Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Moving Shadow 1994

Equinox, London
Melody Maker, spring 1994

by Simon Reynolds

The host: Moving Shadow, the UK's leading "intelligent hardcore" label. The line-up: jungle's top DJs, including  the ubiquitous Randall, Grooverider, Ray Keith, Brockie and LTJ Bukem, plus PA's from Moving Shadow's three most popular artists, Foul Play, Omni Trio and Deep Blue. The venue: Equinox, a  slightly cheesy disco on Leicester Square usually full of tourists, whose 
balconies and upholstered alcoves provide welcome rest and respite for the combat-fatigued and shellshocked. 

For hardcore is warzone music; its jagged breakbeats are  treacherous, a simulation of the minefield that is modern life. Hardcore strafes the listener's body with percussion, so that dancing is like striding into a stream of machine-gun snares and ricocheting paradiddles, while bass-bombs send 
shockwaves through your intestines. But, with Moving Shadow's brand of hardcore, the danger-beats are incongruously swathed with soothing, silken tenderness: strings, harps, jazz-fusion 
chords, soul-diva sighs and gasps, plus the kind of woogly textures you'd usually hear from The Irresistible Force. 

This "ambient hardcore" sound was traiblazed on tracks like "Music" by LTJ Bukem (who plays a brilliant set, finding an extra five notches of volume to really detonate the night) and "Open Your Mind" by FOUL PLAY. Sadly, FP don't include this sublime song in their PA, but they do debut their fab new single ["Being With You"], all phuture-jazz synth-clusters and diva 
beseechings, while lazers scythe and slash the crowd. Foul Play also 'play' their remix of Hyper-On-Experience's "Lords Of the Null Lines", demonstrating how fluid the notion of  'authorship' is in this scene, where an anthem's life is prolonged by endless, drastically altered versions. 

After Bukem's set, Andy C keeps the music rollin'. Junglists and junglettes do a palsied version of 'steppers', originally a roots reggae dance that involves skipping on the spot like a manic jig'n'reel. But with jungle, it's like they're Morris-dancing on bullets. The crowd tonight mixes 
chic, style-conscious sophisticates (usually black or Asian) and dressed-down white kids who mostly look like they're well under the 18 age limit emblazoned on the flyer. There's all sorts here tonight, friendly luv'd up types who probably secretly mourn the days of "happy 'ardcore", and the moody, 
self-contained junglists into dark tunes, who despise the rave ethos with its Vicks, white gloves and gushing euphoria. 

OMNI TRIO hit the stage, or rather a proxy does, since the true creator behind this country's sublimest dance-pop is a 38 year old Can fan who prefers to remain an enigma. The 
stand-in pretends to knob-twiddle as Omni's classic "Renegade Snares" tears up the floor, with its soul-shocking cannonades of polyrhythm, hypergasmic chorus "c'mon, take me UP!" and 
sentimental verging on twee piano motif. Then the MC announces "the one 'n' only, the livin' legend", DEEP BLUE.  The latter is a unassuming bloke whose "The Helicopter Tune" is still massive after 6 months floor-life. Recently reissued with 4 remixes, it sold 22 thousand and became the first 
hardcore track to go Top 70 in years. Based around a geometric Latin beat cranked up like some crazed clockwork mechanism, "Helicopter" gets the crowd seething like a cauldron. 

A few hours later, we stumble bleary and squinting into a viciously crisp dawn, battered and bruised but still glowing with the beauty-terrorism of "Voodoo Magic."

Melody Maker, 1994

by Simon Reynolds

     "If 'intelligent' means that we don't just go along with the norm, then yeah, we're 'intelligent hardcore'," says Rob Playford, boss of Moving Shadow. "We're always trying to push
the frontiers back a bit, we never put out a track just 'cos it's current.  We're right at the front of the scene, so we're able to jump just a few weeks ahead of the game. 'Cos that's how fast things move in hardcore."

 Playford founded Moving Shadow in 1990.  His background as a hip hop DJ came through in breakbeat-driven tracks like "Waremouse" and "Bombscare" by 2 Bad Mice (which was Playford
and two pals). "Waremouse", with its metallic, machine-gun snare sound, pioneered the drum-&-bass style of today's hardcore, and is still being sampled.  In '92, 2 Bad Mice's "Hold It Down/Waremouse" and its remix EP sequel sold 32,000 in total; the label also scored a Number One in the National Dance Chart with Blame's "Music Takes You", an early hardcore classic, all helium-shrill vocals and jittery oscillator-riffs.  Moving Shadow was on the map.
In '93, Playford started putting out tunes like Omni Trio's "Mystic Stepper" and "Renegade Snares", Foul Play's "Open Your Mind", and Hyper-On-Experience's "Lords Of The
Null Lines". These tracks trailblazed the genre of 'ambient/intelligent' hardcore that's now in the ascendant, and established the Moving Shadow logo as a seal of quality.
Being a pragmatic businessman as well as a musician has allowed Playford to strike a fine balance between artistic progress and dancefloor currency. "'Cos you can get too far ahead, get so abstract that people can't get into it. A label like Reinforced is almost like hardcore's research lab,
trying out way out ideas.  But you need to improve your artistic-ness and still survive as a business."
Moving Shadow has its own research-and-development program: the "Two On One" series of EP's, where two different artists (usually guest acts not signed to Moving Shadow) get experimental.  Playford's mini-empire now extends to rave promotion (the recent "Voodoo Magic" bash), retail (a King's Rd store called Section 5), and a subsidiary 'compilation' label Reanimate whose debut offering "Renegade Selector Issue One" has just been released.  Another triumph for the label
is Deep Blue's "The Helicopter Tune", which sold 22, 000 and became the first hardcore tune to crack the Top 70 in two years.  All this means that Moving Shadow are well placed to reap the benefit of jungle's imminent commercial breakthrough.  Playford, though, is wary.
"What the media and the record biz have picked up on as 'jungle' is what we in the scene would call 'ragga-jungle'. I'm surprised it's taken so long for the majors to pick up on the ragga-jungle, 'cos it's so saleable. With that M-Beat/General Levy track, there's a front person, a focal point, whereas ours is more of an engineer's music. Hardcore's totally different from the rest of the music industry 'cos it's not showbiz, it's full of normal people. There's no band loyalty, because there's nothing to follow--
no posters, nothing to read about in teeny mags."

 Playford expects the ragga-jungle craze to blow up massively, then blow over by Christmas. Meanwhile, the intelligent element will bide their time and reap the long- term dividend.  They'll stay true to the music and continue to evolve. Already some Moving Shadow artists--Omni Trio,
Hyper-On-Experience--are working on full-length albums of 'armchair hardcore'.

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