The Bristol sound is something very close to our hearts at Test Pressing. You can put it in with the time that music went slow in 1990 (see the use of Smith and Mighty’s Satie-esque dub of ‘Joy & Heartbreak’ on the Ibiza 90 video) or you can just look at it as a stand alone sound that changed the way modern music sounded.
Smith & Mighty are producers and originators. From 1985 onwards they took lovers rock, mixed it with heavier more modern beats and came up with a new sound. All you needed was the drums, the voice and that spacial dub awareness to create something special.
Three Stripe was their label and home to some of their finest work before signing a deal with FFRR/London that left them hanging for a while. As the press release says ‘it’s never too late to set the record straight’ and this is exactly what this compilation does. Rob Smith has selected the 17 tracks in this compilation and you can hear their progression from the original beats, bass and vocal sound through to their introduction of house elements as time moves on.
It must have been a great time to be in Bristol in the mid to late-80s. You had Smith and Mighty, the Wild Bunch and a scene that had time to grow into something special with no influence from record labels or other forces. Smith & Mighty always seemed to walk in their own land taking what was coming in from the U.S, Jamaica or wherever and making it all their own. You can hear how they ended up in the soulful end of drum and bass from the likes of ‘Always Be There (Instrumental)’ as well as their obvious massive influence on other Bristol folk with the classic ‘Walk On’ and ‘Anyone’. The party scene must have had a big influence as you can hear Todd Terry’s influence on ‘Acid Off A Way’ with those pitched vocals spread over the keyboard and played with. ‘The Dark Dark House’ sounds super modern in these times and could have been made yesterday though I am not quite sure you can capture that ‘machines’ sound these days.
To me this is the sound of a dark basement in Bristol with that warehouse sound at its peak. A mix of hip hop, early house, the sound of early breakbeats but most importantly soulful music for people to dance to. MCs on the mic and those pictures of the Dugout in mind. If you want to hear where Massive Attack, Portishead and all that crew found their sound then this ones for you.
Smith & Mighty / The Three Stripe Collection 1985 –1990 is out now on Bristol Archive Records.