DNB Vault

Simon Bassline Smith (Smith Inc) – Palomino / Sty-Le [Absolute2Records]

Time for some history. We’re going back before Technique Recordings, before the team-up with Drumsound, even before drum ‘n’ bass existed as a genre. We’re going back to 1991, when Simon Bassline Smith made an indelible mark on the on the rave scene with his label Absolute 2. Those were the days when his imprint brought us the early work of soon-to-be-legends like Doc Scott and Nookie. Now, with newly remastered versions of some Absolute 2 classics, Mr Smith’s reminding us why he’s been big in the game since day.

First up is Palomino. Right from the opening chords with the subtle droplets of scene-setting percussion we’re transported back to those early nineties rave-days. Arguments about sub-genre boundaries and commercial versus underground are for the future, now it’s all about just catching a vibe. Even so, as harmonic elements layer and build, and the first hints of bass appear, it’s clear that this music is anything but naïve. The “Give it to me” vocal sample leading us into the breakbeat drop, accentuated by panning slices of drum-machine hits build this into a deep, rich and powerful piece of dance music.

Sty-Le takes things a touch more melodic. Filtered chords underpin a piano progression which is given weight and intensity as high-end strings and the chopped-up beat come in to support it. But, then, this tune goes somewhere that you couldn’t have predicted. A drop-out, then the breakbeat comes back, apparently flanged, reversed and then layered back in with the unprocessed version. These kind of production flourishes prove just how much this music was about freedom to explore without limitation. But still amongst all of that, the pump of bass, driving rhythms and those emotive breakdowns aim this straight at the dancefloor.

Whether you were there at the time or experiencing these vibes fresh for the first time now, you can’t help being drawn in by this music. These aren’t worn and dusty historical documents, the excitement and forward-thinking experimentalism shines through as brightly as it ever did. This music captured the imagination of a generation, and now it can do it all over again.

From Bassline Smith:

OK, here’s some history for those who might have missed it.

I started Absolute 2 Records in 1991. By that time, I was already deejaying, travelling up and down the country every weekend, playing at most of the big raves. So, I knew what was out there and what was going on in the scene, and it felt like there was space for a new label.

It was about being able to express my own musical vision (I hadn’t really started producing properly at the time, but that was always the goal), but I also wanted to take a few more risks, and sign less established artists. I had a platform through my deejaying, and I wanted to use it to get up-and-coming producers heard.

This is before we were talking about “jungle music”. At raves like Perception, Mythology, The Edge, all those places, we were playing a blend of house, techno, breakbeat, hardcore…and a few early tunes combining the breaks and bass in a way that set the template for what was to come.

I didn’t realise at the time that Absolute 2 was going to have such a massive impact. We were there right at the beginning of jungle. Jungle, and now DnB, has gone from strength to strength, and it feels like the right time to revisit some of those foundation tunes.

So, I found all the DATs of my historical productions, tunes like “Palomino”, “Jungle”, “Music & Life”, some unreleased material, things I produced under other aliases…maybe some things that people didn’t even know were made by me! I’m getting them remastered, and re-releasing them for the new generation. Hopefully they’ll bring back good memories of misspent youths for the older crew, and introduce younger people to some styles they might not known about.

Let’s get back to the roots!

Bassline Smith


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