Let Your Love Shine On

While visiting Ikea last week I took this shot from the car park, looking west towards Manchester city centre through a kind of letterbox. It reminded me of the letterbox format that videos and dvds used to have, supposedly the connoisseur’s choice for watching films.

And while looking for something else (A Man Called Adam’s Easter Song, a boat I have missed, for this year at least) I found this- William Orbit’s The Story of Light. From his 1993 Strange Cargo III album and the second volume of the Cafe Del Mar compilations, this is a rich, sumptuous piece of 1990s positivity. It might make your day a little better.

The Story Of Light

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She’s Got Herself A Universe

Madonna’s Ray Of Light single and album are 20 years old. The album is a modern pop showpiece, borrowing from all over the place, mainly but not only dance music and dance music production, to make something new and up-to-date. The single was a blast, a riot of acid-tinged electronics merged with a soaring chorus and a feeling of freedom, flying, re-birth. Madonna had been through several life changing experiences in the previous couple of years, not least the birth of her daughter, and a desire to capture this newness, ‘wonderment’ she called it, was uppermost in her mind. The person chosen to bring it to life was William Orbit and he brings the sound, the electronic and dance influences and the production techniques. Ray Of Light, the single, still sounds fresh today. Orbit deliberately pushed her vocals as far as he could, making her sing just beyond the top of her range, a semitone above where she’d usually peak, to get that reaching and slightly straining effect. I was deep into stuff in 1998 that was often quite a long way from Madonna but I loved this single- and still do.

The 12″ and cd single came with a range of remixes. William Orbit’s own 8 minute Liquid version of Ray Of Light was well worth the cost of a cd single (¬£3.99 probably), a stretched out, less hyper take on the pop version, with looped electric guitar parts for the intro and then burbling synths and bass, the vocal covered in reverb.

Ray Of Light (William Orbit Liquid Mix)

I may come back to the Ray Of Light album at a later date- I haven’t listened to it for a long time but it’s got a lot of songs worth re-investigating. While putting this post together I cam across this semi-ambient, floaty remix of Drowned World with a great backwards guitar part, again by Orbit himself- Drowned World- A Reverie Remix. Rather beautiful.

Punk bonus- Mark Vidler, as Go Home Productions, was a master of the 00s mash-up/bootleg scene. He spliced Ray Of Light with Pretty Vacant, added the filth and fury of the Pistols on Bill Grundy and some gig chatter of Lydon complaining about being spat upon.

Ray Of Gob

Vine Leaf

This post follows on (coincidentally) from Drew’s on Friday where he posted a different mix of the same song. William Orbit’s Water From A Vine Leaf is a long progressive house tune from 1993 with a Beth Orton vocal. Over twenty years on it sounds good to these ears, still has a freshness about it. This remix is even better than the original mix though I think. In 1993 Underworld were on top of their game, Emerson, Hyde and Smith capable of turning out ten minute remixes that reshaped the source matter and drove it onwards. This one adds a certain moodiness to Orbit’s original version, perfect for the dancefloor and the headphones. Underworld really should compile their best remixes- they had so many from this time.

Water From A Vine Leaf (Underwater Mix Part 1)

Claudio Caniggia

Bass-O-Matic were William Orbit’s 90s house outfit who hit the top ten with Fascinating Rhythm, a single I have a lot of time for- early 90s positivity, pianos, a rap from MC Inna Onestep and the lovely vocals of Sharon Musgrave.

For a sultry and less poppy take on Fascinating Rhythm Renegade Soundwave offered up this version, also a tribute to ¬†Claudio Caniggia, Argentina’s long haired forward at Italia 90, a man fouled three times as he danced and dribbled his way through Cameroon’s defence before being scythed down. This being Renegade Soundwave the focus is very much on the bass.

Fascinating Rhythm (Claudio Caniggia Mix)

I Think It’s Time To Make The Floor Burn

I’ve been having some fun watching these clips on Youtube recently. Dance Energy was BBC 2’s attempt to capture early 90s youth culture. To be far to the Beeb Snub TV was an excellent half hour weekly look at the indie scene with some essential live clips and interviews. For Dance Energy they got Normski in as presenter. Normski may be best described as an acquired taste (although many internet commenters seem to prefer the word bellend). Dance Energy ran on a Monday evening, straight after The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air and had ‘live’ performances in the studio from dance and hip hop acts. Unlike the majority of 1960s TV music programmes, where there’s no doubt that the groups are better dressed and better coiffured than the audience, on Dance Energy the crowd are the real stars. here’s a few I’ve picked out…

Steve Cobby’s band from this time was Ashley and Jackson (they played Cities In The Park which is why I think I came across this on Youtube while looking for clips of that event for my post a couple of weeks ago). Solid Gold was going to be Ashley and Jackson’s breakthrough single but it never really happened for them in terms of having a hit. This clip from 1991 starts with the titles and theme music which will push all kinds of buttons for some of you of a certain age…

Bassomatic’s Fascinating Rhythm was a top ten hit in 1990 and still sounds pretty good today although that style of rapping has dated. This song aside Bassomatic are also known for having a pre-Madonna/All Saints William Orbit on board.

Yo! Here comes Normski again! This is Bizarre Inc, hugely popular up here in the north, with Playing With Knives. I love this record, it’s crunching keyboard riffs, repetitive, cyclical vocals and breakbeat- and the on stage dancers.

And this is a beauty, The Beloved’s It’s Alright Now, a properly blissful, house tune, all positivity and optimism. Again this should have been a massive hit and wasn’t.

Lastly for the moment The Shamen. Like The Beloved they started as an indie guitar band and then moved into dance music when it hit them. This performance of Hyperreal is pretty smart, the best version of this song, and has Will Sin in the group, before his untimely death in Tenerife in May 1991.