1990s

SOUNDGARDEN: Superunknown A work of dark imagination and power. There is a deep vein of nihilism running through this album. You feel the depth of alienation and despair twisting into rage and nihilism. Detuning and unconventional time-signatures add to a feeling of disoriented claustrophobia. At a time when the music video was being experimented with as an art form rather than just an extended avert, the video to Black Hole Sun showed the American Dream ripped apart by an otherworldly darkness. A suitable metaphor for this album.

TRANS-GLOBAL UNDERGROUND: Dream Of 100 Nations Part of the soundtrack of the early 90s. Multi-culturalism as it should be – as an explosion of shared ideas. While the BNP were stirring up the race hate that would end in the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the dancehalls were more than ever seeing race as an irrelevance and culture a treasure to be shared. Trans-global Underground and Nation Records were at the heart of this, spreading hope and a sense of fun at a dark time. Although they drew some criticism from some who saw them as another example of the cultural tourism where the western world continued to exploit other cultures for their own ends, TGU  and Nation records introduced many different forms of music to a wider audience – and on their own terms.

LOOP GURU: Catalogue Of Desires (Vol 1) Released as an official bootleg for sale at gigs etc. this was the sort of extended work out you got from Loop Guru when they were given full reign. Part of the same global fusion scene as Trans-Global Underground, African Head-Charge and the Invaders Of The Heart, Loop Guru nonetheless ploughed their own furrow leaving plenty of space for things to develop. This cassette offers 90 minutes of ambient-dub-fusion, much of which would be re-worked in the future. It suffers a little from the limited dynamics of a cassette but it is still a cracking introduction to the band  that led to some very blissed out evenings sitting under a tree. I can’t find this on the internet at the moment. Hopefully this will be remedied soon.

CHICO SCIENCE & NACAO ZUMBI: Da Lama Au Caos The debut album from Nacao Zumbi is blistering from beginning to end. Released at a time when “World Music” was gaining momentum, these world fugitives take their place in the transglobal underground. Their music stands up to all comers. This funk rock fusion with the Mangue Bit of North East Brazil. Fusing styles and fusing computer technology with age old rhythms. An antennae stuck in the mud sharing transmissions with the similar antennae of Nation Records in the UK, this is more than fusion it is evolution.

PORTISHEAD: Dummy I can still get lost in this album twenty years later. Smoldering songs of loss and despair that take you into the dark places that you already inhabit. It has the same decade-spanning nature as the early Roxy albums. The soundtrack to a Sixties spy movie where otherworldly theramins weave among the cracks and pops of old looped samples and break beats. This album was much imitated but never bettered – even by the band themselves.

POP WILL EAT ITSELF: Dos Dedos Mis Amigos Undoubtedly the pinnacle of PWEI’s recorded output. With songs attacking fascism, the monarchy and the beauty industry, this album was more serious that their previous albums – not that their gigs were any less of a celebration of drunken bacchanalia. It also had a harder edge musically, as they came up with a stronger amalgam of the dance and guitar music that had for much of the time in the past been separated. The album also produced Two Fingers My Friends, an album of remixes by the likes of Trans-Global Underground and Kris Needs.

MASSIVE ATTACK: Mezzanine: It is difficult to choose between Massive Attack albums but this one tends to shade it for me… most of the time. Diverse influences from soul to psychedelia to hip-hop, dub and punk shredded through their own fractured creative process before being reassembled on the mixing desk. Dark and claustrophobic but oddly compelling and beautiful.

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