Mousetrap Records operated out of West London between about 1993 and 1997 and is criminally slept on. Stylistically (and with the benefit of hindsight) it appears poised between proper US house and the rowdier UK strains of garage that succeed it. That being said, many of the labels key proponents became better known for broken beat, most notably co-founder Orin Walters later of behemoths Bugz In the Attic. The connections between bruk and garage were always closer than its more cerebral jazzy connotations would suggest – the Bugz DJ experience being a properly bruising club slap-down and you can still hear people like IG Culture play music from contemporary UKG wunderkid Mind of a Dragon et al.
Also important was the loosely formed LGNJAS (Ladbroke Grove New Jersey Appreciation Society) and UK house hero Phil Asher, a man who’s contribution to the scene really can’t be understated. Original Shoom heads drawn to a more soulful, bumping sound like Rocky & Diesel and Dom Moir also contributed to a couple of the records. Mousetrap was distributed by Amato who went on to become a powerhouse for the West London sound.
The label’s design is fittingly great – a lairy graffiti London rat that perfectly summed up the attitude ridden garage dubs that was the imprints stock in trade. You can pick up almost all of the releases for a quid or two so I’d really suggest diving in and savouring a moment where West London was drawing its influences together, banging the MPCs HARD and getting ready to take on the world. A exuberant snapshot of 90s London house culture. Here’s five of my favourites…
Crazy Mofos – Crazy 4 U (Crazy Dub)
Phil Asher laying out the stall – heavily swung beats, MPC stabs and vocal samples.
Napoleon Soulo – I Got to be Strong (Part Eusom Dub)
This was a big one down at the Frog and Nightgown, the Elephant and Castle pub that kicked off after the Ministry kicked out. Reputedly where young London DJs like Matt Lamont and Karl Brown who couldn’t get a crack of the whip at MOS played pitched up, edgy garage dubs to a “lively” crowd who showed zero inclination of going to bed any time soon.
Underground Enthusiasts – Birds, Trees, Flowers
Phil Asher (again) joined by Richard Cain. WICKED reggae vocal sample, brilliantly flipped, syncopated beats, a pokey baseline and that’s about it. I could listen to this stuff all day (and sometimes do).
POWA – Hoods in the House
Not even on YouTube which is a crying shame. Just do yourself a favour and just go and buy this brilliant, banging, bargain 10”. Dripping with attitude, it’s the first tune on this mix (sorry not sorry for the self-promotion).
Blak & Spanish – Da Mood (Dub Flava)
I loved this period in house – a big tune would drop (in this instance from Mood II Swing) and loads of people would drop slamming ghetto versions for the DJs. For me this beats the OG and could be another 3 minutes longer easy. Blak & Spanish pulled a similar trick on ‘Kik Da Bucket’, no prizes for guessing the source material there…