Kingston Black - EP Vol.1 & After Dark (Burning Records, 1992/1993)
In this dual review, we turn our attentions to the producer Kingston Black, who wowed the dance music world with two phenomenal records of pure undiluted house and acid genius that both have the ability to soothe hearts and shift soundscapes with grace and ease.
A comment we read a wee while back said that a lot of music found in the past was already residing in the future, and we just so happy to live in that future right now. Music is very much informed by its context, in that collectivised sound, technique, instruments and technology available often defined how a genre sounded, along with a hefty dosage of imagination in relation to crafting out there and exciting music. People tried their hand at coming up with the recently exploded house and techno scene, with a huge influx of labels and releases coming onto the scene that in some cases proved to be either giant leaps forward or just adding to stagnant pool of uninteresting electronica, which always happens when any genre becomes more mainstream. But for some releases and particular producers, there was a focus drawn to how records might sound then and now, an emphasis on exploring the extreme facets of sound to send forth a collection of cuts that retain their importance throughout time, a ripple through the ages to continue furthering the contemporary discourse of music with its inherent brilliance. It is perhaps that these records best represent the sounds we commonly associate with the 90s, or in fact even that their sound remains truly unique amongst the dense sea of the time that their contents shines even brighter, with current producers continually searching for these kinds of records in order to further their own sounds and ambitions. That is perhaps why these releases remain so fundamental to the development of music, in that now more than ever producers are looking back to the past for inspiration, exploring overlooked or under utilised genres that have so much more still to offer, and in many ways taking in all the potential creativity that was maybe not completely used up in the past. To achieve this level of hypothetical connection with a complete body of work is an immense achievement, not just in the praise we give but in that the music itself is so well conceived, so well thought out, so unbelievably brilliant in every sense of the word that it all just flows from one context to the next. But, on occasion, a particular producer or group comes along who leave maybe just a single or handful of timeless relics, a small treasure chest of gold that begs the question as to why they only hung around for such a short time. But more often than not, their contribution to music strikes as hard as those who made it a career, in that their music speaks even louder due to its singularity in time and place. With only a couple of references to go from, we can simply bask continually in the small but mighty gifts left for us by those who dipped their toe into the pool of potential, and came out awash with endless genius.
Someone who certainly left their mark in this way is the elusive Kingston Black, who during the early 90s recorded two records that to this day contain some of the finest house and techno to ever come out of the UK. Both the releases came out on Burning Records, with the imprint signing a very interesting array of producers to come into the fold, with genres being represented including hardcore, breaks, progressive house, techno and even future jazz as the decade went on, with the variety of genres highly indicative of the diverse sound that resonated within the British underground. Each record built a new foundational element, drawing from the inspiring context and injecting it straight into the label, all of which aided in the imprint becoming a well known reference point for any lover of UK sound from that era of music. Whether it be the progressive groovy excellence of the 'Discology' Volumes 1 and 2 by C.F.Q Project (1992), or the unbridled epicness found within the iconic breakbeat tinged 'Pendulum' and 'The Legacy' EPs from Le'Gato, or the varying Jazz Vandalls records that populate the label's back catalogue, including excellent LPs such as 'A Change In Jazzitude' or 'Pure Vandalism' (from 96' and 94' respectively), through to one off records by Utopian Dream, Taste The Rhythm and Groove Alliance, you will certainly not be short of brilliance in this relatively short but highly dense discography. All the important hallmark points in the era are touched upon, delving into and around the overarching flows that bound the musical context at the time, an inherent focus on all that remained important in terms of sound development and forward momentum at the time. And then, we arrive at the two Kingston Black records, that slot very neatly within the sea of forward thinkingness, but strike out on their own in terms of content and mood, with a gorgeous vibe that is hard to find replicated anywhere else. A inherently cross genre hybrid kind of sound, the music here is generally bound to the rhythms of house but provides an enormous amount of space to fill in and round the beats, with the stylings demonstrating an spectacular array of features and tones for us to get very lost within indeed. From acid tendancies, through to deep breaky goodness, via some deep techno business, its all just such a wonderful journey through the sights and sounds of a producer or group who were very much keen on making a musical experience that resonates so much with us know as it did with listeners when the music originally hit. There's always going to be a draw when music is inherently genre defying, game changing in terms of its application and mood, constantly shifting in terms of its tone and feel, a kind of creative license that knows no time based boundaries or rules, yet remains content to float and flux in the spaces between decades. Two records that feed into the myth, the brains and visions behind these two extraordinary pieces of music, and something we are so very much looking forward getting into on this dual record review. Prepare to be transported back to a time of unparalleled sonic ambition, in order to get to it before getting thrust right back into the present day, where the relevance of such records remains as important as ever. So, without further delay, lets take a deep dive back to 1992 and 93..........
EP Vol. 1 (1992)
Kingston Black's debut landed slap bang during the later stages of the UK house and techno revolution, and the contents of this excellent record are very much a representation of those dynamic and interchanging times. That sentiment is very much confirmed when the needle begins on A1, 'Acid Heaven', and there is no time at all dedicated to messing around as we are firmly gripped by the acid sequence, and the audial narrative unravels at a breakneck speed. The acid line peaks and troughs throughout the opening few seconds, crafting a dynamic as hell thread that everything seems to begin to weave around and become a part of, a sequence that contains all kinds of excitement and enriching feel to it, as the hats cymbals and kicks quickly make an appearance with the groove really lifting off. The structure is allowed to flow for a few bars, before the chords chime in the backdrop, moving between three stages as they flood the backdrop with all the melodicness in the world, taking the track to some very ethereal places indeed. The chords are quickly complimented by a delicate flute like key line that rises and flickers within the spaces set by the explosive beat, with the track moving between differing levels of layers and tones, moving the groove through in a brilliantly organic way. The track then crafts its first crest as the drums move away to reveal just the chordal arrangement, with the keys then finding all the time in the world to solo their hearts out, before gliding back into the momentum moving forward, with the vocal sample adding a very seductive and energetic side to things as they saunter onwards. A truly outstanding piece of dance music, it must be said. Up next comes 'Groove (no) 9', and we begin in fairly similar territories, but an ever so slightly differing feel. The track bounces along via its delicate synth stabs, that hold the fort in terms of pulse whilst all manner of percussive elements align themselves in the undercurrent, that include a handful of hats, cymbals and snares, with toms also abounding all around to craft this unreal sense of rhythm. The melodic features, content in taking a back seat to the comings and goings, come to life in a equally as organic but perhaps more sutble way, with undercurrents of bassy chords and key sequences surging from the deep depths, crafting a continually weaving dynamic that moves with the ebbs and flows. The track takes its first deep dive into a beatless section, as a new key line makes itself known, before the kicks come right back in, and yet the track has much, much more to offer. The heavenly rave tinged chord sequence comes into play, smashing down through the core of the track to deliver that proper hands in the air moment we all know we needed. The track then moves through the motions to arrive once more at the key groove, where all the elements that were introduced before find their space in the most incredible of sequences, seriously its that impressive. Kingston Black does a superb job at holding it all together, allowing every single feature and line to hold their own, to sing loudly and proudly with each passing moment, before knowing exactly when to recede and when to counter. Seriously, seriously good.
'Tight As A Drum' arrives next, and as to be expected the beat builds from humble origins into something spectacular. The deft blend of melodic sounding sequences weaves continually through the enriching percussive structures, moving in and around the flickering hats and cymbals, and before long we are joined by the bass line that slots in so naturally into proceedings we get carried away by the intoxicating balance. Not too long after the bass line is allowed to firmly embed itself into the forward momentum, the bright yet elegant chordal progression comes into view, and its so appropriate to the textural depth of the track, being yet another element that fits in so very well indeed with the momentum. The track then takes a breather to firmly introduce us to the chords in all their glory, chiming across the bedrock to echo back right into our immediate field of vision, charming all with its inherent feel and tone, before the drums come right back into the mix, and the track picks up very much where it left off. Its an effortless movement through dubby spaces, ethereally bassy realms where the percussion does much of the expressing yet leaves enough room for the paired back melodic features to put their work in and craft a forward notion that is intensely engaging. To wrap things up on the sheer excellence of it all, we have 'Sunstroke', and we perhaps should have left some energy til the end of the dance for this one, but you simply just have to move on this one. The track begins with the tonally dense key sequence, that sounds very much like a hard edge vibraphone, with the kicks arriving soon after to give a boost to the already frantic pulse. The rave style chords arrive in the backdrop, swooping down from up high to occupy spaces in the main key driver, with the bass line coming in strong underneath to keep the blood pumping. The track then evolves its melodic structures to craft a more fluid sequence of layers, with the main driver moving into the mid ground in order to provide space for additional solos and the like that float on by. The overall picture is completely engrossing, an engagement through dance and the transitions that only appear on the most realised of tunes, our hearts and minds truly captured with each passing second. This is a record that really does stand up to scrutiny, in that its contents are some of the most mesmerising house cuts you will ever get the chance to hear. Four differing yet completely interlinked cuts that do much to surprise and delight in equal measure, their fluidity and transitional elements something to marvel at and gave over in total wonderment. A true pearl, a one of a kind, a slice of pure brilliance.
After Dark (Extended Play) (1993)
Kingston Black would follow up the purity of their debut record with a new release that would simply bind people to the legacy two fold, 'After Dark (Extended Play)', that displayed the established blend of house and pushed it to new heights, new depths and new contexts. We begin things off with 'Ketosis', and this one really does set up all that is to flow from this excellent record. The chiming key line moves across a bedrock of soft percussive features, with the combo allowed to roll on for a few moments before the magic chords come into view in the backdrop, with an additional synth line sliding into place, creating a melodic spectrum that is so well considered, it simply invites you to come and get involved in its gorgeous flow. The track then reaches an initial crest, where the wave of goodness starts to descend, with the main melodic drivers moving away to provide space for the soft yet purposeful bass line, which then sees the drums arrive. They remain just the kicks at first, but quickly move into yet another bona fide classic groove, with the deep chordal arrangement remaining strong through all the transitions, and its what occurs next that brings it all together. The varying melodic structures that permeated the initial opening salvo all get a moment to interlink with one another, providing a continual narrative to play out, which reaches yet another climax when the tune introduces the superb piano chords, that really take the track to new heights indeed. The track then moves into its final phase, where the key solo plays off the dubby nature of the bass line, both features complimenting each other with meaning and elegance, before we get one final moment with the melodic structures that could move mountains, its simply that amazing. Truly remarkable, and what an opener. 'I See The Star's arrives next, and we ascend into yet another melodic filled soundscape. The same emphasis is placed on the backdrop of chords providing a basis for all kinds of textured solos and tones to flow and move around on top, with the track quickly shifting gears to arrive at the core piano hook, which arrives once the drumming patterns have done the rounds, and its pretty glorious, their nature providing further rhythmic qualities to abound and interact with the song and its flow. The amount of textured sequences that move so fluidly between the structures is fantastic to get involved in, our minds happy to follow the threads as they switch and feel between the flows and the dynamics. The overall vibe is one of lush velvety keys continually layering on top of each other, each one so considered in terms of its texture and tone, providing an experience that really wraps itself around you entirely as you keep moving onwards and upwards. Such stellar work.
Up next comes 'Clear As Day', and this one really emphasises the groove and all it stands for. The track gets right into the heat of it, with the drums typically up tempo yet displaying a more compact and jazzy feel, with the repeating hi hat crafting a forward momentum that is hard to deny, alongside the bass sequence that makes the whole intro really pack a punch. The song then moves to showcase its melodic side, with the drums cutting out for a moment to highlight the deep bountiful chordal arrangements, which acts as a kind of chapter break (which we are sure will be referenced later), but its all about the next phase of the cut, which moves into a beautifully groovy and never ending feel of movement and variety. The structure harks back to the initial structure introduced at the start, but also brings in a hefty key solo of sorts that directs and guides the dance, with a vocal line echoing out on top of the plateau of good vibrations. The track then brings it back round to introduce the deep swelling chordal line, which once more acts as a momentary break in the relentless groove, with the track content to now move between these two arrangements until the fades begin to descend on it, as we ascend with that groove firmly imprinted into our minds. Superb.
'Do's Cappicino' cannot be found online, so until we buy the vinyl, we will leave this space blank!
In all, what Kingston Black was able to conjure up over just two records was nothing short of astonishing, not just in terms of the technicals but also the wholly uniqueness that exudes from every corner of the records. There's a distinctive application of sound and feel that aligns itself into every single facet, beat and key that passes us by, more often than not intricately layered and considered to craft an experience that has no end to its seemingly endless depths. You have such a purity to be found and discovered in the music, a creativeness that extends beyond the overall vision and graces every single aspect of the music, crafting a narrative and a world that remain as compelling today as they did back in the early 90s. Its a sound forged very much by its context, but with a message that moves through time and space to continually deliver good vibrations to all that came before and after, a thread in time in the history of dance music that will always pulsate and inspire anyone who happens to come across its enriching goodness. Two slices of absolute heaven, for sure, and a record we feel will never cease to be inherently engaging. The future feels very much here, and its soundtracked still by Kingston Black.
Check out the records here: