Video Countdown: A Journey Thru The NY Underground (Part One)

Following our story on New York techno in the early 90s, RBMA Radio honcho, veteran DJ and club music expert Yannick Elverfeld guides us through a selection of NYC’s forgotten classics and peculiar proto-rave anthems.

This is the first installment in Yannick's two-part series. Read part two here.

The Chosen - Visions Of Life

In 1990s New York, everything was possible within the rhythmic template of house music. “Visions Of Life” wasn’t a huge record, yet it remains a prime example of the open-minded avant-garde spirit that would become synonymous with NYC labels like the quintessential Nu Groove. It’s an intriguing journey through Detroit techno, Sheffield’s bleep sound and a good portion of ethereal house hypnosis. And despite Lenny Dee, Tim Taylor and Tommy Musto cheekily sampling Derrick May’s “Wiggin”, it’s hard to deny the beauty of this record.

Revelation - First Power (Domination Dub)

A seminal proto-trance masterpiece from Brooklyn’s Mundo Muzique and Queens native Andre Estrada. Equipped with an equally overwhelming flipside, this track has left an indelible impression on me ever since I heard it in a Laurent Garnier set circa 1991. Mundo Muzique released only a handful of records at the time and then suddenly disappeared from the music scene, forever. However, he deserves a place in the history books as a true innovator, creating the infamous “Mentasm” sound (alongside Joey Beltram), later often referred to as the ‘hoover’ – a classic rave sound that built the foundation for Euro techno and British breakbeat anthems in years to come (most notably “Dominator” or The Prodigy’s “Charly”). Today’s fans of the sound include Lady Gaga and Rihanna. Blame it on Mundo.

The Martian - Get Up To My Groove

The Martian - Get Up To My Groove

Originally released on New Jersey’s Echo USA label, this bass-heavy, orchestral slice of acid house builds and builds into a forgotten anthem of an era. The Martian was a project by Marlon Grant – not to be confused with Detroit’s The Martian, a moniker of UR’s ‘Mad’ Mike Banks for his legendary Red Planet series – who released a bunch of 12"s on lesser known East Coast imprints. Get up!

Egotrip - Dreamworld

A quirky little bleep house tune courtesy of none other than Roger Sanchez. It was one of his very first productions and we can only wonder what inspired a young S-Man to put together such an obscure yet fascinating piece of haunting leftfield techno. Sounding more like early Warp Records with ambient interludes than the classic New York house treatment he became famous for, the long-forgotten “Dreamworld” was embraced at the time by the cream of the crop of British rave DJs.

Major Problems - Manslaughter

The prolific duo Lenny Dee and Ralphie Dee knocked out countless idiosyncratic tracks for Nu Groove Records. While their Adonis-sampling classic “Overdose” always appeared as the brightest moment in their Major Problems EP trilogy, it was the powerful “Manslaughter” that nailed their rugged breakbeat house sound, arming it with a potent concoction comprised of equal parts UK rave, Chicago acid and European techno.

Pink Noise - Gimme Some More (Energy)

Sample maestro Frankie Bones blatantly threw in bits and pieces here from 808 State’s “Cubik”, Dr Baker’s “Kaos”, Renegade Soundwave and more, creating a medley of rave signals and hands-up-in-the-air moments like only he could do. Fourth Floor Records only released this as white label. “We actually were concerned that someone was going to sue us for samples, so we tried to keep it as underground as possible,” Frankie Bones recalls in a comment on YouTube. “Had someone told me 20 years ago that the records I sampled would appear in a little box next to audio/video of the track here... crazy... this record was so cheeky I opted not to put my name on it.” Another one out of many great examples of Bones’ cut and paste production style was “My House Is Your House” under his Break Boys alias. It was the unofficial anthem of the 1991 Love Parade in Berlin, a defining moment for Germany’s burgeoning rave scene and beyond.

Barracuda - Drug Fits The Face

While young Brooklyn producers like Joey Beltram and Mundo Muzique soundtracked the rise of the movement overseas, one of techno’s first pop stars was emerging just across the bridge in Manhattan: Moby. Before his career really took off, going Top Of The Pops with the eternal “Go”, Moby released a steady stream of heartwarming machine funk, piano house euphoria and breakbeat-fuelled ambient techno as Brainstorm, UHF, Voodoo Child and Barracuda. “Drug Fits The Face” was a pivotal piece of music in any serious chill-out room (remember those?), embodying the dreams of a whole generation of club kids.

C’hantal - The Realm

When listening to the downright strangeness of “The Realm” today, it’s hard to imagine this epic 12 minute thing actually worked on any dancefloor, ever. In the early 90s, it did. Mutating from a deep organ house groove into an apocalyptic rave beast, Ralphie Dee’s flamboyant “Love In D Minor Mix” turned into an undisputed New York techno classic. “Something for your mind, your body, and your soul,” you know the deal. C’hantal’s acapella has been sampled for about a hundred other tracks (disregard all of them except for Speedy J’s version).

Mundo Muzique - Andromeda

Another celestial, synth-laden strobe light serenade and after hours rave classic from the genius that was Mundo Muzique. Its spaced-out, left-footed house vibe, melodic piano sprinkles, ever-changing drum patterns and overall anthemic arrangement made “Andromeda” the standout cut on Easy Street’s groundbreaking Brooklyn Beats six-track EP. The track became a fixture in the sets of many influential DJs across Europe; dropped in the wee hours of the morning, it was the perfect tune to bring the wildest party gently down towards closing after a long night of the all-engulfing thump-thump.

Beltram - Jazz 3033

The quintessential New York techno producer, it would take a video countdown dedicated solely to Joey Beltram to do justice to his impressive musical output in the era. Apart from trailblazing classics such as “Energy Flash” and “Mentasm” (both released via Belgium’s R&S Records), Joey unleashed a plethora of timeless tracks on nearly every forward-thinking NY label at the time. His musical oeuvre encompassed mesmerising Code 6 technosoul, aquatic electro, and the take-no-prisoners sound he was renowned for throughout the mid and late 90s.

By Yannick Elverfeld on September 18, 2012

On a different note