When Klaxons released their cover of Grace’s ‘Not Over Yet’, it seemed an incongruous choice; a forward-thinking band at the height of their fame choosing to re-record a track from a long-gone era of dance music. Yet less than five years later and the sounds of Chicago house, breakbeat and rave are starting to make their presence felt again.
There’s a wealth of talent currently looking back in time for inspiration. The music of Katy B and Magnetic Man borrows heavily from the skittering drum sounds popular two decades ago, particularly on collaboration ‘Perfect Stranger’, which tips a hat to The Prodigy’s frantic beats on ‘Out Of Space’.
There’s also DJ and singer/songwriter Yasmin, whose latest single, ‘Light Up (The World)’, which featured Ms. Dynamite, is almost a reggae-tinged reworking of Baby D’s hit, ‘Let Me Be Your Fantasy’.
That’s not to mention Jamie xx, whose reworking of Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘I’ll Take Care Of You’, recently covered by Drake and Rihanna, makes use of rave piano loops in much the same way as many early 90s house tracks, such as Strike’s ‘U Sure Do’.
Factor in acts such as Azari & III, Emeli Sandé and SBTRKT, and you’ve got plenty of artists keen to relive the halcyon days of twenty years previous. “It was one of the most exciting times,” remembers Paul Oakenfold, part of the classic line-up of Grace, “There is a purity and warmth from early dance records.”
But fond remembrances aside, why are the stars of today taking their cues from that particular period of the past? Dance duo, The 2 Bears, one of the leading lights in reviving Chicago house, think it’s cyclical: “It’s most likely happening because people got bored of 80s sounds; it all goes in circles”. Rising star Yasmin, meanwhile, has her own take on the revival: “A lot of 90s music was quite raw, organic, spacious and, dare I say, soulful”. She continues, “I think people are just ready for a different sound and the rawness of the 90s is quite appealing.”
Dee Fearon, lead vocalist with Baby D, points to acts such as Toddla T and Chase & Status as leading the charge in bringing back what acts such as hers accomplished nearly twenty years ago: “Good music in all its forms tends to move in cycles when a new generation discovers it, decides to make it their own, and adds their own flavours to it.”
So, musical trends can come and go, and maybe it’s just the right time for an early 90s revival, but there are also parallels with the UK back then and the country today: a widely-criticised Conservative government, an economic downturn and a nation reeling from the after-effects of widespread rioting.
Escapist music often comes in times of mass uncertainty and Mr. C, former leader of acid house pioneers, The Shamen, has noticed the link:
Those partying today are so up for this hedonistic vibe, and the political and spiritual information in the music too. It’s today’s dance music generation that have taken on the baton and are running with it.
It sounds like the UK might just be in need of a pick-me-up and this is the soundtrack to it. We may no longer have Walkmans, Saved By The Bell and Sega Mega Drives, but the music from the early 90s is just as relevant as it ever was.