Frugal Grips #8 : Deeply Bleeping
Pioneers of the Hypnotic Groove
I been going Bleep Mode on ‘em hardstyle for the past 18 months. Bleep’s raw basics formula of Sub + Drums + Synth has been a much needed refuge from the sensory bombardment that is much of current dance music. So many records in 2023 compulsively fill every musical micro-moment with breakbeats, layered synths and FX, but Bleep’s spacious simplicity is Zen-like in its optimized use of minimal elements and a welcomed reminder that less is often more. Previously, I’d dabbled in the subby primordial ooze of British dance music, coming up on the obligatory copy of LFO’s self-titled debut or hunting down the unique Electric Babyland EP, but I’d never went all-in. A few things changed that.
First was my ongoing obsession with foundational UK label, General Production Recordings (GPR), who released early recordings from Mark Broom, The Black Dog, Luke Slater, Plaid, Dave Campbell’s Hi-Ryze project and, most germane to this post, Nev. Nev was the production alias of the late Tim Prezzano, a Rochester native who contributed one of the US’s most on-point Bleep 12”s with 1991’s Deep Bleep. The rest of Tim’s output would be confined to three Bleepy, genre-defying EPs of intelligent and melodic dance music. Indexa Philosopler, My Plasma Block and From Above It Ripples Over Stones were released on GPR from 1994-1995, well past Bleep’s expiration date. However, all three use the Sub + Drums + Bleep formula to explore an alternate timeline in which Bleep didn’t adopt the breakbeats, rave stabs and higher BPM’s that would morph into UK Hardcore, but instead continued to evolve along a trajectory that valued melody, depth and traditional 120ish tempos. Tim’s GPR trifecta are treasures. There’s not a single miss across the EPs’ collective 18 tracks. My Plasma Block had been kicking around my shelves for years, but I hastened to snatch up the rest, Deep Bleep and a few other GPR essentials.
Next was the epiphany of Cabaret Voltaire’s Bleep era. Already established stars in Sheffield during Bleep’s formative years, CV’s Richard Kirk and Stephen Mallinder were regulars at Sheffield’s illegal ‘blues’ afters – weekly house parties like Jive Turkey that were hosted by competing soundsystems. Squarely Industrial CV tracks like “Sensoria”, “Sex, Money, Freaks” and “Crackdown” were blues classics in the pre-Bleep years, making CV local heroes and grandfathering them into the nascent scene. After their induction, CV rebounded from the flaccid Chicago House LP, Laidback, Groovy and Nasty with a slew of raw and primitive Bleep 12”s, injecting their signature malignant creep vibe into the genre. Meanwhile, Kirk opened up their Western Works studio to fellow Yorkshire producers, resulting in collaborations with Jive Turkey co-founder and blues jock DJ Parrot as Sweet Exorcist (responsible for Warp’s third release, Testone), Countzero and Warp co-founder / Bleep legend, Robert Gordon. A few years later, Kirk retooled many of CV’s Post-Punk / Industrial era hits into jak’n post-Bleep versions on the excellent and extremely grailed Technology: Western Re-Works 1992.
Last was reading Join the Future: Bleep Techno and the Rise of British Bass Music by Matt Anniss (shoutout to DJ Voices’ latenightsbookclub for the tip). I have this book to credit for pretty much the entirety of the above paragraph (there’s an entire CV chapter) and so much more. If you are a big enough dork (about anything really) you’ve surely had the feeling that the documentary you watched or book you read was woefully inadequate, not providing you enough minutiae juice to quench your thirst. That is definitely not the case with Join the Future. Matt spelunks every nook and cranny of Bleepdom from its roots in Northern Soul and ‘steppers’ dances and soundsystem culture through its aftermath in Breakbeat / Hardcore. Did you ever want to read an entire chapter about a niche label like Chill? Or dig through an appendix of chapter-specific discographies with hundreds of entries? Matt’s got you sorted. Join the Future is hands down the most exhaustive and pleasantly educative book on dance music I’ve ever read. There are certain history books that a put a topic to rest, being so meticulous and highly regarded that they earn the tag “definitive”. Join the Future is that book for Bleep and it’s been so successful that an updated and expanded edition has been released to make Matt’s work even more bulletproof.
On to the grips! Below are four choice cuts to have you bleeping on a budget. Become a paid subscriber to hop the paywall.