August 25th will see XL Recordings mark 25 years in the business by releasing the “Pay Close Attention” compilation. Contained within its tracklisting are some of the label’s most important releases from some its biggest artists – from The Prodigy to The White Stripes via Basement Jaxx, Adele and more.
You can see the album’s full tracklisting and get your pre-order on over at Juno but this wee anniversary provides the perfect opportunity to take a look back at some of the classic rave tunes that made their way out of the imprint’s warehouse in the early 90s. For me, XL will always be about that era and those releases defined a generation for many.
So here’s my pick of the ten tunes you may or may not have previously discovered in that rather hefty back catalogue, sit back and bask in the breakbeats and rave stabs…
XL Recordings: 10 Essential Rave Classics
Dance Conspiracy – Dub War
Just one of the finest tunes ever released. Ridiculously good drums, “that” horn hook (courtesy of Lafayette Afro Rock Band) and an ever so slightly epic breakdown all combined with classic rave stabs and vocal snippets to make one of the biggest tunes to grace our ears.
Released in 1992, the track came with five mixes (or “chapters”) and you can pick up a digital download over at Boomkat.
The Prodigy – Rip Up The Sound System
They would of course go on to world conquering stardom but this early monster still stands head and shoulders above most of its peers and hasn’t lost any of its charm as the years have marched on.
Originally released in 1992 tucked away on the b-side of the “Everybody in the Place” 12″. Can’t seem to find a digital release of this but you can snap up the vinyl at discogs for not much at all.
Liquid – Liquid is Liquid
While of course “Sweet Harmony” is the tune that most people associate with Liquid, he had quite a few more belters under his belt, most notably this spacey chunk of breakbeat goodness. This track originally surfaced on his debut EP in 1991 but then received a nice little spit and polish for a re-release as part of the “Future Music EP” on XL in 1992.
Again, can’t find a digital release for this, plenty for sale over at discogs however.
T99 – Anasthasia
Maybe the ultimate rave tune, that MASSIVE stab at the beginning, the tough as you like drums and the icing on the cake – the slightly cheesey rap bit, all ensure this track’s place in the history books of electronic music.
T99 would then go on to release a long-player entitled “Children of Chaos” (I think may have been one of about 10 folk in the world to buy this) that unfortunately didn’t have anything in its running order that came close to “Anasthasia”
You can pick up a digital download of this classic over at Juno.
Nu-Matic – Hard Times
Once again it’s all about the DRUMS! A classy wee reggae sample sets the tone but the drums do the damage as we go on alongside that earworm of a sub bass line that just takes up residence in your memory for years after one listen.
You can grab this on digital download also over at Juno.
Jonny L – The Ansaphone
Tucked away as the fourth track on the “Ooh I Like It” release in 1993 was this total gem from the genius of Jonny L. It’s a wee bit euro-trance at points but we’ll forgive it that as it packed all the charm we’d come to expect from the man’s productions.
U.H.F – U.H.F
Written by Moby of course, and as much as he became the electronic producer that trendy folk loved to hate after his success with “Play”, he was responsible for some absolutely amazing tunes in the early 90s, this being one of the best. You can hear more of this type of stuff on the “Early Underground” comp of his work which I thoroughly recommend.
Can’t seem to find a digital download of this but you can pick up a second-hand vinyl copy at discogs for pennies.
Set Up System – Fairy Dust (Frank De Wulf’s Saga Remix)
The genius that is Frank De Wulf at his very best. An infectious wee synth hook lays the groundwork for a multi-layered slab of techno class and again with BRILLIANT drums. Released in 1991.
Digital download available over at Juno.
Cubic 22 – Night In Motion
Written by the same duo behind the original “Fairy Dust” above, this one sadly comes without a Frank De Wulf remix but fear not as it’s still a bit of a monster. Packing in full on hands in the air strings alongside some good ol’ dirty rave stabs there’s a bit of “best of both worlds” going on here and it’s stood the test of time rather well since its 1991 release.
Digital download available over at Juno.
SL2 – S.L.Ectro
We couldn’t get to the end of this list without getting the mighty SL2 in somewhere! They had several huge anthems of course in the shape of “DJ’s Take Control”, “Way In My Brain” and “On A Ragga Tip” but this lovely slab of pacey breakbeat goodness is a favourite of mine.
Packing in electro style percussion and ramping up the BPMs it’s rather monstrous and deserves your eartime.
Originally released in 1992, I can’t seem to find a digital download of this one but you can pick up a copy of the EP on which it appeared over at discogs.
While we’re in the rave mood, you can watch this wee mini documentary about XL’s infamous Vision rave back in 1992: