The various confluences that made up the early UK 90s scene align here on this extra special compilation, that features a blend of House, UK rap, Soul and Boogie unlike anything we have ever heard before.
The 90s were an electrifying time, and for many it was a time to give yourself over to the notion of expressionism, be it through dance, through culture, through experimentation, or through producing daring music. No matter which one was picked, there was a presence that hung over the Dance Music community that spurred an enormity of groundbreaking concepts, with movements coming forth that would change the face of not just Dance music but music as we know it. The generations that flowed through the early 80s all the way through to the late 90s experienced a cataclysmic shift in the way in which music is conceived, developed, and taken in, with an endless array of new labels and producers looking to take part within this shift that saw underground parties and raves become the gold standard for atmospheres. The utilisation of hardware certainly had an influence on many within the scenes that would develop, and when this was paired with the importation of American sounds, particularly the notions of Deep House and 80s Boogie, the Brits did what the Brits did best - intake, reconsider and come up with their own unique take. The Black British underground very much spearheaded these new musical evolutions, just as they had always done, with genres such as Street Soul morphing alongside the embryonic UK deep house sound around this time that would go on to forge further genres on the horizon. UK Deep House, Bleep, IDM, Jungle, D'n'B, UK Garage, Street Soul, Hip Hop, Brit Funk, the list can and should go on, as producers and musicians from up and down the land found a new sense of musical meaning coursing through their veins and out through their finger tips. Music from this era filled up not just the rave, but the bedroom, the suburban party, the underground space, and it was via all these new networks of coming together that further evolutions would take place, encouraging individual threads to multiply and grow into something special. Whilst perhaps the best memories of this cross pollination of genres was remembered within these spaces, there are certain records that indicate the depth of certain producers and labels in relation to how far they were willing to go in terms of experimentation. A snapshot into the past, an indicator of something truly extraordinary, a reminder of what this era was capable of - all bundled together on a slice of wax, awaiting its next appointment with the platter.....
One such label that embodied this notion of encapsulating all of the excitement and creativity surrounding this new era was Lap One, who would spend the better part of the late 80s and early 90s introducing us to some extraordinary talents. Helmed by Ronald Amanze, the label would begin its life in 89', and its evolution would acquire some heavy hitters along the way that would help to shape and form the imprint's sound into one that we find utterly fascinating. Much like contemporaries V4Visions or Unyque, Lap One concerned itself with the webs that formed between the emerging Black British musical identity around the turn of the decade, with House, Street Soul and Hip Hop all blending around one another, with Lover's Rock and Dub remaining in the mix to provide a hefty dosage of undertone to proceedings. Lap One's discography is incredibly varied, with each artist found within its hallowed halls bringing something new to the table that always served as a foundational base for their next release, no matter what it might have been. As a result, every record you take a dive into serves up a different feeling, a nod to a new space or context, providing the listener with so many options when it comes to soundtracking an experience, and to have that choice is always a positive, but when the quality remains so high it crafts a bond between the listener and the music. The universe that Lap One was able to conjure up within its run is infatuating, engrossing to the point of quiet euphoria and just, well, fundamentally interesting to listen to on a purely musical level. This universe not only intook the influence from overseas but gave it a truly British attitude, as the melding of sounds from the many sources ensuring that listeners were given a fresh experience. The talent involved is off the chain, with producers and songwriters invited along to be a part of the label's story either as guest appearances or to do full records, and this curated a distinguished family kind of affair. This, coupled with the direction of Amanze and his ability to bring together like minded characters, meant that the flow of energies from release to release remains oh so very strong, and a sheer delight to dip between. From towering compilations to outstanding solo EPs and LPs, there's plenty to highlight, starting off with the Hip House classic 'Back Off' by Ranking and Crucial, which came out in 1991; the timeless garage house EP 'Love Is the Universe' by Kara George; the deeply engrossing self titled LP from Pinky and the Renagade Posse, the label's debut, which arrived in 89'; and finally, the gorgeous 'Music To Make Love To' compilation, which featured a number of cuts from a certain Rick Clarke. In all, the label was clued in very much to the Black British sound that was emerging at the time, embedding itself in the new forms of expression that flowed from differing sides of the spectrum, from the club to the bedroom and back again. Their mantra has stood the test of time, and their placement amongst the top tier of turn of the decade British labels is set in stone. If you need good vibes, but more importantly diverse and life affirming vibes, then check out their previous works - you really won't be disappointed.
And now we turn our attentions to a record that has rarely left our sights the moment we laid eyes on it - 'Lap One Productions Vol 2 - Instant Addiction Once Exposed', which brings together some familiar faces from the label alongside some special guests to fill in the gaps. Whilst many compilations are used to help give an overview of a label's vibe, Lap One do one better and look to further the impression of the label by including a large number of original productions by Dynamic Two and Sweeny Todler which can be found nowhere else. The experience you gain from listening to this record from start to end is mind-blowing, with a hefty dosage of Boogie and Street Soul sitting alongside innovative House, Hip House and even breakbeat leanings. As mentioned the talent on show is extraordinary, with each track worthy of praise but even more so as part of a package that just shines so very brightly. The album presents itself as this beautiful box of treasures that showcases a label at the very top of its game, a visionary that still had more gas in the tank, and the feeling you get when engaging with it is overpoweringly beautiful. So, without further delay, lets dive into this enriching slice of heaven.....
Up first comes 'Don't let life get you down', by Dynamic Two and featuring Michael Tarone on vocals, who recorded his own version of the cut. The track opens up with Tarone steaming out the hook, and as time passes by the melodic notions and light percussive elements wrap themselves around his honey laden voice. Everything drops for a moment to provide the space for the full groove to break through and draw us into the dance, and the melody of elements is warm to the touch and smooth on the soul. Tarone returns after a few bars to bring the whole ensemble back together, his voice floating elegantly up top the waves of rhythm and tone. The track breaks it down ever so slightly around the half way mark to introduce a new textured element, but on the whole its a delightful head nodder, the consistency in the backing instrumentals providing Tarone with all the room to express himself, and he does so superbly. Up next comes the title track, which features the vocal work of Sweeny Todler, and this one is an instantly more up tempo affair. The House orientated groove consists of a earworm of a bass line, which weaves between the intricate percussive lines, with these two elements providing an excellent basis for the two chord progression that shifts around in the backdrop. Todler's voice remains a steady companion throughout, his words delicately speaking up atop, aligning to certain elements of the beat. During the break down the chords shift to introduce a choral feature of shorts, but soon enough we descend back into Todler's narrative. Its a sweet meander through all manner of contexts, conversations, the many narratives we come across in life, be it passive, direct or lost within the sub consciousness. Wonderful stuff. Up next comes 'Debbie' by the Dynamic Two, and this one takes the groove down a fair bit. The beat is somewhat hip hop aligned, with plenty of breaks thrown in for good measure along with snares that abound enormously with the spaces left behind. What happens up top with the melodic features is very special indeed, with an enormity of chords and keys utilised to sweep through differing segments. The layering is mesmerising, as we shift from one arrangement to the next with such control, merging previous moments with the forward momentum. The introduction of the vocal sample around the half way mark provides a bit of spice, and as this element filters away we are left with some special memories to take away from this engrossing piece of music. Amazing stuff.
Up next comes ‘Just Lay Back & Close Your Eyes’ by Dynamic Two, and this one brings the feeling down even further, into the depths of rhythm and expression. The track opens up with a big violin like stabbing sweep, but its the vocals that soon take centre stage, in fact its the same vocals used from the opening cut with Michael Tarone, and its wonderful to experience them in a much more stripped back way. The drums are laid bare in a psychedelic soul kind of way, with the keys twinkling along on the left whilst the guitar does some beautiful sweeps on the right hand side, the vocals provided with the space through the middle to delight and entice in equal measure. The journey you embark on tantalises and fascinates, engaging with the words in a different way due to the stripped back tone, and your eyes are encouraged to close, to feel out the groove, to leave the physical and engage with the spiritual. Beautiful beyond belief. Up next comes the big one, ‘Step Back’ by Sonja Ryshard, and this track is simply unreal. The intro seems to be similar to the Rap version of the track, and what an intro it is, featuring the key melodic thrusts but with plenty of glorious key lines, flourishes and fills, and as intros into a song there are few better. The track then slides into the first verse, which sees Sonja deliver her words with such precision and elegance, driving on the instrumentals with such gentle force. The chorus is a beauty also, with the continued layering of elements adding enormously to the groove and direction of the track. The second verse begins once more, and as this develops we remain swinging between the bridge and the chorus lines, wrapped up in Boogie paradise as vocal lines continue to find their way into view, crafting a world that feels too good to be true. Sheer brilliance. Up next comes the return of the Dynamic Two, with their track ‘No’, and the feels have been pushed up once again on this groove. The rhythm is immediately house leaning, with the single sample of ‘NO!’ Ringing out between the grooves, and this all hints towards things to come. The chords that arrive graciously weave their way amongst the drums, as delightful key lines blinker up above, and as the climax continues to grow we arrive at the chorus where things all go a little bit Italiooo. Its euphoric to the max, bringing the crowd to its knees as tears flow from the eyes of all involved, the music drawing us closer to the Riviera than ever before. The emotion, the flow, the passion, it just rides the crest of the wave, repeating itself over and over until the soul fuses with the feel, and as everything strips back before the end, we are ready for one final moment to give ourselves over completely to the music. Excellent stuff
Up next comes Sweeny Todler with the track ‘Winter Mourning’, and here we arrive at the next groove to throw itself at us. The groove is up tempo broken beat, with intriguing samples added in to craft a sense of engagement, but its Todler’s vocal delivery that really draws you in. Speaking among the high levels of the wavelengths, his voice shifts from two times to one time and back again, filling the consistent gaps between kicks and toms with a mixed bag of words, creating breaks between the grooves. The breaks between vocals provides a focus towards the rhythm, but Todler’s presence is never far behind, and this is the enduring feature of this wonderful cut. To wrap things up, we have a very special piece of music - ‘Harmony’, the final contribution by Dynamic Two. There’s no messing about here as the main thrust comes into view immediately, consisting of a proper in depth rhythmic core underneath a very special melodic sequence, and oh yes this is the fucking one. Feeling Balearic and Italo all at the same time, the emotion that swells within on this cut is unreal, as cosmic sweeps shine through the chords, bringing us that little bit closer to the stars in the process. The whole ensemble ensnares you, and thats when the guitar comes into view and things really kick off, the placement and groove of the notes hit you in all the right places. Its simply euphoric, causing the feet to move as the mind feels content to merge with the heavens up above, and yeah, its just unreal. A fitting end to a very special collection of tunes, one that brings you right back to the time it was made, and puts a twinkle in your eyes that points to a very bright future. All fucking killer, zero filler. Very special stuff.
There is so much to marvel at within the UK's recent electronic music's history, and with records like this from Lap One, its easy to see why. The story of the label is laid bare here, with dynamic productions found across the board which range from slowed down boogie excellence through to high rolling steppers that bring unique approaches to wordplay that you just stand back and take it all in. The flow from one track to the next keeps you very much on your toes, mesmerised and infatuated by the genius of it all that engulfs the listener within a world that feels so smooth to the touch. The melodies are enchanting, the vocal performances are beyond sublime, and the affection that rings out from all corners is very hard not to fall in love with. Take our word for it, you really do need this record in your life, a musical storybook to your next adventure stepping out into the world - and doing so with a smile on your face. Unreal, timeless, and everything else.
Check out the record here: