Though I was only a preteen, I have vivid memories of the late 80s/early 90s in the US, and what was happening in music as far MTV and pop radio were telling me. What I didn’t, and really couldn’t, realize was the impact that two seemingly unrelated music cultures were having across the pond. Dance music bounced back from the demise of disco, and acid House was fueling clubs and raves across Britain. Unexpectedly, American hip-hop was also playing a large role in the same scenes, as kids soaked in the phenomena, DJs across the UK became superstars, and began building their own arsenal of music that combined multiple genres.
Two of these DJs even payed homage in name, borrowing from the production duo that helmed the seminal Beastie Boys album, Paul’s Boutique until they were forced to Exit Planet Dust. For their follow up, Dig Your Own Hole, The Chemical Brothers — Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons — made a statement that would continue the transformation of the techno landscape forever in the spring of 1997. As the guitar loops kicked in, it was actually Philadelphia rapper Schoolly D that ushered in this new era with a sample form his “Gucci Again” and let us know they were “Back with another of those block rockin’ beats!”
What followed was a grandiose tour through psychedelic breakbeats that featured stops from Noel Gallagher (a huge accomplishment for a techno act in that day), and continued Beth Orton’s drive to forge her own genre that would be lovingly referred to as “folktronica.” Interweaved in to all of it were heavily acidic bass lines, funky guitars, and hip-hop samples. It solidified them as leaders of the sound defined as Big Beat. Continue reading →