Updated: Jul 16
On their debut EP, UK House group Bang The Party helped to define the sound of a new generation, with a vibe that captured the spirit of Chicago and channelled it through the lens of the burgeoning UK Dance Music sub-culture.
The late 80s were certainly a very interesting time for the UK in regards to musical development, and that was in turn to the music that flowed through the clubs and the emerging rave scene, but also in the musicians who soaked up these new influences and injected it into their own forms of musical expressionism. The country was coming off the back of recent successes with the emergences of Brit Funk, HI-NRG and UK Street Soul, both of which reflected the merged musical ideals of Disco, Proto Disco and new wave R'n'B, Funk and Boogie, all of which combined flawlessly to create a profoundly British edge to the new electronic styles which began to dominate the Clubbing Landscape. Across the pond, Chicago and Detroit were experiencing their own music evolutions with the formations of House, Techno and Electro, along with the development of Hip Hop in NYC, with these genres starting to take root in their localities before being exported to the world, and to say they were enthusiastically received is an enormous understatement. Almost every space and context which these genres came into contact with was lit up by their infectious energies, with these electronically driven sounds setting off revolutions in the hearts and minds of dancers that would lead to these genres becoming some of the most beloved and popular in Dance Music. As time swiftly passed people became empowered into making their own interpretations, which often involved combining or replicating House and techno with musical strains that reflected their own context, with the UK perhaps doing this better than anywhere else. Such was the ravenousness of the UK rave and club scene for the sounds of Chicago and Detroit that people almost immediately began making their own takes on the genres, and the results quickly helped to establish the country's very own House and Techno sound, which would go on to inspire many and even make its way back to the country of origin, such was its interpretative qualities. UK House in particular from around this time was quite closely associated its US counterpart, with the ideals of the original Chicago sound playing an integral part, such as the vibrant kicks, deep chordal arrangements and vocal performances, but even though the sounds were quite interlinked it still helped to set the ball rolling for those who came after. The UK version would go on to define a generation of ravers and producers, who flocked to the dance in their thousands, keen to experience the feeling of being together under one roof, smiling and bouncing to a new wave of vibrations. And at the heart of this new generation were those who took the plunge and kicked things off, a small handful of musicians and DJs who very much remain responsible for taking in the spirit of the Windy City and calling it their own, with the sounds so very intermingled that its hard to distinguish between the two. It was the beginning of one of the great musical evolutions in this country, with the ramifications of the originators seeping into the UK via the hands and minds of those ready enough to push things forwards instantaneous and incredibly profound, as one genre after the next would roll over and into our laps at any given moment. The UK would develop into one of Dance Music's great centres in the decades to come, and for that reason we must credit the artists who bought Chicago and Detroit to the rave, to the warehouses, to the club, and into the hearts of millions.
One such group that would be amongst the first to capture and put out the essence of that oh so new House sound was Bang the Party, who despite their small discography were able to set the stage for the incredible flourishes that were to follow. The group consisted of Keith Franklin, Lawerence Batchelor (aka Kid Batchelor) and Leslie Lawerence, all of whom were mainstays in the UK Dance music scene, which in many ways primed them for making the step up into production, with songs starting to formulate not long after they started playing House records in DJ sets. The group's sound was indefinitely linked to the Chicago and Detroit styles, with a mix of high end percussive structures characterised by spacious textures, along with some wonderful melodic work to boot and stunning vocal performances that drifted from chants to soulful vocal movements. It certainly felt like a distilling of all the influences swirling around at the time, and Bang the Party did an impeccable job at pushing out some of the first UK interpretations of the US styles, with plenty of time spent on honouring the sounds they cherished alongside making lots of space for their own twist to be applied into the mix. This approach is reflected in the majority of their EPs, where the more obvious nods exist alongside their own reflections on how the sound can evolve from within a UK setting, and as a result they still stand up today as dynamic and fluid pieces of music. Not only would the group set dancefloors across the country alight, but they would do so via one of the seminal UK house labels, Warriors Dance, which was founded by Batchelor and Tony Addis, which would grow into one of the most integral cogs in the ever growing musical machine. On the whole, the group and their outputs would act as a catalyst for the development of the UK House sound, with the foundations they laid out here reverberating through the ages with such meaning and purpose, their status cemented as true originators of a scene that to this day remains a cornerstone of the contemporary music scene. As mentioned before, the group released a small but incredibly powerful collection of records, all of which are worthy of a mention here, starting off with their sole LP release, 'Back To Prison', which arrived in 1990. The record is every bit as magical as you could imagine, with plenty of creative twists and turns contained within that keep you second guessing, as transitions from House to Techno to Breaks occur on a frequent basis, and as a collection of tracks it will retain your interest for a long long time. This wasn't their first release though, with a number of EPs coming out before the turn of the decade, starting off with perhaps their most beloved anthem, 'Release Your Body', which arrived in 1988. Fresh, funky and filled to the brim with rhythm and meaning, its the kind of music that just gets you going and keeps you there for the entirety of the dance, and it still does the business to this day. The group would release another really engaging record in 1991, in the form of 'Tainted World', which was released alongside the rock band The Woodentops, and its every bit as wonderful as you could imagine two very differing groups coming together. The final record the group would release would come 4 years later, in the form of the 'In Effect/EP Return', which would represent their final statement, and its a superb saunter through the morphing sides of House, that simply reflected their ability to take things in and serve up some beautiful feels. In all, the group made some history with their work as Bang the Party, and incidentally would all go on to have highly successful solo careers, which again only served to highlight their visionary methods and tantalising abilities. Bang the Party will always be considered as one of the groups who reconextualised House and Techno for the UK audience, who boldly explored the genre's potential and created their own take on it, in the process cementing their place as icons within the scene and its decorated history. Be sure to check out their previous releases, and the group's amazing solo projects, trust us when we say you won't be disappointed.
And now we turn our attentions to the subject of today's review, the groups' debut record, 'I Feel Good All Over', which was also the debut release on the Warriors Dance imprint. In what many consider to be amongst the very first House records released in the UK, this record would very much set the template for the groups' musical direction alongside aiding in the formation of the UKs collectivised sound, and the music found within this record is very special indeed. Simmering drumming patterns underline a collection of superb melodic layers, with vocal lines dipping in and out of view with a warm embrace, their presence always on the lookout to provide guidance in the dance when required. Over the course of three tracks, the group truly announced themselves to the world, and the world reached back over and said 'we like very much what we hear', and as a result a dynasty was constructed that persists to this very day. So, on that note, why not take a trip down memory lane with us, as we reflect on a truly pioneering piece of music.....
"ladies and gentlemen, we want to dedicate this song especially to London, young, turned onto London, the sound of the inner city....."
Up first comes the title track, and like the quote above suggests, we get right into things from the off, and you feel the excitement spread all through your body. The drums are crisp and clear, with the spaces left between the kicks allowing for the varying key lines and sequences to make their way into the mix, with the vocals acting as a leading light in moving things onwards into the next phase, which occurs as the deep lead chordal sequence comes into view. The track then moves into its next phase when the vocals repeat the line 'I feel good', which sees the composition bring in additional snares to get the blood pumping, as layers keep sliding our way in the most wondrous of ways, washing over us as we mix feeling with energy. The deep set chordal line comes back into view once more, before the vocals lead the composition into a sparsely arranged section that sees voices rise higher and higher with a hypnotic beauty, but there is still plenty left to come. A number of the previous elements that we have come to know and love make their way back into the mix, such as the keys and drums which only move us further and further in the dance, with our hearts and minds firmly satisfied. What a track, an anthem for the then and now, and one we have had on deep repeat for a while now. Up next comes 'Jacques Theme (Main Mix)', and this one begins with the distant key blemishes to get us going. The lightness of the melodic elements at the start contrasts wonderfully with the kicks that arrive soon after, and before long the gorgeous bassline moves into view to really get things moving in the right direction. The backdrop key line develops into some wonderfully deep pads that rise up above the rhythmic progression going onwards, as the percussive foundation underneath begins to multiply with additional elements like congas and drums making their way into the mix, with the snare that gets dropped in particularly effective at moving things onwards. The vocals then arrive to provide a sense of narrative progression, which provides the track with yet another feeling for us to get involved in, as we continue to reside somewhere within the many layers of existence, encouraged to feel everything out as it slides our way. The track then moves through phases where the bass is given loads of space to breath, and that is a wonderful thing indeed as its a bassline which we could listen to all day and night, do do do doo do do, and as we move into the final section we are left with the drums and the vocals to get us moving into the night, as the feels just keep on coming and coming. Stunning stuff, seriously.
To wrap things up, we have the alternative mix of 'Jacques Theme', and this one begins with the hats and the whistle like melodic line to get us going. The background synths from the original make a much earlier appearance here, driving home the strength of the melodies from the off as the light high octave bass line adds character and feeling, and this is the moment when the drums come into view in all their glory. The structure is allowed to go on for a few bars before the main bass line comes into view, but the aims from the outset on this one seem to be giving the keys all the time in the world to breath, and this is achieved through the breakdown that comes around the 2 minute mark, but it isn't long before the full might of the sound comes into the frame and delivers on that power we have become used to by this point. The track then swerves and sways in its progression to keep our eyes moving from left to right, our hearts firmly in it for the long run as the groove just moves on and on and on, and as a sway its so very hard to deny. Gorgeous to the touch, sublime to the ears, this mix has it all, and serves as a final reminder of just how good this trio were and how far they reached out in finding their own voice to call home. This is the sound of the UK, right here.
There are some records you come across where you just recognise the significance, the meaning, and the inventiveness of it all, and you feel the meaning of what was achieved in a certain time and place. Bang the Party were one of those acts that invested themselves in the emerging house scene in the UK and helped to soundtrack its most important era, where the feels were being established and the grooves were being laid down for all to enjoy, and they perhaps did it better than anyone. This EP is a real testament to that notion, with three cuts of the highest order that serve and sway in the breeze, moving the listener and the dance right into the heart of the mix in order to showcase the widest possible variety of feeling and rhythm imaginable. Its bold, its daring and above all else it breaks new ground, helping to contextualise the sound within the UK and set the tone for the many glorious years that would proceed its introduction. And for that reason, we stand and take notice, and remember this timeless gem, a record for the ages, forever cemented in place, reverberating through time. A bona fide classic, this one.
You can check out the record here: