore and darkside jungle, to hip hop, sci-fi films, and ragga. I guess not entirely surprising as Dillinja was still learning the craft here. In this post, I’m mixing every tune that was put out on the label.

It is sad to see that these records have now become quite scarce. If you’re looking on Discogs you’ll probably see that many are up for sale only very infrequently. Those that do come up are often price-gouged. That’s a pity because the Cybotron tunes are some of Dillinja’s most interesting from a purely ‘listening’ perspective as opposed to straightforward dancefloor tracks, but at the same time I’m not aware of much, if any, availability on digital formats. Supply and demand, hey?

Cybotron Records cat numbers are fairly confusing as some were pressed on other labels. My take on the complete output is as follows, going strictly by DILL cat numbers which to me form the full Cybotron canon.

  • DILL 01 – Steal the Way / Forever Fierce
  • DILL 02 – Lock Me Out / Dark Influence
  • DILL 03 – From Beyond / Ride it Hard
  • DILL 04 – Sinewave / Dark Science
  • DILL 05 – Black Wax EP (on Target Records)
  • DILL 06 – Majestic B-Line EP (On Deadly Vinyl)
  • DILL 07 – Imperial Stix EP
  • DILL 08 – Test 2 EP (On Wave Form Records)

The only addition to this list is the second release on Target Records, Underworld – The Rising, which I’ve included in the mix for completeness as DILL 05 was also a Target release… the only other Target release, as it eventuated. The Rising features the cat number KARL 001 which is interesting to those who cling nerdfully to this kind of trivia – Dillinja’s real name being Karl Francis of course. Underworld was comprised of Dillinja and Defender (of Feel It fame), whom I’ve talked about previously in an older post. I was considering including the Digital Cloning EP in the mix too, which is another Dillinja release from around the same time on Tough Toonz, but I thought that would be a bit of a stretch so I left it off. And even though the Majestic B Line EP, DILL 06, was out on Deadly Vinyl, I haven’t included the other Deadly Vinyl releases. There are other mixes on the internets with those tunes though if you want to go deeper. Here’s a smashing Dillinja retrospective mix too.

More trivia:

  • The first four Cybotron releases were all pressed with both tunes on the A side. Not sure why that happened but it means that whenever I’m searching for a record with a blank side these are the ones I know to reach for.
  • The name ‘Cybotron’ was later resurrected by Dillinja as the title of his mammoth debut LP in 2001. The sound had moved on from jungle but D was keepin’ it close to his roots. You’ll still hear classic tunes from this like All Aboard and Go Dillinja played out out at raves today.

Even from the very first release, Steal the Way / Forever Fierce, the Cybotron tracks are all distinctly Dillinja. Although those two tunes sound quite contemporary with their rave strings and stabs and chip-monked vocals to match, you still get the rough basslines and rap vocal fills that became synonymous with Dillinja’s productions later on. Things get a little darker with Lock Me Out and Dark Influence, but with From Beyond, a seething, breathing amen roller, and the funky mule-sampling Ride It Hard, Dillinja is properly in the zone. Dark Science is a fantastic 93-style dark jungle bleeps tune with similar atmospherics to the earlier From Beyond. On the flip to Dark Science is one of the more unusual tunes on Cybotron, Sinewave, which has some fairly intense stabs and weird beats that I find difficult to mix. Still quality though.

The later releases – Black Wax EP, Majestic B Line EP, Imperial Stix EP, and Test 2 EP – are all 4 trackers, except for Test 2 which is 3 tracks. It’s almost like Dillinja established the formula on the early tunes and then when into experimental overdrive once his confidence was up. It’s hard to separate the music on these EPs as they are all of very high quality, all extremely interesting, and all completely smash up the dance. It’s a dense body of work. Dillinja re-uses samples and breaks on many of these tracks which is actually quite cool as you can spot the style immediately. They may not be as technically proficient as Dillinja’s later work, particularly his tracks on Logic or Metalheadz, but it’s interesting to see the progression even just in the short year or so that these were made across. I get the feeling that Dillinja’s progress was driven as much by gear and tech upgrades through the 90s which went hand-in-hand-with intense bursts of creativity.

In spite of a notable lack of recent releases, Dillinja is still about, still in the scene, DJing at gigs quite frequently. And why not? If anyone has the right to trade on a legendary reputation it’s Dillinja. There have been noises for a while now that he is working on new tracks that harken back to the jungle days, albeit brought up-to-date with new-school production techniques. I have no idea whether or not this is still happening, but in interviews over the past few years Dillinja has made it very clear that there isn’t a lot in the music scene that truly enthuses him these days. There’s a real “over it” undertone in most of the exchanges that I’ve read, which is a shame, but totally understadable. Obviously it’s over 20 years ago now, but the rapid output and progress on Cybotron shows you what Dillinja was (and no doubt ‘is’) capable of when motivated. Here’s hoping the releases resume at some point. Luckily, we only ever look back in time on this blog so we don’t have to worry about any of this ‘future music’ nonsense.

Tracklist

Dillinja – Steal The Way
Majestic B Line A2
Dillinja – Forever Fierce
Capone + Clarky – Dark Science
Majestic B Line A1
Capone – Lock Me Out
Capone + Clarky – Sinewave
Dillinja – Ride It Hard
Capone – Dark Influence
Majestic B Line B1
Dillinja – From Beyond
Black Wax EP A1
Imperial Stix EP A2
Black Wax EP A2
Imperial Stix EP A1
Underworld – Maximum Pleasure
Imperial Stix EP B1
Dillinger – Test 2 B2
Black Wax EP B1
Dillinger – Test 2 B1
Underworld – The Rising
Majestic B Line B2
Underworld – Love Cant Turn Around
Imperial Stix EP B2
Black Wax EP B2
Dillinger – Test 2 A

Download MP3 320kbps 83 mins