Rockers Hi-Fi / 92 – 96 / Seven Hills

Sheffield`s Seven Hills imprint subject you to some sublime turntable time-travel in the shape of 4 vinyl sides rescued from the archives of Birmingham`s Rockers Hi-Fi. Spars of fellow ground-breaking Brummies, Electribe 101, in 1992 Glyn ‘Bigga’ Bush and Richard Whittingham switched their nome de dance from Original Rockers – probably under pressure from melodica king, Pablo – and set about fashioning pioneering fusions of dub and techno. Listening to the comp on a lazy, rainy, Saturday afternoon, was a definite drive round nostalgia-ville. Making notes as I went, reeling off references in a Tourette`s like reflex, the music here touches BASS with that of a whole list of UK contemporaries: Bristol`s Smith & Mighty, Leeds` Rootsman and Iration Steppas, London’s Bandulu, Disciples, and Moody Boyz, Sheffield`s own Sandoz. All of these folks blurring genre boundaries and operating in a dread sense of space shared between reggae and house. Coupling racing snares with speaker blowing subs. Connecting Adonis with Jammy`s digital dancehall. Like Black Dog chanting down Babylon. Seven Shades Of Dub is skanking for sure – predating big time both Basic Channel`s Phylyps Trak II  and Kenny Hawkes` Ashley`s War*. Paths Of Life is Kraftwerk meets King Tubby. Proto-drum `n` bass that only needs a little push to +8. More & More could be an ON-U Little Axe adventure. The blues in its melancholy mood, and sampled Southern preacher. Its fascinating rhythms – straight out of William Orbit`s `90s songbook – blasted with broken bits of bottleneck guitar. 

Slow sine waves snake around Grounation drum rituals, found / stolen speeches pepper afro-leaning footwork patterns, in damn fine unfussy, stripped back, productions. Sexy Selector seduces through layers and layers of sighs and swells. Slo-mo, AM house – that becomes beat-less for a good stretch – it`s super psychoactive, even when straight (I`m only drinking burdock tea, honest). Stoned, though, is probably the huge-hitter, the one that everyone knows – and is after. Intro`d by “rave light” keys, it surfs on sonar blips and scratched-in snatches of `80s electro classics. Building in intense euphoric anticipation, the eventual addition of a breakbeat transforms the track, taking it into similar bucolic sonic terrain as Ultramarine`s seminal Stella. 

Rockers Hi-Fi 92 – 96 can be ordered directly from Seven Hills.

*When I interviewed Ashley Beedle recently he told me that the first time he heard a house record he thought it was reggae pitched up.

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