I’m probably not alone in finding myself strangely drawn to blank white label records. There is of course absolutely no logic in this. If anything their anonymous nature should be seen as a warning sign of inferior quality - a dodgy bootleg or a record that never got beyond the promo stage for a good reason. However you do occasionally strike gold and when you do it is somehow that little bit sweeter. This record is one of those winners on the white label roulette and also a nice example of uniting different musical genres descended from sound system culture.
On first glance dub and UK garage may seem on polar opposites of the music spectrum but they are both firmly rooted in the same lineage of bass heavy sound system music as shown by their shared love of a fat sub heavy bassline. It’s therefore maybe no surprise that there was a lot of crossover between producers of UKG and jungle in the late 90’s. Ratman (aka Alan Richards) was a Bristol based producer who released a string of jungle 12”s and remixes in the mid 90’s and, as far as I’m aware, this record was his only foray into the world of garage and what a foray it was – hitting perfection first time.
As well as containing all the classic UKG components (soaring vocals, warm sub bass, tight syncopated beats) he manages to make the whole thing, in true Bristolian fashion, pleasingly dubwise with the second half of the track turning into a full on dub mix. The vocal drops out, the bass takes centre stage and we’re taken on a psychedelic journey not typically experienced within the realms of garage. As a result it ends up resembling a classic reggae 12” discomix with the vocal at the start followed by an extended dub version. With it’s loved up vocals it also shows that UK garage was not such a distant relation to another UK originated genre from the 70’s and 80’s - lovers rock. A great record and a nice example of musical cross pollination in action across both genres and generations.
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