93. TEN NORTHERN SOUL GEMS (Guest Contributor: Stuart Cosgrove)

 One of the inevitable obstacles when trying to prescribe the perfect record collection is that some musical genres are undoubtedly better represented on formats other than the LP, most notably Northern Soul. In order to rectify this situation, TNPC is delighted to welcome Stuart Cosgrove, world renowned authority on the subject and author of the fantastic Young Soul Rebels who has given us his lowdown on ten classics guaranteed to fill the floor at any NS all-nighter.

Ten of The Best


“There is no such thing as a Northern Soul Top Ten, as it’s all in the eye of the beholder: era, styles and all-night clubs. But I like these ones from across the genre.”

‘I Spy for the FBI’ – Luther Ingram (Smash, 1965)  – The original version of an all time classic, more gentle that Jamo Thomas’s more famous version.

‘Agent 00 Soul’ – Edwin Starr (Ric-Tic, 1965) – A great special agent soul record, classic mid-sixties Motown.

‘Bari Track’ – Doni Burdick (Sound Impression, 1967) – For me the best Detroit instrumental of the lot – immense!

‘I Miss My Baby’ – Rose Batiste  (Revilot, 1966) – And if you prefer it with great soulful vocals, then here it is…

‘My World is On Fire’ – Jimmy Mack (Palmer, 1967) – Hectic riot record from Detroit in 1967. Big Wigan all nighter sound.

‘Who’s Makin Love’ Johnnie Taylor  (Stax, 1968) – Memphis rollicking dancer and illicit sex all in 3 minutes.

‘Seven Day Lover’ – James Fountain (Peachtree, 1970) – An all time favourite – modern funky northern and still a big dance-floor hit.

‘Who Will Do Your Running Now’ – Marvin Smith (Mayfield, 1969) – Chicago crossover classic.

‘I Want To Wrap you in My Arms’ – The Pro-Fascination (MOT, undated) – A New Orleans wedding band still making rare soul well into the modern day.

Melvin Brown and James Mathews – ‘Love’s Stormy Weather’ (Philmore Sound, 1976) – Love duets like Marvin and Tammi are usually male-female; this is the best all male duet I’ve heard.

(Stuart Cosgrove, Author Young Soul Rebels & Detroit ‘67)

92. GOLDIE – TIMELESS (1995)

  Timeless is about to celebrate its 21st birthday. In 2014, Goldie launched an orchestral version, which might make it dance music’s riposte to Tommy. And like that sprawling behemoth, it too has it’s fair share of scoffers eager to dismiss it as over ambitious, pretentious even. Upon its release, Goldie likened it to a Rolex – a confident assertion for someone to make during what was one of the most fertile periods of innovation in electronic music. I am staggered by how incredibly modern it sounds today – its deluxe crystalline production seems contemporaneous with the likes of Burial’s Untrue or Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma, both equally brilliant but much later, creations.
Goldie was inspired by the blissed out synth washes of second wave US techno producers like Carl Craig, Joey Beltram and Jeff Mills, and was possibly even more closely attuned to the sonically adventurous London collective of Detroit disciples, 4 Hero. Hellbent on making a game changing record, one to catapult drum and bass into the future, he added swathes of dancehall and dub to some twisted hardcore and hip-hop breakbeats which he bullet punched beneath ceilingless synths sharper than asteroid shards hurtling through space. At times these mysteriously dissolved, tapering off like boomerangs returning to another galaxy. There was little doubt Timeless was a hugely ambitious concept and the perfect antidote to Britpop. You couldn’t dance to it, but neither could you ignore it.
Goldie’s time-stretching technique, along with those meticulously de-ranged breakbeats were in part what made the album sound so 21st century in ’95. Simon Reynolds pointed to an “astonishing soundclash of tenderness and terrorism”. That “tenderness” transfused tracks like the glacial soul of ‘State Of Mind’ with its immaculately clean piano chords – one of two tracks to feature vocalist Lorna Harris. And the “terrorism” was in evidence when flying roughneck over a disorienting clatter of beats on ‘Saint Angel’. Even better was ‘This Is A Bad’. Taut and menacing, it was inspired by a user’s frantic search to score some coke (Goldie’s own drug problems of the time were well documented). Over those shivering synths, the recurrent stuttering electric piano motif was truly inspired. ‘Jah The Seventh Seal’ was darker, sculpting apocalyptic loops from tightly coiled springs.
The samples and influences were unsurprisingly disparate. Art Blakey, The Stranglers, The SOS Band. Even Dire Straits! ‘Sense Of Rage (Sensual VIP Mix)’ fashions a miracle from the intro to ‘Money For Nothing’, it’s muscular bass breakdown half way through leaving in its shuddering wake a weightlessness which might have embarrassed Hütter and Schneider. There is deep sadness in the chords to ‘Kemistry’, written in 1992 for Metalheadz co-founder and DJ Valerie Olusanya who was Goldie’s girlfriend at the time. She would later die tragically in a car accident in 1999.

But it was the extended title track, a prolongation of his ‘Inner City Life’ single from the previous year, that was authentically groundbreaking. Co-written and performed by the late Diane Charlemagne, it is a three part hardcore symphony which remains his finest recorded moment. How long can breakbeats stay interesting within the confines of one track? With Goldie at the controls, it would seem for quite some time. Here, he manufactured the perfect soundtrack to an urban neurosis with which he was all too familiar – spraying rhythms and beats around like graffiti over claustrophobic sonic landscapes. Tension. Pressure. Release. Its 22 minutes still sound like the future to me.
If Reynolds was impressed, yet he was also critical of the album’s forays into future soul and prog jazz, where Goldie lay bare his fondness for the likes of Loose Ends, Maze and late period Miles with very mixed results (check ‘Sea Of Tears’ and ‘Adrift’). If the charge of ‘”embarrassing” was a little harsh, nevertheless those tracks reflect the perilously thin line which exists between ambition and pomposity. But on a good day the whole of Timeless sounds beautiful.
Nevertheless, the assurgent creative trajectory was not to last. When he invited Noel Gallagher to join him on the cringeworthy ‘Temper Temper’, it confirmed our worst suspicions. Goldie, it seemed, would try anything to stay in the public eye. During that time he indiscriminately produced or remixed records by just about anybody. He wormed his way into a number of TV shows – East Enders, Celebrity Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing. Perhaps this lost him some credibility along the way and few remembered the time when he had the world at his feet.
Not only was Timeless the most vertical expanse of sound imaginable, but Goldie had created a visionary masterpiece of shattering beauty, full of elastic algebraic rhythms and skull crushing digital beats. For all his subsequent wayward moves, nothing and nobody can take that away from him. (JJ)

91. DISCO INFERNO – THE 5 EPs (2011*)

Disco Inferno: A Sense Of Otherness  Somehow I contrived to miss Disco Inferno. They arrived either ten years too early or ten too late, it’s hard to tell, but by the time they had established themselves, popular music’s few remaining visionaries were retreating into hibernation. 1991 proved a pivotal year. It was the year of Laughingstock and Loveless, as well as the last significant records by Public Enemy and The Young Gods. And then, suddenly, as those few flickering wicks burnt out, indie music was plunged into its Dark Ages. The air was thick with the stench of grunge and grebo – Neds Atomic Dustbin and their ugly ilk – while the nightmare of Britpop hovered vulture-like, ready to strip its rotting carcass. Britpop would become a model of retro complacency, mostly underwhelming, largely uninspired. Many of us felt queasy and headed for the dancefloor. I had a pretty good time there. The one regret I have is that I missed Disco Inferno. 

DI were, on the surface, a conventional post-punk (guitar/bass/drums) trio – Ian Crause, Paul Wilmott & Rob Whatley – with a penchant for early Joy Division and Wire. They began to suffuse those primary influences with the spirit of ’88 (AR Kane, Public Enemy, Young Gods, My Bloody Valentine), and then, following the release of their first album Open Doors Closed Windows in 1991, they stretched out into genuinely new and uncharted territory augmenting their sound with sampling technology alongside a proliferation of inspirational ideas. Crause recalls: “I had been at home with my guitar synth and sampler since late ’91. We came back in to rehearse again with the sampler and what I had written on it in about April or May ’92, not really knowing how it would all piece together as a band. We had a whole week of rehearsals booked and by the end of the week we were kind of stunned at ourselves ‘cos none of us had ever heard anything like it before, not even stuff like Public Enemy or the Young Gods. It just sounded so fucking odd…all of us were completely thrown by the noise in that room.”
A succession of spellbinding EPs followed between 1992-94, gathered together here on this 5 EPs compilation. And they are brilliant. At the time, those critics in the know wilted, quickly running out of fresh superlatives with which to embroider their reviews. Crause knew the band possessed something very special indeed, but the public wasn’t ready. And there was nobody else doing what they were doing. “Oh we were in the middle of fucking nowhere from the start of using samplers ’til we split.” Despite that, by the time Britpop hijacked the airwaves, DI were continuing to make authentically original music, uncompromising, challenging, visceral and at times breathtakingly beautiful. “When we were recording ‘DI Go Pop’ and ‘Summer’s Last Sound’, Charlie, our producer, did say he was finding it hard going as we had chosen the sounds for their narrative and not musical qualities.” Lyrically, Crause steered an uneven path from (poetically) documenting existential crises (“All the joy in my life had rotted away/I saw a vision in blue and my blues flew away/And just for a second I truly believed/Though I don’t know what in” – from ‘Second Language’) to caustic social commentary. It was often dark stuff.
“And the gulls are coming in off the coast/the smell of corpses pour from in/mass graves uncovered/must be abroad, it can’t be here/I can sense your violence, but I still don’t understand/the way the past looks dead when you’ve got the future in the palm of your hand.” And so begins ‘Summers Last Sound’ a magnificently unsettling fanfare to this most fertile of periods. 
Shrill screams undercut a naggingly insistent guitar riff on ‘A Rock To Cling To’ while ‘The Last Dance’ & ‘The Long Dance’ (from ‘The Last Dance’ EP) are poppier, more infectious, almost straying into mid-period New Order territory. But it is the more experimental tracks which sound positively scintillating. Crause has expressed his distaste for ‘Scattered Showers’ mainly due to what he regards as its lyrical deficiencies (“they really let the thing down. I was so far off the mark with it.”) but I can’t help but hear The Velvet Underground’s ‘The Murder Mystery’ being leaked through a distorted PA system at Brands Hatch. Here and elsewhere, the band utilise their Foley’s Sound Effects toolbox to its full potential, yielding extraordinary results.
Then there are the glistening guitar lines of the aforementioned ‘Second Language’, which alongside those on ‘At The End Of The Line’ recall Vini Reilly’s wonderfully inventive work with The Durutti Column. In actual fact, as Crause explains, those songs bore a more surprising influence: “The original guitar sound I had, with a lot of delay lines, was inspired by a German guy I saw on telly called Eberhardt Weber. He put his cello through massive delay lines and I was stunned by it. I liked Durutti Column what I heard, but I didn’t hear an awful lot to be honest…I realise it can sound very similar sometimes.”

There is huge variety here, a veritable smorgasbord of sonic adventurousness. Best of of all is ‘Love Stepping Out’ which sounds like Kraftwerk’s ‘Europe Endless’ playing as the wedding guests spill out into an old English churchyard. It is simultaneously naturalistic and disorientating, and crucially, entirely devoid of rock cliche. “Punching women, kicking men/Five on one, one on ten/These fuckers getting all that they deserve/It’s just tricks with mirrors/that makes them think they’re in the right.” There is so much going on here musically and lyrically, it needs a dozen listens to unmask its own face. What was the aim behind it? “To try to create a sonic environment where the real world conducts itself like music but stays psychoacoustically in situ so it feels like the world is playing itself like a composition.” Crause wrote it on his electric guitar, “but I ripped the pickup off so had to use the nylon acoustic guitar sample which came on a floppy with my sampler to replace it. That just went through a delay like the original guitar had done.” Suffice to say, like everything else on here, it is bloody magnificent.
Disco Inferno may now be considered a seminal influence on ‘post-rock’ while Crause has continued to make stunning music of his own. Despite their inability to make any commercial breakthrough, he continues to be much respected “by the same people who were well receiving the Disco Inferno records in ’92 and ’93 like Stubbs, Reynolds, Kulkarni, etc, who understood what we were doing and what I do.” And rightly so. If I missed Disco Inferno the first time round, then it has been a fascinating late discovery. Sometimes one can have the most bewilderingly thrilling time catching up. (JJ)