If the world Björk inhabits on ‘Debut’ sounds a little every-day for such an extraordinary star, its because Björk made it so. Of course, the concept of solo singer plus dance beats was hardly new back in 1993 when ‘Debut’ made its bow — Donna Summer would attest to that — but on ‘Debut’, Björk pioneered the idea of artist as auteur that would later be so integral to the success of Drake and Kanye West, to name but two.
Writing in The Face, Mandi James called ‘Debut’ “a delightful fusion of thrash metal, jazz, funk and opera, with the odd dash of exotica thrown in for good measure,” while The New York Times found the influence of “early ‘70s jazz-fusion of bands like Weather Report.” But ‘Debut’’s versatility is such that you can see in it anything from hip hop to handbag house, depending on the way you cut it. To even envisage such a fusion is impressive.
The TB-303 is one of the most iconic sounds in electronic music; a kind of acidic, alien howl that immediately places the listener in the world of techno and acid house. It is also, to be frank, one of the most over-used tools in dance music.
The sound of ‘Sheet One’ is strangely familiar and utterly alien. It’s no exaggeration to call Hawtin the Jimi Hendrix of the 303 for the way he utterly reinvents the sound of the mechanical box on his 1993 album, making it emote like no one has managed before or since. On ‘Sheet One’, the 303 is by terms pensive, melancholy, malevolent, cheeky, frosty and welcoming, with Hawtin ringing a world of emotion out of Roland’s failed bass synthesizer.
Bastardisation has long been at the heart of the British musical soul. The Beatles had it, tying up US R&B into wonderful new forms in the 1960s; David Bowie had it, subsuming everything from disco to drones into his individualistic musical world; and in the 90s Leftfield had it, their mighty debut album ‘Leftism’ uniting the musical melting pot of post-rave Britain under the steady thump of the house beat.
As the chorus for ‘Purple Rain’ rang out of First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis on a humid August evening in 1983, no one sang along. The show was a fundraiser for the Minnesota Dance Theatre, where Prince and his band The Revolution had been quietly rehearsing for his first motion picture of the same name. The song was being performed for the first time in public, with newly recruited guitarist Wendy Melvoin strumming the chorus-smeared intro chords, aged just 19.
By the time James Murphy made it to the studio to record LCD Soundsystem’s second album, he’d already been a live sound engineer, a bouncer, label owner, prolific remixer, had challenged (all of) Oasis to a fight in the mid-’90s, contributed production work to David Holmes’ seminal ‘Bow Down To The Exit Sign’, said no to a collab with Janet Jackson, and turned down a job as the first staff writer on what became Seinfeld.
When the time came to record the follow up to ‘LCD Soundsystem’, the pressure Murphy put on himself began to mount. In a 2010 interview, he claimed, “Making ‘Sound Of Silver’ was very emotional, at times I just hated making that record.” An unlikely breakthrough came in the form of a commission from Nike, who asked Murphy to create a long-form piece of music to accompany joggers, with a defined brief that relieved him from the daunting nature of open-ended creativity.
Motorbass were the gently beating heart of French dance music in the 1990s, the duo’s octopus arms encircling everything positive that would come to pass in the scene’s French touch pomp. The duo consisted of Étienne de Crécy, who would record the epochal Super Discount albums, and Philippe Zdar, later of Cassius and an acclaimed producer and mixer for the likes of Phoenix, the Beastie Boys and Cat Power.