In the latest of a series of truly extraordinary releases, Backatcha Records turn their attentions to a iconic slice of the 80s UK scene with a delightful 7" reissue of one of En-To-End's best tunes.
Britain's musical landscape during the 80s and moving onwards into the 90s was a incredible melting pot of culture, influence and emotion, with these notions represented in the dazzling array of genres that came out of the country at the time. As the 70s morphed into the 80s, Disco's fire would fizzle out with a new age of electronic leaning music coming to the fore, as producers picked up synths and drum machines for the first time in an effort to electrify and innovate moving into the new decade. In America, the underground scene would explode with new styles of Boogie and Disco lighting a fire inside the hearts of many dancers at iconic night spots, whilst the purely electronic styles of Electro, Techno, House and Hip Hop really started to gain traction. This spectrum of sound would be exported around the world, and as we have already discussed in previous reviews relating to the UK sound at the time, Brits certainly did have a knack for absorbing all that they heard from abroad and putting their own twist on it. Britain already had a rich musical heritage leading into this point in time, with genres like Ska, Reggae, Lovers Rock, Jazz Fusion, Brit Funk, Rock'n'Roll, Northern Soul, Punk and New Wave (to name but a mere few) all establishing firm roots in the nation, with many a night catering to all kinds of musical tastes. However, as the 80s came into view, some of the aforementioned genres collided with the electrified notions of the new age, with Brit Funk in particular embracing this ideology with a string of excellent groups making a name for themselves during this time. The blend of American style production techniques with good old British twists was a real hit with audiences and record lovers alike, and would help to set a tone for the undercurrent of the UK sound at the time. Further along in time, US Deep House, Acid House and Techno would leave an unimaginable mark on Britain, with the rave scene and multiple other scenes influenced beyond belief to craft new strains and genres out of these new sounds they were coming across. The resulting soundscape at the end of the 80s and moving into the 90s was as diverse and mesmerising as it had ever been, with so many offshoots, styles and feels being explored seemingly with each passing day. The creation of new genres was balanced out with creative morphings of other genres together to craft hybrid sounds that contained a fascinating balance of existing tropes with new ideas and grit, with these genres often the more captivating in terms of their ingenuity and depth. No where else did it quite like the Brits in relation to putting a twist on pre-existing sounds, who were able to build upon what they already had and merge it succinctly with new techniques and tones, and the results were always exceptional. The music from this era feels vibrant and indefinitely exciting, a notion that still rings true to this day as we listen back to it, the vibe capturing the energy that must have felt electric at the time, a capsule flung forward through the ages to arrive to us with its meaning very much intact. UK artists have always known how to spin their own yarn, and it has left us with a musical legacy that is one of the strongest going, and we only have to go back and explore to see its true essence.
One of the most potent of these sounds to morph into life during this time was the umbrella name given to a whole host of records emerging from the UK during the mid 80s to early 90s, and that name was UK Street Soul, of which the group En-To-End were very much an important aspect of that movement, even though they preferred to label their music 'music'. The group consisted of David Henriques and Tony Shard, who bonded over shared loves for genres like Soul, Reggae and Disco at school, and as time went by they decided to input their passions into music making. Inspired by the likes of Loose Ends, Hi-Tension, Soul-II-Soul and the Cool Notes, the duo would embark on a career trajectory that would see them not only release a series of stunning records as En-To-End, but appear on other recordings and on stage with the likes of Incognito and Tuccedo. The vibe at the time in within the scene was very much a DIY approach to recording and distributing, with artists reflecting the sounds of Brit Funk mixed together with the soulful melodies of Deep House within a sea of rhythmic excellence and vocal mastery. Due to the quality of the recordings and the small amounts of albums pressed, many have become highly sought after for both reasons, with En-To-End's work no different. Their style remains a benchmark for much of the music being released around this time, with impeccable placement of keys and drums complimenting Henrique's vocal work to a T, with the amount of heart on show binding listeners deep within the compositions. The duo didn't rest on their laurels in terms of content, but instead they kept building and exploring on how far they could push their sound, with each record serving between tempos and groove, but never loosing sight of the emotion found in all their works. You had the stripped backness of some tracks, the delectable groove found on others, and the raw intensity in the up tempo ones, and it all operates on so many levels so successfully. All of their records are worthy of being highlighted here, starting off with their debut 'Are You Gonna Be', which arrived in 1987, which features the title track and the excellent B side 'We Can Work It Out'. The title cut is as sultry and full of purpose as they come, with beautiful rhodes chords interspersed with the exquisite taps of the 808, as the vocals chime along to the rhythm of life - the chorus line of 'are you gunna be....my lover' will live long in the memory. The B side is equally impressive, contrasting its sonic sibling by being slightly fuller in the drumming department with an uplifting message of trying again with a relationship. The 7" 'Confusion' arrived next in 1988, and this one was a highly rhythmic affair, with expert drumming patterns matched by some compelling chordal arrangements on top, with the vocals of course on top top form indeed. 'Got To Get Away' arrived in 1992, and this one took the energy down ever so slightly to reveal a more boogie orientated structure, with guitar riffs and pulsating bass lines crafting a very powerful trajectory indeed. Finally, the duo released their final record, 1992's 'You Could Never Change', which remains a fitting send off of all the elements we have come to know and love from their music, with superb vocal work and blends between rhythmic sections and soaring melodic segments. As narratives go, En-To-End captured the spirit of the times within their music, which consisted of a series of beautifully considered jams that were impeccably crafted and executed, with so much heart and emotion on display for all to see. Listening back to their tracks, you really get transported to the time and place in which they were made, navigating through messages of hope and love that will always strike up a chord within those who care to listen. Its a blend of all you could ever wish for in music, so why not go back and get to know this incredible duo's music, trust us when we say you will not leave empty handed. Superb stuff all round.
And now we arrive at one of the reissues of the year in our eyes, a 7" of their 1989 single 'Money Talks', one of two versions being released by the always impressive Backatcha Records. A record that many consider to be the duo's finest, the music found within has so much depth to it, from the keys floating around in the mid section to the way in which the drums pulsate hard through the bottom ends, and of course the vocals, which talk of how money changes people's perceptions, attitudes and how they are treated by the world around them. The 7" we managed to get our hands on features two mixes of the title track, one of which is a condensed version of the original cut whilst the other is a gorgeous instrumental that has plenty of interesting dialogue and textures to be found within its walls. As a little piece of music, there's plenty to delve right into and get to know, and with that notion lets dip into this timeless classic that will have you boogieing and thinking for days on end....
Up first on the A side comes the title track, and as ever it gets right to the heart of proceedings very quickly indeed. To describe the heart that immediately jumps out at you from the intro is very hard, with the razor sharp drumming features crafting a swinging beat for the gorgeous piano to riff over, with the two features quickly joined by the exceptional bass line and rising strings on both sides of the pan. The ensemble is immediately inviting, our minds wandering through its many layers to get to the source of it all, as the vocals start to emerge - firstly with the line 'You gotta have money in your pocket', and from this point we enter into the first verse, and this is when things get very interesting indeed. The bass line here could move mountains, its placement and groove unbelievably strong, with its presence complimented by continued chordal touches that provide a beautiful backdrop to the vocals. The structure flows onwards with all the heart and meaning in the world, with the narrative presented to us really selling the concept of what's going on, with the chiming key line signalling the beginning of the chorus. The chorus itself sees an amplification of the vocals to include some sublime harmony work, with the words floating right above the rhythm underneath, and it all just works so very well. The track then flows back into the second verse, with differentials occurring here in terms of backing vocals and light key lines throwing themselves into the mix to keep things intriguing, and like that we move back into the chorus, and you cannot help but sing along by this point. We then flow into a vocal rap that speaks of the difference between two people who are in different financial positions, with a women with less getting punished for minor indiscretions whilst a guy who has a lot of money and influence gets away with it, not just once but over and over again. The switch back into the chorus vocals sees the track out, and well, this is one you will want to play over and over again. Utterly sublime, in every sense of the word. On the B side we have the 7" Dayer mix of the title track, and this one begins with the drums getting us going. The feel of the drums is more textured, with the spaces between the kicks and hats filled with a warm fuzz that helps to fill up the scope, and as we get to know this wonderfully considered rhythmic feel the piano starts to emerge from across the horizon line. This is quickly joined by all manner of exquisite melodic work, from the bass line right up to the softest of pads, with the ensemble swelling to a climax of sorts before retreating into the depths to reveal a lot of dialogue going on. The voices chat to each other with a passionate intensity, and as time passes by the piano starts to rise once more, before long taking up the whole space as the narrative retreats to give way to another well of keys and bass. The mix is filled with little touches that set it apart from the A side, with transitions between differing densities working in its favour to keep the immersion levels set very high indeed, with the piano riff coming into focus once more with a feverish beauty. This mix is incredible, leaving us with the warmest of feelings in our stomachs as we drift into the night, content in what we have just listened to. Amazing, just amazing.
Some tracks have that timeless feel to them, moving above the presets and recording techniques to showcase to us the inner passions that made it all work, with this approach allowing us to connect to the music on more levels than just the surface. En-To-End's music is rhythmically and melodically so on point, with each sequence working alongside one another to give over life, meaning and presence, and this new 7" is absolutely no different. The original in which this record is based upon is stunning in its own right, and to have a snapshot here of the feelings which resonate from the 1989 version stands up in scrutiny across the board. We become lost in the messages, the music and the atmosphere, as we find ourselves dipping in and around the layers to discover all that is going on to make this sound such a compelling one. People change, they start off with nothing, its so strange, how money talks. We could listen to that chorus line until the end of time. This is certainly one of the reissues of the year.
Check out the record and purchase here: