• August 5, 2010
  • In praise of rave

  • Published by Beatportal

    As an impressionable 11 year old in 1992, the most exciting aspect of the rave scene was the perceived criminality. The scene was awash with drugs, which ensured regular media coverage on the evening news. My friends and I were well impressed upon hearing of a week-long rave in the town of Castlemorton, near Hereford in the Malvern Hills of England. The news reports claimed that 40,000 people had turned up in the West Country for a free party, coupled with hilarious clips of appalled local residents. What was it about this music that had driven grown men and women to mislay their clothes and just dance for 7 days straight?

    We wanted to discover more about this exciting musical landscape and soon learned that ‘rave tapes’ (for the favoured format was always cassette) were not purchased, but acquired. The amount of tapes in your collection depended on your social status at school. It followed then, that the hardest boy in the year owned the widest selection of music. As a lowly link in the chain of command, I came to own just three tapes whilst the bigger boys had over thirty.

    Nearly all of the tapes were sourced from Fantazia, Raindance or Universe promotions. This powerful triumvirate was the holy trinity of rave, each organising enormous and riotous parties across the UK. Listening to these events recorded live was my first introduction to the world of the DJ, and I was completely absorbed by the fact that the music never stopped. It just kept going…and going.

    I was hooked – the deafening cacophony of whistles, bellowing gobshite MCs, rapid-fire breakbeats and epic keyboard lines proved totally addictive. I obsessed over mixes from the likes of DJ Easygroove, Carl Cox and Simon ‘Bassline’ Smith (the latter still very active in the UK drum ‘n’ bass movement). Thoroughly inspired, I began composing rave-style ditties on my Yamaha keyboard, attempting (and failing) to record them on to my family’s antiquated tape recorder.

    I kept listening to my miserly tape allocation until all three cassettes perished in a horrifying mess of cracked plastic and snapped reels. Unfortunately for me, the tough boys wanted their tapes back and I had literally played them to death. Without a viable excuse, I was caught and surrounded. As punishment, I was forced to go out with one of the gang’s scary female cousins. A smaller friend fared less well – he was thrown from the school bus whilst in motion.

    So as we move further in to 2008, I’m starting to get excited all over again, this time about the rapidly escalating dubstep scene. Although the genre’s top tunes are half the speed of those rave classics, dubstep has a comparable degree of edginess and tension. It sounds homemade and raw. The prevalence of earth-shattering bass, distant melodies and ethereal vocals has got me thinking…is dubstep the real new rave?